Spring Syllabus

This semester's syllabus is a fairly dense one, in terms of what my IB seniors are reading. I'm a little apprehensive about what the students will think, since we've already had a lot of heavy reading this year. Oh well! Comes with the territory. And they're tested on all four novels on their in May, so they can't afford to slack off. Our mission:

IB HL 2 English
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I actually think this will be the easiest of the four, which was strategic since I'll be out of the classroom 2-3 days a week for the next four weeks (I have to sit down with each testing kid and listen to them give a ten minute commentary on a poem and then have a ten minute discussion with them). Essentially they'll be teaching the bulk of this to themselves, which I think is doable in terms of complexity. At least I hope.

The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I must confess that this really isn't my favorite book (although I did love Easy A...), or at least it wasn't when I read it in high school. I'm anticipating that my students will find the language challenging, the morality old-fashioned, and the pacing a little slow. 

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
While I didn't love this book either when I read it in high school (and college? I don't remember) I did appreciate it on a literary level. I'm looking forward to looking at it historically and racially as well. If I remember correctly, this book is digested best in smaller chunks, so hopefully our timing will permit that.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Confession: I've never read this. I've always meant to, but it's just one that fell through the cracks. Last year, after reading Americanah and Ghana Must Go I started developing a bit of an interest in African works, so I have high hopes (at least personally) for this one.

AP Language
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
This is generally a fairly easy read and will be taught as a way to do a quick unit on humor before the AP test (AP language is primarily nonfiction/rhetoric) and as a bit of a bridge into the following year's IB curriculum, which is more literature based. It will also be a perfect book to leave assignments for when I'm out on maternity leave. 

Read any of these? Thoughts? What was you favorite/least favorite book read in high school?


  1. I read all of these in my last semester in high school, and must say that they bring up a lot of memories! Based on my class, I would say our favor was split between The Awakening and Things Fall Apart. Heart of Darkness was absolutely our least favorite, and many a rant was executed in our class on that selection! Also, I remember that discussion of The Scarlett Letter is more interesting (as a student) when people would argue about the various moral issues or even whether or not Hester's baby was the devil. But that could just be because I was the only one in my class convinced that Hester's child was the only sane being in the story...good luck teaching these essential works!

  2. I read all of these in high school. I don't remember enjoying Things Fall Apart, but I do remember the discussions were good. My favorite book (of the required reading) that I read in high school was Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native or Voltaire's Candide.

  3. I loooooved The Awakening. Heart of Darkness was a form of torture for me, though :D

  4. I hated the Scarlett Letter as a student! I just found it so boring. Looking back, it's probably that it wasn't relatable and the teacher didn't do anything to make it relatable. (Brave New World is an example of a book that it's not relatable, but my teacher taught the hell out of that book and it's one of my favorites to this day.)

    I love love love Heart of Darkness. It didn't hurt that I aced the test and the teacher read my answer to one of the essay questions as an example of what she was looking for. Considering that happened 10 years ago, I'm probably way beyond the statue of limitations on bragging.

  5. I read some of these books during my first two years of high school so this brings up a lot of memories! I thought Awakening was mediocre, but that might've been because it was summer reading for my freshman year (I think?) and The Scarlet Letter was okay, too (but it was my second time reading by the time we got around to it in school...

    I didn't enjoy Things Fall Apart too much because everything seemed so foreign to me in the book but I do remember the activities that we did along with it, which were fun. For me, I disliked The Catcher in the Rye. Houlden just seemed so annoying to me.

  6. I love these books! I read Things Fall Apart as part of a history class, so it was interesting on that level. The Awakening is wonderful too!

  7. I took a semester long course on Hawthorne and Poe in college and rereading the Scarlet Letter gave me such new appreciation for it, especially when put in context with Hawthorne's other works.

    I miss being able to read and discuss great books like that, you're lucky that you get to still do it...even if it's with teenagers :)