English Department - 100 Level

While several courses of varying levels of complexity are offered, the primary goals of the summer school English program are to teach students to write and speak clearly and to help them to analyze and understand what they read. Small classes allow teachers to evaluate student writing regularly and thus enable each individual to develop the ability to communicate ideas more effectively. The content of the readings is of secondary importance as the aim of our program is the development of techniques that will enable students to better deal with the tasks of writing and analysis in future courses in their schools.

International students: Placement in the appropriate English program is determined by the scores on a placement test and through a writing sample provided by each student on the first day of classes.

110. Literature and Composition I

Intended for students entering the seventh and eighth grades, this course focuses on building fundamental reading and writing skills. Most classes combine a consideration of the principles of clear written expression with the close, critical reading of narrative and dramatic fiction. A review of grammatical principles lays the foundation for studying expression at the level of the sentence, and particular attention is paid to effective use of coordination and subordination and to correcting common sentence faults. Concurrently, students learn to write focused, purposefully developed expository paragraphs, and during the last week, they compose a complete essay. Significant time is spent approaching systematically the various steps of the writing process, including brainstorming to generate ideas, selecting appropriate organizational strategies, outlining, and revising and editing a rough draft in order to produce a polished expression.

Students read a selection of short stories and either a short novel or a play. Seminar-style class discussions stress the critical approach to literature; in these discussions students learn about the elements of fiction as they learn to read closely and carefully. To complement this endeavor, students regularly write short paragraphs in which they closely analyze passages from the reading. Those who take this course can expect to enter the ninth grade having become more disciplined and more confident readers and writers.

111. Literature and Composition II

Designed for students entering the ninth and tenth grades, this course strives to make students more disciplined, effective writers and more careful, thoughtful readers. Students devote half of their time in and out of class to mastering the skills necessary to write clearly and purposefully; they spend the remainder of their time learning to read and analyze challenging literature.

The writing instruction is designed to enhance students' command of written expression. They learn to compose grammatically sound, controlled sentences by reviewing the principles of grammar, paying particular attention to common sentence faults and to effective coordination and subordination. Concurrently, students are instructed in the fundamentals of paragraph construction: they learn to compose effective topic sentences and to employ a variety of strategies to develop those topic sentences in a unified and coherent fashion. Finally, as they write papers on specific topics, students are systematically exposed to the various stages of the writing process. The course reviews the techniques of brainstorming, organization (outlining and "mapping"), and editing, and it stresses the importance of detail to clear expression. Throughout the session, students prepare a number of papers—paragraphs at the outset and complete essays in the last two weeks—on topics ranging from personal narratives to literary analysis.

Students become more skilled readers by considering a selection of short stories and a novel. Class discussions, focused on the close reading of specific passages, teach the students to read carefully and critically. Their analytical skills become more finely tuned as they learn about the elements of fiction and about specific literary devices. This critical approach is complemented by regular short written exercises in which students learn to express clearly their reactions to what they read.

112. Literature and Composition III

This course, designed for students entering the eleventh and twelfth grades, resembles Literature and Composition II in that it also stresses the development of students' abilities to write clearly and to read critically. However, it is much more ambitious and sophisticated in its approach to both goals.

The course resembles a college seminar in that its focal point is reading and writing about literature. The first two weeks are devoted to a study of the elements of fiction—character, conflict, setting, and theme—as they are developed in several short stories. During the final three weeks, students study a play and a novel. In order to appreciate more fully the possibilities of language, students spend one class per week systematically considering a selection of poems. As they consider this variety of literature, students study various literary devices and are introduced to a variety of critical terms.

Students write in or out of class almost every day. Generally, writing assignments are of two types: short, detailed analyses of passages from the work being studied, and longer paragraphs and essays analyzing a broader idea or element in the work. As students undertake the longer papers, they review such fundamentals of composition as effective topic sentences and thesis statements, unity of expression, and logical transitions between sentences and ideas. And although the course does not include a formal review of grammar, students do discuss common grammatical errors in class and in conferences with their teachers. Evaluation of students' written work is based on its precision of expression, the logic and effectiveness of its organization, and the originality, validity and documentation of its ideas.

TAFT SUMMER SCHOOL  | 110 Woodbury Road | Watertown, Connecticut 06795
Phone: (860) 945-7961 | Fax: (860) 945-7859 | SummerSchool@TaftSchool.org