Literary Studies:

We select advanced reading level texts that are rich in content and vocabulary. We utilize both a classic canon and contemporary works. Literary studies provide an opportunity to learn about life experiences and cultures different than your own. It builds empathy, understanding and compassion for others, helping us fulfill our mission goal of developing students who will have the desire to service their communities be it at the local, national, or global level throughout their lives.

Close reading and annotation skills are further expanded, providing students with the ability to have textual support for their positions either verbally or written. Employing the Socratic method, students voice their interpretations of the text, literary devices used, author’s intent, and more. There is nowhere to hide in these small classes so each child develops his or her distinct voice. These lessons prove invaluable to the entering college student.

When learning to write research papers, students take walking field trips to the University of Texas’ main library. They learn how to conduct preliminary research using The Perry-Castañeda Library’s online catalogue. On their day-long field trip, they learn how to navigate the stacks, copy information needed for proper MLA citation and utilize primary resources and others.

Course Offerings

American Literature

9th Grade
Through a chronological survey, this course will consider American literature’s development. Using historical context, their study will extrapolate generational experiences revealed through literary texts. One highlight of the course will be its diversity of textual voices. They will also discuss the evolving sense of American identity as expressed through major literary works. Surveying our own literary heritage will open up opportunities for self-knowledge as well as a greater understanding of our world. Pre-AP teaching strategies are used.

Selected texts may include a study of Emerson and Thoreau and Transcendentalism, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Miller’s play The Crucible, and short story and poetry anthologies.

World Literature

10th Grade
Through a rigorous survey of a broad range of texts, this sophomore-level course will ground students in mythic and literary traditions from around the world. Students will build their close reading and analytical writing skills, demonstrating mastery of pre-AP strategies to prepare them for their junior and senior level AP courses. Through the close reading of selected texts, students will deepen their understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure for their readers. In addition to considering a work’s literary artistry, students will reflect on the social and historical values it embodies. Building their skills in both verbal and written articulation of their insights into a text, students will offer each other a lively forum for the expression of global thinking.

Selected texts may include Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees, Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller, and The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Volumes 1 & 2. Tenth graders continue their Shakespearean studies by reading whichever play the actors from the London Stage will be performing that Fall while in residence at the University of Texas. They will also attend that production. To see teenagers fully engaged in a Shakespearean performance because they understand it is amazing. A graduate of our upper school, who has attended middle school here as well, will have studied six different Shakespeare plays and have an awareness of the many ways his works continue to influence the arts and often our communication.

AP Literature and Composition

11th Grade
This Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition course will engage students in close readings and analysis of imaginative literature. Through regular practice in working a text, students will gain a literary vocabulary, which facilitate their analysis of both the larger element of structure, style, and themes, and smaller-scale elements as the use of figurative language, imagery, symbolism, and tone. By probing beyond the surface of a text, students will develop a greater appreciation of an author’s craft. As they participate in a guided survey of English literature, students will articulate their close observations about a text through both regular class discussion and through extensive writing. Building on their previous survey course of American literature, students will conduct an in-depth, independent study of a long American novel. As a college-level course, this class will be rigorous and challenging, providing students will great growth potential.

Selected texts may include Shelley’s Frankenstein, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and Bell’s Well-Lighted Sentences. They continue their Shakespearean studies reading whichever play the actors from the London Stage will be performing that Fall while in residence at the University of Texas, culminating with attendance to that production.

AP English Language and Composition

12th Grade
Per the College Board, “the AP Language and Composition course requires students to become skilled readers of prose written in a variety of rhetorical contexts and skilled writers who compose for a variety of purposes. Both their reading and their writing should make students aware of interactions among a writer’s purposes, reader expectations, and an author’s propositional content, as well as the genre conventions and the resources of language that contributes to effectiveness in writing.

“At the heart an AP English Language and Composition course is the reading of various texts. Reading facilitates informed citizenship and thus increases students’ capacity to enter into consequential conversations with others about meaningful issues. Also contributing to students’ informed citizenship is their ability to gather source materials representing particular conversations and then make their own reasonable and informed contributions to those conversations. Students’ ability to engage with outside sources in their reading, writing, and research is an important measure of their intellectual growth.”

Selected text may include, David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, Ta-hanesi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and Toni Morrison’s Jazz. They continue their Shakespearean studies reading whichever play the actors from the London Stage will be performing that Fall while in residence at the University of Texas, culminating with attendance to that production.

Writing:

Being able to write well is a skill that will greatly benefit your child. Communicating ably, both in speech and writing, is essential to a successful career. Whether your child becomes a doctor, engineer, business entrepreneur, lawyer, or pursues another path entirely, written communication skills will set them apart. All too often, college professors bemoan the lack of freshman students with sufficient writing skills. Our graduates experience the opposite. Kirby Hall alumni are regularly asked by professors where they gained their exemplary writing skills.

The writing program at Kirby Hall is exceptional. Writing is taught as a process, with individual guidance each step of the way. Students propose a thesis statement, which receives teacher feedback. Next, they move on to their outline and rough draft, both of which also receive teacher feedback. The teacher provides extensive written comments and review of the rough draft, culminating with an individual writing conference with the students to ensure they understand the edits needed. Students then submit their final drafts. They learn the value of a thoughtful approach to writing and to allocate the time necessary to produce quality work. Given that all of our classes are taught at the “Pre-AP” or AP level, there are also on-demand, timed writing in-class exercises to prepare them for the AP exam.

Vocabulary Building:

A rich knowledge of vocabulary supports one’s writing and ability to analyze texts. We continue with Wordly Wise, working ahead one grade level. Several of the accompanying exercises for each weekly list challenge the students’ higher-order thinking skills involving analysis, synthesis and inferential thinking.

Math:

At Kirby Hall, we are constantly working to challenge our students. Most long-term Kirby Hall students are consistently working one to two years above grade level. Truly gifted math students advance in 7th to upper school math courses, receiving high school credits. This is in keeping with our philosophy of elevating the learning experience. Thus, a math course may have students of different grades. For a typical advanced Kirby Hall math student, the course of study will be:

Course Offerings

Honors Algebra I

7th Grade – For High School Credit
Saxon Algebra 1 covers all the topics in a first-year algebra course and builds the algebraic foundation essential for all students to solve increasingly complex problems. Higher order thinking skills use real-world applications, reasoning and justification to make connections to math strands. Algebra 1 focuses on algebraic thinking and multiple representations – verbal, numeric, symbolic, and graphical.

Honors Geometry

8th Grade – For High School Credit

Honors Algebra II

9th Grade
Traditional second-year algebra topics, as well as a full semester of informal geometry, are included with both real-world, abstract and interdisciplinary applications. Topics include geometric functions like angles, perimeters, and proportional segments; negative exponents; quadratic equations; metric conversions; logarithms; and advanced factoring.

Honors Pre-Calculus

10th Grade

AP Calculus AB

11th Grade
Kirby Hall’s AP Calculus AB curriculum is submitted to the College Board for approval. According to the College Board, “AP Calculus AB is roughly equivalent to a first semester college calculus course devoted to topics in differential and integral calculus. The AP course covers topics in these areas, including concepts and skills of limits, derivatives, definite integrals, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. The course teaches students to approach calculus concepts and problems when they are represented graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally, and to make connections amongst these representations.
“Student learn how to use technology to help solve problems, experiment, interpret results, and support conclusions.”

AP Calculus BC

12th Grade
Kirby Hall’s AP Calculus BC curriculum is submitted to the College Board for approval. According to the College Board, “AP Calculus BC is roughly equivalent to both first and second semester college calculus courses and extends the content learned in AB to different types of equations and introduces the topic of sequences and series. The AP course covers topics in differential and integral calculus, including concepts and skills of limits, derivative, definite integrals, the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and series. The course teaches students to approach calculus concepts and problems when they are represented graphically, numerically, analytically, and verbally, and to make connections amongst these representatives.
“Students learn how to use technology to help solve problems, experiment, interpret results, and support conclusions.”

AP Statistics

12th Grade
Kirby Hall’s AP Statistic curriculum is submitted to the College Board for approval. According to the College Board, “the AP Statistics course is equivalent to a one-semester, introductory, non-calculus-based college course in statistics. The course introduces students to the major concepts and tools for collecting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from data. There are four themes in the AP Statistics course: exploring data, sampling and experimentation, anticipating patterns, and statistical inference. Students use technology, investigations, problem solving, and writing as they build conceptual understanding.”

Science:

We have a multi-layered approach to teaching science, including hands-on project-based learning and analysis of scientific publications and lectures. We feel this is the best way to prepare students for scientific study in college and the 21st century workplace. Technology is incorporated in a variety of ways, including virtual experiments, virtual tours, and multimedia presentations. In our Makers Spaces students apply math, science and engineering concepts with project-based learning. Here we encourage them to take risks, be creative and collaborate as they develop their inquiry and process skills.

For a typical advanced Kirby Hall science student, the course of study will be:

Honors Biology

8th Grade – For High School Credit – Employs Pre-AP Teaching Strategies

Honors Chemistry

9th Grade – Employs Pre-AP Teaching Strategies

Honors Physics

10th Grade – Employs Pre-AP Teaching Strategies

AP Biology

11th Grade

History:

We approach the teaching of history as narrative, resulting in content that is rich and thought-provoking. Students learn to utilize primary source material which facilitates seeing the past through the eyes of those who lived it. Our small seminar-style classes allow for deep exploration of what came before us to inform our present and future. We take advantage of our location, with students conducting research at The University of Texas’s Perry-Castañeda Library.

As Carl Sagan wrote, “You have to know the past to understand the present.”

Honors Geography

9th Grade

AP European History

10th Grade
Kirby Hall’s syllabus is approved by the College Board, which states, “The AP European History course focuses on developing students’ understanding of European history from approximately 1450 to the present. The course has students investigate the content of European history for significant events, individuals, developments, and processes in four historical periods, and develop and use the same thinking skills and methods (analyzing, primary and secondary sources, making historical comparisons, chronological reasoning, and argumentation) employed by historians when they study the past. The course also provides five themes (interaction of Europe and the world; poverty and prosperity; objective knowledge and subjective visions; states and other institutions of power; and the individual and society) that students explore throughout the course in order to make connections among historical developments in different times and places.”

AP U.S. History

11th Grade
Kirby Hall’s syllabus is approved by the College Board, which states, “The AP U.S. History course focuses on the development of historical thinking skills (chronological reasoning, comparing and contextualizing, crafting historical arguments using historical evidence, and interpreting and synthesizing historical narrative) and the development of students’ abilities to think conceptually about U.S. history from approximately 1491 to the present. Seven themes of equal importance – American and National identity; Migration and Settlement; Politics and Power; Work, Exchange, and Technology; America in the World; Geography and the Environment; and Culture and Society – provide areas of historical inquiry for investigation throughout the course. These require students to reason historically about continuity and change over time and make comparisons among various historical developments in different times and places.

AP Macroeconomics

12th Grade
Kirby Hall’s syllabus is approved by the College Board, which states, “AP Macroeconomics is an introductory college-level course that focuses on the principles that apply to an economic system as a whole. The course places particular emphasis on the study of national income and price-level determination; it also develops students’ familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies, economic growth, and international economics. Students learn to use graphs, charts, and data to analyze, describe, and explain economic concepts. This is a one semester course.

AP United States Government & Politics

Kirby Hall’s syllabus is approved by the College Board, which states, “AP United States Government and Politics introduces students to key political ideas, institutions, roles, and behaviors that characterize the political culture of the United States. The course examines politically significant concepts and themes, through which students learn to apply disciplinary reasoning to assess causes and consequences of political events, and interpret data to develop evidence-based arguments.

Spanish:

Kirby Hall is committed to creating truly bi-lingual students. Because our students start their Spanish studies at four years of age, they are taking Spanish for high school credit in the seventh grade. Advanced Placement level course work begins no later than 11th grade. It is both a course of study in the speaking and proper writing of Spanish, literary studies of such works as Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which students read in Spanish, as well as a cultural and historical study of Spain and Latin America. The rigor and strength of this program would be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Students who graduate from Kirby Hall typically are placing in second or third year college level Spanish.

Dual Credit Courses

Kirby Hall is pleased to work with the University of Texas at Austin to offer dual credit courses. This is an ideal option for those seeking a flexible schedule or the desire to earn college credits during their last two years of high school. Students will receive a transcript from the university and the credit will also be reflected on their Kirby Hall transcript and satisfy Kirby Hall graduation requirements.

English 3 Dual Credit Course

Masterworks of Literature-American Literature
University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 1 Kirby credit)

English 4 Dual Credit Course

Masterworks of Literature-British Literature
University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 1 Kirby credit)

Second Year Spanish 1 Dual Credit Course

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 1 Kirby credit)

Second Year Spanish 2 Dual Credit Course

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 1 AESA credit)

Introduction Microeconomics Dual Credit Course

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 0.5 Kirby credit)

American Government Dual Credit Course

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 0.5 Kirby credit)

U.S. History 1400….

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 0.5 Kirby credit)

U.S. History 1895 to present

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 0.5 Kirby credit)

Preparation for Calculus

University Extension-The University of Texas at Austin
(UT credit and 1 Kirby credit)

Socratic Seminar

The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others.

Elfie Israel succinctly defines Socratic seminars and implies their rich benefits for students:
The Socratic seminar is a formal discussion, based on a text, in which the leader asks open-ended questions. Within the context of the discussion, students listen closely to the comments of others, thinking critically for themselves, and articulate their own thoughts and their responses to the thoughts of others. They learn to work cooperatively and to question intelligently and civilly. (89)

Israel, Elfie. “Examining Multiple Perspectives in Literature.” In Inquiry and the Literary Text: Constructing Discussions n the English Classroom. James Holden and John S. Schmit, eds. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2002.

Choosing a text: Socratic seminars work best with authentic texts that invite authentic inquiry—an ambiguous and appealing short story, a pair of contrasting primary documents in social studies, or an article on a controversial approach to an ongoing scientific problem.
Preparing the students: While students should read carefully and prepare well for every class session, it is usually best to tell students ahead of time when they will be expected to participate in a Socratic seminar. Because seminars ask students to keep focusing back on the text, you may distribute sticky notes for students to use to annotate the text as they read.

The purpose of a Socratic Seminar is to achieve a deeper understanding about the ideas and values in a text. In the Seminar, participants systematically question and examine issues and principles related to a particular content, and articulate different points-of-view. The group conversation assists participants in constructing meaning through disciplined analysis, interpretation, listening, and participation.
– The National Paideia Center

A Socratic discussion is a text-based discussion in which an individual sets their own interpretations of the text alongside those of other participants. The aim is a mutual search for a clearer, wider and deeper (‘enlarged’) understanding of the ideas, issues, and values in the text at hand. It is shared inquiry, not debate; there is no opponent save the perplexity all persons face when they try to understand something that is both difficult and important. — Walter Parker, PhD, University of Washington