Challenging girls to become women of 
intellect, character, innovation, action, and faith


Teacher and students discussing The Great GatsbyThe Newton Country Day English program focuses on guiding students to think critically, to express themselves clearly in speech and writing, and to appreciate the ways in which language—especially the language of literature—communicates the full range of human feeling and experience. Students study a broad range of literary works from British, American, and world literature.

Teachers establish in their classes an atmosphere of open discourse, focused inquiry, and intellectual engagement. In class discussions, students are encouraged to support their ideas and opinions and to clarify and question complex ideas and ambiguities in the text. This process promotes close reading, the foundation of critical thinking and writing.

Frequent student writing assignments and timely feedback develop students' skills and help them learn in a self-directed manner. Composition is assessed on the basis of clarity, organization, and cogency.

Through studying the relationship between a literary work and its social and historical contexts, students achieve a deeper understanding of values and experiences different from their own; at the same time, inasmuch as great literary works possess a universal and timeless quality, students gain a clearer understanding of the moral dimensions of their world and of themselves.

Middle School

English 5

English 5 introduces literary genres and styles of writing. The girls begin the year reading and writing memoirs. They then switch genres and study The Phantom Tollbooth, a novel that introduces allegory and figurative language. The students practice the steps of the expository writing system by writing paragraphs analyzing a chosen character or motif. In the winter, Grade 5 reads and analyzes short stories. Through annotation and thematically focused small group discussions, the girls learn to form and express opinions supported by textual examples and quotations. In the spring, the students study poetry through reading and analyzing a selection of classic and contemporary poems. They learn about metaphors, similes, sensory details, rhyme schemes, personification, alliteration, and other poetic devices. Each girl also must memorize an assigned poem and write an expository paragraph about the central theme of the piece. The school year culminates in the creation and presentation of poetry portfolios. Each student shares a collection of at least 10 original poems in a variety of styles that she has created and workshopped in class. Girls leave the fifth grade with an appreciation of a range of writing styles and their effects. Throughout the year, nightly independent reading reinforces the developing reading and analysis skills of the students and builds good habits and the ability to choose age-appropriate and varied works of literature.

English 6

English 6 introduces public speaking, debate, and the study of Shakespeare. The girls study great speeches, looking at context, content, rhetoric, figurative and descriptive techniques, and delivery. Analytical paragraphs give students an opportunity to examine a chosen speech in detail and practice the systems of the writing process. The students also present their chosen speech to the class to practice public speaking. The speech writing component challenges the girls to examine their beliefs and knowledge base to create an original speech that uses the rhetorical devices they study. Final speeches are presented to the class, and the top four are presented to the Middle School. Through close analysis of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, sixth grade students learn to identify and interpret themes such as racism, redemption, and irony. The unit culminates in a series of debates about the novel’s challenges to the reader and to American society. The course concludes with Shakespeare’s play about the importance of public speaking: Julius Caesar. The students read and discuss the play, memorize and perform a monologue, and write an expository paragraph explaining their assigned speech. Girls are challenged to connect the texts they read to contemporary issues and the concept of civil engagement. They leave English 6 having learned to present their ideas to the world with poise, clarity, and eloquence.

English 7

English 7 engages students in the development of critical literary analysis and interpretation, as applied to a variety of novels, short stories, poems, and plays studied throughout the year. Writing is an important component of this course, and girls have the opportunity to express their thoughts and ideas in connection with the literature studied. The class incorporates the study of different grammatical concepts and new vocabulary words into a number of writing assignments throughout the year. Texts studied in English 7 include Lois Lowry's The Giver, George Orwell's Animal Farm, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, and William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

English 8

English 8 engages students in the study of a variety of literary styles. Students grow as thinkers and crafters of creative and critical writing. The goal is to broaden students’ love of language: its power, complexity, and many uses. Girls begin the year by reflecting on Harper Lee’s words: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Texts studied include Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Upper School

The English curriculum at Newton is designed to develop responsible thinking, careful reading, and clarity of thought and expression. Girls study a broad range of literary works, from American to British to World Literature, in order to cultivate an appreciation for the ways in which language communicates the human feeling and experience. In the classroom, teachers create an atmosphere of open discourse to encourage focused inquiry and intellectual engagement and risk.

Writing assignments are frequent, and composition is typically assessed on the basis of precision, organization and cogency. Class discussion is the time for girls to offer their supported opinions and to get clarity about complex ideas or ambiguities in a text. This process promotes close reading which is the foundation of critical thinking and writing.

By studying the relationship between a literary work and its social and historical contexts, students come to a deeper understanding of their own place in the world and gain appreciation and empathy for the range of human experience.

English 9

Foundations of Western Literature

In English 9, students explore the world, literature, and their own lives through the lens of journeys and quests. By reading texts such as The Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre, Antigone, and The Odyssey, we look at these quests as paths to self-understanding. Girls analyze how characters grow, change, and come of age to form identities and relationships as they struggle with external and internal obstacles. Through close reading and annotation, students gain the active reading skills needed to make meaning of challenging works of literature. Students engage in ongoing, scaffolded writing practice by writing and revising reading journals, paragraphs, analytical essays, and creative assignments. Written assignments, mock trials, and debates, as well as an introductory study of rhetoric, offer students practice engaging in persuasive argument. Class discussions and personal writing give girls the opportunity to connect these literary quests to their own lives and the world in which they live.

Writing Skills

Writing Skills provides an opportunity for girls in Grade 9 to review, hone, and improve their grammar expertise. We begin our studies with sentence diagramming—a dynamic and challenging way to approach syntax, and the students learn a great deal about the English language. The students diagram grammar forms like prepositional phrases, compound predicates, and prepositional phrases. Once they are comfortable with these concepts, the girls move on to the next units covering punctuation and common grammar pitfalls called Megablunders. Students leave this course with a solid grammar foundation and techniques they can apply to their writing in all courses.

English 10

Introduction To British Literature

English 10 aims to improve a student’s reading, writing, and thinking skills through a close study of British Literature. Exploring questions of authority and mankind’s place in the world, the course challenges the girls to think abstractly while introducing them to the major writers from the British Isles (and beyond) who have influenced today’s thought, language, and culture. By contextualizing these thinkers within their artistic movements and providing relevant historical background, students learn to synthesize complex arguments and diverse views. Girls deepen their close reading and analytical skills in preparation for future Advanced Placement courses, working to improve their understanding of the effects of diction, syntax, and other stylistic and literary devices in a text. Students write intensively, both formally and informally, analytically and creatively, and be assessed on skill development and content acquisition.

Some texts that may be covered in whole or part: A Room of One’s Own, The Canterbury Tales, Dubliners, Frankenstein, Macbeth, Paradise Lost, Pride and Prejudice, Things Fall Apart, and 1984.

English 11

Advanced Placement English Language and Composition

This college-level course provides students with the tools to read and analyze critically a range of prose selections and develop an awareness of rhetoric in the class readings as well as in their own writing. While the primary focus of the class is non-fiction, students engage with dense, provocative, and, sometimes controversial texts in a variety of genres, from classic novels, such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby, to book-length works, essays, short stories, and speeches from more contemporary writers like Junot Diaz, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joan Didion, John. F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. In addition to studying prose, the class analyzes visual texts, including political cartoons and propaganda posters, and constructs complex and well-supported arguments on current cultural issues such as the role of technology in education and the importance of satire to critique and alter public conversations. Students write informally and have many opportunities to work in shorter forms and to write at-home assignments. At heart this class is a college composition course, and they therefore complete several timed essays each month. Revision, including peer and instructor reviews and the writing of multiple drafts, is an important part of most assignments. Much is demanded of the girls, both in terms of the academic workload, and the ability to be open-minded to the acquisition of new skills. By the end of the course, the students have received the tools necessary to become superior readers and communicators.

English 12

Advanced Placement English Literature

The equivalent of a first-year college English course, AP English Literature provides students the opportunity to read and write about a variety of imaginative works of recognized literary merit. Using a seminar format, students sharpen reading, critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills while exploring a wide array of classic and contemporary novels, plays, short stories, and poems. In recent years, girls have studied literature by William Shakespeare, Joseph Conrad, Elena Ferrante, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Hilary Mantel, Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Hurston, Cormac McCarthy, Athol Fugard, Tom Stoppard, Louise Erdrich, and others.

English Elective

Creative Writing

Creative Writing provides tenth-, eleventh-, and twelfth-grade students with the opportunity to explore writing in a variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, and memoir. Students approach writing as a practice, gaining experience by writing Daily Pages in their writing journals, and by drafting and revising stories, essays, and poems. The course follows a workshop format in which girls regularly share their writing with classmates in exchange for honest, supportive, and constructive feedback. Students read and discuss exemplar texts written by masters of the craft in the genres that they are studying. Past writers have included Jamaica Kincaid, Susanna Kaysen, Tobias Wolff, William Faulkner, W.H. Auden, Alice Walker, Esmeralda Santiago, Dylan Thomas, and Sylvia Plath. The year culminates in a portfolio of students’ best writing, published as a class compilation entitled Why I Write. Students also have opportunities to revise and prepare their work for submission to writing contests and for external publication.

Grammar Guide

The Newton Country Day Guide to Grammar assists our Writing Skills program and aims to improve continuity between grades in the study of grammar. The guide focuses on commonly misunderstood concepts and the regular writing pitfalls observed by teachers in the English department.