Project Be 2.0 – Design Application for American Literature

By Brendan Minihan, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Five class periods (minimum) and three weeks independent work.


Students will analyze literature/poetry and creative non-fiction (informational text), synthesize material, apply real world problem-solving logic, and present ideas to audience. This lesson is relevant to the English III, American Literature curriculum and writing standards for Grade 11. The essential question of the lesson is, “How will you use your talent to make a statement to the world?” The essential question of the course is “What is the American Ideal?” or “How does Literature Show Us What it Means to be American?” Design Thinking will help students implement and present their project by asking them to solve three challenges: make connection(s) with the literature, apply lessons from literature to real life situations using the design process, and share their understanding and vision with the world through their prototype.

National Standards

1)Reading Standards for Literature 6-12: RL 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 10. 2) Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12: RI 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 10. 3) Writing Standards 6-12: W 2, 4,5,6, 7, 8, 9 & 10. 4) Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12: SL 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 5) Language Standards 6-12: L 1, 2 & 3.


Students will be able to analyze literature/poetry and creative non-fiction (informational text), synthesize material, apply real world problem-solving logic, and present ideas to audience. Students will apply CCSS grade level standards for Reading Standards, Writing Standards, Speaking and Listening Standards, and Language Standards.


Students need computer tablets with access to the internet, as well as reading materials provided by teacher (see Materials). URLs include: and


Handouts include (but not limited to): 1) Close Textual Analysis in Poetry handout 2) Proper Respects, by Elizabeth Mullener 3) Harlem Renaissance packet (selected poems) 4) Langston Hughes packet (selected poems) 5) Project Be Self-Assessment 6) Project Be Presentation Rubric Supplies include materials students require to design and create prototype.


From Pathos – an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion Logos – reason (reasoning) Ethos - the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution; also : ETHIC 2c


Background: Teacher will present background information on the Harlem Renaissance, 1920s American culture, politics, civil rights, social movement, literary and artistic movements, etc. Teacher will also present background information on local community, a part or parts of the city/town that students live near or around. Background includes history of the neighborhood and relevance in history of City and city’s culture (or American culture). Discussion Questions: Based on what you have learned in this lesson and based on the prompt “How will you use your talent to make a statement to the world?” how might you design a piece of art (poem, story, essay, performance art, applied art, visual art, interactive media, architecture, etc) that will express your vision for a positive change for the future of your city, community and culture? Steps: 1. Instruct on Poetic form and analysis (see Close Textual Analysis handout). Focus on Craft of poet, word choice, sentence structure and analysis of figurative language and imagery. 2. Instruct on historical context of 1920s-1935 America and specifically Harlem Renaissance and discuss the overarching themes that apply to the American Ideal and modern applications of the themes. See: and 3. Students read, annotate, re-read, analyze (on own and through class discussion) poetry from Harlem Renaissance and make connections to over-arching essential question (from curriculum). 4. Instruct on components of Persuasive Argument: logos, ethos, pathos. 5. Students read, annotate, analyze (through small group and class discussion) creative non-fiction piece, “Proper Respect” by Elizabeth Mullener, specifically identifying Author’s craft of Persuasive Argument: logos, ethos, pathos. 6. Instruct on community based unity projects and use of various media for community outreach, expression of vision and artistic statement. Show videos and art work and play music directly connected to target community. Ex. A) B) 7. Field Trip: Students visit and tour target community for research. Students Interview residents, commercial owners and employees and entrepreneurs. Students analyze vision for progress and artistic statement and then synthesize with personal artistic statement and Design. 8. Having studied the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, looking for messages of hope or a vision of change and acceptance, and having read the Mullener article “Proper Respects,” in which students studied the way a writer uses logos, ethos and pathos to persuade, it is the students’ challenge then to take what they learned from the literature and from the field trip, and make an artistic statement that shares a vision with the world. Students have three weeks to design and create art in a medium of their choice (poetry, music, painting, film, ceramics, sculpture, narrative non-fiction, etc) that draw from these lessons. 9. Students design prototype that will share their artistic statement and vision for change/progress and unity. 10. Teacher gives guidance and feedback during the prototyping and testing stage. Students employ design thinking during their revisions, creating multiple iterations before the assigned presentation day. 11. Students present prototype and mini-lesson to class. Classmates give constructive criticism to student and ask design thinking questions that will lead student to brainstorm and revise. 12. Students brainstorm potential for sharing prototype with broader audience. 13. Students complete self-assessment and written reflection (see attached and also copied in Extension/Enrichment activities), answering prompts from teacher, and make connections to Literature and over-arching essential question.


I use an assessment rubric based on the student’s analysis of the literature, analysis of the craft and language of the authors, synthesis of the material, research performed and presented by the student, and the quality of the presentation and reflection on the assignment post-presentation. The assignment instructions and assessment inherently allow for differentiated instruction.

Enrichment Extension Activities

This Lesson provides a great opportunity to teach across the curriculum by partnering with History/Civics teachers and Art teachers. This Lesson also forces the students to explore the community, interact with others and reflect on their experience. The Reflection Writing is included below: Reflection: Please answer questions thoughtfully in complete sentences. Your answers need to demonstrate what you learned from the assignment. 1. Did you submit your assignment on time? Did you work on the assignment continuously for four weeks or did you wait until the due date was set? Would you have preferred a tighter deadline and why/why not? 2. Why did you pick the medium you used to express your vision? 3. How does your finished product express your vision? Does it need explaining or is it self-explanatory? 4. How many iterations of your prototype did you create? 5. What inspired you most during this assignment and why? 6. In hindsight, what does this assignment have to do with Harlem Renaissance poetry? 7. What does this assignment have to do with ethos, logos and pathos? 8. Are you comfortable sharing this in school assembly, publishing your work or posting link on internet for public sharing? Post-Presentation: after you have presented your finished project to the class, answer these questions. 1. Was it difficult to present to the class? Was it difficult to persuade the audience what vision you are expressing? 2. Did you successfully persuade the audience? How do you know? 3. If you could grade this assignment, what grade would you give your project? What grade would you give your presentation? 4. What was the best criticism or advice you received from your classmates? 5. Besides your own, what was the best project/presentation you witnessed? Why?

Teacher Reflection

When I implemented this lesson last year, I was developing the instructions as we interacted with the community and reflected on our experience on the field trip. I had previously taught the literature material before, so applying it to the community objective and design challenge opened up many new opportunities to engage with the material. The assessment demonstrated the students’ engagement with the material and natural curiosity. Once they made the connections between the literature and the community objective and applied design thinking to come up with a prototype, their eagerness and enthusiasm for the project – and even the presentations- increased and became contagious. The students showed so much growth in the design, prototyping, testing and revision phases of the project, and I was especially impressed by their improved presentation skills and the class’ response to the student presentations. I look forward to implementing Project Be 2.0 this year.

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