The LJCDS English Department's mission is in two folds: to develop students' academic skills and social-emotional and metacognitive skills.
Students explore the meaning of texts in spoken and written words, developing an authentic voice. They write concise, effective and clear prose that communicates ideas and supports them with evidence from texts. They actively participate in classroom activities, listening carefully to their peers and articulating ideas that build on and extend others’ points.
Social-Emotional and Metacognitive Skills
The goal for LJCDS students in the English Program is to gain a deep (albeit developing) understanding of themselves and their humanity, the cross-cultural humanity of others, and the connections between life and literature. Through close analysis of texts, they develop empathy and compassion for the human experience in all of its diverse forms. They work collaboratively as part of a team and possess the initiative and perseverance to work independently.
2 semesters, 1 credit
American Studies is an interdisciplinary investigation of the nation’s culture, from the earliest people on the land to contemporary society. Students read literature, historical documents, scholarly articles and more while also viewing art, photographs and early versions of newspapers, posters and other forms of public communication. Students write traditional academic essays but also complete inquiry-based projects aimed at independent research and share their results via discussions, debates, role playing and the creation of historical documents. The goal of this reading, writing and viewing is to find connections and patterns that help define American culture.
2 semesters, 1 credit
Prerequisite: A- or higher in English II and departmental approval of a portfolio of representative student writing.
Students in AP United States Literature read the texts in English III plus additional ones. They write formal essays about the readings, and they compose short-answer responses to specific questions about the readings, focusing on direct evidence for very specific claims about the literature. AP United States Literature prepares students to tackle AP Language during senior year, when they practice and hone writing for college-level courses.
2 semesters, 1 credit
Departmental approval of a student writing portfolio
AP Language and Composition is a college-level course that prepares students to “write effectively and confidently in the college courses across the curriculum and in their professional and personal lives” (College Board). Students read and analyze a wide range of nonfiction texts (newspaper editorials, essays, biographies, literary criticism, travel writing, sermons) as well as short fiction and excerpts from longer works. Students become familiar with rhetorical strategies that make for strong, persuasive writing. Students continually revise their writing for clarity and precision. At the end of the year, students take the AP Language and Composition exam.
2 semesters, 1 credit
English I focuses on storytelling, specifically the ways humans create visions of success and failure in their lives. Students read novels, short stories, nonfiction, drama, poetry and graphic novels while composing both traditional essays and writing according to the genres they are reading. In addition, students study vocabulary from a workbook that explains word roots to support their work in both reading and writing.
2 semesters, 1 credit
Prerequisite: English III, American Studies or English III AP
English IV students select from a range of course offerings, one each semester. The courses are paired in ways that will make for thoughtful transitions and synthesis with the material and provide scheduling ease. Options shift from year to year, based on student interest and schedule availability.
- The Bakersfield Sound: Putting the “Western” Back in “Country” (Semester 1): The Bakersfield Sound—sharp, twangy, biting, a little bit rock and roll—characterized a raucous, outlaw strain of California country music. But why Bakersfield? What confluence of cultural change and historical events brought country music to the West coast and led directly to the creation of a Bakersfield country music culture? The music and lyrics from artists like Lefty Frizzell, Red Simpson, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard will provide thematic points of departure as we answer these and other questions. Using literary and historical primary and secondary sources the course will examine and explore factors influencing the development and distinctiveness of Bakersfield music culture. Topics will include population shifts and migratory commingling, industrial and economic expansion, geographic location, commercial advances in entertainment technology, work and labor, an imaginative engagement with the Dust Bowl migration, the emotional temperament of the war years, artistic disenchantment with Nashville, and the advent of the honky-tonk.
- California Dreamin’: The Literature and People of California (Semester 1): California is the world’s eighth largest economy, with five national parks, over 50 Native American tribes, 26 million acres of farmland, and a population of nearly 39 million people. Students study the state they live in primarily during fourth grade, with a history—its people, its triumphs, and its challenges. Similarly, during Grades 6, 8 and 11, students revisit significant moments that impacted national culture like the Gold Rush and West Coast Beat poets. This course is an opportunity to study the people of California and the literature they have created, with particular attention to well-known names of the past as well as contemporary, living writing. The course also contains components for students to reflect on their lives as Californians.
- Creative Writing (Semester 2): This class focuses on four genres: narrative essays, poetry, playwriting and short fiction. The course begins with a study of the narrative essay, and poetry provides a window into sound and structure while teaching the efficient use of individual words. Monologues and short scenes bring words into the realm of performance and take poetry's oral components to new heights. Short fiction allows students to begin to practice the sort of world creation undertaken by their favorite novelists. The course uses a number of formats: workshop sessions, class discussions, one-on-one conversations via videoconferencing with the teacher and independent work students complete in constant electronic contact with the instructor. This course may be taken by students in Grades 9–11 with departmental approval.
- Dystopian Fiction (Semester 2): How have marvels—or disasters—of innovation like electricity and computing shaped society and artists’ reactions to the changes? What constitutes a social ideal? How do humans aim for utopia while dystopia is the inevitable result? Authors of dystopian fiction create fantastical tales of joy and horror that mirror aspects of the human condition in culture. The semester is devoted to reading and critiquing dystopian writing of the past century. In the process, students will reflect on contemporary society’s social/moral/technological/medical advancements and failures. Sample readings include Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The texts will be coupled with post-apocalyptic films such as Blade Runner and I Am Legend.
- Gender Studies (Semester 2): Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary multicultural course designed to address issues pertinent to gender identity in the areas of writing, coming of age, relationships, politics, health and bridging cultures. We will discuss topics such as health care, eating disorders, civil rights violations, laws affecting gender equality, sexism in the classroom and workplace, societal myths about gender roles, media propaganda, and, in general, what teens learn about themselves as they become adults.
- Memoir (Semester 2): In this class, students will read memoirs written by a diverse group of 20th-century writers. The texts represent a wide variety of subject matter, themes, literary techniques and styles. We will consider issues of fictionalizing the self and the problem of memory, and especially how race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality, among other sources of identity, crucially shape subjectivity in writing. In conjunction with the reading, students will receive prompts for writing their own memoir entries. Students will read their selected entries aloud to the class for response and discussion.
- Murder and Mayhem (Semester 1): The Villain in Literature will explore the “dark side” of the human character. In this course we will read novels, plays, poetry, short stories and essays as a way to speak and write about the nature of evil. We will explore society and the human mind in order to discover what makes people do wrong, and we will study the impact of retribution, both individual and societal, for wrongs done.
- World Beat: Nigeria (Semester 1): The African continent is composed of a myriad of ethnicities, languages and literary traditions. Nigeria has some of the most prominent African authors and artists, including Nobel Prize winners, widely read authors, acclaimed Afrobeat musicians and lauded contemporary artists. Although primary texts focus on the nation of Nigeria, students also read extensively from oral traditions and authors across the continent, including short stories and poems. Through a variety of characters, settings and themes, the notion that Africa is a monolith will be dispelled.
- World Beat: Jamaica (Semester 2): Jamaica is the lens through which students examine the impact and influence of African cultures in the Caribbean and North and South America. African slaves were brought to Jamaica and gave rise to a cultural revolution expressed by a wide variety of authors and musicians. The offerings of the African diaspora are rich with traditions that live in modernity, and the course will uncover and celebrate the African roots in everyday life.
2 semesters, 1 credit
Prerequisite: English I
U.S. Literature studies United States literature from Native American oral traditions to contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction. Writing at this level assumes that students have mastered the basic form and conventions of academic essays and provides practice with revisions to emphasize that point. Vocabulary and grammar lessons emerge from the reading materials and student essays, making those instructions specific to the context of the course discussions. From U.S. Literature, students move on to make choices from the English elective course lists.