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The English Department at Seattle Academy prepares students for college and life through the practice of essential communication skills. Our curriculum is based first and foremost in writing. Whether in personal or expository essays, poetry or a speech, a writer must defend a position or communicate an idea using details and evidence, and affect the reader through the structure and language. The department also emphasizes close reading as an analytical skill and as a means of appreciating the world’s literature. Performing knowledge in demonstrations and presentations is also vital to students developing confidence and character and, therefore, also a major component of curriculum and assessment at all grade levels. Finally, we understand that not all students learn alike, so we strive to recognize areas of progress in individual students and to identify areas for improvement which will help each student excel in college and in life.

Middle School

In year-long English courses students read challenging adolescent literature including novels, short stories, and poetry designed to engage students in literary discourse. Students reflect on their own life experiences while also analyzing conflicts, setting, characterization, motivating forces, symbols, and themes. They hone their skills through discussion, through writing analytical paragraphs, and through presentations. Each year, students are asked to demonstrate increasing sophistication in all areas, and courses offer increasingly demanding content, assignments, and projects. 

Upper School

English courses in ninth and tenth grades consider the study of history when selecting certain texts or when designing intersecting projects. Students learn various modes, purposes, and styles of writing through exposure to a broad range of literature and learn to evaluate and develop arguments using evidence. To become confident and effective interpreters of information, students also learn the technical vocabulary and research skills required. 

In the eleventh grade, students accompany their study of U.S. History with a study of American Literature and can select from a standard or honors level course, or take our integrated American Studies. In all classes, through reading and writing for a variety of purposes and in various forms, they engage dynamically with texts and write to discover the power of precise language and communication. 

Both standard and honors-level twelfth grade students explore emerging interests in English by choosing their English options from courses as varied as Tolkien’s Universe, Latin American Literature, or Young Playwrights

Salon Project

The Salon Project requires 10th grade students to research a modern, philosophical thinker, with choices ranging from Emma Goldman to Frantz Fanon. They learn the philosopher’s views on the social contract and the role and relationship between the individual, the community, and the government. Students then apply those ideas to current issues in analytical writing. Finally, they gather on stage in the manner of an Enlightenment Salon and act on behalf of their philosopher - discussing differing perspectives on current controversies.

Photo of Seattle Academy Middle School students presenting in class

Culture of Performance

Students learn to speak confidently and to create presentations that are original, content-rich, and organized. While giving a presentation to the class or during a seminar discussion about a literary text, we ask students to practice combining disparate skills in moments of action.

Photo of Seattle Academy student and faculty discussion and inquiry

Discussion and Inquiry

Students take on leadership roles and help one another understand the ideas, issues, and values reflected in a text or topic through group discussion. They practice how to listen to one another, to make meaning, and to find common ground while participating in conversation. 

Photo of Seattle Academy Middle School Student Problem Based Learning in Class

Problem-Based Learning

Students learn how to apply their abilities and knowledge to the world beyond the classroom. They learn how to think from other perspectives, how to grapple with dilemmas in real-time, and how to solve challenges that real institutions face. By developing traditional literacies within projects that promote problem-based learning, we ask students to consider the past, present, and the future. 

Photo of Upper School Student Speaking in front of classroom at Seattle Academy


The English department at Seattle Academy aims to prepare students for college and life through practice of core communication skills: reading, writing, researching, presenting, listening, and critical thinking. We want students to operate with confidence in the academic world but also to be able to use the skills and competencies developed through their English education in their everyday lives.

English at SAAS FAQ

Do you offer honors or advance level for English?

Because Seattle Academy offers a college preparatory curriculum, students in 6th-10th grades take the same grade-level course in English. Students can apply for honors level classes in 11th and 12th grades. Seattle Academy does not offer AP courses. We communicate this information to colleges, who understand and appreciate this choice.