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Critical Reading and Writing

Course Overview

Critical Reading and Writing (often referred to as “CRW”) is the second class in the series of composition courses offered at Davidson Academy Online. In previous courses, students began practicing textual analysis, creative and critical thinking, and written expression; CRW is a continuation of that with an emphasis on drawing logical inferences based on evidence gleaned from the text, as well as crafting and defending a valid thesis statement based on those inferences. The class is split into four thematic units: Education, Intelligence, and Learning; Creative and Critical Thinking; Law, Justice, and Vengeance; and Humor, Satire, and Irony. Each unit includes a variety of texts to explore, including short fiction and nonfiction, film, poetry, and songs. The objectives become more challenging in CRW, particularly in terms of the length and depth of assignments.

Course Content

Unit 1: Education, Intelligence and Learning

In this unit students will develop a working understanding of critical thinking and how to apply this to their reading, writing, and thinking. To this end, they will work with a variety of fiction, nonfiction, songs, poems, and films to practice making inferences, drawing conclusions, recognizing and analyzing hidden assumptions, and writing summaries. All of the readings are chosen to initiate discussion about the education system, the nature of intelligence, and how learning happens. The unit begins with a diagnostic essay in which students write an argument about required courses in middle schools, and ends with a self-reflective essay about students’ experiences in and philosophies about the education system.

Unit 2: Creative and Critical Thinking

Extending from the discussion of education, intelligence, and learning, this unit strives to encourage students to employ both critical and creative thinking in their analysis and problem solving. The unit begins with a quote analysis in which students work to derive meaning and make connections from short texts and continues with an exploration of The Art of Thinking where students practice different skills to increase their intellectual toolbox. Throughout the unit, students work through the seemingly opposite nature of creativity and critical thinking to understand that both can coexist. Students read a variety of texts in this unit, including children’s songs and films along with more traditional fiction and nonfiction texts. The unit ends with a creative essay in which students explore their own ability to think creatively with a purpose.

Unit 3: Law, Justice, and Vengeance

In this unit students grapple with the intricacies of the law, justice, and vengeance. This is a reading-intensive and discussion-heavy unit with a strong focus on character development throughout texts. Students are encouraged to explore the motivations for characters’ actions and discuss whether they agree or not. The unit opens with an essay in which students analyze a character, symbol, or conflict in a short story related to the ideas of law, justice, and vengeance. After processing this piece, students move into another classic short story, a famous letter, and a mini-study of mythology. By comparing the different views presented surrounding the ideas of law, justice, and vengeance, students are able to apply their critical thinking skills from the previous two units and communicate their ideas clearly through formal writing, informal writing, and discussion.

Unit 4: Humor, Satire, and Irony

This final unit brings together the critical thinking skills that students have been developing all year by focusing in on the power of humor in making an argument. Students will study the works of famous humor writers and analyze the use of satire and irony to express ideas and gain support for opinions. Creativity is not forgotten in this unit, as students will imitate the style of several humor writers to create their own pieces of writing that showcase their burgeoning writing styles and understanding of argument. The unit ends with a film study of The Truman Show where students are able to discuss the impact humor has on the message the filmmakers convey in the piece.