I love American Literature. Transcendentalism is essential to eleventh grade English curriculum.
When I was in the eleventh grade and I read Huck Finn say “All right then, I’ll go to hell,” my life was changed. It really was.
I am always moved by Atticus Finch when he tells Scout that the “one thing that doesn’t abide my majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
I have to ask my students, yes, every year, if they think John Proctor is a transcendentalist, and of course to support their assertions with analysis and evidence.
But this fall I had a major shift in my thinking and teaching.
Common core doesn’t mention transcendentalism.
It does require that students can read informational text. Phew.
I believe that Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous transcendentalist essay falls into the category of “seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.9).
Here’s how today went. I kind of liked it.
After the book talks and independent reading, we moved into the mini-lesson part of the schedule. I introduced the idea of transcendentalism in our last session, so today I put the word aphorism on the white board. I asked if anyone knew it or had seen it before. No one had.
I cheered at their silence, and they looked at me quizzically.
I reassured them that they were going to learn something new today! That’s worth cheering about! A new, amazing word, that they already love, they just didn’t know it yet! Yes, I told them they were going to love this word. Aphorism.
(This is when you have to quickly move around the room a lot and talk louder. Or conversely, sloooow down and talk quietly. Be different. Make them pay attention.) Continue reading “Lessons Worth Repeating: Using “old” mentor texts for new learning”