Writing and Skills Courses

English Workshop (rev. 8/11)

Full-year Course: first semester World Lit.; second semester Am./Brit. Lit.
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 3-5

1. Rationale

This course is for students who want to become more confident learners by improving their skills. By providing a class that individualizes instruction, students are able to develop the confidence they need for future classes. Short stories, novels, plays, research materials and movies provide the opportunity for students to learn and practice five-paragraph essays, note-taking and outlining, vocabulary in context, and analytical and critical thinking skills

2. Topics and Themes Emphasized
High interest themes such as discrimination, revenge, controversy, moral outrage are chosen to encourage students' participation.

3. Methods and Sample Assignments
Teachers use a combination of lecture, discussion, and in-class writing during which students receive individual help with their writing. Specific methods or techniques used commonly by teachers include the following:

• requiring and responding to drafts of compositions
• using writing conferences
• organizing students into peer editing groups
• using writing models to teach a specific form of writing
• using literature as a springboard to writing assignments
• using technology productively and responsively (see the English Department statement and school policy regarding plagiarism and cheating)

Specific types of writing:

personal narrative
free response to a prompt
free response to art/music

expository essay
persuasive essay
descriptive essay
essay test

short story
one-act play
song lyrics
new ending to a short story/novel
another scene for a play
rewrite of a story using a different setting or point of view

4. Expectations for Students

Much reading is done aloud or silently in class, and students are expected to participate in reading activities.

Students are expected to participate in and use writing exercises during class, including: conferences, prompts, peer editing, and composing.

Speaking and listening:
Students work in groups for discussion of literature and discussion of writing. Students are expected to participate both as listeners and as speakers in class.

5. Reading List and Other Materials

Short stories:
Reading Fiction: An Anthology of Short Stories, DiYanni
“To Build a Fire” London
"Hop-Frog," Poe
“The Cask Of Amontillado,” Poe
"The Laugher," Boll
"Mateo Falcone," Merimee
"The Bound Man," Aichinger
"The Jewels," de Maupassant
"Flowers for Algernon," Keyes
“The Inerlopers” Saki
“Charles,” Jackson
“The Lottery,” Jackson
Roald Dahl short stories
A Book Of Short Stories 1, Secondary English Editorial Staff

Novels, Novellas and Non Fiction:
Friedrich, Richter
Harold and Maude, Higgins
Zlata’s Diary, Filipovic,
Women of the Silk, Tsukiyama
Stargirl, Spinelli
Different Seasons, King

All My Sons, Miller
A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry
Equus, Schaffer

Sample Assignment

In class writing: “Mateo Falcone” and “Marriage is a private Affair”

Mateo and marriage are similar in that both stories deal with important cultural traditions and the consequence of breaking those traditions. The consequences are severe...death in one case and disownment in another. However, in Marriage, Okeke, the father, realizes that perhaps there is something more important than tradition: family

Write a letter from Okeke to Mateo about what he has learned about the importance of family. You should write as if you are Okeke and explain to him what your son did and how you treated him. Then explain how and why you changed your mind about seeing your grandchildren. You can also mention how horrible it was that Mateo killed his son.

Letters are informal but they are informative. Your goal is to convince Mateo that, in fact, family is more important than even the most important traditions.
Your letter must include: (Take notes on these)

• Detailed explanations of the traditions
• Honor Code in Mateo Arranged marriage in Marriage
• The spelling of the names correctly
• Why you changed your mind about the importance of family over tradition.
• How you feel about the whole experience.

Remember: you are Okeke.


Creative Writing (rev. 5/10)

One-semester Course
open to 10, 11, 12
range of difficulty 1-4

1. Rationale

The exercise and education of the imagination is the foundation of this course. Creative writing is taught to provide opportunities for students to explore inner landscapes and imagined vistas articulated by published writers and to enhance the skill necessary for them to try to cultivate their own artistic voices.

2. Topics or Themes Emphasized

The following types of writing and components of writing are discussed and used in the course: journal writing, interior monologue, stream of consciousness, narrative voice, dramatic monologue, dramatic dialogue, screenplay writing and adaptation, poetry, children’s literature, science fiction, fantasy, meter, tone, texture, scansion, tempo, style.

3. Methods and Sample Assignments

• Inspiration in the form of art, music, photography; anything that stirs the imagination.
• Vocabulary and word play.
• Grammar and editing skills.
• A variety of listening: guest speakers, recordings of readings, music.
• A variety of forms and critical skills.
• A critical language in order to edit one’s own and other’s work in a constructive manner.
• Workshop atmosphere in which writing is always considered in process.

Sample Assignments

Robert Creely’s poem “The First TIme” addresses issues related to time and memory. In the excerpt from Light in August, Faulkner writes, “Memory believes before knowing remembers.” Using your own experience, write ten images that use time, memory, or remembering as their source.

Each image should convey a specific, recognizable tone or texture.

Prepare two drafts (one paragraph for each) of a detailed description of an inanimate object. Use a different point of view in each. Accompany the drafts with process notes in which you explain which one you believe is more effective and why.

4. Expectations for Students

Reading: Weekly: several poems, a short story, section of a novel.

Writing: Daily: work to be kept in a journal, much ungraded; some graded only after considerable editing and revision.

Listening and speaking: Students will listen to each other’s works.

Other: Students will keep a portfolio of original works. From it, at the end of the semester, each student may host a reading featuring material she or he selects for presentation.

5. Reading List and Other Materials

What If?, Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King
other readings selected by the teacher

6. Selected Bibliography

Burroway, Janet, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, 7th Edition
Goodman, Richard, The Soul of Creative Writing
Kiteley, Brian, The 3 A.M. Epiphany
Kiteley, Brian, The 4 A.M. Breakthrough
Smith, Hazel, The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Writing
Starkey, David, Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief


Expository Writing (rev. 8/11)

One-semester Course
Open to 10, 11, 12
Range of difficulty 1-3

1. Rationale

Writing forces exploration and organization of one's thoughts. It produces a tangible and sharable body of ideas and information. Expository Writing hones the college-bound student's thinking and writing skills, skills required in most academic areas. Emphasis is on organization, technical control, development of ideas, and style. Students gain an understanding of the writing process: choosing a voice and an audience, drafting, revising, and editing. Through writing samples and shared student writings, students learn to edit their own as well as their peers' writing and then to revise their work.

2. Topics and Themes Emphasized

• Expository essay
a. precis
b. character sketch
c. personal experience
d. comparison/contrast
e. persuasive argument
f. literary analysis

• Evaluating, critiquing, and editing skills

• Writing style

• Understanding of writer's voice and chosen audience

• Vocabulary

• Grammar and syntax

• Journal writing

• Timed, in-class essay writing

3. Methods and Sample Assignments

Kinds of questions and thinking required:

• Why write? Will I need to write today and beyond? What is the writing process? How is writing part of the thinking process and part of observation and assimilation? How is it connected to other disciplines? How does one develop a writing style? What is good writing? How does one become a good writer?

• Students regularly evaluate and discuss sample writings in preparation for the writing assignment for the week. Some class periods are spent on grammar and vocabulary. Some class time is devoted to sharing students' writing and critiquing papers. Students act as the editors for one another, and then they revise their work.

4. Expectations for Students

Reading: Students are assigned sample essays as models for the type of essays they are assigned to write.

Writing: Students write frequent essays and there is some weekly writing. Essays may be critiqued by one's peers and then rewritten to be evaluated again. Student have in-class writing assignments and may have outside journals in which they write weekly. Journal entries consist of assigned and unassigned topics.

Listening and Speaking: Students are required to listen carefully to one another's writing and commentary. Their observations must be accurately presented. Students depend on one another as editors to aid in the revision of their work

Other: Vocabulary and grammar reviews and tests may be given.

5. Reading Lists and Other Materials

Readings are generally drawn from the following list:


Elements of Style, Strunk and White
Practical Guide to Writing, Barnett and Stubbs


"A Room of One's Own," Virginia Woolf
"I Have a Dream," Martin Luther King
"A Plain Brown Wrapper," David Mamet
"Race and Class," William Hazlitt
"When Ethnic Studies Are Un-American," Arthur Schlesinger
"Libido for the Ugly," H. L. Mencken
"Many Mansions," Joan Didion
"If I Could Write This in Fire, I Would Write This in Fire," Michelle Cliff
"Shooting an Elephant," George Orwell
"Pizza in Warsaw, Torte in Prague," Slavenka Drakulic

Praisesong for the Widow, Paule Marshall
Maurice, E. M. Forster
Black Swan Green, David Mitchell

6. Bibliography

Patterns of Exposition, Decker
At Large, Ellen Goodman

Sample Assignments

1. Comparison and contrast essay: Students write an essay comparing and contrasting an ad circa 1940's, 1950's, or 1960's with a contemporary ad for the same product.

2. Literary analysis: Students write on the use of the imagery to support the theme in "The Heavy Bear Who Goes with Me, " by D. Schwartz.

3. Write about a subject of your choice under the broad category of "Race and Class." Use a controlling metaphor in your essay.

Memoir Writing (rev. 6/10)

One-semester Course
Open to 11, 12
Range of difficulty: 1 - 4

1. Rationale

This is a course designed for those interested in reading modern-day memoirs and exploring the art and craft of writing about one’s life. A critical study of works such as the following - some in their entirety, some extracted - will drive the course: A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, and I Love Yous Are for White People by Lac Su. Students are expected to participate in discussions of the above works either in a classroom setting or on an individual basis. Students also are expected to write up to six original essays (based on their life experiences) and to present them to the class throughout the semester. If time allows, the class will put together an anthology drawn from pieces written throughout the semester. The final exam will be based on the reading and writing techniques studied.

2. Topics or themes emphasized

Memoir: Elements of fiction will be employed by students to tell their stories in the essays they produce for this class. The following will be emphasized: narrative voice, use of dialogue, providing descriptive details, creating scenes, knowing when to use summary, and plot. Students will be expected to provide essays that are carefully proofread before they are photocopied and shared with the class.
Personal writing: In journals, students are encouraged to write about emotions, discoveries, and impressions and to explore questions they are not yet ready to ask aloud. No emphasis is placed on spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

3. Methods and sample assignments

-- Grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, and editing skills emphasized
-- Workshop format - each student will present four pieces to the class for critique
-- Critical reading skills - evaluation of published works as well as student works
-- Constructive criticism - how to, when to, and why
-- Slice of life assignments; specific scenes required as opposed to broad strokes of summary of one’s life
-- Exploration of the past through mnemonics, music, friends, parents, teachers, etc.
-- Reflective writing in journals vs. polished pieces presented publicly

kinds of questions and thinking required
a.) Is it the writing or the life that makes successful personal writing?
b.) How does the writer recollect a life? How is the past reconstructed?
c.) What are readers looking for in personal stories? What is the role of the audience? Does a writer write for an audience?
d.) What is truth? How is fact different from personal truth? What is the difference? Is it possible to tell the whole truth? Who cares about the truth?
e.) Where does the writer’s story begin? End? What goes in the middle? What is the principle of selection?
f.) What is the writer’s ultimate goal: to analyze, justify, report, instruct, connect?

4. Expectations for students

Students will study several full-length memoirs as well as a variety of excerpted memoirs; in the final weeks of the semester, each student will study a memoir selected strictly on personal interest.

a.) Students are given the opportunity to write up to eight three page essays per quarter based on their life experiences. The topics are up to the students, but the teacher will provide exercises that will assist in remembering the past. The teacher will also assist students in recognizing a good story.
b.)Student will keep journals throughout the semester. The journals will be checked eight times per quarter.

Speaking and Listening
Students are required to listen to one another, make useful commentary when discussing student essays, and present their own work several times during the semester.

5. Reading list (in order if applicable) and other materials

Elements of Style, Strunk and White
Writing the Memoir, Judith Barrington
All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald
Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
Lying, Lauren Slater
Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy
Naked, David Sedaris
The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
Wasted, Marya Hornbacher
When Broken Glass Floats, Chanrithy Him
Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
I Love Yous Are for White People by Lac Su
Read This!, Volumes 1 and 2, edited by A. Notaro
assorted audio recordings of David Sedaris and Maya Angelou

6. Bibliography

Writing Toward Home, Georgia Heard
Discovering the Writer Within, Bruce Ballinger and Barry Lane
Life Passages, Allan Hunter
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott