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Our Vision

Our English curriculum develops perceptive, empathetic, and independent thinkers.
Through interactions with literature, our students cultivate their capacity for abstract and analytical thinking. These skills are practiced in class discussion, as well as in various forms of self expression: expository and creative writing, poetry, art, presentation, and more. Progression through the divisions enables students to methodically build skills and gain exposure to various styles, genres, voices, and perspectives. Our teachers are fundamentally committed to fostering inspired, confident readers and writers.

Upper School Philosophy

Upper School English courses build in sophistication through grades 9-12 by offering challenging texts and multiple avenues for analysis and expression. With a close eye on process, students read critically and learn to develop genuine ideas and opinions. Class conversations examine texts based on their structure and style, while simultaneously exploring various cultures, social restrictions, assumptions, and value systems. By providing a diverse curriculum, we encourage our students to develop empathy and see the value in exploring a world beyond their own.

Course offerings utilize novels, plays, short stories, folk tales, poetry, music, articles, essays, paintings, drawings, films, and podcasts. In response to these genres, students hone their ability to write clearly and powerfully with sound grammar and vocabulary. A senior elective, The Art of the Essay, provides students with techniques for being efficient and eloquent when crafting essays such as a social critique. Likewise, practice with oral presentation cultivates student confidence and articulation; for example, Genre Studies’ public speaking endeavors get students on their feet, communicating analytically and creatively.

English Course Progression

List of 5 items.

  • English 9 | Literary Foundations

    Ninth grade English focuses on developing strong critical reading skills and clear written and oral expression. The writing program includes the study of grammar and essay form within the structure of the writing process. Literature study evolves from basic plot description to intense thematic discussion.  This analysis is the basis for frequent essays and projects. Literature may include: The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Romeo & Juliet, The House on Mango Street, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, short stories, essays, and poems.
  • English 10 | Genre Studies

    The focus in tenth grade English is on writing, reading, and oral expression. The writing assignments develop sound grammar and literary interpretation and analysis as well as narration and other forms of exposition. The readings of the course stress going beyond plot to examine structure, style, and theme. A range of genres including short stories, drama, epic, and novels help students develop their sophistication of response to the literature. Readings in previous years have included Points of View (a study of short stories); Macbeth; Purple Hibiscus; Death of a Salesman; The Odyssey; Frankenstein; and The Natural.
  • English 11 | American Literature

    Eleventh Grade English explores American literature as a means to understanding America and ourselves. The course focuses on careful reading and effective writing in a discussion-based classroom. Our knowledge of American history helps to inform our conversations about how literary movements and genres has been shaped by the events and culture of the time periods we study. Writing in the junior year emphasizes fine-tuning the art of analysis, as well as practicing various narrative modes throughout the year. Longer readings may include The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, Walden, The Great Gatsby, The Awakening, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Angels in America, as well as various short stories, poems, and plays spanning from early to contemporary America.
  • English 11 | American Studies

    American Studies, another eleventh grade option, offers an integrated approach to American literature, history, and culture. This course is the literature-based component of this team-taught class. The English and history instructors will coordinate and link the materials in each component of this class. The material will still be roughly chronological.  As in other sections, students will have regular reading quizzes, writing assignments, tests, and a major exam. In the industrial era, we might combine Crane’s “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” with immigrant narratives and Riis’s photographs of tenement life. Literature may include: The Great Gatsby, Snow Falling on Cedars, Into the Wild, The Things They Carried, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Walden.
  • English 12 | American Experience*

    This Pinnacle Course is designed for students who are keenly interested in deepening their understanding of American Literature, while expanding and refining their writing skills. This course will take a chronological look at a variety of literary periods, reaching back to the Puritans and other New England writers and extending forward through the eras that shaped the 1800s and 1900s. Literary movements will be further broken down into themes that run through the progression of periods and the shifts that occur such as the role of nature, America’s relationship with God, and one’s role within society, to name a few. Through an assortment of poems, pamphlets, stories, novels, and films, students will come to understand the development of literature within our culture and how it reflects our changing society. Authors may include but are not limited to Bradstreet, Fitzgerald, Poe, Hawthorne, and Miller.

    * Requires Department Chair Approval

Explore The Upper School:

Berwick Academy

Berwick Academy, situated on an 80-acre campus just over one hour north of Boston, serves 550 students, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 and Post-Graduates. Berwick students are from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and several countries. Deeply committed to its mission of promoting virtue and useful knowledge, Berwick Academy empowers students to be creative and bold. Berwick strives to graduate alumni who shape their own learning, take risks, ask thoughtful questions, and come to understand and celebrate their authentic selves.