High School, English (EN502 Selectives)


Drama’s first semester involves a study of the history of drama from its classical Greek roots to Japanese kabuki, from the explosion of theater in Renaissance England to modern day Broadway. Students are encouraged to attend plays, not just to read them, with an emphasis on the progression of acting techniques and thematic motifs in drama through the ages. Students will also be encouraged to compose their own one-act plays. The second semester has a closer focus on acting. Students will perform monologues, short scenes and one-act plays. Attention will be given to different acting methods, and to all the elements of production: scenery, costumes, props, lighting, and sound. Students who select this course must commit to a full year course.

History of Western Thought

This full year survey course in Western Philosophy begins with the Pre-Socratics (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, and more) and continues with the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It then moves into the Medieval Period with an examination of St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and the scholastic proofs for the existence of God, and continues on through the Renaissance with a focus on the philosophy of Descartes, Spinoza, Berkeley, and Hume. Then, students examine Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche before concluding with the existentialists Sartre and Heidegger. The emphasis is on continuity of concept and breadth of insight.

The Language of Film and Video Arts

This yearlong course is dedicated to the study of film, video, and the visual arts. In connection with their study of a variety of media, students explore the underlying “grammar” or “syntax” in their structures with the goal of decoding thematic messages. Students consider the following questions: What is the significance of the order of the scenes? Why does one follow or precede the other? What is the role of narrative pace and flashback? How is the narrative perspective handled? Why was that particular perspective chosen? Why does the director choose a close up, rather than a long shot, for specific scenes? How does the use of music complement the action of the scene? Films from the early silent era, through classic Hollywood films, and finally YouTube videos are all considered.

College Writing

This two semester (for 11th grade) and one semester (for 12th grade) course meets students at their current level of writing proficiency and gives them the tools they need to succeed in the writing tasks they will face in a college freshman-level English course. Students will read a variety of fiction and non-fiction prompts that include magazine feature articles, newspaper op-ed pieces, fictional stories, and essays on topical matters. They then use the information in these pieces to inform their own writing. Instruction will focus on enhancing student skill in utilizing the traditional modes of discourse already studied in their foundation English courses. Next, they take their writing to the next level, refining their skill by producing personal narratives, persuasive and argumentative essays, and various expository pieces using the rhetorical devices of comparison/contrast, cause/effect, classification/division, definition, and exemplification. When appropriate, a unit on college essay writing is included in the syllabus.

Creative Expression

The main purpose of this course is to develop students’ skill in communicating their ideas.  Considering the ocean of information we are all exposed to today, skill in getting one’s ideas noticed, considered, and potentially adopted is crucial. Students need to develop strategies for fluently expressing themselves in creative ways that incorporate and transcend the traditional modes, and they must also be able to mesh this fluency with accompanying images and sounds using various technological applications and programs. Once their ideas are expressed in an effective manner, students learn how to share them with appropriate audiences while maintaining their desired level of privacy.

Fear and Fantasy, Love and Laughter — A Dramatic Approach

This broad-based course, taken in addition to English 12 (AP or non-AP), provides students with additional opportunities to experience the joy of literature and to develop performance and theatre skills. The course focuses on one-act plays and lyric poetry, taken from both traditional and contemporary world literature, that deals with the thematic issues indicated by the course title. Authors include Shirley Jackson, George S. Kaufman, Maya Angelou, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Amy Tan, John Keats, Joyce Carol Oates, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Peter Ustinov, William Shakespeare, Margaret Atwood, Amy Lowell, William Butler Yeats, Russell Banks, and Toni Cade Bambera. Students will enhance their understanding of these works by engaging in solo and group performances in the classroom.

Personal Stories

The genre of autobiography is explored in this reading and writing course. Students use the autobiographies and memoirs they read as models for writing the stories of their own lives.  Readings might include Night (Weisel), Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Brown), Teacher Man (McCourt),  My Life (Meir), Long Walk to Freedom: the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Live from the Battlefield (Arnett), Personal History (Graham), I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Angelou), and Growing Up (Baker). Students study the strategies employed in these autobiographies and experiment with applying them to their own writing. They focus on how the readings offer distinctive narrative voices, and work to develop their own narrative voices. They also consider issues such as choices of appropriate details, subtexts of setting (both time and place), and controlling themes.

Time and Place

The focus of this course is on how the settings of fiction influence other elements in the text.  A variety of readings, including novels, drama, short stories, and poems are considered in the light of how geographical and temporal settings affect the development of plot, character, and theme. Students also consider symbolic, psychological, emotional, and spiritual settings of works and compare and contrast what they find in different works in analytic essays; they also analyze how shifting settings are employed, and explore the relationship between setting and mood. In some works, attention might focus on the effect an author’s real-time setting has on his portrayal of a setting different from his time and place. Texts might include “Dover Beach” (Arnold), “Leda and the Swan” (Yeats), Our Town (Wilder), 1984 (Orwell), The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway), Wuthering Heights (Bronte), The Good Earth (Buck), Heart of Darkness (Conrad), A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (Twain), and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (McCullers).

Surprise, Surprise

In this course, students analyze novels, short stories, and drama to develop an understanding of the techniques used by authors to lay the groundwork for believable – but unexpected – endings: foreshadowing, tone, diction, irony, symbolism, misdirection. They also collaborate on group writing projects which include the above techniques and accomplish the goal of delivering endings that both surprise and satisfy the reader. Texts might include “Charles” and “The Lottery” (Jackson), “Gimpel the Fool” (Singer), Hedda Gabler (Ibsen), The House of the Spirits (Allende), The Life of Pi (Martel), The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream (Paulo Coelho), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Christie), and The Telltale Heart (Poe).

Tomorrow’s Classics

Contemporary popular literature forms the reading list for this course. Students read and debate the appeal of current blockbusters, evaluating the authors’ uses of the various aspects of literature, assessing their skill and comparing and contrasting their work with works they have studied as part of the regular school curriculum. They consider such the relative appeal of external versus internal action, of character development versus character revelation, of structural complexity versus structural simplicity, of round versus flat, dynamic versus static characterizations, of different narrative perspectives, and more. The choices of reading for this course change with the bestseller list.