"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."
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The English Department aspires to teach students to read and write with accuracy, clarity, and elegance; to think logically, analytically, and imaginatively; and to engage in respectful and productive conversations.  Meeting for Worship provides a model for our classrooms by encouraging us to listen, to use silence effectively, and to be open to inspiration. Students are taught in heterogeneously grouped classes.  In small and large discussion groups, they work cooperatively on tasks ranging from deciphering a puzzling phrase to analyzing a metaphor to discussing the morality of characters and the moral stances of narrators and authors. Our students learn that a great work of literature is worth the time it takes to read—and reread—and that fine writing is worth the significant effort it takes to produce.
The study of literature plays a distinctive role in teaching students about the diversity of human relations and cultures and in educating them to become citizens of increasingly heterogeneous communities; thus, the English program is an important part of what educates Friends students to “engage in the world that is” and to imagine “a world that ought to be.”  Students encounter characters with whom they can identify and narratives that affirm their experiences as well as those that expand their understanding of worlds unfamiliar to them. As students contemplate the story of a character or community initially strange to them, they better understand differences and uncover surprising commonalities. If they carry these lessons from literature to life, then studying literature furthers our School’s mission.
The sequence of English courses 5-12, appropriately demanding at each level, provides students with a firm grounding in many facets of the study of English—grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, literary history and analysis, prosody, and writing in various genres.  The curriculum, developed over decades, includes common texts and skills for each grade level to ensure that students in different sections receive the same basic training.  The English Department develops methods and materials, including study guides and model essays, for showing our students what constitutes accurate reading, lively interpretation, sound argument, and clear writing.  In doing so, we try to counter the enduring perception that every interpretation of a text can be valid.  We believe that students can learn the skills of keen observation, logical interpretation, and argument development and that these skills will make them better readers and better citizens.
  • English-5

    English 5 helps students become more observant readers, more effective writers, and more insightful people as they develop increasingly abstract modes of thought. Students are asked to read closely, to make inferences from careful observation of text, and to appreciate important elements of a writer’s craft, such as figurative language.  In writing instruction, the focus is on the development of well-organized paragraphs in which students convey how specific lines of text lead to meaningful conclusions. Other forms of writing, including concise summarizing and creative exercises, further help students both sharpen and express their understanding of what they read.

    Vocabulary is taught in the context of the literature studied as well as through Roots, a workbook emphasizing Latin and Greek prefixes and word roots. By the end of the year, students come away not only with a store of new words but also with an understanding of word parts that will help them make sense of unfamiliar words they encounter in future reading. Formal grammar study includes the principal parts of speech, basic sentence structure, and selected topics in writing mechanics.

    Texts include Geraldine McCaughrean’s Gilgamesh the Hero, Bernard Evslin’s The Adventures of Ulysses, Joan Lowery Nixon’s A Family Apart, Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy, and a selection of short stories. In addition, independent reading projects expose students to various genres of literature and help them to develop their identities as lifelong readers.
  • English-6

    English 6 helps students deepen their understanding of the writer’s craft and to become more critical, active readers. The overarching theme of the year is stories, and the course asks students to examine several important questions: What is the value of stories and storytelling? How can stories both reflect and influence individuals and societies? How do writers craft stories that entertain, inform, and inspire? The year’s readings challenge sixth grade students to consider with greater depth and sophistication the authorial choices that shape a work of fiction–and to support their individual readings with well-selected textual evidence. Following their study of the writer’s craft, students write short stories of their own, a process challenging them to consider further the clear intent and careful decision making required of the effective writer. Beyond their long-form fiction writing, students write analytically and critically in response to class texts and independent reading. 

    Complementary to their study of reading and writing, English 6 students engage in a rich study of vocabulary and grammar throughout the year. Students build on their 5th grade study of word roots, and develop both a deeper working vocabulary and a greater skill at inferring the meanings of new words based on recognition of root words, prefixes and suffixes. Rather than encouraging rote memorization, English 6 vocabulary requires students to demonstrate mastery of usage through the appropriate use of newly learned words in their own writing. The year’s study of grammar facilitates the writing of increasingly complex multi-clause sentences and emphasizes mastery of skills necessary for incorporating textual evidence into analytic writing. 

    Texts include Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, and selected short fiction by authors including Toni Cade Bambara and Ray Bradbury. Students also complete one independent reading project each quarter.
  • English 7

    English 7 encourages students to engage imaginatively with stories from many places and times and to develop their voices as they write stories, poems, and essays of their own.  In literature ranging from Of Mice and Men to A Raisin in the Sun to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, students meet characters pursuing their dreams.  The community of the classroom, where students learn to respond to each other attentively and respectfully, provides an environment where they can share their ideas and dreams and help each other hone their skills at discussing and analyzing literature. As students share their observations of the texts, a diversity of interpretations emerges richer than any one reader’s.  

    Students practice reading closely, taking concise notes, and arriving at interpretations from careful observations of specific language.  They enrich their vocabularies by studying words’ meanings and etymologies. Students are introduced to a wide range of poetry and learn the fundamentals of how to discuss a poem, including noticing its meter, rhyme scheme, figures of speech, and form.  They learn how to write coherent analytic paragraphs and, eventually, multi-paragraph essays. In grammar studies, students identify parts of speech and parts of a sentence, and they learn how to punctuate compound sentences correctly. English 7 is designed to help students understand and appreciate great literature and to become creative and coherent writers themselves.

    Texts include John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses or Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.
  • English 8

    The English 8 curriculum focuses on the novel, the short story, poetry, and drama.  Students read works chosen for their literary merit and for their appeal to adolescents.  The course stresses reading comprehension as a foundation for literary analysis on a more abstract and symbolic level. Students learn how to take relevant and organized notes, write well-crafted expository essays, and revise, clarify, and improve their language as well as their critical arguments. Creative writing is an important part of the course, and students explore the limitless possibilities of their imaginations as they write original poetry, stories, and plays.  Weekly quizzes help students build strong vocabulary, and daily class discussions facilitate a respectful exchange of ideas. Students learn, through practice and example, to apply the appropriate rules of punctuation, grammar, and syntax.
    Texts include J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, Warriner’s Grammar, and short stories and poetry by such authors as John Cheever, Frank O'Connor, Dorothy Parker, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Wilfred Owen, and William Wordsworth.
Friends Seminary actively promotes diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in all its programs and operations, including admissions, financial aid, hiring, and all facets of the educational experience. To form a community which strives to reflect the world’s diversity, we do not discriminate on the basis of race or color, religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic background, physical ability, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation. Friends Seminary is an equal opportunity employer.

222 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
P: 212-979-5030
F: 212.979.5034
Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.