The English curriculum at the Saint Thomas Choir School focuses on providing students with a solid foundation in English language and literature by building the boys’ skills as writers, analytical thinkers, and critical readers. We hope to give our students new ways of experiencing history, of thinking about the world around them, and of better understanding themselves.
Over the course of their four years of English class, the boys build a comprehensive portfolio of creative, descriptive, and imitative written works including personal narratives, biographies, memoirs, scenes from plays, chapters of novels, short stories, myths, and poems.
The primary writing focus, however, is on learning how to write thesis-driven analytical essays, a progression that begins with simple paragraphs in fifth grade and culminates in complex, four to seven page analytical papers in eighth grade. Independent, targeted vocabulary practice with the Membean program and formal grammar instruction through The Grey Grammarian supplement their writing skills. We also put particular emphasis on participation in class discussions: the boys develop increasing independence in class over their four years, ultimately taking responsibility for running some classes without teacher intervention in their seventh and eighth grade years.
While the immediate goal of the program is to prepare the boys for the challenges they will face in high school English classes, on a broader scale it seeks to foster a love of reading, writing, and language in the boys that they will retain for the rest of their lives. Each grade is structured around three to four comprehensive, text-based units. In the past, those have included:
Fifth Grade: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and The Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard Evslin.
Sixth Grade: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, The Miracle Worker by William Gibson, Comparative Mythology (with an emphasis on the foundational Greek and Roman myths), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and selected personal narratives/selections from autobiographies.
Seventh Grade: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, selected short stories, selected poems, and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
Eighth Grade: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, selected poems, selected short stories, selected memoirs, and Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.