Lesson: Beginnings

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Lesson Objective

Define American literature. Identify American historical periods as they contributed to the development of American literature.

Lesson Plan

Kimberly Davenport 11th grade American literature

Unit Title: American Literature Beginnings

 Lesson Title: Defining American Literature, day 1 of 3


1. Students will distinguish between examples of literature and examples of non-literature

2. Students will define American literature

2. Students will read about the beginnings of American literature and the development of American literature in preparation for studying key literary periods and movements.

 Purpose: Before students begin studying the literature itself, it is important that they have a working definition of what American literature is and also key background to aid in their discovery process and comprehension.

 Materials/Resources Needed:

-Anticipation Guide for American Literature Beginnings

-Video, American Lit., Brief History (This is a humorous look at American literature)

-PowerPoint – “Define American Literature: What is American Literature?”

-The American Experience, Prentice Hall Literature, “Snapshot of the Period,” and “Historical Background: EarlyAmerica (Beginnings to 1800),” and Essential Questions of the Literary Period.

-Overhead projector

-Computer for video and PowerPoint


 Anticipatory Set: What is literature? Ask students to list examples of what they read? Then, as a class distinguish between literature and non-literature. For example, a magazine, in and of itself is not literature, but the articles within the covers may be. A cereal box can be read, but it is not literature. Then, as a class, come up with a definition for literature.

 Tell students that prior to studying American literature, they will need to be able to define the term (American literature). Hand out the anticipation guide and explain to students that they will complete step #1, defining American literature after watching a short video. Show the video, American Lit., Brief History. (12 minutes)

 Lesson: Part #1 – After the video, display the one-slide PowerPoint and read the following questions to the students: 1. Does American literature reflect American society’s attitudes, culture, and ideals? 2. Does it reflect the goings-on of the time in which it was written, or in which it was written about? 3. Is American literature static?

Have students partner up and come up with a working definition of American literature utilizing the questions as a guide. Give students about 3-4 minutes to complete. Then ask about three volunteers to share their responses. Write down the responses. Guide students through the process of crossing out what does not apply, circling what does, and adding anything that makes the definition better. Have students write their definition on their anticipation guide. (10 minutes)

 Part #2 – Read the directions for step #2 aloud. Have students complete the left-hand column of the anticipation guide, step #2, on their own. When students are finished, split them into groups to read “Snapshot of the Period.” Tell students to complete the right-hand side of the participation guide as they read.

NOTE: When there are five minutes left, tell students that they will finish the extended anticipation guide for homework and will discuss their answers in the next class.

 Closure for day 1: Ask a student volunteer to define American literature.



Lesson Resources

American Lit Brief History.wmv  
Snapshot of the Period and Historical Background.pdf  
AnswerKey Anticipation Guide.doc  
Anticipation Guide for the Beginnings of American Literature.doc  


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