Language Arts Program

 
 

Below is the list of courses in order that they are taught. Note that the texts studied in the last four high school courses are relatively at the same reading level and have no grade equivalent. These courses are not taught every year. In most of the courses, grammar, writing and poetics are integrated in the program; however, in the upper high school grades, grammar is taught as a separate subject.


“A is for Apple”

This class is intended for pupils who are learning to read as well as for those students who are currently handicapped by their poor reading, spelling and handwriting. In the course students will learn skills so important for a successful academic career: good handwriting, phonics, reading, and basic writing skills. Students enrolled in the course will use a phonics/reading and a cursive handwriting book. At the end of the year, students will be able to write in the cursive italic hand and read fluidly. The course is intended for younger students who already know their letters and their sounds (but not necessarily blends, digraphs or diphthongs), but may not be able to read fluidly, and for those older students who may have a learning difficulty in reading or handwriting. The course, offered only on Thursdays, involves reading, dictation and handwriting exercises. I am planning to make a teacher’s guide available (but not necessary) in the 2015–2016 school year for all parents who want more assistance at home. The guide will include answers to all of the exercises as well as important resource materials, such as a large book list. Suggested class for first graders.

“B is for Bears”

If there is one general weakness in today’s educational method it is the lack of continuity and drilling in foundational skills. Many students have a good beginning, but it is continual practice that makes perfect. “B is for Bears” is a course intended to drill pupils in those skills learned in “A is for Apple.” The class encourages good handwriting habits and bolsters phonics and reading skills. The course, however, introduces a lot of new material, such as important grammar concepts that will help students in their dictation and writing work. The curriculum also exposes students to a wealth of good history, poetry and literature intended for their level. “B is for Bears” is an excellent course to prepare students for the more rigorous reading and writing assignments. Suggested class for second graders.

“C is for Cottage in the Country”

This course is especially designed to improve students’ skills in and knowledge about literary works and terms, writing, poetics and grammar. The course includes literature (prose and poetry) and history passages with reading comprehension exercises; writing instruction on specific essay formats with models of imitation; phonics exercises; instruction on poetics, such as scansion, meter, rhyme and stress patterns (with exercises); and grammar and usage instruction with exercises. Suggested class for third graders.

Vice and Virtue

This is a foundational literature course that introduces younger students (grades 4 to 7) to a wide variety of classic authors and types of works. The reading is designed to improve reading comprehension, increase word knowledge, and allow students to explore the intricacies of man’s moral life and character in a way suitable to their level of understanding. This year a teacher’s study guide will be available (but not necessary) for parents, which will include answers to all of the exercises as well as important resource materials, such as a large book list. The suggested grade levels for this course are 4-6. You may read details of the Vice and Virtue course here.

Foundations in History and Literature

Foundations in Literature and History will provide students a firm foundation in both literature and history and prepare them for a serious study of these subjects in high school and college. Those students who took the Vice and Virtue course would progress to this class, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The suggested grade levels for this course are 5-7. You may read details of the Foundations course here.

English Literature and History

In this course students study English history in depth and read literature that corresponds to the time period studied. Those students who took the course “Foundations in Literature and History” would progress to this course, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The suggested grade levels for this course are 6-8. (although younger students with good reading skills may also enjoy the course). You may read details of the course here

Personal Narrative: Course in Writing and Literature

This course uses literature as a means of getting students to think about some of the most important aspects of writing, including structure and development, word choice, voice, and theme. The course begins with reading and writing journals, a study that encourages students to discover their voice and to write spontaneously and naturally.  From the journal, the study naturally progresses into the personal narrative, the autobiography and lastly, the biography. The course will also include relevant poetry and short fiction. Those students who took the course “English History and Literature” would progress to this class, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The reading material, which I will expand to include more American, English and ancient authors, would be appropriate for students ages thirteen and older (although younger students with good reading skills may also enjoy the course). The suggested grade levels for this course are 7-9. You may read details of the course here.

Classic Works of Imagination, Symbol and Allegory

In this course, students will get an opportunity to see the development of the popular fantasy and science fiction genres, with which our modern culture has a fascination. Those students who took the course “Personal Narratives” would progress to this course, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. We will be looking at the works from a literary as well as historical perspective. The suggested grade levels for this course are 8-10. You may read details of the course here. Tuition:

Short Fiction and the Novel

In this course, we will examine the history of the short story and novel and read some of the best English and American examples from the 18th to 20th century. The year will begin with a talk of the genre in terms of its literary form, its origins, and sociological implications. Then, individual works will be discussed in the context of the author’s cultural and intellectual milieu as well as the author’s biography. Those students who took the course “Greek Influence on English History” would progress to this course, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The course is open to high school students. You may read details of the course here.

Greek Influence on English Literature

This course examines Greek literature and its influence on English and American literary works. Those students who took the course “Classic Works of Imagination, Symbol and Allegory” would progress to this class, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. The reading material would be appropriate for students ages fourteen and older (although younger students with good reading skills may also enjoy the course). The course is open to high school students. You may read details of the class here.

Drama, Writing and Speech

The first part of this course will be a study of English and American drama.  The course will involve looking at the antecedents of English and American drama, studying the biographies of the playwrights, and learning the ideas and names of the various literary periods. Students will also study genres related to drama, such as the dramatic monologues of Browning. Authors include William Shakespeare, Robert Browning, Thornton Wilder, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, William Cowper, Christopher Marlowe and others. The second part of the course will be a study of writing, and in particular speech writing. Students will begin by reading essays, analyzing their theme, word choice, structure, and technique, and then applying what they learn to their own essays. Students will then move on to a study of oratory by examining a wide variety of famous speeches, from the war orations of the Greeks to modern day political rhetoric. Students will learn a large vocabulary of rhetorical techniques (antimetabole, epistrophe, epizeuxis, hyperbole, scesis onomaton, etc.) recognize the techniques in the speeches that they read, and apply them to their own writing. Students will have an opportunity to learn not only by reading historic speeches but also by listening and watching audio and video recordings. The course is open to high school students. You may read details of the course here.

Great Books Seminar

In this course students will study those larger works that have not already been covered in other courses. The books have been chosen not only for their critical acclaim but also for their timeless themes. Many of the books subtly discuss the human condition or astutely observe the reality of death, social and personal corruption, man’s psychology, life struggles, false aspirations, and social conventions. Although some of the works do not offer the solutions to the difficult issues discussed, they present the issues for honest confrontation and evaluation.


Survey of Poetry, Satirical Works and Shakespeare

In the trimester, students will study English and American poetry chronologically, beginning with the metaphysical poets. In the second trimester, “satire” will be defined, examined and illustrated through a variety of works (different genres and authors from various periods and countries). Works will include essays, poems, and excerpts from major novels from the following authors: Jane Austen, Frances Burney, Cervantes, Charles Dickens, Gogol, Horace, Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, Timothy Dwight, Moliere, and Voltaire. The major works studied in class will be Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. In the third trimester, four of Shakespeare’s works—a comedy, romance, history and tragedy— will be read and studied and examined in relation to its particular classification. The course is open to high school students.


Comparative Literature

This course seeks to expose students to a variety of literature—poetry, novels, fables, essays, and short stories—from different nations and cultures. Works (in translation) from England, America, France, Germany, Russia, and Spain will be studied and compared. The course is open to high school students.

Grammar

Every year grammar should be taught as part of a late middle school and high school education. This grammar course is a very systematic approach to grammar, covering both the theory and practice of good writing. The class will cover subjects often covered by foundational courses in grammar, such as identifying the parts of speech, parsing and diagramming, but also will go over less familiar territory, such as verbals, clauses and identifying simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence structure.

    In his autobiography, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Winston Churchill mentioned that it was his English teacher that gave him a keen sense of the structure of the English language by making him parse a sentence through diagramming. This course will be taught with the same purpose in mind. Churchill writes: “Mr. Somervell—a most delightful man, to whom my debt is great—was charged with the duty of teaching the stupidest boys the most disregarded thing—namely, to write mere English [as opposed to Latin]. He knew how to do it. He taught it as no one else has ever taught it. Not only did we learn English parsing thoroughly, but we also practiced continually English analysis. Mr. Somervell had a system of his own. He took a fairly long sentence and broke it up into its components by means of black, red, blue, and green inks. Subject, verb, object: relative clauses, conditional clauses, conjunctive and disjunctive clauses! Each had its color and its bracket. It was a kind of drill. We did it almost daily. As I remained in the Third Form three times as long as anyone else, I had three times as much of it. I learned it thoroughly. Thus I got into my bones the essential structure of the ordinary British sentence—which is a noble thing.”

 

Mr. Walter’s Language Arts and Literature Program