English at Watershed

The English program at Watershed is built upon the idea that skilled writing and critical reading go hand-in-hand. We provide our students with a solid grounding in the fundamentals of written English — structure, usage, grammar, organization, and clarity of expression — as well as a far-reaching familiarity with many of the greatest works of world literature. Our goal is to make every student a lifelong reader, as well as a confident and effective writer,  in the belief that both of these will pay lasting dividends over the course of their lives. To this end, our discussion-based classes support the development of skills in the following areas: deep and critical analysis of literary texts, writing and speaking with clarity and confidence, close reading as a means for intellectual inquiry, and a commitment to finding meaningful connections with a wide-range of literary works.

Revising written work

English

English I

 

 

Course Description:


While literature written over a thousand years ago might seem unrelated to our contemporary culture, something about this literature still speaks to us centuries later. In English I, we’ll ask what this “something” is — how do medieval and renaissance poems and prose confirm, challenge, contribute to, or diverge from our own impressions of the world? How can these texts help us to more fully understand the significant issues our society faces? Or, to put the question more simply, why do we still bother to read old literature? We’ll examine these questions by comparing Old English literature with contemporary cultural products, including movies, poems, novels/short stories, essays, and graphic novels.


In addition to introducing you to our earliest English literature, in English I you’ll frequently write well-developed and persuasive short essays. You’ll learn to identify the underlying structures of analytical and argumentative writing and how to incorporate them into your writing. We’ll also practice creative writing, playing around with poetic forms and language.


Course Materials:


We will read a range of literature texts, including:


*major Old English poems (in translation), such as The Wanderer, The Seafarer, the Old English Exodus, the Old English riddles, and The Ruin;

*selections from the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England (in translation);

*Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf;

*Gareth Hind’s graphic novel adaptation of Beowulf;

*William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

*modern and contemporary poets, including Ezra Pound, Richard Wilbur, Seamus Heaney, Jen Bervin, and others; and

*experimental literature, in particular found poetry and altered books.


We will also frequently supplement these texts with excerpts from essays, critical texts, and articles about literature and writing.


Foundational Skills addressed:


1. READING

  1. Adjusts approach to reading based on purpose and text;

  2. Forms comprehensive summaries of information gleaned from the text;

  3. Effectively analyzes/synthesizes texts in relation to other texts; and

  4. Takes effective reading notes.


Students will read a range of texts, including poetry, plays, selections from critical articles, essays, graphic novels, and even blog posts. We will focus primarily on identifying key details in a text; summarizing plot; recognizing literary inheritances, common styles, and allusions; identifying specific literary devices and explaining how they are used; and analyzing major thematic elements, in particular those related to the theme of the course.


2. WRITING

  1. Shows competence in expository writing at the level of the:

    • word (word choice, spelling, precision and tone);

    • sentence (grammar/punctuation, clarity, rhetorical technique);

    • paragraph (thesis development, summarizing, sequence, role of paragraph);

    • writing form (audience, topic choice, citations, form-specific conventions);

  2. Able to plan, scope, collect information, draft, respond to edits, rewrite to completion the following written modes or forms (as defined by instructors):

    • narrative/creative, persuasive/argumentative


Students will be asked to write both short journal pieces (1-2 paragraphs) and longer, polished essays (3-5 pages). We will focus on both content (argument, organization and development, synthesis of disparate ideas) as well as style (sentence structure, grammatical correctness, tone/purpose). Creative writing exercises will help students attend carefully to their own style and language.


4. DISCOURSE

  1. Debate/Deliberation in classroom discussion

    • summarizes and restates statements and current understandings

    • evaluates/weighs evidence

    • understands opposing viewpoints

    • takes clear positions and argues them effectively, taking into account alternate viewpoints


Students will be expected to regularly and meaningfully participate in classroom discussions about the themes of the course.

Students will also be encouraged to develop and demonstrate Foundational Skills #11 and #12, relating to social interaction and personal development. Such skills form the basis for classroom and community engagement.

English 2

Course Description:

Readings this semester included Gerald Durrell’s memoir My Family and Other Animals,

Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Mark Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,

as well as fables, parables, folk tales, and essays through writing, acting, and discussion, we

studied approaches to analyzing nonfiction, fiction, and verse drama, paying particular attention

to word choices, figurative language, tone, rhythm, sound, and performance as interpretation.

Our major writing projects included essays of description and classification and a creative

writing assignment.

Assessment of student course work was based on the quality of writing and efforts to improve

writing skills, and on the level of engagement in class discussions and activities as measured by

willingness to share ideas, listen to others’ ideas, and contribute to a productive and enjoyable

class atmosphere.

Essential skills focus:

1. Reading:

A. adjusts approach to reading based on purpose and text

B. forms a comprehensive summary of information gained from reading

2. Writing

Competence in expository writing at the level of the:

1. word (word choice, tone);

2. sentence (clarity, conciseness, rhetorical technique, grammar/punctuation);

3. paragraph (thesis development, summarizing, sequence, integrating information)

4. writing form (audience, frame, topic choice, form and specific conventions)

English 3

 

 

Course Description:


“On or about December 1910 human character changed,” wrote Virginia Woolf. In this course, through reading, writing, and discussion, we will examine how American novelists and poets between the world wars rebelled against 19th-century social mores and artistic conventions.   

    The first two novels, published just after World War I but looking back to an earlier era, portray the ornate and rigid social codes of old New York (The Age of Innocence) and the beauty and hardship of the lives of immigrant pioneers (My Antonia) who, in Willa Cather’s words, “spread across our bronze prairies like the daubs of color on a painter’s palette.” In his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald illuminated the extravagance and abandon of the Jazz Age, while in The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway depicted the life of American expatriates in Europe. Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God and its lyrical tale of a young African-American woman in early-20th-century Florida rounds out our tour of some of the greatest American novels of the period 1918-1939.

     Poems by Eliot, Pound, Moore, Stevens, Williams, and writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and stories by Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and William Faulkner, will give us a wider picture of the modernist desire to set words “at liberty.”

     Our writing work will include essays of literary and cultural analysis and some creative writing, as well as impromptu in-class writing exercises designed to illuminate different aspects of the writer’s craft. Possible independent research topics include the Harlem Renaissance, the connections with visual art movements such as Cubism and surrealism, American literary exiles in Paris, the influence of early cinema, and feminism.


Course Materials:

My Ántonia, by Willa Cather (1918)

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton (1920)

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway (1926)

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)


Foundational Skills addressed: Fall Semester


1. Reading:


  1. adjust approach to reading based on purpose and text.

  2. form comprehensive summaries of information gleaned from the text.


Students will learn close reading techniques based on observation and analysis of style, diction, syntax, prosody, tone, characterization, setting, narrative structure and point of view, authorial voice, and figurative language in texts offering a wide range of style, form, historical and cultural context, and level of difficulty. Comparisons will be made between works of different genres, time periods, styles, forms, and worldviews. Special focus will be given to expanding students' vocabulary and precision of language through discussion of and practice with the most useful new words discovered in our reading. Genres under study will include fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, as well as painting, sculpture, photography, film, and dance.


2. Writing:


  1. word (word choice, spelling, precision and tone.)

  2. sentence (grammar/punctuation, clarity, rhetorical technique)

  3. paragraph (thesis development, summarizing, sequence, role of paragraph)

  4. Writing form (audience, frame, topic, choice, form-specific conventions)


Through writing, reading, and discussion, students will learn how to write clear, detailed, and expressive analyses of the works under study. Writing work will include reading journal entries for all reading assignments and regularly assigned essays of literary analysis, as well as in-class essay writing and creative writing.




 

English 4

 


Course Description:

(Note: English 4 topics correspond with the Camden Conference and change each year)


“Pushkin is our all” is the oft-quoted summation of Alexander Pushkin’s influence on subsequent Russian writers and his role in shaping a Russian cultural identity intertwined with – and also distinct from – its European and Asian neighbors. Beginning with Pushkin’s seminal novel in verse Eugene Onegin, we will study many of the most celebrated writers of Russia’s Golden Age, including Lermontov, Gogol, Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, as well as poetry, short fiction, and essays by writers during the Soviet period and after.

Our writing work will include essays of literary and cultural analysis, as well as impromptu in-class creative writing exercises designed to illuminate different aspects of the writer’s craft. Essential questions:How has the geographic and cultural diversity of Russia contributed to its national literary identity and the enduring belief in the distinctiveness of the “Russian soul”? In a country in which “the word was seen as a weapon far more fearsome than poison or daggers,” how has the persecution and martyrdom of Russian writers under both the Tsarist and Communist regimes – and the iconic status given to literary figures – shaped Russian writers’ sense of themselves and their role in society? How has Russian literature influenced - and been influenced by – world literary trends such as Romanticism and Realism?


Course Materials:

Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin (1825-32)

A Hero of Our Time, by Mikhail Lermontov (1839-40)

Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev (1862)

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1866)

Hadji Murat, by Leo Tolstoy (1896-1904)

Uncle Vanya (1897) and The Cherry Orchard (1904), by Anton Chekhov


Stories, poems, and essays by many 19th- and 20th-century Russian writers.


Contemporary Russian writing from Words Without Borders, an online magazine of international writing in translation, and The Calvert Journal, “A Guide to Creative Russia.”


Foundational Skills addressed: Fall Semester


1. Reading:


  1. adjust approach to reading based on purpose and text.

  2. form comprehensive summaries of information gleaned from the text.


Students will learn close reading techniques based on observation and analysis of style, diction, syntax, prosody, tone, characterization, setting, narrative structure and point of view, authorial voice, and figurative language in texts offering a wide range of style, form, historical and cultural context, and level of difficulty. Comparisons will be made between works of different genres, time periods, styles, forms, and worldviews. Special focus will be given to expanding students' vocabulary and precision of language through discussion of and practice with the most useful new words discovered in our reading. Genres under study will include fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, as well as painting, sculpture, photography, film, and dance.


2. Writing:


  1. word (word choice, spelling, precision and tone.)

  2. sentence (grammar/punctuation, clarity, rhetorical technique)

  3. paragraph (thesis development, summarizing, sequence, role of paragraph)

  4. Writing form (audience, frame, topic, choice, form-specific conventions)


Through writing, reading, and discussion, students will learn how to write clear, detailed, and expressive analyses of the works under study. Writing work will include reading journal entries for all reading assignments and regularly assigned essays of literary analysis, as well as in-class essay writing and creative writing.