One of the distinct advantages of the McLean School English / Literature Curriculum is that we provide in-depth writing and reading instruction far beyond most traditional high schools, giving our students the opportunity to become more sophisticated in their writing and reading abilities. At Mclean, we split English and literature into two separate yet connected courses to ensure that students gain more intensive support and exposure to a wide variety of concepts. By separating the traditional single curriculum, we can, in English, focus on the structure, order, development, and style of solid college essay writing while also strengthening vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics. In literature, we can focus on an analytical framework to develop cognitive skills, reading and interpretive competence, and the development of inferential and critical thinking based on ideas presented in reading selections. By splitting the curriculum, the students at Mclean have more time to engage with meaningful learning with two critical aspects of education—writing and reading—rather than racing through an overburdened single curriculum.
Foundations in Literature
The Grade 9 literature curriculum is dedicated to providing the foundation for the further development of cognitive skills, reading and interpretive competence, and written discourse. Students study literature from a variety of literary genres, formats, and narrative voices. They read poems, plays, short stories and novels. Objective-based goals include (1) an increased reading rate/fluency that will reinforce the identification and understanding of literary elements such as: foreshadowing, point of view, imagery, symbolism, irony, character, setting, and tone; (2) the development of inferential and critical thinking based on ideas presented in the texts; and (3) demonstrable skills of summarizing, and analyzing works of literature. The literary essay is introduced and practiced. Students become more independent readers through self-regulated projects and independent reading units. Representative texts include: Lord of the Flies, Twelve Angry Men, and Fahrenheit 451.
In the Grade 10 literature class, students read a selection of works—novels, short stories, poetry, and plays, both well-known and more obscure—from many parts of the world, including Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. As they read, students gain a deeper awareness and understanding of other cultures while improving the speed, comprehension, and appreciation of their reading. By identifying universal themes in non-American literature, students also increase the complexity of their analysis. Representative texts include Purple Hibiscus, The Journey of Ibn Fattouma, The White Tiger, Master Harold and the Boys, and Caspian Rain.
Students who have demonstrated strong analytical abilities and an independent work ethic in literature may be placed in the honors section. In this section, students are introduced to more complex literary analysis. The basic class texts are supplemented with additional reading materials, including professional literary criticism. Students in Global Literature/Honors are held to a higher standard regarding the amount they read and write, the quality of their writing, and their ability to analyze and discuss texts independently.
In Grade 11, students undertake a broad survey of American literature spanning several major literary movements and genres. Texts include classic and contemporary novels, poems, short stories, plays, essays, and speeches. As they read, students analyze themes in American literature by reflecting on several key questions. These questions include: Is the American Dream myth or reality? How do race and gender affect one’s self-understanding or place in American society? How do social, psychological, and ideological influences impede genuine relationships between people? Representative texts include: Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Catcher in the Rye, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, The Great Gatsby, A Raisin in the Sun, and selections from Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Henry David Thoreau.
Students who have demonstrated strong analytical ability in literature may be placed in the honors section. In American Literature/Honors basic class texts and assignments are supplemented with additional reading and writing. Students are held to a higher standard regarding their ability to analyze texts independently and participate in sophisticated class discussions.