Grammar of the English Sentence

9th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Pittis

This course focuses on the basic structural elements of the English sentence and how each element carries information and how the syntactic relationships between the various parts support the sentence’s guiding idea.

Topic Areas:
  • Parts of Speech
  • Sentence Structure & Patterns
  • Modification
  • Noun and Verb Phrases & Clauses
  • Verbs, Tenses and Conjugation
  • Connective Devices and Punctuation

Descriptive and Narrative Writing

9th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

This course develops the primary tools of creative writing, including outlining and developing plot, character, setting and theme, as well as establishing point of view and narrative voice. Particular attention is given to the type of exact observation that is the foundation of clear, pertinent and economical descriptive writing as the students create original short stories of their choosing. Through multiple drafts and supportive criticism, each student learns how to shape his or her ideas into short works of prose.

Topic Areas:
  • Story elements
  • Developing a Coherent and Cohesive Plot
  • Situational Conflict and Resolution
  • Character Development
  • Establishing Theme
  • Point of View & voice
  • Descriptions

The Academic Essay I

9th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Pittis

This course focuses on the structural and rhetorical devices of the academic essay as a tool for developing sequential thinking and communicating information and ideas to a reader. In the first part of the course, the students study well-made paragraphs written by a variety of 20th century American journalists and essayists. In the second part they write two classic five-paragraph, academic essays, each of which goes through an intensive work-shopping and rewriting process.

Topic Areas:
  • Close Reading
  • Basic Paragraph Structure
  • Five Paragraph Essay
  • Gathering supporting evidence
  • Pre-write outlining
  • Fully developed paragraph and essay structure
  • Clarity of thesis and strength of supporting evidence
  • Development of effective argumentation
  • Effective and appropriate word choice, particularly the use of formal versus colloquial language
  • Grammar, syntax, sentence rhythm, spelling, and punctuation
  • MLA format and citation
  • Effective editing, self-editing and rewriting
  • Making an Electronic Essay Template in Word or Pages

Introduction to Research & Presentation: Cultural Geography

9th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Baker

This course lays the foundation for all subsequent research work in high school, whether it is in the humanities or the sciences. The course’s scope, content and methodology focus on basic research, citation and annotation, and presentation skills, oral and electronic. The focus of the research is on cultural geography, particularly Africa.

Topic Areas:
  • Identifying a research topic
  • Using the local library’s catalog, print and electronic resources
  • Searching the Internet effectively and assessing reliability of sources
  • Evaluating the integrity of print and electronic sources
  • Reading and preparing an MLA style bibliography citation
  • Composing an annotated bibliography in MLA format
  • Making a Word or Pages electronic template for an annotated bibliography:
  • Using presentation software: PowerPoint and Keynote
  • Organizing and delivering a five-minute presentation
  • Academic Honesty
  • Geographic & cultural regions of Africa
  • Traditional, colonial & post-colonial societies
  • Contemporary Africa

Comedy and Tragedy

9th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

This course introduces the students to the archetypal, literary polarities of comedy and tragedy through the study of the origins and development of dramatic literature as a foundation of theatre as a performance art over the course of western civilization. Attention progresses from the Greek and Roman theatre, through the Medieval Mystery Plays, Renaissance Commedia Dell ‘Arte, the Elizabethan and English Restoration period, and the modern play. Within this context the students read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, as well as short excerpts from more recent plays. The specific focus areas of the course are:

Topic Areas:
  • The Religious Origins of Greek Theatre
  • The Aristotelian Elements
  • Roman Contributions
  • Commedia dell’ Arte and the Renaissance Revival
  • Evolution of the Physical Structure of the Theatre
  • Understanding Shakespearean Language
  • Defining Realism in the Theatre
  • Lifting a dramatic text from page to stage

The Novel

9th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Peters

This course examines the novel as the modern manifestation of long form fiction. It begins with a short history of the novel as a literary form and then progresses to an in-depth study of either a ‘coming of age’ or a historical novel from a variety of cultures and historical periods. Within this context, the students learn how the novel provides an opportunity to experience a reflection of their own struggles in becoming human. Depending on the year, the works studied vary.

Topic Areas:
  • History of the novel
  • Narrative elements
  • Working with a specific text
  • Close-reading skills
  • Understanding cultural and historical context
  • Modeled writing in the genre being studied

Homer’s Odyssey

10th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

In this course students study Homer’s Odyssey. The literary focus is on the poem as the key instance of the epic as a genre in the western literary canon. Particular attention is given to the descriptive richness of Homeric narration, its use of embedded narrative and extended simile, and the great difference between the Homeric world and our own. Two essays are written during the unit, both going through an extensive evidence gathering, outlining, work-shopping, and rewriting process.

Topic Areas:
  • The Homeric world
  • Homeric literary devices
  • Plot, characterization, thematic development, and narrative Style
  • Ethics in Homeric Greece
  • The challenge of translation
  • Academic essay writing
  • Creative writing

The Academic Essay II: Cry, the Beloved Country

10th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Baker

Using Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country this course examines the spiritual challenges faced by two fathers of greatly dissimilar background as they grapple with coming to understand who each of their sons has become. The course uses class discussions and formal academic essay writing as vehicles by which the students examine this topic and review, expand and strengthen the basic academic writing skills developed in ninth grade.

Topic Areas:
  • Strengthening close reading skills
  • Differentiating narrative techniques
  • Character analysis
  • Weighing ethical choices
  • Formal academic essay writing
  • Gathering supporting evidence
  • Pre-write outlining
  • Fully developed paragraph and essay structure
  • Clarity of thesis and strength of supporting evidence
  • Development of effective argumentation
  • Effective and appropriate word choice, particularly the use of formal versus colloquial language
  • Grammar, syntax, sentence rhythm, spelling, and punctuation
  • MLA format and citation
  • Effective editing, self-editing and rewriting

The Double

10th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC ‘a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Peters

This course explores the modern literary myth of the human double—an alter ego, the dark or sinister side of the soul—whose existence is intimately interconnected in the most profound manner, for good and bad, with the life of a protagonist. Starting with the myth’s origins in the in the ancient, the course traces its flowering in the late 19th and early 20th centuries up to near-contemporary times.

Topic Areas:
  • The Double: a modern mythology
  • Early literary examples
  • The Double in Romanticism
  • The Double in modern literature and cinema

Dante’s Divine Comedy

11th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

In this course Dante’s Divine Comedy is studied as a radically new form epic poetry. The Inferno and Purgatorio are read in their entirety, and selected sections of the Paradiso are read and studied. In addition to the working with the poem as literature, the life of Dante and his historical and cultural context is studied.

Topic Areas:
  • Medieval Florence
  • Dante’s biography
  • Dante the poet
  • The Inferno
  • Composing a canto
  • Purgatorio and Paradiso
  • The challenge of translation
  • Composing an original canto
  • Analytic essay writing

Romanticism

11th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Peters

This course examines the Romantic movement in English literature and European visual art, focusing on the major poets and painters of the period. Particular attention is given to the deepening of ‘close-reading’ and ‘close-looking’ skills using works of the period.

Topic Areas:
  • William Blake: one of a kind, the marriage of word and image
  • William Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads
  • Genre Focus: The paintings of J.M.W. Turner & Caspar David Friedrich
  • The Shooting Star: John Keats
  • Byron and Shelly
  • Analytic essay writing: “Nature as a mirror for human emotion”
  • Creative writing

Frankenstein

11th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

In this course the students explore the modern myth of Frankenstein through reading Mary Shelly’s novel Frankenstein and derivative works of art in other media. Additional emphasis is placed on an exploration of works of literature referenced within the novel, most notably Milton’s Paradise Lost. Discussions regarding the scientific/ethical implications of human creation, especially new life forms, are integral to the course. Not only do these questions illuminate the content of the story but they bring the ethical questions raised by the novel into the present day.

Topic Areas:
  • Mary Shelley’s biography
  • “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
  • Creation Myths in relationship to Frankenstein
  • Science in light of Frankenstein
  • Frankenstein and psychology
  • Frankenstein in film
  • Analytic essay writing
  • Creative writing

Wolfram’s “Parzival”

11th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Baker

This seminar course uses the study of Wolfram’s Parzival as the starting point to examine what it means to live a truthful and responsible life within the values of one’s time; or in metamorphic terms: how one finds and follows a path of righteousness through the dark, entangling ‘forest’ of existence and its temptations. Each class consists of a developing, student-led conversation what the poem is giving that particular class. This course focuses on asking questions and seeking answers out of one’s own inner life of feeling and thought within the context of active listening and collaborative discussion.

Topic Areas:
  • Introduction to the German medieval world
  • Working with the poem’s themes: student-led conversations
  • Artistic reflection and presentation

Shakespeare’s Hamlet

11th Grade: 4 weeks main lesson intensive; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

This course intensively works with Hamlet as a starting point for examining fundamental, existential questions arising from modern consciousness. It focuses on the historical and dramaturgical significance of the play, the conventions of Elizabethan theater, the political, social and aesthetic forces that shaped the play, Shakespeare’s role in radically transforming dramatic writing and laying the foundations for a new type of theater, and as a pre-text for a performance. Specific attention is given to how the poet worked with the classical elements of dramaturgy and how the contemporary actor can work with the text.

Topic Areas:
  • Life of Shakespeare and English Renaissance theater
  • Working with a dramatic text
  • Listening to and speaking the text
  • Performance or research groups
  • Analytic essay writing
  • Individual and group scene work

American Literature I: Fiction

12th Grade: 8 weeks skills track. UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Baker

This course surveys N. American fiction from the early 19th century through the mid-20th, giving particular attention to the emergence of a distinctly American voice. Students read primarily from shorter works that exemplify the focus and style of particular authors, but several novels are also read, including Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, and Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”..

Topic Areas:
  • Overview of colonial American literature
  • The Emergence of an American voice: Irving, Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville
  • Satirists and critics
  • Naturalists and social critics
  • 20th century fiction: realists and modernists
  • Bringing a personal voice to analytic essay writing

American Literature II: Poetry

12th Grade: 8 weeks skills track. UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Peters

This course focuses on 19th and 20th century American poetry, ranging from Whitman to the contemporary singer-songwriters. While students will read a wide range of poets, particular attention will be given to Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers, Langston Hughes, Woody Guthrie, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Maya Angelou, and Bob Dylan. The genres of spirituals, blues, American roots, mainstream popular songs and the American musical theater will also be examined.

Topic Areas:
  • Colonial and early American poetry
  • Poetry of the early United States
  • The American voice
  • The early 20th century
  • The Beats
  • Lyricists and singer-song-writers

Russian Literature

12th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Gallegos

Using selected masterpieces of Russian literature, this course examines the development of short-form Russian literature from Gogol to Solzhenitsyn. Particular attention is given to how Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Akhmatova and Solzhenitsyn examined the powerful spiritual struggle between personal freedom, social conventions and political oppression.

Topic Areas:
  • Pushkin and the founding of Russian literature
  • Gogol and black comedy of cruelty and the absurd
  • Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky:
  • Anton Chekhov: master of the intimate
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the GULAG
  • Voice in the wilderness: Anna Akhmatova
  • Oral presentation and discussion leading
  • Analytic essay in a formal, personal voice
  • Original graphic short story

Latin American Literature

12th Grade: 8 weeks skills track; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Baker

This course examines modern Latin American literature and its origins in Iberian and world literary traditions. Within this context, students read selected episodes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, short pieces by Borges and Neruda, and a novel by Márquez.

Topic Areas:
  • The Spanish Golden Age: Cervantes and Calderón
  • Colonial, Modernismo, Avant-Garde
  • Magical Realism
  • Discussion leading
  • Analytic essay in a formal, personal voice
  • Original Magical Realism short story

11th and 12th Grade Advanced Creative Writing Electives

Full year; UC “a-g” approved course
Instructor: Mr. Baker

In these yearlong creative writing courses the students use the study of short works of fiction and poetry as a foundation for their own creative writing. Students read and discuss selections from a wide variety of genres and styles, participate in seminar discussions, write poems and short pieces of fiction, and participate in in-class workshopping sessions. In 12th grade attention is given to writing for literary competitions and periodicals.

Topic Areas:
  • Working in prose (11th & 12th)
  • Working in poetry (11th & 12th)
  • Working in non-traditional mediums (11th & 12th)
  • Working in genre of personal choice (11th & 12th)
  • Collaborative criticism and workshopping (11th & 12th)
  • Drafting and revising (11th & 12th)
  • Presentation on a literary periodical (12th)
  • Contest/publication submissions (12th
  • Writing a book review (11th)
Photo: John Lichtwardt