So you want to take… ERWC?


Wren Bulawin

Unlike traditional English classes, ERWC places emphasis on analyzing heavily-debated topics and encouraging discussion. Students will analyze a variety of non-fiction texts on both sides of a subject, and learn to form their own opinions through personal writing.

Wren Bulawin, Open Canvas Manager, Assistant Features Editor

Picture the words “English class,” and the first things that likely come to mind are long, philosophical classics, confusing Shakespearian literature, and thousands of formal essays, each formatted down to the margins to meet MLA standards. But where an average literature class would be reading Frankenstein, students in ERWC find themselves passionately debating over juvenile justice and analyzing morally-ambiguous trials from the previous decade; and where the typical English student is bound to rigid, five-paragraph analysis papers, ERWC students weave first-person pronouns into personal discussions of moral codes. 

As one of the three English classes specifically available for seniors at Ayala, ERWC, short for Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum, is a college-preparatory (CP) course that focuses fully on contemporary themes and creative writing rather than analyzing classical literature and proper prose. Designed to “prepare college-bound seniors for the literacy demands of higher education,” ERWC students spend the year analyzing the rhetorical strategies used within non-fiction texts such as editorials, newspaper articles, and even excerpts of biographies. With no distinction between CP and Honors, this course is accessible to all seniors provided they have taken an English 11 course, and counts towards the final English credit required for graduation. Additionally, seniors who pass the year-long class with a “C” or above will be exempt from taking the English Placement Test before attending a California State University (CSU) campus, allowing them to jump straight into a college-level English course during their first year. 

So what makes ERWC stand out from the other two senior English classes? Aside from its focus away from classical disciplinary analysis, the course’s main appeal is the curriculum’s relative ease. Current seniors taking the class, as well as Ayala alumni, generally rate the class a one out of ten in difficulty due to its light, simple workload and easy-going class atmosphere. 

“The work is very logical, so we’re not being asked [for] too much. And if you pay attention, then it’ll be a one [out of ten],” said senior and current ERWC student Gabriel Senoren.

“[Any] homework you get was if you didn’t finish your classwork…and we all mostly got our work done since it was so simple,” added alumni and previous ERWC student Trinity Philips (‘22). 

ERWC’s curriculum focuses on forming opinions and analyzing different views on heavily-debated topics ranging from the value of life to what is considered morally “good” or “bad.” Rather than assigning books to read, ERWC encourages critical thinking, debate, and self-driven learning by presenting students with real-world, morally-gray situations to solve.

“There [isn’t] a lot of reading books,” said Philips. “[The class] is more [focused on] opinions than facts, getting you ready for college and what you want to do with your life, [and] helping with critical thinking.” 

However, some students have mixed feelings about how ERWC is marketed to incoming seniors. While advertised as a “creative writing” class, much of the “creative” writing done within ERWC refers more towards personal, free-form writing. Additionally, most assignments involve reading, analyzing, and responding to works rather than creating new ones, which may come as a disappointment to those hoping for a class focused on world-building and narrative writing.

“We don’t really do [creative] writing,” said senior and current ERWC student Jenny Shi. “It’s not really a creative writing class, it’s more like a reading class.”

On the other hand, some students enjoy the flexibility the course offers when it comes to essays and free-writes. To them, the class provides a chance to write without being bound to the strict rules and expectations of formal English discipline. 

“We have a lot of opportunities to write essays in our own voice instead of having to follow a rubric or what the grader wants to hear, [un]like the AP classes,” said current student and senior Gabriel Winandar. “Right now, we are learning how to be more in-depth with our writing, and how to write with more detail and more creativity.” 

In terms of class atmosphere, ERWC seems to be one of the more laid-back classes on campus. Whenever possible, ERWC teacher Ms. Elaine Maxwell aims to provide seniors with the guidance and resources they need to succeed in life, while also aiming to build a friendly, casual atmosphere within the classroom. The class even schedules an entire unit near the beginning of the year to focus entirely on college applications, where Ms. Maxwell actively offers seniors advice on their personal insight and supplemental essays.

“[Although] she was gone a lot [during] my year since she had a lot of things going on, you could truly see she cared for us and wanted us to pass,” said Philips. “She always made sure things were good and we understood what was going on. She also loved making jokes with us, trying to have connections with students.”

“She treats us like adults, [like] equals,” added Shi.  

Although the class environment may not be as academically challenging compared to other options, ERWC provides a nice balance between work and relaxation, and may serve as a much-needed break in the schedules of busy seniors. Additionally, those looking for an English class that focuses more on application-based writing and less on traditional literary analysis may also find this course as an enjoyable alternative. 

“[I would recommend this class to] people who don’t like to read a lot of books but don’t want to be stuck in a CP busy-work type [of] environment, and those who enjoy writing and enjoy being able to argue for their opinions,” said Winandar. 

Whether it be filled to the brim with AP classes or tailored to be as laid-back as possible, ERWC fits perfectly into any upcoming senior’s schedule—and with its refreshing change of pace amidst the chaos of senior year, as well as a supportive, open-minded classroom community, any senior can benefit from taking this easy-going, chill course. 

“I am happy I picked this class to be honest, because it was fun and something I actually enjoyed,” said Philips. “It’s a bit more laid-back and something we can all either relate to or have interest in.”