The English curriculum at GMVS is designed to instill an appreciation for literature, an understanding of the connection between historical events and literary content, and to foster an interest in the discussion and exchange of ideas. Individual courses, and the department as a whole, seek to engage and challenge students by encouraging them to think independently and communicate effectively. Classes take a sequential approach to building students’ skills in reading, writing, analysis and oral communication. Students are exposed to literature from a variety of genres, write essays ranging in style from personal and creative to analytical, and complete vocabulary and grammar curricula in support of their growth as analytical thinkers and effective communicators.


Foundations of English

This course looks at the overarching theme of coming of age. Students will be introduced to classroom discussion using the Harkness teaching method, as they grapple with both fiction and non-fiction stories with characters who are dealing with the challenges of growing up. Students will learn how to take reading notes in the margins of their texts, as well as to ask discussion based questions from their reading. They will be introduced to the foundations of the analytical essay and will profile their growth as writers in a Chapbook (portfolio). There is also direct instruction in grammar and vocabulary

Language Arts

Language Arts is designed to teach students the critical reading and analytical writing skills they will use throughout high school. Critical reading skills and vocabulary are taught through reading in a variety of genres, and there is a strong emphasis on classroom discussion. Students are challenged to write compelling and cohesive essays, working through a writing process to organize ideas, formulate thesis statements, and incorporate evidence. Revising work in consultation with the teacher is an essential component of the class, and students receive direct instruction in grammar, usage and mechanics.

Literary Classics

Literary Classics focuses on introducing students to literary works that have become part of western civilization’s accepted literary canon; these texts are paired with more contemporary works that explore parallel themes that human societies have struggled with since the birth of civilizations and remain relevant today. The course takes an interdisciplinary approach, working in concert with the sophomore history class in an effort to give the students a broad understanding of the setting and historical forces that contribute to each reading. Students will be asked to analyze not only the thematic content of a particular work, but also literary technique. In addition to developing their ability to write clear, well-organized analytical essays, students will continue to learn basic grammatical rules and to broaden their vocabularies, both in terms of reading comprehension and writing with clarity and sophistication.

American Literature

Starting with the Puritan colonization of Boston in The Scarlet Letter, and ending with more contemporary novels and plays, this course marches chronologically through American history to look at a variety of voices in its fiction. We read classics, as well as more contemporary voices, who tell the stories of America by Americans. The Harkness method is the focal point of this discussion based class. Students learn to grapple with the literature through a student-centered approach. Writing in this course is analytical and culminates in a longer, ten page, research supported essay where students incorporate secondary sources into their arguments. Peer review is emphasized and used as a teaching tool for editing in all major essays for this class. There is continued emphasis on the importance of taking in-text notes, reading for understanding, vocabulary acquisition while reading, and forming critical, thought-provoking, questions post reading.

Critical Reading & Writing

This course is designed to give students an opportunity to develop and practice important skills in critical analysis and the development of written arguments. So often we form opinions quickly, emotionally, and with little input from other sources. As an educated individuals and critical thinkers, it is important for students to be informed in their analysis of events, issues and ideas, as that is what is necessary for sound decision making and opinion forming. Using three contemporary non-fiction texts (along with supplementary articles) the class will examine a series of issues that are relevant to students’ immediate lives, doing our best to develop a clear understanding of the complexities in each case as well as articulate individual responses to the issues in question.

Film Studies

This course is an introduction to the study of film: stylistic tendencies and narrative strategies, genres, and theoretical approaches. The course is primarily an inquiry into what makes film a unique medium of expression through the analysis of formal elements. Students learn through reading, viewing, lectures, discussions, and their own written work. Using classic and modern films, including examples from the Hollywood motion picture industry, the world of documentary film and diverse national cinemas, as the texts for this course, students will explore a variety of critical approaches to film analysis. Films are chosen for their historical importance as groundbreaking works, for their representative qualities within genres, or for their unique interpretations of familiar narratives or structures. Classes combine preparatory reading and discussions, film viewings, and written analysis. The course culminates with students producing their own short documentary films, incorporating the story boarding and filming techniques they study throughout the semester.


This class looks closely at different forms and styles of poetry. Because it uses a workshop structure, students’ creative work will be critiqued by peers. By the end of the semester students have gained a better understanding of the components of good poetry, as well as a polished portfolio of their own work. Students don’t have to be a good poets to take this class; they just have to be willing to give it a try!

Meet Our English Faculty

Kerry Jackson

Assistant Head of School, Academic Director, English Teacher

Sam Jackson

English Teacher, Boys' Lacrosse Coach