School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 8

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Advanced/Gifted and Talented: An advanced/gifted and talented tool is an idea for a complex, multi-step instructional task that requires students to apply knowledge and skills of multiple objectives that support one indicator. Tasks require students to interpret, analyze, and evaluate text at an appropriate level of complexity and embed a variety of differentiation strategies to challenge advanced readers. Many of these strategies and activities can be adapted for use with all students.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 8. Read critically to evaluate literary texts

Objective c. Analyze and evaluate the relationship between a literary text and its historical, social, and/or political context

Other Objectives Addressed

a.Analyze and evaluate the plausibility of the plot and the credibility of the characters

Instructional Task

Students will read critically to evaluate how a literary text is a reflection of an author’s life and times. The students will use the historical-biographical approach to literary criticism to assume the role of a literary critic and write a review in which they evaluate whether the historical perspective of the text limits or enhances the author’s communication of the theme across time.

Development of Task

  1. The teacher will introduce the historical-biographical approach to literary criticism by posing the essential question: “How does my background influence my views?”
  2. The teacher will explain that all writers live within a social and historical context, and a writer's work often reflects the biases of the period that may pertain to social class, race, and gender. The teacher will explain that a reader can use the historical-biographical approach to analyze the historical, social, and political influences that shape a text.
  3. The teacher will select literary text of appropriate complexity that develops a theme within an historical setting, such as Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun, Michael Schaara's novel The Killer Angels, Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities, John Whittier's poem “Barbara Frietchie,” or Alfred Tennyson's poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
  4. Before students read the selected literary text, the teacher will model the historical-biographical approach using a familiar text such as the “The Star-Spangled Banner:”
    1. Students will read the text and analyze the development of the narrative elements and theme.
    2. Students then will read a biography of Francis Scott Key and analyze how his profession, friendships, religious beliefs, and diplomacy led to his unique view (both physical and moral) of the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. One biography may be found at the website of Fort McHenry:
    3. Students will analyze how Key's historical, social, and political context shaped the narrative elements and theme of his poem. The students will consider how Key's view of war and the British enemy shaped his choice of imagery, his characterization of the antagonists, and the plot elements he chose to include or leave out.
  5. The teacher will ask students to evaluate the plausibility of Key's account as it was shaped by his life and times:
    1. How would a different writer observing the same battle, such as a soldier, slave, or nurse, have used a different choice of tone, imagery, character development, and plot?
    2. Did Key's perspective limit or enhance his ability to communicate his theme to readers across time? In other words, does the National Anthem still resonate with Americans today? With you?
    3. How does your background affect your view of the poem? Are the setting and tone still powerful for today's readers?
    4. The teacher may also wish to have the students read an account of how the song became our National Anthem in 1931 in order to analyze how the Great Depression influenced its selection to represent our country's patriotism.
  6. During reading of the selected literary text, students will trace the development of the narrative elements and theme within the historical setting.
  7. After reading, students will research the author's life and times in and look for any biases prevalent in the culture of the time and how they are reflected in the text.
  8. Students will analyze how the author's background led to a unique perspective and shaped the literary elements the author used to develop the theme, including setting, characterization, plot, imagery, and tone (objective c).
  9. Students will evaluate the credibility of the characters as well as the plausibility of the narrative as it was shaped by the author's background (objective a).
  10. In a critical review, students will evaluate whether the historical-biographical perspective of the text limits or enhances the author's communication of the theme across time (evaluation).
Resources for Objective 3.A.8.c:
Lesson Seeds | Sample Assessments | ADVANCED/G-T |