Shalhevet High School

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The English program at Shalhevet offers four years of rigorous, writing-intensive study of literature, spanning different authors, regions, and time periods. The program is set up with a regional focus, with sophomore American Literature and junior British Literature framed by two years of World Literature in the 9th and 12th grades. All classes focus on the development of reading, writing (both analytical and creative), grammar, and vocabulary skills (with a particularly heavy composition emphasis in 9th grade), aiming to prepare students to succeed both on their SATs and in college literature courses. Unlike many schools, Shalhevet does not “track” its English classes, with Honors or A.P. options available only to seniors (or juniors for an elective course). While tracking may serve some students, we feel more students benefit from mixed level classes through 11th grade, especially due to the discussion-based nature of the classes. After completing the required sequence of World, American, and British literature, students have a choice of three courses for their senior year: World Literature, Film, Literature, and Composition (which carries an Honors option), and Advanced Placement English Literature. Juniors opting to take the Film course must double up on English courses in 11th grade. Offering this course as an elective allows students to complete five total English courses rather than the four required for graduation.


By the end of their senior year, we aim for all Shalhevet students to feel comfortable reading difficult text on their own, and analyzing said text in carefully organized, argumentative papers that they support with textual evidence. Every student will confront various forms of literary expression, such as novels, plays, short stories, non-fiction, and poetry. Finally, the English program seeks to sensitize students to the manifold moral implications of literature, focusing our discussions of text on character conflict and situations that feature a clash of values. Even outside of formal moral dilemma discussions, this goal affects every aspect of the way we teach, from our essay assignments to our selection of texts for the curriculum. Each course also incorporates at least one piece of Jewish literature, aiming to complement Shalhevet’s modern Orthodox focus and student body.


9th Grade: English Composition 

10th Grade: American Literature

11th Grade: British Literature 

12th Grade: British Literature, Creative Writing, Honors Film Literature & Composition, or Jewish Literature


English Composition (9th Grade Requirement)

For many, high school is the beginning of a quest for knowledge and, more importantly, for self. The beauty of literature is the ability to share the struggles of humanity in a universal context, and become part of a timeless conversation that weaves itself though every aspect of popular culture. The freshman composition course aims to create a solid foundation in: English language conventions (grammar), vocabulary, creative and expository writing, critical reading and thinking, as well as confident verbal expression of thought. A strong command of these skills will help students propel forward to join the universal literary conversation.


American Literature (10th Grade Requirement)

The seminal documents, novels, poems, plays, and short stories that form the American literature canon had a lasting impact on the notion of American identity. 10th grade American literature, however, investigates how the literary imagination of American writers made American identity a fluid, experimental idea, much like the country itself. The course studies the religious hysteria of the Puritans, the poetic and creative energy of the Romantics, the critiques and aspirations of African-American authors during The Harlem Renaissance, the bravery of the moderns, and the playfulness of post-modern and contemporary writing. The course studies how each “movement” or “era” communicated a unique message about what it means to be American. The course also aims to invest students with a love of reading, and an aptitude for rigorous and reflective writing.


British Literature (11th Grade Requirement)

British literature focuses on major British writers, poets, playwrights, and novelists spanning the Medieval Period to the late 20th century. The course focuses on the development of close reading, critical writing skills, modes of interpretation, and analysis. The course also evaluates how literature informs essential questions of identity, purpose, and meaning. At the same time, students are given the liberty to creatively interpret major works of fiction, forming connections between the text, and their own lives. No pre-requisite required.



Film, Literature & Composition (honors option available)

Film, Literature, and Composition is an English course open to juniors and seniors who wish to gain exposure to the history and aesthetic of film as an artistic medium. It is a writingintensive, academic class designed to develop the critical thinking, writing, and viewing skills necessary for gaining a deeper understanding of the role of film in society. We will focus primarily on how to watch and write about film, and students will learn how to incorporate film criticism and/or theory into their original analyses. Students will also be asked to create two short films that showcase their understanding of specific film movements throughout history. This course will utilize several different approaches to cinematic analysis, covering films from a visual, theoretical, socio-historical, generic, and thematic perspective. Students will begin by developing a working vocabulary of the visual and technical aspects of film, focusing on lighting, camera angle and movement, shot selection, editing, framing and sound. We will examine the basic thematic and stylistic elements of various cinematic movements, such as silent film in Hollywood, German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism, and the French New Wave. Students will also study genres such as Gangster Film and Film Noir. We will also examine three novels and their cinematic adaptations to further explore how filmmakers translate written narrative into visual storytelling. Pre-requisite for honors: Minimum of B+ in both semesters of previous year’s English course and teacher recommendation. Exceptions may be made for qualified students.


Jewish Literature (SAS)

This class will explore the complex development of Jewish identity through the analysis of novels, plays, short stories, poems and graphic novels written by influential European, American and Israeli authors from the 19th to the 21st century. We will read both classic and contemporary American literature as well as selected Israeli and Yiddish authors (in English) whose writings reflect on the development of individual and communal Jewish identity through the centuries. The goal of this class is to engage in an in-depth study of Jewish literature, while considering how it might shape or influence one's own sense of American Jewish identity and affiliation. The class will ask questions about what makes a work of literature Jewish. What does it mean to live as a Jew in America today? What does literature have to say about being Jewish? How have writers and poets characterized the American Jewish experience? And how have Jewish writers – from novelists to Hollywood screenwriters – made on an impact on America by sharing Jewish tradition and culture with the rest of the country? What connection does American Judaism and Jewish literature have with its Yiddish predecessors and Israeli counterparts? In this regard, through close reading and writing we will try to “bridge” our two worlds – the Jewish and the American – with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the life we live as Jews in America today. Pre-requisite: Minimum of B+ in both semesters of 11th grade English course and teacher recommendation. Exceptions may be made for qualified students and a writing sample may be required.


Language and Literature (12th Grade Creative Writing)

This class will explore Literature through the use of creative writing. We will practice a variety of writing styles, focusing on short story, poetry and screenwriting techniques with an emphasis on editing and rewriting. We will read short stories, novels, fairy tales and memoirs that take us from New York to Dresden and from India to England. This class will be structured in the way of the reading and writing workshop. Most classes will begin with an exercise in your writer's Portfolio, a writing critique by your peers and a discussion of the reading. There will also be a quiz approximately once a week to assess reading comprehension and participation. The writing portfolio will be due every few weeks and, at the end of each semester, you will be responsible for a large project that will reflect your understanding of the work done previously in class. No formal pre-requisite required; students may be asked to submit writing samples.