My Bookshelf: Here's a link [insert your link!] to my GoodReads profile, which shows the books I've read, my ratings of those books, and my reviews. [Note: you MUST rate and review every text you've read this year. You should have already done that, but please double check. This includes your FVR books and your summer reading. As a class, we've read the following novels: The Scarlet Letter, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. For a good example of a succinct review, check out my review of the novel The Language of Flowers.
My Experience of Reading Title of Your Choice: Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin, writes that "a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." A critical part of your Sacred Heart English education is the cultivation of your interior life -- a life filled with contemplation, grappling, and personal transformation. In reading a truly great book, we have the opportunity to try on ideas, "prefect" on a situation before it happens, and attempt to better understand ourselves and our world. It is for these reason that we place powerful texts in your hands, and set you free to explore. Much has been written about the experience of reading and readers. Here are a couple more thoughts to frame your assignment:
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ~ John Green, Young Adult Author
“When a reader falls in love with a book, it leaves its essence inside him, like radioactive fallout in an arable field, and after that there are certain crops that will no longer grow in him, while other, stranger, more fantastic growths may occasionally be produced." ~ Salman Rushdie, Man Booker Prize Winning Author
Assignment: In a personal essay of at least 500 words, discuss your personal experience with reading any of the texts you have read this year (required texts or FVR). Your essay must: ❏Introduce the context in which you read the novel (required? your choice? where you read? when you read? how you read?)
❏ Describe the novel that has strongly affected you. Who and what is the novel about? Where does it take place?
❏Explain how your reading of the book has impacted you, resonated with you, challenged you, shifted your outlook (on life? on reading?), made you question, made you wonder, been relevant to your growth as a person... What meaning did you make?
❏ Discuss why you think this book has had a profound impact on you. Why do you think you were ready for its message?
For a professional example of what this can look like, check out Toni Morison's essay on reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, called "This Amazing, Troubling Book."
Rubric: These are the standards of excellence for the reading component of your alternative final.
Goal: The entire purpose of this assignment is for you to be meta-cognitive about your writing – to think about the way you think, and write about the way you write. It’s one thing for me to have a sense of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer; it’s an entirely different (and more powerful) thing for you to know your strengths and weaknesses. My goal is for you to leave this class with that knowledge. Thus, you will write a response that synthesizes your understanding of what makes for an academic essay, demonstrates your ability to accurately apply that understanding, and reflects on your growth and areas for improvement in academic writing. Make sure you use your resources and my feedback from your previous writing! Please include parenthetical citations of your own work (Your last name “Essay Title”). You may draw upon any essay, explication, or exam you have written for this course for the evidence in your response. If you choose to modify your evidence, please add “Modified from Essay Title” to your citation.
Assignment: Write a descriptive response in which you synthesize your understanding of what makes for good academic writing. Each of the check boxes below should be its own mini-paragraph.
❏Describe the components of a solid thesisstatement. Then, provide an example of a thesis statement you have written this year that properly incorporates those components. If you have yet to write one that meets the requirements, edit one of your thesis statements so that it effectively applies the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of a thesis statement.
❏Describe the components of a clear topic sentence. Then, provide an example of a topic sentence you have written this year that properly incorporates those components. If you have yet to write one that meets the requirements, edit one of your topic sentences so that it effectively applies the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of a topic sentence.
❏Describe the components of a smooth set-up. Then, provide an example of a set-up that you have written this year that properly incorporates those components (include the quotation so that you can discuss your integration of it). If you have yet to write one that meets the requirements, edit one of your previous set-ups so that it effectively applies the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of set-up.
❏Describe the components of meaty evidence. Then, provide an example of excellent evidence you have selected this year that properly incorporates those components. If you have yet to select evidence that meets the requirements, go back to the text and pick a different quotation that it effectively reflects the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of evidence.
❏Describe the components of excellent analysis. Then, provide an example of analysis that you have written this year that properly incorporates those components. If you have yet to write analysis that meets the requirements, edit your analysis so that it effectively applies the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of analysis.
❏Describe the components of an effective concluding sentence. Then, provide an example of a concluding sentence you have written this year that properly incorporates those components. If you have yet to write one that meets the requirements, edit one of your concluding sentences so that it effectively applies the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of a concluding sentence.
❏ Describe the purpose/function and components of an the introduction and conclusion. Then, provide an example of a hook and kicker that you have written this year that properly models those components. If you have yet to write one that meets the requirements, edit one of your previous hook/kicker sets so that it effectively applies the components you have outlined. Finally, explain how your example correctly applies the elements of a hook and kicker.
❏Now, think about your strengths and limitations as a writer. Schools of the Sacred Heart commit to providing an education in which "students grow in self-knowledge and develop self-confidence as they learn to deal realistically with their gifts and limitations." What is the biggest improvement you have made since you started Sophomore English? Where did you start as a writer? Where did you end up? In what areas do you still need to improve?
Rubric: These are the standards of excellence for the writing component of your alternative final.
Listening & Speaking
Background: The Interdisciplinary US Literature course you are about to complete is ripped from the headlines of the newspaper. A few years back, I spent a summer combing through the news to find the major topics that emerged. I looked for the social issues that have sparked debate on the national stage, and devised a way to bring that dialogue into the classroom, and frame a discussion within the context of great literature. Our news anchors -- whether online, on television, on the radio, or in print -- are talking about the economy, income differences, poverty, gender equality, racism, immigration, gay rights, conflict abroad, privacy, individual liberty, and the ideal of the American dream. In our major units of study this year, we considered the following essential questions:
❏ Who counts in American democracy, and who benefits in American culture? To what degree does a person’s social identity extend or diminish his/her power and privilege?
❏ What makes communities label a person as an outsider? Under what conditions will a society target outsiders? How can exclusion lead to revelation?
❏ What are the challenges and benefits of being within society and without? How can we use language (writing, humor, storytelling, connotation) to effect social change?
❏ Can class identity be changed, like socioeconomic status? Is there true “upward mobility”? Is the American Dream accessible to everyone? What do we value? To what extent has the U.S. lived up to its values?
❏ Under what circumstances would an individual chose to leave his/her home? What drives individuals to come to America? What cultural barriers do immigrants face? Why do some immigrant groups “succeed” more than others in assimilating into American culture? Especially voluntary vs. involuntary immigrants?
Assignment: In order to demonstrate your ability to practice radical listening, and deliberate, thoughtful speaking, you will create a feature story podcast that explores one of the core questions of our course by interviewing people who experience that issue, or are experts in that field. Your podcast must frame the course question in a current conversation about something that matters to you in American life. This might be a social or political issue, current event, statistic -- something that makes you think, wonder, and want to know more. Your podcast must include:
❏ An introduction to your topic and your angle (i.e.: if you are focusing on the topic of immigration, your angle might be something like: educational opportunity, language acquisition, or pressure to assimilate). Start with the LEAD, which should be a brief, well-tuned statement that introduces the angle through detail, wordplay, description, etc. Then transition to the NUTGRAF (or nutshell paragraph), in which you zoom out and give the context for the story, answer most of the five Ws: who, what, where, when, why.
❏ An angle thatis clearly established and defined for the audience. You should explore multiple aspects of the angle in depth, demonstrating your clear understanding of its complexities. Your story must be logical in its approach to exploring the angle and answering the reader’s questions about the story’s subject.
❏ An interview of one person who experiences the issue under discussion, or is an expert in that field (you may elect to interview two people to provide a counterpoint or alternate perspective). You may not interview classmates or other students unless you get my permission. Ask open-ended questions and encourage your interviewee to elaborate with personal stories and anecdotes. Avoid over-explaining the meaning of events, allowing the events and the interviewee to speak for themselves when they can.
❏ A connection to what you learned this year in English and in history (that's two connections!). For your English connection, please use a direct quotation, and properly integrate it into your speaking (set up!). Make sure you include a transition so that you smoothly alternate between your interviewee's voice and your explanation.
❏ A sign-off that touches back to your lead statement, concludes the story, gives your name, and thanks your listener.
Ready for a spectacular example? Check out this podcast from NPR (scroll to the bottom and click, "listen to the story." Want to see a written example? Look at this article from journalist and teacher Michelle Balmeo, based on this longer feature story about immigration from Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days.
Logistics: Please create your podcast in GarageBand (click the "podcast" option when creating a new project). When you are done, create a free account on soundcloud with your school username/pw. Then upload from the app to soundcloud, and embed your podcast in your website (the embed code looks like this: <code stuff here> ). Easy peasy.
Rubric: These are the standards of excellence for the listening & speaking component of your alternative final.
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