Josh Cabat, chairman of the English Department at Roslyn High School, gave a presentation on the new Freshman Humanities Literature course at the most recent Roslyn School District board of education meeting. The course has been instituted to help students deal with the rigors of the Common Core State Standards and Regents exams.
“The comprehensive Regents exams will be coming to an end this June to make way for the Common Core Standards,” said Cabat. “What we have done in the past has worked well for the old standards but even now in Honors courses the rigor of the material is not up to what the Common Core demands.”
Cabat added that an updated curriculum should include a course which features a lot of close reading of shorter, more difficult literature, and the non-fiction readings demanded by the core are already baked in.
Freshman Humanities Literature, which was created four years ago, is an Honors level course that follows the history of world literature from its beginnings through the Enlightenment. The majority of the class follows short excerpts from works such as Medea to Romeo & Juliet. Many of the texts from Confucius to excerpts from Charles Mann’s, 1491 are non-fiction.
“Connections are made throughout the year not only with history, but with art, music, philosophy and other disciplines,” said Cabat. “These connections form the groundwork of the critical thinking and reasoning skills demanded by the core.”
Cabat said that the new course would be different in that there will be labs for students who may want or need help and there will be a wider variety of assessments so that students will have many different kinds of opportunities to demonstrate understanding. Students of varying ability levels will take the class together as has been the case with the district’s College Literature Program.
As far as the labs go, students will be taught by the Freshman Humanities Literature teachers and in a small group setting. The labs will be fluid and will be scheduled on a semester basis.
The teachers of Freshman Humanities Literature will all receive professional development in differentiation in terms of planning and assessment and teachers will plan assessments and lessons throughout the year together. This is to ensure that the material will be covered in a timely and effective way.
“The Common Core and the new exams are here to stay,” said Cabat. “If we don’t challenge all of our students while supporting those who need help now, it will be very difficult to catch up to the standards later on.”