The ESA Literature Department creates its own curriculum based on our experience with students, current research in the field, and the best elements of the Common Core Curriculum. We develop courses around the larger categories of Personal Narrative, Persuasive Writing, Response to Literature, and Creative Writing. Each semester students will learn and practice the techniques and elements important to genres within one of these categories. For example, in a persuasive writing class, students may develop a speech and power point presentation to convince an audience that public housing is or is not a viable way to help people out of poverty. In a creative writing class, students may focus on stories that embody the magical realism techniques of Latin American writers, then create their own short stories reflecting these techniques and themes through their own cultural lens.
We believe students need to be able to read and write in multiple genres using fiction and non-fiction as texts to analyze as well as emulate. Projects within a semester challenge students to interpret, analyze, present, and create their own work, not simply respond to test questions. We develop projects and assignments that require students to develop their expressive language skills as well as many types of writing. We tailor our classes to the needs of our students to maximize engagement and practice using the literacy skills they will need in college and the world of work.
9th and 10th Grade Classes
Coming of Age (Jenny/Caitlin): In Jenny and Caitlin’s co-taught English class, 9th graders will explore a theme we are all very familiar with, “Coming Of Age”. Through a shared class novel, book clubs and analysis of a graphic novel, students will question, connect and draw conclusions about the joys and agonies of adolescence. Students will also use a variety of text mediums including “Moth” radio stories, film, poetry, nonfiction and even popular TV shows to hone their analysis and critical thinking skills. We hope after this semester that students taking this course will understand their own Coming of Age experience better, as well as developing a better understanding of the world around them.
The Journey (Greg): “The Journey” is a course focused on the adventures and trials of traveling from point A to point B. As much as each of the central literary texts of the course—Life of Pi, Kindred, and The Road—deal with physical journeys, we will examine the simultaneous emotional, spiritual, interpersonal, and historical journeys the characters take. We will analyze the journey narrative to understand the relationship between literary works and themes of self-discovery, cultural identity, power-dynamics, and a search for meaning. Lastly, the class will focus on the journey of brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revising analytical texts.
11th and 12th Grade Classes
Crimes (Jane): Who decides what a crime is? And a crime against what? Family? Community? Convention? According to the law? Religion? The heart? When is something a justified crime? When is a crime okay? When is the law wrong? When is convection wrong? What motivates crime? Self interest? Poverty? Destitution? Desperation? Revenge? Infatuation? When is crime rational? When is crime irrational? What are the consequences of crime? Who gets harmed? Who persecutes/judges the criminal? In what context is something a crime that would not be in another? How does context contribute to our understanding of a crime? This course examines ideas about crime, punishment, and power in a society. We will read a variety of fictional texts that explore how the definition of a crime or a criminal changes depending on one’s role in society. This will obviously raise questions about abuses of power and the inequities inherent in any justice system. Students will also read weekly nonfiction texts (mostly articles and op eds) that address contemporary and global ideas about crime. Students will explore why some acts are considered crimes by some people but not by others, as well as question the legitimacy of something being labeled as a crime in certain situations. My hope is students will develop a critical and nuanced understanding of the impact language can have on real world policies and actions. Moreover, in the final project students should hone in on a specific topic of their interest and challenge current ideas about how we talk about said crimes in the world. This topic is meant to have a global perspective, and while we will certainly discuss issues pertaining to America, I want students to make connections across societies and human nature and not just within the United States bubble.
Response to Literature (Jackson): This semester we will be studying many powerful texts that will challenge us to think about how humans engage with the norms of different societies. The course is a rigorous exploration of this theme, while emphasizing the importance of social and historical context when engaging in literary analysis. Students will be pushed to read a large amount of material outside of class, while investigating and exploring that material in the classroom. Students will also be pushed to extend their literary arguments throughout texts and ultimately across texts. In this course, we will be studying four powerful class texts that will challenge us to think about how authors critique the conventions of their respective societies while offering potential solutions for change (Baldwin, Larson, Satyal, Gyasi). It seems more critical than ever that we come to understand others’ experiences within their respective worlds to understand and improve the problems of our own.[/toggle]