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American Literary Movements

This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings American Literature to life with comics and storyboards.

Make American Literature come to life with comics!

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Featured Layouts

When students complete the activities in this lesson plan, they will use the following comic layout types.

  • Timeline
  • Storyboard
  • Mind Map
  • Character Map
  • Graphic Novel

Your students will create amazing images like these in no time!

Pixton Lesson Plan on American Literary Movements
This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings American Literature to life with comics and storyboards.
This free, printable Pixton lesson plan brings American Literature to life with comics and storyboards.

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American Literary Movements

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  • Desk
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  • Field
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  • Mountain
    Mountain
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  • Ship
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  • Skyline
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Teacher Guide

American Literary Movements

Step 1Class discussion with students

Getting Started

Ask students how they can tell the difference between a movie made this year versus a movie made in 1999, 1985, or 1950. They should be able to explain that styles, content, and themes change and follow certain trends. Just as modern-day books and movies share certain themes and styles, so has literature throughout time. Explain to students that American prose and poetry are grouped into categories based on when they were written. For that reason, any work of American literature can can be grouped into one of fourteen main literary movements.

Opening Discussion

Discuss the details of each literary movement:

  1. Native American (1490 - 1700)
    • Based on oral tradition of stories, fables, tales, myths, and chants. Elements of nature are the most common feature. Most stories include a hero on a quest, a trickster who interferes, a change in nature, and an element of creation.
  2. Early Settlers (1500 - 1670)
    • Written by the first immigrants coming to America to settle a new land. Consists of letters, diaries, journals, and histories. The historical accuracy of these writings are often up for debate. Authors include Columbus, John Smith, and William Bradford.
  3. Puritanism (1620 - 1790)
    • Written by the immigrants who left Europe to find religious freedom. Includes the rules and fears of sin and hell that characterized Puritan society. Consists of sermons, poetry, diaries, and stories that teach a moral. Authors include Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, and Jonathan Edwards.
  4. Enlightenment (1750 - 1800)
    • Also known as Rationalism, Classicism, and The Age of Reason. Consists of political and philosophical writings about reason and common sense. Authors include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and Phillis Wheatley.
  5. Romanticism (1820 - 1860)
    • Coinciding with the European movement, it rebelled against classicism, and focused on individualism, idealism, imagination, and nature. Settings were often in distant times or places but illustrated American ideals. Authors include Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Herman Melville. It contains the largest body of work studied most often in school.
  6. Transcendentalism (1830 - 1850)
    • Shares beliefs about the natural and spiritual world including the following: Nothing in nature is insignificant; The basic truths of the universe transcend the physical world; Every individual can experience God through their own intuition; God, humanity, and nature share a universal soul; Everything in nature is meaningful, symbolic and important; Every human being is born inherently good. Authors include Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
  7. Realism and Regionalism (1860 - 1914)
    • It rebelled against Romanticism and Neoclassicism and promoted facts over intellectual or emotional reasoning. Includes stories of everyday people and is written in natural language. Use of detailed descriptions is more important than overall plot. Authors include Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Kate Chopin.
  8. Naturalism (1865 - 1914)
    • Naturalism is related to realism but it focuses specifically on social issues caused by industrialization. It includes dark, tragic stories of struggle. Characters unsuccessfully adapt to their environment and their environment causes them to make bad decisions. Authors include Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, and John Steinbeck.
  9. Modernism (1914 - 1945)
    • Consists of a noticeable shift in expression and writing style from previous movements. Written by individuals disillusioned by WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. There is a greater use of symbolism and themes of alienation, isolation, individual perception, and human consciousness. Authors include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Henry Miller, and T.S. Eliot.
  10. Harlem Renaissance (1920 - 1930)
    • Also called the Lost Generation, Jazz Age, and Roaring 20s. After years of creative and social repression, many African-Americans migrated north. The Harlem Renaissance is a concentrated outburst of African-American art, writing, and music from Harlem. It attacks racial inequality and stereotypes while voicing racial pride. Authors include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and Ralph Ellison.
  11. Beat Generation (1950 - 1965)
    • These "beatnik" urban bohemian writers actively alienate themselves from the conventions and conformity of all previous generations. They promote jazz music, drugs, sexuality, Buddhism, and all "hip" and free ideals. Authors include Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg.
  12. Post-Modernism (1950 - Present)
    • Lines are blurred between popular culture, literature, and art. Authors have a realistic view of reality and believe the interpretation of reality is more important than the concrete experience of reality itself. Authors include Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Albee, Ken Kesey, J. D. Salinger, Truman Capote, Nikki Giovanni, Sylvia Plath, and Toni Morrison.
  13. Contemporary (1970 - Present)
    • Related to post-modernism but focused on relationships, connections between people, and evoking emotion. Authors include Tim O’Brien, Sherman Alexie, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Barbara Kingsolver, Maya Angelou, and Michael Crichton.
  14. Pluralism (1970s - Present)
    • The intentional creation of literature by authors from diverse cultural backgrounds. Since most "classic" literature is written by long-deceased white males, this movement is fuelled by diversity and acceptance. Authors share universal themes through the detailed lens of their own underrepresented culture. Authors include Amy Tan, Alice Walker, and Sandra Cisneros.
Step 2Pixton comic-making activities
  • Make a Timeline
    Describe American Literary Movements

    Complete after opening discussion.

    View Activity
  • Make a Timeline
    Identify American Literary Movements

    Complete after class discussion.

    View Activity
  • Make a Storyboard or Mind Map
    Illustrate American Literary Movements

    Complete after class discussion.

    View Activity
  • Extension / Modification
    Character Map (Extension / Modification)

    Create a Character Map to illustrate an author from one or more of the American literary movements.

  • Extension / Modification
    Graphic Novel (Extension / Modification)

    Create a Graphic Novel for a book. Include details that illustrate the book's American literary movement.

Step 3Concluding discussion with students

Discuss the following:

  • What is your favorite book and in what American literary movement was it created?
  • Think of one book from every American literary movement. What books do you like the most and why?
Print this Activity

Pixton Activity: American Literary Movements 1 Describe American Literary Movements

Featured Layouts

  • Timeline

Intro

Review the details of each literary movement:

  1. Native American (1490 - 1700)
  2. Early Settlers (1500 - 1670)
  3. Puritanism (1620 - 1790)
  4. Enlightenment (1750 - 1800)
  5. Romanticism (1820 - 1860)
  6. Transcendentalism (1830 - 1850)
  7. Realism and Regionalism (1860 - 1914)
  8. Naturalism (1865 - 1914)
  9. Modernism (1914 - 1945)
  10. Harlem Renaissance (1920 - 1930)
  11. Beat Generation (1950 - 1965)
  12. Post-Modernism (1950 - Present)
  13. Contemporary (1970 - Present)
  14. Pluralism (1970s - Present)

Instructions

Create a Timeline that summarizes the 14 American literary movements:

  • Identify the movement in the panel title.
  • Write a detailed description of the movement.
  • Include an appropriate illustration for each panel.

See the rubric for grading guidelines.

Example Timeline

American Literary Movements Described by Student
Native American (1490 - 1700) Based on oral tradition of stories, fables, tales, myths, and chants. Elements of nature are the most common feature. Most stories include a hero on a quest, a trickster who interferes, a change in nature, and an element of creation.
Early Settlers (1500 - 1670)Written by the first immigrants coming to America to settle a new land. Consists of letters, diaries, journals, and histories. The historical accuracy of these writings are often up for debate. Authors include Columbus, John Smith, and William Bradford.
Puritanism (1620 - 1790)Written by the immigrants who left Europe to find religious freedom. Includes the rules and fears of sin and hell that characterized Puritan society. Consists of sermons, poetry, diaries, and stories that teach a moral. Authors include Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, and Jonathan Edwards.
Enlightenment (1750 - 1800)Also known as Rationalism, Classicism, and The Age of Reason. Consists of political and philosophical writings about reason and common sense. Authors include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and Phillis Wheatley.
Romanticism (1820 - 1860)Focused on individualism, idealism, imagination, and nature. Settings were often in distant times or places but illustrated American ideals. Authors include Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Herman Melville. It contains the largest body of work studied most often in school.
Transcendentalism (1830 - 1850)Shares beliefs about the natural and spiritual world including the following: Nothing in nature is insignificant; The basic truths of the universe transcend the physical world; Every individual can experience God through their own intuition; God, humanity, and nature share a universal soul; Everything in nature is meaningful, symbolic and important; Every human being is born inherently good. Authors include Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.
Realism/Regionalism (1860-1914)Rebels against Romanticism and Neoclassicism and promotes facts over intellectual or emotional reasoning. Includes stories of everyday people and is written in natural language. Use of detailed descriptions is more important than overall plot. Authors include Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Kate Chopin.
Naturalism (1865 - 1914)Naturalism is related to Realism but it focuses specifically on social issues caused by industrialization. It includes dark, tragic stories of struggle. Characters unsuccessfully adapt to their environment and their environment causes them to make bad decisions. Authors include Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, and John Steinbeck.
Modernism (1914 - 1945)Noticeable shift in expression and writing style from previous movements. Written by individuals disillusioned by WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. There is a greater use of symbolism and themes of alienation, isolation, individual perception and human consciousness. Authors include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Henry Miller, and T.S. Eliot.
Harlem Renaissance (1920 - 1930)Also called the Lost Generation, Jazz Age and Roaring 20s. A concentrated outburst of African-American art, writing and music from Harlem. It attacks racial inequality and stereotypes while voicing racial pride. Authors include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen and Ralph Ellison.
Beat Generation (1950- 1965)These "beatnik" urban bohemian writers actively alienate themselves from the conventions and conformity of all previous generations. They promote jazz music, drugs, sexuality, Buddhism, and all "hip" and free ideals. Authors include Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg.
Post-Modernism (1950 - Present)Lines are blurred between popular culture, literature and art. Authors have a realistic view of reality and believe the interpretation of reality is more important than the concrete experience of reality itself. Authors include Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Albee, Ken Kesey, J. D. Salinger, Truman Capote, Nikki Giovanni, Sylvia Plath, and Toni Morrison.
Contemporary (1970 - Present)Related to post-modernism but focused on relationships, connections between people, and evoking emotion. Authors include Tim O’Brien, Sherman Alexie, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Barbara Kingsolver, Maya Angelou, and Michael Crichton.
Pluralism (1970s - Present)The intentional creation of literature by authors from diverse cultural backgrounds. Fueled by diversity and acceptance. Authors share universal themes through the detailed lens of their own underrepresented culture. Authors include Amy Tan, Alice Walker, and Sandra Cisneros.

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Print this Activity

Pixton Activity: American Literary Movements 2 Identify American Literary Movements

Featured Layouts

  • Timeline

Intro

Review the details of each literary movement:

  1. Native American (1490 - 1700)
  2. Early Settlers (1500 - 1670)
  3. Puritanism (1620 - 1790)
  4. Enlightenment (1750 - 1800)
  5. Romanticism (1820 - 1860)
  6. Transcendentalism (1830 - 1850)
  7. Realism and Regionalism (1860 - 1914)
  8. Naturalism (1865 - 1914)
  9. Modernism (1914 - 1945)
  10. Harlem Renaissance (1920 - 1930)
  11. Beat Generation (1950 - 1965)
  12. Post-Modernism (1950 - Present)
  13. Contemporary (1970 - Present)
  14. Pluralism (1970s - Present)

Instructions

Create a Timeline that illustrates at least 4 examples of the 14 American literary movements:

  • Identify the movement in the panel title.
  • Write a detailed description of one example of literature from each movement.
  • Include an appropriate illustration for each panel.

See the rubric for grading guidelines.

Print this Activity

Pixton Activity: American Literary Movements 3 Illustrate American Literary Movements

Featured Layouts

  • Storyboard
  • Mind Map

Intro

Review the details of each literary movement:

  1. Native American (1490 - 1700)
  2. Early Settlers (1500 - 1670)
  3. Puritanism (1620 - 1790)
  4. Enlightenment (1750 - 1800)
  5. Romanticism (1820 - 1860)
  6. Transcendentalism (1830 - 1850)
  7. Realism and Regionalism (1860 - 1914)
  8. Naturalism (1865 - 1914)
  9. Modernism (1914 - 1945)
  10. Harlem Renaissance (1920 - 1930)
  11. Beat Generation (1950 - 1965)
  12. Post-Modernism (1950 - Present)
  13. Contemporary (1970 - Present)
  14. Pluralism (1970s - Present)

Instructions

Create a Mind Map or Storyboard that summarizes the elements of one American Literary Movement for one work of literature discussed in class:

  • Identify the element in the panel title.
  • Write a detailed description of the element from the story.
  • Include an appropriate illustration for each panel.

See the rubric for grading guidelines.

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