Upper School English Department Course Descriptions
Ninth grade English is an introduction to the basic forms of literature and the art of storytelling. We begin with the memoir, The Glass Castle, and then move to other literary forms including the short story, the epic (Odyssey), the novel (The Catcher in the Rye), poetry, and Shakespearean drama (Romeo and Juliet). Students learn skills to help them unlock meaning in their reading as well as develop a greater understanding of the effective use of language. They practice the craft of writing in analytic papers about literature, and work on their own personal and creative writing. Vocabulary and grammar skills are reinforced both in their writing and in separate exercises.
Tenth grade English is a continuation of many of the basic skills involved in reading literature and in writing. The literature is arranged thematically, focusing on such themes as good and evil, the quest, and race. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is the summer reading, and other major works include Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Othello. Students work on such skills as learning to integrate quotes effectively in their writing and balancing support and analysis in their writing. They are also introduced to the PSAT in the fall with sample exercises and work on vocabulary that continues during the year.
Eleventh grade English is a study of American literature and culture, beginning with the more contemporary The Things They Carried
, and then moving chronologically from the Puritans to twentieth century poetry and stories. Major works include The Scarlet Letter
, The Great Gatsby
, and Death of a Salesman
. Students work on writing a strong comparative essay as well as continue with the reading and writing skills begun in ninth grade. The year ends with a unit on the memoir, which helps students prepare for the autobiographical writing they will do on their college essays. They read a literary memoir, and do shorter writing exercises that culminate in their own memoir sketches.
Twelfth grade English gives students the opportunity for close reading of challenging literature along with study of cultural movements that affect literature. They begin with Daisy Miller
by Henry James, read stories and essays by twentieth century writers, study Hamlet
, and end with a unit on modernism. Modernism gives students the opportunity to consider how literature connects with philosophy, culture, and history. For example, students study how modernist art helps enrich our understanding of the literature as we learn about surrealism, dadaism, and cubism. Authors include Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, and Sartre. Students continue their work on analytic writing as well as have opportunities for some creative writing.
English Department Electives
Writers Workshop (Grades 11 or 12)
These are two separate trimester-long courses for juniors and seniors that give students the opportunity for intensive work on writing skills. The first trimester helps students with techniques for writing an effective college essay, reinforces skills on use of diction and organization, and development of ideas. There are also opportunities for creative writing. The second trimester class may be taken without the first trimester class, and again focuses on general writing skills as well as personal and creative writing. Much of the class is centered on peer review of writing.
AP Literature and Composition (Grade 12)
AP Literature and Composition is a college level English course, offered as an elective that focuses on intensive work in close reading. Other than the summer reading, Pride and Prejudice, the reading for this class consists mainly of short works of fiction and poetry. Readings include stories from Dubliners, classic carpe diem poems, Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and contemporary poems. Students prepare for the AP exam by learning skills for taking the impromptus that are a major part of the exam. They also work independently on an in-depth study of one major writer. The final project is a longer paper on their writer.