Students in graduation

English Department


The English department provides a structured curriculum consisting of required level-year courses and numerous electives. The department’s purpose is to ready St. Benedict’s students to do college level work by developing in them productive habits of reading, precise writing, critical analysis, and open-minded discussion.

St. Benedict’s English teachers maintain clear learning objectives and high standards; by graduation, their students demonstrate the ability to do:

Comprehensive literary analysis, both spoken and written;
Critical thinking in response to a spectrum of literary and visual texts from traditional and non-traditional sources;
Reading across the disciplines, engaged with a range of nonfiction and information texts;
Discriminating research in both primary and secondary sources, in print and on the internet.

While maintaining college preparatory standards, all St. Benedict’s English teachers work with students of varying skill levels and abilities. As needed, we modify teaching approaches to meet the learning styles and needs of all of our students. We teach our students the literacy skills that will serve them as writers and thinkers, at work and in leisure, throughout their adult lives.

English Department Courses

Foundations I

In the seventh grade, students develop active reading skills while refining their knowledge of grammar and usage. Reading short stories and brief essays, they learn to infer, predict and interpret while building vocabulary (approximately twenty words per week) gleaned from the assigned texts. Students learn to identify the main ideas of passages and texts; they learn to distinguish between factual and interpretive questions; they learn to answer open-ended reader response questions; and they learn to summarize and paraphrase what they read. They also learn study and test-taking skills, building the foundation they need to succeed in the upper grades.

Foundations II

The course provides rigorous reinforcement of the elements of grammar, usage and composition introduced in grade seven. Vocabulary development is further stressed with extensive study of etymologies, prefixes, suffixes and analogies. Grammar topics covered are the eight parts of speech, subject and predicate, prepositional phrases, object and subject complements and clauses. Students learn to diagram and compose complex sentences and they write lengthier, analytic responses to assigned literature. Literature discussions help students to identify themes and character development as well as to pay attention to and understand the denotations and connotations of words, sentence structure and organization.

English I: Freshman Composition

This class is designed to enhance the student's ability to read, write and comprehend what he reads. By using grammar workbooks, literature that critically examines the history of ancient civilizations, newspaper articles and the internet, the student will learn the importance of clear and efficient writing. During freshmen composition, students will study topics in World Literature. The assigned literature will cover topics also studied in the world history textbook. These topics include Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages. Students will read poems and novels centered on these civilizations.

English II: Coming of Age Across Cultures

This course involves the close reading of literature, intensive writing and revising and critical thinking. The works for this course are related by a common theme. The characters we come across are on a journey in search of self-awareness and fulfillment. We will examine how these characters 'come of age' at varying times in their lives and in different societies.

English III: Inventing America

This course in American studies covers texts that range in publication date from the revolutionary era to the present day. Students will read diverse genres, including poems, short stories, novels, autobiography, sermons, speeches, essays and literary criticism; they will also read one play by Shakespeare (Othello). The course looks at important themes of American culture (war and peace, innocence and experience, national identity, individualism, slavery and abolition, man's relation to Nature and by extension to God) through the lens of literature. Students will learn to analyze literary works and develop well-supported arguments about topics crucial in American history and culture.

English IV: Regeneration through Violence: Myth, Macbeth, Grotesques and Invisibility

In Senior English students will study topics in World Literature. One theme pursued is how one "reads" the world around him. In looking at literature from all over the world and from different historical eras, we will look for those commonalities that make us human. We will also read and analyze a play from the English playwright William Shakespeare. The goal is for students to become better readers, writers and critical thinkers.

Introduction to Journalism

Introduction to Journalism is an intense introduction to media studies with an emphasis on the role and impact of the media in a democratic society, the First Amendment, media ethics and bias in journalism and media law. Newspaper writing, magazine writing, writing for the internet and broadcast writing are included. The primary writing styles taught in this course include news writing, profile writing, review news writing; in-depth feature writing; opinion writing (including column writing, editorial writing and opinion pieces), sports writing (including sports news, sports columns and sports features). The course will include an overview of the history of American journalism from 1776 to the present with a focus on some of the famous journalists and the history of journalism, including African-American journalism, in the United States. Students are introduced to major news publications, especially The New York Times. If there is time, students will also learn desktop publishing skills including the use of Adobe's InDesign and PhotoShop. Students learn interviewing skills, information analysis skills, writing skills, listening and speaking skills as part of the course. They learn to write with an understanding of audience and purpose.

Convergence Media

Until recently the traditional news media were distinctly separate and different. Radio specialized in audio. TV added video. Newspapers offered text and photos. But the advent of the web has transformed the journalistic landscape, making it possible to listen to audio, watch video and read the entire text of a newspaper on a single platform - the computer or even a cell phone.
--Tim Harrower "Inside Reporting"

Every news outlet now needs to incorporate text and multimedia - to adapt their storytelling techniques to fit this new, multi-platform "converged" media. In this one semester class which will meet for 80 minutes three times a week, we will continue to pursue reporting and writing for the print media and learn to add on line reporting, both written and video, to our repertoire. We will publish two printed issues of The Benedict News and create an online presence for the newspaper. Students will learn how to write for online publications and conduct and post video interviews. The textbook will be Inside Reporting: Second edition by Tim Harrower.

Advanced Journalism/Newspaper Production

The main goal of the Advanced Journalism class is the production of superior editions of The Benedict News and the development of a critical understanding of the role of journalism in a democratic society. Students must report thoroughly and write in a clear, concise and interesting manner to produce stories of depth and interest. In the course of putting out the newspaper five times during the academic year, every student in the class must have the experience of writing a news story, writing a feature story, writing headlines and cutlines (captions), layout and proofreading. The only jobs that will be exclusive to certain students are editorial writing, opinion writing and copyediting.

The Radical Write by Bobby Hawthorne.
Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower.
Selections from The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.
The New York Times.
Journals: Weekly journals based on one story from The New York Times.
Vocabulary: Vocabulary NYTIMES Word of the Day

Poetry and Self-Expression

This course is designed to make students better writers of poetry and of prose. You will learn to read poetry with more acuteness, to live in its music and to write without cliché. It is my hope that we will demystify poetry and come to approach it as a most practical, vital and essential part of life. Poetry gives life its elan. It offers outlet for our grief and joy, our fear and ambition. It is the means by which we can express ourselves in original and honest ways, while forging the most powerful kinds of connections with one another.

English Classics: The Problem of "Pride"

This course is designed to engage students in the reading, discussion of and writing about highly selected texts of what we call 'the classics'. While the texts are all in 'English', the longest one, read for the entire duration of the course is Homer's Iliad. The other texts, read in sequence with each other, but always simultaneously with the Iliad are : Hamlet, (with simultaneous viewing of Kenneth Branagh's film) Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and numerous selections from Milton's Paradise Lost, accompanied by text-related analyses of the 50 illustrative woodcuts by the French artist, Gustave Dore. The overarching theme of the course is 'the problem of Pride'. To this end, we carefully define the similarities and differences between Greek 'hubris' exhibited in The Iliad and the Judeo-Christian-Islamic 'sin of Pride' confronted in Hamlet, Dr. Faustus and Paradise Lost. We constantly engage these definitions in discussion of the various works.

The Personal Essay

The personal essay is a distinct literary genre with roots in ancient times. Distinct from the formal essay, it can address almost any topic (especially the humble, incidental and personal), providing the writer with the chance to reveal himself honestly and intimately to the reader. In this course, we will study some famous examples and try our hand at writing a few. This is an excellent course for anyone looking to improve his writing, especially for students who want to produce strong personal statements for their college applications. We will: learn important conventions of the personal essay form by studying famous examples from the past; to mimic those conventions in our own writing; appreciate the evolution of the form with historical and cultural change; write in one's own "voice;" to use the personal essay as a means to discover and display this "voice; write with clarity, honesty and correct grammar about topics that mean something to us personally; become excellent readers and critics of each other's writing, when necessary using appropriate critical terminology to point out aspects of a student's draft that require revision.

Short Story

This one semester course will cover a number of short works of literature, including stories, essays and poetry. Students will learn to read and analyze literary works, identifying major themes, literary techniques and building a strong vocabulary along the way. They will also learn to develop and write clear, well-supported analysis papers using proper grammar and well formed paragraphs. Our objective for this course is to further evolve our understanding of literature and our abilities to develop a sound and cohesive analysis.

Introduction to Debate and Rhetoric

This course is designed to introduce students to a range of complex issues as well as to give them practice in several essential skills: listening, debating, reading, highlighting, and timed essay writing. This course exposes students to a method of approaching controversial issues by emphasizing multiple perspectives and the development of an informed point of view. Through its structured format, students will learn to make connections between the “talk” of the class, the materials they read, and the essays they write. As students become more informed and articulate, they also become more engaged and empowered and gain confidence in their ability to have and defend a point of view.