The Upper School English program stresses communication and critical thinking through the following: active, analytical reading with emphasis on identifying themes and finding supporting textual evidence; understanding fiction and nonfiction at multiple levels and from multiple perspectives; effective class discussion and articulate oral expression; active listening and note-taking; the development of grammar and vocabulary; and the effective use of technology. The English program is committed to the idea that good writing emerges from a process, beginning with close reading and note-taking and extending through brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and, most importantly, multiple stages of revision.
The Upper School English curriculum consists of a four–year sequence. The ninth and tenth grades review fundamental reading and writing skills gained in Middle School, with increasing emphasis placed on analysis in all major genres of literature (poetry, drama, novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction). The eleventh and twelfth grades continue a focus on close literary interpretation, with an added dimension of historical context; these years also include advanced instruction in rhetoric and argumentative writing. The school offers AP Language and Composition (nonfiction) as well as AP Literature and Composition (fiction) in the eleventh and/or twelfth grades.

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  • Ninth Grade: Writing and Literary Genre

    Students examine the fundamentals of literature and essay writing so as to develop clear, coherent, and persuasive claims in their own writing. During fall semester, the coursework addresses the question “How do we productively read and discuss literature?” while during spring semester, the focus adjusts to tackling the question “How do we productively write about literature?” In order to address both of these essential questions, students are introduced to a wide range of genres including novels, memoirs, graphic novels, poetry, and plays. Furthermore, students examine a range of literary techniques and devices such as personification, alliteration, allusion, mood, tone, parody, homage, foils, mirrors, and so on. 
    As a class, students explore how knowledge of these devices can help them become stronger English literature readers, speakers, and writers. What’s more, through analyzing an author’s choices, students learn to recognize how their own choices affect their own writing, thus helping them understand how stories develop as well as the overall meaning of a text. Assessment focuses heavily on argumentative writing as well as classroom participation.
  • Tenth Grade: World Literature

    Students explore the nature and function of narrative on a global scale, examining in particular how authors from around the world tell their stories and the stories of their people. In turn, as a class, students will strive to understand how these stories help readers gain a more complex understanding of mankind and of the universe at large. The essential question is “What can we learn about ourselves from the stories of others?” 
    Classroom discussions and writing assignments focus heavily on examining the purpose of a text, identifying the speaker or persona of a narrator, evaluating an author’s tone, and analyzing the structure, style, language, and audience of a piece. Major topics may include (but are not limited to): heroes and anti-heroes, the other in storytelling, metafiction, Existentialism and Absurdism, and Modernism versus Postmodernism. A select few texts during the year also complement tenth grade Modern World History.
  • Eleventh Grade: AP English Language and Composition: American Culture and Rhetoric

    Students in this college-level course read and carefully analyze a broad and challenging range of nonfiction and fiction, deepening their awareness of rhetoric and argumentation. Through close reading and frequent writing, students develop their ability to work with language with a greater awareness of audience, purpose, and strategy. Students also review essay structure and sentence-level grammar and style in order to write clear, convincing arguments. The course includes an introduction to research methods and the composition of an extended research-based synthesis essay, as well as a strong component of public speaking and debate. 
    On a thematic level, two essential questions drive the course: “How valid are the concepts of the American Dream and American Exceptionalism?” and “How are these visions of the United States complicated by issues such as racism, gender discrimination, economics, and war?” This course is designed to complement eleventh grade U.S. history, as students will closely read key documents of American culture, from Puritan sermons to contemporary presidential speeches, considering their effectiveness in a historical context.
  • Twelfth Grade: Nature and Human Nature

    In this course, students prepare for the advanced reading, writing, and critical thinking that will be required of them in their higher education, careers, and civic lives. Debate and argumentation are the core skills as students practice making sophisticated claims and defending them clearly with evidence and reasoning. 
    On a thematic level, the course studies representations of the natural world from antiquity to the present. Students consider how the depiction of nature relates to the current global environmental crisis and related issues such as: science and technology, agriculture, wilderness conservation, and animal rights. Students read a blend of fiction and nonfiction. By analyzing novels, plays, and poems alongside newspapers, magazine articles, scientific journals, and philosophical essays, students consider how imaginative literature can make arguments and intervene in ethical debates.

The Kew-Forest School

119-17 Union Turnpike
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-4667
The oldest independent school in the borough of Queens, The Kew-Forest School is an independent co-educational, college preparatory school for students in Preschool through Grade 12.