Explore our Curriculum


The mission of the English department is to give students the capacity to deeply experience literature from a variety of genres and periods and to use those experiences as the material of consequential thought. The department views the language arts – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – as a form of thinking that puts inquiry and communication into an overlapping relationship. The knowledge one gains through literary studies is social: knowledge arises when one openly encounters another mind, it deepens when one attempts to articulate what was learned to an audience, and it comes to fruition when it becomes the impetus for a new encounter. Literature, taken broadly, uniquely provides a space in which an individual can essay ethical, intellectual, and social action, while developing the essential communication skills required of a global citizen.
The aim of Middle School English is to expand the range of literary works that a student can fully experience while developing authentic communication skills. Entering into a literary work – whether a poem, novel, play, film, or essay – requires broad knowledge, extensive vocabulary, familiarity with generic codes and historical context, and, above all, a capacious theory of what both literature and literary studies can do. As students explore a broad range of texts from different periods and genres, they gradually acquire the vocabulary and background required for more advanced intellectual work.
In the Upper School, students have increasing opportunities to pursue a more individualized course of study, selecting periods and genres that are of particular interest while still meeting the general requirements that undergird a successful life after high school. While focused on argumentative analysis and careful close reading, students also have ample chances to pursue inquiry through creative writing.


Middle School:
  • Humanities in grade 6; English classes in grades 7 and 8.

Upper School:
  • Humanities in grades 9 and 12 (these are cross-departmental courses and approved through the University of California’s “A-G” system as English courses); English classes in grades 10 and 11.
  • English 7

    English 7: Reading Ancient Minds
    The overall goal in our 7th grade Reading Ancient Minds course is to acquire the literary tools and analytical lenses to deeply delve within the age of antiquity.  Students immerse themselves into the context of several civilizations by researching their political, intellectual, environmental, and socio-cultural facets.  The extra-cognitive dimensions (and benefits) of reading are particularly emphasized, encouraging students to become more empathetic, more tolerant of ambiguity, and better able to understand the humanity of past civilizations, as well as our own in the 21st century.  Writing goals for this sequence focus on the foundational skills of informative summary and interpretive summary.  Past texts for “Ancient Minds” have included adapted versions of the epic of Gilgamesh and The Odyssey, The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, and a selection of poems and myths from around the globe. 
  • English 8

    English 8: Reading Modern Minds
    This course furthers the trajectory of the Reading Ancient Minds course of 7th grade by allowing students to see the world that they live in through different eyes. If the theme of the 7th grade was to make the strange familiar, the goal of the 8th grade course is to make the familiar strange. Students use literature as a lens to look critically at the world around them, observing telling details that often go overlooked except by the most astute observers. Writing goals focus on literary and argumentative analysis. Past texts for “Modern Minds” have included Station Eleven, Sapiens, The Death of a Salesman, and a selection of contemporary poems and short stories from around the globe.