Tag Archive for Frederick Douglass

Non-fiction: Letters of Note for Literature & History

As overviewed yesterday, this week’s goal is to easily implement non-fiction in the classroom with resources from the website Letters of Note. One of the best things about Letters of Note is the simplicity of the website itself.  Letters are presented in their original copy as well as typed for easier reading.

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The archive on the site is also incredibly straightforward.  You can search by correspondence type, year of publication, topic categories, author and so on.  For a teacher these choices are incredibly helpful.  Say I’m teaching how satire and humor create distinctive voice.  I click the “Humorous” link under “categories” and immediately I’m taken to a series of letters that range from Mark Twain to the Simpsons.

Finding letters that supplement your preexisting units of study is so easy you might even become slightly giddy.  I know I did when I realized that Shaun Usher, the site curator, had posted a Fitzgerald letter that referred directly to The Great Gatsby

One of the most charming is Mark Twain’s letter to a burglar who broke into his home.  I’ve included some areas of focus for possible implementation.

Twain’s “To the Next Burglar

Consider using this if you’ve taught some of Twain’s shorter pieces such as “The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” or “How to Tell a Story.”  If not wait until you’ve taught them Twain’s style of humor via The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  You’ll want to have them examine the drawings as well in the letter since they add whimsy.  Pull up on your SmartBoard or have them examine on computers, tablets or SmartPhones.

Possible Areas of Focus

  1. Read and SOAPSTone the letter.
  2. Identify 3 elements of humor that Twain employs.  Discuss their impact.
  3. Examine the images Twain includes in the margins.  How does this add to the humor of the piece?
  4. Examine Twain’s sentence structure and language.  What tone does he produce as a direct result?
  5. Clearly, there is a limited chance that a burglar, any burglar would actually read this, let alone follow its “instructions.”   In that case, what is the purpose.

Below I’ve included a list of letters that would work fit perfectly into novel-to-time period studies.  While it would be quite simple to have students simply SOAPSTone these letters, you can choose to implement them as texts to respond to in student journals or as a means to understanding style.  These are of course just a few of the letters that would work in any classroom.

Federalism/Revolutionary War

Abigail Adams, “Remember the ladies

Ben Franklin, “You are now my enemy

Civil War/Slavery

Abraham Lincoln, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong

Frederick Douglass, “I am your fellow man, but not your slave

Jourdan Anderson, “To my old master

Sullivan Ballou, “I shall always be near you

American Authors

Mark Twain to Walt Whitman, “What great births you have witnessed

Jack Kerouac to Marlon Brando, “Common on now Marlon put your dukes up

Issac Assmiov, “ A library is many things

Ernest Hemingway, “For your future information

Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five

Harper Lee, “Advice from Harper Lee

British Authors

Thomas Pynchon, “In defense of Ian McEwan and Atonement

Charles Dickens, “Happy Birthday, Dickens

Poets

John Keats to Fanny Brawne, “If I cannot live with you, I will live alone

Sigfried Sasson, “Finished with war

Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman, “ I greet you at the beginning

Non-fiction: Letters of Note Overview

Incorporating more non-fiction is a consistent goal within most English curriculum planning. Common Core expectations focus on literary non-fiction and analyzing rhetoric as does AP, Honors and IB curriculum.

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But supplements can be difficult and time consuming to find.  Trolling through websites can eat away at my sanity especially as we march closer and closer to the end of the year.   Between AP tests and state mandated testing it can feel as if there just isn’t time.  No time to find material and certainly no time to implement it.  It’s easy to give up, become frustrated and revert back to all “Gatsby” all the time.

Never fear. Letters of Note is an excellent online resource for a classroom teacher of English or History. Shaun Usher, website curator, has compiled over 700 letters that span centuries and whose topics range from Stark Trek to the Civil War.   While letters include the handwritten notes of celebrities and iconic historical figures, some of the best correspondence is that of people we do not know.

With a post per day, it’s more than likely you will be able to find a new non-fiction supplement each week for things you already teach.

This week we’ll highlight some of the best letters and discuss how to seamlessly employ them within your preexisting classroom structure.  Expect letters from Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, John Adams, Steinbeck and more.  Expect letters ready made for teaching style. But most important, expect assignments about the role of correspondence in modern culture.  All will be easy to implement, and all will help enrich literature and rhetorical analysis.