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History & Literature / Primary Sources / Professional Development

The National Humanities Center is distinctive in its commitment to linking scholarship to improved teaching


The National Humanities Center presents America in Class: primary and secondary resources, webinars, and lessons for history and literature teachers.

America in Class is designed to promote the analytical skills called for in the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history and social studies.

America in Class Lessons are tailored to meet Common Core and state curriculum standards. The Lessons present challenging primary resources in a classroom-ready format, with background information and strategies that enable teachers and students to subject texts and images to analysis through close reading.


Some lesson and unit topics:


* What arguments did Bartolome de Las Casas make in favor of more humane treatment of Native Americans as he exposed the atrocities of the Spanish conquistadors in Hispaniola?

* How did Thomas Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense convince reluctant Americans to abandon the goal of reconciliation with Britain and accept that separation from Britain — independence — was the only option for preserving their liberty?

* In his essay “Self-Reliance,” how does Ralph Waldo Emerson define individualism, and how, in his view, can it affect society?

* How can we read “To Build a Fire” as a cautionary tale about the exploitation of nature?

* How does Benjamin Franklin’s satire of a witch trial argue that human affairs should be guided, above all, by reason?

* How did women’s role in the campaign against alcohol consumption in 19th-century America reflect the strengths and limitations of the cult of domesticity?


Format of the Lessons:

Lesson Contents
Teacher’s Note
Text Analysis & Close Reading Questions
Follow-Up Assignment
Student Version PDF
Review This Lesson


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