English

Upper School students fine-tune their abilities by practicing the elements of effective interpersonal communication, close reading of literary and visual texts, audience-centered composition, public speaking and oral interpretation. The English department encourages students to develop both self-awareness and style through the writing process, from prewriting through revision. Students take four years of English, consisting of required courses in ninth and tenth grades and semester elective courses in eleventh and twelfth grades.

Required Semester Courses

Foundations in Composition

Required, ninth grade
Full year

This course focuses on composition skills, beginning with the foundations of writing – ideas, organization, voice, sentence structure, word choice, and conventions. Students examine different rhetorical contexts and practice both recognizing and using rhetorical and literary devices as they work through the entire writing process: generating ideas, gathering evidence, drafting, and revision. Students are exposed to the modes of definition, description, exposition, cause and effect, comparison, argument, and persuasion. Through the practice of writing, we continue to work on the skills all English classes address each year: close reading, critical thinking, analytical interpretation, creative expression, effective writing, and skillful public speaking.

Foundations in Literature

Required, tenth grade
First semester

This course focuses on reading and comprehension skills through a range of genres including prose (fiction and non-fiction), poetry, and drama. Students practice analyzing, interpreting, and synthesizing the literary themes and content they encounter, from the classic to the modern, in literature from around the globe. Through the practice of reading, we continue to work on the skills English classes address each year: close reading, critical thinking, analytical interpretation, creative expression, effective writing, and skillful public speaking.

Required Semester + Intensive Course

Humanities

Required, tenth grade
Second semester + second intensive

English and History combine into one, single-block interdisciplinary humanities course to study both world literature and history. This continues the focus on identity and community that is begun in the first semester of both the 10th grade Modern World History and Foundations In Literature courses. Students continue to develop critical reading, researching, and writing skills in the second semester of 10th grade Humanities.

During the intensive term, students choose one of three different tracks and conduct site visits to global organizations based in the Seattle community in order to write a six- to eight-page research paper. They immerse themselves in a research and writing process aligned with the overarching themes of the world history and literature curricula: promoting human rights and building an international community. How can we view each of these three topics from historical, literary, artistic, ethical, environmental, and global perspectives? Students apply the lessons they have learned from their history, English, and humanities courses from earlier in the year to focus on how these historical issues and topics are playing out in both Seattle and in the rest of the world.


Elective Semester Courses

Creative Writing

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
Second semester

How do writers find subjects to write about? How do they get better at the craft of writing? How do they develop their own style? And what does it mean to read with a writer’s eye? In this class we engage in a variety of reading and writing exercises, including experiments in a range of voices, styles, modes, and genres. Emphasis is placed on student choice and the development of skills in self-direction. The goal is for students to find what it is they would like to say, identify platforms for sharing their voice, and develop the skills to become disciplined life-long learners of the craft.

The End: Literature of the Apocalypse

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First semester

This course examines literature of the apocalypse and dystopian world views. Students write, discuss, and research the ways in which apocalyptic literature functions as a critique of current and historical social and cultural trends, how these descriptions of the apocalypse are connected to existential crisis and the modern experience, and identify the consistent metaphors and symbols that accompany the stories of the apocalypse. In reading these narratives, students are asked to determine what they reveal about human nature and values. Emphasis is placed on writing to discover theme and metaphor as it exists in single and multiple texts in the course.

The Literature of Identity: Hyphenating America

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First semester

Who are we? What factors shape us into who we will become? To what degree can we choose the paths we take? In this course, we examine literature that represents the experience of people whose whole identity cannot be encompassed by the singular term, “American.” Through a novel, personal essays, poetry, and the context of history and societal expectations, we explore literature that highlights several groups of Americans – Native Americans, Southeast Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and European-Americans – as they, and we, navigate the hybrid identity of being or becoming “American.” Join us in this discussion-based course to consider topics of immigration, ethnicity, gender, and religion, in context of the question: What does it mean to construct a cultural identity in contemporary America?

An Intentional Media Diet

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First semester

It’s not just that we are what we eat, it's that we are what we consume. In the same way that the food we eat becomes our bodies, the media we pay attention to and the conversations we choose to engage in become ourselves. The variety, quantity, and speed of media available to us has grown exponentially; our ability to intentionally choose how we participate in it, arguably has not. In this course, we examine how communications technologies have changed over time through the response of each era’s cultural critics, including critical commentary on the possibilities and pitfalls of digital technologies. Students assess their current diet of media — including news, information, and content — to better understand what they are “consuming” and how. Then using the lenses of “possibilities” and “pitfalls,” the course explores what it means to be a socially responsible media consumer and content creator in a digital, globalized world.

Knights, Camera, Action: Medievalism From Myth to Media

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
Second semester

We have seen the movies -- A Knight’s Tale, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and most recently, King Arthur. These films give us ideas we expect (to a degree) from Hollywood—the brave knight, the mythic quest, ideas of love, honor, and magic. But where do these stories come from? Travel back in time 900 years to explore the Medieval world. Together we investigate how the original ideas of Medievalism influenced people, even as these ideas were constantly re-imagined by the media of each time up until now. By considering poems, stories, art, and film, we question: How does Medievalism influence us today? Join the quest!


Masculine and Feminine: Ways of Seeing in the West

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
Second semester

The ways in which women and men make meaning of the world are profound in how they incorporate and exclude one another. In a literary landscape dominated by the stories and testimonies of men, a woman’s story or testimony may need to look and sound a particular way to be heard and understood. Likewise, a man who writes the story of a woman must treat his subject in a particular way to be heard and understood by an audience of women. Through the study of literature and through the practice of critical writing, students in this course examine ways in which female and male views of the world may influence, feed, undermine one another, and make room for gender identities outside of the male/female dichotomy.

The Past is Present: Specters, Spooks, and the Haunted Terrain of Gothic Literature

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First semester

The notion of “haunted” locales like houses or battlefields or underground mine shafts speak to our sense of space, enclosed or expansive, where past hidden horrors have occurred. This is the terrain of Gothic Literature, where nothing remains buried for long. The past always returns to haunt the comfortable present. Students read a number of scholarly essays to acquaint themselves with critical approaches that they may choose to challenge or adopt for themselves. The class touches briefly upon the novel versus other forms of the Gothic and concludes with a review of the genre’s hallmark devices, figures, and tropes.

Poetry: The Quarrel with Ourselves

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First semester

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry."
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William Butler Yeats

Poetry is the most efficient use of language to convey what is true. This course is for the poetry lover, the poetry-curious, and anyone who wants to know more about poetic techniques, forms, traditions, and historical contexts. The course includes poetry from a number of global traditions and periods. Students engage in close reading and literary analysis, and lead class discussions, write in a number of poetic forms, and compose essays and projects that dive into the purpose and function of a poem.


States United? Nonfiction Texts and American Identity

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
Second semester

What is the American Dream? Who is a “real” American? The rhetoric of inclusion and exclusion is everywhere, from political speeches to Disney movies. This class examines the messages we see (and don’t see) every day about who matters. We read Coates’s Between the World and Me, Rankine’s Citizen, and a variety of non-fiction pieces that tackle identity and privilege. Students write arguments and create rhetorical analyses on subjects as diverse as the subtext of our national anthem, the rhetoric of terrorism, and aspects of racism, sexism, and heteronormativity in pop culture. Students finish by identifying and addressing a problem at UPrep, putting their skills in subtext, argument, and analysis to work on something within our own community.

The Narrator and the Nature of Storytelling

Elective, 11th and 12 grades
Second semester

A story can be told from a variety of viewpoints, from a “private” internal stream-of-consciousness, to a wholly external third-person description providing no access to the thoughts and feelings of the characters – and everything in between. It boils down to this: What a story is about is partly a question of how it is told. You cannot separate the tale from the telling. The goal for this class is to better understand the different ways a story can be told, and as such, to better understand stories themselves.

Elective Intensive Courses

Go Talk Story: Creative Writing from Seattle to Samoa

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First intensive

In many Polynesian communities, the phrase “talk story” means to chat or to share in conversation, but looking back we see these communities’ long traditions of oral storytelling also as a means for passing down history to the next generation. Engaging with our long-standing program partner in Samoa (Village of Faleseela), this course integrates the best practices of Global Link, focusing on those stories of creation, life, love, war, and change, while also exploring how the story for Samoans has evolved today. We blend cultural immersion with the study of storytelling techniques in order to help amplify the voices of a small island-nation in the Pacific with the broader world, while also searching for inspiration to tell our own stories (both fiction and non). Come join our voyage around the world and into the past in order to better understand our present and future stories. This course includes current Global Link program features such as pre-departure activities, in-country safety procedures and policies, homestays (if possible), transference activities, and student evaluations.

Radio Lab

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
Second intensive
This course may meet the Senior LaunchPad requirement.

Are you interested in bringing a personal interest or experience to life? In this course, students will create both short form and long form podcasts, brainstorming and revising their narrative overlays (the “host” portion that provides exposition and guidance) while also learning the particulars of radio production, sound-editing techniques, and interview skills. There will be opportunities to explore issues of personal interest both individually and as members of a production “team.”

Elective Semester + Intensive Course

Environmental Ethics and Advocacy

11th and 12th grades
First semester + first intensive
Students may use this course to meet the Senior LaunchPad requirement.

Students are growing up in a world fraught with environmental challenge. These students—and their peers worldwide—must confront these challenges knowledgeably and passionately to help find solutions for their own sustainable future. This course introduces students to scientific data about human impacts on the planet and helps them understand some of the political, economic, and ethical challenges inherent in moving toward greater environmental sustainability. Students consider the ethics of their relationship with the environment as they monitor their own “environmental footprint,” read environmental poetry, non-fiction essays, and other literature that explores the themes of nature and human-nature interactions, and build their writing skills in a variety of genres. They learn about the workings of government and consider ways citizens interact with their governments locally, nationally, and globally. Through interactions with guest speakers, independent research, and team problem-solving activities, students gain skills to become effective change-makers in today’s world. In the intensive part of the course, students immerse themselves in a mentored, hands-on, LaunchPad experience of environmental advocacy in the greater Seattle community. This interdisciplinary course provides students with an integrated curriculum and English, Civics, and (optionally) LaunchPad credit.