Monday, August 20, 2012

English IV/AP syllabus

English IV & AP

Syllabus: Major British Authors I

Mr. Coon; Fall 2012

I. Goals

            The goal of this course is to develop students’ ability to read, write, and create meanings from a series of related pieces of literature drawn from over 1000 years of British literary history. Our work will center around the following series of questions; all texts, assignments, projects, and discussions will help develop our answers to these questions.

1.          What are the essential qualities of a good story? Are they different from the requirements for a great story? Why do some stories have a shelf life of 6 months while others last 1000 years?
2.          What value do historical texts have for our lives today? Are “old” stories less meaningful or more boring just because they’re old? Or do they still contain relevant meanings for the 21st centuruy?
3.          What are the ethical challenges and conflicts faced by characters both human and monstrous? How do authors use these ethical dilemmas to illustrate their views of human values and morality?
4.           What qualities other than super-powers make a character heroic? For instance, what is honor? What is integrity? What is courage? What is personal responsibility? How do characters hold onto or lose their honor, courage, or integrity?

II. Materials and Course Requirements

            This fall-semester course examines the origins of literature in English and traces the development of the English language from its Germanic roots to the eighteenth century. Readings include the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, the medieval romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, John Gardner’s novel Grendel, and shorter pieces of poetry. A supplemental text develops a historical understanding of the growth and development of the English language.
Some students in the course have the AP designation attached to their enrollment. These students, chosen on the basis of their interest, prior achievements, and motivation level, supported by the department’s recommendation, are expected to meet slightly higher academic standards. AP students write slightly longer papers, and take occasional quizzes based on practice materials drawn from previous AP English Literature examinations. Also, students enrolled with AP designation are required to take the second half of the Major British Authors sequence in the spring semester and sit for the AP exam in English Literature and Composition in May.

III. Texts

1.     Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
2.     Beowulf,  Seamus Heaney (trans)
3.     Grendel, John Gardner
4.     Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Simon Armitage (trans)
5.     Hamlet, William Shakespeare

IV. Additional texts

1.              Vocabulary for Achievement, 6th course
2.              Oure Faire Englische Tung: A Brief History of the English Language
3.              Selected novels for summer reading

V. The Daily Book

An essential part of the class is the regular use of your daily book. The daily book is a 7½ by 9 ¾ notebook in which you record all the writing you do during class sessions. The daily book, which never leaves the room except with my personal permission, will contain examples of the following kinds of written work:

·      Daily check-ins (inside the front cover of your daily book), giving yourself credit for arriving in class on time, bringing your textbook and writing utensil, and doing the reading or other daily assignment.
·      Take Fives (short 3-5 minute writings) done as you come in the door while I am taking attendance and organizing that day’s materials. A Take Five is a mental check-in, often beginning with a sentence like “Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about . . .” or “I’ve been wondering why. . .” and containing content which may or may not be directly related to the content of English class.
·      Passages of the day—brief answers to questions about short passages of poetry or prose, first written in your daily books, then shared with the members of your team in round-robin style.
·      Response journals—see instructions below—the alternative to pop quizzes as a means for you to show your level of engagement with the assigned reading and help yourself interact with that reading on a deeper level. RJ entries will be shared with teammates, used as discussion items, and form the basis for short critical essays posted to your blogs.
·      Closers—2-3 minutes at the end of class, time for you to process and reflect upon what happened in that day’s class: what was the most interesting or important thing you learned today? What do you need to remember from today’s class? What left you feeling confused or with a sense of incompleteness? What should we be sure to do next time we meet?
Since your daily book never leaves the room, any notes you wish to take about our discussions or new material should be kept in a notebook of your own or on your laptop.

Daily books will receive a “process” grade; this grade complements your work in your discussion teams as the “participation” component of your performance in the class. I will check your daily books approximately every seven days.

Daily book grades are based on both quantity and quality:
• Quantity: all entries are present (if you are absent from class it’s your responsibility to come in during a free and make up the Response Journal entry), and entries show the effort to answer the questions thoroughly (rather than writing a single sentence, saying “I’m done” and sitting there while others write).
•Quality: Content shows a sincere effort to take the questions seriously and write thoughtful answers which are responsive to the assigned readings.

Take Five starters:
Lately I’ve been thinking about . . .
I’ve been wondering why . . .
(Monday) The best/worst thing about this weekend was . . .
(Friday) I’m looking forward to/worried about this weekend because . . .
(Morning class) Today should be a really good/bad day because . . .
(Afternoon class) Today has been a really good/bad day because . . .
I’m looking forward to/dreading                                      because . . .
The best movie I’ve seen lately was . . . .
Lately I’ve been really enjoying the time I spend . . .
So far I think the new longer periods are good/bad because . . .
My favorite thing to do outside of school is                     because . . .
I will read whatever you write, so don’t describe the fight you had with your mother/boyfriend/best friend last night unless that’s something you want me to know about. And of course my confidentiality is limited by law not to include anything you say that sounds dangerous, harmful to yourself or others, or illegal.

Response Journals
We often use reader response journals as in-class activities to accompany our study of literature. There are a number of different topics you can use in a reading response journal:
  • Copy down a quote from a character and tell why you think it’s meaningful.
  • Ask questions about things that confuse you or that you wonder about.
  • Describe your feelings about the events.
  • Describe your feelings about characters.
  • Copy down a brief passage and tell why you think it’s important.
  • Describe your favorite part.
  • Make a prediction about what will happen next.
  • Tell how you would react if you were one of the characters in the story.
  • Describe a part that surprised you.
  • Does the author use any strong imagery in the story (similes, metaphors, etc.)? Give examples.
  • Write down interesting vocabulary words, look them up, say how they add to the passage.
  • Talk to the author or a character (or one write of them a letter).
  • Draw pictures or create graphic organizers.

Below is a list of prompt starters:
General Observations
  • I noticed…
  • I was really surprised…
  • What I found interesting…
  • The author is saying…
  • I like the way…
  • I didn’t/don’t like…
  • My favorite part…
Element of the Text is Unclear
  • I didn’t understand…
  • A question I have…
  • I’m guessing that…
  • Something new I learned…
  • I felt _______ when…
Discuss Surprising Element
  • I couldn’t believe…
  • I never thought…
Hypothetical Thinking and Predictions
  • If I were [character]…
  • What I think will happen is…
  • What I thought would happen was…
  • I think _____ will become important because…
  • I began to think…
  • I predict…
Personal Connection to Past Experience
  • This reminds me of…
  • I began to think of…
  • I know the feeling…
  • I can picture…
  • I can imagine…

Purposes and Rules
Response journals serve two important and related purposes. They allow you to experience the readings for yourself, ask your own questions, and search for your own meanings rather than attend classes where I tell you what the text means to me while you write it down. They also allow me to see the evidence that you are reading the assigned texts and thinking about what you read. Therefore, there are two very specific, non-negotiable rules for a response journal entry. 1. Entries must include specific references to pages, lines, numbers, and passages covering the whole text assigned. 2. Entries that contain only general comments or plot summary without specific questions, quotes, and references will be assumed to be the product of Spark-note thinking and are therefore not acceptable and will not receive passing grades.  Finally, for safe-keeping, your response journals are part of your daily books and therefore never leave the classroom.

Reader response journals will be written for at least 5 minutes each day a reading assignment is due. They will be shared, round-robin fashion, with the other members of your class team. They may also be used to respond to passages I have chosen for the class to discuss. From there, RJ (response journal) entries can be used to generate Discussion Items (DI’s) for either your team or the class as a whole. Finally, RJ entries can become the basis of short individual critical essays on aspects of the literature. These essays (approximately 300-500 words depending on your level of ambition) are posted on your blogs and will receive specific written comments from your teammates and from me. Thus reading and writing become entwined as basic learning activities. You read, you write, you discuss, you choose a piece to refine, and you write further.

We will also use daily books to record our responses to the passage of the day or the question of the day, to record our thoughts about the meaning of a short poem, an example of a literary technique, or to think about poetic or prose style analysis. These brief responses will be shared in your teams.

(Thanks to Mr. Scott at Hughes Academy  for his list of journal starters and to Dan Kirby and Tom Liner, authors of Inside Out and my mentors on the use of class journals.)





VI. Blogs

Aside from your daily book, the primary forum for sharing short critical essays and content for oral presentations is your blog. Instructions for starting your blog may be found on and will be reviewed in class. I will occasionally ask you to select an entry from your Response Journal to be revised and expanded into a short critical essay (the equivalent of 1 to 2 typed pages). These revised journal entries will be read for content by members of your discussion teams and by me. We will look for ways to make your writing clearer, more specific, and more informative. Some of these blog posts will be further revised to be turned in as papers. Your ability to keep your blog current and thorough is another important component of your “process” grade.

In addition, you will each be asked to post the results of short research assignments on topics related to our literature study and the history of English. This information will be shared orally in class. Whether individually or with a partner, you will present two of these assignments each semester.


In addition to submitting hard copies of your papers this year, you are required to submit electronic copies of all papers to These instructions will help you submit your papers. Use your PCDS e-mail address and the same password for that you use for your account at
            On your web browser, go to Register as a new user or login to the personal home page you created last year. You must give your PCDS e-mail address and a personal password which contains both letters and numbers to register. Click “student” as your user type. Give whatever other information may be necessary as you move through the required fields.
            When you reach your personal home page, click “join new class.” Then enter a class ID and a class enrollment password. For AP students, the class ID is 4223549 and the password “APeng”; for World Literature students (non-AP) the class ID is 1875359 and the password is “engIV”. Click “submit” when you finish. N.B: You only need to complete this step once.
            Then submit your paper. When you click on the class title, you will go to the class history page. Click on the word “submit” in the middle navigation bar. Enter the title of your paper and select the assignment with the correct date from the pull down menu. Assignments are listed by the title of the work and the date an assignment is due.
            After entering your title and selecting the correct assignment, paste your essay into the box marked “main text.” (In my experience, the copy and paste method works better than the upload method. You may, of course, find otherwise). You may ignore the boxes marked abstract and bibliography unless otherwise instructed. When your paper has been pasted into the “main text” box, click “submit.”
            Remember to put your digital receipt number on the assignment before you give it to me. Otherwise your assignment will be marked late and penalized accordingly.

VIII. Participation and attendance

            Class participation is a crucial part of the course. Therefore, it is imperative that we all treat one another with respect and behave in such a way as to contribute to, not disrupt, an atmosphere conducive to maximum learning.
            Participation in class is mandatory. I understand that the introverts have difficulty speaking in front of your peers and me; nevertheless, I expect you to contribute meaningfully to class activities and discussions. Often, these contributions take forms other than speaking in front of the entire class. For example, the entries in your daily book are one important way for you to show your engagement with the material and willingness to exert yourself. Another important factor is the quality of your contributions to your team activities. In these ways and through your oral presentations, you show that you have come to class having done the reading assigned and are prepared to discuss the material, answer questions, venture informed opinions, and articulate personal responses.
            Participation grades are assigned as follows and account for 20% of your grade in the class: "A" students are fully engaged, on time for class with the necessary books and supplies. They display obvious enthusiasm for the tasks of the class: reading, talking, listening, working in a group, thinking about a problem. Their daily books are thorough, thoughtful, and always kept up to date. They participate in all team activities and remain on task throughout class. "B" students' engagement varies slightly, sometimes at "A" level, sometimes not. "C" students are generally involved but with noticeable lapses. They may arrive late to class or frequently forget materials. They spend time on things other than the work at hand: chatting with friends, doing homework for another class, catching up on sleep, or staring off in space. "D" students exhibit these behaviors to an even greater degree, becoming a distraction to the work of the class, having a negative impact on the group's ability to get its work done, regularly coming to class unprepared.
            Absences and lateness will have detrimental effects on performance and grades. With longer breaks between classes, I expect you to tend to personal business—going to the bathroom, finding your backpack, picking up a paper from the printer in the lab, and so on—on your own time. Be in class at the beginning of the block and don’t leave. Lateness will also be reported to the Dean of Students for detention.

IX. Vocabulary

            Two new lessons in the vocabulary book are assigned for quizzing every fifth class (5, 10, 15, etc). We will look briefly at the new words two classes prior to the quiz (#s 3, 8, 13, and so on), so please bring your books to that session. Quizzes will take place the first 10 minutes of class after “check-in” on sessions which are multiples of 5 unless otherwise notified.
            For first semester, we will cover lessons 1-14; for the second, lessons 15-30. Quizzes will contain all 20 words from the two lessons. There may be occasional cumulative quizzes as well containing selected words from a larger number of lessons.
            Missed vocabulary quizzes must be made up at your earliest possible convenience. After three class days, barring extraordinary circumstances, missing scores will be entered as zeroes.

X. Grading policy

            Grades are determined on a point system in which each assignment is weighted by the number of points it contains. Points will be totaled at the end of each quarter and semester and grades determined in accordance with the percentages contained in your student handbook.
            Grades from individual assignments fall into categories weighted approximately as follows: daily books and blogs (30%), papers and projects (40%), vocabulary and quizzes (20%), participation and attendance (10%).
            Assignments are due at the beginning of class. Written work turned in during or after class is considered late and will be penalized. Late work is eligible for a score no higher than 75%, depending on the quality of the assignment and the degree of lateness. If you are absent the day an assignment is due, either have a classmate turn it in or fax the assignment to the Upper School office (602-224-6177).
            Students who miss quizzes or tests because of excused absence must make arrangements for make-up immediately upon returning to school. Missing work (quizzes or assignments never turned in or made up) will result in an incomplete grade for the quarter or semester.
            Any student who establishes a clear pattern of failing to complete the assigned reading according to the prescribed schedule will receive a semester grade of D or F, regardless of that student’s scores on other assignments. Repeated missing or poor written work, response journal entries which cannot be distinguished from SparkNotes summaries, or the inability to respond to  basic factual information in class will be taken as signs of not reading.
            All assignments must be completed in accordance with the school’s honesty policy. See your handbook for details and be certain you know the difference between plagiarism and acceptable use of source material.

XI. Contact information
• In person—room 311. Stop by to talk or ask a question anytime I’m free.  My schedule is posted on the door of my classroom. To make up a quiz, go over an assignment, a speech draft, or a college essay, please make an appointment first.
• By voice-mail—602-956-0253 x4296
• By fax—602-224-6177