ENGLISH III: Individual as Hero

(REGULAR AND ADVANCED)

Covering classic and contemporary texts in a variety of genres, such as Into the Wild, The Odyssey, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Henry IV, Part 1, the English III curriculum focuses thematically upon essential elements of the hero’s journey at a time when our students are setting forth on their own missions of self-discovery as readers, writers and thinkers.  In English III, third formers receive a thorough grounding in principles of grammar and vocabulary while mastering the structures of various kinds of paragraphs and essays.  Throughout the year, third-form teachers stress fundamental study skills important to all Berkshire classes, including critical reading, detailed note-taking, organization of course materials, and timely completion and submission of work.

 
ENGLISH IV: Individuals in Communities

(REGULAR AND ADVANCED)

In the English IV reading curriculum, students develop critical reading skills through the study of a variety of literary genres—fiction, drama, poetry and personal narrative—in their structural elements; representative works include Oedipus Rex, The Taming of the Shrew, Frankenstein, The Kite Runner as well as numerous short stories, poems, and a memoir. Building on the English III theme of the hero’s journey, fourth formers broaden their focus to the role of the individual in larger communities. Students continue to review grammar and usage, but exclusively in context of strengthening and revising their own writing, and acquire knowledge of Latin and Greek etymology. English IV’s writing curriculum expands on the range of the third-form assignments, focusing on more complex and formally structured expository/analytical essays, but also includes a personal memoir and a poetry portfolio. Students perform a Shakespearean scene as a means to understanding as well as participate in “Poetry Out Loud,” a national recitation project, in order to learn about poetry from a performance perspective.

 

ENGLISH V: American Identities

(REGULAR AND ADVANCED)

The fifth-form year concentrates on the American identity in literature from the nineteenth century to the present day. Representative authors include Whitman, Dickinson, Thoreau, and Fitzgerald, in addition to more contemporary writers such as Toni Morrison and Tony Kushner. Expanding on the genres studied in earlier years, this course includes screenplay, film, and audio essays. Students continue to build their working vocabularies through careful attention to course texts, especially focusing on words that regularly appear on standardized tests, and improve other skills relevant to the SAT and ACT exams. As with the fourth-form year, critical analysis is a central component of the written work, and fifth formers begin to work more extensively with secondary sources at this level. Written work includes journals and blogs, expository essays, personal reflection, screenwriting, and research papers.  In the second semester, students write and record “This I Believe” essays, in preparation for personal writing critical to the college application process and beyond.

 

ADVANCED ENGLISH VI: THE CANON

What is “The Canon?”  What causes a work to be categorized as a canonical text? Teachers and scholars every year discuss which texts “ought to be taught” or “simply cannot be removed from the curriculum.” Throughout the year, students read those books that have been placed seemingly permanently on the shelf of the Literary Canon, those that have been pushed off the edge, and those that are contemporary contenders.  Students consider the complex social, cultural, and even political considerations that inform canon discussion and review the intense debate over whether there ought to be a canon at all.  Writers from Aristophanes to James Baldwin are considered, all the time asking what makes a work “classic” and whether such a designation can ever be disentangled from considerations of power.

 

ENGLISH VI: Electives

English VI consists of two semester-long elective classes that continue to emphasize and hone the foundational skills acquired earlier while simultaneously preparing students for the more narrowly focused, highly specific courses found in college English departments. Though diverse in their literary and stylistic focus, they nevertheless share a number of similarities: all sixth-form English classes work on writing well-crafted and thoughtful college essays in the fall semester; and they all read Hamlet and participate in the School’s annual “Hamlet Night” performance in January before beginning their different curricula. Of course, all classes also include substantial reading, writing, and discussion, but the kinds of texts and assignments will vary. 

First Semester Electives:

Boarding School Literature and Professional Expression. While reading the Boarding School literary canon, including some of the following titles, divided over two semesters: A Separate Peace, The Headmaster, Perfectly Prep, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Old School, Leaving Maggie Hope, and A Good School, we will delve into the Identity of Boarding School and how it is perceived upon a student’s arrival and then, much later, to an alumnus’ memory after departure.  The purpose of this course is to look at boarding school identity as a broad concept to be understood and communicated—in marketing the school to prospective students and alumni but also in articulating the meaning of the Boarding School experience overall.  Thus, in addition to traditional analytical papers about boarding school novels,  students will also practice “professional English”—including business letters, blog and newsletter articles, interviews, flyers, professional email, PowerPoint and any other type of written word deemed necessary to communicate inside and outside our community what Berkshire School “is all about.” 

The course will be divided into two sections, the first semester students working in part with the Admission Office, and those in the second semester working with the Development Office. Students may enroll in ONE semester.


College Writing. Modeled after an introductory composition course at the college level, this class will prepare students to write effectively in the four predominant rhetorical modes:  expository, analytical, narrative and persuasive.  Students will propose, draft, revise and submit one major paper in each of these modes, augmenting their writing skills by reading sample texts that demonstrate a skillful use of language and argumentation.  By the end of the semester, each student will leave with the tools to succeed as a writer in the college classroom. 

College Writing I (S1)
This course, modeled upon an introductory writing course at the college level, will focus upon the reading, writing and revision of essays in two major rhetorical modes:  exposition ("all about x") and persuasion ("what we should do about y").  By the end of the semester, you will be well on your way to being able to survive, and even thrive, in the many kinds of writing tasks you will encounter in college. 

NOTE:  This course may be, but does not have to be, taken in conjunction with College Writing II.


Introduction to Film. The goal of this class is to enjoy, understand, and reflect on film as a narrative medium, studying formal techniques of film-making and interpretation as well content  issues of humanity, psychology, and philosophy.  We’ll consider whether film is helpful and relevant to understand our own lives or is just another form of entertainment.  How can we interpret a film so that we don’t spoil our enjoyment of it through “over-analyzing” it?  Your reflections on film, be them historical, critical or personal, will take form in weekly essays, presentations and class discussion.


Jane Austen and Pop Culture. In this course we’ll focus on Jane Austen’s impact on pop culture and its themes of manners, hierarchy, relationships, and class. This course will center on writing and a culminating pop cultural multimedia project. We will concentrate on writing argumentative essays and memoir pieces while reading Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies in conjunction with Austen's original counterpart, Diary of Bridget Jones, Rudyard Kipling's short story The Janeites, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, and Sense and Sensibility and the Seamonsters.

Mountain and Me. This course is designed to take a literary look at the relationship between the out-of-doors, specifically the local landscape, and the individual.  Students write and read fiction and non-fiction related to the outdoors.  Authors may include John Muir, Annie Dillard, Jack London, Jon Krakauer, Bill Bryson,  Edna St. Vincent Millay and Henry David Thoreau.  Students write about their own interactions with the natural world and responses to texts.  In addition, students spend some time outside of class engaging with the mountain in various ways.

Political Animals:  Red Blood, Blue Blood. The political process and the dynamic individuals who participate in it have long been a focus of American literature.  Perhaps because of the very nature of the American democratic experience, which carries within it high-minded notions of personal empowerment, social activism, public service and important cultural values, but also deep anxiety about corruption, cronyism, fierce partisanship, and alienation, writers—conservative and liberal alike--have treated American politics with a mixture of idealism and skepticism.  This course will examine the evolution of the political novel in the United States, from the mid-20th century until today.  Texts may include:  All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, Anthem by Ayn Rand, The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Cordon, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid.  Films will include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington by Frank Capra, Wag the Dog by Barry Levinson, and State of Play by Kevin Macdonald.

Second Semester Electives:

Autobiography. In this course we’ll be reading books like Malcolm X, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Girl, Interrupted, and Woman Warrior, among others, to look at the genre of memoir/autobiography.  What is it that makes a writer want to share his/her story?  What story does each have to share?  We will look at style (compare and contrast style) and discuss what is so captivating about the human story that makes us both want to share our own as well as read others.  The semester would culminate in the writing of students’ own 20-page minimum memoir.

Boarding School Literature and Professional Expression.  While reading the Boarding School literary canon, including some of the following titles, divided over two semesters: A Separate Peace, The Headmaster, Perfectly Prep, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Old School, Leaving Maggie Hope, and A Good School, we will delve into the Identity of Boarding School and how it is perceived upon a student’s arrival and then, much later, to an alumnus’ memory after departure.  The purpose of this course is to look at boarding school identity as a broad concept to be understood and communicated—in marketing the school to prospective students and alumni but also in articulating the meaning of the Boarding School experience overall.  Thus, in addition to traditional analytical papers about boarding school novels,  students will also practice “professional English”—including business letters, blog and newsletter articles, interviews, flyers, professional email, PowerPointand any other type of written word deemed necessary to communicate inside and outside our community what Berkshire School “is all about.” 

The course will be divided into two sections, the first semester students working in part with the Admission Office, and those in the second semester working with the Development Office. Students may enroll in ONE semester.


College Writing. Modeled after an introductory composition course at the college level, this class will prepare students to write effectively in the four predominant rhetorical modes:  expository, analytical, narrative and persuasive.  Students will propose, draft, revise and submit one major paper in each of these modes, augmenting their writing skills by reading sample texts that demonstrate a skillful use of language and argumentation.  By the end of the semester, each student will leave with the tools to succeed as a writer in the college classroom. 

College Writing II (S2)
This course, modeled upon an introductory writing course at the college level, will focus upon the reading, writing and revision of essays in two major rhetorical modes: analysis ("how x actually works") and narration ("let me tell you a story about y").  By the end of the semester, you will be well on your way to being able to survive, and even thrive, in the many kinds of writing tasks you will encounter in college. 

NOTE:  This course may be, but does not have to be, taken in conjunction with College Writing I.

Greek Mythology.  Greek Mythology is all around. Whether it be advertising, art, architecture, movies, television, video games or literary texts, it permeates modern culture. The focus of this interdisciplinary course is three-fold. First, students study the essential Greek myths and the basics of Greek art. They next examine the representation of these basic myths in subsequent European art and literature. Students have a core text on Greek mythology as the backbone of the course, The Penguin Book of Classical Myths by Jenny March. In addition to this text, students read works such as The Infernal Machine by Jean Cocteau, Theseus by Andre Gide, and The Odyssey by Derek Walcott together with selected poetry. There are regular writing assignments on both myth and art, most of which is based on library research. The semester culminates with a research paper, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.


Harlem Renaissance.  We will focus on the evolution of African-American voices during the Harlem Renaissance.  Through a close look at poetry, essays, short stories, film and fiction, we will analyze and examine the close connection music and art played in the development of the African-American voice in literature as we look at blues, jazz and improvisation, especially the musical acts from the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.  Students will write several analytical papers along with a culminating, individual project of a film documentary on the various influential artists of the era.  The following texts will be among our literary resources as well as handouts of essays and speeches:  The Autobiography of Malcom X as told by Alex Haley¸ Passing by Nella Larsen, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston. 

Literary Prize Winners. The Booker, Pulitzer, Nobel, Whitbread (now the Costa Book Award), Neustadt, the Hugo, and the National Book Award – the winners of these prizes are the new classics, the texts that will be taught into the future as the great works of our time. Students in this course read a selection of recent winners, with a focus on identity and the many forms that identity can take. Before choosing the winners, however, students discuss the other works up for the award and how the winners were chosen. In the end, students determine which finalist to read and discuss.  Some possible selections include the following winners: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson; The City & The City by China Miéville; and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Mysteries.  What makes the mystery story or novel so compelling that it remains the most popular literary genre? This class traces the development of the mystery, particularly the detective variety. Students investigate how crime is solved by the great sleuths of fiction—among them, Dupin, Holmes, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Philip Marlowe—and determine how their creators—Poe, Doyle, Christie, Sayers, and Chandler—have held society’s interest for such a long time.  Students also see how the technique translates to film, via The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, and The Usual Suspects. The semester culminates in teams of students writing original radio mystery dramas, to be broadcast on WBSL, based on the styles of the authors listed above.

 

Villains. Although English-language literature has produced many great heroes—protagonists better than most of us who rise to the ethical and personal challenges of difficult times—there have also been great villains, dynamic and charismatic antiheroes who work against the public good for their own devious purposes.  These antagonists serve interesting narrative and thematic purposes, without which the texts that include them would be lesser works.  How do villains affect the moral fabric of the novel?  What do they teach us about ourselves?  How do writers make villains both compelling and unsympathetic, all at the same time?  We will consider these questions and more by looking at great works of the last 120 years, starting with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Professor Moriarty in The Final Problem,   Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes in Misery, Patrick Batemen in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, and the eponymous character in Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin

 

ADVANCED PLACEMENT ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND COMPOSITION

Advanced Placement English Language and Composition is a yearlong course for qualified fifth formers who wish to become skilled readers of prose written in a variety of rhetorical contexts and to become skilled writers who compose for a variety of purposes. The course emphasizes the expository, analytical, and argumentative writing that forms the basis of academic and professional communication, as well as the personal and reflective writing that fosters the ability to write in any context. In preparation for the AP English Language examination, students become acquainted with a wide variety of prose styles from many disciplines and historical periods, and gain understanding of the connections between writing and interpretive skill in reading.

Prerequisite: Permission of the Department

 

ADVANCED PLACEMENT ENGLISH LITERATURE AND COMPOSITION

This college-level course is designed for qualified sixth formers who wish to undertake a rigorous and intensive study of British and Postcolonial literature in preparation for the AP English Literature and Composition exam. Students engage in the careful reading and critical analysis of imaginative literature (fiction, poetry, and drama) through the study of each work’s structure, style, and themes, as well as such smaller-scale elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. Writing is an integral part of the course since the exam is weighted toward student writing about literature. In order to preserve the sense of common experience among the sixth-form students as a class, most aspects of English VI are also included: timed writing in preparation for standardized tests, college application essay practice, and “Hamlet Night.”

Prerequisite: Permission of the Department

CREATIVE WRITING (SEMESTER 1 AND/OR 2)

This course is designed for students who, already experienced with writing poetry, fiction or creative non-fiction on their own, believe they would benefit from the structure and guidance provided by a workshop environment. Drafting, revision, and peer critique are emphasized as students develop a portfolio of their own writing across the entire semester. This elective course may only be taken in addition to the student’s Form-appropriate English course.

Open to Forms IV, V and VI


JOURNALISM (SEMESTER 1 AND/OR 2)

This semester-long class offers IV, V and VI Form students the opportunity to learn about the principles and practices of journalism, and specifically, the creation of content for newspapers.  Journalism will focus on principles and practice of the various forms of newspaper writing, graphics (including photography and cartoons) and design of the page, either for print or digital form.  Through this course, students will gain understanding and practice in a different form of expression as well as better understanding of the value and impact of responsible media practices and use.  In time, with training, students enrolled in the course could act in concert with the staff and editorial board of Berkshire's student newspaper, The Green and Gray.

 

ADVANCED HUMANITIES RESEARCH

Advanced Humanities Research is a full-year course for talented students who have a desire to pursue guided, but independent, research in the humanities. The first half of the course is a seminar on critical theory introducing students to the theoretical framework that shapes the work of humanities scholars. The first semester also includes an introduction to qualitative research methods to help students master the tools required for advanced research in the humanities. The second half of the course is more student-directed, with each student working on an intensive piece of research, along with an identified expert in their chosen field, with the goal being to submit their research for publication.

Prerequisite: Selection by Department Chairs

 

ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL)

International students at Berkshire represent a great diversity of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. To prepare students for a full course of study, Berkshire offers English as a Second Language (ESL) at the advanced level. Advanced ESL is divided into two separate courses, ESL Advanced Literature and ESL Advanced Writing, and acts as a bridge between the ESL program and the regular English program. It is intended for students who have good oral, aural, reading and writing skills but who need support in doing academic work in English. The emphasis is on developing the advanced reading and writing skills necessary to do the academic work required by Berkshire’s traditional English program. Students must take both courses.

 
ESL ADVANCED LITERATURE
This course introduces students to American and international stories and novels.  The students read short stories and novels written for native speakers that are typical for a high school English class.  Students are required to keep an academic journal in which they respond to their readings.  They also learn to use the literary forms and concepts studied in Berkshire’s English courses.

ESL ADVANCED WRITING
This course is designed to develop the students’ writing skills through the process of prewriting, drafting, response, revising, and editing.  This is done in conjunction with the study of complex grammatical structures.  Students write both personal and academic essays and learn to write a research paper.

 

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