The English department believes that skilled writing and critical reading are essential, not only to one’s success in an academic setting, but also to one’s development as an engaged and thoughtful citizen. Therefore, the development of these two areas forms the foundation of our English instruction. Reading and writing are best developed in communities of learners who take risks, engage in productive discussion, and practice writing in order to become better readers while reading in order to become better writers.
The English department values writing holistically rather than subscribing to a formula, a series of rules followed or boxes checked. We challenge our students to become both flexible readers and flexible writers, able to adapt to and flourish within a variety of different environments. To accomplish this, students at the American Hebrew Academy write essays that include each of the four modes of writing (descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative). By guiding the Academy's writers through the drafting process (from invention to proofreading), the English department encourages students to see writing as a process rather than simply a product. Our students feed their writing by reading widely in the genres of imaginative literature, learning to think deeply about what William Faulkner called “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself” as they work through Shakespeare’s tragedies, twentieth-century dystopias, or Mary Oliver’s images of nature; they round out their studies of human discourse by reading and analyzing arguments.
All graduates of the Academy are expected to pass an English course each year they are at the Academy, for a total of 11 credit hours. After 9th and 10th grade, qualified students have the opportunity to take AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, and Special Topics, our senior, advanced level, non-AP course. For students who want to explore a greater variety of writing and reading, elective courses in creative writing, journalism, and literary genres are offered when scheduling allows.