English

Our English courses help students learn to read critically, think logically, and write and speak clearly. A strong foundation in vocabulary, grammar, and composition is built in the early years and reinforced by the study of words, concepts, and literary devices in context, particularly through close reading. Courses feature diverse authors and texts so students can fortify their understanding of themselves, others, and the universal human experience. In rich discussions, students engage with peers in joyful scholarly discourse. We ask students to engage in writing as a reflective, metacognitive process through creative pieces, formal expository essays, and personal responses written toward the goal of developing college-level writing skills. Peer evaluation and personal writing conferences with the instructor aid the development of authentic voice and style. 
  • English I

    English I: Literature of Self-Discovery
    The goal of English I is to meet students where they are and take them to where they need to be for success in high school English. The class is an upbeat and energetic one in which students actively engage with meaningful texts, both contemporary and classical, through collaborative projects, discussion, and traditional analytical writing. As they explore the assigned literature, students grapple with questions like, How do we coexist in a diverse world? How can we become the person we want to be? What are the limits of love? (paragraph 2 in the next cell)Coursework reinforces students' familiarity with basic elements of literary analysis and introduces them to more advanced analytical concepts, promoting strong critical thinking skills. Students expand their comfort with writing excellent paragraphs, advancing to the point of constructing coherent analytical and personal response essays. Study of vocabulary and grammar targets effective verbal and written communication. Coursework reinforces students' familiarity with basic elements of literary analysis and introduces them to more advanced analytical concepts, promoting strong critical thinking skills. Students expand their comfort with writing excellent paragraphs, advancing to the point of constructing coherent analytical and personal response essays. Study of vocabulary and grammar targets effective verbal and written communication.
  • English II

    English II: Humanity and the Literary Landscape
    This course introduces students to a wide range of short stories, plays, poems, essays and novels as a way of approaching essential human questions about life, its meaning and its limits. Along the way, students practice the reading, writing and discussion strategies that will serve as a foundation for their high school English scholarship. Students practice reading closely and annotating densely, then collaborate with classmates during Harkness discussions to build nuanced understandings of each text. Students also explore readings through analytical writing, whether informally - in journals and online discussion boards - or in formal essays. As students become familiar with a growing range of literary devices and styles, creative writing assignments enable them to practice telling their own stories with power and precision. Throughout the year, students progress through a curriculum of grammar and vocabulary, and give periodic oral presentations and speeches. In the Spring, students write a culminating research paper on a topic of their choice. Course texts for the 2020/2021 academic year include William Shakespeare’s Othello, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, Tobias Wolff’s Old School, Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak!, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Elie Wiesel’s Night, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.
  • English III

    English III: The Power of Story
    What is the power of one person’s story? What is the danger of a single story? What makes a story timeless? These are some of the questions posed in English III, a literature-based course designed to help students improve their reading, writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills. Students read novels, essays, plays, and poetry--many of which align with themes in World History II, and all of which wield transformative power. From the true story of twin El Salvadoran brothers seeking a life of possibilities in the U.S, to a tale of colonization from the point of view of the colonized, to a Shakespearean play about tyranny and greed, these stories provide multitudinous perspectives. Students also craft their own meaningful and reflective story as they write and deliver their Sophomore Speech—a York tradition celebrated by our supportive community. Within this framework of “the power of story,” students will continue to strengthen their skills as close readers, deep thinkers, perceptive writers, and articulate presenters. They will engage in regular “writing to learn” activities such as quick writes, journal entries, and online forum responses to literature, while also writing process-based essays. They will work collaboratively on projects, presentations, and peer responses to one another’s writing. Students will meet with the teacher for individual writing conferences to discuss their writing strengths and needs. In order to further develop their writing fluency, students will participate in regular vocabulary and grammar study. Finally, they will continue to develop their analytical and speaking skills in diverse modes, including whole-class discussions, smaller discussion circles, small-group and individual presentations, and the Sophomore Speech.
  • English IV: American Experience

    English IV: The Individual versus American Society
    Over the course of English IV, we will study a wide array of literary texts about “the American experience”; the meaning of that phrase will be clearer as our year together progresses. Our carefully selected texts not only provide great insights about life in America; they also provide a wide-variety of examples of literary devices and rhetorical strategies. One of the reasons that we read great texts and great writers is that our reading fortifies our own writing. By critically analyzing how our writers write, we will learn how to write better ourselves. And as we practice writing through essays and shorter writing assignments—including Padlet posts—we will strive to use feedback on our earlier writings to make the subsequent compositions stronger.
  • English V: Literature and Composition

    English V: Composition, Issues in Social Justice
    The primary goal of this semester course is to prepare students for college-level writing. We are writing now more than ever: emails, texts, tweets, blogs, posts—not to mention the more formal writing that college, graduate school, and professions demand. This course aims to help students become more confident and skilled, preparing them for this diverse world of writing. Engaging in writing as a reflective, metacognitive process, they discover answers to the questions “Who am I as a writer?” “What are my strengths?” “What skills need honing?” “What processes work best for me?” “Where do I want to push myself?” Students learn the core tenet of rhetoric: that each writing situation is a contextualized act with a particular audience and purpose, necessitating close consideration of the reader’s needs. The course is grounded in the theme of social justice, giving students ample opportunity to write about real-world issues. They practice in-depth research skills to create a web page and informational paper, followed by a formal presentation of their findings. Students then learn the art of persuasive writing as they write essays which require them to construct effective arguments, including the establishment of a clear purpose and the integration of opposing views. By the end of the semester, students should be confident in these broader abilities as well as the more granular skills of source citation, quotation integration, fluid syntax, and correct grammar. Students receive detailed feedback regarding their writing’s focus, support, organization, style, and mechanics and are encouraged to meet with their teacher for individual writing conferences throughout the semester.  
    One semester.

    English V, Contemporary Fiction: The New Storyteller. 
    The New Storyteller is a rigorous, semester, seminar-style class designed to push students to be more sophisticated literary critics, more powerful creative and analytical writers, and more mature and insightful participants in scholarly discussions. Through close readings of a range of innovative, contemporary fiction, the course seeks to enhance students’ ability to read and understand a variety of voices and to analyze plot structure, narrative themes, and use of language. In reading responses and formal papers, students will practice analytical and creative writing. They will use teacher comments, in-class writing workshops, and peer editing sessions to improve the clarity and power of their work through drafts. Finally, in many ways the cornerstone of the course will be class discussions, during which students will engage with peers in scholarly discourse. They will be encouraged to examine the material closely and draw on details from the text as well as personal experiences to formulate unique opinions. Students will practice articulating their opinions with reason, and be encouraged to amend or expand them when presented with compelling alternatives.
    One semester.
  • YAS English IV

    English IV: The Individual versus American Society
    Over the course of English IV, we will study a wide array of literary texts about “the American experience”; the meaning of that phrase will be clearer as our year together progresses. Our carefully selected texts not only provide great insights about life in America; they also provide a wide-variety of examples of literary devices and rhetorical strategies. One of the reasons that we read great texts and great writers is that our reading fortifies our own writing. By critically analyzing how our writers write, we will learn how to write better ourselves. And as we practice writing through essays and shorter writing assignments—including Padlet posts—we will strive to use feedback on our earlier writings to make the subsequent compositions stronger.
  • YAS Literature and Composition

    Students enrolled in York Advanced Studies: Literature and Composition are provided opportunities to read, think, and write critically as well as to develop listening skills and one’s authentic voice. The course centers on two essential questions: How do we evaluate literature? How can literature help us better understand ourselves, others, and the universal human experience? Readings feature fiction, drama, poetry, and short stories as well as published critical responses from international writers in different eras and genres. To enhance their understanding of literary works, students analyze the interplay between the substance of texts and the author’s style. In seminar style, students engage in discussions and presentations. Both formal expository essays as well as personal responses are written and revised toward the goal of developing college-level writing skills. Peer evaluation and personal writing conferences with the instructor aid the development of authentic voice and style.

Faculty

  • Photo of Jennifer Berry
    Jennifer Berry
    English Dept. Chair
    Bio
  • Photo of Josh Bloom
    Josh Bloom
    Humanities
    Bio
  • Photo of Elijah Colby
    Elijah Colby
    English
    Bio
  • Photo of Sean Raymond
    Sean Raymond
    Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Tuition Assistance, English
    Bio
  • Photo of Joyce Sherry
    Joyce Sherry
    Dean of Students
    Bio

Curriculum

York School

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Since 1959, York School has created an exceptional college-prep experience for our youth: inspiring them to develop intellectual curiosity; challenging them to create and try new things; and preparing them to be passionate contributors in college and in life.