English Course Descriptions

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The English curriculum at Randolph-Macon Academy. A private boarding school in Front Royal Virginia

English 9

In this double-block course of English 9 Literature and English 9 Composition and Grammar, students read widely in the genres of world literature from classic and contemporary texts. Students read major works by Homer, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, and many others. The study of the principles of grammar and composition leads to formal essays of analysis. Instruction in essay writing emphasizes the importance of thesis, outlining, and development. College-preparatory vocabulary is formally studied and reinforced through cumulative testing. Introduction to the method and style of MLA research culminates a yearlong research project on the life, times, and works of Charles Dickens.

Honors English 9

This double-block course of Honors English 9 Literature and Honors English 9 Composition and Grammar is designed to prepare students for high school and college success with a comprehensive college-preparatory reading and composition curriculum. Students read eight to ten novels and plays from the classical canon, including yearlong reading for an MLA research project on Charles Dickens and the Victorian Era. In addition, students read major works by Homer, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, and many others. Significant grammar and composition units are studied; creative writing is developed through modeling themes and techniques from literature. Students develop mastery of thesis, support, and argumentation in composition. Cumulative vocabulary testing includes 350+ words and literary terms. Students develop memorization and public speaking skills, and video recording is used for student self-critiquing. The curriculum of the two classes offers students the skills they need to succeed on the SAT, two-thirds of which is reading and writing.  

English 10

In this double-block course of English 10 Literature and English 10 Composition, students read widely in genres of classic and contemporary literature. Students read seven to ten novels and plays and a wide array of masterpieces of poetry and nonfiction. They focus on the study of types of rhetoric and are challenged to write a variety of essays—narrative, expository, descriptive, argument, and cause and effect. The study of nonfiction writing culminates with the sophomore speech contest. Rigorous vocabulary study continues with cumulative testing in preparation for the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. Students are guided through the process of writing a multi-source, fully-documented MLA research paper.

Honors English 10

This double-block course of Honors English 10 Literature and Honors English 10 Composition is designed to prepare students for high school and college success with a comprehensive college-preparatory reading and composition curriculum. Students read eight to ten novels and plays from the classical canon. Full-length texts include works by Sophocles, Shakespeare, Hugo, Tolstoy, Stevenson, and Huxley. Students read standard texts of nonfiction in the categories of history, biography, and criticism as part of the second-quarter MLA research project. In the third quarter, tenth graders participate in a speech contest; video recording is used for student self-critiquing. Creative writing is developed through modeling themes and techniques from literature. Cumulative vocabulary testing includes 350+ words and literary terms. The curriculum of the two classes offers students the training needed to succeed in Advanced Placement courses.  

Here is one of the award-winning speeches from the spring of 2015:

English 11 (American Literature)

Juniors undertake a formal survey of American literature that provides an appreciation of the rich heritage of our culture as well as a sense of the American identity and the prominence that American culture has achieved in the world. Students explore the novels, plays, poems, and nonfiction writings that have defined our nation. Students are guided step-by-step through the process of writing a multisource, fully-documented research paper. Students continue to develop thinking, writing, and speaking skills to a level that will ensure success on the SAT and ACT, as well as success with college application letters and the interview process.

Advanced Placement Language and Composition

The course aims to develop students as skilled readers and writers and to expose them to a variety of prose written in many periods, disciplines, and contexts. Students taking the course gain an awareness of the importance of purpose, audience, and subject when approaching writing.  Narrative strategies are explored. The course affords students the opportunity to read and write in a variety of forms—narrative, expository, creative, and argumentative.  Students gain mastery in the process of drafting, revising, editing, and polishing a piece of work. In developing sophisticated reading and writing skills, students explore and describe how language works. They learn to observe and analyze the words, patterns, and structures that create subtle effects of language. They learn to demonstrate working knowledge of parts of speech, structural patterns, awareness of connotation, and shades of meaning. They learn to synthesize material from diverse sources and to document formal MLA research papers. The course provides an opportunity for exceptionally able students to be challenged and to excel. Advanced Placement testing is given in the spring.

English 12 (British Literature)

British Literature is a two-semester course. During the first semester, students focus on an analysis of British Literature from the Anglo-Saxon period through the Pre-Romantic Age. In addition to extensive reading, students write essays, develop memorization, and continue vocabulary study. During the second semester, students continue reading and analysis as they focus on the Romantic Age through the Modern Age.  Students write both formal, extended analyses and timed in-class responses. The student’s work is graded, returned, and discussed in consultation meetings, which help develop all aspects of composition.

Advanced Placement Literature and Composition 

Seniors who qualify may take this course in lieu of British Literature. Students study masterpieces of English and American literature as well as literature from around the world. In texts ranging from Dante and Shakespeare to Albee and Beckett, students learn to read and analyze the world’s most important writings. Students write analyses and interpretations based on application of the works’ textual details, literary elements, social and historical context, and themes. The depth, breadth, and pace of readings and the writing assignments challenge students and prepare them to succeed in the Advanced Placement test given each spring.

H. Utopia/Dystopia

Many writers have posited an imaginary world of social harmony or social disharmony, a world of order or disorder. In this year long Honors course, students will analyze and discuss not only primary texts but also secondary materials. They will arrive at their view of life as found in utopia or dystopia. What do the authors say about their own time? What is relevant to today? Students look at what the authors say about marriage, divorce, childbearing, housing, authority, discipline, sin, legal systems, freedom, warfare, communal living. Works analyzed begin with Plato’s Republic and end with the science fiction The Dispossessed. Along the way, students will examine Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Rousseau’s The Social Contract, More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Campanella’s City of the Sun, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Howell’s The Traveler from Altruria, Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.

English Electives

Honors Arts in Society

This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the roles of the arts in society. The primary arts explored in this yearlong course are music, photography, art, film, and literature (fiction and nonfiction). Social, artistic, and cultural texts are explored. Student creative work in this class is a significant component in the school literary magazine. The course develops literary, creative, and critical ability. The concepts of linguistics, semantics, aesthetics, text, and intertextuality are explored. Students incorporate complex skills and techniques from textual and artistic models as they expand their personal repertoire of writing and expression. This class offers dual credit in English and Fine Arts. This course uses college texts and gives Honors credit.  

Journalism         

This course offers both an academic and practical introduction to journalism. Students are introduced to the varieties of modern journalism—in print, on television, and on the Internet. Issues such as the First Amendment and writing for a specific audience are explored.  Students develop professional writing and editing skills. They are responsible for providing reporting, writing, and editing resources to all school departments and publications, including the yearbook, The Sabre, the web site, and the literary magazine. Student reporting is sometimes published in the local newspapers as well. The course allows students to develop contacts within the R-MA community and beyond. The journalism class meets in the afternoon during intramural time Monday through Thursday.  Students must attend each day to receive 0.5 course credit per semester. 

Modern Drama/Independent Study    

This yearlong independent study course is designed to introduce the student to a deeper reading of modern drama through a chronological study that begins in the late nineteenth century. Modern drama reflects the tensions of the technological age. The search for identity and meaning is highlighted. The student reads varied dramatic texts and analyzes them in terms of literary techniques, dramatic conventions, manipulation of language, cultural/social context, and creative expression. Playwrights include Ibsen, Shaw, Wilde, Ionesco, Beckett, and Stoppard. The text editions are purchased through the school bookstore. Assessments include a reader’s portfolio, tests, and formal essays. This course is available by permission only.

Modern Novel/Independent Study    

This independent study course is designed to introduce the student to a deeper reading of the modern novel, primarily the twentieth-century novel.  The student reads a varied selection of fictional texts and analyzes them in terms of genre, literary techniques, literary devices, manipulation of language, cultural context, and creative expression.  In addition, the student uses the novels to develop vocabulary and language ability. Assessments include tests and formal essays.  This course is available by permission only.