English 12 Summer Assignments

Seniors at all levels (College Prep, Honors, and AP):


Please answer one of the following Common Application essay prompts in an essay that will be due the first day of school. This essay should be 650 words or fewer.


Even if you not plan to attend college next year, you are still required to complete this assignment - just think of this as a personal reflection essay!


1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.



2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?



3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?



4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.



5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.



Here are some helpful (free!) resources:


Your will be graded on the following criteria, which will add up to 50 points:

  • Does the essay clearly and thoroughly answer the prompt?

  • Does the essay reveal something interesting, exciting, enlightening, etc. about its author?

  • Is the essay generally free of grammar and spelling errors?




English 12 Honors Summer Assignment

The senior assignment and book review essay


Book review essay - Due to alex.chan@shrsd.org by July 31st


Please choose one of the following nonfiction books. Amazon links are provided for preview purposes; it is not required that you buy any of these. You may borrow the book from a library/friend or rent it from any number of online services.


(Parentheses describe the themes/topics discussed in each book)

*Starred books contain mature themes and/or language



Then, write a book review in the form of a well developed essay that assesses how effectively the book explains its topic or theme to a mainstream audience (i.e. not experts). Include:

  1. An engaging hook that discusses your book’s topic or theme in general

  2. A thesis statement that explains how the book addresses this topic/theme and how effectively the book handles its topic/theme (What does the book teach, how effectively does it teach this, etc)

  3. 3-4 body paragraphs that use specific evidence (i.e. quotations) from the book to support your thesis

  4. A conclusion that summarizes your main points and leaves the reader with a final verdict.


Please review the MLA formatting guidelines. Essays that contain any uncited outside information will receive a zero.


Here is the rubric that I will use to grade this essay.  This essay must be emailed to alex.chan@shrsd.org by July 31st. Late essays will be subject to a 10% penalty per day (including weekends).




AP Literature and Composition Summer Reading

The senior assignment and both of the following:

Othello by William Shakespeare

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller



#1 - Othello essay - Due to alex.chan@shrsd.org by July 15th


Important note for Othello: Please make sure to pick up a professionally edited/annotated edition of Othello. Do not try to read a plain-text edition of the book that lacks footnotes, annotations, essays, and/or historical/biographical information. Try to get a “Critical Edition” or something similar for the most comprehensive reading experience. As an added bonus, you may use the aforementioned supplementary materials (footnotes, essays, etc) when writing your essay, provided that these sources are properly cited in your paper. The Oxford Othello, Bedford Othello, and Norton Othello would be good choices.


Write a 3-5 page essay that answers one of the following prompts. Use critical essays and other scholarly sources to develop and elucidate your arguments. You must use at least two sources (not including the play itself):

  • Who is the real protagonist of the play? Is Othello the story of a tragic hero or a treacherous villain? Please use the proper definitions for protagonist and antagonist!

  • Analyze the dysfunctional relationships in the play, including (but not limited to) husbands and wives, leaders and subordinates, and advisors and advisees.

  • Analyze how doubts and suspicions are planted in characters’ minds and how these ideas take hold over time.

  • How do the dual concepts of loyalty and betrayal both contribute to Othello’s downfall?

  • Both Othello and Macbeth feature tragic heroes, but each of the title characters’ fates are intertwined with those of their wives. Compare and contrast Desdemona and Lady Macbeth’s roles in Othello and Macbeth, respectively. You must cite Macbeth for this topic, but this means that it counts as one of your outside sources.



#2 - Catch-22 essay - Due to alex.chan@shrsd.org by August 15th


Choose a theme, symbol, or motif in Catch-22 and write a 3-5 page paper in which you analyze your topic’s importance in the novel. You may choose to make an argument about the purpose of your topic in the novel as a whole or explain how your topic develops over the course of the novel. As with your Othello paper, you will be required to use at least two outside sources (not including the novel itself).


Here are some ideas to get you started. Please let me know if you have other ideas that are not on this list.

  • Bureaucracy and/or hierarchy

  • Absurdity and/or paradox

  • Cycles, repetition, and/or the passage of time

  • Sanity/insanity (or rationality/irrationality)

  • The nature of the military and/or war

  • Heroism and/or cowardice

  • Loyalty and/or rebellion

  • Life and/or death

  • Men and/or women (or masculinity/femininity)

  • Love and/or passion




Essay writing reminders:

  • Have a clear, specific, arguable thesis

  • Avoid plot summary, but be sure to provide adequate context for quotations

  • Thoroughly explain why your evidence (i.e. your quotations) prove your thesis

  • Review the MLA formatting guidelines

  • Please use scholarly/academic/professional sources. Essays with any amount of uncited outside material will receive a zero. Here are some resources that are available to you as South Hunterdon students:

  1. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online:

    1. Go to http://www.hclibrary.us/eresources/eresources.htm

    2. Scroll down to Bloom’s Literary Reference Online and click on the blue H

    3. Type in 0834123456 for the card number

  2. Google Scholar (look for the free PDF links on the right to find the goods)

  3. Gale Student Research Database (username: SHRHS, pw: password)

  4. EBSCO (username: S8694215, pw: password).  

  5. Gale & Infobase eBook Collection (username: shrhs, pw: ebook)


Pay close attention to the essay prompts and due dates. You must email your essay to alex.chan@shrsd.org by the specified due date. Late essays will be subject to a 10% penalty per day (including weekends).


Here is the rubric that I will use to grade your essays.