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University High School offers a comprehensive English curriculum that features standard 9th and 10th grade courses (Language & Literature and Great Books, respectively), both advanced and AP English options, and several creative writing and journalism courses for students each year.

To graduate from University High School, students must earn eight credits (one credit is earned each semester) in English.


2022-23 English Course Descriptions

Language & Literature (9th grade)

This class is required of all freshmen so they can begin to master the skills necessary to become a more critical reader and a better writer. The ultimate goal of the class is to have students understand how these skills can enrich their lives and help them begin to make sense of a complicated world and their place in it. We will read various kinds of works. We will develop your critical thinking, your writing, and your appreciation about and of English literature. We will practice writing formally and informally, academically and non-academically, in class and out of it. We will study argument and correct grammar.

Great Books (10th Grade)

In this course, students will read excerpts of essays, novels, and articles written by a diverse array of great writers throughout the history of literature. Utilizing a seminar approach to facilitate discussion, students will explore the meaning, ethics, and motives of these authors, as well as seek to examine the connections between their own personal and cultural knowledge, popular/mass media knowledge, and mainstream academic knowledge, especially in considering the power of texts to transform society. Students will complete three to four formally drafted essays each semester, as well as sit for exams covering specified units of study. Students will also be expected to submit less formally written pieces focusing on other aspects of class.

Advanced English: Adaptations

This course will study the relationship between works of literature and their adaptations across various mediums (films, television, theatre, etc.). We will analyze and discuss what is altered, gained, or lost in translation. How does literature influence film and television? Can adapting, updating, and reimagining these works into films shape/influence our understanding of literature? We will also break down the different elements of plot and structure between different mediums. Throughout the semester, students will study the elements of literary and film criticism and are expected to complete multiple pieces of writing. The readings/viewings will span genre and time periods, from classic works of literature to popular fiction, comics, and more!

Advanced English: African American Literature

In this course, we will explore the legacy of African American literature, a distinct genre that continues to evolve from ‘Black Experience’ in the United States. We will examine a diverse array of authors and works rooted in Black culture and oral tradition—spirituals, slave narratives, folklore, blues, plays, poetry as well as hip hop, which we will examine within the social context of literature. We will look at creative Black expression through a historical lens focusing on enslavement, freedom, identity and community.

Students will read, study, discuss and respond to literary works by various African American authors. Writers may include: Phyllis Wheatley, W.E.B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Hurston, Brooks, August Wilson, Malcolm X, Walker, Morrison, Adichie as well as writers from the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement.

Advanced English: Graphic Novels

This course will explore how text and imagery are paired together in graphic novels to effectively communicate themes such as class, violence, culture, and ethnic diversity that are central to the human experience. Students will gain the skills needed to read and understand this deceptively complex medium, as well as create their own narratives that replicate the styles of genre-defining artists such as Art Spiegelman, Lynda Barry, Emil Ferris, Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and David Lloyd.

Advanced English: Power, Narrative, & The Self

Contemporary literature is a diverse landscape. In this course, we will read a range of authors whose works (essays, poetry, novels, and other forms) explore the many iterations of identity, with the goal of finding more commonality than disparity. These essential questions will afford a focal lens for our study: What comprises an identity? What do those similarities and differences indicate about the authors, their experiences, and contemporary times as a whole? Authors explored may include Alvarez, Bechdel, Coates, Danticat, Diaz, King, Lahiri, Morrison, Ng, Nye, Orange, Vuong, and others based on the interests of both the students and teacher.

Advanced English: Script to Screen (Advanced Screenwriting)

This course provides a unique opportunity to create a film from the ground up. Students will enhance their creative writing skills, learn to adapt stories to screen, and use proper script formatting. They will learn to use advanced editing software and gain experience in every position on a professional film set. The course will culminate with the creation of a feature film.

Advanced English: Short Works

500-page novels aren’t your thing? Mine either. This course will instead survey great short works. From heavy hitters like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce to a less traditional assortment of comic writing, creative nonfiction, and flash fiction, our reading selection will remain broad in an attempt to represent a multiplicity of perspectives and sub-genres. Our goals will be to get a better sense of how short works are crafted, to pursue meaning where we can, and to understand how a collection of short works functions as a whole. Major assignments will include two papers, a project, and a final exam.

AP English Language & Composition

AP English Language & Composition is designed to mirror a college-level composition class. Its primary goal is to help students “write effectively and confidently in the college course across the curriculum and in their professional and public lives” (The College Board, AP English Course Description, May 2007, May 2008, p. 6). In this course, students will strive to become critical readers, analytical writers, and successful communicators.

While the objectives and requirements listed in the AP English Course Description guide the organization of this course, multi-week thematic units center on the discussion and analysis of an American cultural myth in order to encourage students to think critically about their beliefs and their world. Selections for each unit are composed of written and visual texts including (but not limited to) essays, political writing, autobiographies, social-science writing, criticism, cartoons, posters, and advertisements. Each unit will be anchored by a multi-drafted piece of writing on which students will receive peer and teacher feedback. This writing is evaluated based on effective and appropriate use of a variety of vocabulary and sentence structure, logical organization, development and support of ideas and claims, effective use of rhetoric (including tone, voice and emphasis), and an understanding of purpose and audience (The College Board AP English Course Description, May 2007, May 2008. p. 8).

AP English Literature & Composition

In this course, we will read selected works of American, British, and Global literature. Beyond exposing ourselves to a number of excellent (and enjoyable) pieces of writing, the focus of this course is to understand how structure and style work to create and enhance meaning. Writing will be a major part of the course, as will be close reading. In-class AP-style essays, informal personal responses, and take-home essays will be practiced regularly. The primary goal will be to develop the necessary skills and knowledge in order to perform well on the AP exam at the end of the year.

Introduction to Creative Writing

Introduction to Creative Writing is an entry-level course designed to help students learn to incorporate writing in their lives and to expose them to a workshop environment. Reading and writing activities will cover the basic elements of the four main genres of creative writing: fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction. Students will study the techniques of each genre through handouts, selections in the text, and the creation of their own pieces. There will be a short test and cumulative project at the end of each unit over the specific writings and practices we’ve covered. In lieu of a final exam, students will create a portfolio containing polished writing samples, a personal writing metaphor, and a self-evaluation. At the end of this semester, students will be familiar with themselves as both writers and critics.

Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry

Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry is an elective course centered on the workshop environment. It is expected that students in this class already harbor a genuine interest in writing poetry. While we will cover concepts of poetic mechanics (language, sound, form, image, etc.) and major authors in the genre, students will spend the majority of the class establishing personal writing practices and developing their unique sense of poetics. In short, there will be reading, writing, and much discussing of students’ own poetry.