AMEX: Forging Connections Between History And Literature

Karen Guo

When reading a book, just about everyone wonders why characters make decisions that lead them into problems. For example, why would a Jewish guy choose to remain in a country that was an ally of Germany during World War II? The decisions that each character in a novel makes are impacted by the period in which they lived. Are you intrigued in learning about the historical periods that inspired writers to create their books? The American Experience course is the ideal course for you.

The American Experience is two courses – English 3 and U.S History – designed for any 11th-grade students who are interested in getting a deep, rich understanding of American History and American literature. It allows them to understand “what it means to be an American throughout history and in our contemporary landscape” (Ms. Grohs, LHS English teacher). Both courses meet the A-G requirements.

Compared to just regular English 3 and regular U.S history, the American Experience focuses more on connecting similar themes in American literature with American History. This allows students to “understand what people are living through during that specific time frame” (Mr. Posey, LHS history teacher).  

Another major difference between the American Experience and regular English 3/U.S history is that it is more project-based. There are many cross-projects that involve researching reports from both literary and historical sources. With that said, the assignments assigned for the class are “the same amount one will get in just regular English 3 and U.S History” (Mr. Posey, LHS history teacher). In fact, the work assigned is sometimes for both classes, making the work easier to manage. Another advantage of taking this class is that there would be only one final, instead of two, for both classes.

The American Experience is taught by two teachers – Ms. Grohs and Mr. Posey; Ms. Grohs teaches English, and Mr. Posey teaches U.S history. Their teaching styles are different but simple and interesting. Ms. Groh’s teaching style is more agenda and reading-based, while Mr. Posey’s is more storytelling and notes/documentary-based. Despite their teaching styles, the two work very well together to connect themes with the books read in English and the time frames associated with history. Not only are they planning their lessons with similar themes, but they are also planning for field trips that “are meant for students to see what it was like to be in that place in history” (Mr. Posey, LHS history teacher).

During the fall semester, the American Experience class already went on a field trip on October 22nd, 2021. This field trip was for their immigrantion unit, where the U.S was receiving massive immigrants from other countries. The students got a tour around an immigrantion station at Angel Island, located across from the town  of Tiburon in San Francisco Bay. This tour around the exhibit brought the words that the students are told in class into reality. Angel Island was an immigration station for immigrants, mostly from China and Eastern Asia. It served like a prison station, where most of the Chinese immigrants were put for days/months until they got interrogated. Once they were interrogated, they were usually sent back to their original country. Knowing the history of Angel Island, the students in American Experience got to see what it was like for people during that time to live in this place with their own eyes. This experience creates a deeper connection to the knowledge the students obtained in class.

In summary, the American Experience is a great course to take for any 11th-grade student who is interested in how America became who we are today. It helps students to grasp the connection of American literature and history together – both in knowledge and reality. As a past student who took this course puts it, “I used to struggle with writing essays, but knowing the connection between the book and story behind it makes it a lot easier.” That is what the American Experience course is all about.

Picture by Ms. Ghros

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