Academics at TJ


The English program at TJ focuses on four basic verbal skills that students will need most, both in college and throughout their lives: perceptive reading, intelligent discussion, memorization of poetry, and clear writing. At the same time, TJ’s English program cultivates in students a sense of wonder and delight at the power of language to capture human thought and experience. 

List of 4 items.

  • Reading

    Reading is the cornerstone of the English program at TJ. We assign daily reading of books of solid literary merit and depth—not merely excerpts found in Language Arts readers or abridged versions. Across the English curriculum, students read a variety of texts, both literary and nonfiction, in order to both illuminate and complicate our understanding of human experience. We ask the essential question: how do we read life? To answer this question, students delve into works that provide windows into the human experience and mirrors that allow for self-reflection. Literary works that have stood the test of time and remain relevant across decades, places, and people—including two plays by Shakespeare each year—are put into conversation with more contemporary voices. The ultimate aim is for students to examine the human experience with a critical eye and an open mind, developing their skills as objective readers, writers, and thinkers. As a result, they become well versed in the tropes of novels, plays, poems, and essays.
  • Discussion

    Discussion forms the backbone of our English classroom experience and provides students the most immediate forum to respond to and analyze what they read. Since classes are small, each student has the opportunity to interact with the texts every day. Teachers guide students in developing mature engagement with both their readings and their peers. While middle schoolers may benefit from more structured discussions—with the teacher leading and providing guidance as they work through the assignment—high-school students navigate their way to understanding together, through a conversation requiring only light steering by the instructor. By the end of their career at TJ, students are equipped with the discussion skills necessary for success in college: the ability to listen carefully, to argue incisively, and respond thoughtfully.
  • Memory Work

    In every English class, students memorize and recite a large variety of text. Lyric poetry, dramatic verse, and dramatic prose are among the items students commit to memory and perform. The benefits of this labor are undeniable: students in all grades stretch their ability to retain material, and at all turns, their confidence to speak in public soars. Moreover, memorization extends beyond the classroom; the incorporation of some of the greatest poems and soliloquies into the self allows students to carry with them an incalculable wealth of verbal beauty.
  • Writing

    TJ students write nearly every day for their English classes. In addition to longer, traditional writing assignments (quizzes, essays, etc.), all students write four days a week through a program called Outside Reading (O.R.). Consistently hailed by graduates as one of the most valuable activities of their TJ experience, O.R. builds the habits of  a constant process of writing, feedback, and revision. Outside of their daily homework assignment, students read and summarize (or analyze) a brief section of a longer book assigned at the beginning of the year. Once submitted, their work is scrutinized by their teacher for spelling, grammar, usage, factual accuracy, mechanics, and style, and returned for revisions. Different grade levels focus on different elements of expository prose. Each week, students receive a grade for their efforts and lots of comments on how to improve. Teachers use this practice in composing unified paragraphs to help students craft multi-paragraph responses and, eventually, fully developed essays. The school holds the principle of constant writing so important that students compose O.R. even during their vacations.

Select ENGLISH to view course descriptions

Sequences of Courses

Start Your TJ Journey

The best way to get to know TJ is by spending time on campus, meeting our students and experiencing our classes. See our community for yourself at one of our open houses, shadow days, or let us create the perfect visit just for you.

Thomas Jefferson School

4100 S. Lindbergh Boulevard
Saint Louis, MO 63127
P. (314) 843-4151
F. (314) 843-3527