Essential Questions and Core Reading by Grade Level
Ninth Grade: The works that students study during the freshman year come from a variety of cultures and societies and from a wide range of time periods, but the worlds in which they take place nevertheless have much in common. What traits, practices and beliefs are common to the cultures and time periods represented in the literature that we are reading? How do those commonalities manifest themselves, and to what ends?
Representative texts: The Odyssey; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Of Mice and Men; The Catcher in the Rye; A Raisin in the Sun; Greek and Assyrian mythology; a historical novel linked to the New York State Global Studies curriculum; short stories and poetry.
Tenth Grade: In what ways do the values of the individual clash with those of the larger society? What happens when the codes and laws of a society clash with one another? How are these conflicts played out in the debate over the nature of law and in the struggle to achieve justice? In short, why does the individual choose what he or she chooses, and what are the consequences of those decisions?
Representative texts: Antigone; Macbeth; Black Boy; To Kill a Mockingbird; A Separate Peace; Lord of the Flies; Brighton Beach Memoirs; Montana, 1948; The Laramie Project; short stories and poetry.
Eleventh Grade: What does it mean to be an American? How has this definition changed over the centuries? To what extent does inquiry trump definition?
Representative texts: Puritan poetry; The Scarlet Letter; excerpts from the Transcendentalists; The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Great Gatsby; Passing; Death of a Salesman; A Streetcar Named Desire; Invisible Man; poetry and essays by American authors.
Twelfth Grade: How have forms of communication changed over time? How have these changes shaped and reshaped the form and content of literature and the arts in general? In short, how do media and meaning interact, intertwine, and even interfere with each other?
Representative texts: Oedipus, Rex; The Republic; Medea; Othello; Frankenstein; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; The Picture of Dorian Grey; The Metamorphosis; White Noise; Atonement; personal essays; world poetry.
Summary: These questions attempt to address the timeless admonition over the entrance to the temple at Delphi—“Know Thyself”—by exploring the tension between our desire to be part of groups that meet our basic social needs and our recognition that no two people are exactly alike, that each of us is an individual with unique talents, interests, and values. As students work to define their unique identities, and to be members of groups, they journey toward adulthood.