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Students Disagree Over the Purpose of Required English Reading

December 12, 2019

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Students Disagree Over the Purpose of Required English Reading

Opinions towards the required literature in English classes vary, as many students speculate the value of the books that their teachers select. Skyline High School’s English department consists of Jill Thackeray, Diona Giannopoulos, Lisa Thornbrue, David Moore, Kirsten Rector, Debra Wilson, Tim Erickson, Colby Ottley, Robin Bucaria, Taylor Williams, and Rachel Giddings.

Generally, these are the books that each grade level may have to read at Skyline High School:

  • Ninth Grade: Romeo and Juliet, Cry the Beloved Country, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Tenth Grade: Lord of the Flies, Julius Caesar, The House on Mango Street, Night
  • Eleventh Grade: The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Great Gatsby, How to Read Literature Like a Professor
  • AP Literature: Crime and Punishment, Heart of Darkness, Our Mutual Friend, Beloved, A Doll’s House

It seems that teachers use books that help prepare their students. The school district creates an approved book list with available assignment material for high school English classes. This list is fairly broad, so teachers are allowed quite a bit of liberty towards what literature they assign.

Subsequent to teaching in Oregon, Debra Wilson began her career at Skyline and has continued her teaching for the past six years. When interviewed, Wilson said that she chooses books based on improving her students’ reading, writing and speaking skills.

Students’ opinions towards the importance of annotations differ. Emma Barker, a Skyline sophomore, considers English her favorite subject. Barker enjoyed reading The Count of Monte Cristo and Julius Caesar. When asked about whether or not she felt annotations helped her personally, she said “A little bit, because it causes you to think… in between the lines” however, she added later that annotating often “causes you to record… pointless things you already knew. Just a waste of time.” Some students at Skyline High School dread the required reading in English classes. Annotations and reading based quizzes often make up more of English grades than written essays. This hatred partially breeds from the extra work it takes to do annotations, while other students just dislike the books in general. Skyline junior Phia Bridge said that “annotating takes away from the enjoyment of reading.” Grace Erskine, a senior, mentions that annotating distracts her from understanding the story.

Granite School District requires four English credits to graduate high school (compared to only three years of math and three of science). English is arguably the most important subject because the reading and writing skills developed are used in every other subject in addition to the ACT.

Each grade level aims their attention at expanding different English skills. Freshman and sophomore year are centered around developing proficiency in communication. Eleventh grade English classes usually focus on analyzing American literature. Twelfth grade students may choose to take AP Literature for an opportunity to gain college credit opposed to Core English for the twelfth grade which focuses on writing.

An additional complaint towards English reading sparks from Shakespeare. While it can often be time-consuming to read works from a few hundred years ago, Shakespeare is a necessary tool to use to understand the English language. Shakespeare provided a significant contribution to literature and culture. Many words in the dictionary originated from Shakespeare and students can learn many valuable themes and messages including one of the most important which occurs throughout his writing: what it means to be human.

Required reading in English classes often sparks disagreement between students. Teachers choose which books will best help their students improve their English skills.

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