Perceptive reading, thinking, and writing are at the heart of every College Prep English course.
At all grade levels, work includes informal class discussions, close reading of literature, and frequent writing assignments such as reading quizzes, analytical essays, and creative fiction and verse. Classes are small and provide ample opportunity for individual conferences with instructors as well as group work. The literature studied throughout the four-year program represents a wide variety of genres, styles, periods, and voices, which develops students’ intellectual curiosity and cultural awareness.

Students at College Prep enroll in an English course every semester. English I (ninth grade) and English II (tenth grade) are yearlong courses. In the eleventh and twelfth grades, students choose from a variety of semester-long seminars.

In addition to specific courses offered by the department, there are numerous opportunities for students to develop their interest in literature and proficiency in writing. Students at all grade levels are encouraged to submit material to the school newspaper and arts magazine. Advanced Placement workshops are offered to students who want an opportunity to review and prepare for an English AP exam. English seminars are complemented by field trips to off-campus performances and guest lectures from literary scholars, writers, and musicians.

List of 2 items.

  • English I (9th grade)

    In English I, students develop skills in close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing that they will use throughout their College Prep education and beyond. Classes feature informal discussions of reading assignments, practice in phrasing ideas abstractly and supporting observations with concrete textual evidence, instruction in the art of writing coupled with frequent writing assignments, and regular lessons in grammar and vocabulary. The year begins with a summer reading book from a list of texts identified by English I teachers. Fall and spring course readings include a short modern play, lyrical poetry, novels such as The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby, and short stories by Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, and more.
  • English II (10th grade)

    English II broadens students’ experience with major literary genres, traditions, and writers. The year begins with discussion of the summer reading assignment. Fall and spring course readings include Macbeth, Passing, Fathers and Sons, and Twelfth Night. Building upon the composition and discussion skills introduced in the ninth grade, English II provides sustained practice in formal essay writing and occasional creative work. Students also continue to work extensively with poetry, fiction, and modern essays. Through writing, revision, and exercises, students deepen their understanding of grammar and principles of style. Through writing analytical essays, they develop skills in critical thinking and close observation. Through personal writing, they develop a voice as a writer and a temperament as a thinker.

on teaching poetry


List of 14 items.

  • Canon and Challenge

    The farther back in literature we go, the more clearly we find ourselves and our roots. In our literary past, certain books became part of what we call “the canon.” That is, they became powerful forces in shaping, reflecting, and continuing dominant themes such as inequality, racism, and slavery — as Karl Marx tells us, the ideas of the dominant class. Other literary works struggle to challenge, weaken, or replace these ideas and the books that represent them. This course studies works from the literature of ancient Greece and Rome with an eye to discerning a “canon” and its “challengers.” Authors include many familiar names—Homer, Virgil, and Ovid—and some less familiar, such as Sappho (the Tenth Muse, as the ancients called her) and Aeschylus, among others.
  • Coming of Age

    This course focuses on the “coming of age” novel, also called the bildungsroman, or novel of education, in which a young person learns, not just from books and school, but from experience itself. The themes, readings, and writing assignments are structured in response to both national and institutional conversations about race. The literature is entirely by BIPOC authors, mostly women, and considers the role of race in coming of age in America both in the literature and in the students’ own experiences. The readings include Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena María Viramontes among others.
  • Deadliest Catches

    Like the sea itself, the literature of seafaring brims with adventure, salt, sublimity, and peril. This course surveys its history, from such classics as Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea to Spielberg’s iconic summer blockbuster, Jaws to lesser known works such as The Life of John Thompson, a Fugitive Slave. Readings include selected sea songs and chanteys, as well as essays, stories, and poems. The centerpiece for the course is that greatest of all fish stories and literature’s deadliest catch, Melville’s epic, Moby-Dick. Students consider the transformative experience of life at sea as recounted by the sea-changed voyager who suffers its isolation and character-testing ordeals; the ship as dramatic crucible for conflict among men bound together in a rigid hierarchical structure; and the ocean and its shores as setting for complex encounters between humankind and nature, predator and prey, civilization and savagery.
  • Family in Fiction

    Tolstoy opens Anna Karenina with an idea that perhaps had never been so well expressed: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This seminar explores fictional families, sometimes made happy, but more often made unhappy, for reasons psychological, social, or even supernatural. Possible texts include Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • Harlem Renaissance

    There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” —Zora Neale Hurston
    In the aftermath of World War I and the great migration of African-Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line, the Harlem Renaissance began. Part of the Jazz Age and a flowering of all art forms, the Harlem Renaissance gave birth to many pivotal African-American cultural figures who still loom large today, such as Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and many more. This seminar surveys many of the pivotal writers and thinkers who shaped this illustrious moment through works including Jean Toomer’s Cane, Claude McKay’s Amiable with Big Teeth, and Jessie Redmon Fauset’s Plum Bun; poetry by Langston Hughes, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Countee Cullen; short stories by Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Charles Johnson; and sections from influential sociologists, such as Marcus Garvey, Charles S. Johnson, and W.E.B. Du Bois.
  • Let’s Get Small: Little Works that Pack a Big Wallop

    This seminar explores how authors tackle some of life’s biggest issues through some of literature’s smallest forms. Students read masterly examples of many literary forms, including aphorisms, epigrams, epitaphs, fragments, flash fiction, fables, haiku, villanelles, and perhaps even a tweet or two. The course pays particularly close attention to the most exciting poetic form in English: the sonnet, that fourteen-line miracle of artistic, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual transformation. With each form studied, students sharpen their understanding of how form interacts with content to create rich, complex literary meaning.
  • Literary Monsters

    The landscape of literary tradition is strewn with monstrous beasties both literal and symbolic. The task of this course is to consider this phenomenon and to explore possible explanations for it. What is the imaginative function of these monsters? To what use are they put by their progenitors? What do they illustrate about us, our deepest fears, our deepest desires? What lies at the intersection of monstrosity and race/racism? Students read from among a selection of disparate texts—fairy tales, short stories, Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, LaValle’s The Changeling, and Shelley’s Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, several poems, and two plays—to inspire discussions of monsters great, small, strange, and familiar.
  • London Calling

    London has been depicted as the center of many things: of crime, of theatricality, of collections, of modernity, and, perhaps most significantly, of empire. In this course, students explore London as an idea and a setting, touring through a mix of Victorian and contemporary literary works. Victorian texts include short stories by Dickens and Doyle. From the dark, rainy alleys near 221b Baker Street, the course perambulates to Bloomsbury to explore the “beautiful caves” of Virginia Woolf—through her famous novel Mrs. Dalloway and excerpts from her essay collection, A Room of One’s Own—and flies between London and Calcutta, reading Amitov Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines, a postcolonial novel that ties the two cities together. The semester ends with Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, in which characters of Caribbean, Indian, and British descent try to make sense of their place in London during the declining years of the 20th century. London might be decaying, according to all of these authors, but it is also calling.
  • Once Upon a Time in the Southwest

    This seminar studies various cultural contributions woven together to comprise what we currently term Latinx literature. The texts gesture back to an indigenous past, to a pre-1848 life, to privileging family ties and a connection to the land over INS policy and various immigration acts, to contemporary intergenerational struggles around gender roles, identities, faith, and what it means to speak Spanglish. Readings include Victor Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold, Maria Helena Viramontes’ And Their Dogs Came with Them, Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo, and Tomás Rivera’s...y no se lo tragó la tierra... And the Earth Did Not Devour Him along with poetry, short stories, and one-act plays.
  • Shakespeare’s Laughter

    In his own day, Shakespeare was at least as renowned for his comedies as for his tragedies and histories. In this course, students read a broad selection of his comedies, considering them not only as works of Shakespeare’s own time—the Renaissance—but also as superb and rich repositories of the profoundest experiences, explored through laughter. Unlike the tragedies, which might be rivaled by some Greek tragedies, there is nothing like Shakespeare’s comedies, either before or since. Shakespeare laughs us into truth, beauty, and ourselves.
  • The Second Self

    Aristotle says that a good friend is a second self and that to be happy, a person needs virtuous friends. But friends can also be rivals, competitors, and sources of envy. In this course, students explore the complex, rewarding, occasionally bewildering nature of friendship, focusing especially on friendships between women. Readings include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Toni Morrison’s Sula, Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, as well as brief philosophical essays by Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. The course also involves informal writing assignments, analytical essays, and a personal essay.
  • Songs of Ourselves: Writing Personal Essays and Poems

    This creative writing course focuses on contemporary writing around the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing racial injustice, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Utilizing pre-writing exercises, dialogue, kinesthetic activities, music, and peer workshops to unearth what makes each person unique, students write about the historical moment in which they are living. Inspiration is taken from a selection of essays and poems by Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Terrance Hayes, James Baldwin, and more. Students are encouraged to read as writers do, with a keen eye for imitable techniques of voice, narration, and style. Each student writes two highly polished personal essays and a handful of finely-tuned lyrical poems.
  • Telling Stories: The Art of Writing Fiction

    “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” This famous first line from Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude immediately pulls the reader in. How do you come up with great first lines? How do you keep the reader reading? How do you make your characters come alive on the page? Students investigate these questions and many more in this course on creative writing. The course explores the fundamental elements of fiction—characterization, plot, setting, dialogue, pacing, point of view—and offers exercises designed to develop skills in these areas. Students read stories and novel excerpts from famous writers, analyzing their fiction for technique, learning how writers create the effects they do, and occasionally do written analyses. Most importantly, every student crafts their own fiction. This course is dedicated to creativity and to developing a strong, powerful, and unique literary voice.
  • What the River Knew

    Why are rivers so deeply bound up with storytelling, and why is flowing water such an enduring metaphor for human experience? What did Heraclitus mean when he said: “you cannot step into the same river twice”? Or William James when he coined the phrase “stream of consciousness”? This course is an invitation to wade into questions like these while thinking about the condition of the world’s rivers, which, as poet Robert Hass reminds us, “we need urgently to do at this moment in the history of the human relation to the earth.” Possible readings include such classic river works as Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, and Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang—novels that raise probing questions about spiritual transformation, racial-political awakening, and environmental activism. Other sources include Olivia Laing’s marvelous To the River (on the layered history of the River Ouse in Sussex, so important to Virginia Woolf), sample essays from Pamela Michael’s anthology The Gift of Rivers: True Stories of Life on the Water, and the advocacy documentary DamNation on the dam-removal projects that seek to rewild America’s rivers.


List of 7 members.

  • Photo of Julie Anderson

    Julie Anderson 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Richard Cushman

    Richard Cushman 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Jhoanna Infante

    Jhoanna Infante 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Jeffrey Peterson

    Jeffrey Peterson 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Andrea Tinnemeyer

    Andrea Tinnemeyer 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Susee Witt

    Susee Witt 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Alicia Mosley

    Alicia Mosley 

    English Teacher

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right