Upper School English
In the English Department, we take Cornelia Connelly’s preference for “actions not words” to heart. Walking into a classroom, you are more likely to see students actively working in this idea-centered curriculum rather than a lecturing teacher. It’s easy to see our three pillars for teaching English: collaboration, shared responsibility, and deeper thinking.
In freshman and sophomore years, we focus on a strong framework for future success. Students will be practicing academic discussion around a Harkness table, logging into their laptops with a daily grammar assignment on One Note, or you might see them in pairs collaborating on topic sentences that will be shared with the rest of the class. Sophomores will be analyzing the grammatical structure of a sentence and then working together to mirror the writer’s structure in their own sentences. They might be acting out scenes from Macbeth or working on templates of evidence and analysis in writing or reciting poetry.
A junior might be sharing her independent reading for the month in a speed-dating-a-book session; students could be in discussion about what makes Gatsby great around their Harkness table, or using their shared collaboration spaces on their laptops to create imagined Snapchat conversations between characters over last night’s reading or sharing their buddy journals about The Scarlet Letter. The AP English Language students might be analyzing rhetorical strategy in a shared text projected on the screen while all collaborate before they write tomorrow’s essay in class. Seniors might be working on their quarter projects in Humanities, creating altered books or preparing for their video art talks at the National Gallery of Art. Students in AP Literature may be discussing when Hamlet is putting on his “antic disposition” while students in Senior English wrestle with complex and difficult texts like Columbine. By the senior year, we have been building to these complicated and difficult questions, formulating answers and solutions that adults must make in the world.
We are committed to ensuring that our students take away the skills they will need to be successful communicators in their adult lives—that they are able to read critically, to think analytically, to speak persuasively and thoughtfully, and to write effectively. And the one thing our returning college students relate again and again is that, “We really learned how to write at Holy Child, much more than our college friends!”