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American Literature - Colonial Literature

Georgia Virtual Learning

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2013 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.


This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2013. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

The version reviewed was: 3/27/2013.

Background from OER Project Review Team
This unit is part of a larger full course in American Literature (15 modules) offered by the Georgia Virtual Academy. The courses were designed to align with the Georgia Performance Standards and pre-date the CCSS. This should factor into the viewer's analysis of the review results. The course has an optional text-to-voice tool that provides an audio version of the content. Though designed to take advantage of digital media, a print option is available to reproduce much of the content.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Quality of Text: 1.83, Quality of Questions and Tasks: 1.5, Writing: 1.0.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Not Recommended (1.0)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 1.0, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 1.25, Instructional Supports: 1.0, Assessment: 1.25.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.75, Interactivity: 1.75, Exercises: 1.0, Deeper Learning: 1.0.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Extreme (1.0)

This easy-to-navigate unit provides a useful selection of complex literary and non-fiction texts from the Colonial period, representing a variety of perspectives (Native American, male and female colonist, and slave) with a focus on literary terms.

While there is a lot to like in this unit, including historical background information, rich texts, and a smooth interface, the unit as presented does not consistently align to the CCSS. The unit does not go far enough to support students in crafting viable arguments, solving complex problems, communicating effectively, or linking an author’s use of literary devices to meaning. Peppered throughout the unit, prefacing the readings, are questions that invite students to consider the use of figurative language within texts. These questions approach the skills of analysis and close reading addressed in the CCSS, but there is little guidance about how these questions are to be used in the classroom. The unit does not specifically suggest written responses to reading questions. The assessments paired with the readings are relatively lightweight (crossword puzzle, short multiple-choice quizzes, a matching quiz, and a PowerPoint presentation where students identify and analyze isolated examples of literary terms from the texts). The unit feels uneven. The essential questions posed at the beginning of the unit, about how the literature of early Colonial American reflects the customs and beliefs of the Native Americans and Puritans, are not addressed by the assessments. The rigor of the reading list is high, while the text complexity of the background information is low. The reading questions are rich, but are not consistently rigorous for all readings, and do not build coherently to final projects or assessments. There is a balance of texts; a blend of written text, video, and audio information; but an imbalance of reading to writing. The writing that is required – a mini-report on the lives of Native Americans – does not address a sufficiently complex question. The unit provides little guidance about the writing process, or evaluation criteria for the writing product. However, a teacher willing to fill in the gaps will be able to bring this unit into CCSS alignment with moderate work.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Agree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The essential questions in this unit are promising and interesting, but the unit as written does answer the four questions presented. There is potential here to refocus the pieces of literature and the questions towards the original questions embedding more writing and discussion as part of the process. Students might compare this myth of the creation of the world with another Native Americans or the Puritans view of the creation of the world through the Bible, a text much read by the Puritans.

Exploring literary style and word choice more closely and its contribution to American literature could be a great focus, and meet many CCSS, but really seems to be a secondary focus of the lesson. There are some questions that start to go here, but a more focused shift on the style of writing and its contribution and comparing it to other pieces of literature even from that time period would be address CCSS RL 12.9a a standard often unaddressed. Students examine a sermon and a narrative, both could be examples of text the look at word choice and then use to model writing after as a writing assignment using the literary elements they have been studying.

There just seem to be a lot of lost opportunities and loose ends that make this unit a lot less than it could be and it would take work to make it an 11th grade CCSS unit that addresses the needs of all students, including ELL and SPED students.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The Colonial Literature unit covers selections typically found in American Literature anthologies. The unit materials have a variety of colonial genres, such as poetry, journals, and the classic hellfire sermon. Also, there are two accounts of traveling to America, one as a slave and one as a pilgrim coming from Europe. Finally, there is one selection from Native American mythology. The complexity of the texts varies somewhat, but is largely rigorous for eleventh graders, given the syntactical structures, the possibly unfamiliar genre format, and the background knowledge needed to understand the texts. The unit begins by laying out two interesting guiding questions and a third that asks for essentially a list:

  • How does the literature in early Colonial America reflect the customs and beliefs of the Native Americans and Puritans?
  • How did history have an effect on the types of literature being written?
  • What kind of literary styles did the earliest writers contribute to American Literature?

The questions and choice of texts could lead to analyses of the historical events of the time, the Puritan beliefs about the role of literature and art, and activities where the students uncover the world views of the various people based on the texts. However, the unit does not ask the students to look at the cross-text similarities and differences. Often, the directions and subsequent questions are aimed at comprehending the text, tone, and inferences within the particular text. For example, in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the follow-up quiz asks, “What is the central message of the sermon?” and, “As a preacher, Edwards uses his sermon to (four choices provided).” There are similar activities for other texts, aimed at comprehending each text in isolation.

The unit is primarily focused on literary terms such as anaphora, conceit, and simile. The final project for the unit is to make a presentation defining the term, finding examples from the texts, creating personal examples and so on. Some terms will be review to the students, such as simile. A writing assignment included in the unit relates to Native Americans and asks students to write about a tribe. The assignment asks them to “… explain the tribe's lifestyle, government, transportation, clothing, housing, trading, relationship with settlers, or any other interesting aspect of their lives that you may discover.” This assignment could be accomplished through looking up a tribe in one source such as an encyclopedia.

The unit could align better with CCSS by:

  1. Designing rigorous lessons and projects based on the guiding questions
  2. Including scaffolding and specific instructional support for guiding students through the text, and differentiation options for students reading at lower grade levels and ELL students.
  3. Questions and projects aimed at cross-textual analysis and synthesis
  4. Including attention to relevant academic vocabulary
  5. Specific discussion/writing prompts for mining the deeper issues at play, such as the differing experiences of groups arriving in America, the tension between community and the individual, and the nature of the Native American and Puritan deities.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The few student assignment questions are not thoroughly connected to assigned reading other than students were asked to read a creation myth and then research a tribe of their choice. Assignments are not dependent upon the text; no text evidence is needed to complete most assignment other than the final assessment. Some minor reading checks are included that are text dependent, but these are at comprehension levels only. Students are given things to look for while reading, but there are no clear instructions on how they are to demonstrate their learning.

The final assessment lacks rigor; students are asked to create PPT using nine literary terms that were introduced in the beginning of the reviewed materials. They are to find a specific example from the assigned reading of each term and explain its importance to the overall work. While this is text dependent, it is not forcing the students to think deeply about the text (comprehension level at best).

Technological interactivity exists throughout the unit in the form of cross-word puzzles, self-assessment reading checks, film clips, PPT examples that students can click through, and flash cards.

No rubric exists for the final assessment.

No grammar/convention lessons are included in the reviewed materials.

Only one writing assignment was noticed within this unit; it was not text dependent, and there were no instructions for students to work through the writing process.

There was no extension for higher level students or scaffolding for lower level students reviewed other than an audio clip for one of the texts.

Overall, while the literature choices and technological interactivity were strong, the lack of clear, text-dependent assignments lowers the strength of the unit. With the creation of rigorous, text-dependent assignments and rubrics the unit could be aligned with Common Core.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.