The study of English focuses upon the examination of the uses of language and literature. Its primary goals are to develop greater effectiveness in communication, to encourage clear and logical thought, and to promote a greater awareness of human values. To this end, the curriculum is organized around the intellectual skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking.As readers, students are encouraged and expected to develop the following skills:
- the sound comprehension of ideas expressed in the various forms of writing
- the ability to recognize implications and to make inferences
- the ability to distinguish the literal from the figurative
- the ability to distinguish fact from fiction
- the recognition and identification of point of view
- the ability to recognize faulty reasoning
- the perception of cause-and-effect relationships
- the recognition of the different forms and purposes of written expression
- the development of a larger, more varied vocabulary
As writers, students are encouraged and expected to seek proficiency in the following areas:
- the generating of ideas about an assigned topic
- the expression of these ideas in well-ordered paragraphs
- the construction of sound sentences and the use of varied syntax
- the correct application of the rules of punctuation, grammar, spelling and capitalization
- the control of diction and tone
- the processes of drafting and revising
Since the early 1990s the English department has shifted away from more conventional modes of instruction to discussion-based teaching around Harkness tables. Discussion-based teaching counters derivative, “safe” thinking, encouraging students to derive answers for themselves, to venture forth, and to take the kinds of risks that promote intellectual growth and self-confidence. The department believes that discussion-based teaching provides the most effective forum for discourse and that the kind of verbalization that occurs in it encourages a whole different way of thinking and a deeper level of understanding, something qualitatively better than the learning that occurs in teacher-centered classrooms. Teachers in the department seek to be more the “guide on the side” than the “sage on the stage.”
A discussion-based teaching culture heightens boys’ awareness of discussion dynamics, methods of preparation, and attendant alterations in their thinking about their individual responsibilities for what occurs during any given class time.
Middle School English: Forms l-III
The emphasis lies in the development of orderly, concise expository writing and informed reading. The reading in the lower forms is chosen to balance contemporary with traditional reading selections and to promote an introduction to each of the principal literary genres.
Given in conjunction with the reading, the writing assignments are frequent and emphasize conventional English usage. Additionally, students are introduced to the skills necessary for the acquisition of a larger active vocabulary: efficient use of the dictionary, recognition of context clues, familiarity with common Latin and Greek roots and affixes, and the methodical study of new words drawn from both vocabulary resources and the course texts.