Comedy, Monsters, Mythology, Banned Books, Mystery, Art Born of Art, College Level English 12 and Advanced Placement Literature - these aren't courses listed in a college catalog, but classes from which Jamestown High School seniors may chose to fulfill their English requirement next year. JHS 12th-graders have the unique opportunity to select courses from a variety of genres that pique and develop their interests.
A few years ago, JHS English teachers modified the senior curriculum by offering an array of classes, similar to a college course selection process. JHS English teacher and department chair Barbi Price explained, ''We developed a menu of courses according to teacher strengths and student interests in the hope that JHS graduates will leave high school with an understanding and appreciation of English. By allowing students to complete required senior English assignments, such as research papers and oral presentations, while studying subject matter that they enjoy, we are preparing them for the selection process that they will experience in college.''
Every spring, JHS juniors complete a survey to gauge preliminary interest for the following year. Senior courses in past years have included: Play Ball, Poetry, Science Fiction, and Beasts in Books, to name just a few.
Jamestown High School seniors stand in front of a Jackson Pollock painting at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, which they visited as part of the senior English course, Art Born of Art. Along with other assignments, students were required to complete a project about an artist and write an ekphrastic (poetry) response to a piece of artwork they viewed while visiting Albright-Knox Gallery.
This year's selections include Mystery, taught by Charlie McKenna, a class that explores mystery and crime fiction and helps develop analytical and critical thinking skills. Students determine the elements that contribute to mystery and crime fiction, trace patterns, examine stereotypes, and conduct research. The culminating final project requires students to write their own fictional mystery story.
''I read Jack the Ripper, an unsolved crime, and researched the setting, background, plot devices, and author. I enjoyed using the research to add realism to the original story I wrote,'' said senior Megan Howell. ''We also completed a traditional term paper and presented a PowerPoint on our research. I had heard that the class was a fun way to learn English, and it has been.''
McKenna also teaches Mythology, a course that examines how myths are the basis of much literature. Students study classic myths and folktales, their influence on other disciplines, and their relationship to the modern world.
Another selection offered this year was Monsters, taught by David Roehmholdt, which focuses on society's relationships with monsters - real or imagined, physical or psychological - throughout history. ''The course sounded interesting. One of the research papers was on Jekyll and Hyde. It was so amazing to learn about doppelgangers, or somebody who looks like another person. I think having a choice of what English class to take is great because it gives us the opportunity to focus on something that we like and want to study,'' remarked Rebecca Gregory.
Roehmholdt is also teaching Comedy, which examines the sources of humor and its influences on modern society by exploring the history of comedy across various cultures and time periods.
Banned Books, taught by Kristine Stronz, examines controversial works and censorship controversies through exploration of language and its effect. ''This class sounded fascinating to me. It's been eye-opening to find out what books and topics have been censored," said senior Scott Stenta. ''It is advantageous for seniors to be able to pick their English course because, not only do we get to pick something that interests us, but we are prepared for what we will have to do in college.''
JHS also offers three opportunities for seniors to earn college credit through Jamestown Community College. Art Born of Art, College Level English 12, and Advanced Placement Literature require a placement test before students can enroll.
In Barbi Price's Art Born of Art class, students study an historical survey of Western art and analyze poetic responses to visual images. By exploring the relationship between the written word and paintings, students gain a deeper understanding of both. ''I chose Art Born of Art because it sounded intriguing, and I love being creative,'' remarked senior Jessica Sajdak. ''Art and poetry really open your mind to the world from different perspectives.''
College Level English 12, taught by Lora Pirrello, combines two JCC courses of intensive writing, close reading, oral presentation, and critical analysis. Students study and write essays, complete a research paper, examine a variety of reading genres, experiment with critical analysis, and create and deliver oral presentations.
Finally, Advanced Placement Literature, taught by Kristine Stronz, offers an intensive study of drama, short story, novel, poetry and essay, combined with an emphasis on literary analysis and composition skill development. After watching Mrs. Stronz model how to teach five short stories and present the information in two different ways, students researched an author and short story and prepared their own classroom presentations.
When asked to comment on the JHS senior menu, Jessica Sajdak concluded, ''It's great that we finally have the opportunity choose our classes. We enjoy getting better in our fields of study, and when students are interested in what they are learning, they learn better.''