The High School English Department focuses on developing higher-order thinking, analytical skills, and written communication through a close examination of diverse perspectives from world literature. Students read a variety of works including plays, poems, short stories, novels, and non-fiction selections that are a mix of classic and contemporary literature. We highlight classic themes in literature in addition to modern topics related to social justice.
Teachers promote critical analysis through guided discussions, Socratic-style seminar classes, and close reading. These activities help develop students’ independence, reading comprehension skills, and their ability to use textual evidence to support their opinions and claims.
The English Department also focuses on developing writing skills to prepare our students for life after Churchill. All English classes set aside a class period each week during which our high school speech and language specialists are in the class to help with writing development. Our team of language therapists push-in to provide additional support during this class. English writing assignments include analytical essays, creative writing, Regents preparation essays, persuasive essays, and college essay practice and guidance. The English department also collaborates with the History department for a writing lab period. Lab focuses on writing skills through current student writing (also supported by the speech and language therapists). Writing lab periods can include direct grammar instruction, writing conferences, goal-setting, and revision or continuation of English/History writing.
We differentiate and scaffold at every level of instruction and assessment. This includes providing audio recordings of books, chapter summaries and guided notes for our readings. Teaming with the speech and language department, we also provide extensive outlines, graphic organizers, brainstorming activities, and one-on-one writing assistance.
The ninth-grade English curriculum is designed to continue sharpening students’ reading and writing skills. At its foundation is multiple works of literature that represent different genres and cultures. These works include Monster by Walter Dean Myers, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Through thoughtful discussions and shorter written assignments, we examine themes, character development, literary devices, and vocabulary. At the conclusion of every book, students write a 4-5 paragraph literary analysis essay that demonstrates their awareness of audience and purpose.
In tenth grade, students work to develop their voices as writers and critical thinkers. Through a range of genres and texts, students examine themes of power and oppression and the individual in society, making connections between works of literature, their experiences, and the world around them. Texts include Antigone by Sophocles, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. We also take a critical look at the justice system with the Serial podcast. Lastly, students make interdisciplinary connections using Salvaged Pages, a collection of diaries written by teenagers during the Holocaust, and Loung Ung's memoir First They Killed My Father, culminating with a semester-long written memoir project and presentation.
Eleventh grade English uses a variety of classic and contemporary texts to explore the promise and limits of the American Dream. We focus on how authors tell stories as well as what each tells us about the American experience. Texts include Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, August Wilson's Fences, Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.As twelfth-grade students prepare to move beyond high school and the Churchill community, we study and discuss works to examine the concept of identity and one's place in society. Early in the year, the written work focuses on introspection and we spend time writing college application essays or personal stories. Later in the year, we focus more on critical analysis in essay writing. During the year we read and discuss all or parts of Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, M Butterfly by Henry David Hwang, Becoming by Michelle Obama, The Stranger by Albert Camus, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh.