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English LIterature Syllabus

Advanced Placement English IV Literature and Composition



This class is intended to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Provide students with the tools necessary to become a college-level writer,
  • Provide an intensive study of representative works from various genres and periods,
  • Increase students’ ability to explain clearly in writing what they understand about literary works and why they interpret them as they do,
  • Prepare students to successfully compete in an ever-changing world,
  • Improve students’ communication skills through speaking, listening, reading and writing,
  • Enable students to score a 3 or higher on the AP test.



Unit Zero:  Summer Reading

Skill Focus               

Develop a basic understanding of US history:  1860-1930

Identify Steinbeck’s style – plot v. general chapter

Analyze and understand function of theme in literature

Create statement of theme/thesis statement from personal analysis

Introduce/review Components of an Analytical Paper (CAP)

Use quotes as evidence effectively


Guiding Questions:

How can character development express a unifying theme in a novel?

How can we ensure that we learn from the past as history repeats itself?

How can setting actually function as its own character in a novel?  

What characterizes a dystopia?


Class Reading:         

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


Self-Selected Novel:           

A Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The Man in the High Castle, Phillip K Dick

Catch 22, Joseph Heller

Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood


Essay Prompt:

ICW: Examine two characters from East of Eden.  What is a unifying theme throughout each of their journeys?  What can readers learn from their parallel experiences?  What does Steinbeck attempt to convey through the two parallel journeys? 



Unit One:  The Young and the Restless

Skill Focus:              

Close reading of fiction and drama

Examine the elements of tragedy

Develop an understanding of Shakespeare’s language and metaphors

Incorporate composition instruction into writing: CAP (focus on body paragraphs, breaking down prompt)

Complete timed writing about prose, complex, characterization and theme

Evaluate timed writing using a scoring guide


Guiding Questions:

Why study literature?

Why is William Shakespeare such a big deal?

What can we learn from reading about someone else’s experience in overcoming adversity?

What characterizes a conflict within oneself? 

How can these issues be resolved?

What characterizes a conflict between oneself and society? 

What are possible resolutions?


Class Reading Selection:   

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare


Novel Choices:         

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Catcher in the Rye, J.D Salinger

PUSH, Sapphire

Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides


Essay Prompts:         

ICW:   The conflict created when the will of an individual opposes the will of the majority is the recurring theme of many novels, plays, and essays.  Select a fictional character from Hamlet or your seminar book, who is in opposition to his or her society.  In a critical essay, analyze the conflict and discuss the moral and ethical implications for both the individual and the society. Do not summarize the plot or action of the work you choose.  

Formal Essay:  Passage from one state to another—in growth, in belief, in understanding, in knowledge—is a frightening process.  Select two works and show how in each a change of state in the life of a character was a frightening process and led to destruction or personal fulfillment.



Unit Two:  Descent into Darkness

Skill Focus:              

Understand the verbal tradition of story telling and myth

Examine the function of imagery in story telling

Create a formal analysis paper comparing and contrasting the tragic fate of the protagonist.  Essay will be expository and analytical in nature  Direct instruction of thesis statements, effective incorporation of quotes

Incorporate CAP into writing (focus on introduction)

Utilize the correct implementation of citations


Guiding Questions:

What is the history of storytelling? 

Why is it important to understand the oral tradition?

What characterizes “good”?  What characterizes “evil”?

Can a character be good and evil simultaneously?

Is it possible to be innately evil?

Are there unforgivable sins?

Is manipulation a universal human trait?


Class Reading Selection:   


In The Lake of the Woods, Tim O’Brien


Novel Choices:         

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold


Essay Prompts:         

ICW #1:  Failure in human relations results when one shirks the responsibilities of one’s position in life.  In an essay show how two characters broke contact with people and through neglect of responsibility brought disaster to themselves and those around them.

ICW #2:  Oftentimes an author juxtaposes the ideas of “good” and “evil” using characters, symbols, or ideas.  How are both “good” and “evil” manifested in your book?  Which side will ultimately win?  Why?

Take-Home Essay: Select a novel or play in which a character’s apparent madness or irrational behavior plays an important role.  Then write a well-organized essay in which you explain what this eccentric behavior consists of and how it might be judged reasonable.  Explain the significance of the “madness” to work as a whole.



Unit Three:  From Chaucer to Chapelle; The Art of Satire

Skill Focus:              

Define and identify satire and irony in literature and media

Analyze the use of satire in literature in regards to point of view and tone

Create an expository writing evaluating the effect of satire when interpreting literature. 

Focus on paragraph structure, use of anecdote, active verbs, and syntax

Continued instruction on the 5 steps (conclusion) and citations

Utilize the NIKE process in syntax


Guiding Questions:

What is the history of satire?

How is satire used in the media today?

How can satire be considered an art form?

How does satire affect social/political change?

How is satire used effectively in times of national crisis?

How is satire sometimes seen as offensive?


Class Reading Selection:               

The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer


Required Short Stories:     

“Young Goodman Brown,” Nathaniel Hawthorne

 “A Modest Proposal,”  Jonathan Swift

 “A and P,” John Updike

 “Good Country People,” Flannery O’Conner


Self Selected Short Stories:                      

“The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant

 “The Story of an Hour,” Kate Chopin

 “Brownies,” Z.Z. Packer


Essay Prompts:         

ICW #1:  Choose an implausible or strikingly unrealistic incident or character in a work of fiction or drama of recognized literary merit.  Write an essay that explains how the incident or character is related to the more realistic or plausible elements in the rest of the work.  Avoid plot summary.

ICW #2:   Sometimes an author uses satire to address a public issue without commenting directly on the issue at hand.  What events (historical, social, or political) is the author satirizing?  How was this piece of work interpreted at the time of its publication, and what effect does the satirehave on the reader today?




Unit Four:  The Cornerstone of Poetry

Skill Focus:              

Analyze poetry for historical context, social impact, intended audience, literary devices, attitude, and theme.

Create an in-depth compare and contrast essay focusing on how the poets’ use of a specific literary device contributes to understanding theme.

Examine poetic form (pentameter, rhyme scheme)

Research and review criticism of a selected poem

Incorporate citations in writing

Create a works cited page

Practice 5 Steps and NIKEing sentences


Guiding Questions:

Why read poetry?

What is the importance of figurative language in poetry?

How does a poet convey their message?

How does Victorian and Renaissance poetry relate to contemporary life?               


Required Poems:     

“On Monsieur’s Departure” Queen Elizabeth I        

“Road Less Traveled,” Robert Frost

 “Sonnet 30,” Edmond Spenser                                 

“5 am,” Allen Ginsberg

 “Sonnet 130,” William Shakespeare                         

“Sugar We’re Goin’ Down”  Fall Out Boy

 “Death,” Emily Dickinson                                        

“Heard ‘em say,” Kanye West


Self Selected Poems:          

To An Athlete Dying Young,” A.E. Houseman      

“Still I Rise,” Maya Angelou

“Ode to a Grecian Urn,” John Keats                         

“old age sticks,” ee cummings

“Stopping Through the Woods,”  Robert Frost        

“Mirror,” Sylvia Plath

“The History Teacher,” Billy Collins


Essay Prompts:         

ICW:  How does a specific literary device parallel the message of a poem?  Why did the author chose to use this device?  How does it further the tone/message of the poem?

Formal Essay:  Compare and contrast a poem that was read in class to contemporary song lyrics. How are the two similar? Different?  (Focus on theme, tone, literary device, subject, etc).



Unit Five: The Pursuit of Power

Skill Focus:              

Examine the great chain of being

Understand the form and function of tragedy

Analyze Shakespeare’s language (metaphors)

Examine character development, point of view

Explore how the religious, scientific, and cultural beliefs of the Elizabethan age influenced Shakespeare’s writing of Macbeth

Incorporate citations into writing

Continue practice of the 5steps

Continue practice of NIKEing a sentence


Guiding Questions:

How does the class play, as well as the novel choices, work on many levels to create a unified effect?

What are contemporary connections to Macbeth?

Why is ambition generally portrayed as illustrious?

Why was Macbeth punished for his ambition, when so many are rewarded for ambition?


Class Reading:         

Macbeth, Shakespeare            


Novel Choices:         

Othello, Shakespeare

A Separate Peace, John Knowles

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Edward Albee

Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller


Essay Prompts:         

ICW #2:  Compare/contrast two works.  Examine Macbeth’s monologue after learning of Lady Macbeth’s death in 5.5, and contrast it with W.H Auden’s Funeral Blues

Take Home Essay: Examine the ambition of Macbeth and the ambition of one of the characters in your novel choice.  Who succeeds as a result of ambition? Who fails?  Special attention to format – clear thesis, porous usage, support paragraphs, introduction necessary for audience thesis followed throughout.



Unit Six:  Eliciting Empathy

Skill Focus:              

Close reading of text for effectiveness of sensory imagery

Examination of character development in regards to understanding theme

Continued practice of 5 steps to analysis

Continued practice of NIKEing sentences

Analyze author’s use of point of view


Guiding Questions:

How is social justice defined?

How does the author elicit empathy format he reader for each disparaged social group?

What literary elements are used to elicit empathy?

What humanistic factors does the author employ?

What common factors create victims of social injustice?

How can literature change the beliefs, behaviors, and ideas of society?


Class Reading Selection:   

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck                                      


Novel Choices:         

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair


Essay Prompts:         

ICW #1:  Examination of the article on “The Women’s War” and the tactics used to elicit empathy.

ICW #2:  Examination of Boy Scouts article and the extent to which empathy was elicited.

Senior Seminar Final Essay:  What was the political and social climate of the Us prior to the publishing of this book?  How did the Us change as a result of this book?  Discuss how the author of your seminar book as achieved a successful level of empathy from the reader.  What tactics are used most successfully?  What stereotypes is the author able to break down?  How is the author successful in supporting change?



Make Up/Late Work:

  • Late work will not be accepted.  Assignments are due at the specified deadline unless prior arrangements are made with the teacher.
  • If you are absent, it is your responsibility to get the work you missed. 
  • You will have one day for every day of class you miss to complete the assignment.
  • Tutorials are offered after school to make up any work you missed while absent.


Daily Assignments (15%)

Journals: The first 15 minutes of class will be devoted to journaling twice a week

AP Exam Prep:  Students will participate in weekly exercises that will aid in preparation of the multiple-choice section of the AP exam to be taken in May.


Minor Assignments (35%)

Vocab Quizzes: Bi-weekly vocabulary quizzes will be given every other Friday in conjunction with reading assignments and writing mechanics.

Seminars:  Small group discussions, or seminars, allow students to analyze and evaluate self-selected literature with their peers. Students will be evaluated on their contribution to the discussion and ability to answer high-level questions.

Reading Quizzes (35%):  Reading quizzes will be given in conjunction with both required and self-selected reading choices.  Quizzes will include comprehension questions to demonstrate that the required pages have been read.


Major Assignments (50%)

In-Class Writings (ICW):  Students will have 30-40 minutes of class time to complete their essays.

Take-Home Essays:  Students will be given an essay prompt to complete over several days at home.  The essay will not be taken through the formal essay process in class, and students will rely on their own editing and revising skills to complete the assignment.

Formal Essays:  Students will be asked to complete one formal essay per semester.  They will take their essay through the formal writing process in class using logical organization with transitions, effective rhetoric, consistent voice, a wide-ranging vocabulary, and a variety of diction and syntax to produce a polished essay complete with citations and bibliographical information (when necessary).  There is no length requirement to these essays. 

Final Essay Project:  Students will complete a Senior Seminar Final Essay which will encompass the skills acquired throughout the year.  The Senior Seminar Final will be written in conjunction with their final seminar unit on Eliciting Empathy.