The Beaver English Department teaches active reading, writing, reflection, and analysis. In our explorations of language and literature, we encourage students to access both their imaginations and their intellects. As they learn, students develop the means of confidently and skillfully expressing their knowledge, observations, and feelings. We believe that engagement with literature leads students to explore human nature, understand multiple perspectives, question the world around them, and appreciate the power and complexity of language.


Four years of English courses are required for graduation, two terms each year.


In grades 10 through 12, students may elect to take their English course at the honors level by signing a contract. Honors students are expected to be leaders in class discussions, to maintain a high level of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity, and to demonstrate a superior level of critical analysis in all written work and on honors-specific prompts on assessments. Earning Honors credit requires that after electing Honors and signing the contract, that the student continues to live up to these expectations.

Course Descriptions

9th Grade English

English 9: Power and Perspectives

Throughout both the Power and Perspectives trimesters, students read, write, act, create, listen, watch, wonder, debate, and present; they work independently and collaboratively, use their questions as starting points for their work, and employ technology to deepen their learning. Ultimately, they find ways to connect the characters and themes to their own lived experiences and to the world today. Readings can include fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, and drama, and we read some as a full class and others in small groups; students reflect on and question the texts in writing assignments that stretch their skills and imagination, from scripts for Podcasts to analysis of themes to creating a missing chapter. Most days start with independent reading or writing, and grammar and vocabulary are integrated into the week.

In this trimester course, we question the nature of power and reflect on the ways we ourselves use our power and respond to power. In our readings, we look at the intersection of power and our characters’ gender, age, race, political beliefs, socio-economic reality, or experience; we wonder about the relationship between power and fate; and we ask why some characters let power compromise their beliefs while others use their power for good.

Stories teach, challenge, reveal, guide, and inspire us. They push us to explore the human condition through a different lens, and in their most powerful moments, stories help us develop empathy and foster change. In this trimester course, we use stories to understand our world, and in doing so, we re-invent ourselves from English students to curious, engaged readers and writers who seek to understand why people make the choices they do.

10th Grade English

English 10: American Literature

What does it mean to be American? From the perspectives of indigenous people to the revolution that defined our independence to slavery and its legacy to the very cases contended today in the Supreme Court, we address the range of Americanism, the beautiful and the sordid. Students read, debate, create, reflect, act, film, write, craft, and present as ways of asking big questions, answering the questions with specific evidence, and acknowledging the complexities of those answers. Readings include fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry, and drama, incorporating texts that we read as a full class and texts that students choose to read in small groups.

American Morality
In this course, we turn to great American writers whose work has defined generations of American citizens, and we use these writings to ask the question: What does it really mean to be American? What choices did people make and why? How do we wrestle with our past as we consider the ways our characters face their futures?

American Identity
There are myriad tangible and intangible ways that we define ourselves — from large scale identifiers like nation and religion, to the little things, like choosing what shoes to wear in the morning. In this term, we look at identity through varied American lenses: through journey, through challenges, through place, and through choices. All of these perspectives ultimately help inform our own perspectives of who we are and why we believe the things we do.

11th Grade English

English 11: Rhetoric

The View Within
Carlos Fuentes once commented that writing is a “struggle against silence,” while Anais Nin believed people write “to taste life twice.” There is no question that writing is a fundamental human act, but why do people write? What are the various motives that compel people to put pen to paper? How does a writer’s purpose influence the content and style of her writing? These are some of the questions that guide students’ exploration of the writing process throughout this course. Students are encouraged to experiment with language and incorporate rhetorical devices, in the hopes that they find a voice that resonates with them authentically.

This course focuses on the power of perspective. We will explore and cultivate our own voices through creative non-fiction, non-linear storytelling, and poetry. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, a craft that will bring us to conversations about politics, culture, business entrepreneurship, advertising and marketing. In this, we will both develop a lens through which we read expert texts while also writing our own way into knowing.

For the second term of English, students can choose any English elective.

English Electives

Contemporary Poetry

The word “poetry” conjures up, for many, the likes of Sappho, Chaucer, Basho, and Whitman; not everyone, though, is aware of the present state of the genre. In this class, we will discuss our preconceived notions of poetry, deconstruct those notions, and collectively define what it means to be a poet in the new millennium. Today’s poetry landscape is populated with an incredibly broad range of styles, forms, tones, influences, and subject matters. By reading and hearing poets like Eduardo Corral, Juan Felipe Herrera, Aja Monet, Rupi Kaur, Rudy Francisco, and Danez Smith, you will find proof that language, used precisely and thoughtfully, can achieve many different goals. In addition to reading and analyzing samples from the spectrum of contemporary poetry, you will write and workshop your own poems. A willingness to take risks, to read each night, and to take an active role in class discussion is required.

Ethics in Literature

How do we make good decisions? What do we factor into these decisions? Stakeholders? Consequences? We read about characters who are faced with these dilemmas constantly, and rarely do they make decisions that fully consider all angles of the situation at hand. In this class, we will explore texts through different theoretical lenses, from utilitarianism to deontology, care ethics to virtue ethics. Discussion will help us to collectively reconsider the choices that these characters make—what they did right and where they went wrong. Coursework will also include analytical writing, debate, simulation, and case studies that will push us to think comprehensively as to whom our decisions most greatly affect. Together we will use the moral conundrums of characters in literature and film as opportunities to better examine our own ethical decision making.

Great Books

When was the last time you were responsible for picking your reading for a course? At the beginning of this class, you will generate a list of books you want to read, and then you will campaign for your favorite; after the campaign season ends, you’ll vote, and several books will win. We’ll spend the term reading them, examining them for character, theme, structure, style, and message. How does choosing the text intersect with investment in the reading? Is the text a great book? Ultimately, you decide whether the books deserve spots on the shelf and how you go about choosing your next read. You will respond to the reading in various forms of writing, class discussions, projects, and presentations.

Previous winners: 1984, Lolita, Brave New World, Catch 22, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lord of the Flies, Scarlet Letter, On the Road, The Kite Runner, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Literature and Film

Did you like the movie or the book better? Is this a sensible question, or are we being asked to compare unlike genres? In this course we will investigate these two art forms, comparing the narrative possibilities — and limitations — of each. How do these modes of storytelling differ in terms of their effects? What can film achieve that a novel or play cannot, and vice versa? What is lost in the translation of literature into film, and what makes a “good” adaptation? We will read two novels and a play closely, and we will study a film based on each. You will think and write critically about how these stories are told on the printed page and on the screen.

Melville’s Moby Dick or, The Whale

When Herman Melville published Moby Dick, the novel was a commercial failure, met with critical disdain. Melville did not live to see the 20th century turnaround for what would be considered his greatest work. More modern critics deemed Moby Dick “The Great American Novel.” Come read this big novel, this story of Ahab, the monomaniacal captain and his quest to kill the white whale. We’ll also read what the critics wrote and virtually visit the Whaling Museum in New Bedford.

Money, Money, Money

What is money’s place in society? Why do so many students say that The Great Gatsby inspired them more than any other text? What other stories use money — or the lack thereof — as a central theme? What is the connection between money and power? What is revealed about inequity in society? What messages are sent, reinforced, and challenged? What happens when the whole system explodes? In this class you’ll read fiction and non-fiction, write, watch, and listen; and question, research, collaborate, and present.

Science Fiction

In the 1960’s, American literature experienced a formidable boom in science fiction writing. The complicated politics of the time led to “The New Wave,” a literary age of up-and-coming writers addressing America’s more contentious social and political events through the medium of science fiction. Future literary giants like Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, and Ursula Le Guin, among many others, began incorporating science fiction modes and techniques into their novels to further dissect this phenomenon we call existence. With the advent of new film technologies, Hollywood caught on to the wave and began producing America’s first big-budget, full-length science fiction movies. After studying “The New Wave,” we will look to more recent Science Fiction studying 2 books and 4 films. We will also focus on philosophy, as Science Fiction writers/filmmakers are often philosophizing about the future of our species and the societies we’ve built.


How do the stories that we write change when we know that they will be interpreted visually and audibly? In this course, students will craft compelling narratives written in the form of scripts. At least once a week, this class will meet in collaboration with Video Production. Together, we will view and critique film and brainstorm and workshop ideas, and students in Video Production will work with students in Screenwriting to adapt their screenplays to film. With an emphasis on dialogue and indirect characterization, students will learn how to use screenwriting programs to develop short films or television episodes. Over the course of the term, students will storyboard, pitch, workshop, iterate, and see their ideas be reinterpreted through the production and acting of fellow collaborators. Think you have the next great idea for a (short) screenplay? Now is your chance to give it life.

Short Stories

How does something so small pack such a big punch? Such is the nature of a short story. You’ll hone in on story elements by investigating a variety of stories and writers.  Everyone has a story to tell. You’ll experiment with turning your own stories into short fiction, and you will continue to develop analytical essay writing skills.

Songbook: My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Butterfly: Albums as Literature

Have you ever heard a song that evoked an emotional response in ways that you could not describe? Have you ever considered why strings in a pop song always take it up a slight level? Do you ever ponder how Kanye West’s chipmunk funk sparked an era of good feelings in hip-hop? If so, you’re ready to dissect some of music’s most profound works. Using the format of podcast, we will examine albums, including Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Additionally, you will develop the skills and ability to create your own serialized podcast that examines an iconic album of your choice. In this, we will discuss and deconstruct lyrics, samples, instrumentation, cultural context, and musical and literary allusions within the works. We will leave this class not only enjoying music but learning how to read an album as one would read a book.


Each of us has an inner world of images, memories, and dreams. This internal landscape holds unlimited possibilities for storytelling. This course will help you explore your personal mythology, discover your own voices, and polish your writing skills. Through a variety of exercises, you will shape memory and imagination into elements of the short story: character, setting, dramatic structure, point of view, and theme. You will workshop your work both in class and by making use of Buzzword, a web-based program that offers a comprehensive editing platform.

Possible texts: stories and essays by Angelou, Boyle, Burnham, Cheever, Cunningham, Fondation, Forché, Miller, Minot, Oppenheimer, Painter, Salinger, Shae, Tolstoy, Updike, and Wolff.

The View Outside

This course explores the intersection of storytelling and the world around us. Using literature from around the world, we’ll investigate various movements — political, social, musical, historical, cultural — through language, both creatively and analytically. We will explore how these movements inject themselves into all facets of experience, from the personal to the communal and beyond.