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LANGUAGE ARTS Course Syllabus
Clara Barton Open School
2009-2010
1st, 3rd, & 4th Periods
 
Amber Damm, Room 18
Voicemail: 612.692.1545 & E-mail: amber.damm@mpls.k12.mn.us

 

Course Description
Poetry & Verse! Fall
Poetry is a poet’s intuition of truth. It combines rich meaning with sounds of language arranged in an interesting form. Understanding poetry is a continuous process that evolves through the experience of hearing, reading, discussing, memorizing and writing poetry. Reading poetry will help students to: read more fluently, learn how language works, remember the content of a poem, develop and hone speaking ability, increase writing skills, identify the essence of a subject, observe how writers use frameworks and structures, and develop a large vocabulary. Poets are wordsmiths who play with infinite possibilities of language. Student poets will use sound, rhythm, and meaning in unique ways and will memorize and recite poems. We will study many poetry forms including: narrative, lyric, free verse, haiku, cinquain, concrete, ballad, and sonnet. Students will create an individual poetry anthology at the end the unit.
 
Fiction! The Pearl by John Steinbeck& A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Late Fall/Winter
Students will read short stories, a novella, and a drama and study the elements of setting, plot, character, style, and theme. We will explore both the author’s intent in writing these works and our own responses as readers. We will begin with Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need” and then read Steinbeck’s The Pearl. This will serve as a strong follow-up to last year’s To Kill a Mockingbird for eighth graders, and it’s a nice precursor for seventh graders to next years reading of the Lee classic. We will explore issues associated with the dispossessed challenging a system that denies dignity and sustenance. A constant overarching question that we will address will be: what are the costs/benefits of resisting injustice? Activities around the novel will include the keeping of a personal response journal, two Type 3s called “Song of Family” and “Song of Evil” analyzing major themes in the novel, and a final academic choice project on A Raisin in the Sun that includes options in poetry, photography, essay writing, drawing, or directing and acting in a one-act play. We’ll also explore protest songs and their place in American history. We’ll study works by Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie among others. [MPS purchased new copies of A Raisin in the Sun and To Kill a Mockingbird for English teachers. We can no longer teach Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (it’s being taught in 9th grade) so we need help building a library of 90 copies of The Pearl. If you would like to donate a book or money (make checks payable to Barton Open) to the Uppers program, we would gladly accept it and be thankful for your generosity. We’ll place an order in October.]
 
Book Reviews & Projects All Year
Approximately once a month, students will independently (or with help from an adult) read a book of their choosing. Students (with our help) will select seven fantastic books they would like to read at home over the course of the school year. I recommend students select books from different authors and genres throughout the year. Each month students will write a Type 3 book review, create an artistic project based on the book, and share their book with a small group within the classroom. Please see the attached assignment sheet for more details on the Type 3 (keep this copy at home for your reference). I will hand out an assignment sheet with a due date and an in-class workday as each book review is due.
 
Word of the Day & Elements of Style All Year
We will be learning a plethora of prodigious words this year and applying them to our writing and conversations. We will explore context, usage, root words, prefixes and suffixes. Each word of the day is selected from commonly used vocabulary on the SAT exam. By the end of the year we should have added about 150 words to our vocabularies. These will be recorded and practiced daily in a section of our English notebooks. We will also work on grammar by practicing and attempting to conquer common problem areas in punctuation, pronoun use, verb agreement, sentence transition, and word choice. I’ll be using William Struck Jr. & E.B. White’s Fourth Edition of The Elements of Style as a reference and guide at times.
 
The Five Types of Writing (Cumulative Writing Folders) All Year
Students will keep all of their Type 3, 4, and 5 writing in a cumulative writing folder that will be revisited and revised throughout the year. We will use focused practice in both writing content and grammar areas to ensure growth in writing. Please see the attached letter outlining The Five Types of Writing. (www.collinseducationassociates.com)
 
Great Books & Shared Inquiry Discussions All Year
The goal of Great Books programs is to instill in adults and children the habits of mind that characterize a self-reliant thinker, reader, and learner. Great Books programs are predicated on the idea that everyone can read and understand excellent literature—literature that has the capacity to engage the whole person, the imagination as well as the intellect. Shared Inquiry is a distinctive method of learning in which participants search for answers to fundamental questions raised by a text. This search is inherently active; it involves taking what the author has given us and trying to grasp its full meaning, to interpret or reach an understanding of the text in light of our experience and using sound reasoning. In Shared Inquiry, participants learn to give full consideration to the ideas of others, to weigh the merits of opposing arguments, and to modify their initial opinions as the evidence demands. They gain experience in communicating complex ideas and in supporting, testing, and expanding their own thoughts. In this way, the Shared Inquiry method promotes thoughtful dialogue and open debate, preparing its participants to become able, responsible citizens, as well as enthusiastic, lifelong readers. (www.greatbooks.org)
  
Creative Writing  Spring
This unit of study is a beginning creative writing course designed to provide students with exposure and practice in writing short stories. We’ll explore theme in Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” characterization in O. Henry’s “The Green Door,” conflict in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” setting in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and plot in Alice Walker’s “The Flowers.” Students will journal daily and write five short stories practicing the above elements.
 
Requirements
  • The student will be thoroughly prepared for each class meeting.
  • The student will actively listen and participate in each class meeting.
  • The student must complete all required assignments in order to receive his/her grade for the course.
  • The student will complete his/her work on time. Late work is unacceptable. Students will be given ample time to thoroughly complete their work, and it is imperative that students hand it in on time. (One day late--assignment loses 25%, two days--50%, three days--75%)
  • The student is responsible for getting notes or assignments from a classmate or the teacher in the event of an absence. Planned absences need to be provided in writing to me at least 10 days before leaving so I will be able to provide work.
  • Students will need one notebook of at least 100 pages to begin this course; a hearty three-subject notebook is preferred. It should not be used for other classes. Students must bring a writing utensil to class, as I will not provide one.
  • The student will bring his/her planner to class and write daily assignments in it.

My mission is to help foster an authentic love of literature and to awaken or cultivate an intrinsic joy in reading for pleasure. It is my desire that students will become effective communicators (wordsmiths) through expository and narrative writing, and I hope to encourage imaginative thinking and intellectual curiosity in all of our endeavors as we study humanities together this year.