Course Descriptions

Graduation requirement: Four years

(40 units)

Lower division core curriculum

English 1-2 (P)

The Freshman English course at Saint Mary’s was recently structured as a pair of semester-length courses in which all students learn the techniques of analyzing literature in long form (novels and plays) in one course plus learn the specific lessons of expository writing in the other course.  They will then use those lessons in reading and writing across the curriculum throughout their high school careers. Literary genres include short story, novel, poetry, drama, and non-fiction.  The course will focus on close reading and analysis of literature, as well as the study of how various literary elements and techniques function within a text.  The writing component will focus on Exposition and introduce students to the modes of description, narration, definition, and classification.  Initially, the students will begin with the elements of a well-structured paragraph and the development of clear solid thesis statements.  They will move towards the mastery of the multiple paragraph essay. Correct grammar and punctuation, and the study of SAT level vocabulary will also be emphasized.

English 1-2 (H)

Guideline:Grade 9.  Placement determined by HSPT and English Assessment Test.

English 1-2 Honors is an Honors-level course for freshmen who demonstrate excellence in all phases of reading and writing on their entrance exam and who achieved a high level in grades 7 and 8. Students will read, analyze and write about literature at an accelerated pace. Students will   generate ideas based on their identification of theme, followed by similar standards for being precise and concise in revising and editing their writing. Students will be exposed to short and long forms of literature while studying various genres and styles that reflect different eras and cultures. An emphasis will be placed on understanding the historical context of literature and how it relates to themes of poetry and prose. In addition to novels and plays, students will work with literature from their class Reader compiled by Saint Mary’s English department.  All forms of formal thesis essay writing will be taught in a step-by-step process, along with grammar and vocabulary, designed to give students a structure for placing their ideas. Such structure will also be in place for such modes as narrative, description, argument, and persuasion, where students will learn more about themselves as they write about their chosen subjects. Written work will be measured in categories including: Thoroughness of Content, Depth of Analysis and Quality of Writing.

English 3-4 (P)

This course will continue to build upon the skills and knowledge learned in English 1-2.  The reading on this level will focus on longer works of literature such as the novel and the play.  Critical reading and analysis will be emphasized, as well as the skill of linking knowledge cross-curricularly, through the integration and synthesis of literature with the disciplines of History, Religion, and Foreign Language. The writing component of this level will focus on Persuasion, Argumentation, and Literary Analysis, examining and employing the modes of comparison/ contrast, cause/effect, and problem/solution.  Development, refinement, and sophistication of the multiple paragraph essay is the ultimate goal of Sophomore writing.  Correct grammar, punctuation, and the study of SAT level vocabulary will continue to be emphasized.

Junior  Curriculum

In the junior year, students will take American Literature or, if eligible, AP English Language & Composition.  American Literature will assume skills learned in the core curriculum and will instead focus on a number of themes and the American literary tradition.  Many of the texts will expand and compliment ideas that students are learning in American History.


Guideline: Grade 11. Grade of A or A- for both semesters of English 3-4 (Grade 10), along with proven aptitude and achievement in Social Studies courses, plus teacher recommendation  based on demonstrative ability to   consistently and comprehensively complete assignments and contribute  to class discussions.

The AP Language & Composition course will provide students with college-level instruction in the study and writing of various kinds of analytical and persuasive essays.  The course will focus on both literary and non-literary topics.  Language, rhetoric, and techniques in both exposition and persuasion will be explored and employed in the students’ writing.  This course will prepare students for the AP Exam by providing them with the skills to read, comprehend, analyze, and write about complex and sophisticated texts and subject matter.  All students enrolled in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement exam. Summer work is required.


This course will explore American literature from the Puritan era to Post-Modernism, paying specific attention to the history of the periods and the influences of race, class, and gender on society.  This course, through the analysis of each work, will study history through literature.  Texts will include the novel, drama, non-fiction, poetry, and short story.


In the senior year, students will be given the choice of a number of courses.  Students will choose a pair of courses or AP Literature and Composition.


Guideline: Grade 12.  Grade of A or A- for both semesters of American Literature       OR grade of B or higher for both semesters of AP Language and Composition, along with proven aptitude and achievement in Social            Studies courses, plus teacher recommendation based on demonstrative    ability to consistently and comprehensively complete assignments and           contribute to class discussions.

The AP Literature course is a vigorous college-level study of prose and poetry.  This course will focus on close reading and analysis, as well as critical, insightful writing.  The practice of deliberate and thorough reading will be honed in order to be able to grasp a work’s complexity, its richness of meaning, and how that meaning is embodied in its literary form.  This course will prepare students for the AP Exam by providing them with the tools of literary criticism and the skills of intra-textual reading.  All students enrolled in this course are required to take the Advanced Placement exam.  See “AP and Honors Courses” (p. 11and 12) for more information. Summer work is required.

The following courses are offered to seniors. Choose one course for each semester.

Courses offered first semester:

The Classic Novel

English Literature

Courses offered second semester:

An Odyssey of Youth

What a Piece of Work is Man!


This course will focus on the genre of the novel.  It will analyze what makes a novel a “classic” and how such writings stand the test of time.  It will examine the social, political, historical, and cultural beliefs that have shaped the authors and the stories they have told.  As well, the course will analyze social issues addressed in the works and their connections to contemporary society.


This course focuses on the struggles of the individual in conflict with nature, society, another person, or him/herself.  It will explore the complexities of characters in literature, both in the past

and the present, and, through the reading, lead to a deeper recognition and understanding of what it is to be a part of the larger human family.  Genres may include novel, drama, poetry, and film.


This course focuses on works of literature that reflect the journey of youth to maturity, of innocence to experience, of limited self-knowledge to greater self-awareness.  The course traces the development of a character throughout a piece of literature and parallels the course of growth of individuals in the real world.  Texts will include novel, short story, drama, poetry, autobiography, and essay.


This course will explore English literature from Beowulf to the Victorian Era, paying specific attention to the culture of England and its influence on the rest of the world.  The course will critically read and analyze works of the time periods and genres that have classified English literature as one of the most authentic ways to study the history of Britain.  Texts will range from the epic to the drama.

Related courses to consider

The courses below do not fulfill the graduation requirements in this department.

Journalism: Newspaper Production and Management (A)

This course is a year long English elective that introduces students to the systematic gathering, interpreting, processing and disseminating of information, opinion, and entertainment for print publication. Central to the course is the examination of the legal and ethical rights and responsibilities inherent in a free press. Students will learn and apply the skills they have acquired in previous English courses to publish pieces of creative writing. The school newspaper will provide an authentic audience for students.

Creative Writers (A)

The purpose of this class is to create a supportive, collaborative creative writing community on campus. Class meetings generally include a brief reading upon which we can reflect, a creative writing exercise to generate ideas and provide rough draft material for later revision, the option to read/share the results of those creative writing exercises for praise and feedback, the reading aloud of pieces submitted to PARADOX (the Saint Mary’s literary magazine) for potential publication, discussion and eventual decision-making on those submissions. In general, only the

editors are involved in the actual formatting and production of the magazine, which occurs outside of class hours, but all students from the class are encouraged to participate.  Students who aspire

to become editors are strongly encouraged to do so.  All students are involved in planning activities surrounding the release of our four annual issues. Field trips and enrichment opportunities may be included. Open to all grade levels.