Earlier this month, CGPS was pleased to welcome accomplished young adult novelist Jennifer Nielsen to the Middle School, where she discussed her creative process and took questions from students.
English students must think critically about what they read, write with clarity and style and enjoy grappling with literature and ideas. The English Department understands that classes must be meaningful, help our students express themselves and illuminate their world.
At each level, students read literature that challenges their thinking, describes a range of experiences and evokes connections to their own lives and choices. Courses spotlight subtleties of character, imagery and tone, honing students’ awareness and helping them understand the power of language and art. In addition to thoughtful analysis, students are often asked to emulate authors and techniques—a creative exercise that develops a nuanced appreciation of narrative, poetic and rhetorical styles. In teaching writing, the department values depth and voice over pat formulas, whether students are analyzing literature, developing arguments or describing their own experiences. Starting with shorter exercises to gain confidence and control with their prose, students then compose longer essays and projects from early brainstorming to rough drafts to polished work. Students learn to shape and deepen their ideas and to understand their own patterns of error. As students progress, they are given opportunities to develop their own approaches to assignments and even select their own texts. Building on this solid foundation, juniors and seniors choose from a range of dynamic elective courses. Each class allows for an immersion into an era, culture, style, or theme—a depth of study essential to a complete education. The freedom to choose motivates students, and when teachers design courses they are passionate about, students learn as much from their intellectual enthusiasm as from their expertise, creating an especially vibrant academic environment in the final four semesters of English.