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The New World: Natives, Explorers, and Pilgrims

Early American Literature

Early American Literature is a subject that many English teachers dread to teach. A common practice is to gloss over this time period or skip it entirely; however, it is during this time period that the groundwork for the American Dream was laid. Explorers came to America seeking worldly riches, Puritans arrived seeking religious freedom, and slaves, arriving against their will, began the quest for equality. All of these goals inform the American Dream to this day.To complicate things further, the continent these first settlers came to claim was already inhabited by natives. This marked the first test of America:  Can vastly different groups of people live together peacefully?
The materials included on this page are designed to make Early American Literature more meaningful and engaging for students. For a detailed Early American Literature unit outline click HERE.

INTRODUCTION TO NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE (PDF)  This worksheet gives a brief introduction to Native American mythology.

INTRODUCTION TO NATIVE AMERICAN LITERATURE (PRESENTATION) This clickable, colorful presentation presents all the same information as the worksheet above, but in an interactive and engaging way. It also includes links to YouTube videos. Warning: Some of the video content is "PG." 

"VOICES OF THE FALLS" SCRIPT-STORY (PDF) This script-story is a dramatized version of a Native American myth leading with Niagara Falls. A young maiden agrees to sacrifice herself to the angry spirit of the falls--only to become the maiden of the mist. Also check out the Native American mythology collection of script-stories available for purchase in the store.

PURITANS AND PILGRIMS NOTES (PDF)  This presentation gives background on the Puritans of England and the conditions that caused the Pilgrims to seek religious freedom in the New World.

"A TIME OF THANKSGIVING" SCRIPT-STORY (PDF)  This 7-page script-story re-tells the amazing story of the Pilgrim's journey to America, using William Bradford's account its basis. This version debunks many of the storytelling embellishments concerning the Mayflower's voyage and the first Thanksgiving. A more in-depth script-story based on William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation is available in the website store.

ANNE BRADSTREET (PDF)  This handout includes the biography of Anne Bradstreet (America’s first published poet), her two most famous poems, and post-reading discussion questions.

KING PHILIP'S WAR (PDF) An often-forgotten event in American history, King Philip's War first pitted the native tribes of America against the European colonists. This worksheet gives a brief overview of the conflict and its effects.

MARY ROWLANDSON'S CAPTIVITY NARRATIVE (PDF) Abducted by Native Americans during King Philip's War, Mary Rowlandson's narrative of her captivity was America's first bestseller. It is still an exciting read today! This document includes pre-reading and post-reading questions.  A dramatized version of Mary Rowlandson's narrative is available for sale in the website store.

"SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD" (PDF)  This handout includes a short biography of Jonathan Edwards, excerpts from his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and post-reading questions for discussion.

"THE AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE" (PDF) This worksheet gives background on the details of the African Slave Trade and the inhumane conditions suffered by its victims. For a firsthand account of this deadly voyage, check out the narrative of Olaudah Equiano. As one of the first slave narratives, the story of Equiano's abduction from his village in Africa, his horrific voyage across the Middle Passage, and his subsequent life in slavery greatly aided the abolitionist movement. A dramatized version of this narrative is available in the website store.


SEARCHING FOR AMERICA: VOLUME ONE, THE NEW WORLD Included in this textbook are various Native American myths as well as fiction and non-fiction selections from Early American Literature translated into student-friendly Reader's Theater script-stories. Each script-story comes with its own teacher guide, which includes relevant background information, plot summary, character and symbol analysis, recall questions, and discussion questions. For a print version of this text, click here to visit

EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE EXAM  This 50-question exam tests material as outlined in the sample Early American Literature outline available on this website. Also included is a study guide, answer key, and answer sheet.