Interior Masthead

students in English class

The English department's mission is to promote facility with the English language and students' appreciation of the rich traditions of English literature.


Lower School

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.

Middle School

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.

Upper School

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 Courses


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 Macbeth, Frankenstein, The Odyssey, 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 GatsbyTheir Eyes Were Watching GodThe Things They CarriedBeasts of the Southern Wild, All My Sons, and The House on Mango Street.  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.  

English 12

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:

First Semester

Creative Nonfiction Writing

We will read as writers, identifying (and experimenting with) genre.  Readings will be used to illustrate and inspire. In addition to writing creative essays, you will also produce focused writings--free of essayistic demand--as well as notebook responses. We will workshop each other’s essays and share our exercises. 

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 Homegoing, For Today I am a Boy, Flight and a selection of poetry. Students will be writing a variety of analytic essays, creative and personal pieces.

Caribbean Voices

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 Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, V. S. Naipaul, and Derek Walcott to explore Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, 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. Cultural syncretism, the Indo-Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean identity, colonialism, immigration, Latino Caribbean identity, and the complex social and sexual politics at work in these texts are some of the topics we will explore. Students will respond to readings through analytic essays, personal writing, discussions, and presentations. 


Second Semester

This is the stuff of nightmares, myths, and other legendary tales of horror: 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); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson); I am Legend (Matheson); The Elephant Man; and Pan's Labyrinth.

African American Lit

In this course, students will read several works from the rich tradition of African-American Literature. We will look at a variety of perspectives on being Black in America, exploring the diverse voices that have articulated the African American experience and impacted American culture as a whole. Texts may include Passing, Beloved, Yellowman and excerpts from the works of James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Students will be responding to each of the texts in a variety of modes, including analytic essays, presentations and personal writing. 

The Postcolonial Writer

“The act of writing, it seems to me, makes up a shelter, allows space to what would otherwise be hidden, crossed out, mutilated. Sometimes writing can work toward a reparation, making a sheltering space for the mind. Yet it feeds off ruptures, tears in what might otherwise seem a seamless, oppressive fabric.” 

― Meena Alexander, The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience

What is the role of the writer in the postcolonial world? How do postcolonial writers “feed off ruptures [and] tears” to make a “sheltering space” for the mind? Conversely, does a postcolonial author have an obligation to heal?  This course explores answers to these questions through a focused study of contemporary fiction from the postcolonial world. We will read authors from South Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. Texts may include Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie, A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and selections from East, West by Salman Rushdie. Critical readings by Edward Said and Franz Fanon will also be introduced. Students will respond to literature through analytic essays, personal writing, discussions, and presentations.