New for November at EDSITEment

This month, EDSITEment celebrates Native American Heritage Month and the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as well as shares new lessons on Galileo, Things Fall Apart, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.

National Native American Heritage Month

At the outbreak of the Revolutionary crisis in the 1760s, Native Americans faced a familiar task of navigating among competing European imperial powers on the continent of North America. At the close of the era in the 1780s, Native Americans faced a “New World” with the creation of the new United States of America. During the years of conflict, Native American groups, like many others residents of North America, had to choose the loyalist or patriot cause—or somehow maintain a neutral stance. But the Native Americans had distinctive issues all their own in trying to hold on to their homelands as well as maintain access to trade and supplies as war engulfed their lands, too. Some allied with the British, while others fought alongside the American colonists.

In The Native Americans’ Role in the American Revolution: Choosing Sides, students will analyze maps, treaties, congressional records, first-hand accounts, and correspondence to determine the different roles assumed by Native Americans in the American Revolution and understand why the various groups formed the alliances they did.

Lincoln at Gettysburg: 150th Anniversary

“It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their Sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.” So read the invitation to Abraham Lincoln to speak at the dedication of a national cemetery on the site of a pivotal Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. But contrary to popular belief, Lincoln did not give the keynote address. That oration was delivered by Edward Everett, a Massachusetts statesman, vice-presidential candidate of the Constitutional Union Party in 1860, and the most famous orator of his day. Everett spoke to the crowd of 15,000 without notes for over two hours. The president used only 272 words in his dedication of the cemetery grounds, with most American newspapers taking little notice of the now famous speech. But the day after the ceremony, Everett wrote Lincoln to say, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

The Gettysburg Address (1863)—Defining the American Union will examine the most famous speech in American history to understand how Lincoln turned a perfunctory eulogy at a cemetery dedication into a concise and profound meditation on the meaning of the Civil War and American union. It will especially benefit teachers of AP U.S. History classes by deepening student understanding of the momentous themes of freedom, equality, and emancipation.

In addition, check out 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address: “A Few Well Chosen Remarks”, a Thinkfinity blog post that discusses the lesson.

Galileo and the Universe

Ancient astronomers constructed explanations of the motions of the celestial bodies based on mathematics, philosophy, and careful observations of the skies as visible to the human eye. They recorded the positions of these heavenly bodies over time. Based on this method, ancient astronomers concluded that Earth was the center of the universe, and that all other objects in the sky revolved around it.

In the second century CE, a Roman astronomer named Ptolemy refined this view, stating that all planets moved in perfect circles, attached to perfect spheres, all of which rotated around the Earth: a theory that predicted the paths of the planets fairly well. This view, accepted for 1,400 years, was challenged by new astronomers aided by instruments that enabled them to see the skies as they had never been seen before. Chief among them was Galileo, bolstering his observations with a revolutionary telescope he invented.

In Galileo: Revealing the Universe, students will practice close reading of passages from Galileo’s Starry Messenger concerning his observations of the stars and constellations through a telescope. They will develop an understanding of how he constructed his arguments to challenge the established views of his time using new technology and logical reasoning.

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe’s first novel, deals with the clash of cultures and the violent transitions in life and values brought about by British colonialism in Nigeria at the end of the nineteenth century. Published in 1958, just before Nigerian independence, the novel recounts the life of the village hero Okonkwo and describes the arrival of white missionaries in Nigeria during the late 1800s and their impact on traditional Igbo society.

Writing in English, the language of the imperialist conquerors of Nigeria, Achebe’s stated goal was to create a “new” and more African English. He integrated Igbo words and phrases, proverbs, folktales, and other elements of communal storytelling into the narrative in order to record and preserve African oral traditions and to subvert the colonialist language and culture.

The purpose of A “New English” in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”: A Common Core Exemplar is to help students discover and evaluate this “new English” that has made Achebe “the father of African literature” and placed Things Fall Apart on high school reading lists worldwide.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

For sixteen-year-old Janie, living with her grandmother in rural Florida near the turn of the twentieth century, the horizon seems limited indeed. At first she is pushed against her wishes into marrying a much older farmer, and then she finds herself in a lengthy but ultimately dreary marriage to an ambitious and successful businessman. Then there is the charming Tea Cake, a much younger man who knows how to enjoy each day and breezes into Janie’s life, changing her forever. However, Hurston’s masterwork, Their Eyes Were Watching God is more than simply the story of a woman finding herself and extending her horizons.

A careful record of place and time, this novel brings to life the culture of the first African American–controlled town in Florida and the settlement of black migrant workers in the rich agricultural “muck” around Lake Okeechobee in the early decades of the twentieth century. A trained anthropologist and ethnographer, Hurston imbued her characters’ dialogue and descriptive passages with firsthand knowledge of the folk life and folk language of this region.

Their Eyes Were Watching God: Folk Speech and Figurative Language provides students with an opportunity to observe how Hurston creates a unique literary voice by combining folklore, folk language, and traditional literary techniques. Students will examine the role that folk groups play in their own lives and in the novel. They will undertake a close reading of passages in Their Eyes Were Watching God that reveal Hurston’s literary techniques and determine their impact on the novel.


Shelley NiTuama, Program Specialist at the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Christopher Zarr, Education Specialist at the National Archives and Record Administration, will be presenting Strike Gold! Mining Literary Nonfiction Resources for the Common Core with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Archives at the 2013 AASL National Conference on Friday, November 15, at 10:15 a.m. The session will also be captured as a slidecast (audio synced to slides) and available to conference attendees through AASL eCOLLAB.

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