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A high school lesson on 20th Century Literature


Language Arts, Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Decades of the 20th Century Project
By – S. Bauer-Zingg
Subject – Social Studies, Language Arts
Grade Level – 9 – 12

I use this project to provide an overview of the 20th Century for my senior literature class. It also establishes many aspects of collaborative work, which we use throughout the year.


Objective: Students will research, classify and explain the “great” achievements of the 20th Century by presenting the highlights of (a decade / two decades) while working in cooperative groups.

Proficiencies: 22,23,24,25,26,27,35,42,43,44,45,48,49.

Step 1: In small groups or as a class, brainstorm candidates for the greatest ______ of the 20th Century. Encourage students to think GLOBALLY.
      Entertainment – song, film, book

1. Note these quickly – no need to eliminate ideas. (SAVE THIS LIST.)
2. “Can you think of any other categories that should be included?”
3. “How do you define ‘great’ ?”
4. Discuss things students say to qualify “great.” — newsworthy, long lasting, popular, impacts future, memorable, etc.

Step 2: Class / teacher decides on whether to complete project in small (2-3) or medium (4-6) sized collaborative groups. If small – 10 groups necessary. If medium – each group covers 2 decades.
1. Choose decades using some random process. It may be a good idea to give medium-sized groups 1 recent & 1 “ancient” decade.
2. These groups will work collaboratively (work together to produce a product together) to produce a final product which includes:
      Group definition of “great”
      Visual / audible aides (artifacts, relics)
      Spoken presentation
      Written explanation for each “great” choice, noting others that were considered
      Works consulted list in style manual format
      Completed cooperative group checklist

Step 3: Collaborative groups meet to:
1. Establish and polish a group definition of “great” which will guide their decision making process.
2. Decide which of the “great” categories they would like to address. (minimum 1 per group member per decade)

Step 4: Collaborative research – Collaborative groups utilize library resources to meet the objectives of the project.
1. Some record of the group’s progress is required at the end of each research segment.

Step 5: Creation of assessment standards – Students will brainstorm the criteria for assessment of this project. The teacher will use these criteria in the creation of an assessment rubric. The class should also establish a time span for each presentation so that the teacher may construct a schedule for presentations.

Step 6: Collaborative construction – Collaborative groups work in classroom / library / computer lab to prepare for presentation of material and submission of written work.
1. Some record of the group’s progress is required at the end of each work segment.
2. The teacher may wish to give mini-lessons on:
      Presentation techniques
      Style manual format
      Collaborative work strategies
3. Teacher will provide each group with a copy of the assessment rubric
4. Teacher will post the schedule of presentations
5. Collaborative groups complete the cooperative group checklist at the end of the last work session

Step 7: Collaborative presentations – Students will alternate between being the presenters and audience while participating in self and peer evaluation.
      The teacher may ask for student volunteers to videotape presentations!

Step 8: Reflection – On a questionnaire style form, students will recall what they can of each decade. Note and discuss WHY they recall these things. Compare these choices with earlier discussion of 20th Century “greats.” How did each group’s definition of “great” effect their choices? Can the class come to consensus on ONE great for the ENTIRE 20th Century in each category?

E-Mail S. Bauer !

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