Reading. Writing. Thinking.
The English Department offers a curriculum rich in reading, writing and discussion, from world literature to senior seminars. Our top goals include:
- Emphasizing the link between close reading and interpretive/analytical writing
- Enhancing students’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of literatures of diverse cultures
- Helping students communicate complicated ideas both orally and in writing
- Helping students contextualize literature based on historical and political influences and realize the connections to contemporary issues
- Encouraging students’ lifelong pleasure in reading and writing
English 1 and English 2 comprise Menlo’s English Foundations program. Over the course of their freshmen and sophomore years, students will learn how to position themselves as writers, readers, listeners and speakers in the ever-broadening cultural conversations surrounding them. Students will build familiarity and ability in several types of writing and reading. They will also embark on a two-year grammatical program designed to develop and hone their mechanics and style. After English 1 and English 2, students may choose to take either AP Literature or AP Language.
English 1 students will work to establish their authorial voices while focusing on writing as a process. In the fall, students will write a variety of personal narratives and expository pieces in order to deepen their awareness of their own opinions and values. To support their exploration, students will read personal essays, short stories, novels, and poetry. In the spring, students will use their self-knowledge to position themselves within larger cultural dialogues as we begin to work on academic and literary arguments. This practice will deepen their ability to recognize literary devices, to write logically, and to support claims with evidence. Finally, students will end the year with a focused study of rhetoric and speech with op-ed pieces, speeches, plays, and fiction serving to inspire students. The fundamentals of grammar and punctuation will be introduced and practiced for competency throughout the year.
English 2 will expose students to the concept of responsibility, how responsibility impacts individual choice and the ensuing consequences of those decisions using various genres including the memoir and non-fiction, contemporary and classic novels, poetry and drama. Writing and reading instruction will further the skills introduced in the freshman year. In the fall, students will become more independent and adept at developing and defending their interpretive assertions with an increasingly complex line of argumentation. In addition, students will revisit grammatical concepts learned in their freshman year and continue to hone the precision and power of their written expression by building more complex sentence structures. By spring, students will develop facility with inter-textual analysis, both within and outside of the text, identify “cultural conversations” that emerge, and more precisely analyze how meaning is cultivated in a text.
AP Literature is a year-long course that prepares students to take the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition exam, along with the SAT Subject Test in Literature. Most important, the course prepares students to read, write and reason at a high level about complex ideas and topics essential to modern life. Students read a wide range of notable texts written in English, including novels, plays, poetry and essays, from literary classics to last week’s New Yorker piece. Students will become adept with a rich assortment of reading and writing strategies while learning the craft of AP essay-writing, personal writing, synthesis and persuasive writing. Lively classroom discussion and oral presentation skills round out the course of study.
AP Language and Composition
The purpose of AP Language is to prepare students to “write effectively and confidently in their college courses across the curriculum and in their professional and personal lives” (AP College Board Course Description). This rigorous course focuses on nonfiction writing, and students will become more proficient and comfortable both reading and producing complex pieces from a variety of fields (science, philosophy, popular culture, gender studies, etc.) and genres (e.g. essays, research, journalism, political writing, speeches, biography and autobiography, history, criticism). Students should expect to write frequently and in a variety of modes, since the course intends to develop their own awareness of audience, purpose and composing strategies. The course avoids a thematic or chronological approach in order to focus on essential reading, writing, and thinking skills involved in the study of rhetoric and composition.
The senior English program consists of semester-long courses (nine offered each semester) designed to give students the broadest choice of study in their final year at Menlo. As opposed to the “survey” course students take in their junior year, senior electives are narrower in focus, thus permitting a deeper exploration of a topic. Class discussion is less teacher-generated, and students have more agency in choice of writing topics and, therefore, greater responsibility in shaping their paper writing. All senior electives will ask students to write a minimum of three core papers, at least one of which will be analytical. Non-senior students with an interest in enrolling in a seminar may have the opportunity to do so provided the course has room once all seniors are placed. Seniors also have the choice of taking an Honors level seminar.