The English department at Rochelle Zell helps to develop students’ appreciation and love for reading as well as the ability to communicate effectively in written and spoken expression. The program is rich with opportunities for critical thinking, self analysis and creativity; it is designed to meet our students’ developmental needs at each grade level.

Most of the curriculum follows a chronological sequence, which runs parallel to classes in History and Judaic Studies and allows for an integration of different subject areas. In addition, each grade level focuses on a central question appropriate to that particular stage of adolescent development so that literature becomes an important vehicle for students to explore and understand themselves and their worlds.

Rochelle Zell freshmen study Ancient and Classical literature. They examine: humanity’s place in the universe, the importance of story, myth and the question of free will. The focus is on developing reading strategies, identifying and understanding poetic devices in literature, developing and using the thesis statement and understanding and employing standard grammar. In addition, group discussion and debate skills are introduced.

Rochelle Zell sophomores focus on British and European literature. Students at this level reflect on the challenges that confront the people who possess some measure of free will. They will examine the difficulties we have creating order in the world within our families and our lives. During this year, there is readings of greater complexity and length, which demand more developed reading skills. The writing assignments encourage originality of thought and the logical development of ideas. The English curriculum at this level includes more formal speech assignments and more structured debate.

Rochelle Zell juniors reflect on what it means to be an American, an American Jew and the multifaceted definition of the American Dream. This course examines the major periods in American history and pays special attention to the texts of important speeches. The emphasis is on identifying rhetorical devices and analyzing the different voices in texts. The ultimate goal is for students to find their own voices in their writing. During this course, students will explore a topic in American literature and utilize this material in writing a final speech where they explore their identities as Americans and as Jews.

Rochelle Zell seniors continue to examine their identities but now within the context of the literature of the world. Seniors have the opportunity to study World Literature at either the College Prep or AP level. In both levels, the previous question of, “Who am I?” is now understood within a broad, cultural and religious framework that encourages students to test and bring forth stronger claim to their own beliefs and values. During the second semester, students will examine the different elements of film while continuing their focus on reading, writing and research. Students will also be required to complete a senior project, which consists of research, a personal statement and an oral presentation.

Throughout their four years at Rochelle Zell, students are exposed to different historical eras, genres and voices within their reading. They work on writing within several modes—creatively and analytically—with the emphasis on expository analysis of the literature studied. The school curriculum places high emphasizes on writing and believes it is an important means of analysis. The writing process involves reading journals, note taking, pre-writing, outlining, preparing multiple drafts, peer editing, shared reader response and individual conferencing.

Did you know?
Our English classes use diverse disciplines including drama, history, philosophy, psychology and Judaic studies to make reading and writing more relevant to students’ lives.

Students have the opportunity to view theatrical productions that reinforce the curriculum of their respective grade levels. In the past, freshmen have gone to the Lookingglass Theater to see Argonautika, an adaptation of Jason and the Golden Fleece. There have been other trips to: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Court Theater and Steppenwolf Theater.

Rochelle Zell students also participate in an all-school poetry recitation contest sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

"RZJHS taught me how to be an individual, how to think critically, and to how contribute to a larger community."

Sydni C. '09

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