Going Beyond the Traditional English Class

The 2020-2021 school year introduced three new English classes offered to seniors.


Catherine Crayon

Senior Brynna Dow listens to Mrs. Shawn Watts explain the lesson plan during a “Storytelling Through Writing and Film” class on Sept. 4.

Catherine Crayon, Video Content Editor

Three new branches of English IV have been added to the list of available course options for seniors this year: Revolutionary Voices in Nonfiction, Storytelling Through Writing and Film and Women in Leadership.

“We really want to start innovating the focus of our English classes,” English teacher Casey Engel said. “We want them to be speaking to, not only student interest, but what is important and going on in the world and how students can start processing the really critical components from society before they leave high school.”

The process to create these classes began in December of 2019 with English teachers Engel, Catherine Cox, Shawn Watts and Michelle Nebel, Director of Innovation, encouraging students to explore the multiple facets outside of an ordinary English course.

“We spent a lot of time with Michelle Nebel workshopping ideas, researching what other innovative English classes around the nation looked like,” Engel said. “I first learned about these types of classes at a national conference I attend where they talked about English classes being offered like college courses.”

English teacher, Shawn Watts greets students who are distance learning via zoom to join her “Storytelling Through Writing and Film” class on Sept. 4. (Catherine Crayon)

Storytelling Through Writing and Film is a class that focuses on literature that is adapted into film. Works range from feature films, historical fiction and documentaries.

“I chose Storytelling Through Writing and Film because I love movies and seeing how people turn books into film,” senior Jadon Clarkson said. “The benefit of this different English class is you’re not reading book after book like a normal English class, you actually get to see how they turned the book into the film which could capture more people’s audience.”

Revolutionary Voices in Nonfiction revolves around people and authors who have documented their experiences during pivotal moments in history. 

“I am taking Revolutionary Voices in Nonfiction and I chose it because I think we are experiencing a revolution fronted by the Black Lives Matter movement,” senior Anna Donnelly said. “The works we will read will have strong voices and opinions that are important to learn about.”

With only two weeks into the 2020-2021 school year, these three new English classes have begun their unconventional path of learning. Engel described these new classes as, “shedding the shackles of the 1950s labels of what standard English is.”

“I’m glad Sion started to offer these English classes,” Donnelly said “It gives the students the opportunity to gain a better understanding and a different perspective on experiences we may not have had otherwise.”

Senior Kate Vankeirsbilck watches a video in her “Storytelling Through Writing and Film” class regarding the death penalty on Sept. 4. (Catherine Crayon)