Grades 11-12: I Am an American Day by Learned Hand


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Reading Informational Text

RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

RI.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

RI.11-12.5 Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.

RI.11-12.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.

RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.


W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.


This Grade 11-12 lesson plan titled “I Am an American Day by Learned Hand” from is intended to be completed in 2 days of instruction in language arts.  It is suggested that a third day or more could be added if extension activities are desired. The lesson gives students an opportunity to closely examine a complex text and to discuss text-dependent questions while building academic vocabulary. As the culminating activity, students independently write a comparative essay between two texts.


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned that the activities as described would be difficult to complete in the time prescribed and still achieve the rigor intended.   The plan would be enhanced with more scaffolding and teacher modeling to help students build the skills necessary for independence and deeper comprehension, as well as for the teacher to better evaluate student understanding. The culminating writing task should not be optional; an aligned rubric will need to be developed to provide sufficient guidance for interpreting students’ writing. Before this lesson is used in a history/social studies course, some modifications will be necessary including: the replacement of the ELA standards listed above with the English Language Arts Standards in History/Social Studies that are targeted in this unit, additional history/social studies content to meet grade-specific content standards, and possible assessment and/or rubric revision.


The lesson plan is useful primarily because of the text’s rigor and the quality of the text-dependent questions, which address Common Core standards in reading and writing.  Lesson activities make reading text(s) closely, examining textual evidence, and discerning deep meaning a central focus of instruction.