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To Take or Not to Take? Juniors and Seniors Deciding on an English Class

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1, 2, 3…Go!

As Staples juniors set in to their busiest year of high school, many have already begun the complicated process of completing the research paper. Looking at how the paper is completed, it seems now that not only is the process of the research paper dictated by the course level of the class, but also by the length of the class.

Juniors can choose between a number of different English classes to take, so long as one of them includes the writing of the research paper. Juniors can choose between taking English 3, the standard junior year English course, Effective Writing, the B-level junior year English Course, Advanced Placement Language, and Research and Literature, an A-level half-year adaptation to the junior English course.

Because there are discrepancies in the course lengths, obviously there are differences in the research paper process is attacked. According to Elizabeth Olbrych, who used to teach Research and Literature, topic selection started in the first week or two of the class, and students were expected to complete at least one process of the research paper per week (i.e. annotated bibliography, three sets of note cards, outline, thesis, etc.). Along with these allotted times, she also expressed her constant remembrance to “leave a cushion of time at the end for rewrites in case students did not meet the standard since successful completion of the research paper is a graduation requirement.”

In contrast, the other three research-paper involved English classes, which are full year courses, have the opportunity to use the entire school year to complete the paper. Although some teachers choose to condense the time spent on the research paper, like Alex Miller, who teaches English 3 and who chooses to have the research paper “straddle the mid-year, in the second and third quarter,” many also choose to space the process throughout the year.

“I can get to know the individual students at the beginning of the year and provide whatever instruction and supports that will help them successfully complete the research paper,” Olbych said, commenting on the pace in Effective Writing.

Julia McNamee, who teaches A.P language, and Anne Fernandez, who teaches Effective Writing, both use much of the year to work on the paper. Fernandez says she uses some of the extra time in the beginning of the year to focus on “topic selection, practicing research skills, and/or studying methods of argumentation before we start the paper.” McNamee, who adds that topics are still not due in A.P language almost a month into school, says she the lack of time constraints allows for more “creative topics that come with time.”

Students who took Research and Literature last year had varied opinions on whether they felt rushed with the project. Jesse Sussmane ’11 stated said he had “ample time, and that the teacher allocated enough time to complete the tasks” and that more time would have been “overkill.” He also said he felt he was somewhat unique in this feeling, and that there were definitely other students that felt visibly stressed for time.

In relation to English 3, Alessando Mioli ’11 actually did not like the slow pace of the research paper in that course.

“I wanted the full year instead of the half. It hurt me, because the deadlines were spread apart and we did material simultaneously, so it kept getting put off and took second priority” Mioli said.

Students agreed that specific teachers also played a role in the proper spacing of the paper, and that it was not just the length of the course that affected how rushed or side-tracked they felt.

Teachers say that it is very important for students to think a lot about which class they think will be right for them. Teachers stress the importance of making your decision in your sophomore year.

“When we give the course catalogues out in sophomore English classes, we spend time going over the differences – especially in terms of timing and typical calendars” Olybrych said.

Additionally, teachers agree that every student is different, and not everyone is going to benefit or like one type of course length. That’s why the options are available: so different students can take partake in different learning environments, and the needs of those who prefer a fast paced process and those who get easily stressed for time are met. Teachers say that students must evaluate a number of different factors when making the decision. As Olybrych mentioned. “working style, course load, and extracurricular commitments” when making this decision in order to ensure that they are making the right choice.

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