Writing is a major focus of 9th grade English. We review the writing process and sharpen skills through frequent and varied writing assignments. These include writing prompts, participating in Writer’s Eye at the University of Virginia, analytical essays about the literature we read, and creating and sharing poetry.
During the second quarter, students write a Personal Narrative based on prompts from our study of Exodus in The Bible As/In Literature. The students write a draft, participate in peer review, share a portion of the narrative with the class for feedback, and conference with the teacher one-on-one before finalizing their piece. The online, individualized Membean.com is used for vocabulary development. During the fourth quarter, there is a focused review of the eight parts of speech.
In 10th grade English, students work extensively on vocabulary for SAT prep by using Membean.com, an individualized, online vocabulary program. Students also prepare for the PSAT by taking practice tests and by explicitly studying types of grammar questions found on the PSAT and SAT writing sections and the ACT each quarter. Students in 10th grade also write a Sophomore Seminar research paper which prepares them for the rigors of conducting college research. As part of this, students take a field trip to the University of Virginia to tour the libraries and to become familiar with conducting research in a college setting.
Regular junior year essay assignments provide each student with the opportunity to write critical analyses of our reading selections. Regular in-class writing tasks help students prepare for and engage in thoughtful discussions. Students are encouraged to view writing as a process and will be asked to revise and rewrite essays. In the second quarter, the students each conference one-on-one with the teacher about an essay and the areas in which they need to focus for improvement. Juniors also write several timed (25 minute) SAT writing prompts at the beginning of second semester to practice for their spring SAT. Vocabulary development is emphasized in the junior year to prepare students for the SAT specifically and, more generally, to enrich their written and verbal communications. Due to the changes in the SAT, students are choosing words they do not know “in context” from various texts. The students write definitions using their own words and create sentences and short stories using the words appropriately.
Tucker Winter has been teaching Upper School English for 18 years, and she has taught seniors for all but three of those years. She considers working with students on their college essays to be one of the great joys of her job. In all of the Senior English classes, Tucker works individually and extensively with students to plan, write and edit their college essays. In class, students read many college essays of varying qualities and evaluate and rate their effectiveness, then they work on their own essays using the questions they must answer for their applications. Tucker makes herself available to students for advice and editing on every college essay they write, though only one is graded as part of a class assignment.