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Lesson Plan

Reaching Across Time: Scaffolded Engagements With a 19th-Century Text

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Reaching Across Time: Scaffolded Engagements With a 19th-Century Text

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time One 60-minute session and four 90-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Simon

New York, New York


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • Computers with Internet access (one for every three students) and at least one computer with print capabilities

  • Computer with a projection screen for demonstration purposes (optional but recommended)

  • DVD player

  • Large paper, glue, scissors, markers, paint and paint brushes, and additional art supplies such as yarn, tissue paper, and stencils

  • Magazines

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1. Read "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" by Herman Melville and consider the ways this story speaks to resistance and change and, in turn, the relevance of these themes to students' experiences and to your own. Note the ways in which Melville uses words and action to create complex portrayals of his characters and their motivations. Each of these elements is strongly emphasized in this unit.

2. Read the article provided in the "From Theory to Practice" section. Highlight the rationale provided for the use of role-play and the collaborative reenactment. Both activities are central to the work in this unit.

3. Make one copy for each student of "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" by Herman Melville, Role-Play A, Role-Play B, Bartleby Excerpts 1, 2, and 3, An Overview of Seneca Village, Collage Checklist, Excerpt from "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman, and the Collage Rubric.

4. Obtain or access a clip from the sitcom The Office (U.S. version); current episodes are available at Hulu: The Office. The selected scene should have the following: a) extended examples of the boss, Michael Scott, talking in a foolish and self-deluded way; b) multiple interactions between several characters in the office; and c) examples of how those who work for Michael resist his orders in different ways. An excerpt that meets all of these criteria and is directly relevant to themes in "Bartleby the Scrivener" is an early scene in Season 4, Episode 12: "Did I Stutter?" This excerpt begins after the opening credits and runs through Michael's interactions with Toby (approximately four minutes).

5. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve time in your school's computer lab for all sessions. Bookmark NYPL Digital Gallery: Early Real Estate Atlases of New York, NYPL Digital Gallery: The Picture Collection of The New York Public Library, and Bartleby's Blank Wall on your classroom or lab computers.

6. Optional: Print images of New York office buildings in the 1850s found at NYPL Digital Gallery: The Picture Collection of The New York Public Library. Relevant images can be found using the following key terms: New York + office + Wall Street.

7. Read the information provided about the African American and Irish American communities on the Seneca Village website and on the An Overview of Seneca Village handout. This community lived on part of the land that became Central Park in New York and shares a setting with "Bartleby the Scrivener." The history of this community, which was destroyed by eminent domain, has been consistently marginalized in stories about New York and Central Park. You will need to provide students with an overview of this history in Session 4.

8. Prepare a space in the classroom for the role-play and collaborative reenactment where students can stand, interact in pairs, and move around.

9. Create a blog for your class using Blogger. Create a first post by cutting and pasting the text provided at Bartleby Blog. Your students will need to have Google accounts in order to post in Session 4. You can create these accounts or take time in class to have students create them.

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