American Literature • M. Sierra-Perry


Avi is a respected young adult author who is able to speak to young people with an attitude. Nothing but the Truth is a contemporary novel that deals with a young man's inability to accept a mistake of his own making. Instead, he blames it on his English teacher. Rather than deal honestly with his lack of effort in the classroom, the main character blames his ineligibility to try out for the track team on his English teacher Miss Narwin. When Miss Narwin reports him to the assistant principal because he "hums during the Star-Spangled Banner" and is suspended, his parents quickly rally to his side. They seek the counsel of a school board candidate who sees this suspension as a way to gain favorable publicity. So begins the search for truth. So ends Miss Narwin's quiet existence as her part in Philip's suspension becomes national news.

Using this text to begin the unit on "Rights and Responsibilities" rather than begin with colonial literature which is dense and quite removed from my students' lives engages my students from the beginning. From this text we will be introduced to the Fathers of the Revolutionary War through the screenplay "1776." Then we step into the world of the Puritans through Arthur Miller's, The Crucible. Each of these works deals with the theme of "Rights and Responsibilities" and the consequences of perservering to gain and then protect our rights and freedoms. Furthermore, this text invites a study of primary sources and a variety of non-literary chapters. The novel is written as a documentary novel.

Later students will work in literary circles reading books that they have been chosen because they deal with the theme, and the consequences for their actions are very serious. When we start reading The Crucible, I suspect that some students will see parallels to the girls who cry out"Witch!"


Students will read the text and keep a question journal to track their reading.

They will then right an essay to discuss who was treated fairly and who was not? What is the consequence?

Assessment: Quiz over the text which requires the student to reflect on the impact of Philip's actions and the effect of the use of a variety of primary sources.

Reflection: Some may criticize the use of young adolescent literature rather than works that are a part of the literary canon. I, however, see this as a less painful way to get students into reading.

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