The English curriculum at Williams seeks to develop students’ critical reading, writing, and speaking skills, and to foster an appreciation of literature.
Students learn to read actively by underlining and taking notes on the works, responding in reading journals, and referring to the text to support their opinions in discussion. Practice is given in finding main ideas, locating supporting details, drawing inferences, distinguishing fact from opinion, and building vocabulary. The writing program emphasizes the importance of drafting, revising, and proofreading.
This course emphasizes the development of writing and critical reading skills. Students use computers to draft and polish their papers for both creative and analytical assignments. Instruction includes lessons on spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary, as well as content revision. Students read novels, short stories, poetry, and one play. The literature often involves themes of diversity and coming of age; frequently units coordinate with history lessons.
Students build on the reading and writing skills developed in seventh grade. They continue to draft their papers on the computer and learn how to edit and revise effectively. They become more proficient at writing analytical essays that trace character development or explore symbolism, and yet they have ample opportunity to write stories and poems. Students examine a variety of literary genres and study Shakespeare for the first time.
English I (Grade 9)
Freshmen begin a more formal study of literary genres and techniques. They read both classic and modern works, including The Odyssey, Oedipus the King, Twelfth Night, and To Kill a Mockingbird, and examine the elements of classical tragedy and neoclassical comedy. Students write essays frequently and spend an entire quarter learning how to produce a research paper.
English II (Grade 10)
Sophomores study representative works of British literature and examine how each relates to the time period in which it was written. Among the texts are Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Jane Eyre, and Brave New World. Major topics include order and disorder in society, irony and satire, imperialism, and the power of language. In addition to frequent papers, students write an essay that incorporates elements of literary criticism.
English III (Grade 11)
The first quarter of this course offers students a workshop approach to improving their writing. Students take their papers through many drafts, from freewriting to polishing, and focus on clarity of expression as well as audience and purpose. Assignments emphasize narrative, persuasive, and analytical writing. The remaining three quarters are devoted to the study of American literature. Students read such works as The Scarlet Letter, Death of a Salesman, and Song of Solomon. Frequent writing assignments coordinate with the literature.
English IV (Grade 12)
The first quarter of this course is devoted to the study of Hamlet and supplementary texts. Students then choose electives to run through second, third, and fourth quarters. As always, students develop and polish their writing skills through a variety of analytical and creative assignments. Although no section is specifically designated an AP section, English IV prepares all students to take the AP exam if they so desire.
Other Gods and Other Monsters (Grade 12)
Beginning with the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, this course will focus on challenges to identity. The meeting of differing cultures, through immigration, colonization or creation provoke questions about values and fulfillment, especially in terms of conflicting ideals. The works read will be taken from a range of times and traditions: Shakespeare to Milton, Wilde, and Suzan-Lori Parks.
Writing as Readers (Grade 12)
Through examining the intricacies of the reading process, students will practice the art of writing in a number of different genres, including short fiction, poetry, review, stream of consciousness, and creative nonfiction. Frequently utilizing the workshop setting, we will analyze and critique the work of published authors as well as the work of students in the class. Students will develop their understanding of writing and control over language, ultimately using computer software to write, produce, and broadcast radio essays modeled after NPR’s This American Life. We will read Cormac McCarthy, Virginia Woolf, Michael Pollan, Seamus Heaney, Raymond Carver, Elizabeth Bishop, and others. Enrollment in this course requires permission from the Department Head.
Psychology and Literature (Grade 12)
In this class we will use psychology as a lens through which we can more accurately view and understand the portraits of humanity offered by literature. The essential question of the course will be “Why do people do what they do?” Thus, we will examine characters and their motivations, borrowing terminology from the fields of social and behavioral psychology to address issues of greed, violence, immorality, asceticism, monomania, and cruelty. Students will read novels, plays, and nonfiction, specifically writing by Kesey, Albee, McCarthy, Stevenson, Fitzgerald, Krakauer, Sartre and others, all the while completing analytical and personal essays and several creative projects.
Strange Plays (Grade 12)
The experimental plays of the modern period and their contemporary descendants will serve as the focus of this course. In particular, we will examine the formal innovations of modernism and apply them to a study of works by contemporary American playwrights. In each case, a play from the earlier period will be set against a work from the present era in order to highlight the formal similarities. The various “—isms”: realism, aestheticism, absurdism, expressionism, as well as epic theatre, will of necessity be explored in detail. The works of Strindberg, Shepard, Wilde, Ionesco, Brecht, Wolfe, and Parks will serve as the foundation of the course. A willingness to act and stage short scenes will be a requirement. Writing exercises will include analysis and imitation of various styles.