English Language Arts

At Blake, English Language Arts teachers believe that students learn by doing—reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing.

Classes along the PK-12 spectrum develop:

  • fundamental skills in understanding the written and spoken word including phonics, spelling, vocabulary and writing conventions—always with an emphasis on comprehension and clarity;
  • the practice of writing as a process and a craft that involves planning, drafting, revision, feedback and editing; and
  • proficiency in analysis and interpretation of a wide variety of texts that demonstrate the great diversity of human experiences.

These skills foster curiosity, lifelong learning and intellectual engagement. They help Blake students and alumni to interpret the world around them, maintain an articulate voice in the community and effect change in our ever-changing world.

Building a Foundation: Grades Pre-K Through 5

Lower School classes are rich in experiential activities. Children play, explore, take risks and collaborate. In programs such as Fundations, students move their whole body to trace letters. The activity integrates visual and auditory clues as students commit letters and sounds to long-term memory.

Students learn about the world by creating their own Harold and the Purple Crayon stories, composing poems inspired by Mary Oliver and other famous poets, participating in book clubs where they discuss positive identity development and presenting research findings about sustainable water resources.

Dynamic interaction remains at the heart of the Language Arts program. Learning is fostered by students' relationships with each other, the teacher and the texts they read, create and discuss.

Topic Areas


Experiences with Many Types of Books • Exposure to Storytelling and Poetry • Reading Readiness Skills: Rhyming, Prediction, Picture Cues, Vocabulary Development • Phonemic Awareness • Recording of Ideas through Pictures, Letters, Words, Sentences, Stories, Dictation • Speaking and Listening Skills



Literature Appreciation: Genre and Author Studies • Reading Comprehension Strategies: Using Background Knowledge, Making Predictions, Monitoring Comprehension, Inferring, Visualizing, Determining Importance, Synthesizing, Sensory Imaging, Asking Questions • Written Response to Literature • Phonics and Word Analysis • Vocabulary Development • Writing Process: Brainstorming, Drafting, Revising, Editing, Publishing • Writing Skills: Punctuation, Capitalization, Sentence Structure, Paragraph Organization and Development, Elaboration, Grammar, Spelling (Phonetic Spelling Leading to Conventional Spelling) • Speaking and Listening Skills: Oral Discussions and Presentations, Active Listening.

Increasing Complexity: Grades 6 Through 8

In Middle School English classes, skill development spirals. Students read. They talk together in order to make meaning out of what they read. They write, reconsider and revise. They learn from each other, and they take action.

In the sixth grade Humanities course, students build global and intercultural competence as they learn to engage across differences by investigating multiple perspectives. Sixth graders research and write about world issues such as human rights and the experiences of immigrants. Seventh graders draft and perform original spoken word poems in collaboration with Blake's annual Poet in Residence. Eighth graders work with a professional coach to hone their presentation skills and deliver persuasive speeches to an assembly of their peers. Students' deeper understanding of texts develops in tandem with a deeper understanding of the world.

An Array of Ideas: Grades 9 Through 12

Upper School students actively engage with the written and spoken word to gain intellectual and emotional insights about themselves, each other and the world. These opportunities help them become literate, compassionate and culturally competent global citizens.

Ninth graders hone critical and creative writing skills as they study literature in conjunction with world cultures, reading works that include The OdysseyThe Ramayana and Krik? Krak!

Sophomores develop close reading skills as they analyze, interpret and respond to works of American literature such as Their Eyes Were Watching God, the poetry of Emily Dickinson and The Things They Carried.

Juniors and seniors choose among an exciting variety of electives (structured as seminars) with an intensive focus on literary study and the writing process. Selections range from AP English Literature and Composition to electives such as Myth and Memory, Shakespeare, African American Literature, and Native American Fiction and Film.