The English department's mission is to promote facility with the English language and students' appreciation of the rich traditions of English literature.
Reading and Writing
Within our comprehensive literacy program, we draw upon research-based practices based in current research on how best to teach young readers and writers. Children develop the foundational skills as well as the more sophisticated skills, strategies, attitudes, and behaviors that are the underpinnings for their development into highly proficient and passionate readers and writers. Our students are immersed in rich and diverse reading and writing experiences so that literacy learning is integrated into the curriculum throughout their day, allowing them to learn key literacy skills within a meaningful context of the social studies and science topics they are studying. Reading and writing are also taught explicitly within structures such as Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, phonics instruction, read aloud and word study.
We regard children as writers from the time they step into the prekindergarten classrooms of our lower school. They are writers who tell stories that are both imaginative and true, composing wordless stories told across multiple pages through their own drawings. From Kindergarten through fourth grade, teachers utilize the practice of Writing Workshop to explicitly teach children the strategies, skills, and behaviors that are necessary in becoming proficient writers. Lower school children write in multiple genres and for a variety of audiences, with a focus on writing personal narratives, informational pieces, poems, persuasive speeches, opinion pieces, and fairy tales.
English and History - Comprehensive overview of language and culture
In Middle School, students begin to master writing and literature comprehension skills alongside the study of world cultures. With teachers’ guidance, students analyze texts, begin learning about the literature essay, and do related projects. Early Middle School is a time to begin learning the conventions of formal English.
In seventh and eighth grades, students continue to strengthen grammar, notetaking, and writing skills through their own writing and through reading literature. By studying the basic elements of the novel, drama, and poetry, they practice deciphering and using figurative language and using proper essay structure. They also learn to refine and organize paragraphs while building vocabulary. Using correct grammatical, punctuation, and sentence structures, students learn to edit for clarity, accuracy, and purpose in writing.
Literary analysis, composition and choice electives
The English Department’s goal is to foster analytic reading and writing. Students read many varied and rigorous texts, ranging from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century and from all continents. Students learn the skill of writing a critical essay, and recent papers have included topics such as a discussion of whether Polonius in Hamlet is a good or a bad father or an analysis of who the main character is in Toni Morrison’s Sula. Creative writing assignments might involve imitating Virginia Woolf’s stream of consciousness style or creating a Facebook page for Holden Caulfield.
Students work both collaboratively and independently to derive meaning from assigned texts and to understand historical and literary context. Poetry, drama, essays, and novels are all assigned texts. Classes are based on the seminar model, and students practice discussing literature in large and small groups.
Assignments include formal essays, creative writing, and projects that often have a visual component. Students may have a choice of topics.
Senior English consists of semester electives, which are also open to underclass students who wish to double up in English. Some seniors choose to take two English electives at the same time. Topics include such themes as World Literature, Shakespeare, The Art of Memoir, and Women’s Literature.
English 9: Explorations of Genre
This course consists of an introduction to literature by means of an examination of genres: students study literature through an introduction to the formal features of fiction, drama, short story, poetry, and memoir. Texts in the first semester are selected to provide clear examples of fiction and memoir. Readings include such works as The Catcher in the Rye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In the second semester we explore more classical texts such as Shakespearean drama (Romeo & Juliet) and Greek tragedy (Antigone). We end the year with magical realism by reading the global novel The Life of Pi. The ninth-grade skills sequence extends the eighth-grade emphasis on mechanics and paragraphing to include more ambitious compositions such as the expository essay as well as various creative writings. Students work to develop original thesis statements which they learn to support with textual evidence and critical analysis.
English 10: Romanticism and Modernism
English 10 is a year-long survey course on World Literature. Each unit will focus on a work of literature from a different time period, geographic locale, and cultural context. To gain a greater understanding of the universality of human experience, students will read texts such as Twelfth Night, The Odyssey, Circe, Arabian Nights, Things Fall Apart and a selection of myths and short stories. Students will be engaging with a variety of themes including the dangers of isolation, the breakdown of society, magic and monsters, gender roles and dynamics, and the universality of storytelling. Year-long reading goals consist of honing students’ close reading skills and their ability to perform literary analysis through examination of stylistic elements, character development, and theme. Writing goals focus on mastery of the fundamental elements of the basic essay in its expository forms, with special emphasis on introductions, conclusions, and the use of textual evidence for support.
English 11: American Literature
English 11 is a year-long course in which students approach American literature thematically through a study of various genres, time periods, and perspectives. To gain a greater understanding of American identity, students will explore such works as The Great Gatsby, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Things They Carried, We Need New Names, and a play to be determined mid-year. Supplementary reading will include a range of short stories, poems, and essays by such writers as Hawthorne, Dickinson, Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Frederick Douglass, Sherman Alexi, Marilyn Chin, and Sandra Cisneros. Students will be expected to make in-depth connections between the different works, characters, modes and themes of American literature. In addition, students will continue to refine their grammar and compositional skills; to that end, they will write and revise personal, comparative, creative, and analytical essays of varying lengths.
ELL I/II/III English as a Second Language
ELL support is for all non-native English-speaking students who have not yet achieved communicative competence in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in English. The flexible nature of this program offers students the individual attention they need in order to build solid foundations in English.
Placement into ELL Support is based on a student’s proficiency with English and the discretion of the ELL and English department faculty. At the end of each year, students are required to take a TOEFL to measure their language proficiency and growth in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
*Please note, students will have ELL Support in conjunction with English 9, 10, or 11, to correlate with the grade they are enrolled in.
Twelfth-grade English consists of two semesters of required elective courses that students select in the spring of the junior year. Depending on enrollment and scheduling, these electives may also be open to interested juniors.
Eleventh and Twelfth Grade English Electives:
The Falcon Production
In this yearlong course, students will collaborate to create The Falcon, Friends Select’s online newspaper. Students will learn writing techniques for a variety of journalistic prose, including hard news, features, investigations, reviews, and editorials. Students will explore how to recognize good stories, gather facts through interviewing and research, craft catchy leads and thought-provoking conclusions, and construct well organized articles that inform and engage the greater Friends Select community. Significant time will be devoted to the editing and rewriting process, enabling students to take their writing to a level of refinement that is appropriate for web publication. Emphasis will be placed on collaboration as students work together to brainstorm story ideas, structure each edition, serve as fact checkers and line editors, and create images to accompany written works. As students produce The Falcon, they will explore questions related to the role of news media in our society, journalistic ethics, and the impact of social media in news consumption.
Monstrous Imaginings: The Unmaking of Humanity
This is the stuff of nightmares, myths, and other legendary tales of horror: Ogres and werewolves, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Grendel, vampires, the Titans, androids and humanoids. Our exploration of monsters and monstrosity will lead, inevitably, to investigations of ourselves and our own humanity--our deepest fears, aggressions, and anxieties. In addition to reading short stories and longer novels, students will view and critique movies. Students will have an opportunity to explore some philosophy and literary theory as well. The texts may include: Circe (Miller), Grendel (Gardner); Blade Runner (Scott); Binti (Okorafor); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson); I am Legend (Matheson); Pan's Labyrinth; and selections of Octavia Butler’s science fiction. Students will respond to readings through discussions and presentations and will compose analytical essays, short critical responses, and creative writing.
Shakespeare was a revolutionary: he challenged his peers to rethink their views of relationships, revenge, gender, class, religion, power, and countless other issues that get to the core of what it means to be a human in society. In this course, we will be delving into Shakespeare’s legacy to explore more fully the enduring relevance of this literary master. Texts may include Hamlet, King Lear, As You Like It, and Shakespearean sonnets. We will work to bring the plays to life through performing in class, seeking out different productions, and exploring contemporary recreations of Shakespeare’s classics. Students will write in a variety of modes including analytic, creative, and personal pieces.
This course introduces students to Caribbean literature (with a focus on contemporary voices) to better understand the history and identity of Caribbean peoples. We will read works by Edwidge Danticat, V. S. Naipaul, Jamaica Kincaid, Staceyann Chin, Junot Diaz, Kei Miller, and Derek Walcott to explore Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Antigua, as well as the Caribbean-American experience. Texts will be sequenced chronologically, beginning with events during Trujillo’s reign in the Dominican Republic in the 1930’s, and ending with an exploration of what it means to be Caribbean American in the 21st century. Critical readings by Homi Bhabha, James Woods, and other scholars are also introduced. The Indo-Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean, and Latinx-Caribbean identities, colonialism, mimicry, immigration, and the complex social and sexual politics at work in these texts, are some of the topics we will explore in this course. Students will produce analytical essays, short critical responses, personal writing, and presentations.
Film as Text: Double Features
In this film course you will sharpen your critical viewing eye by learning about basic elements of cinema -- the effects of camera distance and angles; types of editing; uses of color, lighting, and sound; and the psychology of screen space. After watching a film (for homework),* we will use class time to analyze the movie just as we would any piece of literature, discussing themes, symbols, characters and uses of film techniques. Of course, there will be analytic papers, presentations, quizzes and tests. The structure of the course is built around pairings of films that take up similar ideas but from different points-of-view. Examples of pairings: coupling the wild satire of class difference in Joon Ho Bong’s Parasite (2019) with Boots Riley’s savage critique of capitalism in Sorry to Bother You (2018); or Jordan Peale’s social thriller Get Out! (2017) coupled with one of the classic films that inspired it, 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby (or perhaps 1975’s The Stepford Wives); or comparing two classic explorations of memory, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo; or two female protagonists each taking the hero’s archetypal journey in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).
*NOTE: Films are viewed as homework. There is no textbook, but the rental of films will obviously come with a fee. You most likely will have to subscribe to Amazon, Netflix or other streaming/rental sites to access the films.
Race, Gender, and Nationality in Literature
In this course, students will study literature that explores identity and intersectionality. We will look at the ways in which the race, gender and nationality of authors and characters influence how they interact with the world. We will study how authors use literature to explore and complicate questions of race, gender and national identity. Texts may include There There, Homegoing, and a selection of poetry and essays. Students will be writing a variety of analytic, creative, and personal pieces.
Introduction to Magical Realism
How porous are the boundaries between the real and the imagined? We will explore these spaces in literature from around the world in this introduction to magical realism. A genre of literature that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction, magical realism emerged from Latin American and African authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and Amos Tutuola. Today, magical realism can be found in the works of authors from around the globe. We will read the aforementioned authors, as well as a range of contemporary voices, possibly including Yann Martel, Laura Esquvel, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, Mohsin Hamid, and Angela Carter. Students will respond to readings through discussions and presentations and will compose analytical essays, short critical responses, and creative writing.