American Literature & Composition

Instructor: Denise Boiko

Course Title: American Literature & Composition

Course Length: Two Semesters

Type of Class: Group class through HEART Academy

When: Fridays, 12:25-1:40, Period 3

Cost: $70 / month

Credit Classification: 10 credits of English

Materials Fee: $15, one time only

Minimum & Maximum Class Size: 6 and 25

Questions: Email Denise Boiko at

Prerequisite: High school level reading and writing skills.

Recommended grade level: 9th-12th. Experience with Institute for Excellence in Writing (or equivalent training in style) at middle school or high school level, OR HEART Academy writing class at middle school or high school level, OR another high school English course with writing. If in doubt about a student’s readiness, parents may submit a previous essay by the student for teacher’s evaluation.

Other requirements:

  • Use of basic technology applications (word processing applications, email, Internet research).
  • A willingness to work on writing assignments each school day during the week. In addition to class time, this subject will require a workload of at least one hour a day, five days a week, 120 hours for the year.
  • Students should be prepared to write at least one 2-4 page typed essay every 3-4 weeks and to revise previously written essays.

Course Description: American Literature and Composition will guide high school students as they read, enjoy, discuss, and analyze a spectrum of literary selections from American authors, poets, and playwrights of various eras. Genres will include short stories, novels, satire, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Students will learn literary terms and study the rhetorical techniques authors use to communicate their messages. For each fiction work read, students will discuss character, plot, setting, conflict, point of view, and theme, and will look for features such as irony, foreshadowing, and symbolism. For nonfiction works, students will learn to read critically and extract important points. For poetry, students will study typical patterns and techniques the poet uses to convey meaning.  Students will practice techniques of composition such as drafting, revision, and editing. Various types of literary analysis compositions will be written, such as descriptive, narrative, comparison/contrast, cause/effect, persuasive, and a research paper with MLA formatting. All essays will be revised before being considered final. Constructive comments in the essay scoring process will help students apply techniques in paragraph structure, thesis and topic sentences, organization, style, mechanics, transitions, parallelism, variety in sentence patterns, and other key writing skills. Each semester, students will write and revise four to five essays, depending on the level of the course chosen, and will complete one creative project per semester. Essays will be scored using a detailed rubric analyzing the student’s accomplishments in the areas of content, organization, style, and mechanics. During the second semester, students will write a research paper with MLA formatting, on an American author of their choosing.

A typical class period will include discussion of literature selections the students have been reading, occasional comprehension games, and the sharing of creative projects students have produced to showcase their understanding of the literature they have just read. Some class periods will also include a time devoted to writing instruction.

A supplementary guidebook on literature analysis, Windows to the World by Lesha Myers, will aid the student in understanding the elements of literature and in analyzing these elements in each of the selections during the year. We will work through the concepts in this book a bit at a time.

Levels of course available Students may take this course at a standard college prep level or at an honors level. Honors level students will be required to write one additional essay per semester as compared to standard college prep. Honors students’ work will also be held to a higher standard during the grading process. Students may decide on honors or standard several weeks into the semester.

9th and 10th grade students (according to parent preference) will be scored on a more lenient grading scale as compared to 11th and 12th grade students. According to parents’ guidance, certain assignments (research paper, or reading of some of the more complex books) may be waived, shortened, modified, or substituted with an assignment more appropriate to the student’s level.

Class Expectations:

  • Attendance and punctuality (very important). Please be in class on time, ready to start, and prepared for the day’s material.
  • Participation in discussion.
  • Timely completion of assigned papers, reading, projects, and other homework. Specific assignments will be given weekly by email and by handout. Please stay caught up!
  • You will work on your own with your parent’s help as needed during the week

My commitment as your Mentor-Teacher is to provide weekly instruction, examples, and encouragement to you and to evaluate your work. I will be available to help you develop skills in writing and literature analysis. Please feel free to come to me with questions or email me during the week, so that this can be a team effort in learning together.

An assignment sheet will be made available every week. It is designed as a communication device for you, to clarify your weekly work process and help you focus on the topics we are discussing in class. Please read it at the beginning of every week and use it as a working guide. Once you have read the assignment sheet, please store it in your binder for future reference.

Handing in Assignments:

  • Assignments are due at the beginning of class. All work should be done neatly (typed, double spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman) and reflect your best efforts. Strive for excellence and do your best work.
  • Extra credit will be available for students who need to enhance their grades. Extra projects are also available for students with special interests, gifts, or those needing a more advanced course – please ask Mentor-Teacher. Bring to class every day:
  • A folder or small 3-ring binder with pocket folders in which to keep notes and handouts. Folder should contain about 20 sheets of college ruled notebook paper.
  • Pens and/or pencils. Highlighter if desired.
  • Current book being read and discussed.
  • Homework to turn in.

Other supplies needed:

  • A good dictionary and thesaurus.
  • Highlighters for marking interesting passages (only if you own the book and don’t mind marking in it).
  • Post-It Notes for marking important passages of books you do not own or do not want to mark up.

American Literature and Composition Workload: A typical weekly workload will include the following:

  • Read one-third to one-half of the book being discussed.
  • Prepare annotations on the reading selection (instructions for annotations will be given at the beginning of the year).
  • Discuss the section of the book and gain insights from each other.
  • Plan and prepare your essay or project (upon completion of a book or literary work). Note: Students taking the course for honors credit may take advantage of extra assignments and may read additional books. Parents are encouraged to partner with the teacher in setting a desired set of requirements for honors work.

HEART classes will be on break during the holidays, from before Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s Day. Some reading assignments will be given during this time.

For the project assignments once per semester, students will be provided with a long list of project ideas from which to choose. Project ideas are numerous and could include the following (this is just a small sample of the list that will be available):

Writing projects

  • Writing a comparison/contrast or cause/effect essay relating to the book
  • Writing a dramatization of a certain episode from the book

Presentation/speaking projects

  • Presenting an advertisement to encourage people to read the book
  • “Interviewing” a character or the author

Hands-on projects

  • Constructing a board game relating to the book
  • Making a short video relating to the book or the author

Artistic projects

  • Painting, drawing, or sculpting scenes from the book
  • Making a diorama about the book

Miscellaneous projects

  • Writing quiz questions to try to stump the class
  • Making a map or timeline of the story

Grading and Assessment:

Each essay and project, as well as the student’s alertness and participation in weekly discussions, will be evaluated. Evaluations will be based on effort, enthusiasm, participation, and improvement in comprehension and writing skills.

Parent involvement in discussion and evaluation of student’s work is strongly encouraged, and the teacher will be available to parents as needed, to assist in evaluating performance against priorities, to answer questions, or simply to be a sounding board for discussion.

A teacher-created evaluation will be provided for the student, which may be used as an aid to help parents determine grades for report cards. End-of-semester evaluations will be largely based upon displaying consistent and measurable improvement and effort throughout the year. Evaluations may include the number of assignments completed, a description of challenges and accomplishments, a review of student’s progress and performance, and/or an average percentage score for the semester. The basis for this assessment will be the following items (this is an approximate breakdown and is subject to change):

Literature essays/projects and research paper: 70% In-Class effort, discussion, and participation, including preparation of annotations: 30% Extra credit, as applicable (will add on to student’s existing point total and can be done with extra projects for assigned books, or optional books read and reported on)

Each essay will be evaluated, and revisions will be required. Teacher evaluation will be based on improvement after revision and on incorporating suggestions from the first draft, as well as using these suggestions in future essays. End-of-semester or end-of-year evaluation will be largely based upon displaying consistent and measurable improvement throughout the year (rather than on “perfection”). Parents will assign the final letter grade based on the information from the semester evaluation along with their observations of their students’ work at home.

Parent involvement in discussion and evaluation of students’ work is strongly encouraged. Teachers/Mentors will be available to parents as needed, to assist in evaluating performance against priorities, to answer questions, or simply to be sounding boards for discussion. We want to do everything we can to assist you in this endeavor.

Curriculum Windows to the World: An Introduction to Literary Analysis, by Lesha Myers – student book only; Available through IEW,CBD.or Amazon ISBN 978-0-9801005-1-8

Literature List – This list is tentative, and some selections may change. Final list will be sent by midsummer. Selected American short stories (online sources)

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Excerpts from Benjamin Franklin’s writings (online sources)
  • Declaration of Independence (online source)
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Lincoln Speeches and Writings (online sources)
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather Selected American Poetry (online sources)
  • Selections from Emerson and Thoreau essays (online sources)
  • The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder TBD (book or online source will be provided for students)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Selections from Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches (online sources)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Contacting the Teacher: The best way to contact Mrs. Boiko is via email at

Homework Assignment for First Week – TBD – will be sent during the summer – but will include the following: Several short stories from online sources will be assigned as reading material before the first day of class. When the links are sent to you, please print the stories, read them, and bring them to class so we can refer to them during our discussion, which will take place the first and second weeks of class.