Contemporary Humanities is the required Enriched level senior semester course in the Language Arts Department. The course focuses on the chronological development of the most contemporary modes (Romantic, Realist, Modern and Contemporary) of artistic expression found in the literature, art and music of both American and European culture. In Contemporary Humanities, students will gain background in the connections between the literature, art, music, and history of each period and encounter the ideas that have shaped Modern society. This course will give senior students an opportunity to synthesize the knowledge they have acquired in their Language Arts, Social Studies, Fine and Performing Arts classes as they examine how societal events impact authors, artists and musicians and how each successive movement is dependent upon the one preceding it to pave the way for innovation or revolution in content and form. Learning about the cultural events that shape such works can aid students in seeing that artistic achievement does not emerge from a vacuum. They will also learn that their appreciation for a particular work should not depend on their like or dislike of that work, but upon their understanding of and an appreciation for the creative intent of the artist, musician, or writer who created it. The course will also encourage students to examine their own contemporary world and the literature, art, and music currently emerging from it. This course also encourages students to venture into the community to take advantages of local museums, lectures, concerts, plays, and films related to the course curriculum so that they can experience first-hand artistic expression in their society.




    This course aims to:


    • develop analytical and critical reading strategies as well as an appropriate vocabulary to comprehend a variety of challenging and sophisticated texts;
    • support the comprehension and analysis of a variety of genres;
    • develop and nurture both a love of reading and advanced skills in interpreting literature through individually selected literature circle titles offered throughout the year;
    • develop the writing process and writing to learn strategies through which students compose a variety of written responses for different purposes and audiences, employing a range of voices and taking compositional risks;
    • use listening and viewing strategies to identify the intent of presentation, critically assess the message and increase listening and viewing sophistication;
    • develop strategies to read text closely and support analysis through textual evidence both explicitly and inferentially


    Unit 1: Introduction to Humanities


    Unit 2: Romanticism and Realism


    Unit 3: Modernism, Post-Modernism and Contemporary


    Unit 4: Overview of Humanities and Final Project


    Literature (specific works will be selected by instructor and, in some cases, by student interest):


    -Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    -A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

    -A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

    -The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

    -Fences by August Wilson


    Music, Film and Artwork:

    -Music and artwork studied in this unit will be representative of the Romantic, Realist, Modern, Post-modern, and Contemporary periods.  Film versions of Frankenstein and The Great Gatsby will be used to supplement novels.


    Student Expectations


    Classroom Expectations


    • Be ON TIME. You will need a late pass if you are late - this is not negotiable. When you return from the office, please sit and take out necessary materials.
    • Be PREPARED with homework and all necessary materials in hand when the bell rings.  You will very RARELY have written homework, most of your homework will be reading.  On the days you do have written homework assigned, know that it will be collected and graded.   If you have not completed the homework on the day it is due, you will not be able to participate fully in the day’s lesson and will lose credit according to the department late policy (20% deduction and if it is not turned in after the third day you will not receive any credit).
    • SUBMIT all assessments ON TIME, and be proactive in getting caught up when you are absent per the Late Work & Make-up Policy.
    • PARTICIPATE actively in all class discussions, and take notes during lectures, discussion, and as you read.  There will be a large participation grade factored into each marking period grade.
    • LISTEN TO and RESPECT YOUR CLASSMATES: Offer thoughtful ideas and opinions and be respectful of the ideas and opinions of others. Please listen attentively to all ideas and opinions, even if they differ from your own.
    • DO YOUR BEST AT YOUR OWN WORK: Academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated. Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words or ideas as your own.  The use of online resources such as Sparknotes, Shmoop, and Wikipedia as a substitute for reading can lead to plagiarism--- DON’T USE THEM! DO NOT work collaboratively on assignments unless you are instructed to do so.  If you are unsure if you have unintentionally plagiarized, ask before handing it in.  All major assignments will be submitted to www.turnitin.com. SUCH INFRACTIONS CAN AFFECT YOUR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS STATUS. 

    Please review the MHS Honor Code for information on academic integrity. Plagiarism and cheating will result in a zero with no opportunity for resubmission, along with consequences outlined in the Student Handbook. Review the policy here: http://www.madisonpublicschools.org/Page/8731  

    • FOOD/DRINK:No food or drink (with the exception of bottled water) is permitted in class. Coffee/Gatorade drinks are acceptable, if consumed responsibly.  Mrs. Vilarino reserves the right to forbid their consumption at any time. Food is never permitted.
    • READ, READ, READ: Students are expected to come to class with the assigned reading completed.  Reading is key to your success in this course and to your enjoyment of it. English class will be FUN if you read and come to class prepared to delve into the great literature that awaits you this year.

    DO NOT read SPARKNOTES  or any similar material (I can’t say this enough).  Reading is a skill that develops from practice. In order to improve, you must at times struggle with the text.

    Strive to be an ACTIVE READER!  Use post-its to write down observations, questions about things you don’t understand, or things that you think are cool or interesting.  That way, when you get to class you can remember what you were thinking as you were reading and what page it was on! 

    Reading checks may be given at any time and count as a quiz grade ( In a senior level class, I will only institute this if I feel that students are NOT reading and I have to FORCE you to).  Always be prepared.

    IMPORTANT: If you have trouble with the reading assignment (whatever the reason) do your best to come see me before school, during one of my free periods, or immediately after school.  

    • CLASSWORKClasswork will be assigned individually or as small group work.  It is expected that it will be completed whether or not it will be graded. The completion of classwork will factor into your individual participation grade at the end of the semester.
    • STAY UP TO DATE WITH GOOGLE CLASSROOM: As much as possible, all assignments will be posted in Google Classroom. It is your responsibility to check and complete the assignments in a timely manner. If you are absent, you are responsible for completing the assignment.

    *All school rules outlined in the Student Handbook are in effect in this class. Review the policies here: http://www.madisonpublicschools.org/Page/8731



    Expectations for use of Cell Phones/Technology in Class:


    Please review the school’s new policy on the use of cell phones and technology.  The following is excerpted from the school’s new policy:

    • Students are not required to place cell phones into classroom pocket holders.  However, cell phones and listening devices are to be silenced and out of sight during instructional time.  There will be no warnings. 
    • Smart watches may be worn during instructional time, but if they are being used inappropriately, students will be asked to remove them.  Smart watches will be removed during any assessment or graded assignment.
    • When permitted, students are expected to use all technology appropriately and for the right reasons.  Inappropriate use, including that on social media, can result in disciplinary action.   


    • First Violation:
    • Confiscation of electronic device/cell phone, device secured in the Main Office; returned to student at the end of the school day
    • Second Violation: 
    • Two Central Detentions
    • Confiscation of electronic device/cell phone, device secured in the Main Office; returned to student at the end of the school day
    • Third Violation: 
    • Saturday Detention
    • Confiscation of electronic device/cell phone, device secured in the Main Office
      • Device picked up by parent/guardian


    **If at any time a student refuses to put their device away or turn it over to a staff member, it will be considered insubordination.**


    In addition, students who routinely do not bring their chromebooks to class charged and ready to go, and are therefore unable to participate, will lose points on their participation grade.


    Additionally, the class will make use of a Google Classroom online webpage to post assignments, submit student work, provide feedback, and create a digital learning environment.  All students are expected to check the webpage each day, and ensure their continued access to it to the best of their ability. Any student who does not have access to their Google Classroom page at home should speak to the instructor privately.  




    One of the objectives of this course is to prepare you for what you encounter next year at the college level.  Thus, the majority of your grade for this class will depend on three major assessments.  There will be benchmarks along the way which will also be graded, however the major assessments will be more heavily weighted.

    The unit assessment will be one or more assignments chosen by the instructor from the following:

    • A creative synthesis paper, requiring students to analyze a work of art from the perspective of a character in the selected novel, using elements from the artistic period being studied
    • A collaborative presentation, requiring students to work in small groups to interpret a selected text from the lens of the artistic period being studied, and presenting their findings to the class
    • A short in-class writing comparing two texts
    • A short literary analysis paper based on the essential questions of the chosen text
    • A creative project, focused on literary and artistic analysis of course materials


    Final Exam :

    Students are given two options for the Final Exam assessment at the beginning of the course. They may opt to complete one of the two options prior to the end of the course.  The Final Exam assessment is given in lieu of a formal exam.

    • Option One: Presentation: Students will select a piece of artwork, literature, or music to present on that has not been discussed extensively in class and create a persuasive presentation in response to the question: why this work of art is important to its artistic period and what does it expresses about the human experience?
    • Option Two: Final Exam Essay: Students should choose three works of art (student can choose from literature, art, or music and each work must be representative of a different period) and construct an essay that examines these works together and focuses on humanity’s response to a social concern in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The teacher can either refine the topic to a specific question or allow students to develop their own question which they will bring to the exam and then proceed to answer.


    If students choose option one, they should consult with the teacher and schedule a day to present. If they choose option two, they will write their essay on the day of the scheduled exam, but may consult with the teacher and, if necessary, teachers from other disciplines about their ideas throughout the course. For both options, students should draw upon and use, when applicable, their work from the first three assessments and the feedback given to them.


    These options are given in lieu of a formal exam at the end of the semester.  Some class time is given to prepare, but students should complete this assignment throughout the semester.  PLAGIARIZED PROJECTS OR PAPERS WILL RECEIVE A GRADE OF 0.


    Extra Credit:


    There is an extra credit opportunity for this class that is open to all students once a marking period.  If you are going to take advantage of this opportunity, you must speak with your teacher first to clear your chosen topic and to review criteria and deadlines.


    Late Work & Make-up Policy:


    MHS Humanities Department (Language Arts and Social Studies) Due Date and Late Work Policies

    The following policy is in effect as of September 2017:

    When a Humanities teacher assigns a major assignment (defined as constituting a significant portion--i.e. 20% or more--of a student's marking period grade), such as an essay, paper or project, the assignment must be turned in at the beginning of the class period on the day it is due.

    Any major assignment that is not submitted at the beginning of the class period on the day it is due is considered LATE.

    Late work may be accepted within three calendar days of a given due date, but that work will receive a 20% grade penalty.

    Late work submitted more than three days after the due date will not be accepted for any credit and will receive a grade of zero.  The department will consider 3:00 p.m. on the third day following the due date as the deadline for late work. This will hold true for weekends and breaks as well.

    No essay or project due dates are adjusted for absence; due dates are given well in advance. For example, college visitation days and unofficial vacation days will not excuse late assignments.This is true for ALL students, regardless of whether they have an IEP or 504 accommodation plan. If absent, students should send in such work by the start time of the class period on the due date via email or Google Classroom, or with a reliable person who will bring the assignment to the teacher before the beginning of the class period on the day it is due. Teachers who accept work via email or Google Classroom will consider work as “on time” provided the time stamp on the email or submission is prior to the beginning of the class period on the due date and the file is accessible to the instructor.  If a student fails to submit a major assignment via email or Google Classroom or through a reliable person on the day that it is due this work is considered LATE and subject to the 20% grade penalty.

    Suggestions for Students to Avoid the Late Penalty:

    Students should take Chromebooks, textbooks and notebooks home each night. They should also select at least two class contacts whom they KNOW have good attendance and homework records, and email, text or phone those contacts the evening of the absence to check on classwork and homework assignments.

    In the event of extreme or unavoidable circumstances, teachers will handle each case individually.  Any requests for due date extensions, however, must be presented to the teacher at least one day before the due date. 

    Teachers are under no obligation to grant extensions, but each individual Humanities teacher will exercise discretion in matters as they arise.

    In all cases, communication between the student and teacher is absolutely essential; parental involvement is encouraged when reasons for a requested extension involve family or medical issues.

    In the case of anticipated absences, students may elect to submit assignments in person to the teacher prior to the absence or submit assignments electronically on the due date, bearing in mind that the time stamp must be before the beginning of the class period on the due date and the file is accessible to the instructor. However, considering the potential for technology and internet connectivity issues, students are encouraged to submit work prior to anticipated absences.

    The following guidelines have now been adopted for general use by the Humanities Department. Students and parents should familiarize themselves with these guidelines and can expect that teachers will adhere to them consistently when confronted with late work or missing assignments.

    If you are absent on the day you are to give a your final presentation, it is YOUR responsibility to let me know ahead of time via email so that we can reschedule.  If you are unable to email, please have a parent contact me to let me know of the situation. If there is no communication prior to the due date, the assignment will be considered as “late” and will receive the appropriate penalty.

    *Special Note: Be especially aware of the number of absences you accrue in this semester-long course. 9 absences will constitute a loss of credit for this course.*   

    Contacting Mrs. Vilarino:

    Parents or students who wish to contact Mrs. Vilarino are strongly encouraged to use his email address: vilarinoa@madisonnjps.org.  


    Students, my door is always open to you.  


Last Modified on August 27, 2019