The High School English Program encourages students to read as writers and write as readers so that they come to recognize and appreciate both the art and the craft of verbal expression. Through careful, active reading and the respectful exchange of ideas in discussion our students come to understand rich texts, recognizing the intentional choices writers make-- from diction and syntax to patterns of allusion and figurative language--and appreciating how those choices create meaning. Influential literary works that span eras, genres, and cultures provide opportunities for a broad investigation of the human experience and the vast world of ideas. We want our students to become lifelong readers, who reach for a book both for pleasure and for their own edification, and so we encourage them to maintain a robust independent reading life beyond the classroom.
The High School English curriculum is designed to grow student proficiency and confidence in written expression. Students write frequently, both informally and formally, and practice all stages of the writing process, from pre-writing to drafting through to revision and publication. They learn to make intentional choices around precise diction and meaningful sentence variety in their own writing in order to express their ideas fluidly and effectively to a chosen audience. They become comfortable writing in various nonfiction modes (narrative, persuasive, descriptive, analytical, reflective), learning how to suit voice and formality to occasion; they also try their hands at writing fiction and poetry, thereby broadening the array of expressive options available to them as well as deepening their appreciation of the craft of writing. Students in every year undertake the systematic study of vocabulary and grammar as key components in the growth of effective writing skills.
Skills and attitudes taught in ninth grade English lay the foundation for the reading and thinking and writing required by High School and college. The course approaches the study of literature by genre, giving almost equal weight to novels, short stories, poetry, essays, and drama. Titles of specific texts may well vary from teacher to teacher, but all sections of ninth grade will acquire and practice the skills of annotation, analysis, discussion and composition that will help students establish themselves as sophisticated readers and thoughtful writers.
Representative works taught in ninth grade might include: The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros; excerpts from An American Childhood, Annie Dillard; An Enemy of the People, Arthur Miller; When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka; To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee; The Sonnets and Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare; Funny in Farsi, Firoozah Dumas; The Book Thief, Markus Zusak; short fiction, nonfiction and poetry (selection varies).
Literature and Composition II plays a pivotal role in the development of students on their journeys to become sophisticated readers, writers, and thinkers. Before students face the pressures inherent to college selection in upper grades, they have the opportunity to be steeped in literature and ideas within the safety of our classrooms. Students will be expected to write analytically and creatively, formally and informally. Developing as scholars means students will practice skills of annotation and close reading while adding to their personal canons of literary knowledge. It also means taking intellectual risks and honing the skills of revision and peer review as they take increasing ownership of their work.
Representative works taught in tenth grade might include: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald; Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi; Beloved, Toni Morrison; Othello, William Shakespeare; Frankenstein, Mary Shelley; short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (selection varies)
This college-level English course, open to eleventh graders, engages students in the task of becoming better readers of prose written in a variety of disciplines, during different eras, and within many rhetorical contexts. It also grooms students to become skilled writers who compose for a variety of purposes. Students will use their honed critical reading, thinking, and writing skills for a variety of purposes, including their best possible performance on the Advanced Placement Language and Composition Exam in the spring. Of utmost importance, this course is designed to raise students’ awareness of the interactions among a writer’s purpose/purposes, audience, occasion, subject, and techniques for communicating effectively. In other words, this course includes the study of rhetoric in conjunction with exposition, analysis, and argument in the writing of each student’s work and in that of other writers.
Representative works taught in eleventh grade might include: Maus, Art Spiegelman; The Crucible, Arthur Miller; 1984, George Orwell; Waiting for Snow in Havana, Carlos Eire; The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan; Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose; Hamlet, William Shakespeare; short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (selection varies).
This is a college-level course open to seniors. The central focus of the course is on how authors use the resources of language to express meaning in imaginative poetry and fiction. Class discussion might cover topics as diverse as close syntactical analysis of a single sentence, to a poet’s evocative use of allusion, to the role of hubris and catharsis in Shakespeare. Over and over, students are required to move beyond mere observation and to get to argument, to an assertion about why authorial choices matter. The daily work of the course prepares students both for the AP exam in May and for a lifetime of voracious independent reading.
Representative works taught in twelfth grade might include: Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison; Arcadia, Tom Stoppard; Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen; Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; The Color of Water, James McBride; A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry; The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien; Macbeth, William Shakespeare; short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (selection varies).