Academics
Academic Program

English

Our philosophy

The goal of the English faculty is to help students become thoughtful, observant readers, clear analytical writers, and confident, skillful speakers. Cross-disciplinary work connecting history, art, music, and literature is common. Not only do English curricula often parallel historical eras being studied at the same grade level, but also the fine arts are formally incorporated through Falmouth Academy’s signature program: Arts-Across-the-Curriculum.

Our students come to regard writing as a familiar, habitual activity through analytical writing, as well as personal reflections, short stories, poems, and letters. Diligent attention to close reading and accurate, persuasive writing provides our graduates with abilities that set them apart from their college classmates. Indeed, many report that they find themselves to be the writing experts of their college dormitories.

Course Descriptions

List of 7 items.

  • English 7: Writing to Learn

    English 7 is woven into Humanities as an introduction to world cultures. Classes stress the fundamental skills of reading and writing while thinking about humanity. Many of the works assigned in each class center on the countries and cultures studied: Islam, Ancient China, and Ancient Greece.

    The goal of the seventh-grade writing program is the mastery of the focus paragraph. Students spend the year learning to craft a clear and effective paragraph. They learn to incorporate concrete details and quotations to support their arguments, correctly cite those sources, and analyze the evidence that they cite. Students explore the big questions – How do we live? How was the world created? They also learn to delve into the wide variety of responses to these questions found in literature. As students explore the philosophies of Ancient Asia in Humanities, they read The Housekeeper and the Professor, a modern Japanese novel. They read the writings of the Middle East, from the tales of the Arabian Nights to Bedouin poetry and the work of Kahlil Gibran. English students also read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol not only to study a Western approach to the big questions but also to learn lessons of grammar and sentence structure as modeled by a master writer. The search for answers culminates at the close of the year as students focus on Greek mythology, reading Black Ships Before Troy in English, and learning about Greek philosophy in Humanities.

    In seventh grade, all students read several books a trimester as outside reading, using both the Accelerated Reader Program and books selected with the help of their teacher, challenging themselves to increase speed, comprehension, and reading level.
  • English 8: Literature and the Self

    Eighth graders explore the deliberate life not only through the literature they read but also through assignments that emphasize individual choices and encourage them to take leadership roles in the classroom. Throughout the year students learn to take on more responsibility for their work, and their writing assignments become increasingly complex and varied. In addition to writing expository paragraphs and essays about literature, students explore other styles by writing short stories, poems, and personal essays. Through these projects, students learn to be attentive to the author’s voice and begin to develop their authentic voices as writers.

    In addition to analyzing fictional characters from works such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Tempest through class discussions and in their essays, students direct their attention inward. Their personal essays explore who they are and who they wish to become. In the winter, along with writing personal essays, they draw self-portraits in pencil under the direction of our art teacher. These drawings are displayed in the hallways and make a second appearance at graduation, side by side with a senior self-portrait.

    English 8 culminates in Declamation Day. Each student presents a memorized passage of his or her choosing. They find their passages in a variety of sources and are encouraged to explore their own interests while searching for a piece to declaim. The multi-paragraph essays they write analyze their passages as both works of literature and for personal significance. On Declamation Day, students present the introductions to those papers and perform their passages in front of an audience of their peers. This project ties together the expository and analytical writing skills that students have honed all year.
  • English 9: Changing Earth

    Ninth grade at Falmouth Academy offers a compelling interdisciplinary experience designed to address resilience, adaptability, and the challenges of our increasingly uncertain climate. Students have the power to shape the conversations that will shape our future.

    In Changing Earth: English, students will set forth on a journey through recent works of literature and those that have inspired readers and writers through the ages, exploring how these works resonate in the modern world. In her book on writing, Negotiating with the Dead,  Margaret Atwood writes that all writers and readers learn from the dead, “The dead may guard the treasure, but it's useless treasure unless it can be brought back to the land of the living and allowed to enter time once more — which means to enter the realm of the audience, the realm of the readers, the realm of change.” Students will mine the works they read, ancient and modern, to discover what they can teach students about the challenges of our times.

    While continuing to develop close reading skills, students will find and develop their authentic writing voice throughout the year by exploring different styles and genres. They will hone their skills in expository essays, creative writing, poetry, podcasts, and personal essays. 

    They will read plays, poetry, and short stories with similar themes, exploring the ways in which authors reinvent classic themes for new generations of readers. They will polish their skills as speakers and leaders as they take increasing responsibility for leading discussions, making presentations to the class, and, on occasion, performing scenes from the works studied.
  • English 10: The Narrative Voice

    In English 10, students learn to revise, extend, and question the accepted conventions that frame their experiences. They investigate revolutionary characters and provocative ideas— from Shakespeare’s jealous and vindictive Iago (Othello) to Oscar Wilde’s deviously manipulative Lord Henry Wotton (Picture of Dorian Gray) to Orwell's condemnation of absolute power (1984)—that broaden their views of the world and themselves. In this course, creative interpretation and critical thinking are central.

    English 10 emphasizes the skill of close reading. Often, students spend an entire class period teasing out the nuances of a single paragraph. After re-reading (and re-re-reading) the text, they clarify and polish their raw ideas through group work, class discussion, and writing. The writing assignments in English 10 allow students to experiment with language and literature in various ways. The students produce personal essays that take cues from the most poignant lines in Othello. They immerse themselves in the narrative voice of Kambili, the young Nigerian protagonist of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, Purple Hibiscus. Students continue their focus on analytical writing as they turn their observations about literature into dynamic, meaningful thesis statements and persuasive arguments.

    Above all, English 10 pushes students to engage in deliberate reading and clear, imaginative communication. We see these skills as the keys to intellectual and personal growth.
  • English 11: American Literature

    The aim of eleventh-grade English is to sharpen critical thinking, deepen analytical capacities, and connect to one’s individual role both in the classroom and in the long narrative of American literature. This course has multiple possibilities for construction - it has followed a chronological, geographical, or thematic sequencing in past years. Central questions driving American Lit are: what defines American literature? How are past themes repeated throughout the genre? How has the vastness and diversity of America’s geography influenced its literature, in style and content? How does Americanness emerge in texts syntactically, spatially, and thematically? Who gets to speak their story, and who is missing from this canon?

    The course often moves through four distinct periods: Puritanism, Romanticism, Modernism, and Contemporary movements, not necessarily in that order.  For each period, students are introduced to the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the literature of the time period. Reading assignments are extended beyond prior expectations, up to 30 pages nightly, including thorough annotations. Students are tasked with identifying vocabulary and defining unknown words on their own. They are similarly tasked with developing critical questions and responding to them in precise analytical theses. These are sometimes used to generate class discussion. 

    Texts used in American Lit have included a combination of novels, plays, short stories, and poetry. In recent years texts have been chosen from the following: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo, and Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare, O Pioneers by Willa Cather, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, and True West by Sam Shepard in addition to classic and contemporary stories and poems.
  • English 12: Choices and Connections

    English 12 completes the students’ preparation for college-level reading and writing. Throughout the year, students continue to cultivate an intense awareness of language and regard writing as a familiar and joyful activity. They read and observe closely, sharing and discussing their insights in class. The course begins with an in-depth study of All the King’s Men.  Seniors analyze the characters, voices, and themes through daily class discussions and several analytical and creative papers, culminating in a major essay. The novel also offers opportunities to connect to topics beyond the book, including politics, philosophy, and poetry. During the fall, seniors create a peer reference as well. Through an extensive rewriting process, students strive for crisp, lively language in these pieces that accompany their classmates’ college applications. Later in the year, they pare down these references to short paragraphs that they present at commencement.  Seniors go on to work closely with William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As they discuss and perform various scenes, students naturally make connections between passages within the text, but also between the play and Penn Warren’s work, as well as other short stories, novels, and plays they have read in previous courses.

    After studying Shakespeare, students embark on an in-class reading of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, a play that further celebrates the overlapping of literature, science, math, history, and art. At this time, seniors begin work on a self-portrait project in conjunction with the art department. Each student creates a visual reflection of him or herself, accompanied by a personal essay.  These pieces are installed in the art gallery for graduation. Senior English encourages students to examine their authentic voices as writers and speakers, friends, and family members. Through close analysis of various genres, and through practice with different styles of writing, they learn to recognize and shape their voices and to have confidence in those voices as they connect to the world beyond the classroom.
  • Rhetoric

    The Rhetoric course is offered to seniors who have completed graduation requirements in math or modern language and who seek intensive training in writing and presentational skills. The year begins with discussions of the role of language, particularly Shakespeare, in articulating our humanity.

    Over the course, students reflect on the shaping of language in both prose and poetry. Students study classical principles of rhetoric, and analyze both advertisements and speeches, looking particularly close at the uses of language in politics and public policy. The year concludes with a study of the novel, Riddley Walker. Through this novel, students explore how mythology and cultural narratives use the power of language to frame the ideologies that inform how we live.

Meet our faculty

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Elisabeth Ledwell

    Mrs. Elisabeth Ledwell 

    English Department Chair/Drama
  • Photo of Eleanor Clark

    Mrs. Eleanor Clark 

    English
  • Photo of Monica Hough

    Mrs. Monica Hough 

    English
  • Photo of Ben Parsons

    Dr. Ben Parsons 

    MS Coordinator/English/French
Words give expression to ideas—they are powerful tools. Words can foment revolution or create peace. They explain everything and sometimes fail us. 

Writing and speaking are at the center of daily learning.
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