The English Department at St. Sebastian's has three distinct goals: first, to help students read with understanding, appreciation, and insight; second, to encourage incisive thinking through involved discussion; third, to enable students to write clearly, logically, and personally about the issues and ideas of literature and of their lives.
All three goals are intrinsic to the program. The selection of required canonical and nontraditional literature and the expectation of independent reading contribute to the development of sound comprehension skills and analytical ability. The quality and range of discussion possible in small classes generates increased depth of thought as it places a premium on the ability to present ideas with clarity and focus. An emphasis on frequent writing at every grade level works toward the establishment of refined and persuasive writing ability. As it works to produce effective readers, thinkers, and writers, the department also seeks to develop each student's intrinsic love of literature and increase his understanding of experiences different from his own.
The goals and diverse methodologies of the department depend heavily upon collaborative involvement and participation of both teachers and students. In their classes, English teachers embrace an active student model, where each member of the class is both engaged in and responsible for his own learning. Students sit face to face with one another and with the teacher, creating a fertile environment for shared discussion and genuine learning.
In grades seven through eleven, students participate in full-year, comprehensive English courses in which they study literature in its major forms: short story, novel, poetry, drama, and nonfiction. Teachers examine the fundamentals of English language with their students and provide guidance and comments that develop proficiency in writing. At the same time, students in these classes learn to find their own voices both in their written work and in the daily discussions central to every English class in the School. In grade twelve, qualified students have an opportunity to pursue AP courses in English Literature and/or Writing. All upper school English courses are offered on honors and standard levels.
- English 7
- English 8
- English 9
- Freshman Writing
- English 10
- English 11
- English 12
- AP English Literature
- AP English Language and Composition
- AP English Literature and Composition: Creative Writing
- Senior Writing
In this course, students undergo their initial preparation for advancement through the English program. The emphasis is upon writing skills and basic grammar, as well as an expanded view of literature. Additionally, students read a variety of short stories, plays, poems and novels. Students learn to express in writing their responses to the works they read. Texts include Hackett, The Diary of Anne Frank; McDougal, Littel Literature, Green Level; Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet; and Vocabulary Workshop, Level C.
In this course, students continue their study of language and literature, and they engage in more comprehensive writing. Students continue the reading and study of novels, short stories, and plays, and they develop a familiarity with language that is essential to the appreciation of serious thought. As they progress from the writing of paragraphs to well-structured compositions, they develop the techniques of outlining, revising, and following a well-ordered plan of writing. Works studied include Elements of Literature, Second Course; Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea; Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird; Shakespeare, Julius Caesar.
In the grade nine course, students further refine their writing ability, producing expository papers of up to five hundred words in length. The study of various forms of literature continues, with an eye to the development of critical reading and interpretive skills. Works studied include Golding, Lord of the Flies; Homer, Odyssey (trans. Fagles); Beowulf (trans. Heaney); Austen, Pride & Prejudice; Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1; Hamilton,Mythology; and Wilson, Fences.
This required course, taken in addition to English 9, provides an academic forum in which students develop their abilities to express themselves intelligently, accurately, and creatively. The writing process—prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing—becomes a natural and effective method for students as their writing confidence and skills grow. The class engages students in reading published expository prose, fiction, poetry, and peer writing as models of and inspiration for their exemplary compositions. In conjunction with the formal modes of analytical writing, journal writing fosters the open expression of ideas and voice. In addition, students build their peer-revision and self-revision skills through discussions, teacher-student conferences, and exercises in the classroom. To help students edit with purpose and certainty, the course emphasizes grammar and mechanics lessons as the foundation of strong, well-organized prose. Texts include Grammar for Writing; Models for Writers; and Vocabulary from Classical Roots, Book D.
At this level a thorough foundation in grammar as well as a facility in writing well-organized essays is assumed. Reading in different literary modes continues while emphasis is placed on developing a critical perspective. Written assignments focus on the consideration of character and theme in literature. Works studied include Achebe, Things Fall Apart; Shakespeare, Macbeth; Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus Rex; Orwell, 1984; and Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
In the eleventh grade, students undertake the study of American literature from the precolonial to the modern period. Class discussion and written assignments will consider American themes including race, freedom, individuality, and the family. Works studied include Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, and American Slave; Wharton, Ethan Frome; O'Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories; AP English Language & Composition Prep Guide; Faulkner, Go Down Moses; Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms; Miller, Death of a Salesman.
The study of literature and composition in the senior year is intended to be intensive. Class discussions focus on a critical eye in reading. Students will regularly be required to compose analytical essays as well as creative responses to the literature studied. Works studied include Shakespeare, Hamlet, Othello; McCarthy, The Road; Ellison, Invisible Man; Huxley, Brave New World
This course is an intensive full-year study of literature intended to be the equivalent of a college-level English course. Students will engage in significant amounts of reading, writing, critical thinking, and discussion as they confront important works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama. Students should expect the degree of difficulty, the amount of time required for outside preparation, and the workload to be substantial. All students are required to take the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition exam in May. Works studied include Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury; Salinger, Nine Stories; Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment; Shakepeare, Hamlet, King Lear; Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.
AP Language and Composition is a writing and reading-intensive course designed to develop students' personal and analytical writing. Students engage in reading and discussion about effective writing, complete peer writing reviews, and examine models of narrative and argumentative writing in preparation for their own essays and papers. Students will also prepare for the AP Language and Composition test by taking practice examinations and reviewing the reading skills and literary terms required by this exam. Works studied include On Writing Well, Zinsser; The Bedford Reader; Short Takes: Brief Encounters with Contemporary Non-Fiction.
This course is designed for seniors with a serious interest in creative writing. The class will demand a high volume of original writing, which will be peer-reviewed in an open and supportive workshop. All genres – including fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama – will be explored. In the second semester, students will begin work on a defining project – novella, memoir, poetry chapbook, short story collection, or play – which will be completed by the end of the year. In May, the students will be required to take the AP Language and Composition Exam. Reading will be selected with an eye toward investigating the mysteries of craft, process, and point-of-view; these texts may include Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway, and The Art of Fiction by John Gardner.
This elective course, created for students who desire additional writing instruction, engages students in reading and composing personal essays, argumentative essays, literary critical essays, short stories, plays and other genres. In the fall, emphasis is placed on preparing and revising the college essay. Throughout the year, students read and critique each other’s work during the revision process; this peer feedback complements the instructor's comments. Texts include Barron’s Essays That Will Get You into College; Strunk and White, Elements of Style; and Zinsser, On Writing Well.