K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

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Learning outcomes

  • To familiarize students with historical interpretation through the use of primary sources
  • To reinforce student understanding of the period
  • To help students appreciate how literature and history can be linked
  • To encourage students to ask critical questions of the visual images that bombard them as consumers

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

8 hours


Resources from American Literature electronic texts;

Additional electronic texts of American literature for this period:

Technology resources

  • A computer lab (or stand-alone computer with presentation station) capable of internet access
  • Plug-in software to view downloaded motion pictures

An alternate unit plan also has been written for teaching situations where an internet-connected computer lab is unavailable.


  • The concept map (JPG) lists the historical documents and shows how they are related to aspects of picturing America at the beginning of the twentieth century. The map is appropriate both for teachers desiring an overview of the project and for students who wish to see the relationships of the materials they are studying.
  • New and Improved is an internet exercise that requires students to select five advertisements found on the web (or in magazines) and identify the advertising appeals. It also uses an internet site to examine how web advertising differs from traditional formats. This exercise requires one to two class periods.
  • Students will be assigned to read a combination (student and/or teacher choice) of the short stories “Under the Lion’s Paw” by Hamlin Garland and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Chapter 14 of the novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Each selection is available as an electronic text that can be accessed from this unit plan. (See Materials/Resources.) The readings can be done in two class periods and also would make appropriate homework assignments.

“Under the Lion’s Paw” appeared in Garland’s 1891 collection Main-Travelled Roads and is set on a Dakota farm. Although published in 1892, Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” suffered many years of neglect. Sinclair’s The Jungle caused a sensation upon its publication in 1906 and helped lead to the passage of federal pure food and drug laws (although Sinclair saw it more as an appeal to workers for the need to unionize). Garland’s Timothy Haskins, Gilman’s Jane and Sinclair’s Jurgis Rudkus suffer at the hands of impersonal forces almost beyond their comprehension, but in vastly different settings. (See Materials/Resources for additional online examples of the era’s literature.)


  1. After reading the literature selections (see Pre-Activities), students examine the historical documents that are listed in Using the documents. This guide draws on digitized documents located in different online collections at the Library of Congress American Memory website. Students visit each collection and locate the specified documents. They are then asked questions about each document (which are primarily visual) with the intention of fostering an understanding of how they can be interpreted. This activity requires two to three class periods.
  2. A response sheet called What do you think? is provided as an attachment. Students use the questions on the sheet to record their responses to four documents that they choose. The responses can then be used as a basis for class discussion and/or a further written assignment of the teacher’s design.
  3. Students are now ready to match historical documents with the literature of the period. Illustrating the story directs students to search three American Memory collections they have already examined to find an image that would appropriately illustrate the literature they have read. The attachment lists keywords that aid in the search, but students may think of other ones that would be as useful. When they have chosen an image for each of the literature selections, they label the illustration by using a brief quotation they have chosen from the literature. (A photograph showing the starkness of a Dakota farmstead, for example, might be matched with a quotation from “Under the Lion’s Paw” about the harshness of life on the prairie.) This activity requires one class period.
  4. In the final activity My scrapbook, students return to their contemporary world by thoughtfully responding in a variety of ways to the advertising messages that bombard them daily. This activity is designed for both electronic and paper-and-paste formats. This activity requires two to three class periods.


Assessment is through a portfolio of assignments, with a suggested rubric being attached to the plan. Assignment instructions and supporting materials are provided in the attachments to this lesson plan.

Supplemental information

Use the title for any additional materials you create to accompany this unit.


Many other teaching ideas utilizing digitized collections of the Library of Congress can be found at the Library’s American Memory website.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • History/Social Studies

        • Grades 11-12
          • 11-12.LH.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
          • 11-12.LH.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
        • Grades 9-10
          • 9-10.LH.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • American Humanities

        • 12.C.7 Understand the relationship between industrialization, urbanization and American culture. 12.C.7.1 Explain how industrialization and urbanization impacted the development of American literature, philosophy, and arts. 12.C.7.2 Analyze the relationship...
      • United States History II

        • USH.H.1 Apply the four interconnected dimensions of historical thinking to the United States History Essential Standards in order to understand the creation and development of the United States over time. USH.H.1.1 Use Chronological thinking to: Identify the...
        • USH.H.8 Analyze the relationship between progress, crisis and the “American Dream” within the United States. USH.H.8.1 Analyze the relationship between innovation, economic development, progress and various perceptions of the “American Dream” since...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 11

  • Goal 1: The learner will demonstrate increasing insight and reflection to print and non-print text through personal expression.
    • Objective 1.02: Reflect and respond expressively to texts so that the audience will:
      - discover multiple perspectives.
      - investigate connections between life and literature.
      - explore how the student's life experiences influence his or her response to the selection.
      - recognize how the responses of others may be different.
      - articulate insightful connections between life and literature.
      -consider cultural or historical significance.
  • Goal 3: The learner will demonstrate increasing sophistication in defining issues and using argument effectively.
    • Objective 3.02: Select an issue or theme and take a stance on that issue by:
      - reflecting the viewpoint(s) of Americans of different times and places.
      - showing sensitivity or empathy for the culture represented.
      - supporting the argument with specific reasons.

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 11–12 — United States History

  • Goal 4: The Great West and the Rise of the Debtor (1860s-1896) - The learner will evaluate the great westward movement and assess the impact of the agricultural revolution on the nation.
    • Objective 4.03: Describe the causes and effects of the financial difficulties that plagued the American farmer and trace the rise and decline of Populism.
  • Goal 5: Becoming an Industrial Society (1877-1900) - The learner will describe innovations in technology and business practices and assess their impact on economic, political, and social life in America.
    • Objective 5.01: Evaluate the influence of immigration and rapid industrialization on urban life.
    • Objective 5.02: Explain how business and industrial leaders accumulated wealth and wielded political and economic power.
  • Goal 7: The Progressive Movement in the United States (1890-1914) -The learner will analyze the economic, political, and social reforms of the Progressive Period.
    • Objective 7.01: Explain the conditions that led to the rise of Progressivism.