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

Canon, Cultural Capital, Critical Thought

11th and 12 grades
First semester

What does it mean to add a contemporary lens to old literature? The Canon, Cultural Capital, Critical Thought Elective Course will examine literature from the Old, Middle, and Modern English periods, and the reading list will include poetry, plays, and novels from the Elizabethan, Neoclassical, and Romantic periods. The course will analyze text through a critical cultural lens which charges students to both question norms presented in the text and understand connections to current literature and culture and the reactions it has spawned there. Students will be assessed through public presentation, take-home expository writing, in-class expository writing, and seminar.


Critical Reading and Effective Writing

11th and 12 Grades
Second Semester

In traditional English classes, teachers are charged with imparting a wide range of concepts and skills. However, Malcolm Gladwell says that 10,000 hours of practice are required in order to become an “expert” or “elite performer” at a skill. So, in this class, rather than reading long novels, we concentrate on shorter pieces that allow us to focus on the skills of active reading and incisive written interpretation and analysis. We write immediate, in-class responses, so come prepared to write often. Be ready, too, for lively discussions about a wide variety of texts – both fiction and nonfiction – from all over the world.

Epic: A Hero’s Journey

11th and 12th grades
Second semester

The hero prince. A loyal bride. Steadfast companions in arms. A 20-year journey. Mix in a bit of magic, mystery, and mistaken identity with just a little bit of luck. Our text will take us on a journey with our hero through the ancient world. Along the way, we’ll consider both the broad view of society in these times while also looking at specific representations of gender, class, religion, hospitality, war, and how they appear in the Hero’s Journey. Ultimately, we’ll aim to understand how this story has stood the test of time, and how we might learn from it. So, if you want to settle in with a good book, join us on our adventure!


Environmental Ethics and Advocacy

11th and 12th grades
First semester
This course meets for two periods in the semester and earns English and Civics credits.

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. This interdisciplinary course provides students with an integrated curriculum with English and Civics. LaunchPad credit is no longer offered.

Knights, Camera, Action: Medievalism From Myth to Media

11th and 12th grades
First 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

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.

Poetry: The Quarrel with Ourselves

11th and 12th grades
Second semester
Launchpad eligible

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.


Science Fiction: More Than a Genre

11th and 12 grades
First semester

Students look at both classic and contemporary short pieces of science fiction as legitimate, paradigm-shifting literature that often pushes the boundaries of language, comments subtly upon race and gender politics, sheds light on the complexities of human nature, and inspires cultural and scientific innovations. Students have the opportunity to explore these thought-provoking messages through class discussions, student-created emulative projects, and weekly in-class critical analyses.

States United? Nonfiction Texts and American Identity

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.

Elective Intensive Courses

Creative Writing

Elective: 11th and 12th grades
First intensive

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.

Global Link India: Storytelling

Elective, 11th and 12th grades
First intensive

Every civilization has a story. India’s rich traditions of epic stories like Ramayana and Mahābhārata stand the test of time, and highlight values of a people long ago while underscoring current ways of living. This course will focus on stories of creation, life, love, war, and change, while also exploring how the story for modern-day Indians has evolved. We’ll blend cultural immersion with the study of storytelling techniques in order to help understand the rich, multi-layered history of narratives within the Indian subcontinent, while also searching for inspiration to tell our own stories (both fiction and non). Using inspiration from our experiences in Hyderabad, we’ll write our own stories to join in the literary voices carrying forward traditions while reinventing them for future generations. Come join our journey around the world and into the past in order to better understand our present and future.

This course includes Global Link program features such as pre-departure activities, in-country safety procedures and policies, homestays (if possible), transference activities, and student evaluations.

Students enrolled in Global Link first intensive cannot play in the UPrep basketball program.

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.”