The English program at Shalhevet offers four years of rigorous, writing-intensive study of literature, spanning different regions, authors, and time periods. All classes focus on the development of reading and writing (both analytical and creative), aiming to prepare students to succeed both on their SATs and in college literature courses. There is a particularly heavy emphasis on composition and essay structure in 9th grade, in order to solidify the student’s understanding of structure and mechanics. Every student will confront various forms of literary expression, such as novels, plays, short stories, non-fiction, and poetry.


After completing the required sequence of English Composition, American, and British literature, students have a choice of three courses in their senior year: Creative Writing, Film, Literature, and Composition (Honors option), and an SAS Jewish Literature course. By the end of their senior year, we aim for all Shalhevet students to feel comfortable reading and analyzing text in carefully organized, argumentative papers that they support with textual evidence.


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 and span a diverse group of authors and time periods. 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.
English Composition (9th Grade Requirement)
The Freshman Composition course aims to create a solid foundation in expository writing, critical reading and thinking, as well as confident verbal expression of thought. 9th Grade 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. Students will leave 9th Grade English with both a strong knowledge of essay writing structure and the ability to engage in thoughtful literary conversation.
American Literature (10th Grade Requirement)
The seminal documents, novels, poems, plays, and short stories that form the American literary canon had a lasting impact on the notion of identity and the American Dream. This class aims to investigate 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 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 reveals how each movement communicates a unique message about what it means to be American and invites us to critique the concept of the American Dream. Overall, the course aims to imbue students with a love of reading, and an aptitude for rigorous and reflective analytical writing.


Course Offerings for 11th Grade:
British Literature
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.
Banned Books
Banned Books is an English class open to juniors. In this course, students will read and engage critically with some of the books that have been deemed a threat to society. Literary analysis and the development of written and oral critical skills are the primary goals of the course.

Many of the books selected revolve around particular types of revolt or rebellion. Throughout the course, students will identify the “objectionable” elements in the texts, analyze why certain texts were considered threatening, reflect on how the texts add to our understanding of literature and social movements, and consider the place of censorship in our society.
This course requires students to read the texts independently and then come to class prepared to engage in the discussion in a productive manner. Students will be expected to develop their own interpretations and arguments about the literature and their own opinion about their potential for negatively influencing a reader. Possible texts include: Fahrenheit 451, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Huck Finn, Frankenstein, Alice in Wonderland, Of Mice and Men, Native Son. No pre-requisite required.
12th Grade Choices:


Language and Literature (Creative Writing)
This class introduces students to the craft of creative writing. Students 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 an array of literature spanning the traditional to the modern to give students a springboard for inspiration in their own writing. This class will be structured like a writing workshop, with a writing portfolio due at the end of each quarter and an expansive project due at the end of each semester. No formal pre-requisite required. Some students may be asked to submit writing samples.
Film, Literature & Composition (Honors option available)
This course is for those who wish to gain exposure to the history and aesthetic of film as an artistic medium. Students will begin by developing a working vocabulary of the visual and technical aspects of film. This is writing intensive course designed to develop the critical thinking, writing, and viewing skills necessary for gaining a deeper understanding of the role of film in society. Along with the study of genre and film movements, students will examine three novels and their cinematic adaptations to further explore how filmmakers translate written narrative into visual storytelling. Students will also learn how to incorporate film criticism into their original analyses. 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 explores 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. 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.


Shalhevet Screenwriting is an English class that focuses on understanding the art and mechanics of screenwriting and applying that understanding to the writing of short films and feature-length screenplays. The first semester of the course focuses on the fundamentals of screenwriting: why we tell stories, creating a world, the role of concept, character, context, and theme, screenplay structure and formatting, and the art of offering and receiving feedback. The second semester focuses on writing through a multi-step process that involves vetting ideas in our “writers room” classroom community, consulting models, outlining, writing, rewriting, and rewriting again…and again. This class is for students who love movies and want to gain a deeper understanding of how film and television work, who are interested in exploring a different mode of creative writing, who are interested in acquiring an additional lens through which to view the world in general and storytelling in particular, and/or who may be interested in pursuing screenwriting or film production in college or professionally. No formal pre-requisite required; students may be asked to submit writing samples