Independent Honors English

The academic year is broken into four units, each with a specific focus in mind. You will read a three novels within each unit that share a similar theme, structure, or genre. You will self-pace your work within that time frame, so as long as you meet the deadlines, it doesn’t matter what book you read first or how long it takes you to read it. 

During each unit, you will create and add to Authorship Reviews, write short Response Essays for each novel, write a larger Expository Essay with assigned parameters, and take an online Unit Test.

  • Authorship Reviews: Before starting each book, do some independent research on who the author is, what motivated him/her to write the novel you’re reading, and share any other interesting information you discover about the author. Each review should be between 300-500 words with cited sources. (Click here to see an example of an Authorship Review)
  • Response Essays: After reading each book, write a response essay on the novel as a whole. What was your primary impression? What did you enjoy or not enjoy? What literary elements or plot points stuck out the most? What do you think is the main idea of the story, and why? Each response essay should be between 500-600 words and written in the first person POV. (Click here to see an example of a Response Essay.)
  • Expository Essays: Each paper will have an assigned focus and should include specific examples from the books/stories. Essays should have a minimum of 1,200 words in MLA format and be written in the third person POV. (I will not require outlines or rough drafts, but I’m happy to help students through that process if they prefer.) Essay topics and book lists are pulled from the last decade of AP English Literature and Composition exams.
  • Unit tests: There will be an online test following each unit that encompasses questions on plot points, literary elements, and character development. Any notes you take while reading may be used on tests.
  • Zoom meetings as able/necessary.

Unit 1: Gifts
August 15-October 7 (8 weeks)

Many works of literature feature characters who have been given a literal or figurative gift. The gift may be an object, or it may be a quality such as uncommon beauty, significant social position, great mental or imaginative faculties, or extraordinary physical powers. Yet this gift is often also a burden or a handicap. 

Select a character from a novel, epic poem, or play who has been given a gift that is both an advantage and a problem. Then write a well-developed expository essay analyzing the complex nature of the gift and how the gift contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

Required: Read Kindred by Octavia Butler and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Then choose a third work from the following: Beowulf, Frankenstein, Things Fall Apart, Station Eleven, The Midnight Library, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Prayer for Owen Meany


Authorship Reviews: before starting each book
Response Essays: Upon completion of book
Rough draft (optional): Sept. 23
Final essay: Sept. 30
Unit test: Oct. 7

Share all Google documents with editing capabilities (not “Read Only”) to

Unit 2: Bildungsroman
October 17-December 16 (8 weeks, minus Thanksgiving break)
Required reading: A Separate Peace by John Knowles and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Then choose a third work from the following: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Secret Life of Bees, The Grapes of Wrath, Jane Eyre, A Thousand Splendid Suns

Unit 3: Setting
January 9-March 3 (8 weeks)
Required reading: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier
Then choose a third work from the following: The Plague, And Then There Were None, My Antonia, The Poisonwood Bible, The Grapes of Wrath, Tess of the D’Ubervilles, Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Sun Also Rises

Unit 4: Foils
March 5-May 5 (8 weeks, minus Spring Break)
Required reading: Emma by Jane Austen and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Then choose a third work from the following: The Age of Innocence, All the King’s Men, Pride and Prejudice, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Great Gatsby, Pgymalion, Of Mice and Men, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet