Stories by the Fireside: A Renaissance of American Literature (Background and Notes)

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SWBAT identify central ideas of historical background and provide an objective summary of the text through a collaborative Jigsaw Reading and notes.

Big Idea

From the revolution that forged America to the revolution that forged American literature, today we delve into the American Renaissance.

Introduction and Welcome: It's "Use Your Common Sense Day!"

10 minutes

As students settle into their seats at the bell, I welcome them to "Use Your Common Sense Day" and ask, for general discussion, "Why is Common Sense so 'Uncommon'?" As with all daily holidays, the objective in this conversation is to build a sense of community as students share their opinions and react to each other. As we discuss, I am actively listening for comments that build off of each other, so that I can highlight elements of a Socratic Seminar discussion, as we discussed last week. 

From the welcome conversation, I transition to today's Monday Mindbender, a  puzzle asking students to identify words based on the letters N,O, and V (as in November) and their definitions, a kind of hangman to get them warmed up for the day. As always, Monday Mindbenders are drawn from a published puzzle book, and copyright Mensa, so they are not reproduced here. 

I also inform students of one of the few opportunities for extra credit they will have; the Fall Play is this weekend, and if students who attend or are involved get me a one-page, typed review (like a movie review), they can earn up to ten points of extra credit. I traditionally provide this opportunity to both help out students with their grades, and give recognition and support to our performing arts.

Jigsaw Reading: Romantic Context

35 minutes
In order to being this week's project understanding the poets of the American Renaissance, students begin with the historical and literary background of the period, in their textbook's introduction section. In order to "set the stage" for teaching each other, students are Jigsawing, or Jigsaw-Reading, this section. Jigsawing encourages cooperative learning, provides for student-experts on one topic, and stresses listening and speaking skills, as well as the content of the passage.
Directions for the jigsaw activity are posted on the board.
Within their jigsaw groups today, each student reads a selection from the historical background, and chooses one of the Fireside poets to focus on. As students read, they are to take notes individually on the central ideas of the reading, and summarize those ideas to present to their group (Jigsaw Notes 1, Jigsaw Notes 2) (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2). I am using a variation of the directions on Jigsaw presented here, but without the "expert groups" for this section. As with the previous jigsaw, I model a sample small group with the four students across the front of the classroom, "assigning" each a set of pages and poet to read. I ask students to split themselves into into four groups and move their chairs into pods of four; I allow students to self-select in order to ensure discussion when we address the examples of Fireside poetry in jigsaw groups later this week. We're in groups of four because there are four poets I wish to address, and because the numbers work out evenly based on the class sizes. 
Once students have finished their individual notes on the historical background and author biographies, they come back to their jigsaw groups in order to present the information and allow their peers to take notes (Jigsaw Group 1, Jigsaw Group 2). Student present their summarized information clearly, concisely, and logically such that their peers can follow the line of reasoning and the organization of their notes (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4). As I do not expect students to complete their notes today, additional time will be provided tomorrow as well. 
Readings and resources for this jigsaw can be found at Virginal Commonwealth University (American Romanticism, Romantic Period in American Literature), University of Houston's "Digital History" page (American Renaissance, Transcendentalism, with significantly more resources available here), and The Norton Anthology (Gothic Romanticism in England, but an excellent introduction).

Wrap-Up and Extension

5 minutes

As a wrap-up, I ask for students' attentions, and remind them any of the reading and note-taking not completed needs to be done for homework. I also remind them that we will be completing the historical background tomorrow, and they will be moving to "expert groups" to address the poems, specifically. I provide a few extra minutes to give the students time to move their chairs back to rows, as they are in pods today.