Freshman English Syllabus

Mr. Shulkin & Ms. Gummoe
English 9 Course Syllabus |

“In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.” – John Steinbeck

Course overview

Welcome to Freshman English. Ninth grade is an important academic year not only because you’re starting high school with a clean slate, but also because this is the year that you’ll learn new concepts and skills that will improve your reading and writing.

In this class we’ll introduce these new concepts in a variety of ways: we’ll read plenty of books, of course, but we’ll also look at graphic novels, poetry, plays, watch film clips, analyze pictures, listen to music and put on performances for each other.

What we’ll work on

This class will be all about building skills you’ve already started working on in middle school but we’ll take them to the next levels – first making them high school accomplished and then college ready.

With writing, for example, we’ll spend a lot of time on how to develop a thesis statement for your essays and then how to back up the argument you’ve made with evidence. We’ll do some work with grammar so that your writing style – not just your ideas – will improve. We’ll help you find your “voice.” In reading, we’ll work on visualizing the text as you read it, so that it’ll be easier for you to “see” what’s going on.

What we’ll study

This year we’re going to start the year off with a unit all about mythology, folktales and legends which will include us reading graphic novels and talking about superheroes. After that, we’ll read John Steinbeck’s classic novel Of Mice and Men, followed by the epic poem The Odyssey by Homer and the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. We’ll also do a lengthy unit on poetry which will end with you writing your own book of poems. We will finish the year wrapping things up with a unit on storytelling where we put together everything we’ve read and talked about this year into a three part final project (which you don’t need to worry about right now).

How we’ll work

It’s English, so expect to read often. We’ll read everything from novels to poems to plays to college-level academic articles and just about everything in between. I know not everyone enjoys reading the way I do, which is why we’ll spend a lot of time talking about reading tips and techniques. Maybe this’ll be the year that reading will “click” for you.

Also, we’ll be writing. Like, more than you might want to. At first it’ll seem like a lot of writing, but pretty soon you won’t even realize how much you’re able to write without thinking about it. There’s a simple reason why we’re going to write a lot: because people seem to think best when they need to put their ideas on paper. Or sometimes when people write a peculiar thing happens: they’ll write down a question they have, or something they don’t understand or a problem they have, and then they keep writing and the answer comes to them. Often students ask me how much they should write. The answer is this: if you haven’t explored an idea of yours or someone else’s then you haven’t written enough.


You will need a dedicated notebook and folder for just this class and a pencil/pen each day. We will provide you with a discussion journal that you’ll use daily and that will stay in the classroom.

Assignments and assessment

This is how we calculate grades:

Discussion journal: 20%
Projects: 20%
Classwork/Homework: 20%
Essays: 20%
Participation/effort: 20%

Pretty simple. Everything is just as important as everything else. Your grades will be kept as up to date as possible on Engrade. Make sure you get the web address from me so you can check it periodically.

If work is turned in late you’ll lose points. Think of it as going down a grade per day.

Plagiarism: If you want to use someone else’s words or writing in your own, that’s fine – you just have to make sure you cite it. If you want to make sure you’re doing it right, please check with us. Using someone else’s words and trying to pretend they’re yours is called plagiarism, and if you do it it will result in you getting a “0” on that assignment, along with further discipline.

Notice that we have a blog for class: If you miss any class time everything that we do in class will be posted there. Just go to the date and you’ll see a summary of what we did and downloadable files of any of the handouts or texts that used. Double check with me through email or when you come back to see if there was anything else I’ll need to give you, but because class resources will be available to you 24/7, you’ll be expected to take the initiative and keep up with the information and work on your own.

Mr. Shulkin’s and Ms. Gummoe’s expectations

We know people have varying degrees of comfort when they have to read, speak or get up in front of a group. Some people love the attention, some people hate it. But, because we will all be supportive of one another throughout the entire school year these events will be fun and exciting rather than scary.

To make this classroom the kind of supportive environment based around us finding our own inner readers and writers, we (Mr. Shulkin and Ms. Gummoe) have a couple little things we want to get out in the open right away:

Cell phones: Unless we’ve explicitly told you that you could use it in class, we don’t want to see them out. Even if they aren’t distracting you, they distract us. It’s weird, we know, but basically we don’t want them out because they keep us from giving you 100 percent of our attention. If we see it we’ll tell you to put it away. If we see it again we’ll keep it in our desk until the end of class so it stops becoming a distraction. If you’re expecting an important call let me know ahead of time, or tell your immediate family that if at any time they need to contact you at school they should use the school’s phone (508-799-3591).

Body language: Picture this: you come into room 8 one day to speak with Mr. Shulkin or Ms. Gummoe because you have something important to tell us. Just as you begin talking we put our heads down on our desks, stop looking at you and maybe, because we’re so tired, fall asleep a little bit.

This is why body language is so important. If we think that your body language is stopping you from giving the class your full attention (or stopping others from giving the class their full attention) then we’ll find a nice way to let you know. Only if you continue to do it does it escalate the situation.

Group work: You’ll also be put in teacher-assigned groups and pairs often. Complaining about who you’re working with will do nothing except make you a complainer. It will not make us change your group. Deal with it by focusing on the work rather than the drama and move on.

Reading out loud: Often you’ll have to read out loud, usually to a partner or a small group but once in a while in front of the class. The only rule here is that if you’re called on to read aloud you have to read at least one sentence – just one sentence – before you can pass it on.

Respect: Gone are the days where we need to put classroom rules on the wall and talk about how to treat each other. There is no grey area here: be respectful of others’ thoughts, beliefs, characters, possessions, looks. Listen to others when they talk, praise them when you agree with what they say and respectfully challenge their ideas when you don’t.

These expectations are in place to make sure everyone comes to class ready to be a part of English 9.


Please sign the underline to show me that you’ve read the syllabus and understand our expectations.


Name _______________________________________________________ Date _______________

Please have a family member sign below to show us that they understand this class has a website, that you have an Engrade account where they can see your progress over the year and that they know they can email us with any questions or concerns at any time.


Name _______________________________________________________ Date _______________

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