CHS English department expands 2021-2022 course options for juniors and seniors, plans to diversify curriculum

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Christian Ledbetter

English 11 teachers Emily LeFors and Enid Baines meet over lunch to discuss changes to the curriculum for the 2021-2022 school year as well as adaptations for hybrid schedule. Baines led the meeting, speaking on how to teach The Great Gatsby with the limited schedule.

Ally Horwitz

Next school year, 2021-2022, CHS will offer new courses focused on specific areas of literature for incoming juniors and seniors. In every course, the English department will change its curriculum for the six-year adoption cycle. The department is also working on diversifying texts and curriculums for the upcoming school year, according to English department chair Kimberly “Kim” Walker.

Walker said that CHS, not the state, used to require seniors to take both a communications course like speech and a composition course like Advanced Composition. Walker said that the communications requirement did not fill every student’s needs.

She said, “We felt like that communications requirement wasn’t meeting the needs of all of our students, that there were students enrolled in speech, debate, or our P155 Speech that didn’t want to take a communications class.”

Last year, the English department met to discuss changes for the 2020-2021 school year, which it had delayed due to COVID-19 and will now implement in August of 2021. The process started in 2019, and included handing out surveys to decide on new courses. The Department of Education allows school districts like Carmel to pick some courses to offer to their students.

Walker said, “I worked with Terri Ramos, our media specialist, and we started to create a large list of genres and themes that appeal to high school-age students. From that list, we narrowed it down, and I believe we ended up with 10 genres and 10 themes, and we put it out to students and had juniors and seniors take a very informal survey of, if we offered these classes, what would be your top three choices? From there, after we surveyed the students, then we surveyed the teachers.”

Every CHS student is required to take four semesters of English classes over the course of their junior and senior year. Juniors who do not plan on taking advanced English courses such as AP Seminar or AP Literature must now take one semester of either Advanced Composition or W131 ACP Composition. 

A couple of years ago, the English department replaced the communications requirement for seniors. Students had the ability to fill up the remaining three credits with other semester-long classes. Next year, students have the option of six new courses to fill that requirement, including Linguistics and Ethnic Literature, as well as Genres of Literature: Psychological Thriller and Themes in Literature: Humor. 

English 11 teacher Emily LeFors eats lunch while looking over paper during a meeting discussing changes to the english curriculum for the 2020-2021 school year to find adaptations for hybrid schedules. LeFors took her mask off to enjoy her lunch.
(Christian Ledbetter)

English teacher Austin Flynn said the new classes allow students more freedom and give more options in terms of choosing their classes. 

“We wanted students to be able to select what they want to study and use that to, hopefully, get them to be more involved and excited,” he said.

Marina Andrews, English 11/U.S. history block class student, said she thinks the new classes provide opportunities for students to explore their interests.

“I think it’s a great idea. I mean, obviously, the basic requirements are important, but the more options a student has (the better), and they can explore what they like, especially before college, so if you’re really interested in one thing and you don’t know if that’s what you want to pursue, then that (class) gives you the opportunity to be able to do it in high school before the real deal,” she said.

In the upcoming school year, the English department will change required texts to all courses and try to include more diverse texts, using programs like Teaching Tolerance to guide text selection decisions. The department will make these decisions in January of 2021 and get approved by the school board.

Walker said, “We recognize that we need to diversify the curriculum and our hope is that these new courses will bring more meaningful choices to students.”

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