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Senior Literature & Composition

Course Description

How am I “other?” How do we use language and stories to shape our feelings about the group we identify with and how we identify “the other?” Seniors will explore how we are both “self” and “other” through diverse texts. As students prepare for their lives after KHS, they will enjoy rich and varied opportunities to explore their own conceptions of self and other, examining those conceptions through the study of many voices from many cultures.

Senior electives form a portfolio-based full-year experience, divided into two student-chosen single-semester electives. Students will curate a Senior Portfolio, comprising reading, writing, speaking, and listening assignments that bridge both semesters. The Senior Portfolio will include a combination of teacher-assigned course work, student-selected and teacher-approved work (including the Senior Project), and student reflections based on interim portfolio goals.

The year-long Senior Project will include a research paper and a final product all students will present at the end of the year. Students will earn grades based on meeting interim goals on the Senior Project (both the research report and the product) and their course work.

Throughout both semesters, students will collaborate with teachers and fellow students to accomplish the tasks necessary to complete the Senior Portfolio and the Senior Project. During the fourth quarter, students will present their projects, as well as take their written exams and orals, which will include a senior teacher, one or two other students, and an adult mentor of the senior’s choosing.

Course Options

  • Cultural Collisions - What happens when “self” meets “other”? When a woman meets a man? When Black meets White? When young meets old? What happens when our own perceptions collide with the perceptions of others? When we read and write, we learn how we have constructed our worldview, giving us the opportunity to examine “self” and “other.” Through a mix of required and choice texts, this course pushes students to examine their world and the world of “the other” through the lens of cultural collisions. Students respond to these cultural collisions in formal and informal ways, in both expository and creative writing, in presentations and conversation.
  • Philosophy in Literature - You know those deep conversations you have with your friends at 3am or those thoughts you have when you’re alone and staring at the ceiling?  What’s the point? Why am I here? Why do bad things happen to good people, and why should I care about anyone but myself? Students explore what philosophies from across the world have said about these questions and what we can do about them in today’s ever-changing society. From relevant podcasts and high interest novels, Philosophy in Literature asks students to question themselves, others, and the world around them.
  • Monsters in Literature - Reanimated corpses, flesh-eating zombies, and blood-hungry psychopaths in English class? This course explores the role horror stories and films have played in our culture and in human civilization, and considers how monsters have become dark-side manifestations of a culture’s values, its fear of difference, and the forever-shifting understanding of the self. What does a particular culture label as “monstrous” and why? What exactly have certain authors captured and unleashed? Toward answering such questions, students explore stories from around the world, literature, and film, and engage in both academic and creative writing.
  • Myths, Fables, and Fairy Tales - We all know and love them - beautiful but naive young heroines, dashing princes, wicked witches, benevolent fairies - even crafty and vengeful monsters. Versions of the same stories have been passed down and reimagined for centuries in all parts of the world. But what keeps us so enthralled? And why do cultures that could never have interacted retell virtually the exact same stories? This course explores the magical world of myths, fables, and fairy tales through the reading of a variety of texts, examining their influence on popular media, and learning how they grew out of oral tradition into honored literary heritage. Students engage in both academic and creative writing in this course.

Grade Level(s): 12th Grade

Related Priority Standards (State &/or National): DESE Priority Standards, Grades 11-12

Essential Questions

  • Why do we label some as “others"?  
  • What are the consequences of being labeled an “other"?  
  • How does being labeled as “an other” shape identity?  
  • How are stories about other places and times about me?  
  • How can we be both other and self simultaneously?  
  • How do we imagine otherness enhancing the self?  
  • What is the difference between collective otherness and individual otherness?  
  • How do we use language to shape our feelings about the group we identify with and how do we use language to shape our feelings about “the other"?  
  • How do literary depictions of otherness make us examine ourselves?  
  • How have depictions/understandings of otherness changed over time?  
  • How does otherness reflect our culture?  
  • How does otherness reflect and about our culture?  
  • What ethical demands does "the other" make on us?  
  • How are depictions/understandings of otherness change in different cultures?  
  • How do current and historical events change understandings of otherness?  
  • What challenges does otherness present ethically, morally, politically, economically?  
  • How do we challenge otherness?  
  • How do we know when we should challenge otherness?  
  • How do we know when we should embrace otherness?  
  • How do we grow in relation to others?  
  • How can we respect our differences while still embracing community?

Enduring Understandings/Big Ideas

As students advance through the grades and master the standards in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language, they are able to exhibit with increasing fullness and regularity the capacities of literate individuals.  

  • They demonstrate independence.
  • They build strong content knowledge.  
  • They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline.  
  • They comprehend as well as critique.  
  • They value evidence. 
  • They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.  
  • They come to understand other perspectives and cultures. 

Course-Level Scope & Sequence (Units &/or Skills)

Unit 1: The “Other”: Students will gain a deeper understanding of “the self” through their investigation of “the other.” Students will have a more complex and compassionate view of those whom they see as “other.” Students will explore and consider civic responsibilities of both a “self” and an “other.” 

  • Topics of Study: 
    • Understanding Self v. Other 
    • A Complex and Compassionate View of the Other
    • Our Civic Responsibilities

Unit 2: Portfolio: Students will read and interpret literary texts of varying types and levels representing diverse local and global perspectives. Students will evaluate our own and others’ communications for accuracy, validity and impact. Students will independently use a writing process, including pre-work to organize thinking, revision to improve writing, and post-work to allow reflection.

  • Topics of Study: 
    • Reading - independently select and read increasingly complex texts 
    • Speaking & Listening - communicate for different purposes, choosing appropriate media and technology.
    • Writing - use research to serve a variety of academic and authentic purposes.

Unit 3: Senior Project: Students will seek to understand others' perspectives by actively listening while remaining open-minded. Students will develop an on-going, reflective process in order to create a product that shows a deepening understanding of the “other.” Students will use research to inform their senior project.

  • Topics of Study: 
    • Orals 
    • The Project

Course Resources & Materials

  • A Room of One's Own
  • Basic Writings of Existentialism
  • Beowulf
  • Classic Fairy Tales
  • Classic Fairy Tales, 2nd edition
  • Dawn
  • Jane Eyre
  • Man's Search for Meaning
  • Metamorphosis
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Parallel Myths
  • Passing
  • Poetry - Pocket Anthology
  • Tao of Pooh
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Fire Next Time
  • The Little Prince
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
  • The Round House
  • The Stranger
  • Waiting for Godot

Date Last Revised/Approved: 2016