Pre-AP English II Syllabus

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Pre-AP English II Syllabus

Cushing High School

First six weeks:

Vocabulary from Word Power Made Easy --We begin with the core ten words then expand the list through root words to several dozen words. For instance, we take the word “penury” and by using its root word, penuria, meaning need or neediness, we learn the related words “penurious,” “parsimonious,” “indigence,” “destitution,” “affluence,” etc. We have a test approximately every two weeks. We work on the words each day in class.

Summer reading: novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

• Take up reading journals: Tom as the most noble character and instances of humor in the novel.

• Introduce the persuasive appeals: logos, ethos, pathos by studying excerpts from Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

• Write a persuasive essay challenging or defending this assertion: “The novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a racist book and should be banned.” Use evidence from the novel to support your assertions. Include a counter-argument to anticipate and address your audience’s objections, develop an organizing structure appropriate to the purpose, audience, and context, analyze the relative value of specific data, facts, and ideas, and use a range of appropriate appeals (descriptions, anecdotes, case studies, analogies, illustrations).

• Discuss elements of satire in the novel.

Novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Selected poetry

Composition: Review of the essential elements of a paragraph: topic sentence, concrete details, commentary, concluding sentence, all color coded.

Chapter quizzes over To Kill a Mockingbird

Note: Throughout the year, grammar instruction takes place mostly through revision of student essays. In addition, I will use handouts I have written over particular skills such as participial phrases, dependent clauses, etc. Grammar skills to be covered the sophomore year follow (these are the same skills taught the freshman year, so this year will reinforce and further develop these skills):

• Gerunds, infinitives, participles

• Relative clauses

• Reciprocal pronouns

• Subjunctive mood

• Dependent and independent clauses

• Complex, compound, and compound-complex sentences

• Correct comma placement

• Quotation marks to indicate sarcasm or irony

• Dashes to emphasize parenthetical information

Essays as we read To Kill a Mockingbird:

• Released AP Literature prompt: “In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Explain how the novel’s representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole.”

• Essay focusing on Boo Radley with the following topic sentence: “In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee presents Boo Radley as a mysterious character to the children”

• Essay over the three characters who function as “mockingbirds” in the novel

Paragraphs written as we read the novel:

• Well-developed paragraph on this prompt: “One theme of this novel is that you can’t really know a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. Give two instances in the novel in which this theme is developed.”

• Personal paragraph based on the “climb into his skin” quote.

• Paragraph over one truth (theme) offered in the novel.

• Paragraph over the “nightmare” in chapter 15.

Second Six Weeks

Works Taught:

Poetry unit covering sound devices, figurative language, tone, forms, theme, etc. (handout) We will study this handout for approximately two weeks. Assessment will be in the form of tests and exercises over selected poems.

Drama Othello by William Shakespeare

Assessment of play:

Quizzes, paraphrases, and analysis of passages in Othello

Journal entries tracing Desdemona’s true character

Multiple choice questions over a passage in the play

Writing assignments over Othello:

• In Act II, scene iii, analyze how Shakespeare uses language to make Iago sound wily and Cassio naïve.

• In Act III, scene iii, analyze how Shakespeare uses figurative language, diction, and repetition to convey Othello’s state of mind.

• Released AP Literature prompt over the way Cassio functions as a foil to Iago: “If Cassio do remain,/He hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly.”

• Write a poem in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) characterizing either Iago, Desdemona, or Othello.

Third Six Weeks:

Works taught:

Novel A Separate Peace by John Knowles

Novel All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Continue vocabulary study.

Selected poetry, including “To an Athlete Dying Young” by A.E. Housman

Assessment of A Separate Peace:

Journal entries tracing Gene’s character traits in chapter 8

Chapter quizzes

Oral reports (PowerPoints) over subjects dealing with prep schools and World War II

Writing assignments over A Separate Peace:

• Paragraphs characterizing Gene and Finny

• Essay outlining how Gene creates his own “separate peace”

• Original script in which students imagine the conversation between Finny and Gene had Finny lived

Assessment of poem “To an Athlete Dying Young”

• Paragraph analyzing the poem’s structure, rhyme, and theme

• Paragraph explaining how the theme of the poem is echoed in A Separate Peace

Assessment of All the Pretty Horses:

• Journal entries tracing John Grady’s character traits throughout the novel

• Chapter quizzes

• Multiple choice questions over passage in novel

• Close reading questions from first two paragraphs of novel

• Well-developed paragraph over any TWO of these three prompts:

1. The novel opens with one death—that of John Grady’s grandfather—and ends with the death of the family servant called Abuela, “grandmother.” (At the novel’s end, John Grady also learns that his father has died.) How do these deaths impel the novel’s plot? What larger meanings do they suggest?

2. What attributes does McCarthy seem to value in his characters, and how can you tell he does so? Do these traits always serve them well, or are the boys victims of their own virtues?

3. Is All the Pretty Horses a violent book? How do the novel’s characters feel about the deaths they cause? At a time when graphic and gratuitous descriptions of mayhem are standard in much popular fiction for purposes of mere shock and titillation, does McCarthy succeed in restoring to violence its ancient qualities of pity and terror? How does he accomplish this?

Other writing assignments over the novel:

• Essay over released AP Literature prompt: Does the novel have a happy ending? Is there some sense of a spiritual reconciliation?

• Essay over this prompt: Read the first two paragraphs of the novel and the last paragraph in the novel. Write an essay in which you analyze how McCarthy uses diction and imagery to characterize John Grady’s experience. Make sure that you do not depend upon mere plot summary.

Fourth Six Weeks

Works taught:

Drama A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Continue with vocabulary study.

Assessment over Midsummer Night’s Dream:

• Close reading activity characterizing Puck in Act II, scene i

• Close reading activity Act II, scene I, dialogue between Oberon and Puck

• Analyzing the play within a play “Pyramus and Thisbe”—How does Shakespeare use apostrophe, rhyme, and understatement to create humor?

• Journal entries over Bottom’s character

• Paragraph: What is the significance of most of the action in the play taking place in the woods?

• Tests over each act

Essays over A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Students will choose three topics from the list below. They will write outlines for two of them, and for the third, they will write a complete essay.

• Identify the four worlds that make up this play, list the characters who make up the worlds, and state what each world represents.

• Discuss how these thematic ideas are developed in the play: real love/romantic love, reality/illusion, and reason/imagination.

• Trace these motifs through the play: eyes/seeing, harmony/discord, moonlight, flowers.

• Discuss Shakespeare’s view of marriage and the role of the wife.

• Comment on how the play within a play reflects the main action of the Shakespeare play.

• Summarize the four main plots: Theseus/Hippolyta, Oberon/Titania, the four lovers and the course of true love, the laborers producing their play “Pyramus and Thisbe.”

Fifth six weeks:

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (modern American drama)

Website: 17thc/crucible.shtml This is an excellent website written by a historian who has compared the events in the play with actual facts about the witchcraft trials. Of note is the fact that Miller based his play on the repercussions surrounding a teen-aged spurned lover. In truth, John Proctor was sixty years old, and Abigail was twelve. The real facts of the witchcraft trials are far more complex, as this website will reveal. The author comments that AP students frequently visit his website and ask him questions because they have been assigned to find out the differences in the play and in the actual facts. Students will research the actual facts of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and compare them to the events in the play.

• As students read the play, they will record their observations in a dialectical journal. This journal will be theme-based. As they read, they should note that two ideas thread themselves throughout the play: vengeance and misguided motives. In a dialectical journal, students are to identify evidence in the play that supports the two thematic ideas, or motifs. They will write commentary that explains the connection. Following is the form they will use and an example.


|Theme of vengeance: In Act One, we learn that Mrs. Putnam had |Miller tells us that Rebecca’s husband, Francis, fought a “land |

|seven babies who died. She accuses the upright Rebecca Nurse, |war” with his neighbors, “one of whom was a Putnam.” Mrs. Putnam |

|saying, “You think it God’s work you should never lose a child, |“accused Rebecca’s spirit of ‘tempting her to iniquity.’ Mrs. |

|nor grandchild either, and I bury all but one?” |Putnam was intensely jealous of Rebecca Nurse—her land, her |

| |standing as a righteous woman in the community, her healthy |

| |children. The only way she can accuse Rebecca is to accuse her |

| |spirit, which cannot of course be proven. |

• For section one of the play, students will write a well-developed paragraph in which they fully explain the paradox of the Salem tragedy. They should first look closely at the two paragraphs beginning “The Salem tragedy, which is about to begin in these pages, developed from a paradox.” They will be instructed to look up the definitions of unfamiliar words, particularly the following: theocracy, disunity, ideological, forged, exclusion, prohibition, repression(s), perverse. The ideas presented in this section are quite weighty and will give students an understanding of Miller’s themes in this play. Students are given a topic sentence: “The Salem tragedy developed from a paradox.”

• Students will write another paragraph explaining why they think the Puritans regarded the “virgin forest” as the “Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand.” The first two paragraphs are about Rev. Parris, but in the rest of the section Miller expresses his definite opinions about the Puritans, and his opinion is mostly a dim one. Miller mitigates his harsh criticism, however, with several positive comments. Students will complete a chart listing the negative and positive traits Miller mentions. The chart below is completed for students with suggested answers. In some answers, the text is quoted, and in some, ideas are paraphrased.


|1. “sect of fanatics” |1. the Puritans “were shipping out products of slowly increasing|

| |quantity and value” |

|2. they were a joyless bunch: wouldn’t allow anyone to read |2. they fought the land “like heroes” |

|frivolous literature, forbade “vain enjoyment” | |

|3. they were full of “parochial snobbery” and therefore couldn’t|3. they were a “dedicated folk” |

|convert the Indians | |

|4. they laid on “victims…the force of their frustrations” |4. their “self-denial, their hard-handed justice, were |

| |altogether perfect instruments for the conquest of this space so |

| |antagonistic to man” |

|5. they settled “old scores” by the witchcraft trials and |5. we should pity them because our nature is in many ways the |

|accused neighbors for the purpose of gaining their lands |same as theirs |

|6. they could “cry witch” against their neighbors and “feel | |

|perfectly justified” since they deceived themselves that they | |

|were doing God’s work | |

| | |

• Students will complete activities over prepositional phrases, modeled after Don Killgallon’s Sentence Composing for High School.

• Students will answer multiple choice questions over paragraphs three through seven in section five, beginning with “Our difficulty in believing….” These questions will test their higher level close reading skills and are patterned after the questions on the multiple choice section of the AP Language exam. Before students can answer the questions, they will need to read the whole section and to know the denotative meaning of the following words: malign, succubi, abrogation, diabolical/diabolism, malevolence, congerie, arbiter, scourge,, propitiation, laxity, atomization, lascivious. Students will take a test which assesses their knowledge of these words.

Act One of this play is particularly crucial because Miller presents his view of Puritanism, our relationship to the Puritans, and his view of our own belief system. Students will need to read the prose sections very carefully, the section where Miller inserts his own comments. Some of the most complex and thought-provoking ideas in this play are presented in two of these prose sections. In each of the six sections, Miller delineates a particular character. But in sections one and five, he also offers his opinion of the Puritans and their (and our) belief systems. In section one, the first two paragraphs are about Rev. Parris, but in the rest of the section, Miller expresses his definite opinions about the Puritans, and his opinion is mostly a dim one. Miller mitigates his harsh criticism, however, with several positive comments. Students will complete a chart listing the negative and positive traits Miller mentions. They should have at least five negative comments and four positive ones. The chart below contains one example. Students may quote the text or paraphrase or use a combination of quotation and paraphrase.


|“sect of fanatics” |The Puritans “were shipping out products of slowly increasing |

| |quantity and value.” |

• Students will write another well-developed paragraph explaining why they think the Puritans regarded the “virgin forest” as the “Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand.”

• In the second paragraph of section five, Miller writes this: “The world is still gripped between two diametrically opposed absolutes.” Read this section very carefully. Then, using Miller’s statement as your topic sentence, students will write a paragraph explaining the complex idea Miller is here proposing.

• Final essay:

crucible, n. 1. A vessel made of a refractory substance such as graphite or porcelain, used for melting and calcining materials at high temperatures. 2. The bottom of an ore furnace, in which the molten metal collects. 3. A severe test or trial. [Middle English crucible, from Medieval Latin crucibulum, perhaps originally a lamp kept burning in front of a crucifix, from Latin crux, CROSS.]

Often the title of a work can alert the reader to motifs and ideas which will be developed in the work. The title of this play does not appear anywhere in the body of the play, yet the title does foreshadow the themes that this work develops. In a well-crafted essay, explain how the title of The Crucible illustrates the major themes of the work.

• Close reading quiz over all four acts

Sixth Six Weeks:

Continue vocabulary study.

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (nonfiction)

The book ends with these words:

“Somewhere to the eastward a wolf howled; lightly, questioningly. I knew the voice, for I had heard it many times before. It was George, sounding the wasteland for an echo from the missing members of his family. But for me it was a voice which spoke of the lost world which once was ours before we chose the alien role; a world which I had glimpsed and almost entered…only to be excluded, at the end, by my own self.”

Write an essay in which you evaluate the meaning of these words in the context of the meaning of the whole book.

Research unit: Before reading the novel, students will research some aspect of environmentalism, animal rights, land rights, or hunters’ rights. They will formulate a research plan, gather evidence from experts on the topic and texts written for informed audiences in the field, distinguishing between reliable and unreliable sources and avoiding over-reliance on one source. They will systematically organize relevant and accurate information to support central ideas, concept, and themes, outline ideas into conceptual maps/timelines, and separate factual data from complex inferences. Students will paraphrase, summarize, quote, and accurately cite all researched information according to the MLA format, differentiating among primary, secondary, and other sources. They will differentiate between theories and the evidence that supports them and determine whether the evidence found is weak or strong and how that evidence helps create a cogent argument. They will then organize and present ideas and information according to the purpose of the research and audience. They will synthesize the research into a written presentation that develops an argument that incorporates the complexities of an discrepancies in information from multiple sources and perspectives while anticipating and refuting counter-arguments. Students will provide an analysis that supports and develops personal opinions, as opposed to simply restating existing information.

In addition to the written report, students will report their research findings in a multimedia PowerPoint presentation.

Environmental issues to choose for research topics:

Climate change: global warming, global dimming, fossil fuels, sea level rise, greenhouse gas

Conservation: species extinction, pollinator decline, coral bleaching, Holocene extinction event, invasive species, poaching endangered species

Dams: environmental impact of dams

Energy: energy conservation, renewable energy, efficient energy use, renewable energy commercialization

Genetic engineering: genetic pollution, genetically modified food controversies

Intensive farming: overgrazing, irrigation, monoculture, environmental effects of meat production

Land degradation: land pollution, desertification

Soil: soil conservation, soil erosion, soil contamination, soil salination

Land use: urban sprawl, habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction

Nanotechnology: nanotoxicology, nanopollution

Nuclear issues: nuclear fallout, nuclear meltdown, nuclear power, radioactive waste

Overpopulation: burial

Ozone depletion: CFC

Pollution: light pollution, noise pollution, visual pollution

Water pollution: acid rain, eutrophication, marine pollution, ocean dumping, oil spills, thermal pollution, urban runoff, water crisis, marine debris, ocean acidification, ship pollution, urban runoff, wastewater

Air pollution: smog, tropospheric ozone, indoor air quality, volatile organic compound, particulate matter, sulphur oxide

Resource depletion: exploitation of natural resources

Consumerism: consumer capitalism, planned obsolescence, over-consumption

Fishing: blast fishing, bottom trawling, cyanide fishing, ghost nets, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, overfishing, shark finning, whaling

Logging: clearcutting, deforestation, illegal logging

Mining: acid mine drainage, mountaintop removal mining, slurry impoundments

Toxins: chlorofluorocarbons, DDT, endocrine disruptors, dioxin, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, toxic waste, PCB, bioaccumulation, biomagnification

Waste: E-waste, litter, waste disposal incidents, marine debris, landfill, leachate, recycling, incineration


The last six weeks will also consist of practice and acquisition of the skills needed to be successful in AP Language the next year. I use multiple choice questions I have written over all four genres: nonfiction, poetry, drama, and fiction. Here is a sample of the passages I use:

• Nonfiction—from An Alchemy of Mind by Diane Ackerman

• Poetry—“Lady Freedom Among Us” by Rita Dove

• Fiction—from Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

• Drama—from The Piano Lesson by August Wilson

• Synthesis—animal testing


• Prompt over how Ackerman’s use of language conveys her purpose in the An Alchemy of Mind passage

• Prompt over the characterization of Dombey in the Dombey and Son passage

• Write a synthesis essay over the topic of drug testing in schools. Students will read six sources, one of which is visual text, and synthesize at least three of them in an essay that takes a stand on drug testing in public schools.


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