From the very first day of English 9, the emphasis in our English courses is on careful reading and critical thinking. As you learn to practice these arts, you’ll discover how much more pleasure you begin to take in what you read.
“I used to read books in black and white, but three years of Commonwealth English classes have taught me to see all the colors.”
Commonwealth’s sequence of full-year English courses in ninth through eleventh grades presents readers with a wide range of texts in carefully ordered juxtaposition.In your work in class and at home you focus on the authors’ language, their imaginative vision, and the artful strategies they devise.
“Of all the things I’ve learned at Commonwealth, close reading has transformed me the most. I could talk about the patience and confidence it’s given me, and how I can look at the same five lines of a poem about 100 times, and, magically, still get something out of it. I think we all know that it’s one of the most flexible, useful tools we acquire here.”
As each year progresses, you encounter increasingly challenging works and pursue great and elusive questions. You come to understand that questions, not answers, are the reward that literature offers.
“We know not to expect other people to answer the tough questions for us. And we know that we will need time to answer those ourselves… if indeed we ever do answer them.”
Centered on close reading, a changing roster of half-credit electives (mostly for eleventh and twelfth graders) addresses your more specific literary interests (Shakespeare, for example, or Modernism).
“Reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I ended up so deeply immersed in the book that a new idea of reading’s worth started circling in my mind. Keeping a critical distance and asking questions are crucial. Yet it’s the act of throwing yourself wholly into a book or idea, letting yourself be seduced, that makes reading and thinking so attractive. Heart and critical intellect come together at Commonwealth.”
As a senior, you have a choice of English courses: the more traditional English 12 or Reasons for Writing, where you will use your critical reading and writing skills in a variety of modes that are not strictly literary—for example, the personal essay, science writing, the editorial, argumentation.
“The idea that picking something apart completely can make it more interesting might be counterintuitive. Sometimes it doesn’t work; after teasing out so many different strands, all you’re left with is a bunch of raggedy threads and a comment from your English teacher telling you that you made a lot of good observations but didn’t quite bring everything to a conclusion. Sometimes, however, you can make connections that blow your mind.”