Morristown-Beard Upper School Curriculum

Course Search 2019-2020

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Upper School English Curriculum

English promotes an integrated seven-year sequence of studies that teaches skills from Grade Six to Twelve. In proportion to cognitive and intellectual opportunities at each level, students learn to read and write critically, with increasing sophistication, as they discover how to ask appropriate questions of texts in all the genres and write with an analytical clarity that promotes creatively developed ideas. Works are chosen both for their literary merit and global awareness of the human condition. As students progress through the program, they deepen their understanding of the dynamic relationship between readers and texts. Class discussion progressively nurtures skills in higher order thinking with an emphasis on articulate self-expression. Teachers create opportunities for project-based learning that augments the emphasis on traditional means of analytical communication.

Interdisciplinary work is cardinal in the Department. In the Middle School, interdisciplinary work arises from teachers' intentional collaboration with their colleagues in social studies, math, science, languages, and fine arts. In the Upper School, the Humanities program in grades 9, 10, and 11 facilitates the study of common themes as they arise in English and History. Grade 12 provides a rich selection of electives that anticipates the thematic and structural orientation of courses students can expect to encounter in college.


Humanities Program
A model of cross-disciplinary collaboration, the Humanities Program in Grades 9, 10, and 11 merges the traditional subject areas of English and History to create a rich and engaging experience of both literature and history. An integrated Humanities curriculum, organized thematically and global in perspective, encourages students to discover significant connections among diverse cultures, works of literature, and time periods while promoting skills in close reading, analytical writing, critical and creative thinking, and oral presentation. Robust techniques of differentiated instruction in discussion-driven classes lead to increasing levels of sophistication of skills at all levels. Technology (including iPads) is fully integrated into classrooms for purposes of reading, writing and revising, and enriching work in progress.

Honors Placement in English Courses
All English Humanities Grade 9 and 10 sections will employ the earned honors model, which allows any student to earn honors status for the course by meeting a set of clearly defined criteria. (Click here for a full description of the earned honors process.) For Grade 11, students who have earned honors in Humanities Grade 10 will maintain their honors status for Humanities Grade 11. Junior-Senior elective courses will employ the earned honors model as described above. Enrollment in Advanced Placement Courses is by teacher recommendation.


Humanities English 9

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 9

Full Year Course

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of English and History, this course encourages exploration of key themes in world history, literature, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual. As students explore how individuals have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their worlds, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. With respect to the analytical essay, emphasis is placed on the creation of thesis statements and logically coherent paragraphs together with the discovery and integration of appropriate textual evidence. Students are taught techniques of annotating text, note taking, and means of accessing primary and secondary sources.

Humanities English 10

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 10

Full Year Course

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of English and History, this course encourages exploration of key themes in world history, literature, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual. As students explore how individuals have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their worlds, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. Students continue to develop skills in writing analytical essays, and emphasis is placed on techniques of close reading that encourage the discovery and use of textual evidence capable of promoting arguments of increasing sophistication and insight. Students reflect in the Grade 10 Capstone Project on their evolution as writers over the course of the year, analyzing their opportunities and challenges as writers.

Humanities English 11 Fall

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Fall Semester

Providing a dynamic framework for the study of American literature and history from the Colonial period to the present, this year-long course encourages exploration of key themes in American history, prose, poetry, drama, politics, religion, art, and music. In particular, the course examines the changing nature of American cultural values and the relationship between communities and the individual in the United States itself and the world at large. As students explore how Americans have made moral, spiritual, and intellectual sense of their experience, they hone skills as critical and creative readers, thinkers, and writers. As well as continuing to develop skills in writing analytical essays, students are expected to work independently as they originate, frame, and execute distinctive points of view. For this reason, the Junior Essay, where students write an extended piece on a topic that they identify using multiple sources, is the Capstone Project for the year.

Humanities English 11 Honors Fall

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: Teacher recommendation

Not required

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Fall Semester

In addition to the work for Humanities English 11, this course includes augmented emphasis on critical thinking and writing. Students demonstrate their enthusiasm for reading and writing about literature through their ability and willingness to venture beyond the requirements of a particular assignment in substantive ways. In addition, students examine technical elements of literature and begin to explore elements of literary theory. Writing concentrates on the development and exploration of ideas without undue constraint by concerns over mechanics, syntax, or use of evidence.

Humanities English 11 Spring

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Spring Semester

Humanities English 11 Honors Spring

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Required

Open to students in the following grades: 11

Spring Semester

Advanced Courses

Note on Advanced Placement and Advanced Studies courses: Standardized Advanced Placement as well as faculty-designed Advanced Studies courses are equivalent in rigor and commitment to a course usually taken during the first year of college. Students may be expected to complete pre-course summer work, and should expect additional time commitments throughout the year. All AP students are required to take the Advanced Placement exam in May; no standardized test is required of Advanced Studies courses. Enrollment in all Advanced courses requires permission of the teacher of record as well as the department chair.

Advanced Studies: Literature of the Modern Period

Instructor: English Department Staff

Prerequisites: Recommendation of department chair and permission of instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Full Year Course

This Advanced Studies (AS) course will immerse students in the study of literature, primarily British and American, during the period from the end of the 19th century into the first decades of the 20th century, particularly the years following World War I. The artistic movements of this period, broadly included under the term “Modernism,” were a global re-visioning of the place and form of art in society. The Modern period cuts across all artistic genres and fields and contains a powerful critique of the received values, styles and ideas of 19th century art and society. Experiments in form and content in all fields of artistic work characterize this period, which defined itself consciously as committed to a radical break with the past. This course will focus on the literature of this period, beginning with proto-Modern writers such as Poe, Melville, Dickinson and Whitman, and extending through to the years between the wars.
Students who successfully complete this course will be prepared to take the AP Literature and Composition exam if they wish to do so.

AP Literature

Instructor: English Department Staff

Prerequisites: Recommendation of department chair

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Full Year Course

AP Literature and Composition is a rigorous introductory college-level course that asks students to read broadly—across time and place, and deeply—engaging in continual critical reflection and analysis. Over the course of the year, we will read novels, plays and poetry from the 16th century to the present. Writing assignments will include expository, argumentative and analytical essays, as well as informal responses and multimedia projects. The classroom environment will be student-centered, with inquiry and meaning-making as its focus. This is a course for students who love to read and discuss literature, and who want to ask big questions, even if those questions can’t always be answered. Authors considered may include Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Ralph Ellison, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Toni Morrison, Tom Stoppard, William Shakespeare, and Virginia Woolf.

Semester Electives

English Elective Honors
As of the 2017-18 academic year, all semester electives will employ the Earned Honors model. (Click here for a full description of the earned honors process.)

Advanced Creative Writing

Instructor: English Department Staff

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Introduction to Creative Writing or permission of department chair

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

The craft of revision is central to this advanced creative writing course. While developing and refining their distinct voices as writers, students will compile a portfolio of publication-ready work. They will submit a number of their polished pieces to literary journals, learning about the literary industry in the process. Much class time will be devoted to intensive workshops, in which students will submit their work for critique. Readings will include examples of poetry, short stories, novel excerpts, and creative nonfiction by contemporary writers in both literary journals and mass market publication, including Kaveh Akbar, ZZ Packer, and Jonathan Lethem.

Debate Matters

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

This course presents students with the rhetorical skills essential for successful debating about issues of literary and social import. Such skills incorporate Greek concepts of logos, ethos, and pathos along with more modern approaches to social media. In addition to meeting course reading and writing requirements, students will be strongly encouraged to participate in monthly inter-scholastic Forensics competitions. Readings may include selections by William Shakespeare, Jonathan Swift, Jane Austen, Friedrich Nietzsche, Samuel Beckett and Albert Camus.

Deconstructing Gender in Literature and Life

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

This course will examine how gender identity and society’s construction of gender norms shape literature and daily lives. After a careful consideration of some gender theory, we will look at poems, short stories, plays and novels by writers such as Atwood, Barnes, Beckett, DeLillo, Nabokov, Pinter, Updike, and Woolf. In addition to literature, students will examine works of art, music, and film. Through the lens of our literature, together we will pursue the questions of how gender norms and identities affect art, and how in turn, art influences our expectations and lives. In reading and discussing each work, students will consider the intersectionality of other social identities such as race, class, and nationality.

Design Through Writing

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: Permission of Instructor

Open to students in the following grades: 12

Spring Semester

“Design” refers to more than the cut of your clothes or curves of your couch: it takes in all of the solutions people devise to engage with the challenges of life. In recent decades, some of the most innovative and creative minds in the world have become design specialists, refining and reflecting upon a process of design that can help identify new design challenges and trigger insights into how they can be met. In this class, you will take the first steps to becoming a design specialist. We will focus on the first stages of the design process, observing human behavior, gaining insights into human needs, wants, and values. Students will write ethnographic (or “field”) reports, conducting interviews with people in their customary surroundings and constructing narratives to help step back and see human behavior and human needs afresh. We will learn to think through limitations of the design solutions we propose, and revise them where needed. Students will work in small teams, honing the skills of collaboration and communication by generating a productive flow of ideas.

Eating, Reading: Literature and Food

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

We are what we eat, right? Food is intrinsically tied to who we are as individuals, as people, as a society, as a culture. Food even becomes a part of us at a cellular level. By examining a wide range of literature through the lens of food, our goal in this course is to understand how traditions, cultures, and history are shaped and molded. How do the practices of gathering, preparing, sharing, and eating enhance our understanding of human interactions? Texts may include stories from Books that Cook, Washington Irving's “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Jonathan Swift's “Modest Proposal.” We will also look at excerpts from Alice in Wonderland, Fried Green Tomatoes, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, In Defense of Food, and In Memory's Kitchen. Films may include, Alice in Wonderland and Supersize Me.

Elements of Style

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

This course is aimed at students who have mastered the basic features of academic and personal writing, and who are looking to move up to the next level in terms of sophistication and range. From personal essays to feature articles, profiles, reviews, and travel writing, students in this composition course will explore the genre of creative nonfiction and examine its influence on how we write and read. In addition to analyzing how content, structure and style intersect in this genre, students will compose their own pieces.

The Iliad and The Odyssey

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

This course patiently examines the two epic poems of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey, in order to answer, among others, the following questions: Who was Homer? Why were these works important to ancient Greek identity? Why do they still resonate with us today? How does translation affect our understanding of these texts? Students will also explores themes of war, national identity, and homecoming. Assessments will include short papers, longer essays, short presentations, and discussions. No previous knowledge of Homer's texts is required.

Introduction to Creative Writing

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Offered in the Fall and in the Spring

In this introductory Creative Writing course, students explore the process and craft of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and graphic narrative. Students discuss poems, stories, and comics, "looking under the hood" to analyze writers' moves and readers' expectations in a variety of genres. Students will complete creative exercises that focus on isolated devices (such as metaphor, enjambement, dialogue, imagery, point of view, and plot twists), as well as imitations of exemplary writers in a variety of genres, including Dickinson, Woolf, and Hemingway. Students will collect these exercises in a notebook, and select a piece from each genre to revise and submit in a final portfolio.

Journalism

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 10, 11, 12

Offered in the Fall and in the Spring

This course introduces the novice or more experienced writer to the art of Journalism. Requirements include an inquiring mind, a willingness to take risks, and determination to write with eloquence and precision. Students examine works by prize-winning authors, as well as topical pieces in The New York Times. Students learn journalistic skills from the basic news story to features, opinion pieces, reviews and sports coverage, as well as investigative and narrative pieces for the more ambitious. We look with a critical eye at the world at large, the world of school, and the current state of media. In addition to producing stories for the School newspaper, students study modes of rhetoric and produce analytical papers on non-fiction literature and ideas covered in the course.

The Language of Leadership

Instructor: Department Satff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

Students in this course analyze and evaluate a wide range of persuasive speeches made by leading figures in politics, literature, and other fields. By scrutinizing the rhetorical structures and devices in orations by William Faulkner, Sojourner Truth, Emmeline Pankhurst, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK, and others, students consider how those authors used words effectively to persuade, inspire, influence, and affect change. In exploring the impact and consequences of those speeches, students also consider the role that rhetoric plays in effective leadership. Assessments of the course include frequent writing assignments, both analytical, and personal; the course culminates in a final project that requires students to compose and present a speech on a topic of their own choosing.

Literature of the American Civil War

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

The Civil War is the bloodiest and most divisive conflict in American history. The war's legacy looms large, down to the debates last fall over removing Confederate monuments, and to other current issues of race, economics, and politics. We will study the great texts of the era, including Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Red Badge of Courage. A wide range of materials—photographs, political cartoons, diaries, letters, songs, speeches, and sermons—will help us examine how the war was waged on the battlefield and experienced on the home front. As well as regular close reading and analytical writing, the class will involve creative projects, such as recreating a battle scene in miniature and filming an original documentary.

Love, Myth, and Murder: Five Greek Plays

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

Focusing on gender, love, and revenge, students in this course read and compare plays from the three major surviving ancient Greek tragedians (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides) and one ancient Greek comedian (Aristophanes). First, we will read three versions of the story of Electra and Orestes, a story full of murder, revenge, crime and redemption set in the aftermath of the Trojan war. We will then move on to Euripides' Helen, a play that challenges our ideas about women, myth, and genre. Finally, we will end with a comedy which pokes fun at Euripides himself. Full of jokes about politics, tragedy and gender, Aristophanes will ask us to reexamine our views on Euripides and his plays. Assessments will include short papers, longer essays, short presentations, and discussions.

The Power of Stories

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

Stories, also known as narratives, have the power to convince us of things, whether or not we are conscious of this power. When we read a story for fun, we may not tend to ask ourselves: "Do I really believe what this narrative argues? Understanding narrative structure, understanding how books and film convince us of things, allows us to be self-empowered consumers. This is why analysis matters. Analysis allows us to see these arguments more clearly and to ask more clear-headedly: "Do I really believe what this narrative argues?" Along with studying narrative theory, texts will include short works by Calvino, Hemingway, Munro, Wynn-Jones, Kubuitsile, Gebbie, O’Connor, Wolfe.

Savage Satire

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

From The Daily Show to South Park, satire dominates modern entertainment. But it has a long and rich history reaching back to the ancient Greeks. In this course, we explore a range of satires from antiquity to the present in order to better understand this powerful genre. As we investigate the relationship between satire and comedy, we consider how those in power have reacted when satirized, and we ask ourselves if satire can ever go too far. Students write analytically, but also creatively, trying their hand at satires of their own. Works studied may include those by Aristophanes, Juvenal, Swift, Voltaire, and Vonnegut, as well as film and television excerpts from SNL, The Daily Show, and Get Out.

Shakespeare and Film

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites: None

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

In this course, students will analyze selected works from Shakespeare and study film adaptations of these titles. Selected readings may include The Taming of the Shrew, Henry V, Twelfth Night, Othello, and The Tempest. No prior understanding of film is needed for this class.

They Say/ I Say: Truth and Perspective

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

In this class, students will enter conversations about ideas, events, popular culture, court cases, and national controversies. Students will learn that they can best develop their arguments both in writing and in conversation not just by looking inward, but also by looking outward, listening carefully to other views, and engaging the voice of the other. This approach has an ethical dimension: it asks students not simply to keep proving and reasserting what they already believe, but to stretch what they believe by putting it up against the beliefs of our increasingly diverse, global society. Readings are from a wide range of sources including court documents and transcripts, television interviews, newspaper and magazines articles, and podcasts.

Voices From Abroad

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

This course will explore identity, culture, and meaning as portrayed in novels from around the world. Students will examine how authors from different cultures and eras approach universal questions, such as how does culture influence our values, attitudes, and behaviors? How does acceptance or rejection of one's culture affect the individual and the society? Film, music, and art will add depth to our literary landscape, providing a more immersive cultural experience. Authors may include Khaled Hosseini (Afghanistan), Bryce Courtenay (South Africa), Kazuo Ishiguro (UK), Leo Tolstoy (Russia), Arundhati Roy (India), and Joan Lindsay (Australia).

Villains

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Spring Semester

Are the bad guys really so bad? What makes a hero heroic? This course examines texts that challenge the conventional notions of heroes and villains in literature both present and past. Titles studied may include Shakespeare's Othello, Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as selected short stories and poetry from classic and contemporary British/European writers.

Word and Image

Instructor: English and D & S Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Fall Semester

In this team taught course (cross listed with Design Arts and Sciences), students will engage with two core questions. How important is the medium to the idea a creator attempts to communicate? Why do creators choose graphic narrative (a blend of words and pictures) as their medium? Students will study traditional art and short stories to review foundational concepts like composition, tone, genre, abstraction, and characterization. They will also study how these concepts integrate in mixed-media graphic narratives by contemporary artists. The course will allow students to outline graphic narratives, design character ensembles, submit their concepts to peer review, and finally use a variety of media, both traditional and digital, to illustrate their work.

Writing our Lives

Instructor: Department Staff

Prerequisites:

Open to students in the following grades: 11, 12

Offered in the Fall and in the Spring

This course is an exploration of the art of the memoir. We will explore what the memoir seeks to do, and in addition to analytical essays, students will write multiple creative non-fiction essays of their own. Students will read memoirs by authors such as Didion, McCourt, McBride, Nafisi and Wolff, as well as shorter creative non-fiction pieces by various contemporary writers. We will also discuss the boundaries of truth in story telling—the difference between creative license and outright lying—through consideration of popular memoirs that were subsequently found to be forgeries. In examining all of these models, we will learn the elements of successful creative non-fiction, and frequent creative writing exercises will encourage students to refine their own work. A writing intensive course, students should expect to write frequently, through journalling, nightly writing assignments, and larger memoir pieces on experiences and places of meaning to them. Students may find that one or more of their essays will fit the common application personal essay.