Welcome to Honors American Literature!

Over the course of this semester we will explore the America’s literary history through fiction, poetry, speeches, legal documents and other primary source manuscripts from various periods, locations and times. You will also be engaging in high level writing and research assignments geared to preparing you for Advance Composition next semester.

I look forward to our journey through American Literature together!

Parents, please review the syllabus for your students by clicking this link.

Then, complete the syllabus acknowledgement form by clicking this link. 

This will be entered into the gradebook as the first assignment for your student.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2020

The Dark Romantics and Young Goodman Brown

A part of the Romantic period, the Dark Romantics were a group of writers that, instead of focusing on the beauty of nature and the inherit good in man, focused instead on the supernatural, spooky and darker side of nature and the inherit evil that was possible in man. Death grief, mental illness and the supernatural were all common in the poems and short stories of the Dark Romantics. You may recognize some of the writers in this group – Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. In class we will also be studying Emily Dickinson during this period, though there is some debate on whether or not she is truly a ‘Dark Romantic’ writer.

First, be sure to review the video from class over the Dark Romantics:

Our first Dark Romantic tale will be Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’. Before reading this story let’s review an important literary concept that will be very important to understanding Hawthorne’s purpose – the allegory.

In class we discussed the classic allegory of the cave from Plato, where prisoners only know the world through the shadows of objects reflected on the cave wall by firelight. One prisoner escapes and see the real world outside of the cave; he is determined to go back and share what he has found with the other prisoners – however, few dare to leave the cave to find out about the real world for themselves, and most don’t believe this man.


We also discussed other allegorical stories you may be familiar with – the story of the hare and the tortoise, or George Orwell’s Animal Farm.


In Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”, we see a young man travel one night into the woods outside of Salem, leaving his sweet wife at home to worry for him. On the way through the woods he meets a series of characters that challenge his beliefs and reveal to him the true nature of man and himself. Hawthorne set his story during the Puritan period – Hawthorne’s own great-great grandfather, Judge John Hathorne convicted’witches’ to hang during the Salem Witch trails; his great-great-great grandfather William Hathorne persecuted Quakers. These events and Hawthorne’s family history feature prominently in his story, including “Young Goodman Brown”.

As you read the story, remember our discussion that each of the characters serves as a symbols for a larger idea, or has very specific symbols associated with them. For example, Brown’s wife is “Faith” – her name serves as an obvious symbol for what she represented. The Old Man in the story has a black walking stick that looks like a snake – this is closely associated with what his character is meant to represent in the story. As you read, keep track of the character’s actions and the symbols associated with them in your Character Analysis Chart. We will use this after we finish reading the story to help us understand the deeper allegorical meaning that Hawthorne is trying to make.

Click here to read the story of Young Goodman Brown

Click here to find a copy of the Character Analysis chart if you misplaced yours.

Click here to find the discussion questions for the story if you have misplaced yours.

we discussed how the symbolic meaning of the character’s names can help you to better understand the overall allegory of the story. As you read, be sure to keep track of the character’s actions and the symbols associated with them in your character analysis chart. We will use this analysis to help us discuss what we believe the allegorical message of the story to be by the end.

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Informational Essay – Proofreading and Self Assessing

Now that you’ve written your informational compare and contrast essay, I would like you to look back over your work.

Proofreading is an important part of writing – however, based on the number of errors and lack of capitalization I see often in your work, I worry that many of you do not do (or do not understand the importance of) proofreading.


Proofreading and self assessment is an important part of being a good writer – it helps us improve and grow. I help you better understand the importance of this step, I am going to have you self assess your own writing. In the chart linked below, indicate if or how well you met the requirements. In the box at the end, explain why you gave yourself the grade you did.

The goal here is for you to slowly work through your own writing and really check your performance with the stated requirements. Often times we rush or write without thinking critically – this leads to low grades and poor performance. Being mindful of our writing practices is the first step to help us improve.

NOTE: This must be an accurate self-assessment. Do not give yourself all 4’s if you did not earn them. I will be looking at your assessment as I read and prepare to grade your paper. If it is clear that you just filled this out without critical thinking or honest assessment you will be required to redo the assignment. Until it is redone your essay will not be graded and this assignment will be marked missing.


11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Informational Essay Outlining and Writing


Now that we’ve reviewed what an informational essay is and you’ve brainstormed your ideas for the following prompt:

      • Select two poems that you have read an analyzed from Fireside poets. Think about the themes and devices used in BOTH poems. Then write an explanatory essay in your own words comparing and contrasting how the poems, their style  and their themes are similar or different. Be sure to use information from BOTH passages in your explanatory essay.

it is time to begin the next step in the writing process – planning out and writing your essay.

Compare and contrast essay have two distinct structure, subject by subject or point by point. For the purpose of our essay prompt about, it is best if we look at point by point. Watch the video from class below if you need a review of these structures:

In class we took notes and reviewed exactly how to structure your paper:

*Notice that we also came up with a quick structure for your thesis, and I wrote an example thesis for you

In class we wrote clear thesis statements and used them to determine how many point (or paragraphs) we would have in our essay. As you work on your essay, please be sure to review the writer’s checklist I provided you to ensure you include all the required items:

Writer’s Checklist

Be sure to:

  • Introduce the topic clearly, provide a focus, and organize information in a way that makes sense.
  • Use information from the two passages so that your essay includes important details.
  • Develop the topic with facts, definitions, details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
  • Identify the passages by title or number when using details or facts directly from the passages.
  • Develop your ideas clearly and use your own words, except when quoting directly from the passages.
  • Use appropriate and varied transitions to connect ideas and to clarify the relationship among ideas and concepts.
  • Use clear language and vocabulary.
  • Establish and maintain a formal style.
  • Provide a conclusion that supports the information presented.
  • Check your work for correct usage, grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.

You can also assess your own work with the EOC grading rubric I will use – click here to access the prompt and the rubric. 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019 Uncategorized

Informational Essays – Structure and Brainstorming

For this unit’s writing assessment, you will write an informational essays over a series of selected passages that you are provided.

According to Owl Purdue:

“The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc.

Please note: This genre is commonly assigned as a tool for classroom evaluation and is often found in various exam formats.

The structure of the expository essay is held together by the following.

  • A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.

It is essential that this thesis statement be narrowed to follow the guidelines set forth in the assignment.  Does your thesis answer the prompt? If not, fix it!

  • Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.

Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse.

  • Body paragraphs that include support.

Each paragraph should be limited to one general idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph.

  • Support! Support! (whether factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal).

You should have two pieces of quality evidence from the sources that support your thesis statement in general, and the topic of that particular paragraph specifically. Use a mix of direct quotes and paraphrases.

  • A bit of creativity!

Though creativity and artfulness are not always associated with essay writing, it is an art form nonetheless. Try not to get stuck on the formulaic nature of  writing at the expense of writing something interesting. Remember, though you may not be crafting the next great novel, you are attempting to leave a lasting impression on the people evaluating your essay.

  • A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

It is at this point of the essay that students will inevitably begin to struggle. This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize and come to a conclusion concerning the information presented in the body of the essay.”

There are also different types of information essays with different structures –



For this first essay we will be writing a compare and contrast essay.  Our prompt is as follows:

      • Select two poems that you have read an analyzed from Fireside poets. Think about the themes and devices used in BOTH poems. Then write an explanatory essay in your own words comparing and contrasting how the poems, their style  and their themes are similar or different. Be sure to use information from BOTH passages in your explanatory essay.

In class we discussed the importance of the writing process, specifically brainstorming and planning, to write a high quality essay. You first step is to choose the two poems from class you would like to use and brainstorm ways that they are similar or different – use the venn diagram as we demonstrated in class, or a three column chart to organize your ideas. This is the first step to writing a solid essay, and you’ll need it in class later!


11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

The Early Romantics – The Fireside Poets


Until the third decade of the 19th century, America had little literature to call its own. Fireside poets represented a “coming of age” for the young country, as a first generation of poets took their name from the popularity of their works which were widely read as family entertainment (and in the schoolroom). These poets chose uniquely American settings and subjects, themes, and imagery; however, there format and structure were borrowed from  English tradition. Though not innovative, they were literary giants of their day, and by examining their poems for images of American daily life, politics and nature we can see the beginnings of the Romantic writings that follow.


You will be examining the poetry of  fireside poets – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendall Holmes, James Russell Lowell and William Cullen Bryant.


The Mount of the Holy Cross – Colorado

Longfellow is by far the most famous of the Fireside Poets. No other American poet, not even Robert Frost, has matched Longfellow’s popularity at the height of his career. A bust of Longfellow was placed in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey (alongside Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. Longfellow was a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorn. He believed his task was to create in memorable form a common heritage for Americans and in the process to create an audience for poetry. His first wife Mary Potter died in 1835 after a miscarriage. His second wife Frances Appleton died in 1861 after sustaining burns when her dress caught fire. Longfellow sustained severe burns to his face trying to put out the flames, which he hid under his beard afterwards. His severe grief over her death meant he wrote less, and instead translated his previously written poetry into other languages.


Picture1William Cullen Bryant wrote poems, essays, and articles that championed the rights of workers and immigrants. In 1829, Bryant became editor in chief of the New York Evening Post, a position he held until his death in 1878. His influence helped establish important New York civic institutions such as Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1884, New York City’s Reservoir Square, at the intersection of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue, was renamed Bryant Park in his honor. “Thanatopsis,” if not the best-known American poem abroad before the mid nineteenth century, certainly ranked near the top of the list, and at home school children were commonly required to recite it from memory. At his death, all New York City went into mourning for its most respected citizen.

John Greenleaf Whittier was the son of two devout Quakers, he grew up on the family farm and had little formal schooling. From 1831 until the Civil War, he wrote essays and articles as well as poems, almost all of which were concerned with abolition. In 1833 he wrote Justice and Expedience urging immediate abolition of slavery. Whittier founded the antislavery Liberty party in 1840 and ran for Congress in 1842. While Whittier’s critics never considered him to be a great poet, they thought him a nobel and kind man whose verse gave unique expression to ideas they valued. The Civil War inspired the famous poem, “Barbara Frietchie,” but the important change in his work came after the war. From 1865 until his death in 1892, Whittier wrote of religion, nature, and rural life; he became the most popular Fireside poets.

James Russell Lowell was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Charles Lowell and Harriet Spence. An ardent abolitionist, Lowell published widely in many anti-slavery newspapers, such as the Pennsylvania Freeman and the Anti-Slavery Standard. He also published a number of literary essays, political pamphlets, and satirical works. In 1853, Lowell’s wife and three of their four children fell ill and died. Two years later, he returned to Harvard to replace Longfellow as professor of modern languages and literature. He spent the following year traveling and studying in Europe, then returned to Harvard to teach for the next twenty years. Known for his politics and personal charm, Lowell was appointed to the position of United States Minister to Spain in 1877, then served as United States Minister to England from 1880 to 1885.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. was an American physician and poet from Boston. A member of the Fireside Poets, he was acclaimed by his peers as one of the best writers of the day.  He was also an important medical reformer. He began writing poetry at an early age; one of his most famous works, “Old Ironsides”, was published in 1830 and was influential in the eventual preservation of the USS Constitution. Following training at the prestigious medical schools of Paris, Holmes was granted his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1836. He taught at Dartmouth Medical School before returning to teach at Harvard and, for a time, served as dean there. During his long professorship, he became an advocate for various medical reforms and notably posited the controversial idea that doctors were capable of carrying diseases to their patients if they didn’t take precautions and properly sanitize. Holmes retired from Harvard in 1882 and continued writing poetry, novels and essays until his death in 1894.



Below you will find the link to the poems you will be analyzing. Remember, you need to not only analyze the poem in depth, but be sure to make connections between the content of these poems and the themes of the Romantic period. You will also be completing a project with these poems – the instructions and assignment is attached below as well.

Click here to access the poems in case you lost your hardcopy from class.

Click here to access the assignment and grading rubric.

Click here for an annotated copy of the poems. 

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

American Romanticism

The “Romantic Period” refers to literary and cultural movements in England, Europe, and America roughly from 1770 to 1860.  Romantic writers (and artists) saw themselves as revolting against the “Age of Reason” (1700-1770) and its values.  They celebrated imagination/intuition versus reason/calculation, spontaneity versus control, subjectivity and metaphysical musing versus objective fact, revolutionary energy versus tradition, individualism versus social conformity, democracy versus monarchy, and so on. The five major themes we’ll be looking at include:

  • Imagination and Escapism
  • Looking to the Past for Wisdom
  • The Common Man as a Hero
  • Nature as a Source of Spirituality
  • The Importance of the Individual

Other elements that influenced the writing of the Romantic period was that the frontier promised opportunity for expansion, growth, freedom (which Europe lacked as it had nothing new to ‘discover’) – this spirit of optimism invoked by the promise of an uncharted frontier, the new cultures and perspectives brought in by immigration, the polarization of the industrial north and agrarian south and Americans looking for new spiritual roots.

As we have discussed in class multiple times, it is very hard to define literary movements are draw a clear line between when this literary era began and ended and when another starts. This is very true for the Romantic period.  Early writers in the Romantic periods are often identified as The Fireside Poets -the first group of American poets to rival British poets in popularity in either country. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier,Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and William Cullen Bryant are the poets most commonly grouped together as the ‘Fireside Poets’. Their strict focus on form and meter make their writer seem very British and Victorian when contrasted with later Romantics, but the content of their poetry usually focuses on uniquely American images (images of nature or the frontier,American home life and contemporary politics ). In general, these poets preferred conventional forms over experimentation. At the peak of his career, Longfellow’s popularity rivaled Lord Alfred Tennyson’s in England as well as in America, and he was a noted translator and scholar in several languages—in fact, he was the first American poet to be honored with a bust in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.


Emerson and Thoreau, along with Margaret Fuller, are a part of a literary/philosophical movement known as “Transcendentalism” (they had their own literary magazine, The Dial, which Fuller edited).  They valued imagination and believed that one could find God in nature. Walt Whitman is also a Transcendental writer, and heavily influenced by Emerson – however, his unique style separates him from other Transcendental writers. As the longest living Romantic writer, Whitman published well into the 1880’s, and later in life readers can see a definite shift in his writings that reflect the work of other Realist (the period after Romanticism)

Dickinson, Melville, Hawthorne and Poe however, were not Transcendentalists, and often critiqued Emerson’s idealism. Melville, Hawthorne and Poe are often categorized as ‘Dark Romantics’. Dark Romantics are much less confident about the notion the common man as a hero, as believed by Transcendentalists. They believe that individuals are prone to sin and self-destruction, depression, low morals and a lack of wisdom. Dark Romantics saw the natural world as dark, decaying, and mysterious – not a spiritual place to be close to God.  Dark Romanticism frequently show individuals failing in their attempts to make changes for the better.

If all of this sounds really confusing, as all of these periods and genres seems to be overlapping and happening simultaneously, hopefully this graphic will help:

Romanticism Bubbles

Make sure you have a clear understanding of Romanticism and its various sub-genres before we return from fall break! For all of my audio/visual kids out there, please click the link below to watch a short video that covers the Romantic period!

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Savvy Student Skills – How To Take Effective Notes

Throughout this first nine weeks we have covered a lot of content – in our last progress survey a lot of you said you felt you had grown as students and writers, but just as many said you still needed guidance with time management and note-taking. With your midterm exam coming up, you need to ask yourself – am I taking enough notes? Am I taking ‘good’ notes?

As juniors you will probably realize that reading over assignments or texts once will not be enough – likewise, jotting things down in class and reading over them once will also probably not be sufficient to get the grade you desire. Below you will find a few helpful tips for note-taking that will (hopefully) help you out this semester and beyond.

1.Write things down in class, but know that these are not ‘notes’. Good notetakers re-write their messy notes.

You’re probably thinking “Wait, what?”, but yes – your messy, jotted down notes from class are not actually good ‘study notes’. Rewriting these notes for legibility does two things – one, it gives you a better copy to study from in the future and two, is a form of studying and reinforcing the information as you have to read the text (visual/cognitive) and rewrite the text (knesthetic/cognitive). See the student examples of messy class notes, and rewritten notes below.






2. Find a method of notetaking that works for you – yes, there are different ways to take notes!

Simply writing everything your teacher says in a long list is not effective note-taking. You need to find a way of organizing your notes that works for you, whether its a formal style like Cornell Notes or the Outline Method (this works great for textbook note-taking), or even the Doodle Method (yes, drawing pictures helps!). Maybe you have a system of using highlighted sections, color coding, or diagrams. Whatever it is, find the method that works for you.










3. Don’t try to write everything down in class.

As juniors you hopefully know by now that trying to copy everything down word for word from a powerpoint, or that your teacher says, is a fruitless endeavor. You need to focus on getting just the key facts down, and doing so in your own voice. Re-reading my technical, dry powerpoint text later isn’t as effective as reading your own voice and natural word choice. Additionally, when you rewrite your notes (see #1 above) you can also go back and add in extra detail that you didn’t have a chance to get in class. Moreover, you will have the benefit of having the entire class to ruminate on, and all the additional connections you made to integrate and add to your notes later.


4. You can also RECORD your notes!

Are you an auditory learner? You may want to consider downloading a free sound recording app on your phone (voice memo for ISO is terrible you guys…) and recording yourself reading these notes. I am a strong auditory learner – because of this I use up most of my data on audiobooks and podcasts – and I remember the things I hear. This also means that for big projects, or when I attend a conference and have ideas I’d like to work on or get back to later, I record myself discussing these ideas outloud. Later, I can play them back to jog my memory, or to transcribe in any written or typed notes I take. Or, you can read your written notes aloud and listen to that sound file when its time to study. There are all kinds of new apps coming out for auditory note-takers, but if you don’t want to pay for them, just get a free sound recording app and try it out.


5. You might use a variety of note-taking styles.

I listen to auditory notes and podcasts and audiobooks. I jot quick notes on sheets of paper or handouts or napkins or whatever I have around. I rewrite my notes to look ‘neat’ and usable long into the future. I highlight, underline, use different colored highlights. I use everything I need to have effective notes that help me remember the content so I can put it to use and learn it – and so I can refer back to it whenever I need a refresher. Know that you may use a combination of lots of different styles until you find what works for you! Below you’ll see an example of notes I took FIVE YEARS AGO that I STILL USE. In them I employed a variety of styles of notetaking… how many styles will work for you?



11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019

Putting it All Together – Analyzing Primary Sources from the Expansionist Period

In class this week we have been looking at documents from the Expansionist period – each examining a major event or key concept from the period. Below you will find your classmates’ presentations over the use of rhetoric in each of their primary source documents, as well as an annotated copy of the text. Finally, you’ll see my copy of the notes I took during their presentation on our foldable. NOTE: KEEP UP WITH THIS FOLDABLE. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO USE IT ON THE NINE WEEKS EXAM.




Expansionism Foldable

Your job is to read the two remaining documents and add annotations and analysis to your own copies. Then, with all of these resources I would like to answer the following questions for each document on the back of the foldable:

  1.  In the article about Lowell Mills, why does the author reference Patrick Henry when she says “ In the language of one of old, we ask when shall we be stronger?Will it be the next week,or the next year? Will it be when we are reduced to the servile condition of the poor operatives of England?”. Why is this allusions to a Revolutionary founding father effective?
  2. In “The Profession of a Woman”, why does Catherine Beecher use rhetorical questions so often? What effective does this have on the reader?
  3. Why is there a lack of logos, but many appeals to pathos and ethos, in President Andrew Jackson’s Second State of the Union Address?

Finally, let’s discuss the BIG QUESTION for these documents – What defined America during the Expansionist period? What changes from the Revolutionary period and Puritan period can we see in the primary source documents we have examined? Why are these changes so important in shaping the America we live in today?

11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019 Uncategorized

Analyzing Expansionist Documents

As we transition out of the Revolutionary Period it is incredibly important that you understand that literary periods are fluid…that means that there isn’t a line in the sand drawn between Revolutionary Literature and Romanticism right after 1776. The time after America’s Independence and the start of the Transcendental movement is an incredibly important few decades in which our economy, our borders, and our perception of what it means to be ‘American’ rapidly grew and changed. The literature from this time period reflects these changing viewpoints and the conflict that arises when social, political and economic upheaval happen all at once. Without this period of expansionism, we wouldn’t have the Transcendental movement.

During this period issues of economic changes, the role of women in the new country of America, and the displacement of Native Americans were reflected in the documents and literature of the time period. We will be examining documents from a report at Lowell Mill, Catherine Beecher and Andrew Jackson on each of these topics.

In groups you will examine one document from the period, identifying the speaker and the intended audience. You will annotate the text for examples of ethos, pathos and logos. Finally, you’ll determine how the speaker/write of the document effectively appealed to their audience using ethos/pathos/logos.

Next, you will work to create a presentation of your analysis for the class. Each group member will be responsible for one portion of the presentation, but ALL group members will need to have annotated and analyzed the text. Click here for the assignment instructions Rhetorical Analysis and here for the group work checklist.

You will present your analysis of the documents to your peers on September 30th, 2019.

Please click here see an example of a previous group of students’ powerpoint presentation to give you an idea of what this project could look like.


11th Grade American Literature Fall 2019