/LIT/Course Overview

Read this course overview to learn what the plans and policies are for this year in Contemporary Literature.

/LIT/Course Overview

Contemporary Literature
Course Overview (2020–2021)

Updated: 6 August 2020


Who’s running this show anyway? How do I get in touch with that person?

  • “Instructor” = Stephen Hebert
  • Conference Periods = B, F, and G
  • Email = Please don’t use email. :)
  • Contact = Send a chat message on Teams.

Course Framework

This course will be unlike anything you’ve ever done before. The entire class is centered around your participation and engagement in two key areas:

  1. Working with your classmates, using literature (and “new” forms of media like podcasts and such) to gain a greater understanding of the world in which you live.
  2. Contributing to and building a repository of knowledge via the class’s website: /LIT (pronounced: “slash lit”).

This is NOT a class where the teacher really teaches you a bunch of stuff that you then put into practice. Instead, we will be working together to co-create a new understanding of the literature we read. Most of the time, you will get to choose the following:

  • The texts you read.
  • The types of assignments and projects you work on.
  • The students in the class that you work most closely with.

You won’t always get to choose these things, but you’ll see there is an abundance of choice built into the system. I’m also open to your suggestions for even greater choice. My theory is this: if you’re taking ownership of it and doing excellent work, then you’re learning!

I very much view my classroom as an experiment in skill-building and knowledge-creation. I also view myself as a co-learner with you. Much of what we do in class will be stuff that I’m learning alongside you. At times, you may even be working on texts that I’ve never read. That’s part of the fun! Let’s build it together!

Essential Questions & Course Objectives

We may add to these essential questions throughout the year, but here’s a place to start:

  • What is “literature”?
  • How is literature a product of its time while also helping to shape that time?
  • How do we read? How do we listen? How do we view?
  • How does an audience affect our craft as writers?
  • How can we harness digital media to express our understanding and to synthesize our ideas?

Here are my course objectives:

  • Students will discover something new about themselves.
  • Students will find texts that mirror their experiences. Students will also find texts that serve as windows into the experiences of others.
  • Students will create media with an authentic audience in mind.
  • Students will learn about creating media for digital formats: writing online, podcasting, video production, etc.


When I say “assessment,” I’m guessing you’re thinking “grade.” That’s what you want to know, right? “How will I be graded in this class?” This will be part of the experiment. The first semester is laid out pretty well, but the second semester is open for discussion. (Everything is open for discussion, really.)

You will NOT be graded with an average, nor will you receive traditional letter grades or numbers on any assignments. Instead, your grade will be determined by assessing (and self-assessing) your performance in three key areas:

  1. Contributions to /LIT
  2. Teamwork on /LIT Projects
  3. Class Engagement

Let’s take each of these in turn.

1. Contributions to /LIT

As I said, you will not receive a number or a letter grade for any assignment you submit for this class. Instead, when you submit something for review, it will be marked either publishable, revisable, or redo.

  • Publishable. If I mark something as “publishable,” then as the editor-in-chief of /LIT, I will work with you to finalize it and then get it ready for publication. To be marked “publishable,” your piece must meet the demands of the assignment AND adhere to /LIT style guidelines (which we will develop together), including perfect spelling and grammar (for written pieces).
  • Revisable. If I mark something as "revisable," then I will give you some direction, and you can, if you choose, revise the piece in an attempt to make it publishable.
  • Redo. If a piece is marked "redo," then it falls outside the bounds of what we are looking for. "Redo" really means that you should go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

The items published on /LIT will be of the highest quality. Therefore, you should expect to spend time rewriting.

2. Teamwork on /LIT Projects

Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to work on projects with others. These projects will largely be of your own design. My expectation is that you pull your weight. If you aren’t, then you’ll be called to account for that in a one-on-one meeting with me.

To earn an A, you’ll need to get excellent feedback from your teammates. They will have to endorse you. Therefore, make sure that you keep up with your classmates, do your part, and co-create excellent material.

3. Class Engagement

In addition to producing material for /LIT, you will also work with the whole class in a number of ways. For example:

  • Class Discussions of shared texts.
  • Writer’s Room sessions in which we work together to determine what direction we want to take /LIT.

In addition, I will take into account your attentiveness and the ways in which you contribute to a positive class culture. Think of yourself in this class as a member of a team. We are all working together and we are only as strong as our weakest link. A positive attitude and a “can-do” spirit go a long way!

The Process

Near the end of each grading period, you will go through a review process with me. To prepare for this review, you will be given a reflection form to fill out. You’ll bring the form to the one-on-one conversation, you’ll give it to me, and then we’ll sit down and talk about your performance. We will look at the three areas enumerated above:

  1. Contributions to /LIT. Did you meet the requirements for that quarter to meet a certain grade level? What did you learn?
  2. Teamwork on /LIT Projects. Did you work well with your teammates for team projects? How might you improve?
  3. Class Engagement. Were you engaged in the work of the class? Did you exhibit a positive attitude and excellent work ethic?

At the end of this conversation, we will agree upon a grade for the quarter (and the semester) based on these criteria.

Required Contributions to /LIT by Quarter

The list below indicates what the minimum requirements are for earning a grade in a certain range. For example, the “A” column indicates the A-range (i.e., A-, A, or A+). The plus/minus will be determined by your teamwork and class engagement.

  • Quarter 1
    • A = 2 published solo pieces AND 1 published team piece
    • B = 2 published pieces (solo or team)
    • C = 1 published piece (solo or team)
    • D = 0 published pieces
    • F = no attempt to publish
  • Quarter 2
    • A = 3 published pieces (solo or team), BUT one must be in an alternative/creative medium
    • B = 2 published pieces (solo or team)
    • C = 1 published piece (solo or team)
    • D = 0 published pieces
    • F = no attempt to publish
  • Quarters 3 & 4: We will discuss your goals for these quarters. I will expect you to continue to produce publishable work, but we may also talk about other roles you could serve. For example, you might be interested in learning how to market /LIT through social media. You could put together a social media strategy, put that in place, and then measure the results using traffic analytics. Just an idea…


If you are in need of information, three great places to look:

  1. The Course Page. The course page on johncooper.org will house basic information about the course, but it won’t be as dynamic as the two options below.
  2. Teams. The bulk of our online communication will happen via Teams. Consider Teams a repository of information for this class. We’ll be collecting everything there over the course of the year.
  3. /LIT/#class_docs. Not very easily searchable, but this page is here on /LIT in case you want to browse through it.
  4. Classmates. Get in the appropriate #channel on Teams and ask your classmates. Someone will likely respond. It might even be me!

NOTE: We will be building many resources together for this course. Those resources will be most immediately available via Teams.

A Note re: Inclusivity

The John Cooper School’s students represent a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. As your instructor, I am committed to providing a learning atmosphere that respects this. While building our classroom community, I ask that you—

  • share unique experiences, values, and beliefs;
  • be open to others’ views and differences;
  • honor your peers’ uniqueness;
  • appreciate the opportunities to learn from each other;
  • value differing opinions and communicate in a mature, respectful manner;
  • foster an inclusive environment not only in class, but also in the JCS community.