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.
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 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 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 focuses on an exploration of active reading skills and evaluation of literary elements. Students are encouraged to build habits toward becoming lifelong readers and read fiction and non-fiction books and short stories as a class, in small groups and individually with an emphasis on sampling a variety of genres. 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. Membean ® , an online resource, 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 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.
The seventh-grade writing program emphasizes refining writing skills such as organization, idea development, mechanics, word choice and sentence fluency. Students use writing to respond analytically to literature, to summarize, to think, to make evidenced-backed arguments in a variety of subject matters and to be expressive and creative. Writing skills are developed through mentor-text imitation, drafting and revising support, feedback and repeated practice. We want each of our students to leave with a clearer sense of herself as a writer and the many ways the writing process can elevate her writing.
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.
English I: Literature of Personal Identity
This course creates a bridge between middle school and high school English. Students read and write in a variety of genres with a focus on the communication, expressiveness and receptivity that are at the heart of the collaboration between the writer and the reader. Through class exercises in close reading, students develop skills for in-depth analysis that will prepare them for more advanced literary studies.
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 is 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 learn discussion skills; active participation is an essential aspect of this course throughout the year.
English II: The American Story
In this course, the story of America is told through its literature. Students see the American story unfold through diverse perspectives including the short stories and novels of the 19th century, the poetry and novels of the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance, and the novels and plays of post-World War II America. Students develop strong communication skills through both writing and speech. By the end of the course, students will have a rich understanding of the tapestry of voices that has shaped the American identity.
English III: Literature and Imagination
The archetype of the hero’s journey began with oral tradition and remains at the heart of the stories we tell and retell. We 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 ask students to engage their imaginations as readers.
In the second half of the course, we 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 are introduced as we consider how different “readings” generate different meanings. Assignments and discussions develop students’ skills of literary analysis and argumentation in writing and speaking.
English IV: Advanced and Interdisciplinary Studies
In their senior year, students may choose among semester-length core course options. Advanced Genre Studies courses further students’ skills in close reading and literary analysis, with an emphasis on depth of knowledge and understanding. 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, and for creating history.
Advanced Genre Studies: Drama
What can we learn about ourselves and our world through the medium of theater?
Advanced Genre Studies courses take a deep dive into a single genre. This semester-length course focuses on Drama, studying the literary conventions of this genre and looking at the ways in which various playwrights in different times and places have used or subverted these conventions. Emphasis in class is on Socratic Seminar-style discussion, close reading of the texts and literary criticism. Midterm and final projects involve both creative performance and comparative analysis.
Advanced Genre Studies: Poetry
Advanced Genre Studies courses take 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 hone their reading, writing and discussion skills in a student-centered environment that promotes independence and serious inquiry.
Students have opportunities to demonstrate their understanding and ability to develop a persuasive argument in both written and oral analyses. They 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. Students 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 and the artist in society, and the politics and power of representation on screen and on the page.
Students examine the techniques used by writers and film makers to construct powerful stories and study the underlying theory present in both mediums. Students hone their analytical skills in discussion and writing and will apply various critical lenses as they investigate both film and text. This course culminates in a major project that has both a creative and an analytic component and is 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. In this interdisciplinary course, students apply critical thinking as they examine historical and literary texts through varied analytical lens, considering various critical readings of a given text. Students cultivate deep understandings of perspective through the lens of myths, misconceptions and manipulations of the past. Course topics include: myths about Westward expansion, Native American genocide, Colonialism and Antisemitism. Students examine, reflect and write about 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.
An important focus of this class is 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 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.
The Keys to Successful Writing
This semester-long class helps students strengthen their writing skills. Students 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 also gives students an opportunity to work on current writing assignments, either individually or within a small peer group. By the end of the semester, 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 includes individual and class critiques of work, as well as discussion of the techniques writers use to make their words leap off the page!