The American Identity

Lyons Community School

Pilot school

The 11th grade literature course will use a series of short stories, novels, non-fiction and poetry to examine the various factors, challenges and ultimately, the growth of one's identity in America. The issues of race, family, community, religion, society and self will be highlighted through a diverse lens of authors and poets. Through a series of texts that involve various ethical dilemmas, students will analyze what defines the American identity today. Students will be required to complete a series of process-oriented essays, creative writing, and analytical projects that review key literary elements and an author's message and craft. Students will also be building an independent reading portfolio throughout the year.

"The Other Foot" by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Selected war poetry
Autobiography of Malcolm X
"The Fight" by Richard Wright
"Message to the Grass Roots" speech by Malcolm X November 1963
"I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr August 1963
"Dream Variations" by Langston Hughes
"I, Too, Sing America" by Langston Hughes
American Born Chinese by Gene Yuan
Independent Reading choices: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez, Locas by Xta Murray
Black Like Me by John Griffin

Students will research an author's background for their independent reading portfolio. Students will also research various topics in poetry to develop a preference for a particular poet or style.

Media Used: 
"Harrison Bergeron"
"Born on the 4th of July"
"The Hurt Locker"
Malcolm X interview at Chicago City Desk 1963
"American Me"
"Jesus Camp"
"Girl Fight"
"Mississippi Burning"
"Freedom Riders"
Interim Assessments: 

IA 2: Independent Reading portfolio and book groups
Students will choose their own text for independent reading and meet once a week in small groups to discuss and analyze the idea of identity in their books. They will write an in-class essay that critically analyzes how their book illustrates the theme of identity.

IA 3: Compare and contrast essay I
Students will compare Tim O'Brien's book The Things They Carried with a selected war poem. Their comparative essay should include an analysis of author style and its impact on the theme of identity.

IA 4: Compare and contrast essay II
Students will compare the Autobiography of Malcolm X to John Griffin's Black Like Me with an emphasis on how both texts illustrate aspects of the American identity.

Significant Assignments: 

Malcolm X versus Martin Luther King Jr - Who was the better speaker?
Students will compare speeches by both leaders and argue in a position paper, who was the more powerful speaker.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

American Identity collage
Students will create a collage of words, images and events that embody the American Identity. In addition, they will write a short artist explanation of their collage (to be displayed).

Utopia or dystopia?
Students will write their own short story about the future of America. What will our society be like? How will Americans be like in the future? Their stories must fit the profile of a utopian or dystopian society.

Sample PBATs: 
Choice of themes that emerge from the readings students have done for the course (e.g., an exploration of morality in America).