On Tuesday, the Walker's community enjoyed a poetry reading featuring the work of English faculty member Scott Frey.
Reading deeply, broadly, happily and daily informs the mission of the Walker’s English Department.
We believe that our students should discover a passion for learning through reading, and we believe that their ability to read with great skill and pleasure will allow them to flourish in all other academic disciplines. Intellectual curiosity is essential to finding one’s own authentic voice, so we strive to design our lessons to nurture each girl’s capacity for wonder and the desire to know more.
Writing well is a matter of practice, but it is also a function of being well-read. Having something important to say, aloud or on paper, comes from outrage, passion, conviction, or a desire to share one’s strong idea with the world, but it can also be the instrument with which one learns. Writing to say is valuable, but writing to learn is equally so. Developing a deep understanding of the strategic use language and nuanced expression is at the heart of everything we do. Writing creatively, analytically, informatively and evocatively is deliberately taught in each course. Walker’s girls know what can be best said in a speech, a poem, a novel, a play or an essay. Expression, verbal or written, is often generated from an urgent need to join, assist or challenge one’s community.
We hope to cultivate that desire in every girl here.
M.A., Brown University
M.A., Trinity College
M.S., Simmons College
Required course for Grade 6
At the sixth-grade level, students learn to read deeply, to love reading, and to begin learning how to analyze a literary work. The study of literature at our school draws upon many genres to focus largely on works about growing up and emerging into society. Texts may include: Anne of Green Gables, The Birchbark House, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Esperanza Rising, Kira-Kira, Number the Stars, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Habibi. Other texts, including poems, fables, fairy tales and essays are carefully selected to be appropriate to the age and developmental level of sixth grade girls. Teachers will challenge students to think in increasingly complex ways. Students will learn oral presentation and discussion skills in class. Each girl will begin to develop her authentic voice through a wide variety of writing assignments, including analysis, persuasive essay, fiction, poetry and and personal writing. A study of grammar complements the course, with a focus on punctuation, clarity and word use. Art, music and creative work of all kinds will be at the heart of the course.
Required course for Grade 7
At the seventh-grade level, students maintain their momentum by continuing to explore the various genres of literature. We read a challenging collection of texts that has previously included To Kill A Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, and The Outsiders. Other texts, including poems and essays, are carefully selected to be appropriate to the age and developmental level of seventh grade girls. Teachers strive to help girls truly love to read. Students will learn to present their work to an audience-- aloud and in writing. Students continue to enhance their composition skills through a study of analytical writing, with an emphasis on the process of writing, not just the final product. In grammar, the girls explore sentence structure and mechanics to improve clarity in their own writing. Students will read beyond the curriculum in this course. They will also have many opportunities for creative writing in a wide variety of genres.
Required course for Grade 8
In English at the eighth grade level, independent thinking and writing play major roles, as every student is encouraged to further develop her creative and critical skills in response to literature and in preparation for secondary school. Through discussion and writing, which include analytical and personal essays designed to promote mastery of essay writing, each student is supported as she learns to express herself clearly, accurately, and fluently. In this way, student voice is at the heart of English 8. We read short fiction, novels, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Texts may include Macbeth, The House on Mango Street, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, among others.
- American Literature and Culture
- English 9: The Self and Beyond
- Honors English 9: The Self and Beyond
- English 10: World Literature
- Honors English 10: World Literature
- Introduction to Creative Writing
- English 11: American Literature
- Honors English 11: American Literature
- English 12: Creative Writing
- Advanced English 12: Literature and Medicine
- English 12: Shakespeare
- English 12: Speaking Truth to Power: The Literature of Resistance and Hope
- English 12: The Ethel Walker School Visiting Writer Seminar
- English 12: The Other: The Immigrant Experience in Literature
- English 12: Ways of Seeing: Narrative Genres and the Cultural Imagination (Film and Fiction)
- English 12: Friendship: Tried and True
- English 12: Writing Portfolio and Publication
- English 12: I Can Hear Jimmy: James Baldwin Now
- English 12: Creative Writing: Poetry and Personal Essays
Open to Grades 9-12
This course is designed for new international students for whom English is a newly acquired language. Students explore American culture and literature through challenging and accessible choices of short fiction such as “The Lottery” and “Everyday Use,” drama, novels, including The Secret Life of Bees, and poetry. A Shakespearean comedy is included in this course (although it
is not in keeping with the theme of American Literature) in order to give students as much exposure to his works as we can. Each student becomes familiar with the terms and methods for literary analysis; creative writing is also an essential part of this course. Every girl is coached to fluency in written and spoken English during the class discussions. Upon the teacher’s recommendation, entry into the next level of the English program is facilitated when the student is ready.
Open to Grade 9
In English 9, students develop and refine their reading, writing and speaking skills. Texts are chosen to promote active discussion and spirited exchange. We focus on the writer’s craft and students learn to discern how a writer convinces and engages the audience. Writing in response to a text and about personal experience frame the course, but students will also read beyond the curriculum to develop their literary tastes and interests. During the course we study fiction (texts may include The Catcher in the Rye, The Secret Life of Bees, and Their Eyes Were Watching God) and drama (texts may include Oedipus Rex, Antigone, and a Shakespeare’s play). Additionally, we read short stories and poems chosen at the teacher’s discretion. The standards expected of students both in class discussion and in writing are high in this course, although the number of works read may be fewer than in the honors course. Creative writing and oral presentation are at the heart of the course. There will be more emphasis on the techniques of writing a convincing essay.
Open to Grade 9
Honors English 9 helps each student move beyond her own perspective to understand the perspectives of others. As we observe and analyze the world each author creates, and the ways in which characters act and react to each other, we expand our knowledge of our own world and how it works. During the year, we study memoir, novels, plays, and poetry. Texts may include: Persepolis, Oedipus Rex, The Catcher in the Rye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Twelfth Night, and Voices in the Air. Each student is supported and challenged to improve her skills in both analytical and creative writing, in order to grow as a persuasive and sophisticated thinker and writer. Honors English 9 requires more reading and writing than English 9.
Required for Grade 10; Honors level also available
World Literature is an introduction to the way in which people around the globe have evoked their lives, communities and cultures in a work of art. Through the study of the words of people far away in time and space, students begin to see what is universal and what is unique to a particular place or person. Sophomores can expect to research the social, literary and
political contexts reflected in the works, but the focus remains on literary analysis and composition. Texts under consideration include Bonjour Tristesse, short fiction by Chekhov, short fiction by Murakami, The Stranger, Savushun, My Brilliant Friend, The Metamorphosis, Old Goriot, The Displaced: Writers on Refugee Lives, and Hedda Gabler. Poets may include: Dante, Petrarch, Diaz, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Akhmatova, Tagore, Amichai, Sodergren and Nye. A poetry project and drama unit, including the production of original work, is at the heart of the course.
Open to Grade 10
World Literature is an introduction to the way in which people around the globe have captured their lives, communities and cultures in a work of art. Through the study of the words of people far away in time and space, students will begin to see what is universal and what is unique to a particular place or person. Students are encouraged to use their imagination when reading and writing as well as sharpen their ability to think abstractly and analyze the text under consideration, not formulaically, but to illuminate something important about the work. Expectations in the Honors class include the ability to read faster with comprehension, to understand and communicate complexity, to build on grammar taught in previous years and use new concepts to improve the flow of their writing, and to write lucidly using their own authentic voice. Authors may include: Shakespeare, James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield,
Edwidge Danticat, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Yukio Mishima, Dante Alighieri, Gabriel Garcia Lorca and Alice Munro. Students research and present a significant poetry project after a serious study of the genre.
Open to Grades 9-10
This course is designed to introduce 9th and 10th graders to the art of writing creatively. Students will try out many different styles and genres of writing (poetry, playwriting, personal essay, fiction, descriptive essay, etc.) with a polished portfolio as the final product. Must be taken concurrently with English 9 or English 10.
Open to Grade 11
Working with a variety of American literary texts, this course examines the theme of individuality in American literature. We look at how individuals struggle against social forces as well as integrate themselves into communities. Each student uses her personal reactions to texts from every genre to help her write critical and analytical essays of her own. Through reading, class discussion, oral presentation and conferencing over drafts, students work toward an understanding of American literature and themselves as writers. Texts may include: The Great Gatsby, The Awakening, Lila, The Turn of the Screw, Beloved, Citizen, and A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as excerpts from Emerson and Thoreau. Students will read poems by visiting writers Natalie Diaz and Naomi Shihab Nye and may also study works by the following poets: Bradstreet, Wheatley, Poe, Dickinson, Millay, Hughes, Frost, Bishop, Plath, Dove, Li-young Lee, Espada and Rankine. A concession is made to include The Tempest in this course in order to give students as much exposure to Shakespeare’s works as possible. The standards expected of students both in class discussion and in writing are the same in this course as they are in the Honors course, although the number of works read may be fewer and there may be more emphasis on the craft of writing persuasively and across genres.
Open to Grade 11
In Honors English 11, students strive to advance the twin skills of reading and writing well, and to expand their understanding of American life and letters. They read as many of the great texts of American literature as time allows and assess each one’s aesthetic brilliance and what the authors are telling us about American culture in its various manifestations through time. Students will develop their public speaking skills throughout the year. The study begins with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as the summer reading text and then proceeds retrospectively in the following order: The Great Gatsby, My Antonia, Huckleberry Finn, poetry by Whitman and Dickinson, essays by Thoreau and Emerson, Melville’s Benito Cereno and Bartleby, Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and finally they return to the present and read a variety
of short fiction and poetry by contemporary authors. A concession is made to include The Tempest in this course in order to give students as much exposure to Shakespeare’s works as we can. A variety of writing assignments including analytical essays, personal response essays and creative writing are supplemented by a reading journal in which each student records her
reflections, questions and significant literary observations as she reads the texts. Students in Honors English can expect to read more works.
Open to Grade 12
Students will write poems, short stories, plays, and personal, narrative and descriptive essays, and engage in experimental writing in order to produce a portfolio of edited, polished, ready-for-publication work. Students should expect to write every day for this course and there will be some short readings about technique. The class will be a writing workshop and all voices are necessary. Readings will include writers who write in their own unique ways and writers who provide useful lessons on craft. An edited portfolio of publication-ready works is the final product of this course.
Open to Grade 12
“Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm.” - Hippocrates
This course will examine the role and image of the doctor, illness, and healing in literature. Students will read works by and about doctors, but will also look at poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, television and film in an effort to reveal what it means to be ill. The course will examine how the world responds, or fails to respond, to disease, plagues and outbreaks, and what our stories tell us about these dynamics. The very notion of the “patient,” will be explored. Authors may include Susan Sontag, Abraham Verghese, Tony Kushner, Margaret Edson, Albert Camus, Shakespeare, Nawal el Sadaawi, Sylvia Plath, Daniel Defoe, Franz Kafka, Richard Seltzer, Jane Kenyon, William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, Atul Gawande, Eve Ensler and Siddartha Mukherjee. Students can expect to conduct interviews, do research, compose their own original works and to write analytically about each work. They will also investigate a related topic of their interest for presentation to the class.
Open to Grade 12
Students will dive deeply into the work of William Shakespeare. Students investigate his influence on the literature that follows his, but the primary concern will be to read, understand and appreciate why he is the most famous of all writers. The class will also determine why his works still resonate today and will study the sonnets, the tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear), the comedies (Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest) and the histories (Henry V, Part I, Richard III). Students will write creatively and critically in response to the readings. Some memorization of poems and soliloquies is expected, but mostly a willingness to read challenging and immensely satisfying texts is required.
Open to Grade 12
This course will examine the fiction, essays, poetry, plays and other literary works that aim to reveal and improve the lives of the oppressed. The course will focus primarily on works written by and about marginalized people, but will also examine the roots of the ethical and philosophical principles behind their resistance, successful and not, in the face of injustice. How can we fight evil? What has worked? What do our stories tell us about being able to shape the world for the better? This course will also look at the history of social change sparked by writing and writers. Students in this course will be expected to discuss difficult issues with compassion, curiosity and respect.
Open to Grade 12
Credit: .5 per semester
What does it mean to be a writer? How does an author find her style? The Visiting Writer Seminar is a semester-long course in which students have the special opportunity to immerse themselves in a study of one writer’s works. Throughout the semester, students read a critical mass of texts by that writer before the course culminates with an author visit to Walker’s. During this visit, the writer will teach master classes, conduct writing workshops,
and participate in class discussion. The writer will also deliver a schoolwide assembly and a public reading to our community.
The magic of this course is created in the collaborative and symbiotic exchange between the writer and the student. Learning and inspiration move from the writer to the student but also, we hope, from the student back to the writer.
During the fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year, the class will study the works of Natalie Diaz, award-winning poet and activist. In the spring semester of the 2018-2019 academic year, the class will welcome world-famous poet and writer, Naomi Shihab Nye, to campus. Learn more about both authors at www.ethelwalker.org/visitingwriterseminar.
Works by both of these extraordinary authors will also be taught in many other English classes, so that students will be amply prepared to ask questions and to learn as much as possible from these writers’ visits to our campus.
Open to Grade 12
How does one become a native? What does it mean to be from somewhere else ? How do we make people feel like outsiders or insiders? We will study works in which the experience of being foreign is what most shapes the work. Works may include: Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, My Antonia, The Jungle, How the Other Half Lives, The Assistant, Brown Girl, Brownstones, Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Mona in the Promised Land, Interpreter of
Maladies, Make Your Home Among Strangers, The Joy Luck Club, The Emigrants, The Sympathizer, Harbor, The Happiest Refugee, and What is the What. We will read poems, essays and reports on how people who remain in transit talk about their experiences.
Open to Grade 12
What do the stories we tell and the ways in which we tell them reveal about us, our culture, and the way we view the world? This course examines the tension between themes of alienation and community, violence and regeneration, and optimism and doomed love through a close reading of various narrative forms. Locating texts at the intersection of theory, criticism, and historiography moves them beyond their isolation and into a conversation about social, political, and literary forces.
Students will read the work of such critics as Jim Kitses, Greg Rickman, Toni Morrison, Laura Mulvey, Richard Slotkin, and André Bazin, and use their theories as lenses through which to analyze novels, short stories, creative nonfiction, and film. Students will write papers and present their findings, but will also try their hand at various creative forms of expression. In the process, they will develop an understanding of the immediate and direct power stories have over their audiences. Ultimately, they will write a story and publish it.
Texts studied may include: Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Fences by August Wilson, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Joy Luck Club by
Open to Grades 11-12
This class will investigate the nature of friendship between women — and why it is so important to us. Students will read works from a variety of cultures and moments in time to examine what it is that tests the bonds of friendship and why some remain resilient. Texts may include: Emma, Sula, Never Let Me Go, My Brilliant Friend, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, Ghost World, Cat’s Eye,The Women of Brewster Place, Swing Time, and Another Brooklyn.
Open to Grades 11-12
In this course, students will write in different genres to produce a polished, professional writing portfolio (digital and print) to send off to colleges or for publication. Every student will send her works out to competitions, magazines, and other venues in order to be published and read by a global audience. Students can expect to write in class and at home for every class session. Readings will complement and support the writing goals.
Open to Grades 11-12
James Baldwin is often remembered as one of the most searing and eloquent voices of the civil rights and Black Power movements. Yet the richness and complexity of his writing is also an intricate exploration of the tensions between black and white, spiritual and political, gay and straight, isolated and communal. Perhaps because of this, his words remain as timely as ever. His words are woven into the projects of contemporary authors such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jesmyn Ward, and his work has been adapted into two award-winning films in the last three years. Baldwin wrote essays, novels, short stories, and plays. Students in this course will read and respond to samples of his work from each genre. Texts for this course include: If Beale Street Could Talk, I Am Not Your Negro, “Sonny’s Blues,” Blues for Mister Charlie, Giovanni’s Room, Going to Meet the Man, Nobody Knows My Name, Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time.
Open to Grades 11-12
This course is a deeper dive into the craft of two essential literary genres: poetry and the personal essay. The best way to study craft is to write and to read daily. Students can expect to do both as they compose in response to a variety of prompts, play with techniques demonstrated by professionals, revise toward publication, and analyze, reflect, and write about craft. Students will learn to wield concepts like scene, form, structure, reflection, images, rhythm, and metaphor to create experiences that deeply affect readers. And as they learn to think like writers, what students learn will be transferable to other kinds of writing. The class will include workshopping original work and will culminate in a writing portfolio.
LINGo is a special course of instruction for international students new to The Ethel Walker School, and offers support and instruction for students whose first language is not English. Participation in LINGo is required for all new international students, and is designed to be supportive as well as challenging. While we do require a minimum level of English proficiency for all applicants, we fully expect that students for whom English is not their first language will need help and support in acclimating to life in an American boarding school.
LINGo in an English-immersion program that offers a high level of instruction balanced with structured support to insure these non-native speakers of English advance at every level. Our approach allows students to assimilate into life as an American student as they prepare for study in an American college or university. At the same time, each student is valued for what she brings to our community, her rich cultural and national identity, and her gifts and talents as an individual. Rather than a traditional ESL course where students practice rote drills and English grammar worksheets, or a more modern ELL course that focuses solely on reading comprehension and writing skills in English, our LINGo program offers a language and cultural immersion experience.
During the summer before coming to Walker’s, each international student's proficiency in written English will be assessed. Upon her arrival for orientation, each student will also interview with a faculty member to determine the appropriate level of English language support.
Students in the LINGo program will enroll in three courses:
American Literature and Culture, Introduction to US History and Latin 1 (see each department for course descriptions).
If additional academic or English language support is needed, private, one-on-one tutoring is available at an additional cost.
Kristen St. Louis '21 earned an Honorable Mention Award in the 2019 Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest Poetry Category.
Congratulations to Jane Li '20, whose personal essay, "Under the Starry Sky," won a runner-up prize in the New York Times Learning Network 2019 Personal Narrative Essay Contest.
The New York Times has a weekly installment called "By the Book," which is a series of questions and answers about the reading habits of notable writers. Walker's fifth chapter features student Nellie Kenney '25.
The New York Times has a weekly installment called "By the Book," which is a series of questions and answers about the reading habits of notable writers. Walker's fourth chapter features English faculty member Scott Frey.
The English Department faculty pledge to help students to become published authors and to be recognized for their excellent writing well beyond the school's walls. A few of the writing and performance contests our students will participate in this year:
- Poetry Out Loud*
- Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
- New England Young Writers' Conference*
- Bennington Young Writers Award
- High School Poetry Prize, Princeton University
- The New Voices One Act Play competition
- The Nancy Thorp poetry contest, Hollins University
- Teen Ink publication*
- University of Iowa-Hemingway Festival Writing Contest
- Harvard Essay Contest*
*Contest Walker's students have won in the past
Publishing student work here at school, and in other venues is a top priority for us; the best way to understand the power of one’s voice is to use it in the wider world. Our literary magazine, regular participation in national and international writing contests, and our future goal of housing our very own press, create a literary environment in which student voices are not just heard, but honored and celebrated.