Independent Honors English (11-12)

Unit 2: October 21-Dec. 16

It’s time to start Unit 2, which focuses on Religion and Morality as a theme. Not counting the week of Thanksgiving, you have approximately seven weeks to read Things Fall Apart, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Screwtape Letters. Obviously, you’ve already read Life of Pi, but since this is our carry-over book from the last unit, you’ll need to make sure you incorporate Life of Pi into your essay. This also means you only have three authors to add to your Authorship Review document instead of four.

To refresh your memory from the Zoom meeting on Oct. 6, here are some things to keep in mind when you start thinking/writing about Religion and Morality:

Religion can reflect multiple things:

  • an established belief system with a governing body (anything from the Roman Catholic Church to the non-denominational grassroots church down the street)
  • any other established belief system that isn’t Christian, such as another major world religion (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc)
  • a personal faith or belief system that’s internal and/or separate from what’s going on with anyone else, Christian or non-Christian. This is the spiritual side of religion, what exists beyond a church body or community. (You’ll see what I mean when you read The Secret Life of Bees).

Morality, on the other hand, is an internal code that determines what’s right or wrong, a personal method or process by which a person makes decisions and moves around in the world. A person can have a strong moral code and have no religion affiliation whatsoever. Alternately, a person can be deeply religious in practice but still struggle to make moral or ethical decisions. You can see how blurry these lines can get!

As you read the next three books, ask yourself the following questions and take notes on your answers:

  • How is religion, either established religion or a personal belief system, being used for good? 
  • How is it being used for bad? 
  • When does morality (a basic human code we all generally agree on) conflict with religion? How does it conflict? (An example of this would be how Pi struggled to eat meat, and honestly his entire experience on the carnivorous island is fraught with religious metaphor.) 
  • How do certain characters wrestle with this conflict? 
  • How do characters use religion and morality to achieve their goals or gain whatever they are after? 

Use the answers to these questions to help you craft a solid essay.

Here are your deadlines:

  1. Draft your Authorship Review BEFORE reading the book. This helps me know what you’re reading.
  2. Submit your essay on Religion and Morality no later than Friday, December 10. If you want me to read it as a rough draft, get it to me the week before (Dec. 3).
  3. I’ll email you the unit test once you submit your final essay.
  4. Zoom meeting on Wednesday, December 15 at 11 a.m. to talk about the books and prepare for Unit 3.
  5. Test due by Friday, December 17.

Be mindful of how you spend your time. The upcoming holidays may throw you off. Also, Things Fall Apart is a dense read, even though it’s short in page count. Be in touch if you have questions.

Wednesday, October 6

Thanks for meeting on Zoom today! I’m glad the class is working out for y’all so far. Like I said, if you would be more productive with weekly or bi-weekly deadlines rather than being completely self-paced, let me know and I’ll help you throughout Unit 2. That’s what I’m here for.

I’ll post more detailed notes at the start of Unit 2 the week of October 21, but for now, here are some reminders:

  • Complete your test on Unit 1 and share it via Google Docs no later than Friday, October 8 (which is in two days)
  • When you start your next Authorship Review, keep using the same document as before. By the end of the year, you’ll have 14 total on one document.
  • Your paper on Religion and Morality is due Dec. 10, unless you want me to read it as a rough draft. Send it a week prior if that’s the case.
  • We’ll meet on Zoom on Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. to discuss the books from Unit 2 and what to expect with Unit 3.
  • Have a wonderful Fall Break! I will grade everything over the next week and be in touch. Check back the week of October 21 for more information on Unit 2.

Unit 1: August 19-October 7

You have approximately seven weeks to:

  • write four authorship reviews in one shared Google Doc (share with me after you finish the first review)
  • read four books and take notes on them
  • write a 4-5 page paper on Searching and Survival as a collective theme (submitted by Oct. 1)
  • take a unit test (submitted by Oct. 7)

I suggest you take notes on thematic scenes and dialogue as you read each book so you have some reference points already in place when you start your paper. Also, your unit test will be open notes, so it would be helpful to jot down characters, major plot points, or anything that sticks out to you as important to the overall story.

If you hit any road bumps along the way, be in touch! If you want to submit an outline or rough draft prior to turning in your final paper, be sure you get it to me well before Oct. 1 so I have enough turn-around time.

Don’t forgetLife of Pi is a carryover book for Unit 2. While you take notes on themes of Searching and Survival, take notes on themes of Religion and Morality too!

Plan to meet on Zoom Thursday, October 6, at 11 a.m. to talk about the books!


Please read through this page carefully.

Instead of weekly reading assignments and homework, this class is broken down into units according to literary themes. For each unit, you’ll read a collection of books, essays, and stories that share a similar theme and complete work within a specific time frame. You will self-pace your work within that time frame, so as long as you meet the deadlines, it doesn’t matter to me what book you read first or how long it takes you to read it.

Each unit has four main elements to complete by the deadline:

  1. Authorship Review: Before starting each book, you will 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. Some authors will have tons of information while others will be sparse. It will be up to you to decide what you think is most important about each other. Each review should be between 300 and 500 words, depending on the popularity and literary impact of the author. Cite your sources. Please note that this will be one document you’ll add to throughout the year. Click here to see an example of what I’m looking for.
  2. Thematic Papers: Each paper should examine how the assigned theme is explored in each work. Include specific examples from the books/stories to support your answers. Each paper should be a minimum of 1,200 words and in MLA format. I will not require outlines or rough drafts, but I’m happy to help you through that process if you prefer. Just be in touch prior to the deadline if you have questions or want me to review your work before turning it in for a grade.
  3. 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 the books may be used on the tests.
  4. Zoom Conversations: Since we aren’t meeting in a classroom each week, we’ll meet on Zoom on Aug. 18, Oct. 6, and Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. so we can talk about the books and prepare for the next unit. Please come prepared to talk about what you read.

Fall 2021

Aug. 19-Oct. 7
Unit 1: Searching and Survival
Night by Elie Wiesel
Housekeeping by Marilynn Robinson
One Second After by William Forstchen 
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Oct. 21-Dec. 16
Unit 2: Religion and Morality
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

Spring 2022

Jan. 13-March 10
Unit 3: Coming of Age and Identity
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
American Born Chinese by Gene Lang (graphic novel)

March 24-May 5
Unit 4: Humor and Absurdity
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
The Comedy of Errors (No Fear Shakespeare)

For a printable version, click here.

You are in this class because you are capable of completing work without a lot of external pressure. I am always available to you, but I will not contact you on a weekly basis to make sure you’re doing your work.

Academic Requirements: Students should be able to do the following things without help: 1) write a paper in MLA format, 2) extract main ideas from a novel, 3) identify common literary elements and devices being used in the text, and 4) complete homework assignments without prompting.