Walnut Hill School for the Arts

English Program & Faculty

All English classes are designed around a program of core skills and habits, including close reading, critical thinking, analytical writing, and reflection. Throughout, students are encouraged to view writing as a process best learned through drafting, revising, and discussing their work in conference with teachers. Courses promote a love of reading and a heightened appreciation of literature through the study of various genres, including short story, novel, drama, and poetry. Through class discussion, courses also promote clarity of expression as well as the willingness to share ideas openly.

Requirements in English

All students must complete four years of English for the Walnut Hill diploma. International students may apply work in English Language Learning (ELL) toward this four-year requirement.


The Humanities call on us to think deeply about our experiences, the world we live in, as well as the art we see and create. To support the development of engaged scholar-artists, this yearlong course immerses students in the skills of close observation, writing, and critical and creative thinking. We will examine the history and culture of past civilizations in combination with a mix of historical and contemporary texts. Through these encounters with history and literature, students will be challenged to think deeply about the past and about the world in which they live. This course conveys 1 English and 1 history credit. This course is required for all 9th graders who are not in ELL classes.


No matter how we may consider ourselves individuals, we live in social, political, and economic contexts that are larger than ourselves. In Sophomore English students examine writing and photography to explore how individuals relate to the societies in which they live. Do societies help individuals fully realize their humanity or does society put individual identity at risk? Projects and daily routines aim to explore important questions such as this while developing students’ skill and versatility as writers and readers.


Through close investigations of a range of texts in different media, this class addresses the following questions: what do we mean by equality, and how and why do we value it? Our texts include Gaines’s A Gathering of Old Men, Adichie’s Americanah, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the film The Barbershop, and a wide range of poems. The class presents a focused course of training and practice in the skills and habits of the department’s core skills curriculum, including close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing. The course aims to guide students in the patient crafting of precise observations on which to build inferences and arguable claims for fresh, persuasive analytical prose.

Incoming juniors and seniors must take Writing and Thinking in their first year at Walnut Hill.


English 11 is designed for returning students in the 11th grade. In this course, students will gain more experience in applying the skills that lead to accomplished reading and writing: patient observation, careful drawing of inferences from observations, and thoughtful developments of claims about various forms of literature, image, and film. In particular, the course focuses on the concept of the self as it is revealed in those art forms. The centerpiece of the course is a project that will require students to create an in-depth, evocative personal essay.

Prerequisite: English 10 or American Literature and Culture


How do artists respond to works of art? Students in English 12 examine poetry, fiction, and drama as well as images and examples of their own art in order to explore this question. Writing is central to the course, not only as a means of communicating conclusions about a text, but also as an aid to their discovery. Practicing skills they have obtained throughout their high school career, they complete writing assignments that call on them to think both critically and creatively.

Prerequisite: English 11, Writing and Thinking, or American Literature and Culture


Students in the Seminar engage in college-level literary discussion and analysis. Through their essays, collaborative projects, and a variety of other “experiments,” students explore how language creates meanings and how to best articulate an understanding in speech and writing.

The Seminar is open to seniors by application to the Humanities Department in the spring of junior year.


This course helps English Language Learners develop their skills as readers, writers, and critical thinkers while they build English language proficiency. By reading and discussing a variety of poems, stories, and other texts, students are introduced to the rich diversity of American literature. Students learn to use OIA (observation, inference, analysis) to think more deeply about texts, and they practice writing formally and informally in English.

Prerequisite: ELL Intermediate A or permission of the department

English Faculty