The umbrella goal of the English Department is to strengthen students’ skills in using their language as a communications tool. Because communication is an essential human function, touching all parts of an individual’s world—his introspection of self, his relationships with other individuals, his interactions with his society, and his dialogue with the Divine—we see instruction in the English language arts skills not only as both prerequisite and co-requisite to all other learning areas, but also to the overall growth and development of the whole child.
As communicators, our students are both receivers and senders. As part of the school curriculum, they read and listen to others across time and distance by engaging with texts and various live and media presentations of great fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama. They send their own messages out into the world by their writings for class, which often find their audiences through our many student hard copy and online publications. They play a part in the ever-constant exchange of ideas by their participation in school-sponsored language-based activities such as Debate, College Bowl, Mock Trial, and the Anti-Bias Task Force. Active participation in school events and in contemporary life events requires excellent communications skills, and our aim is to enhance those skills during every lesson, in every English class, each and every day.
Class lessons may include the full population or may involve small group work. Individual student-teacher conferences are encouraged. Students may use their laptops for note taking, researching, writing, test taking, and Internet enrichment of class lessons. Homework assignments are varied; they include: regular reading and analysis, practice grammar drills, vocabulary exercises, short writing tasks, longer essays and term papers, preparation of oral presentations, and study for assessments.
Our literature curriculum is theme based and sequentially developed. Every effort is made to include texts from different parts of the world and from different time periods in each year’s lists. There is also a variety of genre represented (fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry). In the junior and senior years, electives are offered so that students may begin developing individual taste and exercise some choice about what they read. At every level, students are encouraged to read all the time, even during the summer months.
Students are encouraged to consider writing as a process with many steps, beginning with thinking and leading to an end product that has a purpose. Standards for scholarly writing as well as alternatives for creative writing are taught. Our writing curriculum involves students in both idea-centered and self-expressive writing. Writing instruction is closely integrated with our grammar curriculum, which includes parts of speech, correct sentence structure, usage and style issues, and punctuation. Grammar and usage instruction occurs in all grades. Special attention is focused on problems that arise from student writing.
In all classes, vocabulary development is achieved through regular reading and focused practice exercises. Attention is given in all grades to standardized testing readiness. We also engage our students in a variety of activities which are structured to enhance students’ listening, speaking, and thinking skills.
At every level, we want to instill in our students a love for language. We want them to develop positive attitudes about reading and writing, to incorporate those activities in their daily lives, and to experience pleasure when engaging in them. Every student at NSHAHS takes four years of English, and all required English classes meet five times each week. Electives meet four times per week.
101 Language, Literature, and Writing I
In this introductory foundation course, students begin learning the skills that they will refine throughout their time at NSHAHS. They examine the thematic issue of Heroes and Heroism through their readings and study of classic and contemporary epic, drama, and novel. Shorter works of both fiction, non-fiction, and poetry complement the reading list which includes: Nine Muses, The Odyssey, Beowulf, and Julius Caesar. In addition, summer reading of Flowers for Algernon and The Book Thief. Students begin their analysis of writing as a multi-level thinking process and are introduced to standard rhetorical patterns as well as other strategies used in good writing. Grammar and vocabulary study culled from works studied are integrated into the curriculum as weekly features of instruction. Each 9th grade student will have two additional periods of English devoted to instruction on the writing process and study skills.
102 Freshman Writing and Study Skills
The freshman Writing and Study Skills course focuses on developing core abilities that are imperative not only to the high school experience, but also to life. This class helps to develop effective time management and personal scheduling skills in addition to a variety of study techniques. Writing foundations are also developed and built upon in the course. Students will be working in close conjunction with the ninth grade English curriculum to develop strong and effective narrative, expository, and persuasive and analytical writing ability. Additional emphasis will be placed on research writing and appropriate citation techniques, study-related writing skills such as summary and paraphrasing, and creative written expression. The class is required for all freshmen and meets two periods each week.
201 Language, Literature, and Writing II
This second-year foundation course focuses on issues of self-identity through a study of novel, drama, graphic literature, and short story. Literary works include The Tempest by Shakespeare, The Catcher in the Rye, The Road, Candide and excerpts from The Canterbury Tales. Student-selected texts from a collection of works dealing with ethnic diversity and the issue of identity, plus various shorter works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction are also included. Students experience in-class writing workshops that focus on how to write a research paper, learning techniques of topic formation, note-taking and outlining, and organizing and writing a rough and final draft of the paper. Documentation issues are thoroughly addressed. In addition, students write for self-expression as well, using a variety of genres. Grammar and vocabulary study are integrated into the curriculum as weekly features of instruction. Summer reading includes Snow in August and Black Swan Green.
301 Foundations and Development of Literature
In this course, students trace the roots of American Literature from the 16th century to the 21st century. Works from such literary philosophies as Puritanism, Realism, Transcendentalism, Romanticism, and Feminism are scrutinized. Students write weekly analytical theses and comparative essays. Rules of modern grammar, including punctuation and usage, are taught and applied. Students will study texts to include Macbeth, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, The Great Gatsby, and Brighton Beach Memoirs involving students in an examination of the thematic issue of choices. In addition, the study of Lincoln's The Gettysburg Address and his 2nd Inaugural Address will be part of the curriculum. Students refine their skills in the use of research tools through a number of multi-media projects. Vocabulary, including thesaurus studies, is implemented daily. Students follow a seminar-style discussion method in which all students facilitate arguments and coordinate literary debates.11th grade English summer reading includes The Art of Racing in the Rain and Jephthe's Daughter.
402 Senior Extensions in English
This course, which is the culmination of the department’s four-year thematic approach to literature, involves students in an examination of family relationships, incorporating such classic and contemporary works as The Things They Carried, Hamlet, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Merchant of Venice. In addition, students will sample a broad spectrum of short stories, essays, and poetry. All components of the course of study address national standards of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. In addition to extensive textual analysis of literature, the curriculum includes the study of grammar and vocabulary, and provides students with practice in the following test-taking skills: reading comprehension, timed essay writing, paragraph revision, and identifying and correcting grammatical errors, all tasks found in such standardized tests as the SAT. Summer reading includes The UnAmericans: Stories and The Old Man and the Sea.
501 College Writing
This two semester (for eleventh grade) and one semester(for twelfth 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 freshman college-level English course. Students will read a variety of fictional and non-fictional prompts including magazine feature articles, newspaper op-ed pieces, fictional stories and essays on topical matters, and 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. Now they will take their writing to the next level, refining their skill in 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.
502 Fear and Fantasy, Love and Laughter: A Dramatic Approach
This broad-based course, taken in addition to English 12 (AP or non-AP), will provide students with additional opportunities to experience the joy of literature and to develop performance and theater skills. The course focuses on one act plays and lyric poetry taken from both traditional and contemporary world literature which 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 understandings of the dynamics of the works by engaging in classroom solo and group performances based on them.
503 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, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Teacher Man, My Life, Long Walk to Freedom: the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Live from the Battlefield, Personal History, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Growing Up. Students study the strategies employed in the models and experiment with applying them to their own writing. They focus on how the models offer distinctive narrative voices, and they 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.
504 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, Leda and the Swan, Our Town, 1984, The Sun Also Rises, Wuthering Heights, The Good Earth, Heart of Darkness, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
505 Surprise, Surprise
The factor affecting choice of readings in this course is the inclusion in the text of suspense and surprise ending. Students analyze novels, short stories, and drama to develop an understanding of the techniques used by authors (foreshadowing, tone, diction, irony, symbolism, misdirection) to lay the groundwork for believable but unexpected endings. They also collaborate on group writing projects which include the above techniques and which accomplish the goal of delivering endings that both surprise and satisfy the reader. Texts might include Charles and The Lottery, Gimpel the Fool, Hedda Gabler, The House of the Spirits, The Life of Pi, The Alchemist: A Fable about Following Your Dream, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The Telltale Heart.
506 Tomorrows 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 and dynamic versus static characterizations, of different narrative perspectives, etc. The choices of reading for this course change with the best-seller list.
601 Advanced Placement English Literature
This honors course in twelfth grade is a preparatory course for the Advanced Placement Examination in English Literature. Students must read widely and reflect on their reading through extensive discussion, writing, and rewriting. The primary focus is on close reading and both verbal and written critical analysis of imaginative literature in all genres. Works of fiction, prose non-fiction, drama and poetry are examined in terms of their structure, style, theme, and use of smaller scale elements such as figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. In addition to diverse genres, students must become acquainted with works from differing periods and cultures. Writing assignments focus on critical analysis and present practice in developing and organizing ideas in clear, coherent, persuasive, and stylistically mature language.
The underlying philosophy of the course is summed up in the idea that language creates meaning. By learning how to analyze connections between language and its import, students in this skills course prepare to perform successfully in a college classroom, where they will be challenged to perform various analytical writing tasks. Students are not evaluated so much on the basis of their mastery of specific texts as they are on their ability to analyze works new to them. In all tasks, provisions are made for students to practice the four tasks of the English classroom: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Texts include One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Women of Brewster Place, The Penelopiad, Hamlet, Daisy Miller, The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, and Roman Fever. Summer reading is The Things They Carried and The Member of the Wedding.
602 Advanced Placement Language and Composition (11th Grade AP English)
Offered to juniors who will go on to take the senior AP English course, eleventh grade AP English is a preparatory course for the Advanced Placement Examination in English Language and Composition. Students study non-fiction text and analyze the rhetorical strategies and stylistic techniques that authors use in order to create their messages, They also analyze numerous samples of arguments in preparation for creating their own arguments on controversial issues. A study of common errors in logic is included in this unit. Finally, students hone their skills in synthesizing an argument, given a number of sources, including charts, graphs, cartoons, and other visual statements. As in regular 11th grade English, students will study both Lincoln's The Gettysburg Address and his 2nd Inaugural Address will be part of the curriculum. Three literature units are also a feature of the course. Students read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Macbeth and To Kill a Mockingbird. AP 11th grade English summer reading includes student free choice selection of a non-fiction book and Jephthe's Daughter.