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American Literature - Unit 2 Reason and Enlightenment in America

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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
Saylor is a non-profit foundation that hires teachers and professors to create course blueprints, locate, vet, and organize OER into a structured course format. This American Literature resource is intended as a self-directed online course. It is also useful for the homeschool community and alternative classroom programs. The reviewed resource was still under development during our review. This should factor into the viewer's analysis of the review results.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Quality of Text: 1.08, Quality of Questions and Tasks: 0.88, Writing: 1.5.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Not Recommended (1.0)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 2.25, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 1.75, Instructional Supports: 1.0, Assessment: 0.75.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.75, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 0.75, Deeper Learning: 1.25.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Extreme (1.0)

This unit would be useful in the ELA classroom, as a springboard for scope and sequence. I like how the units are presented (as literary movements instead of chronologically).

To make this unit accessible to all students, the materials would need to be presented in class or as hard copy materials. In addition, there would need to be some preparation to make it ready for below level readers or ELL/SpEd students. There are no suggestions for scaffolding, but the units do seem to be applicable for higher level students. This might be useful as an 11th grade summer AP project, without any scaffolding and to introduce students to the concepts that will be addressed during the year.

The use of visuals and presentations make learning more interesting for students, and would benefit our students. There are applications to teach writing, but there are no rubrics or teacher instructions or look-fors, so assessments might be complicated. These could be manipulated to address the skills set required by the CCSS, and a rubric could be developed using the standards.

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

The Reason and Enlightenment is the most comprehensive (for alignment to the CCSS depth) and well organized unit that I have reviewed. The target is American Literature (Course Information) and the Learning Outcomes include a clear purpose for instruction. The selected texts are seminal 11-12 grade social studies/American Literature pieces (e.g. The Constitution, The Declaration and Franklin's Autobiography) and the activities integrate reading/writing/speaking/listening. Because of the text complexity and critical thinking built into this unit, the students' content knowledge and understanding of the Enlightenment would definitely increase. Many of the close reading activities require students to confront texts directly, to extract textual evidence and to use it as support for activities such as the "Six Big Ideas in the Constitution" or the "Rhetorical Elements" of the Declaration. They are to explain, analyze and persuade in their writing assignments.

The weaknesses of the unit include little scaffolding for differentiated readers and no specific vocabulary exercises for the archaic prose that dominates the literature/documents of the Enlightenment. The balance of writing did not include on-demand writing or the full writing process because the lessons about creating an autobiography/persuasive essay shortened or omitted many process steps.

This Enlightenment unit would cultivate student interest and it is teacher-friendly. One tutorial explained the basics of teaching writing/revising/editing for a persuasive essay. (This could be very helpful for beginning teachers.) This lesson, the two videos form NYU and Yale on the Enlightenment and the “Rhetorical Element” tutorial were specific targeted instruction. For teachers this unit is almost like a one-stop shopping center for hyper-links to quality lectures, tutorials, and handouts about the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment.

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

This unit was designed for a student to be able to independently go online and complete this unit without the assistance and guidance of a teacher. Thus, there are many process pieces missing that would need to be added if you were to use it in the classroom. This unit could be exemplary due to the overall structure of the unit and resources if discussion questions that are text dependent are added and small group and whole group process are included. Adding choice and scaffolding for ELL, SPED and below grade level students will also be needed, but the foundation and resources are all in place.

The assessments both formative and summative need some work in order to ensure that all students understand what is expected of them and can practice their skills. In the unit students study Rhetorical Devices looking for the devices in a couple different pieces of literature and then they attempt to use the devices. Students need to have these types of opportunities in other places in the unit. Students need to learn about a skill, see it in the text, study how it is used and then practice using it themselves. They may also want to see how other students use these skills and critique each other based on what they have learned. They could also make connections to how rhetorical devices are used today or in other types of literature.

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

Impressed with:

  • Stated outcomes and purpose of unit
  • Extensive materials and exercises provided to explore seminal documents of American history
  • Focus on rhetorical devices and text-based evidence of use in documents
  • Progression of presentation/analysis of provided texts

Challenged by:

  • Level of texts examined
  • Lack of instructional directions
  • Format of unit layout – designed for use as an independent study?
  • No aligned rubrics; answer keys that are provided are given with assignment (so why do the assignment)
  • No formative assessment or culminating demonstration of mastery?

Overall: I started with high hopes for this unit, but quickly discovered its intended use was very different than my expectations of an instructional unit. Activities and texts are valid choices and applications of content. However, it does not go anywhere; no progress of skill or enduring understanding. Where’s the demonstration of learning? Where are the formative assessments to know if students are on-board and moving with you or lost in left-field? What’s the point of this unit? What are the students to get out of it?

I would use these materials in my classroom: Strongly 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.