Language Arts 1: Building Things with Books
The long-term project of this class asks students to design, build, and outfit the Proof School Library. We visit local libraries to map their floor plans, patterns of use, and systems of organization, and we conduct research into the history of libraries. Students work extensively with the basic building block of any library: the book. We learn classical bookmaking skills, redesign books, and create interactive versions of our favorite literature, all of which activate primary analytical functions like interpretation and explanation; along the way, we develop foundational writing skills that focus on thesis, structure, evidence, and complex and compound sentences. We develop a maker mentality in the class by turning books into sculptures and using books to make spaces. This inquiry-based class discovers its reading list each year as students learn interviewing skills, and talk with peers, faculty, and family about their favorite books. The class features regular, small-group conferences and workshops in reading and writing. Writing projects vary in length and purpose, and include book reviews, letters to the editor, instruction manuals, design proposals, and new chapters to books we love.
Language Arts 2 & 3
After Literature 1, the curriculum cycles between two courses: “Staging Literature” and “Codes, Ciphers, and Keys.” Both courses reflect our goals for developing more sophisticated skills in analytical reading and writing, in creative making, and in oral communication.
> Staging Literature
Students in this class write, direct, and stage a play. We visit with local theater companies, consult with actors and directors, and make short videos explaining the nuances of character, plot, and structure. Projects include modernizing Shakespeare, adapting literature for the stage, and learning how to tell stories nonverbally through the use of gesture, music, and lighting. These acts of translation require students to read like never before, and activate critical thinking and writing skills. Readings span time and genres, and include A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Diary of a Young Girl, A Wrinkle in Time, and selections from poets likes Robert Frost and Rita Dove. The class features regular, small-group workshops in critical communications skills, from oral presentation to analytical writing. Writing projects include reviews, director memos that defend dramatic choices, playbills, and character analyses.
> Codes, Ciphers, and Keys
This course asks students to decrypt literature in various ways, from breaking down foundational elements like plot and character to piecing together clues embedded in narration and language. We design codes for reading and writing, research the history of encryption, and create maps of books. Along the way, we learn that poems, abstract paintings, and even social customs are themselves “codes” that can be written and solved. These projects position students to think proactively about the mechanisms embedded in literature, art, and social interactions. Readings include selections from Sherlock Holmes, The Giver, and The Book Thief; writing projects include interpretations of artistic codes, a research report on cryptography, and expository essays on maps and graphs. Extended small-group workshops develop key skills in reading, writing, and collaboration.
Literature 1: Literature and Its Limits
This seminar-based high school course reads literature that responds to historical events, especially in times of war. We ask whether literature can adequately represent the unfathomable, with readings culled from the likes of Pablo Neruda, Ernest Hemingway, Homer, and Shakespeare. In addition, we look at art and music as primary sources, with supplemental materials coming from independent research into the questions raised by our class discussions. Field trips to local memorials and to the Presidio help us see that our understanding of the past is more complicated than we might think. Students come away understanding not only how depictions of war have changed, but also how the writing of history has changed. Expect regular short writing prompts, one-on-one and small-group conferences, class-wide writing workshops, and directed research. Major writing assignments include making arguments based on close readings, and testing competing theories of art, history, and “Just War” with new evidence.
Literature 2: Close Reading in the Digital Humanities
Proof School’s introduction to digital humanities surveys the tools, methods, and information technologies that fields like literature and history have started to use in research. Digital humanities is a broad practice that includes database inquiry, language frequency analysis, and data visualization. Our goal in this class is to leverage information technology to see literature in new light; projects include visualizing linguistic trends in poems from the likes of Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot; geo-mapping complex narratives like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and 100 Years of Solitude; and building an interactive poetry kiosk. Writing projects build toward a research-based argument, and include response papers, exploratory analyses, and annotated bibliographies. The class features peer reviews and regular one-on-one conferences to develop individual projects and individual skills.
Literature 3: Distant Reading in the Digital Humanities
This course moves students toward distant reading practices in the digital humanities. Distant reading involves processing information about very large literary databases rather than analyzing a specific novel; data mining such large numbers of books tends to yield evidence from which students can draw conclusions about shifts in culture and genre. We use Project Gutenberg as our database. Our readings for discussion center on key scholarship in the digital humanities, such as Moretti’s Distant Reading, Jockers' Macroanalysis, and Cohen and Gibbs’ “A Conversation with Data,” which analyzes 1,681,161 titles in Victorian Literature. Writing projects involve explaining methodology and interpreting results, reviewing existing literature on a topic of the student's choosing, and making a research-based argument. The class features regular one-on-one conferences and peer workshops to develop each student's project and multi-modal communication skills. Students give a formal presentation of their research at the end of the year. Expected to be offered in the 2017-18 school year.
Literature 4: Directed Research in Literature
This class functions as a directed research collective that investigates an annual theme established by the faculty. Students are expected to interpret the theme according to individual interests; conduct independent surveys of the relevant literature; narrow the scope of their research; write a research-based argument; and give a compelling talk on their findings. The year-long course focuses on key skills for success in college: independence, peer review, advanced research and writing methods, and the ability to engage in cross-disciplinary discussions. Expected to be offered during the 2018-2019 school year.