The goal of the Waterford English curriculum is to increase students' critical thinking, speaking, and writing skills while engendering a deep appreciation for the study of literature. In the Middle School years, students experience the major forms of literature as readers, writers, and often performers in an effort to encourage their appreciation for the full range of literary expression. They review the conventions and vocabulary of English usage and grammar to prepare for the more intensive writing that awaits them in Upper School. In the Upper School years, students situate texts within historical, philosophical, and literary contexts, honing their understanding through discussion and writing. Discussion-based classes guide student learning through modeling, analysis, drafting, discussion, workshop, revision and evaluation. With the ability to craft and articulate one's thoughts comes insight into the self, the world, and the power of language. Literature is a mirror to the world; learning to analyze and appreciate literature prepares students for a richer engagement with their environment.
Class VI Humanities gives students the opportunity to build connections: between lower and middle school, between literature and history, and between their lives and the greater world. The curriculum emphasizes both critical and creative thinking. In the literary component of this course, students are coached to become strong writers across genre: every term, students have the opportunity to compose personal narratives, analytic essays, and creative responses. Frequent writing assignments draw upon content from both literature and history readings; students will broaden their range of writing tone and strengthen their overall writing ability. Students expand their vocabulary with a self-directed vocabulary project, adding words to their lexicon weekly and practicing these words in context. Weekly lessons and practice address grammar, usage, and style. The historical side of Class VI humanities also also uses a multi-faceted approach. In addition to reading the history textbook, students examine primary sources, period art, music, and popular culture to understand the time period holistically. The curriculum studies US history from westward expansion to present day, using Holt McDougal's American History: Civil War to the Present. Students complete literature and history labs in each unit to apply problem solving skills and critical thinking to a prompt or problem. In Class VI Humanities, students will strengthen critical thinking skills, develop bold writing styles, and increase intellectual confidence.
Students in Class VII English read novels, plays, non-fiction narratives, short stories, and poems. Students hone their abilities to compose focused paragraphs, support writing with evidence from the literary work, and compare and contrast ideas. Drafting, revision and workshop experiences support several essay assignments. Journals are used regularly for reflective and analytical writing. Writing exercises generally relate to the assigned reading, although students also write short stories, poetry, and other creative assignments. Increasingly, students are evaluated on the quality and accuracy of their work, rather than on the simple completion of assignments.
The Class VIII English curriculum focuses on the question, "What makes a complete human?" An exploration of this question takes students through a survey of the foundations of world literature, working in conjunction with History VIII curriculum to provide insight into ancient cultures. Through study of ancient myths and early stories, students learn to address a variety of texts as literature, examining issues of creation, explanation, and transgression. The curriculum asks students to question the nature of the the human experience, moving from early epic poetry into a discussion of leadership and heroism, eventually placing the individual within the context of a greater society. Throughout this tour of world literature, students practice in-depth textual analysis, writing weekly assignments to hone skills of close reading, rhetorical analysis, and articulation through appropriate grammar, punctuation and diction. Students are required to write multiple essays with attention to the revision process, and will learn one hundred new vocabulary words per term.