Reading and writing with joy and purpose are hallmarks of the English department. Our students use storytelling and reading to explore the world, continuing on to become lifelong, active, and independent readers. At every stage, they practice developmentally appropriate literary analysis, from noticing who is in a picture in the Fours to closely reading passages from Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein or Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus in high school. Readers and writers are encouraged to draw creative and critical connections, both independently and in community. Across the three divisions, LREI emphasizes authentic writing in context. Our students read and write to reflect on the self, to share with one another, and to describe and shape the world around them.
Growing lifelong readers who love to read is a central focus of our program. Fourth graders bring in books from home that populate their class libraries so they can share books they love with one another. Middle and high school students read their favorite childhood books to their lower school buddies in a treasured annual tradition. In ninth grade, students participate in the “Read, Write, Recommend” program — a non-graded module where time is set aside for students to choose books they love, silently read together in the library, and share their favorite books through activities like a grade-wide book swap.
Throughout the divisions, our students read and write to explore the world. An early example of this is the kindergarten school study. Students begin by choosing a faculty member or room to study and then generate questions driven by their interests. After interviewing teachers and recording their responses, the students compile their information and publish a book. These books are shared with classmates and parents, and are placed in the classroom “Authors and Illustrators” basket. This process of inquiry and communication is reiterated on a more sophisticated level in the eighth grade social justice project, when students create working groups around current issues like police brutality, women in the media, and climate change. After extensive research and interviews, they synthesize their findings and deliver an interactive teach-in to other middle school students. In the high school feminism elective, students engage in a global discussion through their class blog, F to the Third Power, and partner with organizations around the world to create change.
A crucial habit of mind in English is recognizing one’s own perspective and engaging with or anticipating others’ perspectives. When writing “How To’s” in first grade, students are asked to think about their intended audience (the Fours). They learn how to break an experience or action into concrete steps and to communicate their thoughts clearly to others. In the fourth grade immigration unit, students are asked to find “windows” and “mirrors” in the texts they read . Our tenth graders write an essay pairing The Great Gatsby with a media text of their choice, using detailed analysis to draw out their ideas - their own lens - on the text and contemporary American life.
Our students are aware of the power of writing. Our fourth grade students produce a newspaper focused on issues in their local community. In the process, they learn how to frame questions, conduct interviews, and use the conventions of a news article. In the high school journalism elective, the class functions as a news bureau. Students assume specific roles, propose a slate of topics, and assign and write articles. In the process, they fiercely debate issues like bias, privacy, and what is newsworthy. In writing workshop electives, students write poems, short stories, personal essays and memoirs that they workshop collaboratively and often submit to the Literary Magazine. Our curriculum encourages our students to think of themselves not simply as students, but as writers and thinkers.