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Upper School Classes


The Upper School English curriculum strengthens the imaginative and intellectual faculties of our students by teaching them to read deeply, write thoughtfully, listen respectfully, and speak confidently.
Enriched by a variety of pedagogical approaches, our program emphasizes writing as not only a tool for expression and communication, but also a means of discovery. Students write frequently in a variety of genres. Seminar-style discussions emphasize close, attentive reading of literature drawn from a variety of time periods and cultures and nurture students’ ability to grapple with complex questions and multiple perspectives. Frequent opportunities for public speaking embolden students to be more confident, articulate speakers. In all courses, students learn and review grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary in the context of writing.

English Classes

List of 14 items.

  • Advanced Placement (AP) English Language and Composition

    Why do some advertisements succeed while others fail? Why does one political candidate’s speech convince us when her opponent’s does not? Why are some college essays and job applications more effective than others? In this challenging course, we answer such questions through rhetorical analysis, studying how authors communicate within particular contexts. We investigate authors’ purposes, audiences’ expectations, genre conventions, historical and political situations, and all of the other elements that affect the writing and reading of texts. Students learn not only to understand others’ rhetorical strategies, but also to effectively use such strategies themselves. Reading assignments emphasize non-fiction from a variety of historical periods and include both visual and written texts. This course is the equivalent of an introductory composition course offered at most colleges.
  • Being Human: Literature of the Monstrous and the Humane (AP English Literature and Composition)

    What does it mean to be human? To be a monster? Can one be both? In this course we will read classic and contemporary works of literature that explore these questions, from Beowulf, with its monstrous Grendel; to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with its created “human”; to Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, in which a boarding school is more than it seems; to Shakespeare’s Richard III, in which physical deformity parallels spiritual deformity. Along the way we’ll visit with vampires, werewolves, cyborgs, witches, the golem (a huge, animated clay figure that protects its creator), scientific experiments gone awry, and monsters galore.
  • Creative Writing: Found Voices

    In this workshop-style course, students discover what they have to say as they explore how to say it. As students read and write memoirs, short stories, essays, and screenplays, they develop a deeper understanding of their own preoccupations, personal symbols, and ways of seeing the world—and how these shape their writer's voices. Exercises in fiction writing give students a working understanding of dialogue, character, image, point of view, and structure. Memoir assignments invite students to explore the uses of narration and reflection, the distinction between public and private writing, and the variety of tones and registers available to them. Screenwriting projects focus on concept development and the arc of the hero’s journey. Students write one to three short assignments per week and are expected to embrace the process of revision – that is, to discover ways to close the gaps between what they think they want to say, what they actually want to say, and what they do say. Emphasis is placed on class participation with a focus on the art of giving and receiving feedback. Readings include works by Baldwin, Carver, Chandler, Danticat, Kincaid, Lahiri, Mansfield, Walker, Wallace, and Woolf.
  • Epics & Sagas: Storytelling in Film and Television

    Film and television have been strongly associated with narrative from the beginning, a history that this course will explore. The first half of the year provides an overview of the contributions of people (Edison, the Lumière brothers, and Méliès) and movements (German expressionism and Russian montage) in shaping the language of film. Through readings, film screenings, and analytical writing assignments, students will learn to better understand this language, considering how the elements of cinematography and screenwriting shape a given story. The second half of the year will explore the emergence of television, with a focus on how digital technology and streaming TV has changed the conventions of--and our expectations for--stories. Because of the increase in consumer demand for serialized, long-form storytelling, for heroes’ journeys that unfold over several seasons, screenwriters today are creating stories with roots in and similarities to epics and sagas that are centuries old. In the spring, students will create their own serialized TV shows, from concept to outline to one-hour pilot, and they will have the opportunity to pitch their projects to guest industry professionals. Works studied may include Un Chien Andalou; Meshes of the Afternoon; Potemkin; It (1927); Casablanca; Imitation of Life (1934, 1959); Breathless; Thelma and Louise; Spirited Away; The Elements Trilogy (Fire, Earth, and Water);  Moonlight; Coco; Get Out; Parasite; Riverdale; and The Morning Show. Other texts may include Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need; The Hero With A Thousand Faces; and Beowulf. (Open to students in grade 12. Full-year. 1 credit.)
  • Journalism I/II/III: Hallmanac, the Dana Hall Student Newspaper

    This course teaches students to write quickly, accurately, and effectively and helps the student editorial staff produce a polished, responsible newspaper that reflects and enlivens the Dana Hall community and presents the School to the world as the vital, intellectual, and exciting place that it is. The editorial staff publishes an electronic newspaper several times a year. Students identify and write newsworthy items, feature articles, and editorials; work as a team to set and meet deadlines; revise, polish, proof, and edit articles for posting; and create or select illustrations and photography. Students may enroll in this course for multiple years.

    View: Hallmanac
  • Language-Intensive Literature and Composition I

    Language-Intensive Literature and Composition I is designed for international students who need to build their skills in reading and writing American English. Students learn the strategies that help them enjoy greater confidence and success as readers and writers. As in Literature and Composition I: Literary Odysseys, students read a variety of texts, with a special focus on tracing the archetypal Hero’s Journey. Critical, mindful reading is emphasized. Extra attention is devoted to vocabulary development, as well as grammar, usage, and mechanics. This course is taken concurrently with Writing and Communication.
  • Literature and Composition I: Literary Odysseys

    Literature and Composition I provides students with opportunities to further develop their reading and writing skills. Readings, which include such works as The Catcher in the Rye; Antigone; The Hate U Give; Bless me, Ultima; and a Shakespearean tragedy as well as assorted short stories and poetry, emphasize coming-of-age themes. Students embrace the writing process in a variety of assignments, from creative pieces to thesis-driven essays. Critical, mindful reading is emphasized. This course also includes vocabulary development and a focus on grammar, usage, and mechanics.
  • Literature and Composition II: World Literature

    Students study literature of varied genres with a focus on women in an international context. Readings include poetry; novels such as Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; and plays such as Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Shakespeare’s Othello. Students become increasingly more adept, sophisticated writers by writing in a variety of modes. Students emerge from Literature and Composition II with strengthened critical writing skills and a broadened global perspective on literature.
  • Literature and Composition III: American Literature

    In Literature and Composition III, students examine how writers depict, create, and criticize American myths, identities, and problems in literature. Students practice close reading of novels, poetry, and plays by such diverse authors as Jacobs, Emerson, Thoreau, Douglass, Whitman, Dickinson, Fitzgerald, Wilson, Kesey, Walker, and Kushner. Students continue to become more sophisticated writers through the composition and revision of analytical and personal essays as well as creative assignments. Students compile, revise, and edit writing portfolios to be assessed at the end of Trimester III in lieu of a final exam in June.
  • Reinvention of the Self: New Selves, New Lives in Literature (AP English Literature and Composition)

    It is an essential belief in the Western literary tradition that a person can make herself anew and invent a life for herself, indeed a new self entirely, to escape or transcend her roots. At what price this transformation? To what end? What can one hide and what cannot be hidden? When is reinvention growth, when is it denial? What remains as our essential self? At this moment in your life, leaving the self you have spent 18 years creating, these questions are of both intellectual and personal value. In this course, students read great works of prose, poetry, and drama, such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening; Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations; James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye; and Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 and Henry V.
  • This is Us: Contemporary Narratives of the Human Experience

    Sometimes we lose sight of the big picture amid the business of our day to day lives; we infrequently stop, breath and ask ourselves: Who am I as an individual? Who are we as a collective? What discoveries have I made about myself and humanity thus far and what other discoveries are on the horizon? In this course, we will explore both ourselves and our communities by asking and attempting to answer questions that are essential to the human experience. To do so, we will engage a series of topics such as the need for individualism, gender identity, the interplay between humans and the environment, race relations, artistic expression, mental health, and the power of memory via pairings of contemporary texts and films that relate thematically. Combinations may include The Bell Jar and Girl, Interrupted; 1984 and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest; The New Jim Crow and 13th; and “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” and Pan’s Labyrinth, among others. The course will feature much discussion, frequent analytical and comparative writing, film screenings outside of class, and nightly reading from the texts; it will culminate in a creative project: a short film based upon the themes of a self-selected essay, short story or poem.
  • Wild and Free: Exploring Freedom in Literature (AP English Literature and Composition)

    “All good things are wild and free,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in his 1861 essay Walking. To him, personal freedom can only be obtained when societal pressures are lifted, nature is embraced, and when we slow down and “walk like a camel.” In this course, we will look deeply at the notion of freedom--personal freedom, societal freedom, natural freedom. We will address the following questions: 1) what does it mean to be free, and can all humans obtain freedom? 2) how is freedom impacted by our surroundings? 3) what role does power play in our search for freedom? 4) does one need to be wild, or in the wild, to be free?  We will read a variety of genres from multiple time periods and parts of the world. Authors may include Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Aphra Behn, Sarah Ruhl, Isabel Allende, Tie Ning, Thomas Hardy, and Trevor Noah.
  • Women at the Edge: Women Pioneers, Explorers, Rebels, and Researchers (AP English Literature and Composition)

    This course provides a historical survey of women in fiction. In Trimester I, readings may include selections from the Old and New Testaments, The Thousand and One Nights, The Lais of Marie de France, Christine de Pisan’s City of Women, Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale,” as well as Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. In Trimester II, readings may include Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Walker’s The Color Purple, Crane’s Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, Bly’s Ten Days in a Madhouse, Wharton’s The Old Maid, and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In Trimester III, readings may include Ruhl’s Clean House and a broad selection of short stories by international 20th and 21st century women writers from countries such as China, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and the United States.
  • Writing and Communication

    Writing and Communication is designed for international students who need to build their skills in reading, writing, and speaking American English. This writing-intensive course develops students’ ability to read critically, discuss and present ideas fluently, and write clearly in a variety of formats. Vocabulary lessons focus on words from assigned texts as well as Greek and Latin roots. Grammar lessons help students identify and correct common errors as they create more sophisticated sentences. This course is taken concurrently with Language-Intensive Literature and Composition I.

Upper School Classes


List of 8 members.

  • Photo of Linda Derezinski

    Linda Derezinski 

    Department Head
  • Photo of Julia Bucci

    Julia Bucci 

    US English Teacher
  • Photo of Krista Falcone

    Krista Falcone 

    US English Teacher
  • Photo of Meghan Gayton

    Meghan Gayton 

    Upper School English Teacher/11th Grade Class Dean
  • Photo of Nia Jacobs

    Nia Jacobs 

    Academic Dean
  • Photo of Karen Keely

    Karen Keely 

    US English/Social Studies Teacher
  • Photo of Fred Lindstrom

    Fred Lindstrom 

    US English Teacher
  • Photo of Elizabeth Paushter

    Elizabeth Paushter 

    US English Teacher/Educational Technologist/Assistant Director of College Counseling

List of 3 items.

  • Area Studies Symposium

    Favorite Assignment
  • Blue Key Club

    Favorite Activity
  • Middle Eastern Studies

    Favorite Class

List of 1 items.

  • Caroline

    "Middle Eastern Studies has been my favorite Dana Hall class because both the teacher and the discussions always kept me engaged and excited to learn more."