Marvelwood’s English curriculum is designed to fulfill the goal of developing graduates who are articulate, skilled readers, critics, and writers. The sequence of courses fosters an increasingly sophisticated and mature command of language and literature. Small classes provide an environment for lively discussions in which students learn to contribute thoughtful analysis, engage in respectful debate, and carefully articulate their thoughts. Students at each grade level read various genres, develop their vocabulary and writing skills, address major themes in the world’s culture and history, and seek the vital connections between literature and their own lives.
Marvelwood’s English teachers like to mix things up by peppering traditional college-prep literature study with creative, non-traditional alternatives. Classics by Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway share bookbag space with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire. Students write personal, critical, and analytical essays, but they also put controversial characters on trial for their actions, reenact the final swordfight from Hamlet, compare their own ideas of utopia to those envisioned by authors decades before, summarize Dickens in rap songs, and relate modern literature to classic film. As Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested, “The best of a book is not the thought which it contains, but the thought which it suggests.”
A freshman tradition: Every winter, while reading The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, ninth grade English classes get their groove on! Students practice parts of the Palmer’s Dance, the Pavane, and the Maresca. Then, they each choose a mask to wear: perhaps a yellow feathered, a dashing silver, a speckled turkey feather, or a mysterious purple mask? Finally, as Lord Capulet exclaims, “We dance!”
In Elizabethan England, dancing was considered an opening of the mind and an exercise of the body. Queen Elizabeth encouraged dancing and music among all her people; the influences of Italy, France, and Spain were often seen.
At Marvelwood, as well as in the Elizabethan court, dancing brings life and depth to the story of Romeo and Juliet!
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The goals of Marvelwood School’s English Department are to teach students to use literature to understand the world and themselves, and to help them articulate their thoughts clearly, both orally and in writing. Our sequence of courses and thoughtful curricular choices engage and challenge students and foster an increasingly sophisticated command of both language and literature. Student-centered classes incorporate the development of writing skills, including vocabulary and grammar. Teachers think creatively and plan strategically to accommodate a variety of learning styles. Small class size provides an environment for lively, discussion-based learning, out of which come new possibilities for thinking about the world and each other.