High School 9 - 12 Lessons
Reading and Comprehension Skills
• Comprehension Strategies...Many people think of reading as a simple activity. However, it can often be difficult for readers to develop deep understandings of written text. When facing challenges in comprehending material, readers can employ a variety of different techniques to help themselves. These techniques include making connections, developing inferences, asking questions, and considering the difference between fact and fiction.
• SQ3R...One of the most effective ways to read a textbook is to use the SQ3R strategy which stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. Survey means skim through the chapter before you read it. Look for the titles, subtitles, charts, graphs, pictures and key words. Read the introduction and concluding paragraphs to get a sense of what the chapter will focus on. Then Question yourself about what you think you will learn. Turn the titles and subtitles into questions. Ask yourself what you think the chapter will be about. Then, after you do these steps, you can begin to Read. After reading, go to the next step, which is Recite. Recite means to recall what you read. The best way to do this is to take notes, which are short, focus on the key concepts, and include important vocabulary words. Finally, you should Review by looking over your notes or note cards and testing yourself on what you have learned.
• Components of Nonfiction...Though several different genres of nonfiction writing exist, smart readers recognize that they must be active readers in order to understand information that they read. As active readers they must determine purpose and identify the thesis, topic sentence, and supporting sentences. They must ask themselves questions about the reading throughout the reading process. Smart readers recognize that just because they can identify words on a page, they are not necessarily expert readers.
• Components of Fiction...High quality fiction writing contains several important components that authors should include and readers should identify. These include a well developed plot, sophisticated character development, engaging theme, and interactive point of view. Reading and writing excellent fiction provides wonderful opportunities for both authors and readers to exercise their imaginations.
• Exploring Fiction...Fiction books are some of the most enjoyable pieces of literature to read. They are rich with imagination, details, and emotions. Writers of fiction are able to evoke great levels of interest and intrigue in their readers by using literary elements such as point-of-view, mood, and ranging settings. Fiction can be better understood when readers learn more about the use of these devices, when they understand the author’s purpose for writing, and when they use graphic organizers such as story maps. When these elements are understood, fiction can be enjoyed to the fullest. Some of the most famous books of all time have been works of fiction. Books such as The Great Gatsby, Gone with the Wind, Moby Dick, and Wuthering Heights are only a few examples of well-loved fiction.
• Analyzing Fictional Techniques...Well versed fictional writers can apply a wide array of different literary techniques in their work. It is a priority that they begin their writing with engaging introductions. They can then include flashbacks, foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism, amongst other techniques to enhance the writing. Of course, writers often seek to avoid clichés which might sound interesting but say nothing.
• Historical Fiction...Historical fiction is an enjoyable and helpful genre. While the stories are often based on characters who never really existed y, they are based on actual times in history. Historical fiction can help readers better understand important times and events by reading about them in stories that were written creatively. Elements like point-of-view and setting add imagination and originality to age-old events. When writing your own piece of historical fiction, you will want to do careful research to make sure your historical facts are correct and consistent. You will also want to be thoughtful as you create characters to represent the people of the chosen time period. Some of the most famous novels of all time have been pieces of historical fiction. Gone with the Wind, Heidi, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Great Gatsby, and The Grapes of Wrath are just a few examples.
• Drama...Dramatic literature is both fun and rewarding. Plays, dramas, legends, myths, and fables are sure to be entertaining and helpful to your reading comprehension skills. Today you have learned about the differences between these types of stories, and some tips on how to read and understand them. Legends, myths, and fables are different types of dramatic stories. They are made up stories that are meant to talk about people or nature, or to teach a lesson. A drama is a story that includes elements such as a plot, characters, diction, theme, spectacle, and rhythm/music. Dramas or plays may include such things as monologues, soliloquies, and foils. These stories will almost always include a protagonist and an antagonist. When reading a play, it is important to fully analyze the characters, especially the main character, in order to have a better understanding of the story. When writing your own original play, you will want to use proper plot structure, include all the elements of a play, and have your characters acts out their thoughts, rather than just writing what your characters are thinking. Legends, myths, and fables are different types of dramatic stories. They are made up stories that are meant to talk about people or nature, or to teach a lesson. Now that you understand these types of stories, you will be able to fully enjoy them.
• Interpreting the News...On November 22, 1963, Walter Cronkite reported on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Throughout his newscast, Mr. Cronkite made sure to emphasize that much of his report remained unconfirmed. Not all news producers remind their audience that information remains unconfirmed, even if it is indeed unconfirmed. Instead, at the beginning of the Twenty First Century, literate news consumers have a responsibility to measure the accuracy of the information that they read, hear, and view. Using a variety of deciphering skills, news consumers have a responsibility to discriminate between true and false information, between biased and objective reports.
• Political Genres...The political genre of literature can often be humorous. However, most content within this category seeks to transmit important messages to the audience. Authors of satire, parody, allegory, and political fiction use their crafts to drive home important political messages.
Appreciating Literature of Various Periods
• Beowulf...Of the hundred and one things we could take away from reading a poem like Beowulf, what would be the most important? The story itself, of course, is captivating. Beowulf’s battles with Grendel and Grendel’s mother help build the archetypal tension between good and evil that is at the heart of every heroic verse, song, or movie that has ever been created. The language, too, has all the rhythm and sound of a warrior at work. Old English lends many of its words to our modern tongue, and has helped form a base for some of the world’s most beautiful poetry. We stand amazed at the skill the old scops possessed of piecing these old stories into 3,000 line verse, putting it all to memory, and reciting the entire thing in song before king and court! We gaze with new respect for the Anglo-Saxon culture, one that tried so hard to foster learning and guard the beautiful, even amidst war and an ever-changing social, political, and religious landscape. Their life is brought home to us in the Beowulf poem, and in it we find, as one author states, “those others that were ourselves.”
• Literature from the Classical Period...Since Classical literature plays such a foundational role in our society, way of thinking, and modern literature, it is important to study it and attempt to grasp the many themes and concepts that are a part of it. The themes of conquering, deities, and heroes as well as a wide range of philosophies are seen in “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” “Bhagavad Gita,” and the works of authors such as Homer, Plato, and Virgil. The stories were not only used for entertainment, but also as a form of education for the listeners and readers. Classical literature venerates qualities such as courage, loyalty, strength, love, and wisdom, all of which are portrayed not only in Classical heroes, but in modern heroes as well. By studying Classical authors, students can not only learn about the societies that lived during that time, but also broaden their own world view and perspective by gleaning information from the wisdom of philosophers.
• Elizabethan Era: Overview...Queen Elizabeth I ruled over England for 45 years. Known as “Gloriana”, she reigned during tumultuous times and brought England to an even stronger position of power amongst the nations of the world. Even though she exerted the English might to enhance England’s global authority, she worked hard to address issues of poverty within her own nation. She was fierce abroad and with her political tactics, but she was also cultured and educated and a staunch supporter of all cultural endeavors within her country. This Elizabethan Era is fondly known as the Golden Age due to the burgeoning stream of artistic works that poured out of the country during Elizabeth’s monarchy. The very pinnacle of the English Renaissance, many writers established their names in history during the Elizabethan Era.
• The Victorian Era: Overview...The Victorian era is the period of time when Queen Victoria reigned in England from 1837 to 1901. It was a time of peace. Literature from the previous Romantic era focused on feelings, intuition, and highly idealized situations, but the Victorian era presented subjects that were more ideal but practical. Many stories showed the difficult life lived by the commoners but included a happy ending with hard work, love, and a little luck paying off in the end. However, as the century progressed, the writing became more realistic with a grimmer outlook on life. Where poetry was previously the most popular literary form, novels became more prominent during this era. Novels written during this time often hold a central moral lesson from which the reader can learn. Although these novels were written for entertainment, the authors often took advantage of their literary voice to speak out against the injustices of the day including poverty, child labor, prostitution, the lack of women’s rights, and political injustice. Maybe because of this outcry, by the end of the Victorian era, society was greatly changed. Throughout this lesson, you will discover what life was like during the Victorian era, including what kind of rights the women had. You will find out about famous authors like Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Emily and Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold, and Robert Browning. You will take a look at both poetry and novels. You will also learn at least one literary aspect that each author used and learn which ones were popular during that time. These aspects include themes, social and political commentary, character development, puns, concrete poetry, parody, point of view, and figurative language.
• Jacobean Era...Although the Jacobean Era was a short literary period, it was a rich one. Ben Jonson’s skill as a poet is seen even in his shorter poems. For instance, in “Song to Celia,” he deftly uses the imagery of a cup and a wreath as well as the literary device of alliteration. In addition, Milton seeks “to justify the ways of God to man” in his unrhymed epic. To this day, many would argue that no one writing unrhymed verse in the English language has been able to match the quality of “Paradise Lost.” The Jacobean Era has another poet of great skill: John Donne. Known for his metaphysical images, he compared love to a flea and a compass. Like Milton and Jonson, Donne employed many literary techniques in his poetry: alliteration, apostrophe, variations in tone, and detailed conceits. Finally, the Jacobean Era saw the joint work of fifty-four men in translating the King James Bible, a work still read today around the world.
• Neoclassical Period...Although the writers in the Pre-Modern Period of British literature had much in common, they also were famous for very different accomplishments. Alexander Pope was a master of heroic couplets, two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter. Jonathan Swift proved his brilliance in satire when he wrote “Gulliver’s Travels.” Further, Henry Fielding’s “Tom Jones” was in a sense the father of the novel. Europeans and Americans alike imitated the groundbreaking newspapers written by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. Edward Gibbon in his “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” set a precedent for all later historians to research primary sources whenever possible. In addition, Robert Burns wrote in the vernacular, his Scottish tongue. William Blake envisioned the Creator of the world as a kind of blacksmith knocking out animals on an anvil, and Thomas Gray wrote touchingly of the departed. Though these writers all lived around the same time, they are markedly different.
• Charles Dickens...In this lesson, you have discovered who Charles Dickens was as a person and a writer. He had readers from the Queen of England to street workers in London, to families living in America waiting in anticipation to see what the next chapter of his stories would bring. You have learned about how he took his personal experiences and incorporated them into his writing. You have found out about the living conditions for a majority of the people in London due to the Industrial Revolution. Remember, one of Dickens’ goals for his writing was to make changes in his society. He was not afraid to address topics such as poverty, child labor, social castes, and other related topics. Maybe partly due to the awareness that Dickens provided, these conditions began to improve over time with new laws and regulations including sanitary provisions, welfare programs, labor unions, pay raises, and the banning of child labor.
• Native American Legends and Stories...Legends are mythical stories about supernatural beings or events. Until the advent of writing, Native Americans always passed down their legends, history, and ancestry orally. To some Indians, Geronimo was a living legend since he often outwitted superior forces that sought his death. However, most legends were not people but were stories. For instance, in “The Legend of White Horse Plain,” a storyteller expresses the tragedy of feuding tribes as well as the love of a chief for his daughter. Also, in a Blackfoot creation myth, a storyteller recounts a kind of story found in many cultures: the story of the origin of the earth. All these legends have distinct tones and sometimes have morals. What they all have in common is the power to captivate an audience.
• The Colonial Period...The Colonial Period was a time when colonists were still settling into their new country. They wrote poetry and newspaper articles about their newfound religious freedom. They debated about local politics and the colonists’ relationship with their mother country. Some, such as William Bradford and Benjamin Franklin, wrote autobiographies detailing events in their personal lives along with political events of great significance. One woman, Mary White Rowlandson, even created a new genre: the captivity narrative. Some of these writings used sophisticated literary devices. William Bradford’s “On Plymouth Plantation” uses the literary device of alliteration. Anne Bradstreet uses the device of personification, and Jonathan Edwards uses anaphora. In general, the literature of the colonial period is exciting, because it gives moderns a glimpse of the early days of America.
• Revolutionary Era: Newspapers, Speeches, and Letters...In July 1776, the Continental Congress issued “The Declaration of Independence” stating that the thirteen colonies had rejected the authority of Great Britain. In 1787, the Constitutional Convention adopted the United States Constitution. Much debate centered around how to interpret these documents. The founding fathers and others made speeches and wrote articles and letters detailing their interpretations of these documents. For instance, “The Federalist Papers” contains many short essays offering interpretations of the Constitution. However, not all papers were political. Some letters of course were quite personal. Further, Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography and published “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” In addition, John Adams kept a diary. In the Revolutionary Era, a variety of writing flourished.
• Early Periods of American Literature: Romantic Period...The Romantic Period brought about a drastic change in literature. Stoic, firm, and factual words became beautiful, meaningful imagery. Poetry became more popular than ever, and the focus on individuality changed the way men and women perceived each other. Writers like Dickinson, Melville, Cooper, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Poe, Hawthorne, Fuller, Twain, and Irving took the new themes and ran with them, painting literature in a way that will never be forgotten.
• Early American Novelists...A soldier in the Civil War, Mark Twain was a prolific writer. “Huckleberry Finn,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” and “Joan of Arc,” represent three of Mark Twain’s many works and display the wide range of his talent in dealing with differing subject matters. In most of his work, Twain illustrates his ability to view the world honestly through the eyes of his protagonists. Later a recruiter for the Civil War, Frederick Douglass was first a slave. In a personal narrative entitled “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,” Douglass describes the hardships he endured as a slave. In addition to his written work, Douglass also gains renown as a public speaker. Like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe was involved in the abolitionist movement. Perhaps her greatest aid to this movement was her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” In this compelling and emotionally invested narrative, Harriet Beecher Stowe gives a gripping, but honest account of slavery in the South. Louisa May Alcott wrote “Little Women,” a book translated into more than fifty languages. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Mark Twain all had an effect on how the black man was viewed throughout the United States. Lincoln even suggested that Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” brought about the Civil War. Further, Douglass helped persons, especially those living in the North, better understand the abuses and injustice of slavery. Through satire, Twain revealed that a small boy can have more wisdom about slavery than educated church-goers. Finally, although Louisa May Alcott did not address slavery in her works, her “Little Women” became so popular that it was transformed into multimedia, from musicals to anime. Other authors promoted social reform by protesting slavery. Alcott promoted a kind of love within the home that could eventually reach out and effect society.
• Harlem Renaissance: The Social, Historical, and Philosophical Context...The Harlem Renaissance is often bookmarked by several significant historical events: beginning with World War I and the Great Migration, and ending with the Great Depression and World War II. However, the precise moment of its beginning and end need not matter. What is important is that the Harlem Renaissance grew out of a time of social and economic change and marked a period of radical adjustment. Adjustment in where African Americans lived in the United States. Adjustment in how they sought justice. The residual effects of the Harlem Renaissance can still be seen and heard in our continued quest for and conversations about equality, in pop culture, and in the living history that surrounds us.
• Later Periods of English Literature: The Modern Period...Authors of the English Modern Period used many literary techniques. Kipling used foreshadowing in “Soldiers Three.” In “The Jungle Book,” he treated animals anthropomorphically. In “Captains Courageous,” he took s full advantage of the simile when he stated,“The place was packed as full of smells as a bale is of cotton.” Like Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson used the power of the simile. For instance, in “The Body Snatcher,” he described Dr. Macfarlane darting like a serpent. Further, Stevenson used alliteration. In“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he called Hyde “down-right detestable.” In “Tess d’Ubervilles,” Hardy used the image of a ship to describe Tess’ family. In “Ulysses,” James Joyce used a characteristically modern technique: stream-of-consciousness. This technique has the advantage of imitating mankind’s thoughts as they actually occur. However, it becomes disorganized when it imitates disorganized thoughts. Finally, Dylan Thomas used personification as well as an oxymoron in “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” Clearly, these English Modern Period authors showed their skill by using a variety of literary techniques.
• Social Issues in Literature...You might have heard the expression “a picture paints a thousand words.” Through the pictures painted in literature, you can better understand the social issues that impact people in the United States and around the world. A social issue is something that can directly or indirectly affect you. While your family might not be homeless, you may have a friend who recently lost their home and may be living in a shelter. During holidays, many people who have food donate some of their own to families who are less fortunate. You might experience bullying in school which is an example of a social issue. In fact, youth violence was “painted” in the book “The Lord of the Flies.” Some books share the perspective of another culture to help us better understand and accept people who might come from a different background. Several books like “Kaffir Boy”, “The Kite Runner”, and “The House on Mango Street” tell stories about how children and teens from other ethnic groups or cultures survive from day to day. By reading literature with a message about social issues, we can make changes to better our society. In the book, “The Jungle”, the way meat was processed caused the United States government to create laws to regulate food processing. Even children’s author, Dr. Seuss, made statements about social issues that were important to him. These authors knew that, in order to make a change, you first have to take a stand. They chose to write novels to share their experiences or relate the experiences of others. When we read these books, we become better aware of the social issues in our world and can begin to think about how we might make a change to better our world for everyone.
Masters and Masterpieces
• William Shakespeare...Shakespeare’s influence permeates time and culture. A continent away and several hundred years later, we continue to read, watch, and study his works. Shakespeare’s times were very different from our own and his childhood was unremarkable at the time. Yet, the confluence of creative and political factors allowed him to write plays that transcend time. His mastery of language and uncanny access to the human heart helps audiences around the world to connect with his work. He is widely accepted as the greatest writer of English language.
• Mark Twain...Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born on November 30, 1835 and spent his childhood on the Mississippi River watching riverboats travel to parts of the world he could only dream of. He longed to pilot one of those boats and by his teen years he did. A keen observer of life, Clemens kept notes on his experiences and soon turned those notes into stories. In honor of his love of the river, he chose the pen name “Mark Twain” which means two fathoms or the safe depth for a riverboat. Throughout his life he traveled all over the world, yet his boyhood experiences on the Mississippi River were the source of his greatest novels “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, written in 1884, and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” written in 1876. Twain was a popular man, very curious, witty, and humorous. He wrote one of the greatest tall tales called “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” While he died in 1910, Mark Twain is still remembered, read, and quoted by people all over the world. His work and style of writing have remained so popular, that we honor other humorists, like Twain, at the Kennedy Center. Historians consider him to be one of the greatest authors of American literature.
• Tragedy...Sometimes, a comedy could easily have become a tragedy. Such is the case with A Winter’s Tale. Its tragic tendency is evident when compared to the tragedy Othello. In both plays, a man is jealous of his wife and becomes convinced that she is committing adultery. In both plays, a man refuses to listen to anyone who claims that his wife is innocent. The difference between the plays is that in one, the man kills his wife and in the other, the man barely avoids killing his wife and thus is allowed the opportunity for a somewhat happy ending. Likewise, the tragedy Romeo and Juliet could have been a comedy similar to Cymbeline. In both plays, a girl wants to marry someone against her parents’ wishes. In both plays, she marries her lover in secret; and in both plays, she thinks about suicide. The difference is that Juliet commits suicide whereas Imogen in Cymbeline does not and thus allows the possibility for a happy ending. A tragic flaw is one of the causes of a tragedy but never the only cause. That is, more than one circumstance contributes to a tragedy. Chance or bad luck is sometimes a factor. For instance, Hamlet could have been a comedy if Hamlet had not accidentally killed his girlfriend’s father; or accidentally picked up the sword with the poison tip; or if the queen had not accidentally drank the poison not intended for her. Conversely, the lack of a tragic flaw is not the only reason that a play ends happily. The Tempest has a happy ending. However, Prospero’s flaw of forgetting about practical affairs nearly costs him his life.
• Henry David Thoreau...Henry David Thoreau’s book, “Walden,” was published in 1854 and has inspired our world to appreciate and respect nature. He spent two years alone in a cabin in Walden Woods observing his environment and keeping a journal of his thoughts. This journal inspired much of his later writings. Not only was Thoreau a naturalist, but he was an outspoken critic of slavery and the “tyranny” of the American government. He wrote “Civil Disobedience” which called for passive resistance of unjust laws and government policies. This work inspired both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Thoreau was an abolitionist, often helping runaway slaves. He refused to pay a poll tax that supported slave laws. He was a supporter of John Brown and defended him until Brown’s hanging. Through his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau was introduced to transcendentalism and the philosophy to think and speak freely. This philosophy was evident in both his writings and actions. Thoreau died a relatively young man at the age of 44 from tuberculosis. His impact on the world is seen today through organizations like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Birdlife International. Our celebration of Earth Day is due in part to Henry David Thoreau reminding us that humans are connected to nature in a special way.
• Emily Dickinson...After her death, Emily Dickinson was recognized as one of America’s greatest poets. In life, she lived quietly in her home, writing much of her poetry at her desk in her bedroom. She hid her poems away in a box and only shared them with her sister-in-law and mentor. While she gave her sister-in-law at least 100 poems to read during her lifetime, nearly 1,800 were found after her death. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, her mentor, published a handful while she was alive, but worked with a family friend to publish all of Dickinson’s work. Her poetry dealt with life, death, and immortality. As an avid gardener, nature was also a predominant theme in her work. In the poem “I came early”, she transformed the simple act of chasing waves at the beach into a fairy tale world with mermaids and frigates. While historians often called her a recluse, she did enjoy close relationships with her family and a few close friends. During her younger years, she was nicknamed the “Belle of Amherst” and possibly had a fairly active social life. After 1855, she stayed close to home, read books, tended to her garden, and wrote poetry. She didn’t title her work and often used dashes and capital letters to emphasize her thoughts and ideas. Symbolism was predominant in her work as seen in the poem “Because I could not stop for death.” The drive with death was actually the journey through her life from childhood through adulthood. Biographers have described her as an “enigma.” The mystery of Emily Dickinson is uncovered as you read and reflect on the power of her poems.
• Nathaniel Hawthorne...Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter portrays the character of Hester Prynne as complex and therefore difficult to analyze. On the one hand, Hawthorne encourages the reader to sympathize with Hester Prynne’s decision to commit adultery and with her situation in general. She is far away from her husband and therefore perhaps lonely. She is drawn to beauty and therefore likely to find herself attracted to a handsome, eloquent man. Her needlework shows that she is gifted artistically, a trait not necessarily appreciated by Puritans. On the other hand, Hawthorne encourages the reader to find some faults in Hester. She cheats on her husband – an act wrong for two reasons. First, it is wrong morally, at least, according to her angry husband. Second, it was wrong in the particular community in which she lived. Even if she disliked the laws of the community, she should probably have chosen to follow the laws; much as a student who dislikes school rules should probably follow the rules if he wants to stay at that particular school. Finally, it is misleading to say that the Puritans cannot appreciate her artistic needlework. After she gives birth, Puritan women pay Hester to sew for them. Thus, one needs to be careful in criticizing the Puritans. Some of them – not all of them – were cruel to Hester. Others were very kind. One must be careful when criticizing a group of people. Even if most are cruel, some of the group may be kind. Similarly, one must be careful when praising a person or group. Even if Hester Prynne is a very good person, she has some huge faults.
• Jane Austen...Though Jane Austen did not receive the fame due her during her lifetime, her works are truly masterpieces worthy of recognition. Her love for stories, beginning at an early age, pushed her to continue writing throughout her life, despite never gaining great wealth from it. Her six novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion all focus on unmarried women who fall in love and marry. However, there are many different lessons that Austen’s novels teach such as not allowing one’s wealth to dictate how they view others, and the importance of keeping one’s head grounded in reality. Austen’s clever writing and quick wit are now even more widely enjoyed since her novels have become major motion pictures. By having her works published, Austen transcended the role of women during her time, leaving readers with timeless works of art.
• Edgar Allen Poe...Edgar Allan Poe is a famous writer of Gothic, horror stories. These stories are characterized by haunted houses, dreary landscapes, and a main character with an illness that causes his senses to experience the world in a heightened manner. Because his main characters are usually insane, they are termed unreliable narrators whose analyses of the world and people cannot be fully trusted by the reader. For instance, in “The Black Cat,” the main character states that he loves animals and then kills a cat. Also, in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the main character claims that he is a kind person and then murders an old man. Poe also writes stories that are not from the viewpoint of a madman. For instance, he writes “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” from the point of view of a man walking with a man who behaves like a detective. This story, according to some critics, is the first detective story ever published. Also, in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” Poe writes from the point-of-view of a man tortured during the Spanish Inquisition. In all likelihood, the man is not mad but is certainly in an extreme emotional state because of the torture he has endured. Further, in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe writes from the point-of-view of a man watching another man interact insanely with his sister. In this story, he famously anthropomorphizes the House of Usher. Finally, in “The Gold-Bug,” Poe writes a relatively light-hearted story that much resembles the detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” in the way that one character unravels various clues. In addition to stories, Poe writes poetry. In “Annabel Lee,” he presents a man literally mad with love. As in “Annabel Lee,” “The Raven” presents a man who has lost his lover and is either mad or on the verge of madness. In addition, “The Bells” – famous for its onomatopoeia – records the joyous wedding of a couple and then the pain of the man who survives his wife’s death in a fire. His less famous poems still present distinctly Gothic elements. For instance, “The City in the Sea” presents a haunted landscape and a doomed city. On the other hand, “The Evening Star” is an exception and almost seems written by someone other than Poe. In this poem, he expresses his preference for the star’s internal fire rather than the moon’s cool, reflected light.
• F. Scott Fitzgerald...One of the greatest stories in American literature is “The Great Gatsby” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1925. The story is about perceptions of the American Dream and how several characters hoped to attain it. At the core of the story, is an obsession for wealth and the question: Can money buy you happiness? During the 1920’s, America was at a crossroads. There were the “old rich”, “new rich”, and middle Westerners who were just average, hard working people. With the dawn of magazine advertisements, people became consumed with materialism. Luxurious lifestyles, drinking, and lavish parties were symbolic of this time period. Fitzgerald called it the “Jazz Era” as music from Harlem infiltrated life in the homes of both the “old” and “new” rich. With the 18th Amendment banning alcohol, bootleggers and speakeasies provided illegal liquor fueling what history calls “the roaring 20’s.” It was this time period that Fitzgerald captured in “The Great Gatsby.” Fitzgerald’s own life symbolized many of the traits and motives of the main character, Jay Gatsby. It was Fitzgerald’s love for his wife Zelda that influenced his writing and his addiction to alcohol that blocked him from fully achieving his own vision of the American Dream.
• Richard Wright...Despite poverty, limited education, and racial prejudice, Richard Wright grew to become one of the greatest writers in American literature. He used the experiences of his life growing up on a plantation, the abandonment by his father, and the bitter sting of segregation to create stories that would change the world. In “Black Boy,” he shared the challenges of his childhood through manhood by retelling the pivotal moments of his life. In “Native Son”, he wrote a fictionalized crime story (based on a true crime) that had a great impact on his life. Wright’s books and magazine articles helped to bring about the civil rights movement that was later led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Wright found freedom and peace in Paris and lived there until his death. A postage stamp issued in 2009 immortalizes the man who went from delivering letters as a postal clerk to writing words delivered all over the world.
• John Steinbeck...The 1930s were among America’s most difficult decades. The Great Depression left millions out of work. At a time when women did not often work, losing one income routinely put families on the breadline. The Dust Bowl compounded the problem. Crops did not grow during extended droughts. Farmers could not make money, pay bills, or keep their farms. But the 1930s were also a time of reform. The role of the Federal government changed drastically as it created programs to put millions to work creating infrastructure, art, and recording American history. Newly created programs, programs that still exist, supported millions more. It was in this context that John Steinbeck began writing. Many of John Steinbeck’s novels share a common theme: the struggle of the underdog, the lives of working-class Americans. His novels reflect the plight of the every man. His writing is natural and descriptive. It paints, in plain and vivid language, America’s physical beautiful and challenged landscape: south California’s farmlands, a fishing village, a desolate Midwest farmland. His novels introduce us to the men and women who struggle to survive, and survive to struggle. Happy endings are not Steinbeck’s forte. Realistic American fiction is. John Steinbeck is one of America’s greatest novelists, not because he won award, but because his writing grows from American landscapes and shares American experiences.
• Ernest Hemingway...Instead of going to college, Hemingway decided to follow in the path of Mark Twain. Thus, he became a journalist and produced some of the finest stories in America and in the world. In his first book, “The Sun Also Rises,” he tells a story that centers around men following after a beautiful lady named Brett. In the end, she betrays all the men. Later, he published “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” the title of which comes from John Donne’s famous “Meditation 17.” The novel portrays a young man fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Like the main characters in “The Sun Also Rises,” the main characters fall in love. People recognized Hemingway’s skill as a writer while he was still alive. In fact, he won the Pulitzer Prize for the “Old Man and the Sea,” the story of Santiago’s battle with a great marlin. He could have won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” a portrayal of a dying man who reviews his life and realizes he has wasted his talents as a writer. Hemingway covered a wide range of topics. In “A Farewell to Arms,” the main character escapes the horror of war only to experience the pain of his wife and child dying in childbirth. In “A Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Hemingway addresses war. In “Death in the Afternoon,” he portrays bullfighting in Spain. His last published work is a compilation of memoirs, “A Moveable Feast.”
• Harlem Renaissance: Artists, Musicians, and Authors...Powered by an exodus of Blacks from the South to the North, the Harlem Renaissance was a dynamic, creative period in America. It incorporated the works of philosophers, artists, dancers, musicians, singers, and authors. They hoped their works would challenge African-Americans socio-economic place in our country, inspire Americans to think about what it meant to be Black, and to foster a change. African American artists expanded their audience to Americans at large. As a result, America met the Blues. Jazz was born. So too was the Lindy Hop. America embraced the work of Louie Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Countee Cullen, Bojangles, Paul Robeson, and Jacob Lawrence. The Harlem Renaissance was both a cultural rebirth and a step in the long road toward equality. Nearly one hundred years later, their legacy endures; pop culture continues to grow from Harlem Renaissance roots. You can hear it in the rhythm of hip-hop, and the patterns and improvisation of poppin’ or poetry. Tour Harlem today and you will hear their beat of their feet down the streets to the Apollo where the famous still perform and amateurs still hope to be discovered. The themes of integration and equality, dreams deferred and rivers of untapped potential, pride and heartbreak are still our themes. The Harlem Renaissance lives on in America today.
• World Literature...Throughout time and around the world, authors have written wonderful literature that we can all enjoy. We share the joys, laughter, sorrow, battles, and adventures of characters crafted by great writers. Prose, poetry, and drama have been told and written well in many languages and cultures. With modern translations available to us, we can share in the stories and emotions of these masters by reading, studying, enjoying, and analyzing their masterpieces. As we listen to the words from their worlds, we share in another time, another place, and another culture. We find that we can relate to the experiences of others who are very different, and yet very similar, to us and our own small world. We find that we have more in common with the fictional characters than we might expect and share the thoughts and emotions of the poet and playwright from different cultures. We can uncover many literary treasures from around the world as we expand our reading encounters and learn about the great literary masters of the world.
• Interpret Meaning...Although the English language has a broad vocabulary and many grammatical rules, through steady application, you learn how to maneuver your way through the many suffixes, prefixes, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and possessive pronouns. Practice with differentiating between homonyms, homographs, and homophones will help you to learn words that are easily confused with one another. Learning how to recognize suffixes, prefixes, and base words provides the ability to hypothesize about the meaning of an unfamiliar word. At first, the completion of analogies may seem an insurmountable obstacle. However, through learning certain recognition techniques, you will find the tools necessary to simplify the completing of notoriously difficult analogies.
• Etymology...The etymology of many words can be seen in their prefixes and suffixes. Recognizing prefixes and suffixes can help a student guess the meaning of a word. For instance, in-, im-, il-, and ir- mean “not,” and any word beginning with these prefixes refers to some action, thing, or quality in the negative. Incorrect means “not correct.” Impossible means “not possible.” Illiterate means “not literate,” and irrepressible means “not able to be repressed.” Certain words confuse almost any speaker of English at one time or another. Often, these words come in pairs: lie/lay, accept/except, sit/set, and lose/loose. Most of these words are spelled very similarly. However, with practice and a solid grasp on each word’s definition, these words become less confusing.
• SAT / ACT Verbal Prep...Learning vocabulary for the SAT and ACT can be arduous but fun. Now, you can use such words as “idiosyncrasy” and “anachronism” in a sentence. All the skills you have gained in these lessons should help you on test day. Make sure to use words you do not know in a sentence in order to see if context can help you decipher the word’s meaning. Also, try to break apart a word you do not know into suffixes and prefixes so that you have a better chance of guessing the word’s meaning. Do not forget the definitions of synonyms and antonyms. Synonyms are words with similar meanings, and antonyms are words with opposite meanings. Finally, remember that often an unfamiliar word is made from a familiar word. For instance, “capacious” is made from “capacity” and “provocation” from “provoke.”
• Epic Poetry...We have journeyed with Aeneas from the rubble of Troy to his new home in Italy. All along the way, Juno has followed him and tried to prevent him from reaching Italy. On his journey, Aeneas fell in love with Dido. However, Zeus sent a messenger-god warning Aeneas not to be distracted from his mission; and so Aeneas left her for what he thought was a higher purpose: to found the Roman Empire. After he left Dido, he entered the underworld. There, to his great surprise, he found Dido, still bloody from the wounds she inflicted upon herself when she committed suicide. However, she refused to speak with him. He will never see her again. Resigned, he turns to Italy where he will fight in order to wed a new wife: Lavinia. To wed her, first, he must kill her fiancé Turnus. This, he does, in the last lines of the Aeneid.
• Robert Frost...Robert Frost’s poetry at times acts as a kind of political commentary. At other times, it portrays the people and land of rural New England. In “The Mending Wall,” Frost does both. On the literal level, Frost describes a rural scene in which neighbors mend the wall in spring. On the political level, Frost describes a wall that appears to symbolize the Berlin Wall. Unlike “The Mending Wall,” the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” does not appear to have a political level. Rather, the poem zooms in on a man’s thoughts and perceptions at dusk. The focus is on the individual. Both “Stopping by Woods. . .” and “The Mending Wall” are in the first-person. However, “The Fear” and “The Death of the Hired Hand” are each dialogues between a husband and a wife. Finally, “Fire and Ice” falls into a category distinctly different from the other poems in the Web lesson. This poem deals with two natural extremes and the possible destruction of the world.
• English Romantic Poetry...Romanticism began in the late 1700’s. In England, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry that proved to be the cornerstone of the Romantic movement. Soon after, a second generation of poets, such as John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, arrived on the scene. Like the first generation, these poets preferred exotic settings and the cult of poetic inspiration. The Romantic poets reacted to the Age of Reason with such force that some poets even pretended that all of their poems were inspired. Even though the English Romantic poets reacted against the former age, the poets did not throw out all former genres and traditions. For instance, the poets continued to write odes, a genre as old as the ancient Greeks and Romans. A famous example is Keat’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” The poets’ views of nature widely differed and cannot be easily classified under any stereotype. Wordsworth presents a forsaken woman as reshaping nature in an extreme emotional state. Wordsworth’s contemporary, Coleridge presents the albatross as innocent and seemingly harmless in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” However, when the mariner kills the albatross, nature becomes vindictive and dooms the mariner to travel and retell his crime again and again. Romantic poetry does more than define nature in a variety of ways. Poets also wrote about timeless topics, such as love between a man and a woman, as in Shelley’s “Love’s Philosophy,” and the love of a woman for her baby, as in Wordworth’s “The Complaint of the Forsaken Indian Woman.” The Romantic poets in some ways were unlike any poets who preceded them and unlike any poets who came after them; but in other ways, they are like all men who experience love of family, fear of death, and various questions about nature.
• 20th Century American Poetry...Unlike T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden offers the world hope in the midst of war. At the end of his poem September 1, 1939, Auden says that people “must love one another or die.” Thus, he suggests that love can conquer the violence of war. Second, he concludes with the hope that the poet and just men and women can offer the world “an affirming flame.” On the other hand, Eliot concludes his The Hollow Men by observing that the world ends “not with a bang but a whimper.” His The Waste Land concludes on a similarly despairing note with madness and the London Bridge falling down. Fortunately, like Auden, other poets hoped for man’s future or simply knew how to enjoy the vigorous life all around them. Carl Sandburg, in his lively poem Chicago, enjoys the swift pace of city life. Of course, Sandburg was keenly aware of man’s suffering, as seen in The Cripple. With their dark humor, Edgar Lee Masters and Edwin Arlington Robinson took a different approach than did Sandburg. Both Masters and Robinson created vivid portraits of imaginary individuals. Like most poets, Marianne Moore took a keen interest in the external world but also in the internal world of the mind. The imagery that she employs to describe the enchanting mind is hard to forget.
• Contemporary Poet: Maya Angelou...Much of the poetry by Maya Angelou describes the racism she endured growing up in the Deep South. She also focuses on the humiliation and long-term effects of being abused as seven-year-old child. She published numerous poems – some well-known for anaphora and other forms of repetition. In “Phenomenal Woman,” she lists qualities that make her extraordinary. In the “Million Man March Poem,” she uses anaphora as she encourages and praises those participating in the Million Man March. In “And I Still Rise,” she uses repetition to emphasize her ability to rise up and conquer all obstacles. Again, in the poem she read at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton, Angelou uses anaphora and other forms of repetition to call upon the American people to take pride in themselves and to stand tall in the knowledge that they are only a little lower than the angels.
Grammar and Usage Skills
• Parts of Speech: Nouns...Nouns are a major part of both our oral and written communication. The rules surrounding these categories of nouns, help us to write and speak more clearly and effectively.
• Parts of Speech: Verbs...You may have thought that verbs were just simple words expressing action. Now you know that while they do express action, they can be complex! There are so many different kinds of verbs, including active, passive, regular, irregular, transitive, intransitive, linking, helping, past tense, present tense, future, tense, and more. All these types are important to proper sentence structure. As you practice using different types of verbs in your sentences, using a diagram will be very helpful.
• Parts of Speech: Pronouns...Pronouns are an important part of speech because they keep sentences from becoming long and confusing. They accomplish this by replacing nouns in the sentence. There are several types of pronouns, including subject pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, intensive pronouns, relative pronouns, object pronouns, indefinite pronouns, interrogative pronouns, and reflexive pronouns. All these types have different functions and roles in sentences. It is also important to make sure that the pronoun and the antecedent agree. They must agree in gender, number, and person so that the sentence flows. When you diagram sentences, pronouns should be treated like the nouns they replace. The only exception to that rule is the relative pronoun. Now you can see why it is important to understand how pronouns are used correctly.
• Parts of Speech: Adjectives and Adverbs...Adjectives and adverbs are the parts of speech that provide more details for the reader. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. There are a number of different types of adjectives, including superlative adjectives, predicative adjectives, attributive adjectives, and comparative adjectives. Adverbs are the parts of speech, which modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Knowing how to diagram these parts of speech in sentences will help you understand their proper use and value.
• Additional Parts of Speech...Now you understand the importance of verbals and prepositions. Verbals may seem like verbs, but, although they are words that have the idea of action or being, they do not function as true verbs. Gerunds, infinitives, and participles are all important parts of grammar. Knowing the difference between these types of verbals will help you as you use the English language. Prepositions are also important because they connect the action. Whether you are reading what others have written or writing something yourself, it is important to know how these words are used properly. As you continue to practice, you will continue to increase your skills.
• Grammar Prep for the SAT...Now that you have an idea of what the exam entails, you are ready to conquer the SAT and get into the college of your dreams. Your daily workout regimen should include reading, whether it is the newspaper, Web articles, or magazines, and thinking about what you have read. Becoming a critical reader will help you become better at the Writing Section, too. Be aware of vocabulary in the world around you. A few simple daily workouts will let to SAT Gold!
Written and Oral Language Skills
• Persuasive Writing...Learning to write persuasively will help you as you go through life. Writing a good persuasive essay involves careful planning, narrowing your argument, looking at both sides of the argument, use of good structure, learning about your audience, knowing how to hook your audience and hold their interest throughout your piece, understanding the needs of your audience, using proper transitions, and more. Once you have mastered these skills, you will be prepared to persuade! You will have opportunities to use your skills of persuasion in many areas of life, including school, college, jobs, and personal life. The best way to hone these skills is to look at the others’ examples, and practice the tips and techniques you have learned in this Web Lesson.
• Introduction to Narrative Writing...Story telling is an everyday occurrence. It is a part of daily conversations, the books we read, even in the things we hear while listening to the radio. If a person does not know much about narratives, the stories he tells may become long and boring for his listeners. But when a person knows how to make a story interesting, he will have an audience wherever he goes. Writing narratives is a fun part of creative writing. As you write your own narratives, you will want to be sure to establish a clear plot structure, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The resolution is important to your story because it allows you to satisfy your reader. You will also want to make sure you have a clear hero, or protagonist, and a clear antagonist. And finally, you will want to include techniques such as avoiding clichés, using clear point-of-view, and choosing a good setting. With practice, you will enjoy writing exciting narratives that will capture the attention of your audiences.
• Writing Techniques...There are many ways to make your writing interesting and enjoyable. Making sure you write a good paragraph, especially a good leading paragraph, can get your reader hooked from the very beginning. Using techniques like persuasion, concision, active voice, parallel structure, similes, metaphors, and personification will keep readers interested so they will continue to read. Now you are ready to write an exciting and engaging story!
• Literary Techniques...Literary devices make writing more interesting and cause the reader to become intrigued, curious, and thoughtful. Symbolism is great way to make the reader think about what you are writing on a deeper level. Foreshadowing raises anticipation and interest. Flashback can provide more information and depth for your story. In addition, irony can add humor, surprise, and variety to a piece. Many famous books, such as Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby, have become famous for their use of literary devices.
• Figurative Language...Figurative language opens up a world of written possibilities. Metaphors, similes, and hyperboles allow you to draw comparisons and make exaggerations that add emphasis and meaning to your subject. Personification allows you to accent or stress some particular facet of a story or topic. Onomatopoeia adds sound and weight to a written piece, while alliteration and assonance carry the rhythm and mood. Each of these devices enables the writer to appeal to the readers’ senses and imaginations, while still conveying very particular meanings and information. The more efficiently you become at utilizing the various tools of figurative language, the more vibrant and enjoyable your written works will become.
• Components of Mysteries...As you begin writing mystery stories, it would l be helpful to get to know the icons of the mystery writing world, such as Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The best mystery stories are those that draw the reader in by way of character, setting, and plot. Your main characters must be more than just physical descriptions. They have to have feelings, emotions, flaws, and strengths so that your reader can get to know them as if they are real. Your setting has to not only fit your story, but must be described in great detail so that the reader can feel as if they are actually there. Finally, your plot must keep readers in suspense, while you give them just enough clues to make them feel as if they are ? . It is important that you also add red herrings to your story, not to confuse or frustrate your reader but to simply distract them for a while from solving the mystery.
• Creative Writing...Creative writing can provide a chance for writers to express themselves using words on a page. This style of writing can take many forms - the most popular being short stories and poems. While the majority of your creative writing should be original themes and ideas based on your desires and imaginings, there are many guidelines and ideas that can help you begin. If you are writing short stories, you will want to be sure to include the four elements of a good story: employing the technique of parallel structure, keeping the story streamlined, connecting with the reader, developing characters appropriately, and building action as you write. If you are writing poems, you will want to experiment with different types, such as love poems, sensory poems, and poems using iambic pentameter. Either way, it is important to learn to think creatively, and to draw inspiration from writers and poets who have become famous because of their creative work. Above all, writers should enjoy the writing process and see it as an outlet for peace and relaxation.
• Listening and Speaking...Public speaking and active listening are things that will help you as you go through life. When you have opportunities to speak publically, you will want to prepare by knowing how to start your speech, how to write it with proper formatting, how to overcome fear, how to capture your audience, how to use visual aids, and the best ways to use pauses and body language. You will also have opportunities to be an active listener, whether to others’ speeches, to lectures, to trainings, or even just in conversation. You can be an active listener by using techniques such as paraphrasing, making eye contact, not interrupting, asking questions, and repeating what the person has said. The tips and techniques that you have learned in this WebLesson should be practiced and implemented in your everyday life so that you can receive the best results. Enjoy your new skills!
• SAT Writing Component Prep...In the writing section of the SAT test, students will have 25 minutes to write an essay. This essay is worth one-third of the total writing section score. There will be one prompt or assignment to write about. To answer this prompt, students must take a side or form an opinion about something. For example, the prompt might be about the benefits of wearing uniforms in school. A student may form the opinion that there were no benefits to wearing uniforms, while another student might find many benefits. Within the 25 minutes allotted for the essay, a student should carefully read the prompt in order to identify key words and main ideas. The student should spend no more than 10 minutes brainstorming ideas. These ideas should be examples that support your thesis statement. Allow time to write the draft, but also allow time to proofread the essay. Always check an essay before turning it in. Two trained graders will read the SAT essay. Each grader can award a score from 1 – 6, with 6 being the highest score. Most students earn between 3 – 4 on the SAT essay.
• Writing the College Application Essay...As you prepare to write your college essays, you will want to remember many things. Your choice of topics will tell the admissions office a great deal about your values, your thought process, and your preferences. If you are assigned a topic, you will need to follow the directions, be concise, be honest, and just be yourself! Avoid clichés, gimmicks, being wildly funny, and trying to be someone you are not. When you start writing, it is important to organize your paper properly and include an introduction that includes a good thesis statement, paragraphs that support the thesis, and a concluding paragraph that summarizes your essay. Using these tips will help you to write an excellent college entrance essay!
Study Skills, Research and Reference Skills
• Strategies for Research and Topic Development...The research process is typically a long and complicated endeavor. However, effective researchers know that by managing this process effectively they can produce high quality results. These researchers select engaging topics. They find quality sources of information and keep track of these sources. They take smart notes and develop useful outlines. Ultimately, they put themselves into a position to write superb research papers.
• Explore Resources for Research...For those who know how to conduct thoughtful searches, the World Wide Web contains an incredible array of information. However, remember that not every Web site was created equally. Some Web sites are more authoritative than others. Effective researchers must discriminate between reputable and non-reputable sites in order to find the highest quality information.
• Rules and Practice in Citation...Reputable writers recognize the importance of citing their sources of information. Citing sources is one way that writers give credit to other researchers and thinkers who have helped them develop their own ideas. Many have compared the failure to cite a source of information to stealing. Writers know that different types of information media are cited in different ways. They also know that different styles exist. While MLA includes the date of publication at the end of the citation, APA includes the date of the citation immediately after the author’s name. Significantly, both citation styles require the date of publication. While various disciplines rely upon different styles, students know that they must ask their instructor what style he or she prefers before citing their sources. Students and writers should come to recognize that high quality organization will enable them to keep track of what information comes from which specific sources. Strong writers also recognize that while they may not readily know the components or order of a proper citation they can easily find this information online.
• Conduct Primary and Secondary Research...Understanding the fundamentals of how to conduct research is a valuable skill that is useful in the educational world, the business world, and even for your own personal use. Using primary sources such as original documents, interviews, surveys, and artifacts will help you gather information that may not be published or readily available. Using secondary sources such as journal articles, the Internet, and books, will help you add to your research. When you understand how to use all of these sources correctly and begin putting them into practice, you will find that you are able to put together comprehensible and reliable presentations and reports. You will also find that once you have amassed such great quantities of research, graphic organizers are extremely helpful in connecting and presenting your information. Understanding and tying all of these components together will enrich your research process, allowing you to successfully gather information pertinent to your research.