Contemporary Literature Syllabus

Class Description:

            This will be a class mostly based in independent study with some class discussion, oral presentations, and written book reports.  We will focus on literature written across all spectrums within the last 50 years, with emphasis on Pulitzer Prize winners, best-sellers, Caldecott winners, Newbery Award winners, Nobel Award winners, and books adapted for the movie screen.


MT Content Standards:

×          Students construct meaning as they comprehend, analyze and respond to literary works.

×          Students interact with print and nonprint literary works from various cultures, ethnic groups,   traditional and contemporary viewpoints written by both genders.

×          Students use literary works to enrich personal experience and to connect to the broader world of ideas, concepts and issues.

×          Students apply a range of skills and strategies to read.

×          Students set goals, monitor, and evaluate their progress in reading.

×          Students write clearly and effectively


Tentative Scheduling:

1st Quarter:

1.      A book of your choice – choose something you’ve wanted to read.  Written entry in reading journal to include bibliographic information, setting, main character descriptions, favorite lines and/or scenes, two or three paragraphs summarizing plot, and your thoughts and/or questions about the book.  Written report is due Wednesday September 23; brief oral report due Thursday September 24.


2.      An Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri - a compilation of short stories by a young Indian-American writer in 1999.  This is her first book and it has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize, PEN/Hemingway Award, New Yorker Debut Book of 1999, American Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award, and has been listed as a Notable Book of the Year from multiple prestigious newspapers, including the New York Times.  We will read this together, and class will be run as a seminar, with class time based on discussion.  A final paper on an approved topic within the novel will be due Tuesday October 13.



3.      Best Seller List Book – May be fiction of non-fiction.  Reading journal should include same information as the book of your choice plus notes on why the book may have become a best seller, in your opinion.  Written report due Tuesday November 3; oral report due Wednesday November 4.


2nd Quarter:

1.      Books/Movies - Find a book that has been made into a movie within the last 50 years.  Read the book first, journaling as you have the other books.  Watch the movie next and look for differences and similarities between the book and movie.  Include your opinions on which you liked more, why the movie makers used or left out pieces from the book, etc.  Your written report should include the similarities and differences and also which version you thought most effective and why.  Written report due Tuesday November 24; oral report due Wednesday November 25.


2.      Poetry – we will read two collections of contemporary poetry in class and again run class as a seminar.  A final paper on an approved topic covering the pieces or a collection of original poetry written in the style of the author will be due Friday December 11.


3.      Young Adult Literature – a novel or nonfiction book of your choice which focuses on characters that are in their teens and facing issues similar to what other teens must deal with.  Reading journal should include the required elements as before plus a discussion of what sets a young adult book apart from adult literature.  Written report due January 7; oral report due Friday January 8.


4.      Caldecott Medal Winners (picture books) – Read at least ten picture books, including at least two Caldecott winners, and record required information in reading journal.  Discuss the themes presented in these books and why they make good books from children.  No written report will be due for these books, but you will give the class an oral report on each one.  Time permitting, we may also choose a few selections and read to the elementary grades.  Reading journals are due by Wednesday January 20.


Class Requirements:

You will need a separate notebook to serve as your reading journal, which you will need to bring with you every day.  Your reading journal will be invaluable, do not misplace it!


You must be willing to talk about the books you have read so that others in class can have a chance to get a glimpse at a good book – perhaps your book talk will convince your classmates to read the book also. 



You will earn five points per day if you come into class prepared and ready to read.  These points will add up by the end of quarter, so you must utilize your time.  Time spent in the library or time not fully engaged in reading or writing reports will earn fewer points.


Written assignments, reading journals, and oral reports are due on the dates indicated.  Late assignments may be accepted with prior permission, but you will only be able to earn half credit.  There are no excuses for late work.


I expect you to read at least 700 pages per quarter (not counting the novel and poetry collections we will read together).  The following scale will be used if you compute your score for pages read:

700                  = A

500-699           =B

400-499           =C

300-399           =D

0-299               =F


Extra Credit

701-800           =5 extra credit points

801-900           =10 extra credit points

901-1,000        =15 extra credit points

1,001 and up =20 extra credit points


You may also choose to read extra books and complete extra written reports.  Every extra report will receive 10 extra credit points (however, you cannot do extra picture books).


Bibliographic Entry (MLA format):

Follow this example for every citation –


Author Last, First Name. Title, City where published: Publishing Company, year published.


Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street,  New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1984.