The High School English program focuses upon literature and clear writing and speaking skills. The school reading list provides a comprehensive introduction to the foundational works of Western literature. The Socratic Seminar format promotes independent thinking. High School students study numerous prose and poetry examples and practice writing in a variety of styles to develop their communication skills. Students graduate with a deep knowledge of Western literature and the capacity to express themselves persuasively in writing and speech.
During High School, students develop first-hand knowledge of the best of Western literature and the means to express themselves in a variety of contexts. They move through the reading list within the Socratic Seminar format, reading such works as Homer’s The Odyssey, Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Students also build their fundamental writing skills by practicing the four primary types of writing: narration, description, exposition, and persuasion. As a result, students become more versatile writers and more skilled in choosing the appropriate method for expressing themselves and their ideas. In addition to writing, they also practice speech.
These skills also equip students for the AP Literature Exam. Students continue to practice speech, including debate. Special emphasis is given to the study of literature. Texts include Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I and II, and Henry V, Kafka’s The Trial and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Students’ increased understanding of how a piece of literature works prepares them to appreciate increasingly profound works of literature. Students learn to organize their impressions and analysis into a formal essay.
Students read such poets and novelists as Dante, Goethe, Henry James and Elizabeth Bishop. They also learn the fundamentals of formal rhetoric: argument, arrangement and style. Students read selections from Aristotle’s Rhetoric and practice the art of persuasion in both written and spoken form. These rhetorical skills will equip students for the AP Composition Exam and prepare them for the college application process.
Students complete the reading list by studying such works as Shakespeare’s King Lear, Eliot’s Middlemarch and Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. During the course of the year, students study the art of the essay. By reading and writing academic, thematic and personal essays, students master the ability to express themselves in a variety of contexts, writing and speaking clearly and powerfully. Students also practice the art of speech and debate, culminating in a senior speech.