We believe that being a curious, critical and passionate reader encourages life-long learning. Our English department addresses the building blocks of vocabulary and grammar, while developing our students’ point of view and style as writers.
In our integrated curriculum, students examine a variety of literary genres that provide a well-rounded perspective to their studies in other subjects. Students learn through literary analysis, collaborative projects and public speaking. From 5th through 12th grades, students will deepen their skills and awareness. Forest Ridge students graduate as flexible thinkers who know how to communicate from their own, clear voice.
2020-2021 Course Offerings
Fifth grade reading and writing workshop begins with an exploration of literary themes and the craft of narrative writing. Each student examines her individual roots by reflecting on and writing about turning points in her own life. Students will write stories based on their own personal experiences and meaningful moments. We also explore narrative writing though fictional novels that explore personal identity: Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan, Wonder by RJ Palacio and Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. In these initial books, students begin using their active reading skills to analyze complex fictional texts. Later in reading workshop, fifth graders will learn how to approach, analyze, and summarize non-fiction texts. Each student builds a toolkit for understanding how to interact meaningfully with informational non-fiction texts.
After developing these reading skills, students participate in a fully integrated humanities unit focused on topics of Westward Expansion. This unit, called, “The Lens of History,” thematically incorporates reading, writing, and social studies as students learn strategies for writing focused research reports about Westward Expansion. This unit requires students to develop advanced skills as historians, researchers, and writers. In our final reading workshop unit of the year, we do an in-depth study of fantasy novels in series. Students navigate complex characters and magical settings in order to analyze metaphors, life lessons, quests, and thematic patterns. This unit challenges each student to grow new interpretive reading skills within a book group. Students grow as readers and as community members while practicing critical communication skills, open-mindedness, and dialogue in small groups.
Throughout the year in writing workshop, students study narrative craft, research writing, and argument and advocacy writing in depth. In our narrative craft unit, each student generates a personal narrative with the goal of telling her personal story powerfully. Finally, in our research-based argument essay unit, students research a debatable issue, formulate a claim, and support their claim with evidence and reasoning. Each student then writes a final advocacy letter in support of her thesis.
Sixth-grade literature studies focus on an exploration of active reading skills and evaluation of literary elements. Students are encouraged to build habits toward becoming life-long readers and read fiction and non-fiction books as a class, in small groups, and individually with an emphasis on sampling a variety of genres. Short stories are also studied. In class workshops and mini lessons introduce students to tools to help them read their independent reading books deeply and thoughtfully. Students practice reading skills and show their thinking in a Reader’s Notebook. The online resource, Membean, is used as a tool for building vocabulary.
Writing in sixth grade focuses on developing a commitment to the full writing process rooted in the curriculum of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Through a variety of projects, including creative stories, personal narratives, literary essays and information writing, students explore the steps of brainstorming, prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing with the writing specialist. Emphasis is placed on crafting a clear thesis and providing evidence to support claims. In addition, conventions and mechanics exercises reinforce accuracy and clear communication in writing. The emphasis placed on writing at Forest Ridge challenges students to write effectively in all areas of the sixth-grade curriculum.
The seventh-grade English and writing program works to further introduce students to the discipline of language arts and to foster a community of readers and writers. The course continues development in conventions, composition, reading, vocabulary, and speaking and listening skills. Throughout the year, students read a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts independently and in small groups. They also practice being authors themselves by writing realistic fiction, and they conclude the year by jumping into Shakespeare with an interactive study of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In Writing class, students practice both grammar and writing skills to support the composition work they do across the Forest Ridge curriculum. Areas of focus include how to evaluate thesis statements, embed literary evidence, and revise for concise language. In addition, students will learn how to improve their feedback literacy by reflecting on how they seek, understand, and use feedback during the writing process.
In eighth-grade English, students begin the year with a survey of short stories in order to practice analysis writing with a focus on literary devices and elements. They then extend these skills to novel, drama, and non-fiction study. Students continue to develop their writing through a more focused practice of specific informative, argumentative, narrative, and reflection skills in writing class. They are expected to demonstrate their understanding of essay-writing across the eighth-grade curriculum. Students also engage in year-long vocabulary and conventions practice. Throughout the year, a thematic focus on identity, rights, and power offers opportunities for cross-curricular explorations with social studies and religion.
In Writing class, students practice both grammar and writing skills to support the composition work they do across the Forest Ridge curriculum. Areas of focus include how to evaluate thesis statements, embed both literary and nonfiction evidence, and revise for concise language. In addition, students will learn how to improve their feedback literacy by reflecting on how they seek, understand, and use feedback during the writing process.
English I: Literature and Language
This freshman year course bridges middle school and high school English, building a strong foundation in close reading of a range of literary texts to develop critical and analytical skills, and on writing intensively in a variety of modes for a variety of purposes. Students practice the stages of the writing process -- from invention to the editing and polishing of a final draft -- for both academic and personal writing. Through reflection, self-evaluation, and conferencing, students will develop their own writing goals and strategies. Emphasis on imagination and engagement as readers and writers is paired with encouragement to explore the expressive possibilities of language and communication. Students will learn to ask provocative questions of literature, of each other, and of their thinking and writing.
ELL English I: Literature of Personal Identity
This course focuses on helping students develop an understanding of the relationship between author and reader and the dynamic components needed to actively read and engage with texts. As students read different genres, including nonfiction, poetry, novels and plays, they will respond in reflective, analytical and creative modes. The process of writing will be emphasized in forming paragraphs and essays. Along with student writing skills, this course also works to build academic vocabulary and to teach correct grammar skills. Students will learn discussion skills; active participation is an essential aspect of this course throughout the year.
Sacred Stories: Literature and Scripture
In this integrated English and religious studies course, students will explore how the Bible provides what critic Northrop Frye calls the “mythological framing of culture” to build a foundation for understanding a wide variety of texts and genres within American literature. Because religious and Christian values are embedded within the American story, we will encounter Biblical narratives, archetypes, and motifs both through scripture itself and through more contemporary literary forms, and we will develop a Biblical literacy to provide a depth of understanding and access to references and common interpretations of western culture. In the second semester, students will focus on the implications of narrative choices by using the lenses of race, class, and gender theory to look at contemporary American culture and the ways in which Catholic concepts shape individuals’ understandings and interactions with the world around them.
U.S. Stories: U.S. History and Literature
In this integrated English and Social Studies course, students will explore the diversity of the American people and their patchwork of voices and perspectives through multiple sources and artforms. Using the lenses of race, class, and gender, this course will critically examine the founding ideals of the United States in history and literature. Depending upon perspective and identity, these ideals, such as equality, liberty, opportunity, respect for rights, and popular sovereignty, have been applied and interpreted differently. Students will further develop their writing skills, with a focus on clarity and well-supported claims. Students will also work to develop habits as independent readers, focusing on comprehension and close reading. Written work will include in-class composition, primary source analyses, and a major thesis-driven research paper.
English III: Literature and Imagination
The archetype of the hero’s journey began with the oral tradition and remains at the heart of the stories we tell and retell. We will examine how this journey is expressed in literature of different times and places, a focus on monstrous creatures of imagination that serve as metaphors for our deepest fears. Assignments and classwork will ask students to engage their imaginations as readers.
In the second half of the course we will explore how works of literature reflect and enable the reader to thoughtfully consider a significant social issue, such as retribution and justice, in its personal, societal and political implications. Critical theories will be introduced as we consider how different “readings” generate different meanings. Assignments and discussions will develop students’ skills of literary analysis and argumentation in writing and speaking.
English IV: Advanced and Interdisciplinary Studies
In the senior year students may choose among semester-length core course options. The Advanced Genre Studies courses further students’ skills in close reading and literary analysis, with an emphasis on depth of knowledge and understanding over breadth of exposure. The Interdisciplinary Studies courses pair the study of literature with study of another expressive medium or academic discipline, examining how literature functions as a vehicle for personal expression, for activism and social change, for creating history.
Advanced Genre Studies: Narrative and Nonfiction
In this course students will be both readers and writers as they make a deeper investigation into narrative techniques in fiction and nonfiction writing. The first quarter reading will focus on fiction, primarily through short stories by writers that are both artful entertainment and social criticism. The second quarter reading will focus on a range of approaches to nonfiction that engages the reader critically and aesthetically. Throughout the semester students will practice narrative techniques in short fiction exercises and write essays reflecting personal experience and observation.
Advanced Genre Studies: Poetry
The Advanced Genre Studies course takes a deep dive into a single genre. In this semester-length course, we make a comparative study of poetic traditions in different parts of the world, then focus on the works of one or two poets to study how they developed their art. Students will hone their reading, writing, and discussion skills in a student-centered environment that promotes independence and serious inquiry. Students will have opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and ability to develop a persuasive argument in both written and oral analyses; they will also practice writing poetry and explore their own creative processes as writers.
Interdisciplinary Focus: Literature and Film
In this course, we examine the role of storytelling in challenging cultural norms. We’ll focus on voices that have been historically underrepresented both in the U.S. and abroad whose work subverts the dominant narrative. This Socratic Seminar encourages critical and comparative thinking and offers students the opportunity to engage deeply with issues such as the role of art/the artist in society, and the politics and power of representation on-screen and on the page. We’ll examine the techniques used by writers and film makers to construct powerful stories and study the underlying theory present in both mediums. Students will hone their analytical skills in discussion and writing, and will apply various critical lenses as they investigate both film and text. This course will culminate in a major project that will have both a creative and an analytic component, and will be completed in cooperation with the Digital Media Lab.
The Power of Narrative
Please note that this is a two-period, cocurricular class.
False historical beliefs are pervasive in our culture. Students in this interdisciplinary course will apply critical thinking as they examine historical and literary texts through varied analytical lens, considering various critical readings of a given text. Students will cultivate deep understandings of perspective through the lens of myths, misconceptions and manipulations of the past. Course topics include myths about Westward expansion, race, Native American genocide, Colonialism, and Antisemitism. We will examine the ways people manipulate the past, common techniques used to perpetuate problematic myths and claims about the past, and how and why the past has been appropriated throughout time. Students will discuss, reflect upon and write about how myths, misconceptions, and manipulations of the past influence ideas about their society and culture. An important focus of this class will be the methods and evidence used by scholars to interpret past peoples and events – specifically critical thinking, interpretative, and analytical skills used to disprove inaccurate and problematic claims about the past. Students will learn about these methods and apply them in their own analytical writing and presentations throughout the course, including assignments to help students be more critical consumers of information as they examine their own beliefs about history.
This course is open to any student who wants to improve her writing skills. Students may enroll for one or both semesters. Students will learn about different writing styles, writing techniques and academic vocabulary. Through examination of student samples and daily discussions, students will learn what effective writing means. This class will also give students an opportunity to work on current writing assignments, either individually or within a small peer group. By the end of the semester or year, students will be confident expressing academic ideas in writing, integrating quotations and engaging in the editing process.
Creative Writing: The Writer’s Workshop
This semester course is open to anyone who wishes to explore the craft and practice of creative writing. Whether you’re well into your tenth chapter or have never written anything longer than a tweet, this class will encourage you to stretch your creative muscles. You will experience reading and writing fiction, poetry, personal narrative, and drama in a workshop setting. The course will include individual and class critiques of work, as well as discussion of the techniques writers use to make their words leap off the page!
*Course offerings are based on student interest and minimum enrollment requirements; therefore, some classes listed may not be offered every school year.