One of my first assignments for my 11th grade American Literature class was called ‘What Is My America?’. This is something that my cooperating teacher has done in the past with her classes and I love it! From the very first day, the kids get involved with the topic–they have to think about their own opinions on America and how those cultural lenses can shape how they read a text. They also can compare their ideas to ideas expressed in the time period of the literature they are reading.
Below is a screenshot of my Google Classroom post about this assignment. The students were to read the following articles, create a 1 page paper on what their version of America was, and prepare it to be read the following class period. The readings were of Steinbeck and De Crevecoeur, who had opposing and interesting views.
These are the pdf/doc versions of the articles and rubric:
My kids honestly really impressed me with the things they wrote. Some of their opinions were striking. Some were very negative. Some were positive. It was interesting to see how a small group of fifteen and sixteen-year-olds from Northern Iowa had such differing ideas–it really opened my eyes!
I think this was a great way to preview the kids into the Colonial Period/Colonial Literature. Plus, this was an instructional strategy to help the students build upon prior knowledge as they read and study. As they get into The Scarlet Letter and some of the other Puritan handouts and readings, they can adapt and change their definitions of America or see how their definitions/ideas match up–building personal connections with the curriculum!