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.