AMERICAN LITERATURE (2009-10) Teacher: John Ryan Office: Main English Dept., room 5 Available conference hours: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 Email: John_Ryan@clayton.k12.mo.us Website: http://www.clayton.k12.mo.us Office phone: 854-6661 Overarching Topics for the Course The American Dream The Individual and Society Equality and Justice Meaning and Purpose Major Questions for the Course •What is an American? What is an American literature? •How are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” present in Americans‟ dreams and American literature? •What is the American Dream? How does American literature reflect and/or shape the Dream? •What impact does „America as a frontier‟ have on people‟s dreams? Do people‟s movements around America relate to their dreams? •How are migration and displacement similar to/different from each other? •Where do Americans look for salvation? What value do places such as the West or the North hold for Americans? •What is the difference between people‟s dreams when they feel a part of America versus apart from America? •Is morality absolute or relative? •How is American society kept in order? •How do Americans resist or encourage equality for all? •How does injustice manifest in America? •What effect does the nonconformist have on society? Note: Most often when we refer to „America‟ in this course we mean the „United States of America.‟ However, „Americans‟ in a generic sense can refer to „North Americans,‟ „Central Americans,‟ and „South Americans.‟ Organization of the Course Our course comprises four units of study, which correlate to the overarching topics above. They are: Unit One: The American Dream & Definitions of Success (personal & public) Unit Two: Identity & Freedom: The Individual & Society Unit Three: Justice & Equality: Order & Freedom Unit Four: Purpose & Meaning: Visions of the “Good” American Life Unit One: The American Dream & Definitions of Success (personal & public) Major Texts: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller Poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson Additional Readings: Essays, stories, and poems relating to the American Dream Unit Two: Identity & Freedom: The Individual & Society Major Texts: Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain Unit Three: Justice & Equality: Order & Freedom Major Texts: Short stories by nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Kate Chopin, and Flannery O‟Connor Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison Choice of one longer work (such as The Grapes of Wrath or The Tortilla Curtain) Additional Activities: ACT prep, grammar & usage Unit Four: Purpose & Meaning: Visions of the “Good” American Life Major Texts: A collection of shorter readings featuring writers, essayists, statesmen, and poets such as Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Jonathan Edwards, and Chief Seattle Additional Readings: The Future of America (The Atlantic magazine and other sources) One longer independent reading assignment to be determined Additional Activities: ACT prep, grammar & usage “Big Fish,” directed by Tim Burton Expectations Reading As you may gather, this is a reading-intensive course. It is essential that you meet nightly reading requirements. Reading and discussion of material are vital practices for success in American Literature. Soooo… Read Understand, puzzle, question, discover Write in response Discuss Assess what you‟ve learned through quizzes, tests, and compositions Composition You will write, conference, and revise ten compositions this year. All compositions will have some connection to the literature we read and/or the topics and questions for this course; some will be literary analysis, while others will be expressive (creative) or informative. No Excuses: You will be held accountable to the Clayton High School Writers‟ Contract on final drafts of compositions. (Attached) Academic Honesty: I have zero tolerance for plagiarism, cheating, and other dishonest acts. I expect that the work you turn in, be it homework or a composition, is your own work. Any plagiarized work will result in an automatic zero grade with no makeup, plus notification of counselor, administrator, and parent. We will discuss the importance of academic integrity in class. Attendance Students often puzzle over low grades and let me know about it. Excused or not, absences add up. Tardiness contributes to lower-than-average performance, too. A tardy student has not only missed a few minutes of class, he/she has missed important information for the day, a quiz, etc. Also, this student‟s mind is elsewhere (probably the Commons). How long does it take, then, to get settled in and focus? The gist? Come to class! A student unexcused the day of a quiz or test cannot make up that work. Also, I enforce the tardy policy: your third tardy per quarter equals an after-school detention, as does every tardy thereafter. Materials •Bring enough black- or blue-ink pens and/or pencils so you don‟t have to borrow. •Buy a notebook for this class alone. Expect to need your notebook almost daily. •Have a folder or section of your binder for this class alone. •Also, when we are reading and discussing a book, should you bring it to class? Yes. Should you have it ready at the beginning of class? Yes. Should you open it during class? Guess. Success If you attend class, have your materials ready, and prepare by completing homework assignments (including and especially reading), you will be successful on a daily basis. If you complete major assignments on time (mainly compositions), review and study for tests, and contribute to the life of the class by entering discussion thoughtfully and listening to others, you will be successful in the whole course. In addition, if your grade is on the borderline, I will bump it up. Evaluation Compositions, first and final drafts, are each worth 50 points. I will generally grade each draft according to the CHS Writing Guide in your planner. Occasionally, I will elect not to grade first drafts; in those cases, I will let you know. You do not get additional points for attending your conference, but you will lose 10 points from the final draft grade if you miss a conference unexcused. Overdue drafts, first and final, are penalized 5 points per day late. You may request one one-day extension of a paper due date per semester, but the request must occur at least a day before the due date. I would prefer that you ask in class or in my office, but if necessary you may call or email me. Tests are typically worth between 50 and 100 points. Expect occasional tests. Quizzes are worth between 5 and 25 points and spring up occasionally throughout a unit. “Surprise assessments” have been known to occur…. Homework, which I will randomly check and collect if a written assignment, is worth 5 points unless otherwise noted. Grammar, which is not a dirty word, is one subject of our study this year. We will also prepare for the English and Reading sections of the ACT second semester. I use the total-point method of grading for the quarters and semesters and try to balance assignments accordingly. The final exam in American Lit. will be worth between 15% and 20% of your semester grade. Grading Scale 98-100 = A+ 88-89 = B+ 78-79 = C+ 68-69 = D+ 0-59 = F 94-97 = A 84-87 = B 74-77 = C 64-67 = D 90-93 = A- 80-83 = B- 70-73 = C- 60-63 = D- I am looking forward to teaching you—and learning from you as well. Lively, focused participants fuel a literature class. Dull, tired holdouts take the air out of the tires and make for a cheerless class. Let’s cultivate an enjoyable learning atmosphere together this year!
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