Course Syllabus

English 2019-2020


This year we will focus on thinking, reading, and writing.


As thinkers, you will practice thinking literally, inferentially, and abstractly.


As readers, you will practice using those levels of thinking to understand and connect with texts.  You will also practice noticing the ways writers use words to create meaning, power, beauty.


As writers, you will  practice using language that is clear, specific, and direct.  You will also practice writing techniques that add style and grace to your writing. 


More important than academics will be your commitment to following these daily class practices:


1) Greet each other, and me, by name when you enter.  If you are here already when people enter, greet them as they walk in. 


2) After you greet people, ask them if they need help with anything.


3) Thank people for what they do, and for what they say.


4) Say “I’m sorry” when the situation calls for it. 


5) Listen to each other.  If necessary, ask people to repeat what they have said.  Do not engage in side conversations while another person speaks. 


6) Unless otherwise instructed, keep cell phones off and out of sight.  Lower hoods and remove earbuds, without being asked, when you arrive.


7) Use the bathroom or visit the nurse or get a drink prior to class, prior to even dropping off your stuff.  If that makes you a few minutes late, that’s okay.


8) If you’re drowsy or just need to move, you may stand, walk, or stretch in class, but please do so without being a distraction.


9) If you need to eat to be able to focus, inform me during the setup at the beginning of class and we’ll find a way for you to eat something discreetly and quickly.  Otherwise, eat only in the cafeteria, drink only from hard-capped bottles, and keep your space clean and dry.


10) When you have the choice of being kind or cruel, be kind.  When have the choice of being genuine or sarcastic, be genuine.  When you have the choice of lying about your actions or intentions or telling the truth, tell the truth.  Keep your integrity solid and strong—it’s one of  the few things in life you alone control.




50 Percent: Process writing, In-class writing, and Graded Practice and Preparation.


Unless otherwise noted, these will be graded on a 12-point scale: 12=A+, 11=A, 10=A-, 9=B+, 8=B, 7=B-, 6=C+, 5=C, 4=C-, 3=D+, 2= D, 1=D-, 0=F.


50 Percent: Dependability, Spark of Life, Concern for Others.


I will assess these qualities also on a 12-point scale.  You will receive rubrics for these as the term progresses.




Here are the texts we will read, but we will also read poems, essays, and short stories.


Seniors: Hamlet, A Room of One’s Own, The Stranger, Sula, Between the World and Me, and an issue of The New Yorker.


Sophomores: The Poet X, Early Autumn, A Raisin in the Sun, Othello, Letter from the Birmingham Jail, The Catcher in the Rye


Ninth Grade: The House on Mango Street, When the Emperor Was DivineThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, A Raisin in the Sun, Night, Romeo and Juliet.   




By year’s end, you will know how to use the following writing techniques or tools: the universal “we,” the inclusive “you,” anaphora, epistrophe, a single dash, double dashes, a two-adjective series sentence, polysyndeton, asyndeton, a colon to introduce a series or definition, antithesis, parallelism, figurative language (and probably more).  You will also learn how to identify and diagram the grammatical parts of a sentence.


                                                               Partial Creed

I believe learning in high school does not always require pain or anxiety or a backbreaking amount of work.  I believe that not everything you write must revolve around an “argument”—arguments make me think of shouting, hurt feelings, grudges.


When you read, make sure, first, to do the reading, then just look for beauty, sadness, truth, or uncertainty in the text, then point it all out to us.  When you write, just try to reach us with your words, give us something to feel or think about or learn from, something to connect with and remember.  There will be beauty in that—especially if you use the language effectively.


If you can’t do any of that as well as you want to, that’s okay—just practice what I try to teach you and you’ll get better at what you are trying to do.  In the meantime, you can give the class  what is most important: your kindness, your compassion, and your willingness to listen and learn. 

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