Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Teaching the American Twenties: Exploring the Decade through Literature and Art

Lesson Plans

Lesson plan summaries listing the subjects, grade level, duration of lesson, and a brief description, make it easy to find the best activity for your classroom.

Each lesson plan is printer-friendly and includes all of the materials you will need, including suggested procedures, worksheets, applicable educational standards, and facsimiles of documents and artifacts that you can download for classroom and student use.

Activities are designed to help students think critically about the literature and related socio-cultural context of the 1920s through visual analysis of artifacts, rich primary materials and focused subject inquiry.

"The Big Cheese" (PDF*)
Subject: U.S. History
Grade level: 11
Lesson Duration: 2-3 days

Students will investigate important individuals of the 1920s; explore the economic, political, and social climate of the times; and explain the significance and impact of individuals on American society.

The Harlem Renaissance: Awakening the Black Soul (PDF*)
Subject: U.S. History
Grade level: 11
Lesson Duration: 2-3 periods

Students will explain how the Harlem Renaissance was a "rebirth" for the African American culture through art, music, and literature and how it impacted American Society then and now. They will accomplish this objective by completing four center activities that will use instructional strategies that will focus on social studies skills.

The 19th Amendment and The American Way (PDF*)
Subject: U.S. History
Grade level: 11
Lesson Duration: 1 period

Students will identify different methods used within the democratic process by the suffrage movement to expand the political rights of women and pass the Nineteenth Amendment.

The Sound and Feel of the 1920s (PDF*)
Subject: U.S. History
Grade level: 11
Lesson Duration: 1 period

Students often have difficulty identifying eras and, therefore, placing events in time and place. This lesson uses the art of the time to help students understand the 1920s and, when used as the introductory lesson for understanding the 1920s, sets a multi-media background or "soundtrack" for their study of the significant individuals, events, and issues of the 1920s (including immigration, the Red Scare, Prohibition, and the changing role of women).

Propaganda of War (PDF*)
Subject: English
Grade level: 10, 11, 12 British Literature — American Literature - English III
Lesson Duration: Maximum of two 90 minute Blocks or four 45 minute lessons

Students will analyze the Ransom Center's World War I posters for elements of propaganda and then, working in teams, design their own war poster and present them explaining their own use of elements of propaganda.

1920s Images and Ideals PowerPoint Project (PDF*)
Subject: English, American Literature
Grade level: 11, 12 English III
Duration: Two or more 90-minute class periods — coupled with other lessons covering the literature of the time period (i.e. The Great Gatsby, Spoon River Anthology, Langston Hughes, Nora Zeale Hurston, 1920s poetry, short stories, and other literature already incorporated in the curriculum).

Drawing from the primary sources available in Teaching the American Twenties, students will create presentations depicting their understanding of the people, lifestyles, events, dreams, ideals, and beliefs of the period relating to the literature of the 1920s.

Paint Me a Description (PDF*)
Subject: English III — American Literature
Grade level: English III (but can be used at the 9th and 10th level too)
Lesson Duration: Two 90 minute Blocks or four 45 minute lessons

Students will use imagery and figurative language in a descriptive writing lesson using period postcards and an excerpt from Main Street by Sinclair Lewis as a model and stimulus for writing.

Women of the Twenties and The Great Gatsby (PDF*)
Subject: English Language Arts
Grade level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: Three class blocks

Students will write a persuasive essay on how life is better for women today than it was in the 1920s based on their research and exploration of Teaching the American Twenties and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Poet's Message: "The Colored Soldier" by Langston Hughes (PDF*)
Subject: English Language Arts
Grade level: 9-12
Lesson Duration:

Through group analysis and presentation, students will analyze the poem, "The Colored Soldier" by Langston Hughes to gain greater understanding of how poets use language to create meaning, influence thinking, and thus become pioneers of change in American society.

Gatsby and the American Twenties Newspaper (PDF*)
Subject: Secondary Language Arts
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: Several class blocks

Either prior or during the reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, students will create a newspaper reflecting their knowledge of the American Twenties, "the lost generation", and the experiences and dilemmas faced by the characters in the novel. The newspaper project will assist students in organizing and synthesizing material into short articles that illustrate the time period while using technology in both the creation and presentation of the final project.

American Rhythms (PDF*)
Subject: English, Language Arts
Grade level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: Several class blocks

In order to gain a better appreciation and understanding of Native American poetry translated by Mary Austin in The American Rhythm; students will unite their use of language with music and movement to create their own poetry that incorporates the use of rhythm.

Defining American Culture: Photographic Parallels (PDF*)
Subject: English language Arts
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: 3 class blocks

Using the photographs taken by Czech photographer, Jno P. Trlica, students will assess the diversity the photographs illustrate existed in 1920's Texas. Then students will compare and contrast Trlica's photographs with more current photographs of Texans and evaluate in what ways Texas has changed in how diversity is viewed.

The Dream Factory (PDF*)
Subject: English language Arts
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: 2 class blocks

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Is this true? By studying the Los Angeles postcards, students will understand the image of a dream city created to increase tourism They
will study artistic details that create emotion and thought and translate this emotion and thought into words.

Hollywood Magic (PDF*)
The Dream Factory Recreates the Novel
Subjects: Secondary Language Arts
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: Several class blocks.

After reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair and studying HRC's "Teaching the American Twenties- The Dream Factory," students will rewrite a small scene from their novel into a dramatic film scene and then create a modern movie poster that demonstrates their understanding of the plot, major themes, and characters of the novel and the 1920's.

Jay Gatsby's Souvenir Scrapbook (PDF*)
Subject: English Language Arts
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: Several class blocks
Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is usually seen by scholars as a novel that truly epitomizes the 1920's, a time period that we seem to be re-creating , in many ways, today. After reading The Great Gatsby, students will use technology to create a scrapbook for Jay Gatsby, one that he might have actually created for himself, to demonstrate the various ways the novel reflects the era. Students will use technology to research and create a visual presentation that is both interesting and informational.

My America (PDF*)
Subject: English
Grade level: 11th
Lesson Duration: One 90 minute lessons or two 45 minute lessons. (or more depending on interest and timing)

To introduce students to Americans in the 1920s and encourage the students to explore America through photographs.

That Was Then, This Is Now - House and Home (PDF*)
Subject: Secondary Language Arts
Grade Level: 11
Lesson Duration: One 90 minute class blocks or two 45 minute classes.

This lesson is designed to aid students in the appreciation of the importance of visuals in understanding aspects of society past and present. It allows for student collaboration and reinforces the skill of comparing and contrasting information. It further offers students a look at life in the 1920s.

Women Call Out (PDF*)
The Personal Narrative
Subject: English Language Arts
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Duration: 4 class blocks

After studying several personal narratives written by women in the 1920's, students will create and write one of their own that demonstrates the 6 + 1 Writing Traits: organization, ideas, fluency, word choice, and conventions. Student essays should especially create a strong emotional voice as seen in HRC's Teaching the Twenties Collection, "The Rise of Women, Mothers in Bondage."

Write Me a Mystery
Subject: Secondary Language Arts
Grade Level: 11
Lesson Duration: Two to four 90 minute class blocks or four to six 45 minute classes, dependent on length and requirements for writing process.

Working as a collaborative writing team, students will (in groups of 4-6) Pre-write, draft, edit and revise a murder mystery short story. By doing this, students will hone skills in short story drafting, editing and revision, group collaboration and computer use.

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