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Curriculum: English

English 12: Speaking Truth to Power is an English elective that also fulfills the ethics requirement.

This course will examine 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 or 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 social change sparked by writing and writers. Students in this course will be expected to discuss difficult issues with compassion, curiosity, and respect.   

English 12: From Pages to Pixels

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

Many of cinema’s greatest movies are derived from books. This course explores the relationship between the written word and the movies; they both tell stories, but authors and directors make different choices to engage us in their art. Is it fair to critique a movie in the same way as we analyze a work of literature? Will we be forever disappointed in the movie version of a book we’ve loved? Can a moving picture really paint a thousand words?

This course refines students’ analytical skills to appreciate the techniques and talents of authors and directors alike; each student compiles her own list of criteria for a successful depiction of each work of literature so that she may assess the respective movie version. Formal written assessments therefore comprise a balanced review of the relative strengths, weaknesses, and worth of both the book and the movie.

English 12: The Ethel Walker School Visiting Writer Seminar

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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 the author’s 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 2020-2021 academic year, the class will study the works of Camille T. Dungy, award-winning poet and essayist. In the spring semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, the class will welcome American poet, editor, professor, translator, and human rights advocate, Carolyn Forché, 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.

English 12: Creative Writing: Fiction and Drama

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

This course is a deeper dive into the craft of two essential literary genres: fiction and drama. 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, as they play with techniques demonstrated by professionals, as they revise toward publication, and as they analyze, reflect, and write about craft. Students will learn concepts like character development, world-building, plot structure, and dialogue to create compelling narratives from perspectives that matter to them. 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.

English 12: Creative Writing: Poetry and Personal Essays

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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 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.

English 12: I Can Hear Jimmy: James Baldwin Now

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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.

English 12: Writing Portfolio and Publication

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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.

English 12: Friendship: Tried and True

Upper School

Grade 11, Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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.

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, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.

English 12: The Other: The Immigrant Experience in Literature

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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.

English 12: Shakespeare

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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.

Advanced English 12: Literature and Medicine

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

“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.

English 12: Creative Writing

Upper School

Grade 12

English

Credits: .5

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 the craft. An edited portfolio of publication-ready works is the final product of this course.

Honors English 11: Literature Of Place

Upper School

Grade 11

English

Credits: 1

In Advanced English: Literature of Place, students strive to advance the twin skills of reading and writing well, and to expand their understanding of American life and letters. They read many great texts of American literature 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 who take Advanced English will be prepared to take the AP Literature exam at the end of the year.

English 11: Literature of Place

Upper School

Grade 11

English

Credits: 1

Honors level also available

How does the place shape a person? In this course, students will study primarily the literature of America and Americans, both of these broadly defined to include indigenous, undocumented, newly arrived, long-settled, powerful, and powerless people. Students will read and examine what it means to be a citizen, to have a voice, or to be without one, here in this country. They will write amply about who tells the story of our country and what each narrative reveals about our hopes, dreams, and values.

Students will write critically and creatively on every text, and they will learn to use their own voices to speak truth to power in the form of letters to the editor, one-act plays, short fiction, poetry, speeches and editorial or persuasive essays. Texts may include: Beloved, The Great Gatsby, The Wolves, The Roundhouse, The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, Americanah, stories by Melville,Twain, Lahiri, Jackson, Munro, Parker, O’Connor, Davis, poems by Dickinson, Stevens, Millay, Vuong, Diaz, Plath, essays by Rankine, Coates, Dillard, King, and others.

Honors English 10: Literature of Identity

Upper School

Grade 10

English

Credits: 1

In all cultures on earth, people discover their own individual identities in the contexts familial, cultural, linguistic, religious, political, and historical. The job of the individual, in many of the greatest works of literature, is to construct, and often, to protect a self, the identity that can withstand the slings and arrows of the world outside of itself. With an eye toward introducing works from each of the continents and in a wide variety of genres, we present the students with works in which cultures reflect and are reflected by compelling individual selves.

A major poetry project prompts students to discover the poems from a place of their own interest, and we work through the challenges of poetic and cultural translation. Works may include: Shakespeare’s Othello or Macbeth, Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Sagan’s Bonjour, Tristesse, Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Roy’s The God of Small Things, poetry by Du Fu, Szymborska, Amichai, Neruda, Lorca, Akhmatova. Students research and present a significant poetry project after a serious study of the genre.

The Honors 10th grade English course will require lengthier and more challenging readings, essay topics, oral presentations, and original research. Students in honors are expected to read with interest and intellectual curiosity.

English 10: Literature of Identity

Upper School

Grade 10

English

Credits: 1

Honors level also available

In all cultures on earth, people discover their own individual identities in the contexts familial, cultural, linguistic, religious, political, and historical. The job of the individual, in many of the greatest works of literature, is to construct, and often, to protect a self, the identity that can withstand the slings and arrows of the world outside of itself. With an eye toward introducing works from each of the continents and in a wide variety of genres, we present the students with works in which cultures reflect and are reflected by compelling individual selves.

A major poetry project prompts students to discover the poems from a place of their own interest, and we work through the challenges of poetic and cultural translation. Works may include: Shakespeare’s Othello or Macbeth, Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Sagan’s Bonjour, Tristesse, Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Roy’s The God of Small Things, poetry by Du Fu, Szymborska, Amichai, Neruda, Lorca, Akhmatova.

Honors English 9: Literature of Growing Up

Upper School

Grade 9

English

Credits: 1

Coming-of-age is perhaps the most compelling theme in literature. A young person’s trajectory from childhood to adulthood is at the heart of many of the most exciting texts, but it is also the place in which students find themselves in the ninth grade. It is the beginning of high school, the beginning of taking on challenges and responsibilities that might be inconceivable prior to this moment. In addition to reading ancient and contemporary texts about this state of change, we will examine the patterns and rituals that show the nuances of how race, class, gender, culture, family and politics shape the experience. Students will read and write fiction, drama, poetry and creative non-fiction. They can expect to be able to write a compelling literary essay, but also to be able to work in the genres they have studied. Reading, writing, and speaking are at the heart of every English class at Walker’s; each of these skills will be honed throughout the year. Works may include: Homer’s Odyssey, Ward’s Salvage the Bones, Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Wiesel’s Night, Twelfth Night, Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, poems by Rita Dove, Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

The Honors 9th grade English course will require lengthier and more challenging readings, essay topics, oral presentations, and original research. Students in honors are expected to read with interest and
intellectual curiosity.

English 9: Literature of Growing Up

Upper School

Grade 9

English

Credits: 1

Honors level also available

Coming-of-age is perhaps the most compelling theme in literature. A young person’s trajectory from childhood to adulthood is at the heart of many of the most exciting texts, but it is also the place in which students find themselves in the ninth grade. It is the beginning of high school, the beginning of taking on challenges and responsibilities that might be inconceivable prior to this moment. In addition to reading ancient and contemporary texts about this state of change, we will examine the patterns and rituals that show the nuances of how race, class, gender, culture, family, and politics shape the experience. Students will read and write fiction, drama, poetry and creative non-fiction. They can expect to be able to write a compelling literary essay, but also to be able to work in the genres they have studied. Reading, writing, and speaking are at the heart of every English class at Walker’s; each of these skills will be honed throughout the year. Works may include: Homer’s Odyssey, Ward’s Salvage the Bones, Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Wiesel’s Night, Twelfth Night, Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, poems by Rita Dove, Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

English 8

Middle School

Grade 8

English

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, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, among others.

English 7

Middle School

Grade 7

English

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.

English 6

Middle School

Grade 6

English

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 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.