Day and Boarding; Grades 6-12

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English

Graduation requirement: One year each of English I, II, III, and IV

Students at Pennington can expect to have enriching experiences studying literature, writing, and language with English teachers enthusiastic about their discipline and trained to meet their needs. Through the daily discipline of active reading, writing, and note-taking, participation in discussions and other learning activities, and regular study of vocabulary and the conventions of mechanics, grammar, and usage, students become increasingly adept at making meaning for themselves. Asking questions of texts and one another, developing critical judgments, appreciating artistry, and speaking and writing clearly and precisely, students become knowledgeable and self-aware learners. Aware of the power of words, graduates depart Pennington knowing how to read discerningly for meaning; how to write efficiently, powerfully, and artfully; how to use language persuasively and precisely; and how to participate mindfully in a community of scholars.

English I: Introduction to Literary Forms and Critical Writing; Grade 9

English I: Introduction to Literary Forms and Critical Writing
Grade 9
1 credit
In English I, students explore a spectrum of literary forms, including the short story, the novel, poetry, drama, and the epic; in doing so, they begin to consider how all ideas are shaped by the manner of their expression. Students investigate how the components of narrative structure, the formal properties of genre, and the elements of literary style contribute to a reader's broader understanding of and personal connection with texts. In conjunction with their World History course, students will practice essential cross-disciplinary skills such as academic discussion, close reading, and research. Developing their writing, with a focus on sentence-level fluency, organized paragraphs, and cohesive essays, students learn the fundamental elements of independent critical thinking and expression that will serve them throughout their Pennington career: analysis, reflection, and argumentation.

English I Honors: Introduction to Literary Forms and Critical Writing; Grade 9

English I Honors: Introduction to Literary Forms and Critical Writing*
Grade 9
1 credit

In English I Honors, students with advanced reading and writing skills explore a spectrum of literary forms, including the short story, the novel, poetry, drama, and the epic; in doing so, they begin to consider how all ideas are shaped by the manner of their expression. With an accelerated reading pace, more challenging texts, and a focus on discerning and expressing nuance, students investigate how the components of narrative structure, the formal properties of genre, and the elements of literary style contribute to a reader's broader understanding of and personal connection with texts. In conjunction with their World History course, students will practice essential cross-disciplinary skills such as academic discussion, close reading, and research. Developing their writing, with a focus on sentence-level fluency, organized paragraphs, and cohesive essays, students learn the fundamental elements of independent critical thinking and expression that will serve them throughout their Pennington career: analysis, reflection, and argumentation.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department

English II: American Identities; Grade 10

English II: American Identities
Grade 10
1 credit

Students in English II build on their earlier study of the fundamentals of reading, composition, and language to learn to make meaning and create context for themselves through critical thinking. Close reading, reflective writing, and the study of grammar and vocabulary enrich these lifelong skills. English II students examine diverse works in American literature through considering individual and collective identities. Writing in a range of modes and studying a variety of genres, students seek to express themselves persuasively through the use of details and ideas drawn from reading and discussion. Identifying their individual writing processes, students learn to address strengths and weaknesses in writing and to devise strategies for revision and editing, culminating in an interdisciplinary research paper.

English II Honors: American Identities; Grade 10

English II Honors: American Identities*
Grade 10
1 credit

Reading works in English II along with several additional challenging texts, students in English II Honors embrace the complex, subtle, and demanding aspects of accelerated independent work in reading, writing, and the study of language. Upon entering this course, students are expected to have demonstrated relative sophistication as discerning readers, proficient writers, and conceptual thinkers. In this American literature course, students examine short stories, poetry, drama, and novels, centering on the exploration of identity through considering the individual and his or her community. Through careful study and mindful participation in seminars and other activities, students prepare for increasingly complex studies in English through personal engagement in disciplined, reflective study of literature, writing, and language.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department

English III: Perspectives in World Literature; Grade 11

English III: Perspectives in World Literature
Grade 11
1 credit

Approaching literature from a global perspective, students consider how literature both diversifies and unifies the human experience. Students examine why narratives are valuable, explore the social and personal functions of the written and spoken word, and elucidate an awareness of how their own experiences and beliefs exist within (and can, ultimately, shape) this global context. Building upon the independent critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills developed in English I and II, students focus on synthesis and rhetorical awareness: they learn to identify thematic and stylistic resonances among literary works, evaluate and respond to the ideas of their peers, and fashion their own position using convincing and precise argumentation.

AP English: Language and Composition (English III); Grade 11

AP English: Language and Composition (English III)*
Grade 11
1 credit

Intended for juniors, this course strives to develop each student’s proficiency in critical reading and thinking, fluent writing, and effective speaking. Because each student takes the Advanced Placement Language and Composition examination in the spring, the course pays special attention to the skills necessary for success on that test. Students read a broad selection of the kind of nonfiction that the exam contains, as well as works of fiction, drama, and poetry. Regardless of the genre, students focus their attention on the essential elements of any composition: subject, purpose, audience, content, organization, and style; they also learn to identify rhetorical strategies and explore the range of effects of different strategies. In order to become more disciplined and self-aware writers, students address each stage of the writing process through repeated practice; sometimes they are obliged to complete the process in a relatively short time, and at other times the process extends over several days. Most compositions are expository, analytical, or argumentative and require students to express their understanding of primary and secondary sources that they learn to cite according to the MLA format. Finally, students regularly take practice AP examinations in and out of class.

*Prerequisite: Permission of the department

English IV: The Beats and Their Influence; Grade 12

English IV: The Beats and Their Influence
Grade 12
.5 credit

Ever wonder why the Beatles spell their name B-E-A-T-L-E-S? Dig this, man. This semester elective beat class will hip you cats to the performers and poets blowin’ the horns and minds of the tame teetotalers in the fabulous fifties. Find out what the scam is. Are you exhausted and beat from the daily grind? Read the signs and lines of Kerouac’s On the Road traveling or Ginsberg Howlin’ at dawn looking for an angry fix! Honeychile, you’re out of your skull if you don’t think Burroughs ain’t showin’ up and beating out a light trot to the corner store for a Naked Lunch. Let’s hope he’s over the William Tell act. It’s spontaneous bop prosody at its free-form best. Carolyn Cassady, Hettie Jones, Kay Johnson, and Jack’s first old lady, Edie Parker, are all gonna show up to ensure the beat women represent. Listen, squares, leave your bongos and berets on Main Street, USA. Go subterranean, bummin’ it to Columbus Avenue and City Lights Books in San Fran and hangin’ out in NYC. No beatniks allowed. It’s about identity, not image, man.
Offered fall semester

English IV: Irish Literature; Grade 12

English IV: Irish Literature
Grade 12
.5 credit
This semester elective course will examine the contributions of Irish writers to the world of literature, with specific emphasis on how Irish culture, politics, and religion shaped the works of such prize-winning authors as James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, and Frank McCourt. In their writings, these Irish authors address struggles with family, politics, and poverty, conflicts that for many writers produced a love/hate relationship with the Emerald Isle. Yeats described Ireland as “a terrible beauty.” As students closely read some of the classics of Irish literature, they will be examining the inherent troubles these Irish authors portray.
Offered fall semester

English IV: The Empire Writes Back: Reclaiming African Literature; Grade 12

English IV: The Empire Writes Back: Reclaiming African Literature
Grade 12
.5 credit

Europeans initially described Africa as the “Dark Continent” and dismissed its many and varied cultures as inferior heathens needing to be enlightened. We still feel the impact of these descriptions in determining how Africa and those of African descent are viewed. As Africans have regained control of their nations, they have sought to describe their own land and experiences from their own perspective. This elective will explore the way in which Africa and Africans were portrayed in literature by Europeans and the ways in which postcolonial writers, both white and black, have responded to these descriptions. Students will read works from both perspectives, debate to the pros and cons of both views, and have the opportunity to stage part of a contemporary African drama and explore African music. The final project will involve each student’s exploring a topic, issue, or author raised in the class.
Offered fall semester

English IV: War Literature; Grade 12

English IV: War Literature
Grade 12
.5 credit
It has become a cliché to say that war defies description. Phil Klay, a Marine Corps officer and veteran of the Iraq War, describes this sentiment as “an abrogation of responsibility—it’s letting civilians off the hook from trying to understand, and veterans off the hook from needing to explain” their experiences. Using selections from epic poetry, novels, and short stories, we will take up that responsibility and try our best to understand the nature of war and the men and women who have lived through it.
Offered fall semester

English IV: Finding Identity; Grade 12

English IV: Finding Identity
Grade 12
.5 credit

This course will explore the concepts of identity and self. Students will begin the course identifying and exploring their own beliefs about identity, and they will spend the semester questioning and challenging what it means to have a sense of self. How do you develop identity in a society that often dictates who and what you should be? How are identity and society tied together? How much of your identity is actually yours, and how much is constructed by your environment and culture? We’ll explore possible answers to these questions by reading and writing about numerous texts, and engaging in daily discussions that will help us understand the construction of identity.
Offered fall semester

English IV: Hyphen-American Literature; Grade 12

English IV: Hyphen-American Literature
Grade 12
.5 credit

This class will read various forms of hyphenated-American literature and attempt to isolate central American themes and styles within multiple cultural contexts. We will read fiction and poetry, and watch films to explore the questions surrounding non-majority American identities. This course will attempt to dissect the self-proclaimed American Melting Pot by looking at texts created by authors and directors of multiple hyphenated identities. Students will study major works from and about various communities, including but not limited to Native Americans, the LGBT community, immigrants, African-Americans, and the disabled. Students will be asked to read carefully in order to grasp plot details and recognize themes, symbols, and other literary concepts. Students will also write about and discuss the different thematic and stylistic approaches that authors use to explore individual and group experience.
Offered spring semester

English IV: Dystopian Literature and Dante; Grade 12

English IV: Dystopian Literature and Dante
Grade 12
.5 credit
Should cameras be set up in the classroom? Have you ever wondered how people are punished in hell? This course comprises two main areas of study. During the first half we will focus on dystopian literature. Using Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, we will discuss human visions of perfection and nightmares of social control, their historical and cultural context, and their influence on contemporary thought and behavior. Taking part in the game “Brother Pennington,” we will actively participate in a dystopian/utopian society and gain insight in considering the influence and power held by government and media. During the second half of the semester, we will read and study Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, taking a look at its influences and Dante’s structure and themes. In connection with Dante we will read and study some of the “fireside poets,” especially Longfellow.

Offered spring semester

English IV: Creative Writing; Grade 12

English IV: Creative Writing
Grade 12
.5 credit
Whether you’re interested in the grotesque or the beautiful, the sinister or the sublime, the mundane or the extraordinary, the tragic or the comical, you’ll have an opportunity to find and express your own style in this class. This course will explore creative writing in several different forms: poetry, creative nonfiction, short stories, and screenwriting. Students will read and discuss a variety of authors and poets while composing their own works in the different genres. Obviously this course is writing-intensive, but students need not have prior creative writing experience to succeed. Students who take this class should feel comfortable with sharing ideas and criticism with their fellow writers in a supportive, workshop environment. The semester will conclude with each student’s producing a portfolio of his or her revised works.
Offered spring semester

English IV: Caribbean Literature; Grade 12

English IV: Caribbean Literature

Grade 12
.5 credit
Although many Americans might associate the Caribbean with exotic tropical drinks, its spirit is probably better symbolized by the dish that is known throughout the region as “callaloo.” A mixture of ingredients both native to the Caribbean and brought to it from the outside, this spicy stew is found in different variations throughout the area. So it is with the culture of the region. Often considered a playground to tourists, the Caribbean is in actuality a culturally rich area drawing on the local, European, Indian, and African cultures that make up its population. These islands have given the world two winners of the Nobel Prize for literature in the past decade. This course will examine the rich “callaloo” that composes Caribbean literature. Students will be evaluated through essays and tests on the works studied, an independent examination of a writer from the Caribbean, and weekly vocabulary quizzes.

Offered spring semester

English IV: Gender and Society in America; Grade 12

English IV: Gender and Society in America
Grade 12
.5 credit

Why, and in what ways, do men and women experience the world differently? This course will ask these and many other questions about the intersection of gender and culture in American society. We will read, discuss, and write about texts that challenge our understanding of the gender binary and explore issues of masculinity, femininity, and everything in between. We will use an interdisciplinary approach to examine how history, media, art, literature, and film have shaped gender in America, and we will spend time thinking about how contemporary pop culture maintains or subverts traditional gender roles. Students will read, write, view films, and engage in daily discussion in an effort to fully address this complex topic.

Offered spring semester

AP English: Literature and Composition (English IV); Grade 12

AP English: Literature and Composition (English IV)*
Grade 12
1 credit

Structured like a college freshman English class, AP English Literature teaches motivated, capable, and interested seniors how to read and analyze great works of literature in the original and in translation, including the novel, drama, and, especially, poetry. Students are taught how to read each work with a critical awareness of the full range of its stylistic features, its structure, and its meaning. Students also develop an awareness of language and sharpen their skills in effective writing and critical reading, paying special attention to the skills necessary for success on the AP Literature and Composition exam taken in the spring. The course aims to teach students to write well about something important, to develop in them the skills of a sophisticated reader, and to instruct and encourage them to participate thoughtfully and effectively in discussions.
*Prerequisite: Permission of the department