Contemporary Fiction Syllabus (Gareis)


Course Overview              


Contemporary Fiction explores literature, literary movements, and various genres from 1945-the present day. In this course, students will read, discuss, and write about drama, poetry, the novel, graphic novels, creative nonfiction, and the short story. Time will be spent understanding various and specific elements of structure and style within these genres. Students will think critically about and explore how language and story are influential in a variety of formats. Advertisement, film, music, info graphics, and social media will also be studied so that the student may connect how language s used to create new forms and avenues of expression and as well as its place in commodification. Writing assignments will range from creative response assignments to research, literary analysis and rhetorical writing. Upon completion of this course, students will have grown as readers and writers, and will have a thorough understanding of story forms, literary elements, and contemporary movements.




Various non-fiction articles related to the role of fiction in society

Excerpts from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Anchor, 1995)

Experts from Best American Non-Required Reading 2009 & 2011 (Mariner)

Short Stories

On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning by Haruki Murakami (2011)

The Thing In the Forest by AS Byatt (2005)

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Gabriela Garcia Marquez (1955)

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)

Ofodile by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichie (2013)

Various satirical articles from The Onion


Brand New Ancients by Kate Tempest (Picador 2013)

Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss (Random House 1956)

A selection of poems both print and spoken 1945-2014


Wit by Margaret Edson (Faber & Faber 1999)

Doubt by Patrick Shanely (Theatre Communications Group 2005)

(Honors) Wasted by Kate Tempest (Bloomsbury 2013) or Clybourne by Bruce Norris (Faber and Faber 2011) quarter 2


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage 2006)

(Honors) Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (published by William Morrow 2014) quarter 1

(Honors) Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (WW Norton, 2005) quarter 3

Graphic Novels

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (Vertigo, 2008)

(Honors) La Perdida by Jessica Abel (Pantheon 2008) , Maus I by Art Spieglman (Pantheon, 1986) or American Born Chinese by Gene Luan Yang (Square Fish, 2008) quarter 4



Course Requirements


Reading: Students will closely read a variety of short stories, novels, articles, essays, poetry, and drama. In reading, students will:

  • Encounter and analyze a variety of prose and verse styles
  • Expand their awareness of the elements of fiction and poetry and how these elements enhance understanding of the writing
  • Explore major literary movements (what characterizes the movements, what spawned them, and how the writing reflects each movement)
  • Increase understanding of the historical context (an open-ended question will be: what does this piece of writing say about the people and the time in which it was written?)

Vocabulary: Students will study word lists of both contextual words and college prep lists during each unit to expand their vocabulary and learn the importance of proper word choice. The class will explore new words and learn how to use them in context during class discussions. Quizzes as well as cumulative tests will help ensure retention.


Discussion: Group and class discussion will be a central element of the class. In discussion, the students and instructor will explore multiple ways of reading a text and closely examine the writing style, major themes, elements of fiction or poetry, characters, historical context, and ideas or issues that arise. Discussions will also serve to encourage and teach critical thinking. Students will be expected to participate actively and constructively. Throughout the year, students will also be asked to lead discussions.


Class blog: During each class for which there is a discussion planned (ie not a test or drafting class), a student will be assigned to take notes for the benefit of all the Gareis Contemporary Fiction sections to be posted to the class blog. The student chosen for the day will receive a lighter homework load or extra credit for the completion of their scribe duties. Each student must participate in this activity at least once during the school year. In addition to being a repository for discussion notes students will also complete a variety of homework assignments and participate in test review activities via the blog. They will also find homework assignments, soft copies of homework assignments, various pertinent video clips, and stories posted to the blog for their benefit.


Warm ups and Journal Questions : At the start of most classes (ie not test or quiz classes) students will respond in either a discussion or written format to a grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension or punctuation focused warm up for three to five minutes. This will be followed by 5-8 minutes of free writing response to a journal prompt related to either the homework assignment, the text being read or the discussion to come in class that day. These warm ups will be graded via the daily participation grade and the journals collected for grading on each test day.


Major writing projects: Each quarter, students will write one or more longer pieces of writing, including narrative, persuasive, informative, personal response, literary analysis, and research essays, as well as a short story and poetry. Major writing projects will go through multiple drafts. During the drafting and revision process, students will receive instruction on structuring their essays, writing persuasively, maintaining focus on the paragraph and essay level, providing concrete evidence, and employing a variety of sentence types. Further, as the year progresses, students will learn how and be expected to properly evaluate primary and secondary sources and correctly cite them according to the Modern Language Association (MLA) style.


Homework assignments: Students will be regularly assigned reading homework. They are free to read ahead at any time but must not read less than what is assigned in order to be able to participate in in-class discussions and writing assignments effectively. In addition to reading assignments students will at times be assigned creative projects, research, short writing or drafting of longer papers as homework. Students are also responsible for learning and completing assignments related to each unit’s vocabulary. These assignments provide students a more informal arena to explore their ideas on a piece of literature. Further, they help ensure that students have completed the reading and considered it critically.


Note: Take-home work turned in late will receive half credit. If the assignment is more than a day late, it will receive no credit. In-class writing will almost always take place at the beginning of class, so students who arrive tardy, after the allotted time, will receive no credit.


Tests and quizzes: Students will take tests and quizzes consisting of shorter and longer written answers. Additionally, students will be tested on vocabulary, style, grammar, MLA formatting and reading comprehension.


Tests will be used to assess how well students:

  • Comprehend the literature and ideas explored in discussions and lectures
  • Analyze passages from the text and explain how elements of fiction are used
  • Think critically about ideas or passages
  • Grasp major themes and historical context
  • Understand new vocabulary words and how to properly use them
  • Know and apply style and grammar rules


Research and creative projects: Students will complete one or more research projects as well as a creative projects. Additionally, students will present their research and creative project to the class, providing them an opportunity to speak publicly and share their knowledge.

These projects aim to encourage students to locate, use, and properly cite acceptable outside sources to strengthen their writing. They encourage students to articulate their findings to the class. Further, the creative projects enable students to think about literature and literary movements in a more unconventional manner.


Notes: Students will be expected to take notes during lectures and class discussion. Notes will be taken by hand in a notebook. To ensure students are regularly taking notes, I will periodically check notebooks, unannounced, and provide a homework grade based on the thoroughness of the students’ notes. (See Class blog for further information on notes)


Participation and Employability: This is an IMG Academy requirement and is worth 20% of your quarterly grade. Each quarter, students begin with 20 participation points. Each unexcused absence results in a lost point. Three unexcused tardies are the equivalent of an unexcused absence and result in a lost point. Repeated disruptive behavior such as using phones in class and talking out of turn can also result in lost participation points.


Behaviors that will result in an “A” participation grade are:

  • Arriving to class prepared (that is, with book, planner, assignments, and other necessary materials) AND on time
  • Reading all assignments and being prepared to discuss readings and discussion questions
  • Maintaining appropriate classroom behavior (not talking when others are, showing respect for students and me, keeping the classroom clean, using your laptop responsibly)
  • Participating actively (that is, taking notes and actively participating in discussion and other class activities)
  • Wearing IMG uniform

Late Work: Work turned in after it was due will be graded according to the the following formula: work turned in the next time a class meets will be graded with a 50% penalty; work turned in more than one class period late receives zero credit. This policy does not apply to work turned in after the deadline due to an excused absence – in such cases, students will have one additional class period for each excused absence  to turn in assignments, up to a maximum of five class meetings. In-class assessments missed due to an excused absence much be scheduled for make-up as soon as possible; if an assessment make-up is scheduled with a teacher or test proctor and the student misses the appointed make-up time, the student will lose the opportunity to complete the assessment and receive a zero for it.

Attendance: You are expected to attend class. If you know you are going to be absent,

IMG Academy has a leave of absence procedure. If you are unsure of this procedure, please refer to your planner. Please also see your planner regarding excused and unexcused absences. Absences must be excused in order to make up assignments and tests!


Pendleton Grading Scale


    GPA GPA Points GPA Points
Grade Percentage Regular Honors AP
A+AA- 98 – 10093 – 9790 – 92 4.334.003.67 4.834.504.17 5.335.004.67
B+BB- 87 – 8983 – 8680 – 82 3.333.002.67 3.833.503.17 4.334.003.67
C+CC- 78 – 7973 – 7770 – 72 2.332.001.67 2.832.502.17 3.333.002.67
D+DD- 67 – 6963 – 6660 – 62 1.331.000.67 1.831.501.17 2.332.001.67
F 0 – 59 0.00 0.00 0.00


Course Expectations

  • Attend all classes (on time) unless you have an excused absence.
  • Come to class prepared. This means you should always have your book, pen, composition notebook, and paper with you, as well as any assignments that may be due.
  • Cooperate, participate in class, and respect all classmates.
  • Arrive to class in uniform, as described in the course planner.
  • Do not bring breakfast or lunches to class.
  • Keep the classroom clean (this includes the coffee area!)


Class Weighting


Homework 20%
Formal Essays and Presentations 20%
Vocabulary and Reading Quizzes 15%
Tests 25%
Participation 20%



As stated on the OWL website at Purdue, plagiarism is the “uncredited use (both intentional and unintentional) of somebody else’s words or ideas.” Plagiarism is a serious and growing offense. All students will be required to sign a form acknowledging that fully understand what plagiarism is and the consequences of plagiarizing at the Pendleton School. Further, all major writing assignments will be vetted by

Per the IMG Academy code of Honor / Academic Honesty: “The IMG Academy requires that all students be accountable for the academic integrity of their work. Students that engage in academic dishonesty are subject to strict disciplinary consequences.”

Each IMG Academy student will receive an academic honesty/dishonesty presentation in this class during their first week of school. All students will sign their name to the Academic Integrity Policy form after completing the academic honesty/dishonesty presentation. All forms will be submitted to the dean of students.

For EACH piece of academic work submitted, including assignments, assessments, projects, and papers, each student will write their name and the words, “I affirm the code,” in order to reaffirm their pledge.


Honors Contracts: A student may sign an honors contract in this class within the first three weeks of school as long as they earned a B or higher in their previous English course. All expectations and requirements associated with being an honors student in this course are listed in contract.


Flash Drives and Microsoft Word


A flash drive is strongly recommended for the class. I expect you to regularly back up all your work and will not accept the excuse that “my computer crashed.” Also, I will comment on and grade the majority of your essays and homework in soft copy, you must send me your work in Word document format.




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