Course Syllabus

Virtual Back-to-School Night Video

Wellesley High School
Department of English

Books BrainBooks Heart

Ms. Prinn                                                          Office Hours/Support: Reach out via email/Google Meet
English 11H                                                      e-mail:
Academic Year 2021-2022                              Room 220 (and via Canvas)       

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

Course Description:

Welcome to 11th grade honors English. I think we must begin this unique academic year with a joint recognition that teaching and learning continues to look new and unfamiliar at times. We are engaged together in readjusting and remaining flexible, and I believe we are up to this challenge. The purpose of this course outline is to give you an introduction to what material this class will cover and how; what the expectations are; and what steps you can take to learn and grow.

In this class we will read, think, talk, and write about influential and important literature as we consider the four course themes: 1) Conflicts with Society; 2) Tragedy; 3) Personal Journeys and Archetypes; and 4) Comedy and Satire. Another “big idea” we will explore and a lens through which we will consider what we read and write is how and why language matters. What is the relationship between language and power and/or agency?  

Be prepared to work hard, read thoroughly, think critically, lead discussion, analyze, debate, learn, listen, challenge yourself in order to grow, and enjoy yourself in an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm. This is a place where your voice and opinions will be highly valued and crucial to our combined journey. In addition, through reading, writing, and productive conversation, we will engage in an exploration of our own evolving identities and build empathy with others – both necessary endeavors for these times. We all are craving a socially and emotionally healthy and supportive environment of belonging in the face of the challenges we are navigating. We can build this place together.

 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 human nature, ourselves, our potential, and our society. It is my hope that as we grapple with difficult material, 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, foster a sense of belonging, smile, laugh, engage, rise to the challenges, and boldly face advanced material knowing that progress and skill development, not perfection, is the goal.

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

                                                      – Albert Einstein

 Student Objectives/Core Skills:

  1. To engage in 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 meaning in a work of literature (“so what”).

  2. 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.

  3. To build an inclusive and participatory classroom atmosphere and a sense of belonging that allows us to honor and develop our individual identities and common 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.

  4. To continue to develop a personal writing style that demonstrates logical development of unique and complex ideas and specific arguments; clear and cohesive structure; relevant textual evidence; purposeful word choice; clarity of thought and expression; and other elements of good writing and to participate in the writing process of prewriting, drafting, revising, proofreading, and peer and self-assessment; To practice reading and writing through a critical lens and utilizing literary theory and criticism to bolster one’s own arguments in analytical writing.

  5.  To understand literature as both window and mirror; to build empathy for others and be able to shift perspectives to respect another’s experience and 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:

We will begin the year by immersing ourselves in the following texts together:

Summer reading:
1984 by George Orwell (novel)
Choice book from the Who Are We: Racial Identity Exploration WHS list

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 the IRP!)
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (novel) and lit crit

Comedy and Satire
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand (Brian Hooker translation) (play)
Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut (short stories)
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift (essay)
Rhetoric (contemporary essays)

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 all must 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 Student Handbook). Use that time to read the actual text and bring any questions or confusion to class. Although the quantity of reading assigned varies with the difficulty of the work and other on-going assignments, you can expect to read up to fifty pages between class meetings.

Classwork/Effort/Participation: 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, individual and pair presentations, in-class writings, group activities, creative projects and posters, acting/speaking, peer editing, and more. Strive to be an engaged and active participant in this class.

 Final Essays: All final drafts of essays must be typed, printed, and accompanied by any and all pre-writing, rough drafts, peer edits, formative assessment/feedback from me, and self-assessments. This year it is particularly important that you stay in close communication with me if you are having trouble meeting a deadline. Do not struggle alone – come see/talk to me in a timely fashion for support any time you need it. I’m here to help. Please remember the importance of academic integrity and only submit wholly original work in all cases. Expect to submit essays to

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

Please note: Cheating on tests or quizzes violates our core values. Plagiarism is also cheating and will result in disciplinary action, but, more importantly, relying on someone else’s work steals your chance to hone your own skills and your chance to build your self-confidence, sense of accomplishment, and resilience. Copying homework and downloading any portions of Internet essays both ARE considered cheating.  Please 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.

 Projects/Presentations: Traditionally, there are several partner and small group assignments in this course, 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, podcast, Google Slides, video, teaching the class, acting, or speaking.

We will use a combination of electronic materials (posted and submitted in Canvas) and paper handouts and submissions this year. To that end, please have a 3-ring binder (or separate section of a larger binder) exclusively for English 11H materials. It will be critical to stay organized this year! 

 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. Let’s build a welcoming space of belonging.
  • As soon as you enter our classroom, be present and put your phone away! Use that time to reach out and interact with your classmates in order to build relationships that will make our collective discovery more supportive and fun.

  • We will follow WHS’s health and safety protocols to ensure we protect each other.

  • We will follow WHS’s technology and online learning rules and guidelines to ensure we create productive and welcoming online spaces where we all can learn and enjoy our time together.

Absences are a fact of life. The best way to handle this inevitability is to be proactive about your work when you are absent. 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 (unless an extension is warranted by the circumstances) 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 to make up missed presentations, especially a group presentation.  Make every effort not to let down your fellow group members 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. I'm here to support you and help you avoid overwhelm!

Office Hours/Student Support: 
Please take the initiative to seek me out to discuss any questions or difficulties you may be having with the class. Don’t delay. These days especially, it is important that you do not worry alone. I am readily available for extra help or advice. You can reach out via school email and/or drop by Room 220. I urge you not to wait before seeking help with any assignment, reading, skill, question, or activity that is troubling you. 

 I’m looking forward to our time together (fingers crossed it will be fully in-person all year!) and to the important work of building an inclusive learning community. I have high expectations for each of you and will support you as we progress together. With our combined hard work, resilience, adaptability, and enthusiasm, I know it will be an enjoyable and rewarding journey. 

If you want to go fast, go alone.

 If you want to go far, go together.     

                                                           -African Proverb