English Program

Consistent with the school’s mission and 21st Century Learning Skills, the English Department offers a variety of courses that encourage lifelong learning in each of the communication arts: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Through a series of required courses and enriching electives, the curriculum provides students with opportunities to read literature representing writers from a wide range of cultures, eras, and perspectives. The English Department recognizes the importance of writing as a tool for self expression through thinking, creating, and communicating; consequently, in every English class students write about their ideas and their experiences as a way of reflecting on their own identity. The English curriculum meets the standards set forth in the Massachusetts English Language Arts framework.

Students must secure the recommendation of their current English teacher before enrolling in required English classes. Further, they should consult with their parents and counselors in making these selections.

To fulfill graduation requirements, a student must pass four years of English – 20 credits.  All freshmen and sophomores are required to take the Introduction to Literature courses. Most juniors are required to take American Literature and most seniors are required to take Senior English; however, with the recommendation of their current English teacher, incoming juniors and seniors with a passion for literature and language and talent in writing may enroll in our Advanced Placement (AP) courses instead. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors are encouraged to select additional electives to supplement and enrich their English Language Arts background.     

Departmental Philosophy
Reading literature performs two crucial functions: it allows us to see ourselves for who we really are, and it offers us a window to view the world through another person’s perspective. Reading is an opportunity, a chance to gain understanding. With that idea in mind, we have created our four-year curriculum to offer students the necessary opportunity to explore, to think, to react, and to relate. 

In selecting texts for the curriculum, we populated our freshman core course with characters who share some of the same struggles of youthful self-discovery that students themselves might be facing, as well as stories of individuals who face challenges that our students are unlikely to experience. Through exploration of these characters and their stories, students will work to understand the importance of personal and social identity, as well as empathy. Our sophomore curriculum continues this focus on self and social discovery by centering on the danger of a single story. The texts students read their sophomore year reinforce the importance of questioning our assumptions, seeking multiple  perspectives, and looking beyond dominant narratives. These Introduction to Literature courses provide students with the opportunity to understand who they are and how to find their place in the world. Our junior year American Literature course centers on the concept of critical patriotism and is shaped by the question: What does it mean to be an American in the 21st century? Through close reading of a variety of American texts, students will explore how we, as Americans, identify ourselves through a complicated personal and social landscape. This level of critical thought continues into the Senior English class, which requires students to consider the class’s core question: What ideas, questions, and stories do I want to explore to better understand my role in the world? Students in this course engage in a thorough exploration of the role story and inquiry play in our lives and work to grow as independent learners. Through investigation of a range of contemporary topics in fiction, nonfiction, and visual texts, students will think about how to engage in the world responsibly and impact positive change. This type of inquiry drives both intellectual and emotional learning, and helps our students solidify their understanding of self and society.

The BHS English Department believes that this work is important. Helping students to see that literature exists beyond the printed page, that stories both reflect and shape our lives, is important. Those stories are just the starting point, however. Students in BHS English courses will use the literature they read to help them identify topics to investigate and analyze in writing. They will learn how the selection of the right phrase, or dissection of a symbol or a structural element of a piece of literature allows them to create a clear and unique voice in their own writing. They will break down syntax and grammar to understand the power of rhetoric and help them articulate their own ideas. They will improve their public speaking skills through in-class discussions and recitations. Through this work, students will become more independent and responsible, and learn the rewards of taking intellectual risks. We hope that through active reading, peer discussion, personal reflection, critical writing, varied presentations, and original thought, students will learn how to question and define themselves, question and understand the world around them, and find a way to live that makes them proud.

The following is a list of English courses offered at each grade level:

Required courses
Grade  9: 
Introduction to Literature I (Honors, CP, FOU)  

Grade  10:
Introduction to Literature II (Honors, CP, FOU)

Grade  11:
American Literature (Honors, CP)
Advanced Placement Language & Composition (AP) 

​​​​​​​Grade  11&12: 
Narratives of Self (FOU)

​​​​​​​Grade  12:
Senior English (Honors, CP) 
Advanced Placement Literature and Composition (AP) (Dual Enrollment optional)

​​​​​​​English Electives

  • Journalism I (CP, Honors) – Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Journalism II (CP, Honors) – Grades 10, 11, 12
  • Public Speaking (CP) – Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Creative Writing (CP, Honors) – Grades 10, 11, 12
  • Drama (CP) – Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Advanced Drama (Honors) – Grades 10, 11, 12 
  • Introduction to Film & Media Studies (CP, Honors) – Grades 10, 11, 12
  • Advanced Film & Media Studies ( Honors) – Grades 10, 11, 12 
  • Leadership & Social Change (CP, Honors)– Grades 10, 11, 12
  • Writing Fellows I (Honors) Grades 11, 12
  • Writing Fellows II (Honors) Grades 11, 12
  • The Art of Argument (CP, Honors)  Grades 10, 11, 12
  • Graphic Narratives:  Exploring Immigrant Experiences Grades 9, 10, 11, 12 (CP, H)
  • Reading and Composition Tutorial (non-credit course offering)

English Course Descriptions