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Upper School Academic Departments


The program approaches the study of literature in a manner that balances traditional skills, such as critical reading and expository writing, with 21st century literacies, such as creating and analyzing multimedia texts. Covering a variety of media, including literature, film, and comics, the curriculum emphasizes the skills necessary for effective communication and critical thinking in a complex and changing world.

Specific goals include clear and creative thinking in discussion and in composition, a mastery of literary content, and the acquisition of a rich vocabulary. The study of writing as a process is practiced intensively throughout the four years in the Upper School.

English courses emphasize class discussion, multimedia presentations, and group work as well as frequent writing in the form of essays, journals, and blogs. The objectives of the curriculum aim to help students develop both a strong confidence in reading and writing skills, and a lifelong love of literature.

The ninth grade focuses on literature of identity, the tenth grade expands into world literature, the eleventh grade surveys American literature, and the twelfth grade offers a variety of semester-long seminars tailored to students’ interests. 

Honors sections are offered in the tenth grade, and Advanced Placement courses are offered in the eleventh and twelfth grades.
  • English 9

    Grade 9
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This course explores rites of passage, examining how various pieces of world literature express transitions from childhood to adulthood. It provides an introduction to several genres and to writing the formal critical essay, and it lays the foundation for the advanced study of expository writing and literary analysis in the upper grades. In addition to analytical writing, students write personal responses and creative non-fiction pieces. Students examine a variety of texts from various cultures, such as a modern novel, a graphic narrative, short fiction, poetry, memoir, and drama (Shakespeare). Relevant vocabulary and grammar are incorporated into the study of the writing process.
  • English 10

    Grade 10
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This course introduces students to the wider world of literature in the English language. The course studies several genres, including drama, poetic narrative, lyric poetry, short fiction, and satire, that focus on themes such as religious controversy, social critique, and postcolonial identities. As students explore the development and features of the literature, they improve in their writing of critical essays and in the art of oral presentation. Honors sections of this course are offered, in which material is covered in greater depth and breadth. Honors enrollment is subject to departmental approval.
  • English 11

    Grade 11
    Full Year
    1 credit
    As a survey of American literature, this course explores how the United States has defined itself through its literature, film, and music following the cultural history of the country from the 17th century to the present. Students are introduced to literary essays, political documents, sermons, and slave narratives. The course focuses on advanced critical thinking and the further development of writing skills as well as a deeper understanding of the language of film. Core texts include Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson.
  • AP English Language & Composition

    Grade 11
    Full Year
    1 credit
    Enrollment is subject to departmental approval.
    Following a similar curriculum to English 11, this course surveys American literature. Students enrolled in this course will also prepare for the AP English Language exam with focused examination of rhetoric and other modes of writing in order to enhance their skills as critical readers and writers.
  • Journalism

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This course teaches students to be savvy consumers of the news as well as reporters who help inform the school community. Students are expected to follow the news daily, be prepared to discuss current events, and comment on how stories are covered. The class will compare domestic and international news, and discuss local angles on national and global stories. The class will explore many types of news sources (print, broadcast, podcast, social media) as well as genres of reporting (sports, op/ed, entertainment, photojournalism, etc.) Students will learn news writing skills and also be encouraged to experiment with voice, style, form and subject. Beyond working on writing, students will gain the skills of interviewing, editing, layout and design. This class also places an emphasis on creative collaborations – all students have a voice in what stories they think the class should report on, how pieces should be reported, how pieces should be edited, and what delivery of stories should look like. The class will publish regular issues of the school newspaper, The Voice, and utilize contemporary storytelling platforms such as 3D film, Instagram, and podcasts.
  • English 12 Seminars

    All twelfth grade students must select two (2) one-semester seminars to fulfill their English credit for the year. Students will receive a separate English 12 registration form on which they list their top three choices for each semester. Every effort will be made to place students in one of their three choices. 
    Note: Students requesting AP English must make that their first choice for first semester and leave the second and third choices blank.

    Courses offered for the 2018-2019 school year are:

    First Semester Courses
    Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition
    Creative Writing
    Introduction to Film Studies
    Literature, Film, and the Vetnam War
    Sports Leadership and Management

    Second Semester Courses
    American Film of the 1970s
    City Stories: How We Shape The Urban Environment and It Shapes Us
    Creative Writing
    Detective Fiction
    Literature of the Middle East
    The Gothic
    Women in Literature
    English 12: Seeding Social Innovation

    Please see Upper School Curriculum Guide for more detailed descriptions of each class.
  • AP English Literature & Composition

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Enrollment is subject to departmental approval.
    This course focuses on deep literary analysis. The aim is that students welcome the challenge of difficult texts and unfamiliar kinds of writing. The class is taught as a seminar, so students are expected to prepare themselves for and participate in daily discussions of the readings. The course prepares students for the AP exam by emphasizing mature critical thinking, writing, and advanced editing of written work.
  • Creative Writing

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course focuses on the writing of poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. Students will read and discuss poems, stories, and memory pieces by published authors, then produce works of their own for critique by the teacher and fellow students. Special attention will be paid to learning to manipulate figurative language and the elements of fiction (plot, setting, character, point of view, symbol, etc.). Students will maintain a writing portfolio; at the end of the course, they will be required to submit their three best pieces for possible inclusion in the school literary magazine, Fire & Stones.
  • Introduction to Film Studies

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course introduces the art of film as it has developed in the hands of some masters of the medium over the past century. Students will watch classic and contemporary films from around the globe while learning how to “read” an audio-visual medium and assess film with a critical eye. While students will also expand their abilities as filmmakers in their own right, they will explore films by John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Wong Kar-wai, Spike Lee, Sofia Coppola, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Christopher Nolan, and Andrea Arnold, among others.
  • Literature, Film, and the Vietnam War

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    The Vietnam War, which lasted twenty years from 1955-1975, played a significant role in the explosive 1960s. On the home front, there were protests, riots, and assassinations, there were experiments with drugs and “free love”. All the while, there were tens of thousands of Americans fighting and dying in a tiny, tropical, southeast Asian country ten thousand miles away. Though we could spend a year discussing the whole of the country during the ‘60s, this course will focus on the war that was waged and the literature and film that sprang from the ordeal of it (e.g., Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Herr’s Dispatches, and Stone’s Platoon).
  • Sports Leadership and Management

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course introduces students to the leadership techniques, tools, and theories associated with leaders and managers in the sports industry. It is designed to have students analyze management decisions and their impact, as well as the process of how decisions are made. Management issues and organizational behavior are examined, and students are presented with opportunities to develop and understand key leadership and management skills. The course’s association with a local professional franchise or intercollegiate athletics organization will provide a unique perspective into topics relating to leadership and management in the sports industry.
  • American Film of the 1970s

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    It’s tough to top a decade of film work that includes Apocalypse Now and Chinatown, so why was this particular decade of American filmmaking so good? This course examines the directors that changed the way we tell stories via film, while offering opportunities to watch quite a few examples of their work and read essays that will help understand film as “video literature.” In addition to the aforementioned works, some other titles in the course include Taxi Driver, The Godfather,The French Connection, The Parallax View, and Annie Hall.
  • City Stories: How We Shape The Urban Environment and It Shapes Us

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    This course explores how cities are designed and how their design impacts our lives. Literature of the city and theories of urban planning will be the lens used to examine the urban condition. We will cover fictional texts such as Teju Cole's Open City and Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, as well as the work of urban theorists such as Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. The nearby city will serve as our laboratory where we will travel to explore physical space and the people who live and shape the urban community. Ms. Davis and Mr. Kane will be regular contributors to the class.
  • Detective Fiction

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Students analyze the rise of detective fiction from the source through the Golden Age, matching wits with such classic detectives as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Lord Peter Wimsey, among others. Readings include detective works by Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers. For the final project, students create a presentation on a recent work of detective fiction. Films include Hitchcock’s classic Shadow of a Doubt, as well as episodes of the popular contemporary Holmes television series, Sherlock.
  • Literature of the Middle East

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    How much do you know about the Middle East? Could you pick out Syria on a map? What’s the primary language spoken in Iran? How is life different for a Lebanese teenager? How is it the same? By studying a variety of literature from this region and its ancient cultures, this course will attempt to create a deeper understanding, one that moves beyond generalizations and news headlines to the specific and personal, examining themes of tradition and modernity, myth and history, nationalism and globalization, gender and sexuality, war and revolution. We’ll start by reading selections from the foundational text of Middle Eastern storytelling, The Arabian Nights, then quickly move to more contemporary readings (short stories, poetry, novels) from Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Turkey. This course will also include the study of some Middle Eastern history, as well as contemporary Middle Eastern films and travel documentaries.
  • The Gothic

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    A family curse, a remote castle, a damsel in distress, a hideous monster, a live burial; these gothic tropes are so familiar that they’re cliché. Going back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this course will explore the origins of a genre which has the goal of creating terror and horror. What made gothic literature so popular in its time, and why have its tropes lived on into the present day? In answering these questions, we will explore themes such as superstition, rationalism, and the unspeakable secret. In this course, students will write an analytic essay ,as well as their own Gothic story.
  • Women in Literature

    One Semester
    ½ credit
    Mother, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Prude, Slut, Witch, Princess, Pioneer, Heroine. Portrayals of strong female characters—from The Wife of Bath to Lady Macbeth to Hermione Granger—are an important part of literary fiction. This course will examine the ways in which female authors, poets, and filmmakers reflect and comment on the diverse roles that women play in the society of various historical periods. How have these roles changed? How have they stayed the same? Can literature contribute to their evolution or merely echo their stasis? Our study will examine short stories, poems, and novels by and about women who are coming of age, seeking love, struggling with questions of identity and purpose, and inspiring others through their wit, heart, and bravery.
  • English 12: Seeding Social Innovation

    Grade 12
    Offered Fall and Spring Semester
    One Semester
    ½ credit 
    The Seeding Social Innovation (SSI) seminar challenges students to imagine creative solutions to local and global social problems. Students build the research, communication, and leadership skills that allow them to translate their ideas into meaningful action through the development of their own social venture projects. The SSI course curriculum is provided through a partnership with LearnServe International.

Department Faculty

  • Photo of Annemarie Cranford

    Annemarie Cranford

    Upper School English Department Chair
    University of Virginia - BA
  • Photo of Mary Fawcett

    Mary Fawcett

    Upper School English Teacher (Long Term Sub)
    Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA - B.A.
    Yale University, New Haven, CT - M.Phil.
  • Avram Gurland-Blaker

    English Teacher, Upper School
    Temple University - PhD
    New York University, Gallatin School of Individualized Study - BA
  • Photo of Roberta Klein

    Roberta Klein

    Upper School English Teacher
    Smith College, Northampton, MA - A.B.
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - M.A.
    University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - Ph.D.
  • Photo of Chelsea Land

    Chelsea Land

    Upper School English Teacher
  • Photo of Jill McElroy

    Jill McElroy

    Upper School English Teacher
    Boston University, Boston, MA - B.A.
    University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA - M.A.
    University of Dayton, Dayton, OH - M.A.
  • Photo of Susannah Nadler

    Susannah Nadler

    Upper School English Teacher and Associate Dean of Students
    Georgetown University - Masters
    Wesleyan University - BA
  • Photo of Andrew Sidle

    Andrew Sidle

    Upper School English Teacher
    Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL - BA
    North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC - MA
    Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL - PhD
  • Photo of Joe Wenger

    Joe Wenger

    Upper School English Teacher
    New York University, New York, NY - B.A.
    Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. - M.A.
Age 3-Grade 12 coed Episcopal day school in Alexandria, Virginia


List of 3 items.

  • Lower School

    Age 3-Grade 5
    400 Fontaine Street
    Alexandria, Virginia 22302
  • Middle School

    Grades: 6-8
    4401 West Braddock Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304
  • Upper School

    Grades: 9-12
    1000 St. Stephen's Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304