RSSAA - Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor

English and Language Arts

Main Lesson

In the High School, English and language arts work is taught in specific language arts blocks and integrated into other main lesson blocks as the students create main lesson books, write papers and essays, and prepare public presentations. Different writing styles are taught in the appropriate courses (scientific lab reports in the chemistry classes for instance).

In the ninth grade, students take two main lesson blocks in language arts: The Novel and The Evolution of Consciousness through Drama. The Novel main lesson block is spent reading Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. In the afternoon class related to this main lesson block, the students read Shane and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and have creative writing assignments based on these works. The Evolution of Consciousness through Drama main lesson block examines the development of the human being through the drama that different western cultures have created. The students are introduced to the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, the Greek comedies of Aristophanes and Menander, the Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence, the beginning of Liturgical drama, Commedia Dell’arte, Elizabethan drama, early Spanish and French theater, Restoration drama through the modern era. Students read Oedipus, the Chester Pageant of the Deluge, Everyman, and parts of Romeo and Juliet.

In the tenth grade students take two main lesson blocks in language arts: The Evolution of Consciousness Through Poetry, Part One – The Epic and Part Two – Modern Poetry. In the first block, students study the religious and epic poetry of ancient times, including the Ramayana, poems from the Rig Veda, the Mahabharata, sections of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Persian Zend Avesta, which contains the teachings of Zarathustra, Gilgamesh from Sumeria and the Egyptian myths of Osiris and Isis from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. They also hear parts of the Kalevala and some stories from Norse Mythology and students finish the block by reading parts of Beowulf. Part Two – Modern Poetry begins with the poetry of Persia and the Sufi poets that influenced French Troubadours and eventually all Europe. The block examines the influence that the Age of Reason and scientific thinking had on European culture and considers the Romantic revolution against this type of thinking when it was applied to nature and art. Through the poems of past and modern poets, the students study the mechanics of poetry and write in a variety of forms – sonnet, terza rima, limericks, haiku, cinquain, villanelle, and free form.

In the eleventh grade students take two main lesson literature courses, Parzival and Dante. Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s Parzival, telling the story of the search for the Grail, inspires many interesting discussions about education, religion, love and living an active life dedicated to self-development and service to others. They present an artistic project at block’s end. The Dante block covers all three canticles of Dante’s Commedia. Students work in small discussion groups to answer questions focused on elucidating themes. They also make a public presentation of their final class project.

The twelfth grade literature curriculum includes two main lesson blocks, the Transcendentalists and Faust, and the senior play. During the Transcendentalist block students explore the biographies and writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Bronson Alcott, and Margaret Fuller. The twelfth grade students study Goethe’s Faust, part one and part two. There are daily seminar style discussions, individual writing assignments, and classroom presentations. All seniors participate in the spring senior play, a presentation of one of Shakespeare’s plays. Preparation starts in an afternoon class and, as the school year ends, becomes the focus of each school day. With the support of the drama teacher, students take responsibility for learning their parts, staging, blocking, costumes, props, music and managing the production.

Teachers: Mary Emery and Denise McCauley

Subject Classes

Afternoon subject classes for English and Language arts work in conjunction with main lesson blocks. In ninth grade the afternoon classes are Grammar and 20th Century Non-fiction. The afternoon course in Grammar comprehensively reviews parts of speech, grammar rules, spelling rules, punctuation, vocabulary, sentence building, and short essay writing. The afternoon course 20th Century Non-Fiction introduces students to modern non-fiction writing.

In tenth grade they take two English and Literature afternoon classes — one on the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Mythology, which includes reading The Chosen by Chaim Potok and Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse, and the other on Etymology. In addition, as part of their American History afternoon course they write a research paper during which students research, organize, draft, edit and finalize a significant paper on a topic of their choice. Students study the APA and MLA styles and use them to format their footnotes and bibliographies. The afternoon course on the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Mythologies familiarizes students with this classic literature of the Hebrew Bible and Greek plays. The Etymology afternoon course examines the origins of English words, and the evolution of the English language. Students are asked to develop an interest in English as an evolving language, and to consider the history of words as they use them. The tenth graders also take on the production and performance of a traditional Greek play, usually a tragedy.

In eleventh grade the afternoon courses cover Shakespeare and the New Testament. The Shakespeare subject lesson block builds on students’ understanding of Shakespeare and his times while they read and discuss several plays. The New Testament afternoon course leads students through the four gospels, Luke’s Acts, and John’s Book of Revelation. Discussions and lectures delve into the meaning of the parables and events, examine the differences in each of the gospels, and explore possible reasons or explanations for those differences. Other literature on the themes of love, evil and freedom may also be studied in this afternoon course.
During the twelfth grade year the students are offered elective courses. Depending on the interests of the students in a particular class, sometimes these electives include language arts courses. In the past, electives on Russian Literature and the literature of Detroit have been offered.

Teachers: Mary Emery and Denise McCauley