Lesson Title: Collective Intelligence about 1920s American Literature
Grade level: 11
Lesson Overview: American literature reflects social realities. This lesson enables
students to consult primary sources to see how contemporary people experienced the time
period, and then apply those points of view to seminal literature. The activity also
leverages each student’s research to combine new knowledge into an analytical synthesis.
Time Frame: 2-3 class periods
Learning Objectives: learners will
- Locate and extract information from primary sources about 1920s social trends
- Determine the impact of social trends on seminal 1920s American literary works.
- Collaborate to synthesize information.
- Take notes and cite sources accurately.
English Standards (aligned with Common Core):
- Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual
or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new
arguments or information.
- Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources,
using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each
source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the
text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and
overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation
including footnotes and endnotes.
- Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection,
- Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions
- Analyze the clarity and consistency of political assumptions in a selection of
literary works or essays on a topic (e.g., suffrage, women's role in organized
labor). (Political approach)
Analyze the philosophical arguments presented in literary works to determine
whether the authors' positions have contributed to the quality of each work and
the credibility of the characters. (Philosophical approach)
- Analyze recognized works of American literature representing a variety of genres
a. Trace the development of American literature from the colonial period
b. Contrast the major periods, themes, styles, and trends and describe how
works by members of different cultures relate to one another in each
c. Evaluate the philosophical, political, religious, ethical, and social
influences of the historical period that shaped the characters, plots, and
Library Standards (aligned with Common Core):
- Identify the capabilities and limitations of tools for organizing and using
- Produce media efficiently and appropriately to communicate a message to an
- Organize personal digital information using metadata, keywords, and tags.
- Search for information using both controlled vocabulary (e.g., subject headings,
descriptors) and natural language.
- Evaluate online search results, demonstrating an understanding of how search
engines determine rank or relevancy.
- Understand the differences between quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing and
apply these skills to own work.
- Use appropriate conventions for documentation in the text, footnotes, references,
and bibliographies by adhering to an acceptable format.
- Construct and test hypotheses; collect, evaluate, and employ information from
multiple primary and secondary sources; and apply it in oral and written
presentations using appropriate citations.
- Analyze important ideas and supporting evidence in an information source, using
logic and informed judgment to accept or reject information.
- Contribute actively to the learning community and participate in groups to pursue
and generate information.
- Use technology to communicate, share information, and collaborate with others
with the same interests.
- Technology: demo Internet-connected computer with data projector and screen;
class set of Internet-connected computers; three wikis (e.g.,
Planning for Diverse Learners:
- Have students work in pairs (one typical and one with needs, such as language or
- Have students share equipment if there is limited access to it.
- Pair typical and differently-abled students.
- Provide choice of information sources
- Provide more structure for the task or divide the steps into substeps
Instructional Strategies and Learning Activities:
0. Prepare for the lesson by previewing the websites. Set up three wikis.
1. Ask students how society impacts literature. Ask students to create individual
concept maps of social, philosophical, political, religious, and ethical trends
occurring during the 1920s. Have students pair-share their concept maps, and
report out a couple of insights.
2. Divide the class into thirds: The Great Gatsby, Babbitt, Their Eyes Were
Watching Go. Then divide those thirds into five groups, one for each type of
trend: social, philosophical, political, religious, and ethical.
3. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/browse/index.html. Explain that American
Memory is a set of collections of digitized primary documents. Having the class
limit their search to 1920-1929, ask the trends-based groups to locate relevant
documents from American Memory, and extract information that pertains to their
book, placing notes on the book wiki, creating a separate page for each type of
trend. Make sure that students cite their sources correctly
(http://www.csulb.libguides.com/style). Ask each group to compare their findings,
and inform each other as appropriate.
4. Have the class regroup by book, and share their findings by synthesizing the trend
pages intro a front page describing how the trends impact the book’s characters,
plots, and setting.
5. Ask the class to read and assess each other’s wikis according to the analytical
6. Debrief the class relative to the trends and their impact to the book. Discuss how
the trends of the decade could result in such different representations of America.
- Locate other documents.
- Focus on other decades.
- Use other collaborative tools.
- Focus on one type of social impact over time.
Learners are assessed via observation of online behavior and class participation, and the
wikis. Criteria for assessment include:
- Appropriate online behavior
- Quantity and quality of analysis and synthesis
- Quantity and quality of collaboration
- Identification trends that impact American literature