Communication skills are at the core of nearly every future endeavor. The goal of our English Department is to 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 and literary terms in context and by the process of writing and revising. Written assignments include analytical essays on literature as well as opportunities for self-expression in a variety of written forms that connect with the study of literary genres—poetry, the short story, the essay, the novel, and drama.
Our English classes explore literature from different eras, providing a platform to study the intersection of creative writing, non-fiction writing, and history. For example, while reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, students examine the historical and religious context of the American colonies as well as the conformity of the 1950s and the rise of McCarthyism. George Orwell’s 1984 offers literary insights into the world history class when students study totalitarianism and the rise of Stalin. Students who read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness work collaboratively in small groups on interdisciplinary projects that make connections between the novel’s themes and their other courses—Asian and World History, Economics, Psychology, Cinema, Advanced Latin, or Art History.
Students have many opportunities to develop speaking skills through informal class discussions as well as more formal presentations and debates. They are encouraged to present their opinions and to respect the opinions of others, not just in English class but across all subjects as well.
For many people, presenting a speech or even speaking in a group is an intimidating task. The 8th grade speech class provides students with skills for effective communication and with the tools to overcome fear of speaking in groups. The first unit focuses on techniques to ease this tension and to make presenting a speech a manageable, even enjoyable, process. From there, students hone their speech writing skills and increase their stage comfort and expressiveness through a variety of projects.As the course progresses, students present several small speeches, from short jokes to the introduction of classmates. They write and present three longer speeches of various styles (persuasive or informational, for example) ranging in length from four to ten minutes. Students receive detailed written feedback on each presentation and review video recordings of their speeches in tandem with the teacher. Between speeches, students engage in debate and practice expressive reading techniques, including presenting a memorized monologue or scene from Shakespeare. Theatre games help students to enhance nonverbal communication, develop their creativity and increase their stage comfort. Assessment is based on the individual student’s progress.
English I is a highly participatory course as the class explores texts through discussion, collaborative projects, and traditional analytical writing. Investigation of the assigned literature, which focuses on themes of coming of age and personal development, reinforces students’ familiarity with basic elements of literary analysis and introduces them to more advanced analytical concepts. Students learn to construct coherent analytical and personal response essays and to undertake creative writing in the form of short stories and play scripts. They expand their vocabulary, promoting effective verbal and written communication, and take on the study of grammar as a tool for effective communication.
The primary aim of English II is three-fold:
- to introduce students to common modes of literary analysis, with a particular emphasis on the formal elements of literature;
- to help students develop the confidence and wherewithal to interpret literary texts and to make clear arguments, both written and oral, utilizing their analysis of these texts;
- to introduce students to a variety of literary genres.
English III is designed to help students improve their writing, reading, speaking, and critical thinking skills, utilizing many oral and written forms. An understanding of how research material can shape and deliver argument is emphasized, specifically in research and speech projects. Students continue to develop their writing skills through quick-writes, journals, online forums/wikis/blogs, in-class timed essays, and formal compositions, which range from the personal essay to the critical analysis of literature. The writing process is emphasized through on-going writer’s workshops, peer-editing activities, and teacher conferences. Examination and study of literature includes full-length works of fiction, short stories, poetry, and drama. Additionally, students engage in regular vocabulary building exercises and the study of grammar. Development of both oral speaking skills and voice is emphasized through a mixture of activities, including traditional class discussions, smaller discussion circles, debates, dramatic readings, poetry recitals, presentations, a persuasive speech, the 20% Project, and Sophomore Speeches.
The general purpose of English IV is to develop the analytical skills that students will need in both more advanced English courses and other classes that require writing. American literature receives particular attention, since students are concurrently taking U.S. History, and the two courses compliment each other frequently. The reading requirements for the class are designed to familiarize students with the four basic literary genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Students spend a good deal of time developing writing skills, especially formal expository essays written and revised outside of class, and timed writing, usually in the form of essay exams. Peer evaluation is used frequently to help develop revision and editing skills.
The first semester is devoted to the study of 19th century American writers, particularly novels by Hawthorne, Melville,or Chopin, short stories by a variety of authors, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Writing assignments are primarily short analytical essays of about two pages in length and in class essay exams. Vocabulary quizzes (SAT format) are given once per cycle. Working in pairs, students teach a short story of their choosing to the class each semester.The second semester begins with drama as the central focus of study, with one modern American play being read in class. A unit on the personal essay, which students find helpful when writing college application essays, follows. Twentieth century American literature occupies the remainder of the year, with a continued focus on expository writing. Fitzgerald, Kesey, Jeffers, Sandburg, and the Beat poets are among the authors considered and opportunities for creative writing using the techniques of the authors studied (e.g. stream of consciousness, unreliable narrator, satire) are included as part of the writing component.
What is it that a potato farmer in Idaho, a retired baker in Florida, a computer engineer in California and a meat packer in Kansas have in common? Is there something that we share as Americans? Has the promise of America been available to all of its people? What beliefs have shaped the nation since its founding to the present day?
The general purpose of this year long, interdisciplinary course is to investigate the question of what are the values, assumptions and vision that binds us together as Americans. As literature (fiction, nonfiction and poetry) is both a reflection of the values of a society and one of the forces that shape them, it will be the major element of the course. In addition, there will be guest presentations on American visual arts (painting and film) and music. Some of the major themes which will serve as focal points during the course include immigration, the frontier, race, gender and ethnicity, dissent and religion.
In addition to essay exams, papers and quizzes, students will be required to contribute frequent on line forum posts as well as create a web page based on their U.S. History research paper
Composition: We are writing now more than ever: emails, texts, tweets, posts—not to mention the more formal writing that college, graduate school, and professions demand. Each scenario presents a different context and audience, different needs. And as you know, good writing isn’t just error-free. Good writing clarifies, informs, persuades, digs deep, elicits feeling in the reader. Good writing makes the reader want to keep reading.
In this course, we aim to help you become more confident and skilled as a writer, to prepare you for this diverse world of writing. You’ll discover answers to the questions “Who am I as a writer?” “What are my strengths?” “What skills need honing?” “Where do I want to push myself?” You will read, write, revise, discuss, respond to your classmates’ writing, revise and write some more. Some writing will be low stakes (non-graded “writing to learn”) and some will be “high stakes” (graded, end-of-process writing for an audience).
YAS English Literature further develops the analytical skills students have begun to acquire in previous English courses, focusing particular attention on close reading of the texts as well as the use of secondary sources. Since students have previously taken a course dealing predominantly with American writers, most of the authors studied will be non-American and will cover the four basic literary genres: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Both formal expository essays written and revised outside of class and timed essay writing are included, with a goal of developing college-level writing skills. Students find peer evaluation to be a great help in developing revision and editing skills.
The first semester begins with a brief review of summer reading followed by an examination of tragedy through the study of three representative plays and additional readings. Writing assignments are predominantly short essays of about two pages in length and in-class essays based on A.P. exam questions. Students develop their own definition of tragedy in a longer paper. The latter part of the first semester and much of the rest of the year focuses on the novel and the study of poetry. An interdisciplinary project connecting Heart of Darkness to one of the student’s other elective classes is a major part of the second quarter.
Emphasis is given to the sort of close reading and textual analysis required in college courses. Students read critical essays on each major work, write a précis, and present to the class a summary and evaluation of the essay read. Students also search online and library resources for materials to maintain a web page for the class.