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Upper School English

In our Upper School, students become grammatical experts, literary geniuses, and passionate writers.

Expanding Perspectives

In Upper School, we continue to foster our students’ ability to read sensitively, think critically, and express themselves clearly and persuasively. As they work to discern patterns in their reading, they become independent critics, ready to discover and articulate important insights from the experiences they read about. We select texts carefully, both classic and contemporary, striving to represent a variety of genres, periods, authors, and perspectives that illustrate and resonate with our students. As they write and think about what they’ve read, students encounter new and unfamiliar words to add to their vocabulary. Looking across ages, continents, and cultural boundaries, they ultimately come to better understand what it means to be human.


This course expands on the critical reading, writing, and thinking that students do in English 8.

In this course, students may:

  • Explore various literary genres, write literary analysis, and improve their vocabulary and grammar skills
  • Stretch their creative ability through a number of nontraditional projects like writing children’s stories or filming a scene from a Shakespeare play

While building on skills already acquired, students apply these skills to works of British literature and genres such as dystopia and satire. This course challenges students to understand genre, historical context, and secondary source commentary.

In this course, students may:

  • Use library resources to research sources and authors
  • Construct a persuasive essay based on their analysis and research
  • Enhance their strategies for close reading
  • Improve their ability to structure and support extended written arguments

English 10 Honors builds on the academic writing students do in English 9, but shifts to an in-depth exploration of British literature, introducing students to important works by English and post-colonial writers.

In this course, students may:

  • Read, analyze, and research texts such as Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and Macbeth
  • Engage in debate, direct short performances, and create social media posts by fictional characters
  • Complete research papers about older texts

English 11 helps students continue their work in analytical writing, concentrating on organizational writing skills and accuracy. This year shifts the focus to American literature, as well as comparing and contrasting the literary movements from both eras.

In this course, students may:

  • Discover how American authors craft their writing
  • Design a creative project using dance, videography, rap, calculus, sculpture, and even Legos
  • Explore major themes of American literature such as the American Dream and social justice

This course further develops students’ analytical abilities, with an emphasis on American fiction and nonfiction texts. Starting with Native American origin myths and concluding with selections from the 21st century, students trace the interaction and development of major literary movements and periods.

In this course, students may:

  • Read and analyze classic and contemporary works
  • Respond critically and creatively to contemporary and experimental work
  • Craft their own origin myths and literary pieces

English 12 focuses on personal narrative and literary themes.

In this course, students may:

  • Explore the personal narrative genre while they write their own personal essays
  • Come to understand the elements that make a successful narrative, just in time to assist students with the college admissions process

Advanced Placement English is the equivalent of an introductory English course at a selective college. This course builds on the critical reading and literary analysis emphasized during junior year, coaching students to read with active minds, lead meaningful discussions, and write with sophistication. In addition to honing these skills, students in this class have the opportunity to pursue their own interests in the literature they study.

In this course, students may:

  • Read closely and deliberately and employ a variety of critical approaches
  • Lead and direct class discussions of texts
  • Compose essays that follow a path of analysis they choose
  • Use rhetorical critical method to discern and understand the ideas, language, characters, action, tone, and imagery of literature
  • Develop their own writing and analytical skills
  • Write an extensive independent research paper on a subject of their choice

In consultation with their instructor, students enrolled in Honors American Literature may, after the course has begun, opt to take the AP Language and Composition exam. Students taking the exam will continue to work with the same instructor in the same section, but they will complete additional work to prepare for the AP test.

To receive credit for completing the AP Language and Composition course, students must take the AP exam in May. 

As every student is considered a staff member of the Upper School online newspaper Canvass, this course is all about learning “on the job” and “on assignment.”

In this course, students may:

  • Address issues such as censorship and First Amendment rights and responsibilities
  • Gain skills in news writing, interviewing, and digital presentation
  • Use social media in new ways
  • Explore many forms of journalistic writing as they pitch, produce, and polish articles in newspaper sections like Features, News, Sports, Arts and Entertainment, Metro Desk, Opinion, Humor, and Multimedia
  • Practice sound journalistic ethics
  • Pay close attention to media topics and substantive issues within the school community and the larger world
  • Face many challenges of being a journalist, increase confidence and competence in writing about topics of interest, and form strong bonds with a group that has worked together under the pressures of deadlines

Here students are given the opportunity to build skill, confidence, and fluency in public speaking through a range of activities.

In this course, students may:

  • Learn the fundamentals of public speaking, including appropriate topic selection and development of content
  • Organize a clear, concise, and compelling speech
  • Practice good listening skills, peer evaluation, and critique
  • Present several formal speeches on a variety of topics

This course is designed to help students develop a strong personal voice. In addition to covering the basics of plot structure, form and free verse poetry, writing strategies, and literary terms, students also have the opportunity to explore non-academic writing through daily writing exercises, journaling, and both peer and student-teacher workshops.

In this course, students may:

  • Read and write creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry
  • Build a community of writers with their peers
  • Write and compose a variety of poems, short stories, and personal narratives
  • Work on a culminating project portfolio that includes revisions and final drafts