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Picturing America at the turn of the twentieth century

Learn NC

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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.

Background from OER Project Review Team
This lesson plan from Learn NC was designed to address ELA and Social Studies North Carolina Curriculum standards. It also notes alignment with the history/social studies standards in the ELA Common Core State Standards. It should be noted that this particular review did not look at alignment to those particular standards and this should factor into the viewer's analysis of the review results. Though written to take advantage of digitized collections in the Library of Congress, an alternate unit plan for lack of computer access is included.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Quality of Text: 0.75, Quality of Questions and Tasks: 0.38, Writing: 0.5.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Not Recommended (0.8)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 0.75, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 0.75, Instructional Supports: 0.75, Assessment: 0.75.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.0, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 0.5, Deeper Learning: 1.25.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Extreme (0.75)

The Learn NC Picturing American unit states that it meets 11-12.LH.7 and 11-12.LH.9, which it does. However, it does not fulfill many of the other CCSS. It states that it wants to help students appreciate how history and literature can be linked but it focuses on student analysis of turn of the century advertising and ties that into contemporary ads of today. Therefore, many of the elements of text complexity and text-dependent questions are missing. Also, the lack of vocabulary activities, formative assessments, scaffolding, process writing and student samples are problematic.

On the positive side, there is an area for student reflection on learning and a creative component in choosing illustrations for the required reading selections along with creating a personal scrapbook. It seems that this unit suffers an identity crisis that muddles the teacher and could confuse the heck out of the student.

The unit attempts to integrate multiple sources of information in many formats and from many sources. The choice of the literary texts is rigorous and could yield productive text-dependent questions, yet when they are used in the Activities section, students need only to find one image per story as an illustration. (Some of mine would use the Sparks notes versions of the reading for sure.) If revised, the integration of reading, speaking, listening and writing could be done at a much higher level with more critical thinking occurring.

Picturing America seems to be a bit of a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde unit. I would love to use this unit because it was interesting and engaging on the technical side, yet it also was frustrating and ambiguous on the purpose side. If the focus was to truly help students appreciate the connections between history and the literature, using the two short stories and the chapter of The Jungle was a good idea. But they weren't really used. More text-dependent questions, formative assessments and writing assignments (etc.) based on these pieces would have made for a stronger unit.

Overall, this lesson was supposed to take eight hours according to the Learn NC website, but I could easily see it taking two weeks if the class really read the pre-reading pieces with scaffolding and formative assessments and worked on some form of on-demand or process writing.

This unit does build on student content skill regarding turn of the century advertising. But was this the objective? Not including a clear and explicit purpose (student objective) is a major downfall.

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

I would use parts of this in my classroom. I like bring in the ads and pictures, but to help build background instead of as a secondary assignment. I think that there could have been more emphasis placed on higher level thinking and using questions to develop conversation and analysis about the texts. There is little put on reading or writing and this site uses persuasion as its end product (instead of argument). As an ELA unit, there would need to be some work done, to bring it up to the standard. However, it would be useful in parts, as an introduction to the literature.

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

Impressed with:

  • Attempt to tie in relevant literature
  • Provided concept map for unit overview and connection to greater learnings
  • Accessing primary “documents” (media: photos, videos) from Library of Congress (including required student access)
  • Historical-to-modern day bridge that is created through the “My scrapbook” activity

Challenged by:

  • Lack of alignment to CCSS (ELA reading, writing, listening, speaking)
  • Lack of planned, detailed assessments (formative and summative)
  • Lack of rubrics providing detailed, meaningful guidance to enhance learning
  • Treatment of text as superfluous – no instructional attention is devoted to the analysis of or connection with these texts

Overall recommendation: Intriguing unit plan for a social studies classroom, not an ELA course. If the literary texts are relevant, treat them as so; give them the time they require (or do not use them). Also, there needs to be a focus on evidence of student learning, like higher level questioning with required responses for this course work. It appears as if the students are going through the motions and not gaining anything for their work. What new learnings do they gain? Finally, where are the ELA standards?

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

This units original purpose was not to read text with depth, nor to write with the depth required of the common core, thus it will need a moderate to extreme amount of work to align to the ELA CCSS.

The underlying premise of the unit has promise for engaging students in history and ELA, thus it may be a good starting point for building a unit that incorporates relevant historical informational documents as well as literary text. Building on the focus of advertisement is a good springboard, but each of the tasks needs level questions that are text dependent. There also needs to be an essential question or two to focus the students learning and its connection to the literary text.

The informational texts are media heavy and there needs to be a greater balance of informational media text with more traditional informational text, as well as literary non-fiction. The writing tasks need to informative and argumentative rather than narrative in nature. The journal and illustrating a story do not ask enough of the students. However, both tasks could be expanded or modified to meet the CCSS. The response journals might be turned into blog entries where students argue the merits and impacts various advertisements on the culture and society of the time and possible influences on the authors and characters in the stories and novels being read. They could also discuss how the advertisements of the periods, language and images are similar and or different today and what that tells us about the cultures norms of the time. Developing interactive publications where students write and engage in text based writing deepens students thinking and addresses numerous CCSS standards.

The structure of this unit will make it difficult for many to use. There are many pieces left out that one would have to fill in themselves. There is no scaffolding for ELL, SPED, or those who are behind or ahead of grade level. Differentiation and choice is limited or non-existent.

The resources are the most useful part of the unit and are a good springboard, but provide too much scaffolding for the grade level, where independent research is necessary. Providing a question to focus the research and a variety of sites for students to access information for a mini-research project and mini-presentation would more effectively build students skills sets at the 11th grade.

Overall there are some good starting points, but significant changes will need to be made to this unit to align it to the CCSS.

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.