English Department

The English Department seeks to prepare middle and high school students for high school, college and beyond by encouraging students to read for purpose, achieve a greater sophistication of writing and evolve as critical thinkers who contribute to society.

Middle School Overview

During the middle school years, we stress the importance of both academic and creative writing, literary exploration, reading comprehension, critical thinking, vocabulary development, and public speaking.

Upper School Overview

The Upper School English Curriculum offers a sequenced and comprehensive course of study in literature, composition, reading, grammar and language. Department courses focus on developing students’ strategies for understanding, interpreting, and evaluating texts through written and oral expression, and are designed to develop able and analytical readers and writers. Placement in an honors or advanced course requires departmental approval. 

Middle School English Classes

+ English 6 - Literature & Language Arts

Students are introduced to a sequenced approach to build reading, writing, vocabulary, speaking and listening skills. A literature textbook and supplemental texts including The Watsons Go to Birmingham, D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, and Alice in Wonderland, develop comprehension and literary analysis skills. Students analyze plot, character, and theme as they read a variety of genres: fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. They explore and gain greater mastery of the English language by reviewing the building blocks of language and applying these concepts to their own writing. Creative writing assignments include myth, short story, and poetry writing, while expository assignments focus on crafting strong paragraphs, news stories, and short essays.

+ English 7 - Literatire & Language Arts Introduction to the Literary Form

Using the Little Worlds short story anthology, seventh graders begin the year by reviewing and deepening their understanding of the literary elements. By close reading, annotation, interpretive questioning, and group discussion, they expand their ability to think critically, draw inferences, and use textual evidence to support their interpretations. Through a series of longer readings, including fiction and nonfiction, students explore the central theme “coming of age”. Literature includes The Diary of Anne Frank, Red Scarf Girl, A Christmas Carol, and The Miracle Worker. Following a review of basic grammar and usage, students work on developing greater sentence complexity, variety, and clarity and apply those skills to writing personal narratives, short stories, and three-paragraph essays.

+ English 8 - Foundations of Literatire

Eighth grade students delve into a wide range of classical and contemporary literary works, including an introduction to the poetry and plays of Shakespeare through A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students are asked to view literature through a historical lens and to relate their knowledge of ancient civilizations and world and American history to their reading of The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, and non-fiction accounts of the Salem witch trials. Following a writer’s workshop model, students refine their grammatical and writing skills and apply them to writing strong thesis statements, 5-paragraph analytical essays, and short story and personal narratives. Eighth graders move from workbook vocabulary development to the on-line, individualized-learning program Membean.

Upper School English Classes

+ English 9 - Introduction to Writing & Critical Reading

This course focuses on reading and writing a variety of texts, from personal narratives to academic essays that conform to MLA format. Students learn, re-learn and practice writing expressively while utilizing proper grammar and usage. They read an array of wonderful texts from Shakespeare to Salinger, and are exposed to poetry, fiction, and non-fiction texts. They read closely, developing their skills in reading comprehension and knowledge of vocabulary. Students also develop their skills in organizing, drafting, and revising a five-paragraph style, thesis-driven essay, as well as research papers and personal essays.

+ English 10 - Developing Readers & Writers

This course builds on the 9th grade curriculum as students continue to explore rich and challenging texts and sharpen skills. Grammar and sentence structure work continues, specifically as it relates to academic essays, which become longer and more sophisticated in the tenth grade. We continue to work on building vocabulary, in part because it helps prepare students for the SAT. The works selected for the curriculum are challenging yet engaging, including Sophocles’ Antigone and a perennial favorite, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There is a greater emphasis than in ninth grade on the historical context of such works, and students will also read and reflect on secondary sources such as literary criticism and book reviews.

+ English 11 - Survey of Americal Literature

Periodically merging with the History curriculum, the eleventh grade English curriculum studies the emerging American nation through works such as The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby and Their Eyes Were Watching God. Essays, short stories and poems from major American eras are introduced. Students analyze themes such as identity, morality, and the relationship of an individual with society. Continued work on critical writing and oral presentations will be instrumental in this course. Additionally, continued SAT preparation, preliminary work on resumes, and the college selection process will be woven into the curriculum with the assistance of the College Counselor.

+ English 12 - World Literature

After building a solid base in both classic and contemporary American Literature, twelfth grade students delve deeper into critical analysis. The texts, including Wide Sargasso Sea, Things Fall Apart and Hamlet, challenge students to stretch their intellects and re-evaluate their emotional responses to the human condition. Continued work on critical writing, including essays with primary sources, is central to this course.

+ English 12 - Advanced Literature

Open to qualified and approved twelfth grade students, this intensive course moves quickly through challenging texts such as To The Lighthouse, Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart, as it prepares students for the AP Literature exam. This class requires independent study in addition to class discussion and analysis. A challenging independent reading program requires students to read and review several assigned works outside of class throughout the year. Writing assignments are modeled after the AP testing format. All students taking this class are required to take the AP Literature exam in the spring. Instructor approval required

+ English 12 - Creative Writing & Magazine Design

Open to qualified and approved seniors, this course is presented in a workshop style classroom. The class will focus on creativity, authentic voice and the complete writing process. Focus will be on various types of writing including fiction, memoir, journalism pieces and personal essays. Students will write and share pieces while learning about constructive criticism. There will be a focus on magazine design throughout the various stages including editing, design use and publication. Students will have a staff position on the school’s magazine, Greenleaf. A commitment is required to finish the magazine during the second semester after the class ends.