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Values, Vision, Voice

To receive a Preston High School diploma, a student must pass with a grade of 65 or higher during her four years of English study. At the end of her junior year, a Preston student takes The New York State Common Core Regents Exam in English.  

9th Grade 

We might rightly subtitle this course “Reading and Writing for High School Success” because it emphasizes developmental reading and writing skills. Students learn strategies for improving their comprehension of difficult texts while we also highlight expanding vocabulary. Students will read a variety of works from a wide range of genres such as The Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color of Water, short stories, and poetry. Students also hone their writing skills through grammar and process-instruction. Students compose expository, persuasive, analytical, researched, and creative pieces—therefore developing a varied portfolio of their writing accomplishments.  Preparation for the NYS Common Core English Regents Exam begins at this stage. We also offer an honors section for qualified students.

This required, year-long course addresses all freshmen in a reading-workshop structure so they can strengthen reading-comprehension strategies needed for all content areas. Pieces from an English class, for example, initiates reading strategies while history, science, religion, math, language, and art content offers opportunities for students to subsequently reinforce such techniques. Like any course, this class requires classwork, homework, tests, quizzes, and group projects. Later in the year, particular attention centers on SAT and Common Core test-taking strategies. By the course’s end, students should more thoroughly understand their thinking processes so they can pride themselves in becoming independent and cognizant learners.

For one quarter of the year, freshmen take this course to practice planned, impromptu, and creative public speaking tasks. Through such informal and formal projects, students learn the craft and skills involved with public oration and active, productive listening. 

10th Grade

Students study British Literature from the Old English period to modern times. We emphasize analytical and persuasive essays, creative writing, and literary research papers. Additional instruction includes oral presentations, vocabulary practice, grammar strategies, close readings of literary texts, independent readings, and PSAT preparation. Instruction for the NYS Common Core English Regents Exam also continues. In addition to a textbook, the students will read a variety of works from British literature, including Grendel, Pride and Prejudice, and Macbeth. To enroll in this course, a student must have successfully completed English 1. To enroll in the honors level course, a student must have mastered English 1 and receive departmental approval. 

11th Grade

Students study American Literature to understand the country’s philosophical underpinnings and how they influence our modern age. Through practicing close reading, analytical and persuasive writing, and literary research, students sharpen their critical thinking to understand not only what they read, but what they observe in the world around them. Additional instruction includes oral presentations, vocabulary practice, and SAT preparation. Instruction for the NYS Common Core English Regents Exam also continues, as students take the exam during their junior year, in June. Students read a variety of works including The Crucible, The Great Gatsby, Transcendentalist essays, and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  To enroll in this course, a student must have successfully completed English 2.

This course enhances analytical writing, critical reading and thinking skills to prepare students for success in college and the workplace.  Students read a broad spectrum of non-fiction and visual texts to analyze rhetoric, language and images.  Each student takes the AP English Language and Composition exam in May and the New York State ELA Common Core exam in June.  (Please see the ‘Criteria for Entrance into Honors Classes’ tab for more detailed information on qualifying for this class.) 

Prerequisite: To take this class, a student must have successfully completed English 2 Honors, achieved an average of 90 in the English Regents class, and must have submitted a writing sample administered by the English Department. In addition, all potential students for this class must receive departmental approval.

12th Grade

This full-year course focuses on an in-depth study of a wide range of literary texts. Literature studied has included Hamlet, Oedipus Rex, Death of a Salesman, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, The Awakening, The Things They Carried, as well as shorter works. Emphasis is also placed on the refinement of analytical writing skills, as well as preparation for the Advanced Placement exam given in early May. All students taking this course are expected to sit for this exam. Students are also required to complete several analytical research projects based on their reading.

Prerequisite: Enrollment in this class requires the permission of the course instructor or the department chairperson.

This full-year course involves an extensive study of the history of film. Both the technological, historical and sociological aspects of film are studied in a chronological pattern, enabling the student to evaluate the development of film as an art form and as a representation of modern culture. Both American and foreign films are studied and emphasis is given to specific periods in film history, such as Silent Film and Film Noir. Films are viewed and discussed in class. The writing aspects of this class include tests and essays. This course culminates in a research project or an oral or filmed presentation.

All non-AP students are required to take this one-semester course during the fall term. The course emphasizes close reading of texts and continued development of higher-order reading and thinking skills vital for success in college. The writing component of the course emphasizes analytical writing; a research paper is required. Works studied include a broad range of literature representing major components of the Western Canon and world literature and an eclectic assortment of authors.

The American Musical

This is a spring semester course for Senior Regents English. This course will focus on the history of the American musical and the way it has influenced and been influenced by various historical and social movements. It will begin with Vaudeville and the emergence of the Gershwins, and follow its development through Rogers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, the 60s, Stephen Sondheim and Lin Manuel Miranda. The survey will be organized around these questions: How did the revue format of vaudeville morph into the story form of the musical? How do musicals reflect the time and place in which they are written? How has the musical changed in relation to the form? How has popular music affected the musical? How has the musical dealt with the Western literary canon? How has the musical dealt with the Bible? 


Food Ed: Think, Cook, Eat, and Reclaim Power Over Our Food System       

This Stone Barns’s Food Education course intends to expose students to various ways Americans source and prepare their foods. Throughout this spring-semester, students will, most importantly, cook, eat, and on other days, engage in tastings: at least once per week and at most once per class, students should turn their classroom into a kitchen lab (complete with a portable sink) to master knife skills, natural seasoning techniques, and even the curing process—all to learn how they may exercise their own power over the food they eat.  Additionally, students will visit Stone Barns Farm, in Tarrytown, to learn about sustainable farming practices and how they influence the taste, nutritional values, and prices of local and organic foods. By the semester’s end, students will teach others about their newly-garnered knowledge as they choose one group in their community (the fellow student body, faculty, attendees of the nearby nursing home or soup kitchen) to receive the class’s ‘Mindful Meal’—an event where students plan, source, prepare, and cook dishes that represent the principles they uncovered from this course. Stone Barns recently won a grant for Preston, providing the school with kitchen supplies and materials to enable this course’s existence in perpetuity.  


Androids, Aliens, and Algernon- Oh My! Exploring the “what ifs” and more in the world of Science Fiction

As much of current pop culture has a basis in science fiction, this course aims to look at the roots by exploring the principles of science fiction and what they tell us about our own world through various texts, authors, and media in the English 4 second semester. By the end of the semester students should explore various angles of the question “What if?” and its implications (What if humanity ceased to exist but machines/systems didn’t? What if humans lived on other planets?); analyze how authors critique our world through the lens of science fiction; and evaluate what it really means to be human.


Lean In and Leave Your Mark: Work, Etiquette, and Dress for the Professional Woman                                                          

Since we currently live in a professionally competitive world, one may understand the need for a class that specifically targets professional skills and uses media (beyond classroom capabilities) to help students apply and earn real-world jobs that can help them throughout college and their future careers. ‘Lean In and Leave Your Mark,’ therefore, uses the English 4, spring-semester choice slot to teach students career-focused, twenty-first-century skills such as mission-statement writing, resume and cover letter construction, Linked-In profile-creation, networking methods, professional interviewing skills, digital portfolios, and business writing. With this course, students should understand the theoretical underpinnings and practical obligations to succeed in an actual work environment. Through varied assessments, trips, and panel discussions with actual professionals (ideally), students should practice and hone their skills for the real world, and all its competition.  


Reading Shakespeare: Understanding the Bard with No Fear   

In most colleges, students must take a Shakespeare course to graduate—even as non-English majors. This year, Preston allows seniors to study such a course while still in high school, to earn a head-start. Through SUNY-Albany and FIT’s University in the High School Program, students take this college course their senior year and earn three credits towards their Literature courses, valid for any SUNY college. This course also enables students to easily embrace Shakespeare: the class studies his most interesting, relevant, and referenced plays such as Othello, Richard III, and Twelfth Night. The course also links these works with film so students not only read but see them as the playwright intended—alive.

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