Department Overview

Posted November 9, 2005

I. Philosophy

The Middle and High School English Department affirms the philosophy and objectives of Porter-Gaud School and strives to provide each student with a comprehensive background in communication skills as well as an understanding of diverse forms of literature to foster critical thinking and broaden cultural awareness.

II. Objectives

Upon completion of the English curriculum, students should

A. write lucidly and logically.

B. have developed critical thinking skills.

C. read literature with an understanding of the methods by which authors create their effects.

D. have increased their awareness of both Western and various non-Western cultures and values.

E. speak logically and persuasively, either formally or informally.

F. utilize computers and other techonology to enhance their learning in both literature and composition.

G. appreciate the reading of literature as a means of understanding human experience.

III. Curriculum Overview

A. Writing

Our most important objective is to develop good writers. This goal can be accomplished only through frequent writing assignments that are analyzed thoroughly and returned promptly. Therefore, students complete a composition approximately every ten days with a teacher conference and return within one week after submission. Because of the necessity to teach compositions skills on an individual basis, English faculty are assigned four classes daily.

  1. Research maintains that the study of grammar divorced from the act of writing is an exercise in futility; therefore, we teach grammar primarily through the practical experience of writing rather than with textbook and workbook exercises.
  2. Methods of composition (narrative, descriptive, expository) are sequentially structured. We believe that it is important for each teacher to be concretely familiar with each course, so, in grades 6 - 12, we collectively weave a seamless pattern of instruction. Instructors periodically shift from grade to grade within the Middle or Upper Schools and teach at least two different grade levels each year. In addition to providing a thorough overview of the English curriculum, this process keeps teachers fresh in their approaches and broadens their intellectual horizons.

B. Literature

Through the study of literature, we hope to accomplish several objectives. First, one cannot become an accomplished writer without a comprehensive familiarity with various methods of writing. By learning how to read critically, students increase their vocabularies, incorporate sophisticated sentence structure into their own writing, and sharpen their critical thinking skills. In addition, literature amplifies and humanizes the survey of history by embodying the values and concepts of Western civilization through the characters and personae of literature. Literature also promotes synthesis. By vicariously experiencing the struggles of human beings from various non-Western cultures and different eras, students achieve a greater insight into their own humanity.

  1. The sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades concentrate on short fiction, the essay, the novel, drama, and poetry as different genres of literature.
  2. The tenth grade surveys British literature from Anglo-Saxon writing until the present time.
  3. The eleventh grade surveys American literature from its colonial origins to the present time.
  4. The senior year combines the genre approach with a study of comparative world literature.
  5. Each grade also reads from a list of parallel reading books. Students read two books each trimester and during the summer. Students select from this list in all grades, except the two survey courses. In tenth and eleventh grades, the parallel reading is taken from a class list of significant authors of British or American literature. Research indicates that high verbal SAT scores are largely the product of wide reading over a large number of years. The parallel reading program is an essential component of the English curriculum and plays an important role in the fruition of our objectives.

C. Oral Communication

Oral communication is also an important aspect of the English curriculum. In grades 7 - 12, students are required to speak in front of their class at least once each trimester. Recitations, dramatic presentations, and reports are important tools in developing effective oral communicators. Instruction time is devoted not only to content and organization, but also to effective delivery.

D. Computers and Technology

The presence of computers and connected television screens in every English classroom has enhanced the English program in several ways. As students address composition skills, they can review successful student essays on the large, mounted t.v. screens; edit rough drafts as a class or in groups; demonstrate and correct grammatical or stylistic errors, and so on. Since our computers have Internet access, students utilize the ever-expanding Net resources to illustrate, supplement, or expand the texts covered in class. For example, Net graphics of sculpture, paintings, or tapestries provide colorful, meaningful images from mythology.

Likewise, sites devoted to specific authors, works, or even literary genres offer background material beyond the scope of textbooks. And certain individual works are easily available to students without recourse to photocopies. Junior and senior students utilize the library’s online servers to access critical essays in periodicals and other current sources for their research papers. Almost all students in all grades use word processors in preparing and revising their essay assignments, utilizing various spell-check or grammar-check programs as needed.