English / Writing

The English Department welcomes students who are eager to interact with language and develop confidence and sophistication in their writing and critical thinking skills. Our classes are fun, exciting, and interactive, with activities ranging from re-enactments of scenes from Beowulf to student-directed research and writing on local issues. Most importantly, RHP graduates enter college with the ability to write well-organized, thoughtful, supported, and unified essays on a variety of topics. Every year our graduates return to tell us that they are among the best prepared students in their college writing classes.

Our Middle School program emphasizes basic skills-reading comprehension, grammar and usage, an enhanced vocabulary, and the ability to write progressively lengthier and more complex essays and stories-within a supportive and confidence-building teaching environment. Sixth graders consider their own family histories as they read historical fiction, 7th graders sharpen their observational and analytical skills as they read and write mysteries, and 8th graders read nonfiction along with classical novels and dramas, and finish the year by reading John Hersey's Hiroshima and debating moral issues associated with the end of World War II. To the extent possible, themes discussed in English classrooms are coordinated with the Social Studies curriculum, and there are occasions for joint writing projects. RHP teachers have also found that a unified vocabulary enrichment program throughout middle school is important for high school success, and we are proud that our middle school graduates enter high school with superb vocabulary recognition and strong reading comprehension.

Upper School English continues the effort to improve comprehension and writing skills. All Upper School classes are approved by the University of California and the California State University, and, in keeping with these requirements, all students must take four years of English for graduation. English I covers Homer's The Odyssey, Greek mythology, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Hesse's Siddartha, and Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Several of these works complement the study of the ancient world in World History I, but they also help adolescents think about some of the universal issues faced by young people. Ninth graders write a research paper on the issues faced by teenagers, including stress, creativity, brain development, relationships, and music choices.

English II focuses on a comparative analysis of literature from the earliest epics to modern fiction, using Beowulf, Macbeth, Frankenstein, and some works of contemporary fiction to explore the struggle between good and evil. Effective writing strategies for timed writings and for extended assignments help students grow as writers who can draft, write, and revise their own papers and evaluate the work of their peers. Honors English students supplement the regular curriculum with additional reading and writing assignments. English III focuses on themes in American literature and culture from colonial days to the present. Students read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and Black Boy and a wide variety of essays, poetry, and nonfiction by representative American authors.

The foremost concern of the RHP English Department is to develop writing and critical thinking skills but we also want our students to be culturally literate, so we have chosen many pieces of moving and powerful classic literature, mostly from the Western canon but also from multicultural sources for our students. English IV students finish their time at RHP with an intense yearlong course that combines nonfiction writing with essays, short stories, dramas, and poetry organized in thematic units. Throughout the upper school English curriculum students are encouraged to use technological resources to enhance the production of original work. YouTube videos or PowerPoint presentations may enhance a research project.

Advanced Placement English offers talented students the opportunity to pursue college-level work in high school. RHP offers both Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition and Advanced Placement English Language and Composition, taught in alternate years, to junior and senior students who demonstrate proficiency and interest in advanced language studies. Many colleges give college credit to students who pass the AP exam; RHP has a passing rate that is considerably above the national average.

English as a Second Language (ESL) helps students from other countries develop speaking, reading, and writing abilities through a variety of activities and level-appropriate instructional materials. The class emphasizes the development of vocabulary for mathematics, science, social sciences, in addition to preparing students for Upper School English courses. Advanced ESL is UC/CSU approved for one year of high school English credit.

Many students participate in the production of the school's award-winning literary magazines, The Crown Jewels, and The Muse. The Crown Jewels, which features poetry, stories, and artwork produced by our Middle School students, was recognized in 2007 by the National Council of Teachers of English as one of the best school literary magazines in California; The Muse, an Upper School magazine, has also been recognized for its quality. Giving students opportunities for publication and recognition is a continued goal of the RHP English Department.

We strive to create English classes that challenge students to learn and grow in ways that are compatible with adolescent development. We invite you to visit our classes or talk with us about the goals of the English program at RHP.

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English Department Chair