This course will focus on the development of critical thinking skills applied in the context of literary genres: poetry, drama, short story, and novel. Students will explore the interconnections between reading and writing, and thinking. One emphasis will be on reading as writers; that is, students will read with specific attention not only to the content (what the writer has said) but also to elements of craft (how the writer has managed to say it.) A second emphasis will be on writing as readers; that is, students will write about what they read and write in the genres they are studying. The third - and primary - emphasis will be on learning to think; that is, students will be asked to monitor and reflect upon the decisions they make while they are reading, writing, and thinking, and to make a conscious effort to refine their critical thinking skills.
This second semester of this full-year sophomore course will have a several
strands which may seem at the start to be only distantly connected with one
another. But you will find as the semester continues that these strands are
interconnected, and they are designed to prepare you for the semester
project which you will be undertaking during the fourth quarter. The
strands include the following:
Our common readings will include essays, short stories and poems, Othello, and The Poisonwood Bible. These readings will be considered both individually and in their relation to one another and to the common readings from first semester. Two themes which we will explore will be the theme of difference and how we respond to it, and the theme of quality, which arises when we consider the question of how we know whether or not something is good.
During the third quarter, you will be asked to maintain a commonplace book, to complete directed assignments which will be called CT Journals, and, once a cycle, to hand in a cycle paper which can be in any form and on any subject you choose. You will be given instruction sheets which explain each of these assignments in more detail.During the fourth quarter you will be given the opportunity to work on a semester project of your own design. Again, explanations and sample projects are available on the website.
The course is driven by several assumptions. One of them is that even though you are still underclassmen, you are old enough to be capable of the sustained intellectual effort necessary to master challenging materials. Another is that there is a close connection between reading, writing, speaking, and thinking; these activities reinforce one another in ways that are always present even though they are not always obvious. One of the goals of this course will be to make some of these connections visible and discussable. You will be asked to write frequently and for a variety of purposes: to generate ideas, to collect your thoughts, to analyze and to persuade, to monitor your thinking, and to get a sense of style, both your own style and the style of each of the writers we will read. A third assumption is that you will have the initiative and common sense to communicate with the teacher if you have questions or are encountering difficulties along the way.
The departmental guidelines for absence will apply. One unexcused absence will lower your quarter grade one full grade. Two unexcused absences will lower your quarter grade two full grades. Three unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for the quarter. Three unexcused tardies will count as an unexcused absence.
Each homework assignment is designed with a particular purpose in mind. I will expect to be looking at your best work on each of these assignments. All written homework must be typed, unless the assignment specifically states otherwise. Directed assignments must include the assignment, worded exactly as it is on the cycle sheet, at the top of the page. Written responses to literature texts must include correctly cited direct quotations from the text under discussion. If you are in doubt about whether or not you have cited a reference correctly, check it in your MLA handbook before you hand in your paper.
Richard Paul says that there are two principles that will make you a better critical thinker. The first principle is Theres always a way. The second principle is, Theres always another way. Once youve come up with what you think is a clearly written and plausible response to an assignment, look for opportunities to challenge yourself by saying to yourself, Okay, I did that one way. Whats another way I could do it? This move, and the many variations on it which we will be discussing in class, is a very powerful way to help yourself to learn and grow as a thinker.
Quarterly grades for the course will be based a combination of factors including
Graded in-class and homework assignments, tests, and quizzes
Directed assignments (such as CT Journals, cycle papers and major papers)
Participation in class activities and discussions
Quarter and semester reflection papers
Papers are generally graded within the framework of the common rubric used by all sophomore English teachers. If you are unhappy with a grade you have received on a paper, you may ordinarily revise the paper and re-submit it. I suggest you see me in conference before you do so. I do not accept makeup work of any kind during the last cycle of the quarter.
Another set of factors in the grade - one which will not be reflected directly in your class average but will have an influence on whether your grade moves up or down from the calculated average - will be attitude and effort, which will specifically include your initiative in arranging for conferences, as discussed below.
You will be expected to meet in conference with me at least twice during each quarter. You can see me as often as you like, or whenever you feel you have a question or something you would like to discuss. Even if you have no specific idea in mind, I would still like to meet with you just to get to know you better and to get some sense of how things are going for you. My office is in P103, by the side door nearest Bingham Hall. If you have questions for me when you are not in school, you are welcome to get in touch with me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. I check my email often and will get back to you as soon as possible. Tell your parents they are welcome to email me at any time if they have questions or concerns.