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.
2020-21 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 some of the greatest writers and thinkers, from antiquity to modern times, in the Western tradition. 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 several exams covering specified units of study. Students will also be expected to submit less formally written pieces focusing on other aspects of class. These pieces will take the form of blogs and written journal responses. Regular vocabulary and grammar lessons will augment the class.
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 the Black Experience in the United States. We will examine a diverse array of authors and works rooted in Black culture and oral tradition within the social context of literature—spirituals, slave narratives, folklore, blues, plays, and poetry as well as hip hop. 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, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well as writers from the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement.
Advanced English: Art of Poetry
From Langston Hughes to hip hop, from Walt Whitman to the Beat Generation: poetry represents the most democratic of art forms. In this course, we will explore the art of poetry and, perhaps, develop an appreciation for a vast array of poems by reading, listening and discussing them together. If by chance, we find ourselves inspired to create one of our own—we will welcome the opportunity. As a class, we will take a look at how poets transform poetry from ideas to page to stage. By watching live spoken word performances, we will identify common threads between the lines of a diverse range poems. What better space to share one’s thoughts and ideas than in a class community where risks can be taken, possibilities explored, and mysteries untangled around what poetry is, what it means, and what purpose it can serve when used as an instrument of change, social awareness, historical memory, eyewitness, resistance and provocation?
Advanced English: The Graphic Novel
This course will explore how text and imagery are paired together in graphic novels to effectively communicate themes that are central to the human experience such as class, violence, culture, and ethnic diversity. 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: Planting Seeds: The Impact of Children's Literature on Society
What larger issues of psychological development and culture can be understood in the stories adults create for children? How do the stories we are told when we are younger impact how we navigate the world today? Who was represented in the stories of your childhood and who was absent? Through firsthand examination of children’s literature, interviews with authors, and the work of literary scholars, students will explore these and other questions by reading and discussing various genres and levels of children’s literature, including fairytales, picture books, poetry, and novels. Written assignments will include a reader’s journal, a short research paper, a children’s story and a final project.
Advanced English: Power, Narrative, & the Self: Literature & American Identity
America is comprised of a diverse contemporary literary landscape. In this course, we will read a range of authors whose works explore the many iterations of American identity, with the goal of finding more commonality than disparity. We will tackle questions such as: How does a country impact one’s identities? What do those similarities and differences indicate about the authors, their experiences, and America as a whole? Authors studied may include Alvarez, Bechdel, Coates, Danticat, Diaz, Eugenides, Lahiri, Morrison, Ng, Nye, and others based on the interests of both the students and teacher.
Advanced English: Crime Fiction – Short Stories
The game is afoot! This course introduces students to early works in the development of the “detective story” (Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Chester Himes) and the ways in which those early works help to establish the foundations for a variety of “crime fictions” that have steadily grown in popularity throughout the 20th and 21st centuries (Sherman Alexie, Walter Mosley, AJ Finn, etc.). Students will learn to appreciate authors working in different times, places, and settings and to explore the criminal mind and those tasked with solving criminal cases and fighting criminal activity, whether amateur detective, private eye or police officer. Along the way, students will try their hand at writing their own pieces of crime fiction and produce short analytical pieces examining the books and films they encounter.
Advanced English: Crime Fiction – Novels
The game is afoot! This course introduces students to early works in the development of the “detective story” (Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Chester Himes) and the ways in which those early works help to establish the foundations for a variety of “crime fictions” that have steadily grown in popularity throughout the 20th and 21st centuries (Sherman Alexie, Walter Mosley, AJ Finn, etc.). Students will learn to appreciate authors working in different times, places and settings and to explore the criminal mind and those tasked with solving criminal cases and fighting criminal activity, whether amateur detective, private eye or police officer. Along the way, students will try their hand at writing their own pieces of crime fiction and produce short analytical pieces examining the books and films they encounter.
Advanced English: Dystopian Literature
As the title implies, this course will revolve around works of fiction set in dystopian societies. These works will range from classics to more contemporary works. Throughout the course, we will examine the nature of the societies detailed in the books and the relationships between their structures and ideas of individuality, freedom, and control. Through essays, creative writing projects, and discussions, students will think deeply about the extreme situations depicted in the assigned stories, and, hopefully, extract practical lessons about our own society and the ways we operate within it. At the very least, this course should provide us an opportunity to explore the possibility of finding hope within hopelessness.
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: Fiction
Creative Writing: Fiction is an advanced elective course centered around the workshop environment. It is expected that students in this class already harbor a genuine interest in writing fiction. While we will cover concepts of basic story writing (characterization, plot, point of view, etc.) and major authors in the genre, students will spend the majority of the class establishing personal writing practices and developing their unique narrative perspective. In short, there will be reading, writing, and much discussing of students’ own stories.