Upper School Curriculum Guide for The Woodward School

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Upper School Curriculum
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The focus of the Upper School English curriculum is an exploration of rhetorical devices. At the beginning of the high school experience, students engage in learning by reading classical literature to build analytical reading and writing skills.  As they grow into upperclassmen and become leaders, students are pushed to examine diverse social questions, and defend evidence-based opinions.

Literature I: Introduction to Writing and Critical Thinking

This course focuses on broadening effective reading, writing, and critical thinking skills to better recognize and understand an author’s rhetorical purpose. Student writing includes MLA practice through a process of drafting and revising thesis-driven papers.

Literature II: Developing Writers and Thinkers

This course helps students to engage independently with a text’s thematic parts, sharpen written and verbal analysis and develop their own rhetorical expression. By combining their understanding of literary devices and critical thinking around context clues, students learn to decipher language and symbols on their own.

American Literature

By applying their understanding of rhetorical tools and literary elements, students analyze global themes of identity, morality, and community to evaluate the reciprocal nature of literature and society.

World Literature

The World Literature course is designed to explore the unique, comparative, or paradoxical nature of how similar themes are expressed in dissimilar environments. Students are encouraged to work in ways that incorporate their personal narratives into the global narrative. This includes crafting their college essays. Students practice evaluating expression through writing, presentation, and creation, often in collaborative spaces.

AP English Language & Composition

The AP English Language and Composition course aligns with the introductory college-level rhetoric and writing curriculum. This requires students to develop evidence-based analytical and argumentative essays that proceed through several stages or drafts. This rigorous course cultivates the rhetorical understanding and use of written language, through the reading of challenging fiction and non-fiction texts to decipher the author’s purpose. This course will deepen students’ knowledge of formal conventions of written language (e.g., vocabulary, diction, syntax, punctuation, and paragraphing.) Students are required to take the AP exam in May.

AP English Literature & Composition

This immersive course prepares students for the AP Literature exam by asking them to balance the standard Woodward literature curriculum with a blend of Western writing from the past six centuries. They will be asked to read and practice evaluating work independently, and to build familiarity with previously unseen content. Students will also gain a foundational understanding of analyzing poetry and prose at a college level. This class requires independent study, extensive reading, and active class discussion and analysis. Students are required to take the AP Literature exam in May.

Creative Writing Workshop

This course is a workshop-style class that will focus on the experience of writing as a creative activity, with an emphasis on the process of hearing and implementing feedback. Fictional techniques, such as methods of narration and descriptive style will be discussed. Students will work on revising pieces until they are of publishable quality and will be expected to offer presentations about these pieces publicly throughout the year. Students will take an active part in the creation of Greenleaf, Woodward’s literary and arts magazine.
The History Department focuses on geography, nation states, government and political institutions, societies and cultures.  They delve into analyzing primary and secondary documents, debating and comparing viewpoints, civic engagement, understanding bias, and connecting history to the present.

World History I: Global Perspectives

Students will discover the origins of world civilization through an exploration of global cultures, world religions, philosophy, geography, government, and technology and how these concepts influence events in our society today. Students will examine primary and secondary sources to evaluate perspective and bias, build research skills, and write thesis-driven historical analysis and argumentative papers.

World History II: Ancient Greece Through Colonialism

This course will examine the political, social and economic events of world history and how they have influenced the contemporary world. The class will begin with the study of the Ancient Greeks and their contribution to philosophy and government and will continue into the beginnings of European colonization of the Americas. Attention will also be given to the development of important civilizations in Africa and Asia, and major world events such as the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance. Extra focus is given to the development of critical thinking, historical research, and writing skills. The Pre-Founders’ History Paper is a course requirement.

United States History: Colonization to World War II

This course provides a comprehensive analysis of American history from the beginning of European colonization of the Americas up to the end of World War II. Students will begin to see how events in England shaped the lives of the early colonists and eventually led to the American Revolution. Students will then examine the early controversy over how to best govern the newly independent colonies. Students will gain an understanding of how America evolved from a small, isolationist nation to its eventual role as a superpower after the end of the Second World War. Extra focus is on Woodward’s History and the events that took place, the institutions involved, famous people, and social/cultural experiences of humanity throughout history. 

AP United States History

This course is an in-depth analysis of America from pre-colonial times to the present, with an emphasis on facts and concepts to prepare students for the AP US History exam. The course has a rigorous reading requirement, including assigned summer reading of the The American Pageant.  Students taking this class are required to take the AP US History exam in May.

Modern World History - The World Since World War II

This class covers the events of modern world history from the end of the Second World War up to the present day. Special focus will be given to issues facing the world today, with reflection on how those problems came to exist, through a global review of political, social and economic events since WWII. Students will write frequent papers on a wide variety of topics that require them to think critically and to come up with a defensible viewpoint on a variety of issues.

AP United States Government and Politics

This course offers an analytic, intensive study of the formal and informal structures and processes that shape the American political system. Students will conduct an in-depth investigation of the constitutional underpinnings of the U.S. government and the function of contemporary institutions of the national government. They will explore the formation and evolution of American political beliefs and behaviors and the mechanisms that allow citizens to organize, communicate their interests and concerns, and develop policy. The role of political parties, interest groups, and the mass media will be examined along with the development of individual rights and liberties and their impact on the lives of citizens. Students are required to take the AP United States Government and Politics exam in May.
The World Language Department closely follows the core concepts and guiding principles of The American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages. In language acquisition, the focus is on speaking, formal expression, and grammatical structure with an appreciation of literature in the original language.

French I

This course teaches elementary French vocabulary, grammar and expressions, and builds oral and written proficiency. In language acquisition, the focus is on speaking, grammatical structure and reading works of literature. Students learn about France, its people and the culture, along with other countries in the French-speaking world.

French II

This course is a continuation and development of the skills and studies of French. They continue to focus on the four major areas of language learning: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Students practice vocabulary and grammar, using everyday dialogues that reflect everyday situations.

French III

Students continue formal grammar and vocabulary study, learning most verb tenses and expanded vocabulary. The course will include reading, conversation and discussion of readings in French literature, current events publications, and the circumstances and cultures of today's French-speaking countries.

French IV

In French IV, students will combine the study and practice of advanced grammar with reading French literature. This class is conducted in French and includes works by Alexander Dumas, Jules Verne and Victor Hugo.

French V: Advanced Literature and Composition

The class focus will be on speaking and writing in French in a variety of subjects. Literature of each century from the Middle Ages to the present will be discussed and students will read  articles from current, authentic media publications. Evaluation of students’ work will occur through compositions, reading, comprehension, speaking skills, papers and projects.

Advanced Placement French Language and Culture (Instructor Permission Required)

AP French Language and Culture is equivalent to an intermediate level college course in French. Students cultivate their understanding of the French language and culture by applying interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication in real-life situations. They explore concepts related to family and communities, personal and public identities, beauty and aesthetics, science and technology, contemporary life, and global challenges. This course prepares students for the AP exam in May.

Spanish I

Basic vocabulary and grammar build oral and written proficiency which is the primary focus of this course. A cultural study of Spain and the Hispanic world is incorporated with various classroom discussions, presentations and readings. Students continue with additional practice and comprehension of vocabulary, grammar, and cultural information. An engaging learning environment is created to broaden the student’s explorations of the Spanish language and culture.

Spanish II

This course is a continuation and further development of the skills and studies of Spanish I with added emphasis on conversational practice. Students will also expand their skills in speaking, listening, reading, writing and cultural awareness. Students will be introduced to short stories and brief dramatic sketches by noted Hispanic authors. They will learn to appreciate Spanish literary works and are encouraged to continue with their study of Spanish.

Spanish III

The focus on strengthening grammar and linguists' skills allow students to gain further knowledge and confidence. Students develop skills to explore the complexities of grammar and syntax.  The class is conducted primarily in Spanish which allows students an ongoing proficiency in the language. Discussion of short stories, poetry and films are interpreted and examined, allowing students the opportunity for a deeper comprehension of the culture and societies of the Hispanic World.

Spanish IV

Global awareness through literature, poetry and art begins the fourth year of Spanish. How is the media truly depicting the various issues facing local and universal communities? Students explore how artists, poets and journalists have transmitted their ideologies about the US and misuse of government agencies. This course is conducted in Spanish.

Spanish V: Advanced Composition and Reading

Literary works from the Spanish Golden Age are read, discussed and compared to the history that aligns the author’s point of view. Was the Spanish Inquisition the driving force behind Miguel de Cervantes’s epic novel, Don Quijote de la Mancha or was it strictly a satirical documentation? Who was Dulcinea and the secondary role women played in society? Students examine the novel and strengthen their knowledge of the Middle Ages incorporating chivalry from the Spanish Armada to daily classroom discussions. Students exchange views about the art of El Greco and Francisco Velazquez and its depiction of this literary period. This course is conducted in Spanish.

A Survey of Eastern Cultures

Conducted in English, this course is designed to offer students an overview of Eastern culture in Asia and the Middle East through media, film, art, fashion, music, and food as well as native guest speakers. Students will learn about the intermingling of certain local languages, and cultures and will be able to compare and contrast Eastern and Western cultural practices. Students will engage in research and class presentations. This course is a trimester length elective class; while this course will count toward a student’s total credit requirements, it may not be applied toward the requirement to study 3 years of the same world or classical language in the Upper School.

Exploring French and Francophone Cultures (Upper School Elective)

This course, conducted in English, is designed to introduce students to the many facets of French culture in France and the French-speaking world through media, film, art, fashion, music, and food. Students will also learn about French colonization and the spread of the French language and culture in various parts of the world such as Africa, North America (Canada and Louisiana), and Asia (Vietnam), and the emergence of French-Creole. Students will engage in research and class presentations. This course is a trimester length elective class; while this course will count toward a student’s total credit requirements, it may not be applied toward the requirement to study 3 years of the same world or classical language in the Upper School.

Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture

Language and Culture is equivalent to an intermediate level college course. Students cultivate their understanding of the Spanish language and culture using interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication in real-life situations. They explore concepts related to family, communities, personal and public identities, aesthetics, science and technology, contemporary life, and global challenges. This course prepares students for the AP exam in May.

A Survey of French and Italian Cinema (Upper School Elective)

This course is conducted in English, and films are screened with English subtitles. It is designed to introduce students to the evolution of French and Italian cinema from its origins in the late nineteenth century to the present day, Students learn about the history of film production, exhibition, reception, and aesthetics chronologically as they watch popular films alongside classic films, and question what differentiates these from each other, and from American movies. Students gain insight into French and Italian society and culture through the material context of the movies. This course will be instructed by the World Language Faculty. This course is a trimester length elective class; while this course will count toward a student’s total credit requirements, it may not be applied toward the requirement to study 3 years of the same world or classical language in the Upper School.

Latin and Classical Studies

Through the traditional learning of Latin and the formal study of Rhetoric and Classics, students develop a mastery of writing clearly, and speaking with conviction and impact. It should be noted that Latin not only fulfills the language requirements for college, but there is significant documentation that Latin students earn higher verbal scores in standardized tests, and the discipline and cognitive skills that they develop in Latin, spill over into many other subject areas.

Latin I

This course is suitable for Upper School students who have not completed the Middle School Latin curriculum. Students in this fast-paced course will work through Jenney’s First Year Latin, while building a fundamental knowledge of Roman history and culture. In this comprehensive introduction to the Latin language, students will learn its unique grammar principles and develop a better understanding of English grammar through constant comparison and examples. In every class, students will uncover religious, legal, governmental, scientific, engineering and social concepts of the Roman people, many of which have shaped our own.

Latin II

Latin II is an in-depth study of Julius Caesar’s Commentarii De Bello Gallico. As students prepare translations and sight-read significant selections from this work, they will further advance their language and classical knowledge. The class will contextualize this piece  examining the military, religious, political and social mores of the people of first century B.C. Rome.

Latin III

In Latin III students increase their vocabulary by reading Martial and Pliny the Younger. Students will study the elements of oratory and rhetoric for a fuller appreciation of Cicero and public speaking.

Latin IV

This traditional Latin poetry class begins with an introduction to meter and figures of speech in works of various Roman poets such as Catullus, Ovid, Martial, and Horace. Following this introduction, students will be prepared to translate passages of the Roman epic poem, Vergil’s Aeneid. Students will learn to recognize and appreciate literary devices in this work and to acquire expertise in scanning dactylic hexameters. At the same time, the class will discuss relevant history and culture to contextualize the poetry.

Latin V – Honors (Prerequisites Latin I – IV)

This course will be offered, depending upon the readiness and demand of students. Latin V is a prose course teaching advanced vocabulary and morphology through various works and passages. Students will translate Roman philosophy, history and other prose forms at a more demanding pace and in greater depth than in the previous study of the prose of Caesar, Livy and Cicero in Latin II and III.

Advanced Placement Latin (Prerequisites Latin I - IV)

This course will be offered depending upon the readiness and demand of the students. The course will follow the AP curriculum. Students are required to take the AP Exam in May.
International students studying at Woodward receive English language learning instruction and support for their classwork in English, throughout their years at Woodward. During the admissions process, students are evaluated for speaking, listening and reading comprehension, and writing in English, using a variety of assessments for each category. Students are placed in appropriate English instruction for their assessed skill levels, while also immersed in mainstream classes. Teachers work with evolving accommodations for developing English language skills. Students undergo annual written and oral assessment to ensure targeted language learning support to continue developing the skills necessary to advance their acquisition of the English language. The goal of the curriculum is student success in secondary school academic classwork in English, and to prepare for college level classwork success in English after graduation.
A firm foundation in conceptual mathematics and problem solving are essential for students to be successful in today’s complex and increasingly technological society. The Upper School mathematics curriculum is designed to provide students with opportunities to develop skills, gain understanding of concepts and processes, and to apply these skills to real world situations. The TI-Nspire II CAS graphing calculator is required as students develop increased understanding and use of current technology and explore more complex mathematical ideas.
Four years of mathematics is required for graduation. The chart below indicates possible student progressions through the Upper School Mathematics curriculum.
9th  10th Algebra 1  Geometry
Geometry  Algebra 2
11th Algebra 2
12th Pre-Calculus or Statistics
AP Calculus or Statistics

Algebra I

In Algebra 1 students solve multi-step equations and inequalities, graphing functions, and performing operations with polynomials. Reasoning and making mathematical connections are emphasized as well as applying their knowledge to real world situations.

(Prerequisite: Algebra I) This course begins by defining geometric terms of point, line and plane. Students will be introduced to reasoning and proofs, and study the relationships of parallel, perpendicular lines, triangles, quadrilaterals and polygons. Students will study right triangles and trigonometric functions and analyze surface area and volume of geometric shapes.

Algebra II (Prerequisite: Algebra I)

The content of Algebra II is presented by studying methods and graphing families of functions: quadratic, rational, and radical. Also included in the content is solving these functions, extending the real number system to include imaginary numbers, solving systems of equations, radical equations, rational equations and exponential equations. Application problems will be explored to connect the real world to the mathematical topics being studied.

Precalculus (Prerequisites: Geometry, Algebra I, Algebra II)

Precalculus students will review linear and quadratic functions, their equations, their graphs and methods of solving these functions. Then, students will explore other functions such as polynomial, rational, logarithmic and exponential functions and their graphs, and trigonometry. This course will teach students to use higher-order thinking skills to evaluate, solve and communicate the results of complex problems.

Statistics (Prerequisites: Geometry, Algebra I, Algebra II)

This course covers a general understanding of the applications of Statistics beginning with the organization of data and moving through hypothesis testing. Topics discussed are measures of central tendencies, averages and variations, correlation and regression, binomial probability, normal curves and sampling distributions. Principles of finance will also be explored to give the students the opportunity to study vocational opportunities, money management and saving for the future. Calculations for this course will be accomplished using Excel spreadsheets and graphing calculators.

Advanced Placement Calculus (Prerequisite: Precalculus)

This course allows students to build on the learning in earlier math courses and expand their knowledge to more advanced mathematics. Students will be challenged to find mathematical connections and apply calculus concepts to the real world. This class prepares students to take the AP Calculus exam. The curriculum follows the designated curriculum of the College Board. Limits, derivatives, integrals and their applications will be studied. All students are required to take the AP examination in May.
Through a general course of study, upper school students prepare for success in college science and health studies programs. Students learn to view the world through the lens of scientific inquiry methods to analyze information and apply it to decisions that they will make about their immediate and global communities. Four years of science are required for all Upper School students, two of which must be the lab sciences, Biology and Chemistry. Participation in the Science Fair is required for grades 9 and 10.


Biology is a laboratory-based science course. Students study molecular biology, ecology, cell biology, genetics, evolution, microorganisms, plants, invertebrate and vertebrate animals. The goal of this course is to give students a deeper understanding of biological principles and processes to prepare them for further study in the field.


Chemistry is a laboratory-based course. Students review the metric system and unit conversions. They study the nature of matter, chemical symbols, formation and naming of compounds, percent composition, mass-mass problems, chemical equations, stoichiometry, atomic structure, the periodic table, ideal gas laws, pH, acids, bases,and salts. Students discuss current events in chemistry such as chemical disasters and the effect of toxins in the environment.

Environmental Science

This laboratory-based science course focuses on ecology and how people’s actions can affect the environment. Students study earth systems and resources; soil and soil dynamics; ecosystem structure, diversity, and change; human population dynamics and impacts of population growth on the environment; land and water use; energy consumption; pollution and climate change.

Anatomy & Physiology

Anatomy & Physiology is the study of the structure and function of the human body. Students will study the following systems: integumentary, skeletal, muscular, digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, urinary and reproductive. Physiology labs and the dissection of a fetal pig are integral to this course.


Physics is a laboratory course based on classical Newtonian Physics. Topics include the laws of motion, work and energy, momentum, gravitation, fluid mechanics, heat, thermodynamics, vibrations, sound, light and electricity.

AP Biology

This course prepares students for the AP Biology exam through advanced study of topics in biochemistry, cell structure and function, cellular energetics, cell cycle, heredity & gene expression. Also studied are skills in science practices, such as graphic modeling, data collection & analysis, evaluation, regulation, natural selection, and ecology. Students investigate these topics through the lens of eight commonly taught units and the required AP labs. All students are required to take the AP Biology exam in May.
Students will gain a thorough knowledge and understanding of computing and technology through an exploration of computer usage, coding & programming. Students will further their knowledge and craft by focusing on specific disciplines, using a variety of technology platforms.

Coding & Programming: Robotics, Engineering, & Swift

This course promotes basic and intermediate understanding of coding and programming through various engineering platforms. Students learn Swift, a common application coding language that is used in iOS, MacOS, tvOS, and iPadOS devices. Students will explore, expand, and develop an in-depth understanding of coding conventions, such as variable definitions, input/output methods, operators, if/then conditionals, loops, and functions. Moreover, students will explore programming through robotics and the use of Sphero — understanding object- oriented programming through task management. Lastly, students will explore Arduino, an open-source platform used for building electronics projects, to program a circuit board using an IDE on a computer. Completion of this course will provide students with the framework to create their own applications within Apple’s ecosystem.

Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Principles (Grades 11 & 12)

AP Computer Science Principles is an introductory college-level computing course that
introduces students to the breadth of the field of computer science. Students learn to
design and evaluate solutions and to apply computer science to solve problems
through the development of algorithms and programs. They incorporate abstraction
into programs and use data to discover new knowledge. Students also explain how
computing innovations and computing systems work, including the internet. The class
will explore the potential impacts of technology and contribute to a computing culture
that is collaborative and ethical.
“One’s ability to think critically starts with recognition, the ability to see.” -John Berger.
The Visual Arts are a core component of Woodward’s academic program. By helping students construct a solid base in painting and drawing, we train potential artists; but also give students tools to see their worlds in a different way. The sciences teach us to explore and analyze the physical world around us; math encompasses quantitative thinking; religion and philosophy expand our views of interior life; art presents a material language. In a world of mass-produced objects and remote technology, it teaches the lessons of human expression and the handmade.

Foundations of Visual Design

Foundations of Visual Design is a course designed to engage students with visual arts and design through the lens of photography, film and drawing. In the course we will be studying the elements and principles of design by learning how to look; how to turn an idea into an image, how to make a narrative flow. Class time will be divided between the Art Studio and the Digital Media Lab with team teaching, where students will work in both analog and digital mediums simultaneously. Composition, color, space will be taught through traditional painting and drawing mediums as well as the basic and intermediate usage suite of applications available on Adobe Creative Cloud, including Adobe Photoshop CC, In-Design CC, and Adobe Illustrator. Students in this class may earn a required credit for Art or for Computer Science through successful completion of this class.

Drawing and Painting I

This course will cover fundamental skills and techniques in drawing and painting, with an emphasis on working from observation. Lessons will include working from still life, skeletons, portraiture and landscape; we will be covering linear perspective, basic color theory and human anatomy. Mediums will include charcoal, ink, pastel, watercolor and acrylic. Students will study both classic and contemporary examples of artists working in 2-dimensional media.

Drawing and Painting ll (Prerequisite: Painting 1)

This course builds on the foundations covered in Drawing and Painting 1, working on expanding and refining their observational technique and developing personal subject matter. Students will be introduced to abstraction and research artists and their work.

Advanced Art Studio I – Grades 11 & 12 (Permission of instructor required)

Advanced art studio is for serious, self -motivated students and the lessons will be adapted to the interest of each student depending on her skills. Through longer studio projects and more elaborate sketchbook assignments, students will learn the expectations of college level work. Students should be independently directed and committed to developing multiple series based on their chosen media and concept to create a cohesive body of work. Regular group and individual critiques will introduce students to language used to analyze their own and peer work.

Advanced Art Studio II (Permission of instructor required)

Advanced Art Studio ll is an intensive senior level course aimed at preparing students to submit a portfolio to college art and design programs. Advanced Art ll is for highly motivated students who are seriously interested in the study of art; the program demands a significant commitment. Students will be expected to work in the studio beyond scheduled class time and to continuously maintain a sketchbook or journal. Regular group and individual critiques will enable students to analyze their own and each other’s work.