TGS Writing Project
The hallmark of a Gunston education is graduates who can think well, write clearly, and communicate effectively. Through intensive writing coursework, one-on-one feedback, and mentoring in their freshman and sophomore years, Gunston students become prepared to participate in a culminating writing experience in their junior and senior years.
This intensive writing project provides students experience in meaningful reading, and critical analysis of literature. At the beginning of the junior year, students confer with their English teacher and select an author of focus for the year. The students spend the balance of the school year reading five of the author’s works and researching the author's life. From their reading, they devise an original thesis statement reflecting their synthesis of the author’s works. Following approval of their thesis statement, the students craft their paper, which must clearly and logically defend their thesis and be no less than fifteen pages in length. The project enhances student skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, and research while at the same time providing them a valuable independent learning opportunity. In keeping with the Gunston family traditions, the completion of this milestone is celebrated by the entire school community.
JUNIOR SYMPOSIUM FAQ
The intensive writing project that provides students experience in meaningful reading and critical analysis of literature about stories, characters, and ideas that you are passionate about. At the beginning of the school year, you will embark on this quest by selecting an author of focus for the year. You and everyone else in your class will spend an impressive chunk of the school year closely reading at least three of the author’s works, focusing intently on the storytelling, character development, ideas, and how all of those elements help us better understand how the world works and who we want to be in that world. From your reading, you will then devise an original thesis statement reflecting your understanding of the central ideas and themes that you’ve found in your author’s works. Following approval of your thesis statement, you will craft your paper, which must clearly and cogently defend your thesis.
One purpose of this project is to enhance your skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, logic, reasoning, and time management while at the same time providing you with a valuable independent learning opportunity in which you have the opportunity to think and write about something that is important to you. Along the way, you will develop your own personal philosophies about the human condition and the relationship between storytelling and who you are. Additionally, in keeping with Gunston traditions, the completion of this milestone will be celebrated by the entire school community.
What is a Symposium?
Traditionally, a symposium is a conference in which a group of people (scholars and/or nerds, particularly) get together to talk about a subject that they’ve researched and thought about extensively, honoring the dialectical tradition of qualifying, developing, sharing, discussing, and further improving their ability to construct and express ideas. Committing to such a project also develops skill sets in areas such as but not limited to problem solving, time management, research, organization, composition, logical reasoning, citing sources, and collaboration.
What is the prompt?
Put simply, the primary objective is to read three books and to argue as to why the stories in those books are relevant and significant and worth reading and thinking about. Of course, this explanation is a grossly reductive oversimplification of the project, but it may help to imagine that your goal is to convince others to read your author’s books by giving a clear, concise, and cogent answer to the question: Why should anyone read this book?
How do I get an A on my Symposium essay(s)?
Manage your time appropriately. Do NOT cram. Second, I give an (almost) overwhelming amount of feedback on your analyses and drafts; make use of that feedback and revise, revise, revise. Also, before going to bed every night, ask yourself if you did anything to make your symposium better. If not, consider getting back to work. You don’t have to pull an all-nighter or anything; instead, chip away at the project. That is, get into the habit of reading and writing a little bit every day. You can also talk to me on the regular. I’m a nerd. I like talking about books. Oftentimes, discussing what you’re reading will help you develop your thoughts (as does talking to family and friends). Remember: Nulla dies sine linea. Let no day go by without a line to show for it.
What kind of books can I choose for the project?
There are really only two rules:
One. Most importantly, you must choose an author that you are excited to read. This project is for you. It’s all about what you think and what you find interesting. Don’t do this for anyone else. Do it for you.
Two. The author must have written at least three stories. Novels. Plays. Short stories. Novellas. A healthy mix of all of the above is good.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Can I use them?
Yes! Here’s a list of some of my favorite authors with my favorites by them:
André Aciman (Call Me By Your Name)
Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah)
Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)
Sherman Alexie (True Diary of a Part-Time Indian)
Isabel Allende (The House of the Spirits)
BB Alston (Amari and the Night Brothers)
Julia Alvarez (In the Time of the Butterflies)
Isaac Asimov (I, Robot)
Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale)
Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice)
James Baldwin (The Fire Next Time)
Alison Bechdel (Fun Home)
Britt Bennett (The Vanishing Half)
Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing)
Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)
Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods)
Octavia Butler (Kindred)
Albert Camus (The Stranger)
Angela Carter (The Bloody Chamber)
Willa Cather (O! Pioneers)
Michael Chabon (Kavalier and Clay)
Ted Chiang (Story of Your Life)
Agatha Christie (Murder on the Orient Express)
Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street)
Ernest Cline (Ready Player One)
Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me)
Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park)
Mark Z. Danielewski (House of Leaves)
Don DeLillo (White Noise, Underworld)
Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
Naoise Dolan (Exciting Times)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes series)
Glennon Doyle (Untamed)
Dave Eggers (The Wild Things)
Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man)
Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate)
William Faulkner (As I Lay Dying)
Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)
Jonathan Safran Foer (Extremely Loud)
Ken Follett (The Pillars of the Earth)
Neil Gaiman (American Gods)
Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (“The Yellow Wallpaper”)
Malcolm Gladwell (Outliners)
John Green (Looking For Alaska)
Andrew Sean Greer (Less)
Ursula K. Le Guin (Earthsea)
Yaa Gyasi (Homegoing)
Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale)
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens)
Frank Herbert (Dune)
Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley)
Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner)
Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God)
Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House)
NK Jemisin (Broken Earth)
Francisco Jiménez (The Circuit)
Edward P. Jones (The Known World)
Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time)
Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go)
Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
Lily King (Writers and Lovers)
Stephen King (It, Carrie)
Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air, Into the Wild)
Jhumpa Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies)
Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time)
CS Lewis (Narnia)
E. Lockhart (We Were Liars)
Jack London (The Call of the Wild)
Gabriel Garcia Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude)
James McBride (The Color of Water)
Cormac McCarthy (The Road)
Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles)
David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)
Alan Moore (Watchmen, The Killing Joke)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican Gothic)
Toni Morrison (Beloved)
Walter Mosley (Easy Rawlins series)
Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)
Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere)
Joyce Carol Oates (The Wheel of Love)
Tim O’Brien (The Things We Carried)
Maggie O’Farrell (Hamnet)
George Orwell (Animal Farm, 1984)
Taylor Jenkins Reid (Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo)
Sally Rooney (Normal People)
JK Rowling (Harry Potter)
Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children)
Karen Russell (Swamplandia)
George Saunders (Tenth of December)
V.E. Schwab (The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue)
Maria Semple (Where’d You Go, Bernadette)
Upton Sinclair (The Jungle, Oil!)
Karin Slaughter (Pieces of Her)
Zadie Smith (White Teeth)
John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath)
Marjane Strapi (Perspeolis)
Cheryl Strayed (Wild)
Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club)
Donna Tartt (The Secret History)
Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give)
Sally Thorne (The Hating Game)
JRR Tolkien (Lord of the Rings)
Mark Twain (Huck Finn)
Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five)
Alice Walker (The Color Purple)
Jeannette Walls (The Glass Castle)
Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad)
Elie Wiesel (Night)
Oscar Wilde (The Portrait of Dorian Gray)
Virginia Woolf (Orlando)
The goal of this project is for seniors to complete a summative narrative of how their years at Gunston shaped their own ‘language of values.’ In effect, we are asking students to create their own value model by examining key moments of insight in the following areas:
- Experiences—Students should identify three significant experiences at Gunston and explain how those experiences transformed or impacted them:
- Knowledge—Students should discuss how three pieces of acquired knowledge influenced them (perhaps an author they read, an historical event they studied, etc.);
- People—Students should identify three people who helped to shape their view of the world and explain how these people influenced them.
Although this is a writing project, it is interdisciplinary in scope in that it requires students to synthesize the knowledge, skills, habits, and thought processes that they acquired in their courses, athletics, and in special programs like Bay Studies.
SENIOR PARADIGM PROJECT FAQ
What is the Paradigm Project?
As the final component of Gunston’s Writing Project, the Paradigm Project is each Gunston student’s final graduation writing requirement. The goal of this project is for seniors like you to complete a summative narrative of how your years at Gunston shaped your own language of values, your understanding of the world, and who you want to be in that world. Consider this as a prompt: What are some moments of insight that you've experienced that have changed the way you see yourself and the world around you?
In thinking about the experiences that changed the way you see yourself and the world around you, we are asking you to reflect on at least three key moments of insight in any one or any combination of the following areas:
Experiences: Reflect on significant experiences at Gunston and explain how those experiences transformed or impacted you
Knowledge: Discuss an idea or a piece of acquired knowledge and how that influenced you (perhaps an author you’ve read, an historical event you’ve studied, etc.)
People: Identify someone who helped to shape your view of the world and explain how they influenced you
Although this is fundamentally a “writing project,” it is interdisciplinary in scope in that it challenges you to synthesize the knowledge, skills, habits, and thought processes that you acquired in your courses, athletics, and in special programs like Bay Studies.
When is the Paradigm Project Due?
You are expected to share (through email or a hard copy in person) your completed Paradigm Project to their respective Paradigm Mentor by 4:00 pm on Friday, April 28th, 2023. Late submissions, even if by just one minute, may result in an immediate failure.
What is a Paradigm Mentor?
Put simply, your Paradigm Mentor is the Gunston faculty or staff member who YOU choose to mentor you through the Paradigm Project. If you have questions or need guidance, encouragement, or feedback, they’re there for you.
What’s the first thing I should do?
Find a Paradigm Mentor! Pick any Gunston faculty or staff member you work well with, ask them if they will be your mentor for the Project, and then email Mr. Weimer, letting him know who you’ve selected. Traditionally, Paradigm Mentors do not mentor more than five Seniors, so if there's someone you really want to mentor you, ask them quickly before those spots fill up. Please note: you need a Mentor for the Project! You are expected to let Mr. Weimer know by Friday, October 7th who your mentor is as well as to confirm that they have agreed to mentor you through the Paradigm Project. Otherwise, Mr. Weimer will hound you with a daily deluge of emails asking you to complete this first step.
Who grades the Paradigm Project?
Your Paradigm Mentor is responsible for assessing whether or not you pass the project. You are expected to work closely with your Paradigm Mentor to make sure that you’re meeting your Paradigm Mentor’s expectations.
How is the Paradigm Project graded?
The project is graded through a pass/fail system. There is no universal rubric. Your Mentor makes the call on what constitutes a pass and what constitutes a fail. For instance, some mentors may evaluate the effort you put into the project, while others might only evaluate the final product of your project. Some may want perfect grammar, and some may want you to be more creative or descriptive. Your mentor, as the one who is reading your writing, will be the one to determine through their own criteria what constitutes the difference between a passing and a failing grade. Your Paradigm Mentor will also be the one to determine whether or not your project has earned honors, high honors status, and/or Paradigm Award nomination.
How long does the Paradigm have to be?
You are expected to compose at least 2,000 words (or its creative equivalent).
What do you mean by creative equivalent? Does that mean I can do something that isn’t writing?
Kind of. While creativity and finding a form of expression that works for you and your interests is encouraged (though, certainly not required), if you choose to be more creative, you are expected to work with your Paradigm Mentor to define a “creative equivalent” to the amount of effort that it would otherwise take to reflect, structure, organize, compose, revise, and edit a conventional work of writing (i.e. the traditional Paradigm Project) that is 2,000 words. Ultimately, your Paradigm Mentor is the one who will determine what this creative equivalent is. Think of this way: maybe you choose to compose a handful of songs and to record them. Taking into account the effort it takes to write the lyrics, compose the songs, and record, your Paradigm Mentor may ask for you to compose a brief explanation behind each song, and though the lyrics and explanations may not equal 2,000 words, your Paradigm Mentor could determine this as a “creative equivalent.”
What’s all of this I hear about earning Honors and the Paradigm Award?
If you go above and beyond, impressing your Paradigm Mentor along the way, your Mentor may award you Honors for your efforts. If you’re Project is next level, you may be awarded High Honors. If your Paradigm Project really stands out as something special to your Paradigm Mentor then they may nominate you and your Paradigm for the Paradigm Award.
Who should I email if I have any questions?
Your Paradigm Mentor will most likely have the answers that you’re looking for. Start there. But if you and/or your Mentor have a question, feel free to email Mr. Weimer at firstname.lastname@example.org