English Department

English Department

Ms. Shoshana Abolafia, Assistant Principal

The mission of Van Buren’s English Department is explicit: to use practiced literacy that affirms the touchstones of academia, for those sources spring great power and freedom.  Proficiency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening forms the foundation of achievement in all academic areas.

The English Department strives to give students the literacy skills they need to succeed in school and in the workplace. As they discuss universal themes in literature, students learn to listen critically and defend their views orally and in writing.  The English Department is preparing our students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century workplace.

The English Department fosters student success in a number of ways:

  • It has implemented a curriculum that integrates Regents tasks into instruction in order to maintain high passing rates on standardized examinations. Saturday immersion programs in January and June for Regents preparation further promote student achievement.
  • Van Buren’s English teachers, practicing professionals, implement research-based strategies that increase the likelihood of student success.

Exciting and creative activities fostered through the English Department:

  • Students who pass the Advanced Placement Course in English Literature and Composition with a score of 3 or 4 can earn up to three college credits at many colleges and universities
  • Drama classes produce live shows and video clips throughout the year
  • Our students participate in many writing contests including the Random House Creative Writing Competition
  • Every April the English Department leads the celebration of National Poetry Month
  • Students have the opportunity to delve into the exciting world of journalism producing “The Beeline,” the school newspaper
  • The very popular creative writing classes produce our literary magazine, “Currents”

English Course Offerings

The English program is a four-year sequence offering challenging courses across the grades. Special programs include grade-level honors classes; College Now program offering college credit courses; drama classes; and reading and writing acceleration classes. In addition to the study of literature and the practice of oral and written communication skills, each course offers specialized units that address such areas as media study, myth and folklore.

*Honors classes are offered to students based on teacher recommendation, high scholastic ability as evidenced generally in a minimum grade of 90, and commitment to the rigors of the curriculum.


Freshman English – Introduction to English-Theme: “The Search for Identity” -Introduction to the various literary genres (novel, short stories, drama, essays, speeches and poetry).

Sophomore English – World Literature-Theme: “The Individual as a Member of Society”- character development and the individual struggle to adapt to a changing world; study of myth and folklore.

Junior English – The American Experience-Theme: “The American Identity and Search for Dignity and Worth in a Growing Nation” –A study of the American experience.

Senior English 7 – English literature- Theme: “Man’s Struggle for Ethical Standards; The Quest for Survival in a Complex World” -A study of the English literary heritage, Anglo-Saxon to 18th century periods.

Senior English 8 – English and world literature- Theme: “Man’s Search for Values in an Uncertain World” -The search for universal values; emphasis on 20th-century works.

Honors-Level Courses – Honors courses are available in all grades

PRE-REQUISITE: Grade of 90 and above in previous non-Honors course. To remain in an Honors-level course, students must achieve a grade of at least 85.

Other English Courses

Creative Writing I-II – The creative writing classes incorporate various strategies that develop student proficiency in writing. Students are encouraged to develop their own creative expression through the written word.

Sophomore English Literature-Accelerated Reading – The Accelerated Reading Course is designed to improve reading and study skills, especially in the content areas. Its objectives are to familiarize students with different reading strategies, to help students identify and comprehend material that is written on a variety of levels, to engage students in problem solving, to develop habits of proficient readers, and to promote effective study skills. During the reading process, pupils are encouraged to access prior knowledge, ask questions, make predictions, recognize context clues, and make inferences.

Introduction to Journalism – The Introduction to Journalism Course is designed for students with interests in the world around them, in advanced writing, and in learning formats specifically designed for the dissemination of information to a wide audience. This course will establish solid skills in the five major areas of journalism: reporting, writing, production, ethics, and teamwork; and will provide students with the foundation necessary to pursue more advanced areas of journalism. Considerable emphasis is placed on ethics and teamwork, enabling students to take journalism beyond the classroom and into successful practice via publication in the school newspaper and beyond.

Advanced Placement English (AP English) – AP English is a challenging senior English course designed for enthusiastic readers, effective and creative writers, and articulate speakers who want to experience freshman college English. A. P. students hope to develop a deep appreciation for the beauty and efficacy of the English Language as it is used in all genres.

The focus of the course is on interpretive reading of the classics, and on composing critical essays about literature. Students who take the Advanced Placement exam in May, may qualify for advanced standing in college.  PRE-REQUISITE: Grade of at least 90 and/or Department approval

Double Period Freshman English – This is a ninth-grade balanced literacy course designed to improve the literacy skills of students who are approaching competency levels in English Language Arts. The course encourages student reading through in-class libraries and use of Achieve 3000 software ensuring twenty-minutes daily of independent reading time. Instructors explicitly model the habits of proficient readers in Read-Aloud sessions, pausing occasionally to ask questions openly or make inferences (as proficient readers would do silently).  This is a literacy saturation program: Independent Reading is followed by the Read-Aloud and the post-Read-Aloud conversation which, in turn, is followed by mini-lessons on literary topics and by workshop periods that involve individual students and groups in additional reading and writing activities. The goal is to raise reading levels so that students can succeed in the classroom and graduate on schedule.