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English, Language & Literacy

What is a text? Novels, plays, and poetry. Articles, blog posts, and podcasts. Songs, films, and visual art. Students find all of these in Lincoln’s English classes, where they explore the written and spoken word in its many forms.

The department believes that all texts deserve the benefit of our critical attention, traditional and new media alike, so students will find Shakespeare on the same syllabus as contemporary music, and children’s literature alongside Lorraine Hansberry.

At every level, students develop their voices as writers and speakers, exercise critical thinking skills, and learn values for, and the value of, contributing to the broader conversation. They explore texts in their contexts, and they examine their own and authors’ assumptions. They write, critically and creatively, both in order to understand what they think and to convey what they understand.

Grades Served:

All Divisions & Grades

In English classes at Lincoln, students learn about themselves and the world around them in order to imagine what they—and what the world—can be.

Emma Stenberg, Lincoln School English Department Head

Language & Literacy: Little School

Learning English begins long before our littlest learners can speak it. In Little School, students engage with language in a multitude of creative and exploratory ways. Working with mixed media, constructing creations out of blocks or found elements, expressing themselves through dramatic play—this is all hands-on language learning. Through weekly trips to the Lower School library and as a core part of the classroom, they listen to stories, poems, and fingerplays. Together, they read and write, spend time in the world of storytelling and nursery rhymes, make their own books, and even “write” in their very own journals.

Language & Literacy: Lower School

In Lower School, our language arts program develops active, critical, and enthusiastic lifelong readers and writers. The students explore English across text types and incorporate authentic voices from a wide variety of perspectives and experiences. Students move from decoding sounds and words to building comprehension and higher understanding as they grow. They learn to discern attributes of genres and to strategically understand how to interpret texts of all kinds, from poetry to prose. Building strong vocabularies through content-area texts, students engage in and lead discussions, making connections and inferences that show higher-level thinking skills. Meaningful reading and writing occurs daily across the curriculum, to both build background knowledge and demonstrate understanding. Through writing, students learn to develop their voices and effectively communicate in multiple modes, which prepares them for the challenges of the modern world. Lincoln’s language arts curriculum inspires and gives students the tools to formulate and express their ideas and to take on future academic challenges.

Teachers and students in Kindergarten through Grade 5 also work with a Learning Skills Specialist to plan lessons and to provide extra support or more challenges to meet students where they are. The Learning Skills Specialist pushes into each classroom multiple times during the week to enable smaller group work.

Book Character Day is a well-anticipated time each year for our Lower School students. 

English: Middle School

At Lincoln, Middle School English brings students into conversation—with each other, with their communities, and with artists and authors from around the world and throughout history.

Grade 6 English is dedicated to exploring the art of reading. As students learn how to communicate through writing, speaking, and performing, they discover the depth and power of the English language. Through an examination of short fiction, a Newbery Award winning novel, and a thorough exploration of Greek mythology, students learn to become both excellent readers and writers while also developing the art of self expression. Critical thinking, consistency, communication, and creativity are the foundations of this course, with lots of fun to be had along the way.

Grade 7 English studies the art of language through the exploration of the written word. Students not only read novels and write about them, but also they expand their critical writing skills by exploring a wide range of texts and taking inspiration from those texts to create their own. Students critically examine literature, but also move beyond the traditional format of a novel by studying poetry, a verse novel, spoken word, podcasts, and a Shakespearean play. The theme of the year is finding one’s voice. Throughout the year, students will write about themselves, write about others and redefine for themselves what it means to raise their voice. Students will step outside their frames by exploring how the concept of voice is expressed in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Throughout, we keep a careful eye on how words work, so that by the end of this course students will have learned terms such as: point of view, alliteration, assonance, theme, iambic pentameter, and much more.

Grade 8 English centers around the question, "What does it mean to grow up?" As we explore this question, students build skills in reading, creative and analytical writing, presentations, and class discussion. Our texts include The Little Prince, The House on Mango Street, The Diary of Anne Frank (as a play), Romeo and Juliet, The Hate You Give, and a wide selection of poems and short stories.

English: Upper School

English in the Upper School begins with Grade 9: The Self, the World, and the Word, an exploration of literature across genres, forms, and eras. Students study texts in this course with the aim of joining the enduring conversation that literature generates across histories and cultures.

The Grade 10 course, Bridges and Walls: What Connects and Divides Us, explores works that wrestle with core parts of the human experience: the formation of individual identity, living through revolutionary change and divisions within society, and the paths to empathy and healing.

Grade 11 American Literature joins U.S. History to form The American Experience, a course that examines how America’s collective narrative has shaped and been shaped by individuals and their art. The

Upper School English program culminates in a series of senior seminar electives: Language and Power, Literature and Philosophy, and Media and Gender. These courses apply students’ existing skill sets to specific kinds of texts—language, literature, and media—introducing lenses and theories that they will further develop in their undergraduate study of the humanities. In addition to these core courses, semester electives in creative writing give students the opportunity to explore and hone their voices through both fiction and non-fiction.