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, arts magazine, and literary journal. Advanced Placement workshops are offered to students who want to 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.

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  • 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. Course readings include  Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, and short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Jhumpa Lahiri, Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith, Amy Tan, and Ocean Vuong.
  • English II (10th grade)

    English II broadens students’ experience with major literary genres, traditions, and writers.  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 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. Course readings include Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Passing by Nella Larsen, Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes, personal essays by James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Chang-rae Lee, poetry from the Harlem Renaissance and by contemporary Black poets, and short stories by various authors.

on teaching poetry

List of 14 items.

  • The Body and Literature

    How do humans resist oppression and destruction by reclaiming the life force in their bodies? Where is memory and trauma stored and how does it emerge and transform? When and why do characters defy or surrender to the limitations, abilities, disabilities, and imposed hierarchies on their bodies? These questions are explored through novels such as Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Ezra Clayton Daniel’s graphic novel Upgrade Soul,  poetry from Walt Whitman’s I Sing the Body Electric and Jericho Brown’s Tradition, in which the poet “interrupts complacency by locating each emergency in the garden of the body, where living things grow and wither—or survive.” Depictions and imagery of the body are studied in shorter works from Lucille Clifton, Gwendolyn Brooks, William Blake, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Edwidge Danticat, Nalo Hopkinson, Carmen Maria Machado, Ayize Jama-Everett, Audre Lorde, and more.
  • Breaking Free

    “To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela
    The pursuit of freedom lies at the heart of both political struggle and great writing. This course explores different forms that freedom—and the pursuit of freedom—take in literature. Questions include: What is the relationship between personal and political independence? How does one resist oppression? What does it mean for the human spirit to be truly free? The reading list features Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, and Henry David Thoreau’s “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” Other possible texts include Tara Westover’s Educated, Norma Cantú’s Canícula and selections from James Baldwin’s essays.
  • Deadliest Catches

    Like the sea itself, the literature of seafaring brims with adventure, salt, sublimity, and peril. The journey begins with a work of autobiographical nonfiction that sets the terms for the course, The Life of John Thompson, a Fugitive Slave and continues to survey 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. 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. A probing investigation of whiteness, masculinity, and the leviathan of American slavery, Moby-Dick distills America’s foundational contradictions in a sprawling adventure story that is equal parts buddy novel, political satire, philosophical treatise, and whale encyclopedia. An excerpt from Toni Morrison’s landmark essay, “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature,” helps situate Moby-Dick in mid-nineteenth-century debates over slavery.
  • Environmental Literature

    This course explores the historical relationship between humans and the natural world, examines environmental racism and injustice, and considers the human experience of the global climate crisis. Students explore their own place in nature through writing and discussion, and ask big questions about their cultural, moral, and practical relationships to the natural world, finding ways to connect the course’s learning to action. Authors include some early American environmental writers such as George Moses Horton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Susan Fenimore Cooper, George Marion McClellan, and John Muir, as well as important works of the modern, mid-twentieth-century environmental movement, such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Students are challenged to understand humans’ current relationship to nature—and the urgent climate crisis—by reading today’s environmental writers, such as Camille Dungy, Robin Wall Kimmerer, David Quammen, M. Jackson, Lauret Savoy, Rahawa Haile, J. Drew Lanham, Carolyn Finney, and others. Additional readings include essays, poems, memoirs, and Octavia Butler’s Afrofuturist novel, Parable of the Sower.
  • Flying Home

    In the long history of human reflection on nature, birds loom large as abiding figures of fascination. Poets in particular have been captivated by the birdworld, seeing in birdsong and birdflight emblems not only of their own artistic efforts—to sing spontaneously and to take wing imaginatively—but also of fundamental human needs for consolation and transcendence. “Hope,” to cite Emily Dickinson’s memorable definition, “is the thing with feathers,” and “the caged bird,” Maya Angelou reminds us, “sings of freedom.” Exploring the broad sweep of the lyric poem in English, with special attention to Anglo-American, African American, and Native Nations poetries, this course tracks the poetic allure of bird life from antiquity to the present. Billy Collins’s anthology Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds is read extensively and doubles as a field guide with illustrations by David Allen Sibley. The course’s most important guides to seeing birds—and reflecting on the cultural lenses through which they’ve been seen—will be a pair of memoirs by birder-essayists who advocate passionately for environmental and social justice: H is for Hawk, by falconer Helen Macdonald, and The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, by ornithologist J. Drew Lanham. Readings also include a handful of avian short stories, such as Ralph Ellison’s “Flying Home,” Gustave Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart,” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” as well as selections from a suite of marvelous books about raptors: T.H. White’s The Goshawk, J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine, Macdonald’s Falcon, and Pete Dunne’s The Wind Masters.
  • Hyphen: Asian-American Literature

    The "hyphenated" authors read in this course have ancestries that link them back to an Asian homeland—not so much a nation—but a region, specific in spirit, language, and landscape. Asian-American literature is almost too diverse to gather into one body, bringing into the American context a range of cultural and religious traditions—from the syncretic Catholicism of the Philippines to the Confucianism of China to the Zen Buddhism of Japan. At the same time, the works in this course speak to a common sensation of erasure: erasure from the narratives of both American history and Hollywood, erasure by stereotypes of “yellow peril” and “model minority,” and even self-erasure. The theme of the “invisible” Asian American is explored through Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker, a noir piece of fiction that plots a brilliant metaphor: its protagonist, an agency spy, professionally and personally assimilates, risking his soul in this longterm act. Thi Diem Thuy Le’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For lyrically blurs the lines between fiction and poetry, trauma and coming-of-age, self and familial ghosts, as it explores the inner life of a young refugee from Vietnam. Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being is like a diary found on a beach, its young Japanese author writing from the other side of the Pacific. Shorter works may include Maxine Hong Kingston’s telling of Fa Mulan's tale in The Woman Warrior, stories by Lysley Tenorio and Yiyun Li, and poems by Victoria Chang, Barbara Jane Reyes, Ocean Vuong, Sumita Chakraborty, and Sasha Pimentel.
  • Marvelous Futures

    A blending of Afrofuturism and magical realism (lo real maravilloso), this seminar examines signature aspects of these genres. Are they distinctive? What, if anything, do they share? Is the Caribbean the geographical and cultural center of these two genres? Are they exclusively born out of oppressive regimes? Do they seek to liberate or placate? With these questions in mind, readings include W.E.B. DuBois’ “The Comet” (arguably the first Afrofuturist work), Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Nalo Hopkinson’s Midnight Robber, along with short works by Nnedi Okorafor, Carmen Maria Marchado, and Octavia Butler. The course concludes with Ayize Jama-Everett’s Box of Bones and a reading with the author.
  • Renaissance Perspectives

    Beginning in Italy in the fourteenth century, the Renaissance brought with it a burst of creative energy that still amazes us today. This was a time of questioning old “certainties” and examining new models of social organization, economics, and government, and, embodied in writers such as Michel de Montaigne, of looking at ourselves and the world—even  imaginatively—through the eyes of people and races formerly considered as “others.” Beginning with Thomas More’s Utopia, extending to King Lear and Montaigne’s Essays, this course examines new ways of looking at old, sometimes harsh realities. Does this sound a little bit like current times? As students look at themselves through others’ eyes, they search for both the roots of our current problems and perhaps some paths to their solutions.
  • Songs of Ourselves: Personal Essays and Poetry Workshop

    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 Zadie Smith, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Naomi Shihab Nye, Angela Davis, Pablo Neruda, Lyla June, N. Scott Momaday, and more. Students are encouraged to read as writers do, focussing on emotional and conceptual arcs, with a keen eye for techniques of voice, narration, imagery, and style. Each student writes two highly polished personal essays and a handful of finely-tuned lyrical poems.
  • The Spirit: Dead or Alive?

    In the celebrated final sentence of his story “The Dead,” James Joyce asserts that the snow in Ireland falls equally “…upon all the living and the dead.” Some human experiences—life and death, happiness and loss, good and evil—seem to affect us all. The same is true of life today. Both kinds of “spirits,” those limited by narrow vision and those spirits who develop most by perspective are found everywhere. Whether thinking about marginalized members of our society or highly personal experiences, this course travels among these spirits. Virginia Woolf asserts that we all need at least forty pairs of eyes in order to see in the most inclusive and humane ways. Literature from the past (Dante, Woolf, and Tolstoi) as well as contemporary writing helps students see their own times through many eyes.
  • 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 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.
  • Toni Morrison

    Nobel laureate Toni Morrison has written some of the most deeply human, complex, and inspiring storytelling in American literature. This course considers her whole career, covering at least three of her novels and some of her shorter fiction and non-fiction work. Students track Morrison’s criticism of what she called “the master narrative” and the development of her philosophy of “rememory” to describe the Black American experience (and consequently the American experience) and map a path forward. The course starts with her first novel, The Bluest Eye—a powerful and traumatic work situated in the middle of the Black power era and second-wave feminism—and works toward her fifth and most acclaimed novel, Beloved, in which she puts forward her ideas about how to move past America's racialized and gendered trauma and into a more joyful, transcendent future. Through a deep dive into her inspiring oeuvre, Morrison teaches not only how to read her books but a new way of reading literature itself.
  • Visionary Voices

    “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” —Octavia Butler 
    Visionary fiction, as described by writer, educator, and scholar Walidah Imarisha, is fantastical literature that helps illuminate existing power dynamics and imagines paths to creating more just and sustainable futures. This course explores work in which writers from around the world have stretched the boundaries of their imaginations to defy existing and dominant narratives of their time and imagine new ways and solutions. In Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a nomadic group of actors and artists survive a global disaster and take great risks to preserve art and humanity. Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World  follows a young Mexican woman navigating her way to the United States to retrieve her brother while traversing boundaries between reality, fantasy, and mythology. M Archive, by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, examines the poetic, speculative artifacts of a future researcher uncovering evidence of racism, environmental crisis, and the “possibilities of being that exceed the human.” Additional readings include short works and excerpts from Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Eduardo Galleano, Ted Chiang, Alyssa Wong, Rivers Solomon, Dion Brand, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Octavia Butler. Along with analytical writing, students exercise the bounds of their own imaginations by writing a short work of visionary fiction.
  • ¡Viva la Revolución!

    Why does the 1910 Revolution continue to loom so large on both sides of la frontera? Why does everyone know the names of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata? (“Es mejor morir de pie que continuar viviendo de rodillas/Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.”) This seminar delves into the history, literature, and art central to the fall of the Porfiriato and the promise it offered to land reform and citizenship rights for women and Mexico’s indigenous population. The course examines the gendered elements and the significant role women played in the Revolution. Readings include Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo, Nellie Campobello’s Cartucho, Sandra Cisneros “Eyes of Zapata,” Andrea Saenz’s “Everyone’s Abuelo Can’t Have Ridden with Pancho Villa,” Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s The Rebel (a spy during the Revolution and the co-founder of La Cruz Blanca, the White Cross), and some short fiction by María Cristina Mena and Katherine Anne Porter. Corridos are studied through the works of famed ethnomusicologist Américo Paredes (With His Pistol in His Hand). The course culminates with the art of Kahlo, Orozco, Rivera, and Siquieros and includes a trip to San Francisco to visit some of Rivera’s murals.

List of 7 members.

  • Photo of Susee Witt

    Susee Witt 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Anne Harris

    Anne Harris 

    English Teacher
    510.652.0111 x224
  • Photo of Jhoanna Infante

    Jhoanna Infante 

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

    Alicia Mosley 

    English Teacher
  • Photo of Jeffrey Peterson

    Jeffrey Peterson 

    English Teacher
    510-652-0111 x224
  • Photo of Rebecca  Rainof

    Rebecca  Rainof 

    English Teacher
    510.652.0111 x224
  • Photo of Andrea Tinnemeyer

    Andrea Tinnemeyer 

    English teacher
    510-652-0111 x224

mens conscia recti

a mind aware of what is right