English Language Arts | Saint Joseph Notre Dame High School

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English Language Arts

The English Language Arts Department prepares students for the challenge and rigor of college and creates lifelong critical thinkers. Students glean information from the world around them, effectively analyze it and concisely articulate their insights.

The study of English Language Arts includes the analysis of literature and the English language. Develop your critical and creative thinking with a focus on language and literary analysis. Throughout your study at SJND, participate in a variety of classroom activities: formal lecture, Socratic seminar, reflective journaling, silent sustained reading, gallery walks, silent discussions, and peer editing and revising. This variety ensures that you experience learning in many different ways and have multiple opportunities to learn and explore English Language Arts subjects.

Four years (40 units) of English are required for graduation.  Unless otherwise noted, all English courses are UC-approved as college-preparatory core/elective courses. 

Available Courses in 2018-19

Coming of Age Studies in Literature
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This freshman-level, required course introduces students to the theme of “coming of age.” This year marks an important transition to high school, so this class celebrates and explores this idea of change by examining multiple voices from writers describing coming-of-age experiences. Students will be introduced to elements of style in both print and non-print texts, along with poetic voices and dramatic performance. The year also includes analyzing how writers communicate voice through social, cultural, geographical, and historical context. Students focus on foundational skills such as word roots, writing organization, essay formatting, active reading, study skills, and time management to prepare them for their studies in years to come.

Prerequisite: None

This freshman-level course introduces students to the theme of “coming of age,” but with more challenging literature and faster pacing. This year marks an important transition to high school, so this class celebrates and explores this idea of change by examining multiple voices from writers describing coming-of-age experiences. Students will be introduced to elements of style in both print and non-print texts, along with poetic voices and dramatic performance. The year also includes analyzing how writers communicate voice through social, cultural, geographical, and historical context. Students approved for this course already possess excellent study skills and the ability to manage their time effectively outside of school. Because this is an honors course, students who earn a C- or higher in this course will earn an extra grade point toward their grade point average. 

Cultural Perspectives and Identity
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This sophomore-level course focuses on the theme of culture and how our personal cultures help to shape our identity as individuals. In this course, students will explore cultural identity through texts written from different cultural perspectives as students shift from concrete to abstract thinking. Students will read from a variety of genres including the novel, drama, short prose, and poetry at an in-depth level. This course also examines the concept of justice and how cultural clashes often lead to conflict in the world.  Finally, this course continues to build on skills gained in the freshman year in areas of vocabulary in context, reading comprehension, and writing with a focus on PSAT preparation.

This is an in-depth and intensive English Language Arts course for sophomores that focuses on the theme of culture and how our personal cultures help to shape our identity as individuals. Students in this course have moved beyond concrete understanding and explore cultural identity and perspective as an abstract concept in novels, drama, short prose, and poetry. Additionally, students will look at how different cultures view justice and how cultural clashes often lead to conflict in the world.  Finally, this course continues to build on skills gained in the freshman year in areas of vocabulary development, reading comprehension, and writing with a focus on both PSAT and AP preparation.

Students who earn a C- or higher in this course will earn an extra grade point toward their grade point average.  In order to be eligible to take this course, students must receive department approval (which may include a separate application, examination, and/or a writing sample) and have earned minimum grades in the previous year’s English course (A- or higher in both semesters of Coming of Age Studies or B- or higher in both semesters of Pre-AP Coming of Age Studies).

The American Dream in Literature
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This junior-level course introduces the concept of the American Dream and how pursuit of individual dreams has formed the people and the country. This year students will look at what it means to pursue the American Dream through the eyes of many different writers whose experiences and voices have helped shape our notion of the American Dream. The course will examine how writers and speakers persuade others to support their ideas—students will utilize these strategies in their own public speaking. Overall, the class will not only study the defining works of our culture, but analyze the elements of language within these pieces. Composition becomes more complex as students learn to recognize patterns of style and analyze defining features of literary movements. The principles of grammar, usage, and mechanics as well as vocabulary are reviewed and further developed—specifically in preparation for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT.

English Language and Composition (AP)
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

AP English Language and Composition is a rigorous, college level course emphasizing expository writing and critical reading. Writing assignments include in-class timed writings and out-of-class essays. The analysis of many forms of literature (i.e.,  novels, non-fiction essays, reflective essays, letters,  etc.) focuses on how authors use language and literary devices to inform or persuade. Students also continue to work on grammar and vocabulary development.

This course satisfies the junior English requirement for qualified students.  Students who earn a C- or higher in this course will earn an extra grade point toward their grade point average.  Students who take this course must sit for the Advanced Placement examination in May.  In order to be eligible to take this course, students must receive department approval (which may include a separate application, examination, and/or a writing sample), attend the mandatory AP Information Night, and have earned minimum grades in the previous year’s English course (A- or higher in both semesters of Cultural Perspectives and Identity or B- or higher in both semesters of Pre-AP Cultural Perspectives and Identity).        

World Mythology
Semester Course; 5 Units

This senior-level survey course introduces students to ancient myth from around the world. Units of study include the Middle East, Greece and Rome, the Far East, the British Isles, Northern Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Emphasis will be on the study of archetypal characters (specifically the hero) and creation myths. Students will make connections between the past and the present by analyzing and recognizing patterns in ancient and contemporary literature and media. Vocabulary and writing development continue to mature as students express more complex points of view and understanding of ancient literature.

Literature as Social Commentary
Semester Course; 5 Units

This senior-level course is based on the close reading and analysis of classics in the literary canon. Students will explore various forms of fiction and nonfiction, such as the novel, short stories, poetry, articles, and letters, thematically and consider these themes as they consider our modern, global community. Students will develop a more mature perspective of literature and express their ideas in sophisticated forms of speaking and writing. 

English Literature and Composition (AP)
Yearlong Course; 10 Units

This is a course focusing on the development of skills in critical reading of a wide range of literature and in writing about literature and related ideas. Emphasis is on close reading of poetry, analysis of passages from novels and short stories, as well as writing of timed essays based on these readings, since this course prepares students to take the Advanced Placement Exam in Literature and Composition in May. This class is for students who are capable of handling and willing to devote the energy necessary to complete a rigorous and demanding course of study.

This course satisfies the senior English requirement for qualified students.  Students who earn a C- or higher in this course will earn an extra grade point toward their grade point average.  Students who take this course must sit for the Advanced Placement examination in May.  In order to be eligible to take this course, students must receive department approval (which may include a separate application, examination, and/or a writing sample), attend the mandatory AP Information Night, and have earned minimum grades in the previous year’s English course (A- or higher in both semesters of The American Dream or B- or higher in both semesters of AP English Language and Composition).

Creative Writing
Semester Course; 5 Units

This upper-division course will present basic techniques in writing creatively. Students will learn to draw on their personal reflections and imagination to strengthen their powers of perception and use of language. Students will write daily in this course. Peer editing and revising are central to writing workshops used throughout the semester. Units include both prose and poetry where students write in a variety of forms for a variety of purposes.

This course is available to all junior and senior students.  Although this course may not be counted toward the English Language Arts graduation requirement, it is UC-approved as a college-preparatory elective (“g”) course.  Students must have passed their previous year’s English course in order to take this course.   

Critically Reading Graphic Novels
Semester Course; 5 Units

Visual language is one of the first ways people communicated, and today our media is overwhelmingly full of visual signs and metaphors that soak into our subconscious. The internet and world around us scream messages that we take in with little critical thought as to how they affect our understanding of humanity and the global lives we lead. In this class, students will learn how sequential art and storytelling is more complex than what they think of as a “book with pictures.” They will use critical lenses to see the duality of images and written language to weave two different ways of communicating to see how they collaborate together or create dichotomies of thought. Through graphic novels, students will write about and discuss storytelling strategies, mythological themes, and archetypes.

This semester-­long course is available to all senior students. In order to take this course, students must have passed their previous year’s English course. 

Faculty and Staff

Teaches: English: The American Dream and World History; International Student Coordinator
Teaches: The American Dream in Literature, Critically Reading Graphic Novels, Literature as Social Commentary
Teaches: Coming of Age, AP Literature and Composition, Cultural Perspectives and Identities
Teaches: World Mythology, Honors Cultural Identity, Cultural Identity, Literature as Social Commentary
Teaches: Coming of Age Studies, Honors Coming of Age Studies, AP English Language