Students Learn about Literature with Passion Year Offerings

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Photo by Aneska Smith

Junior Shinji Cho works independently on taking Cornell notes and answering questions about the main ideas of the novel, ” The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.”

Ali Elmalky, Staff Writer

Ask any student around campus, and he or she will regale you with tales of sleepless nights writing essays, annotating books and analyzing literature. It is clear that students sometimes find English class difficult and even tedious. However, Literary and Language Arts teachers across campus are combatting this with passion year. Passion year courses are an unorthodox approach to teaching that is focused on helping students improve their writing skills and literary analysis while also providing a specialized experience for students to choose what subsection of literature they are interested in studying.

“I feel that the other passion year courses are more genre focused compared to Honors Storytelling. Classes like Greek or Asian-American literature focus on those particular fields of writing, while Honors Storytelling teaches learners about all kinds of types of storytelling,” Literary and Language Arts teacher Lyndsey Hicks said.

Art of Storytelling focuses on methods and mediums that people use to tell stories, while Science Fiction and Gothic Horror focuses on topics such as space exploration, monsters and reality.
Other Passion Courses such as Honors American Literature and Greek Literature allow learners to hone in their reading and writing skills and learn about Greek mythology respectively. Some Passion English courses additionally forgo traditional “homework” in lieu of other projects and reading assignments that bolster student understanding of literature. One big project that Honors Art of Storytelling students participated in during November is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal of this long-term assignment is to write a full novel, roughly 50,000 words. Hicks has opted to stretch what is typically a month-long task into a year-long project.

“I think the overall goal is to incorporate more creative writing so students can have a greater appreciation for the amount of work it takes to create a work of literature,” Hicks said.

Despite all the benefits the passion courses offer, some students are still uneasy about how they will impact their future.

“AP classes always look good to colleges, and I’m not completely sure that a passion course will look as good as an AP course on a transcript,” junior Mason Li said.

However, teachers are doing what they can to alleviate these concerns.

“The passion English courses are weighted, and they include all the content that learners will need to take the AP exams,” Literary and Language Arts department chair Jeanne Jelnick said.

Some students say they find passion courses more enjoyable than traditional English classes.

“The projects we’re assigned in class are really engaging,” Li said. “Last week [in Honors Storytelling] we worked on creating presentations to present to our class to teach them about short stories we read. It was a really informative experience, and I enjoyed it a lot.”