American History & Literature w/Integrated Study in Arts (AHLISA)

This is an interdisciplinary honors-level course that integrates American history and literature with fine and performing arts. For example, once a week, an art teacher takes the class and once or twice a quarter the class takes a dance class. The art being analyzed/performed and the literature being examined is linked to the historical period being studied.


‘Students explore the complex interrelationship between history and literature not only through traditional means, but also through exposure to and analysis of the visual, musical and theatrical work of the various time periods.’


Students who are successful at application participate in this course for two years and classes meet back-to-back. There is opportunity for alternative assessment and the course encourages creativity and collaboration. Progress can be demonstrated through creation of images, musical composition, creative writing and theatrical performance.

We spoke to seven students (in two focus groups) in their sophomore year who told us a bit more about this class. For more information, please see the following video, or read the summary below:

Written Summary:

The students discussed some of the things they do in AHLISA.

  • “During English we do a lot collages and stuff.”

  • “And we read a lot more plays. I know we’re going to act out a Shakespeare. And we all got like, parts for the Crucible.”

  • “Its really hands on and its really fun.”

They agreed that the interdisciplinary links between English, History and Art work well, speaking of making connections and visualising history:

  • “I think it works really well together. At least for me, I learn a lot better through visualizing things.”

  • "It gives you like a visual picture, instead of just knowing what happened on this date you can imagine what happened too, which to me is much more helpful that just facts on the page."

  • “Its harder to remember a fact but if you can remember a painting or a piece of writing or something it kinda just connects it together.”

They spoke about the benefits of having the same teacher and being in the same class for two consecutive years:

  • “We get a lot more reinforcement, because our classes are together and we have the same teacher for two years."

  • "I think that’s really beneficial ‘cos they get to learn a lot about you and how you learn, so that also helps them."

  • “You’re with people who like to do and learn the same way as you do.”

  • “Everyone wants the same thing. Everyone’s in it for the same reason. So its easier to feel supported.”

We asked the students if they think this interdisciplinay learning should be formed with other classes:

  • “I think definitely. Its helped all of us so much.”

  • “It’s beneficial as well as really enjoyable."

  • "Generally it's just more interesting."

A final thought:

  • "I like how personal it is cos it feels like its more about learning and growing and you know, finding out more about everything as opposed to just getting through a curriculum and taking that test."

Many thanks to Mr Yanonne and his class!