Course Syllabus

Wellesley High School
Department of English
Ms. Prinn                                          Office Hours: before and/or after school by appointment
English 31 – 11th grade honors                                e-mail:
Academic Year 2019-2020                                        Room 220

 “Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is.”
                                                – Mark Twain

Course Description:
Welcome to 11th grade honors English. In this class we will read, think, talk, and write about influential and important literature as we consider the four course themes: Conflicts with Society; Tragedy; Personal Journeys and Archetypes; Comedy and Satire. Be prepared to work hard, read thoroughly, lead discussion, analyze, debate, learn, listen, grow, and enjoy yourself in an atmosphere of high expectations and support. This is a place where your voice and opinions will be highly valued and crucial to our combined journey. To that end, we all need to commit ourselves to reading closely and thinking deeply about our literature. During the year, we will continue to develop our ability to read and closely analyze this literature (get ready for form/function/"so what" reading and writing!), synthesize information, evaluate ideas, and write expository essays.  Above all, we will strive to interact with our texts and with each other in a safe, lively, and thought-provoking classroom atmosphere as we learn about ourselves, our potential, and our society. It is my hope that we will let our guard down a little and together create a space where we can all take intellectual risks, ask questions, make mistakes and learn from them, encourage each other, smile, laugh, engage, and boldly face challenging material knowing that progress, not perfection, is the goal.


“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

                                                         – Albert Einstein 

Student Objectives:

  • To enjoy actively reading challenging, interesting, and relevant literature and to achieve our maximum potential collectively and individually; To recognize, articulate, and analyze the forms (stylistic devices and patterns) authors use and how these forms function to express larger meaning in a work of literature (the "so what")
  • To discuss the class literature and continue to develop higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, creation, and evaluation; To consider how these works of literature and the ideas set forth therein are relevant to our lives and mindsets today.
  • To build a classroom atmosphere that allows us to honor and develop our core values of: achieving academic excellence, fostering cooperative and caring relationships, respecting human differences, and committing to community. Community is everything in this class. Building a supportive learning environment will be critical to our collective success. 
  • To continue to develop a personal writing style that demonstrates logical development of complex ideas and specific arguments, clear structure, relevant textual evidence, standard English grammar, and other elements of good writing and to participate in the writing process of pre-writing, drafting, revising, proofreading, and peer and self-assessment; To practice using literary theory and criticism to bolster one's own arguments in analytical writing.
  • To understand literature as both window and mirror; to build empathy for others and be able to shift perspectives to understand another’s point of view. To express ideas articulately and sensitively, to listen well, and to collaborate productively.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

                                                    - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Major Texts:
Summer reading:
1984 by George Orwell (novel)
One additional book of choice

Conflicts with Society
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (novel) and film clips directed by Milos Forman
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (novel) and related philosophies/works (Camus, Nietzsche, Schiller, Hegel)

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (play)
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (play)
Citizen Kane directed by Orson Welles (film)

Personal Journeys and Archetypes
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates (short story) and related literary criticism (this is the warm-up unit for IRP)
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (novel)

 Comedy and Satire
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (Brian Hooker translation) (play)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (novel)
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut (short stories)
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift (essay)

 That is the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.

                                                                        -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Homework and Preparedness:
In order to reach our fullest potential (and have fun and create an engaging classroom environment), we must all first commit to ACTIVE READING. Read with a pen in hand, take notes, use post-it notes, make connections, and ask questions. Avoid SparkNotes (See the Student Handbook for updated cheating policies). Use that time to read and re-read the actual text and bring any questions or confusion to class. You can expect to read up to fifty pages per night, depending on the text and other on-going assignments. 

Your thoughtful and active participation in discussions and activities during class will determine how much you learn this year and how much collective progress we make.  This category includes whole-class and small-group discussions, in-class writings, group activities, creative projects and posters, acting/speaking, peer editing, and more.  

 Final Essays:
All final drafts of essays must be typed and accompanied by any and all pre-writing, rough drafts, peer edits, formative assessment/feedback from me, and self-assessments.  Unless an extension is arranged well in advance of the due date, late assignments will be docked 10 points the first day and 5 points each day thereafter. To avoid this needless stress, budget your time and submit all assignments on the due date, even if you are absent from school. Please remember the importance of academic integrity and only submit wholly original work in all cases. Expect to submit essays to

All major tests and quizzes will be announced one week in advance and you will have a study guide.  Expect regular unannounced reading quizzes. 

You can expect several partner and small group assignments this year, usually a presentation/analysis of a section of the assigned text (a close reading of the form/function of a passage, for example). Other assignments will give you the opportunity to express what you have learned in ways other than reading and writing. They may include art, music, PowerPoint/slides, video, teaching the class, acting, or speaking. There will be a rubric distributed for each project or presentation.

Classroom Conduct:
To ensure good use of our valuable class time, students are expected to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Each student is a valuable member of our classroom community with unique insights, experiences, culture, ideas, and background to share. Respect, listen to, and learn from one another.  No disparaging comments or jokes, hurtful actions, and/or inappropriate language will be tolerated.  
  • Be in your seat on time and resist the urge to pack up early.  We can’t spare a moment.   
  • Cheating on tests or quizzes will result in an automatic zero for all involved. Plagiarism is also cheating and will result in a zero on the assignment and possibly further disciplinary action. Copying homework and downloading any portions of Internet essays both ARE considered cheatingPlease review the WHS Student Handbook for the updated school-wide policy on cheating and SparkNotes. Always come to me for support instead of taking a shortcut that demeans you and hinders your skill progression. I will help you.
  • Eliminate distractions. As you enter the classroom, put your phone away! Use this time to interact with your classmates and build those relationships. Except in rare circumstances, Food, drinks (except water), hats and other distractions are prohibited in class in order to foster an effective learning environment. 

Only work missed due to an excused absence may be made up.  If you are absent the day a project or essay is due, that work is due the same day you return to school (or, better yet, e-mail it/share it with me on the due date.)  If you are absent for a test or quiz, you should be ready to take the exam on the day of your return.  It is difficult if not impossible to make up missed presentations, especially a group presentation.  Make every effort not to let your fellow group members down by being absent. Please note that it is your responsibility to follow up on missed work and proactively schedule make-up dates with me when necessary.  Communicate any special circumstances to me as soon as possible.

 Office Hours (Room 220): 
Please take the initiative to seek me out to discuss any questions or difficulties you may be having with the class. I am always available for support or advice. Office hours are also the appropriate time to discuss academic progress and grades.  For quick questions about an assignment, feel free to stop by without an appointment.  I urge you not to wait too long before seeking help with any assignment, reading, skill, question, or activity that is troubling you.


If you want to go fast, go alone.
     If you want to go far, go together.     

                                                              -African Proverb

I’m looking forward to our time together and to the important work of building a learning community. I have high expectations for each of you and will support you as we progress together. With our combined hard work and enthusiasm, I know it will be an enjoyable and rewarding year. Good luck!

Course Summary:

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