Department Spotlight: Headwaters School English and Language Arts

Headwaters School

Tia / IB Language and Literature I & II (Year 11 and 12)

By Tia Butler, PhD 
IB Language and Literature I & II is a two-year course designed to empower students to excel in written and spoken communication, foster critical thinking, and explore global literary perspectives. In Year I, juniors hone their habitual writing and early research skills while delving into the rich and diverse literature of the Caribbean and Caribbean Diaspora through the works of authors Edwidge Danticat and Junot Díaz. Students actively participate in in-class debates, refine their writing abilities, and sharpen their textual analysis skills as they begin to prepare for the IB Learner’s Record, a portfolio of the knowledge produced throughout the course. Year Two, the senior year, marks the culmination of this remarkable journey. Students engage with two final texts, one of which includes Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer Prize-winning album, DAMN. This phase is dedicated to finalizing their IB Language and Literature Portfolios, a collection of culminating projects and essays. These portfolios include a self-designed textual analysis paper known as the Higher Level Essay (HLE), wherein students formulate their research question to explore the depths of their chosen text. Additionally, they tackle the Individual Oral (IO) essay, which compares a literary work with a non-literary piece, analyzing their connection to a global issue personally selected by each student. Our program also prepares students for the challenges ahead by instilling valuable lessons in self-responsibility and self-advocacy over their work. Through these two years, our students build resilience and competence, ensuring they are well-prepared for whatever path they choose to follow.

English 9 & English 10

By Jen Masterson
The first two years of high school English at Headwaters are designed to transition students from middle school language arts to the IB Diploma Programme. Students frequently engage in meaningful annotation, self-reflection, poetry recitation, group and partner work, class presentations, project planning, task management, grammar, language mechanics, rhetorical and literary analysis, and various types of writing. Student choice is a vital part of the curriculum and shows up in all aspects of learning in and out of the classroom. Ninth graders practice writing IB Paper 1, which is an analysis of unseen texts, and the Higher-Level Essay, a focused, analytical argument examining texts from a broad literary or linguistic perspective. In tenth grade, students explore two other IB assessments: Paper 2 and the Individual Oral. This scaffolded, supportive approach helps students gain the necessary skills to thrive in the rigorous IB English Language and Literature coursework.

7th & 8th English

By Will Clark
Headwaters 7th and 8th graders bring an impressive range of literacies and perspectives with them to the English classroom. In collaboration with guides from across disciplines, students are encouraged to rely on their unique voices to express original thinking in writing and empathy in their literary analysis. English assessments prompt students to choose between multimodal options such as formal essays, sequential art, podcasts, book trailers, and infographics to creatively demonstrate their comprehension of topic themes. This curiosity-driven approach extends into the English curriculum, and over the course of their middle school experience, students will examine multiple genres, contexts, and cultures in order to develop a worldview appropriate for the twenty-first century. All Headwaters guides encourage students to think and create originally in order to advocate for peace in the world, and the Headwaters English team and curriculum embrace its essential role in enabling students to achieve this mission. 

6th ELA

By Lindsay Doleshal
In sixth grade, students are spending a lot of time playing with words and coming into their own as writers.  They are given core lessons of grammar, mechanics, and structure in their writing.  Whilst learning the notes to play, they are experiencing a daily practice of playful writing, inspired by creative prompts.  It is our belief that learning happens best when it is presented in a safe and playful space, a space that allows students to be vulnerable and share their writing and ideas. The writing prompts are original prompts, based on the interests of the students. Sixth Grade is also continually reading diverse texts by diverse authors, written in various styles (prose, verse, fairy tales, letters, graphic novels) and students are allowed to utilize audible books, books on tablets, whatever they need to process the information at their highest level of thinking. 
In addition to diverse texts and modes of learning, sixth grade assessments of each unit include choice.  Their assessments range from scoring a novel to creating a 3-D diorama of a scene or setting from the book to a traditional, five-paragraph essay.  We recognize that students learn in different ways, so we must diversify our assessments to allow for a more equitable classroom.

Our classes build upon each other with ease as we all maintain a standard of quality that is appropriate for each grade level.  We all teach the skill of writing, beginning in sixth with the five-paragraph-essay, poetry, and creative tales.  As students move forward, their writing skills are enhanced with new vocabulary and varying structures for essays. And, though the grammar lesson changes, we all invite students to find their voice as writers and literary thinkers, as critics of written and spoken language.  We are all committed to diverse literature in a desire to awaken or stoke the flames of curiosity and empathy, and because we love words.  All the words.  All the ways the words may wind about to make sense of ourselves. To make sense of this bumbling human experiment.

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As a 501(c)3 non-profit school, Headwaters School does not discriminate because of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other classes protected by federal, state, or local law in its admissions, financial aid, hiring, or board membership processes.