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5 recommended ELA texts to incorporate into high school lessons

THURSDAY, APRIL 23, 2015 11:30 AM

Though the Common Core State Standards emphasize nonfiction texts across a variety of subjects, only a few are actually required. This means that it's up to states and the school districts within them to develop curricula using both fiction and nonfiction texts. Because the State Standards' emphasis on non-fiction texts is meant to cover a range of subjects, including history, social studies and science, it leaves plenty of flexibility for English/language arts classrooms to focus on drama, poetry and literature, along with nonfiction. Here are five texts recommended (but not required) by the Common Core to incorporate into high school ELA lessons:

1. 'The Metamorphosis' by Franz Kafka
Kafka's tale of metamorphosis is a recommended story for 9th and 10th graders about a man named Gregor Samsa who wakes up one morning and finds he's been transformed into a giant insect. The story is highly symbolic, dealing with topics like transformation and identity, which is one reason it's a good text for high schoolers. Students can delve into its symbolism and language to analyze the story and the author's perspective.

2. 'The Dream Keeper and Other Poems' by Langston Hughes
The Common Core requires high schoolers to read poetry. And, especially for students who are currently learning about civil rights, slavery or African-American history, Langston Hughes is an important poetic voice. Students in grades 9 and 10 can critically analyze the poetry in "The Dream Keeper" based on what they know about its historical context.

3. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Arguably one of the most classic pieces of American literature, "The Great Gatsby" is an important novel for high schoolers to read. The story of an odd and mysterious millionaire explores themes like the American Dream, class and gender, and its setting during Prohibition calls for some knowledge of American political history.

4. 'Common Sense' by Thomas Paine
Common Sense was a pamphlet published in 1776 that's credited with changing many Americans' minds about seeking independence from Britain. The Common Core requires high schoolers to read some foundational American documents, like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and "Common Sense" adds another layer of depth to a clear understanding of those documents and their historical significance.

5. 'The Tragedy of Hamlet' by William Shakespeare
The State Standards for English/language arts requires students to read Shakespeare, although no specific work is required. Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is one of his most well-known tragedies. Students can explore the play's theme of revenge while analyzing the unique and intricate way Shakespeare's use of language shapes the story.