The English Department’s goals are to ensure that each student graduates with the ability to think critically, write effectively, analyze a text thoughtfully, present information well through a variety of methods, and synthesize information. To that end, students read challenging, insightful texts, develop their skill at both analyzing and writing, collaborate with each other on presentations and projects, and enhance their public speaking skills. While vocabulary, grammar, and close readings are critical elements of each individual course, thinking critically about what is being examined is paramount. Whether a student is in an Advanced Placement course or a lower section, teachers are focused on designing a curriculum that prepares him for success in college and beyond.

English Courses

English 7 • Middle School

English 7 explores traditional literature with a modern twist. During the fall term, the class reads a variety of short stories by noted authors, learning and discussing the basic elements of fiction. The winter and spring terms focus on a survey of several novels including an assortment of literary classics: Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Much Ado About Nothing, and Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Throughout the year, students consistently work to develop their vocabulary, increase their mastery of grammar, and enhance their written expression. Students develop their writing skills through explicit instruction, planning, drafting, revising, and editing. The incorporation of technology, collaboration, and project-based learning along with traditional assessment measures provides students with abundant opportunities to acquire information and to demonstrate their level of mastery and growth.

English 8 • Middle School

English 8 embarks upon an exploration of the English language that will require students to develop their critical thinking skills, imaginations, and mastery of the concepts and themes examined in the course. The reading material ranges from Mythology to Arthurian legend to Shakespeare as students discover how literature conveys messages about society and humanity.  While reading comprehension skills are enhanced, students also develop their ability to express themselves. Students have regular opportunities to write, in many different formats, and to offer oral presentations as well. Students also have regular access to Chromebooks in the classroom — devices that enable students to write and edit with ease and take advantage of the many databases to which the School subscribes. The course also regularly completes vocabulary and grammar assignments in order to improve student skills in those areas. Students exit the class prepared for Upper School English courses.

English 1

9th Grade

English 1 is a genre course focusing on ancient literature, grammar, vocabulary, and writing. Students develop note-taking skills, both in class and through their readings, examine and apply grammatical concepts, build their vocabulary, and read a variety of works including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Iliad, Twelfth Night, Three Theban Plays, The Hobbit, and selections from Short Fiction: Classic and Contemporary and Sound and Sense. Students also learn how to construct analytical essays, think critically, and sharpen their syntax. A highlight of the course includes students creating their own adventure for Odysseus.

English 1 Honors

9th Grade

In English 1 Honors, students focus on classical, medieval, and renaissance literature for most of the year, before turning their attention to poetry and more contemporary works in the spring. The class is reading and writing intensive, stressing the importance of both critical thinking and analytical writing. Reading assignments include such works as Homer’s The Odyssey, Shakespeare’s Henry V and The Merchant of Venice, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House. Writing assignments include daily journal writing, free-writing, in-class essays, and formal critical essays. The primary purpose of the course is to help the boys synthesize different genres and cultures, realizing that we are bound to previous cultures by the fact that we are human. The course also strives to enhance students’ vocabulary and hone their grammar skills.

English 2

10th grade

Sophomore English is a genre-based curriculum that allows students to explore all elements of literature. As they examine novels, short stories, poetry, and essays, the boys are exposed to the concepts of analytical reading and critical writing in connection with the literature. The students write daily literary journals in which they explore significant themes, characterization, and symbolism in the works. As the year progresses, they are taught the techniques and procedures for writing a formal critical essay using MLA documentation. Literary works include The Catcher in the Rye, Metamorphosis, Macbeth, A Streetcar Named Desire, Montana 1948, and Twelfth Night. The course also covers various selections of short stories and poetry, and students complete grammar and vocabulary lessons on a weekly basis.

English 2 Honors

10th grade

English 2 Honors serves as a stepping stone to Advanced Placement courses. Students are expected to challenge themselves and are given intensive instruction in critical reading and analytical writing, with an emphasis placed on the importance of independent thought. It is a genre course in which students read novels, short stories, and plays, as well as poetry. Class discussion, close reading, annotation, and nightly journal writing assist the boys in forming a better understanding of literature across time and in honing their critical writing skills. Texts include Camus’ The Stranger, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice, Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Wilson’s Fences, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Malamud’s The Natural, as well as various short stories and poetry. Highlights of the course include a poetry presentation, where each student teaches the class a few poems by a particular poet, and the peer editing of papers, which creates a firm understanding of the value of editing one’s work.

English 3

11th Grade

English 3 is a critical survey of American Literature from Colonization to the present. The course highlights major writers from each literary movement. The majority of the readings are selected from the Norton Anthology of American Literature. However, students also supplement these shorter readings with longer novels and plays such as The Crucible, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, and Into the Wild. Students also work to master higher level grammatical concepts and to enhance their vocabulary to build their language proficiency and enhance their writing skills. English 3 students regularly write analytical essays and occasionally construct oral presentations. 

English 4

12th grade & Postgraduate

English 4 is a genre course which is divided into three unique trimesters. The first focuses on an investigation of British literature from the Romantic period through the Victorian Age, culminating in an exploration of the Modern Age. Focus is placed on how the literature reflects aspects of the society that produced it. A highlight of the fall term is creation of poetry by students that mirrors techniques employed during these vastly different periods. The winter term is focused on an investigation of dystopian literature, using Red Rising and 1984 as two of the primary texts. One of the highlights of the winter is each student’s creation of their own dystopian world. Finally, the spring term revolves around an in depth examination of The Power of One. Through their reading and the discussions, students come to recognize the value of taking a stance and sharing their opinions, while they also see how diverse activities, such as boxing and music, can be interwoven into the development of a person and a leader.

English 4 Honors

12th grade & postgraduate

This English/Literature course is intended to offer seniors (and select juniors) the opportunity to develop and refine skills in writing, in reading interpretation, and in the verbal skills that lead to viable discussion and compelling presentation. As a reader’s course, we emphasize an understanding of the ways in which literary philosophies develop through the ages by comparing contemporary literature (such as Boys in the Boat, American Pastoral, A River Runs Through It) to classical literature and classically-inspired storytelling strategies (which exist in the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Old Testament, and the Koran). Naturally, any complete study of literature will also involve an in-depth investigation of a work by William Shakespeare — in English 4H, we choose to read Hamlet and to linger academically over the most-often quoted sections.

English 5

12th grade & postgraduate

English 5 is intended for seniors and post-graduates who have already completed a four-year progression of English study, but who would benefit from more refined instruction in writing, reading interpretation, and public presentation and discussion. We concentrate heavily on the skills of academic writing, especially regarding the college essay, which is an edited — and mentored — writing assignment in the fall term. Numerous offerings of contemporary literature, such as Friday Night Lights, are read in the context of classical literature and compared to the tragic story structure of the Odyssey, from which their story structure and social relevance derive. And since any English class would be incomplete without the incorporation of the works of William Shakespeare, we read the classic team/brotherhood/courage story, Henry V.

The American Experience/Literature


Running in conjunction with American Experience/History, this English/Literature course seeks to understand the nature of “Americanism” through investigation, assessment, and in-depth discussion of literature shaping the citizenry, the society, and the democracy of the United States of America. Through readings of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, we seek to understand the political language and social foundations of the world’s first representative democracy and the first true governmental experiment in Enlightenment philosophy. Through the lens of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and Charles Murray’s highly-regarded treatise, American Exceptionalism, we attempt to understand the growth, expansion, and reputation of the United States. Finally, we also address the literary influences of writers, authors, and poets — Hawthorne, Stowe, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Lee — who so precisely defined the social challenges of their respective eras. 

AP English Language

12th grade & postgraduate

AP English Language is a college-level course that challenges students to learn, recognize, and employ rhetorical techniques in both creating their own and analyzing the arguments of others. Essays, speeches, and longer non-fiction works compose the majority of the reading material. Critical thinking, synthesis of ideas and materials, and strong fundamentals of writing are emphasized throughout the year as students learn to express themselves clearly, effectively, and accurately as they prove their points or agree or disagree with a position taken by someone else. While finding success on the Advanced Placement exam is a goal, the primary objective is to enhance the student’s skills so that he can think, write, and problem solve effectively. In addition to numerable writing assignments of various lengths that are given both in and out of class throughout the year and the taking of practice multiple choice tests for the AP exam, students are required to read several novels outside of class in a college-fashion, with a due date and a paper due date, while the class is examining other material and content on a daily basis in class.

AP Literature

12th grade & postgraduate

The Advanced Placement Literature course is designed to meet the requirements outlined in the Advanced Placement Course Description, to prepare students for success on the Advanced Placement Exam, and to meet the challenges of literature courses in college and beyond. The course is constructed to mirror a college literature seminar. It is designed to challenge intellectually-gifted students through a variety of assignments, honing their critical thinking skills and their ability to express their respective ideas through analytical writing and verbal expression. Throughout the year, students encounter challenging pieces of literature selected from different genres and time periods, requiring them to read critically and write analytically to grasp the nature of the authorial intent. In order to assist them, significant emphasis is placed on learning the importance of literary devices and recognizing them within given pieces of literature. Texts for the course include such works as Dubliners, Hamlet, The Tempest, Beloved, Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, Slaughterhouse-Five, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, as well as a comprehensive study of poetry from Renaissance pieces to contemporary works.

The most lovable thing about teaching English is the lack of exactness inherent to it…rules get bent, communication proceeds regardless of proper grammar or punctuation, and a book says what we interpret it to say. The author may have written it, but the book belongs to me. I love that. 

John Teaford,
ENglish Teacher

Meet the English Department

Matt Bresler

English Teacher, Technical Theater Coordinator

Susan Daniels

LEAD Teacher

Rob Davenport

English Teacher, History Teacher

Bill Dunham

Assistant Director of Studies, English Department Chair

Ralph Fedele '04

English Teacher

Chris Gillman ’05

English Teacher, LEAD Teacher

Roberta Lidl

Director of the Center for Learning Achievement

Kraig Odabashian

English Teacher

Taylor Peucker

English Teacher

Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris

English Teacher

John Teaford

English Teacher

Arlene Toscano

English Teacher