Student Perspectives: US English Electives

Here’s some student feedback about many of the electives in Upper School English.

AP Literature

  • “Analytical reading has been much easier as a result of participating in this class. My ability to assign meaning to a text and support it with evidence has grown incredibly. Also, I learned how to write well when under strict time pressure. I believe the analytical and writing skills learned this year will greatly benefit me in next year and in college.”
  • “I feel stronger as a reader because I was exposed to many different kinds of texts in AP Lit. I was pushed to completely unpack words to reveal their deeper meaning. Being specific was one of the biggest lessons I learned. Without evidence that is specific and relevant to the prompt, there’s no way to be completely successful. This made an impact on my writing because the more I practiced, the more focused my writing became.”
  • “Learning how to properly analyze quotes in detail and finding a larger significance enabled my writing to improve immensely. AP Lit helps with History as well since we looked into primary documents and using my English skills, I was able to properly analyze them.”

AP Language

  • “Take AP Language if you want to learn how to make your writing clear, persuasive, and concise. Do not take it if you want an “easy” class or if you want to get out of work – you’ll get out what you put in.”
  • “Take this class if you enjoy analyzing non-fiction writing and if you enjoy thinking at a deeper level.”
  • “This course is for people who want to improve their writing. I would strongly recommend this class even though it may be tough at times (it is an AP so it is supposed to be hard!) as it really benefits you. Writing is an important, lifelong skill and this class will help you develop that skill.”

American Rebels

Instructor: Cara Plamondon

  • “American Rebels dives into the rebellious protagonists of the classic books of our history. The class questions societal judgment, moral responsibility, and much more which all parallel the books read in class and our own world.”
  • “My favorite part about this class was the in-depth analysis of social norms at Menlo, in Silicon Valley, and in the world and writing a thoughtful, analytical essay about those norms. Watching Shawshank Redemption and analyzing it was also pretty cool.”

Contemporary Global Lit

Instructor: Wilson Taylor

  • “Contemporary World Literature is a class that encourages you to view the modern world in a way that is comprehensive, colorful, and consistently surprising, instead of forcing you to dwell on the mostly insignificant musings of dead white men. You will read stories about immigration, towns full of human-like cats, politics, failed relationships, dudes with wings…And you will probably love every minute of it.”

Contemporary Non-Fiction

Instructor: Cara Plamondon

  • “I was able to write about interesting, relevant topics that I was excited about! We used different types of media (books, articles, film) and learned helpful analytical techniques as well.”
  • “If you never want to write an essay about motifs again, seriously consider this class. It was an amazing journey through the use of writing in the real world. You’ll be enthralled by the reading (and watching list), and all the people you’ll Skype-in along the way.”
  • “This class is awesome because it will expose you to many forms of media, literature, and writing, and teach you how to synthesize all of these. Among other topics, grappling with current events, writing commentaries, studying satire, and a research/position paper that emphasizes graphics give the class an unbeatable curriculum.”

Dystopian Fiction and Film

Instructor: Cara Plamondon

  • “Reading 1984 and watching Minority Report was eye-opening in terms of understanding how authors and screenwriters interpret what’s going on with our government. The papers in this class had prompts that inspired me to write!”
  • “The focus on a specific genre allows the class to better travel in depth into literature and short films, drawing together an understanding for many themes and techniques that allow dystopian works to be such powerful social commentaries. The writing assignments connect material to today’s society, making the class very enjoyable.”


Instructor: Margaret Ramsey

  • “The Emerson class is an opportunity to learn about several of the works of a revered American writer but then to apply the concepts to your own life and your own perceptions of the world. The class requires you to dig deep into topics that you may never have considered heavily before.”

Freak Character in American Culture

Instructor: Margaret Ramsey

  • “Freaks is a class that uses the specific topic of freak shows to explore more broad subjects like love, gender, individuality, and racism. The discussions that I had in this class were some of the most interesting that I have been a part of because we discuss topics that everyone has an opinion on. Freaks improved my writing skills more than any other class that I have taken at Menlo.”
  • “TAKE THIS CLASS. Seriously. It will change how you look at the world. Given that it is an honors class, Freaks requires a bit more work than some other English electives. But I really loved that Freaks allowed me to explore my own personal interests within the overarching theme of the freak show and the other. (For example, I love U.S. history and politics, so I wrote my final essay on the elements of the freak show in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.) If you love reading and writing, I highly recommend taking Freaks!”


Instructor: Wilson Taylor

  • “Monsters! is open to interpretation and class discussions are interesting when people share their different opinions. It’s an awesome class if you enjoy thinking deep about your inner soul, but also if you just like learning about abnormalities.”