American Studies Syllabus
2014-2015

American Studies will introduce students to the themes explored by both historians and authors.  Students will develop and gain insight into the dynamic interaction of text and history by analyzing an array of fiction and non-fiction texts, poetry, music, drama, images, statistics and ideas throughout the course. Students will elevate the sophistication of their writing in preparation for the Junior Writing Portfolio including development of a formal research paper that will be completed during the first semester.

In American Studies, students augment their understanding of significant themes and ideas that shape our evolving understanding of the American Identity. A concerted effort is made to link all learning to current events, showing why it matters to “know” the complexities of the American experience. They work to personalize their written voice, improve clarity of expression and hone skills in analytical, narrative, creative and expository writing. Students are encouraged to develop appreciation of the power of words, as well as reading and writing for pleasure.

THEMATIC UNITS of INSTRUCTION and COURSE MATERIALS

 I. Tradition and Rebellion: Accepting Personal and Communal Responsibility

Main Texts and Content:

Primary Sources:
Adams’ Letters, Common Sense, Declaration of Independence, Paintings, Native American Letters, Declaration of Sentiments, Margaret Sanger

Recommended Readings and Authors:
Tracks by Louise Erdrich, other selections by Alexie, The Last of the Mohicans, Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler

II. Before Citizenship: The Quest for Recognition of Humanity

 Main Texts and Content:

Primary Sources:
Douglass, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July”; Rose Williams, “Look for Some Others for to ‘Plenish de Earth’”; Booker T. Washington, Atlanta Compromise; DuBois, Souls of Black Folk (Ch. 1, Of Our Spiritual Strivings), To My Old Master by Jourdan Anderson

Recommended Readings and Authors:
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker

III. The Reckoning: Falling Short of the Ideal

Main Texts and Content:

Primary Sources:
The  Fourteen Points, Four Freedoms, Kennan Telegram, collected perspectives on the atomic bomb, speeches by Cold War presidents

Recommended Readings and Authors:
Anything by Vonnegut (e.g. Galapagos), The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman , Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

IV. Renewed Purpose: Quest for a Place to Belong

Main Texts and Content:

Primary Sources:
relevant legislation, immigrant journals and letters, newspaper stories, political cartoons

Recommended Readings and Authors:
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, Passing and Quicksand by Nella Larsen, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Drive by Daniel Pink, Toni Morrison

ASSURED WRITING EXPERIENCES

GRADING RATIONALE for U.S. History

Students will be assessed using a standards based grading methodology. Student progress and achievement will be measured according to the literacy standards outlined in the Common Core, the Social Studies State Standards outlined in the C3 Framework, the achievement expectations of the Joel Barlow school-wide rubrics and the ITSE (International Society for Technology Education) standards for technology education. Learning will be defined by progress in developing proficiency in the skills and processes authentic to the study of history in the 21st Century. Rather than seeking to accumulate points, students will devote their time and energy to achieving benchmarks of learning. Each assessment for the course will include a list of standards measured by that assessment. Students will have multiple opportunities to meet each standard as well as revision opportunities on major assessments.

The range of skills described by the standards is vast. Here is a comprehensive list of the standards. Mastery of a certain basic set of these skills is necessary to pass the course. The rest of the standards are labeled according to graduated levels of sophistication which will be used to derive a students grade at the end of each marking period.