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What makes a monster? Students will grapple with this question as it applies to both traditional and nontraditional monsters in literature. In doing so, students will consider the following questions: What are the characteristics of a monster? How does a monster reflect the society he exists in? What role do monsters play within a society or culture? Do we need monsters? And Can a human be a monster? Texts include: excerpts from Beowulf, Grendel, The Tempest, and Heart of Darkness.

Texts include: excerpts from Beowulf, Grendel, The Tempest, and Heart of Darkness.
Media Used: 
Students will also watch the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars (20005) and clips from Apocalypse Now (1979).
Significant Assignments: 

Essay 1: What makes Grendel monstrous? Was his monstrosity innnate or learned?

Essay 2: In Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Hank Rogerson’s Shakespeare Behind Bars, we observe characters – both the fictional characters in the play and the real-life inmates in Luther Luckett Correctional Facility – who have committed truly monstrous acts: murder, conspiracy to murder, sexual molestation, and rape among other heinous crimes. And yet ultimately these works seem to be less focused on what it means to be a monster than what it means to be human.
Your task is to answer this complex question: In The Tempest and Shakespeare Behind Bars, What does it mean to be human?

Sample PBATs: 
Final Project PBAT: Students should choose one of the following questions to answer in the form of a comparative essay:
Examine the relationship between Grendel and Caliban and their respective societies. What rationale does Prospero use to enslave Caliban? What rationale does Hrothgar use to demonize Grendel? Are these rationales based on empirical truths or cultural beliefs? What function do Grendel and Caliban serve within human society? Does society need them? Does society have a hand in creating them?
What distinguishes a man from a monster? Compare the characters Prospero and Kurtz. They are both powerful men who have great contempt for their subjects, whom they see as being less than human: Prospero sees Caliban as a “thing of darkness”; Kurtz sees the natives as “brutes”. Examine the way in which these two characters use and/or abuse their power over their subjects. Is either man a monster? In answering this be sure to examine how each character observes or fails to observe “human limits."
Sympathy for the Devil: In all the texts we have read this semester, the “monstrous” characters seem to avoid one-dimensional stereotypes. Despite their inhuman actions, we feel sympathy for them. In most cases, we recognize that these so-called monsters were not born evil, but were products of cycles of violence in which they, themselves, were victimized. Choose at least two of the monsters we have studied this semester and argue for how systematic oppression has made them into the monsters they are. Frame your argument around at least one of the “-isms” we’ve discussed in class, i.e., colonialism, racism, imperialism, or sexism.
In his essay, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness," Chinua Achebe argues that Conrad is a “bloody racist." Based on the ideas made explicit in his essay and those implicit in Conrad’s novel, do you agree or disagree with Achebe’s argument? Is the real monster in Heart of Darkness Conrad himself? Or did Achebe misconstrue Conrad’s intentions, which were to expose the evils of colonialism?
Using at least two texts from this semester as the basis for your argument, answer this simple question: What does it mean to be a monster?

12th Grade English

The first semester of 12th grade English focuses on the study of tragedy. The second semester explores the theme of destiny in literature. The aim of this course is to ensure that students are prepared to succeed in college level English courses. They analyze challenging texts, engage in discussions and debates and write multiple analytical essays, each demanding the creation of a complex thesis and the support of textual evidence.

Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
Antigone, Sophocles
Othello, Shakespeare
A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller
The Laramie Project, Moises Kaufman
Poetics, Aristotle
Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
Flight, Sherman Alexie
Choice of either: Thousand Splendid Sons, Lesson Before Dying, Sectret Life of Bees, Breath Eyes Memory
Significant Assignments: 

Analytical essay on the conflict between moral law and state law in Antigone

Analytical essay exploring who is to blame for the death of Desdemona in Othello

Final exam covering all the texts. Requires identification and analysis of significant quotations and theme-based questions

Scene performance. At the end of the semester, students form groups which each select a scene from one of the plays we have read that they feel is important. Students collaborate to fully analyze the scene, write a director’s vision for the scene, create blocking and perform it for the class.

"Is Tita a positive female character" essay on Like Water for Chocolate

After reading a college level book on their own, students then lead an analytical discussion with an adult who has read the same book

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Debate on who is the most tragic tragic hero

Roundtable in which each student must present and defend the work from the semester to an adult member of the school community

Modern adaptation of Antigone. Students are asked to create a scene that incorporates the central themes and conflicts of Antigone

Students work with actors from the Shakespeare society to study Othello as actors.

Sample PBATs: 
Analytical essay determining whether Oedipus is a victim of fate or free will
"The Conflict Between Moral Law and State Law in Antigone and View From the Bridge"
"The Role of Gender in the Tragedies of Desdemona and Antigone"
Both Like Water for Chocolate and Flight portray powerless characters who struggle to empower themselves. How do Tita and Zits struggle? How do their individual journeys contribute to this struggle?
Love is expressed in different forms: familial, friendly, romantic, or even self-love. How do Tita and Zits learn the meaning of love? Examine what forces make love hard for both characters and how they either overcome or fail to overcome these obstacles to love.
How does the structure of each novel, particularly the use of magic realism in Like Water for Chocolate and the magic of time travel in Flight, help deepen the journey of each character?

Senior Lit: Tragedy & Comedy

In this course, students explore the nature of tragedy and comedy. They read poetry by classic writers including Robert Browning and Robert Frost and contemporary writers, including Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni and more. They read a number of short-stories, excerpts from The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the play Fences by August Wilson and Othello and Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. They study the elements of comedy, as well as the elements of tragedy and what it means to be a tragic hero.

"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker
Excerpts from "Autobiography of Malcolm X"
"Fences" by August Wilson
"Othello" by William Shakespeare
"Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare
Selection of poetry and short stories related to themes of the class
Media Used: 
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Significant Assignments: 

Students choose three texts and two themes that we have studied this year and construct a well organized essay in which they use evidence from all three texts to prove how those themes are developed and connected in the texts they chose. They must also include a discussion of literary techniques used to demonstrate mastery.

Students create a series of letters from the perspective of Malcolm X that showcase his character development before and after he educated himself in prison.

Students create artistic collages made of work they completed for Othello. They display and defend their collages to students and staff members during a formal gallery walk.

Students participate in class-wide debates, based on short stories they have read. The focus is on a controversial issue raised by the authors. Students must collect evidence and then debate and articulate their ideas in front of the class.

Sample PBATs: 
What have authors taught me about crafting an adult life? Develop a perspective (or theme) of your own, and use examples and quotations from at least two works of literature we have read this term to support your perspective. Cite all additional evidence used.

World Literature

Do you want to travel abroad? have you ever read a book written by someone from Colombia, Haiti, India or Afghanistan for example? Do you want to go to any of these places? What do writers from these countries have to tell us?

In this class we will read novels and short stories written by authors from around the world particularly with an eye towards writers coming from "developing countries." Not only will we read these books but we will also see a fair share of foreign films as well We will go globe trotting, right within the confines of our class!

Things Fall Apart
The Farming Of Bones
The Interpreter of Maladies
The Kiterunner
Of Love and Other Demons
Media Used: 
Like Water For Chocolate
City of God
The Last king Of Scotland
Significant Assignments: 

Students are expected to write two (2) typed comparative essays. These papers should be a minimum of 5 pages.

Students write a typed weekly response essay anywhere between 1 -2 pages. Students can respond either to the readings, films or other text introduced to the class.

Weekly quizzes are given.

Students find reviews of the films and write their own reviews either critiquing or supporting the positions taken by the reviewers.

Sample PBATs: 
Explore the statement "Like father like son" with an eye to comparing the meaning of these words when looking at the books - Things Fall Apart and The Kiterunner.
How important was "redemption" as a theme in these novels?
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