Language Arts Courses
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. Click on the title of the course to access the detailed objectives of the course.
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 involves reading, dictation and handwriting exercises. I am planning to make a teacher’s guide available for the 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. View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking the hyperlinks.
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.View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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. View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
D is for Dandelion
Like the previous three years of curriculum, D is for Dandelion covers spelling, phonics, poetry memorization, poetics (in the Teacher's Guide), and reading with comprehension questions. Reading selections include a wide variety of genres, including poems, correspondence, journal writing, fantasy, fairytale, allegory, fables, folk tales, myth, biography, history, satire, and realistic fiction. There are dictation exercises that not only teach grammar concepts but also reinforces the spelling and phonics. However, this fourth year course introduces students to important writing formats and works on skills such as writing summaries, organizing ideas in expository writing, and using literature as prompts for story telling.
You may view the assignment page here.
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. View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
Foundations in Literature and History is a comprehensive language arts course that goes over literature, literary terms, grammar, writing, poetics, spelling, and speech-giving. The class literature and independent reading for book reports 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. The textbook anthology provides a wide variety of reading passages, including history, fairytales, the short story, myths, fables, allegory, and poetry. (Some of the works have been adapted for younger readers, such as the works by Shakespeare, Chaucer and Spenser.) The anthology and study guide were designed to hone particular reading skills through comprehension questions, such as making inferences, understanding the tone of a work, understanding paragraph development, and discovering the meaning of vocabulary through contexts—all the skills necessary for being a good reader and in successfully taking future standardized tests like the SAT. In class, students will take notes on and study the biographies of the authors and, if appropriate, the period and genre of the written works. Authors include classic authors, such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Livy, William Bradford, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Lamb, Guy de Maupassant, Edmund Spenser, Isaac Watts, William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Robert Burns, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and others. This year I will not be covering grammar in class, but will be offering a free online course for all Foundations students (see below); however, if the online grammar course is not an option, parents may still purchase the grammar book and work independently with their children and access answers to the exercises and tests online.
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 view the assignment page here and access the detailed course description here.
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). View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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 view the assignment page here. View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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. In addition to reading classic works for class discussion and book reports, students will read of host of other material in their anthology, which includes fairy tales and fables, ghost stories (such as Daniel DeFoe's "Mrs. Veal"), English Gothic (such as Hawthorne's "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" and Brontë's Jane Eyre), fantasy and adventure, science fiction, narrative poetry, and detective and mystery. The anthology of works. Works read an studied include such authors as Hans Christian Andersen, George Orwell, Daniel Defoe, William Makepeace Thackeray, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, John Bunyan, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alfred Tennyson, Franz Kafka, Jonathan Swift and many others. Students will improve their reading skills through a battery of comprehension questions that test the student's ability to make inferences, read for detail, discover meanings of words through context, understand an author's tone and development of an idea, etc. To bolster their understanding of a particular genre, students will write creative works of their own and critical papers that discuss the theme of a work and how that theme is developed through plot, characters, setting, etc.
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. View the detailed course description and the assignment page by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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 short story 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 “Classic Works” would progress to this course, although last year’s course is not a prerequisite. View the assignment page and access the detailed course description by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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. View the assignment page and access the detailed course description by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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. View the assignment page and access the detailed course description by clicking on the hyperlinks.
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. View the assignment page and access the detailed course description by clicking on the hyperlinks.
Students will study the principles of good writing, create various types of popular works— essay-blogs, short stories, poetry, autobiographical writing, plays/screen plays, novel writing—, and learn the publishing process. Lectures will include such topics as the purpose of writing, how to keep motivated in writing, and the cardinal rules that govern all kinds of writing. In the first class students will learn their responsibilities for the year, including keeping a weekly blog, submitting works for publication, and publishing an end-of-the-year project. We will begin the year by writing social, cultural and political commentary and ask for volunteers to be the editor-in-chief of the publication. Each week we will discuss current events, social trends, and other areas of interest so that the assigned writer of the week can write a piece for the blog. Each person will have to write at least six to seven essays/blogs for the web site. View the assignment page and access the detailed course description by clicking on the hyperlinks.
Compare, Persuade, Debate
This course will be divided up into two semesters. The first semester course titled “Here, There; Now, Then” will be comprised of literature from different genres, time periods and countries, with an emphasis, however, on English and American literature. With the purpose of encouraging students to see the continuity of older literature with the new as well as to understand the “Zeitgeist” of particular periods despite cultural and language differences, the course will present plays, short stories, novels, essays, and poems that have obvious similarities. For example, Shakespeare’s comedies are very similar in theme and content to the Roman comedies and the comedia del’arte of Renaissance Italy. The course will, for example, compare movements such as the German Romantic versus the English Romantic Movements as well as show the continuity of genres by comparing works such as ancient Roman comedy with the comedies of Shakespeare. The year’s reading will include works by such authors as William Shakespeare, Plautus, Carlo Goldoni, Arthur Miller, Niccolò Machiavelli, Samuel Beckett, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Walter von der Vogelweide, Voltaire, Jonathan Swift, Friedrich Schiller, Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, Anton Chekhov, Flannery O’Connor, Nicolai Gogol, Herman Melivlle, and others. The genres of fiction will include old and more modern satire, short stories, fantasy, realistic fiction, detective and mystery, and adventure.
The second semester course, titled “Persuade and Debate” will cover polemical writing and speech-making. Students will learn not only the format of the persuasive composition, but learn the art of persuasive speech-making. Using various instructional works, such as Cicero’s Rhetorica ad Herennium, students will learn various rhetorical devices and methods when composing a polemical speech. At the end of the year, students will be paired for a formal debate on a particular controversial topic. 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.
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.”
Every year grammar should be taught as part of a late middle school and high school education. At the high school level, I teach grammar as a two-year course—one generally covering parsing and diagramming, which will give students a thorough understanding of the structure of a sentence; the other, covering the technical aspects of grammar and punctuation, which is very useful in writing and in taking the writing section of the SAT.
In this introductory course, in addition to learning the Greek language, students will learn Greek history and myth. Students will begin by learning the letters and sounds of the alphabet, the diphthongs,
the rough and smooth breathing marks, and the three accent marks. Students will learn how to transliterate Greek letters and letter combinations into English. In addition to memorizing a few hundred words of vocabulary, they will study etymology through the English derivatives of Greek words. The Greek grammar will include the present indicative active, middle and passive; the imperfect indicative active, middle and passive; the first and second declension of nouns; prepositions and their derivatives; and any other material necessary to succeed in taking the National Greek Exam at the end of the year.
In this course, students continue to study Greek grammar, vocabulary and the reading of ancient texts, such as from Plutarch, Xenophon, and Aesop, as well as passages from the New Testament. Students will memorize common proverbs and quotations from ancient authors, such as from Hesiod, Euclid, Periander of Corinth, Isocrates, Thales, Plato, Pitticus of Mytilene and many others. Each session will begin with a study of etymology in which Greek vocabulary is introduced through English cognates or derivatives. The students’ knowledge of the material will be tested weekly as well as in three to four semester exams. Towards the end of the year, students will be tested on their knowledge of Greek by taking the second level of the National Greek Exam. Etymology: Students will do a systematic study of etymology, learning Greek vocabulary through English words. For example, words such as polemic, strategy, and cacophony are derived from the Greek πόλεμος [πολέμιος] (war), στρατευώ (serve in war), and κακός (bad). Grammar: In this course, the necessary grammar for taking the end-of-the-year National Greek exam will be presented. After completing a thorough review of last year’s material, students will begin studying the second aorist (indicative and subjunctive, active and middle), the different third declension nouns, the future tense (active and middle), participles, first aorist (indicative and subjunctive, active, middle and passive), the perfect and pluperfect tenses, and the pronouns (reciprocal, indefinite, relative, reflexive, demonstrative, and a review of the personal). Vocabulary: Students will learn hundreds of new words that will enable them to translate ancient and New Testament texts as well as do well on the National Greek Exam. Translation and Reading. Weekly students will read and translate short excerpts from the New Testament and ancient texts. Towards the middle of the year, they will practice translating longer passages in preparation for the National Greek Exam, seond level. The course is free to any student taking a language arts course.
In this course, students continue to study Greek grammar, vocabulary and the reading of ancient texts and the New Testament. Students will weekly memorize an ancient Greek proverb or quotation from an ancient author, and learn hundreds of vocabulary words and the grammar necessary to succeed in the National Greek Exam, third level. Students will focus on prose translating works of ancient authors, such as Xenophon, Plato, Thucydides, and Plutarch. At the end of the year, students will take the National Greek Exam, third level.
In this Latin I course, students will learn introductory Latin grammar, including 1st-3rd noun declensions, 1st-4th verb conjugations, indicative tenses, and indirect speech. This will enable students to read adapted Latin texts and form the foundation for a future study of Latin. The students will also encounter Latin literature, history, and myth through their translation exercises. At the end of the year, students will take the National Latin Exam.
Wheelock's Latin (purchase here)
Fabulae Graecae Text (handout provided)
Online Copperplate and Spencerian Calligraphy
In this class we will cover the fundamental techniques behind copperplate calligraphy, spencerian script, ornamental penmanship and italic calligraphy. In the beginning of the course I will give a brief overview of the history of penmanship looking at western, middle eastern, and far eastern calligraphy. This course will not only teach calligraphy as an art but also present practical skills that can be implemented in day-to-day life. By studying the calligraphic masters of the past, working on exercises, writing out poems and cards, and completing the final project, students will gain all the technical skills they need to create beautiful pieces of art. By the end of the course students should not only have a good grasp of pointed pen and italic calligraphy, but also see a marked improvement in their penmanship. During my calligraphy classes I have two cameras set up, one focused on the pen and paper and one on me. This set up allows me to engage with the students while doing detailed demonstrations. Having the camera very close to the pen and paper helps me to teach the nuances of copperplate and italic in a way that would be difficult in person. In my experience, teaching calligraphy and art online, if done right, does not have to be second rate.