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by Eileen Carlson, English Teacher

From the Mount de Sales Academy’s de Sales Sheet Magazine. Fall 2023.

Our English faculty hears a familiar refrain from alums who come back to campus to visit during their college breaks:  “All those papers you made us write really helped.”  “I help my college friends with their papers.” Mount de Sales boasts a strong tradition of preparing students to be competent, thoughtful writers.

In the 1990’s, my former colleague and mentor, Sandra Tate, created and implemented a program she called Connect Write to give students writing experience beyond, but connected to, their English classes.  Over the years, inspired by Mrs. Tate’s vision and passion for teaching writing, we have offered a myriad of opportunities and incentives for our students to write, forging connections between disciplines and between people.

Why do our students write?

Students write to learn.  Our teachers understand the value of writing to learn.  In Theresa Mosbrucker’s Spanish class, students summarize complex stories and thoughts into accessible Spanish words, drawing from multimedia forms—movie clips, short stories, and books. Sarah Corum’s math students write their own work problems for classmates to solve and express mathematical processes in sentences to clarify and justify their work. A favorite math project in Mrs. Corum’s class invites students to explain a mathematical concept in the form of a popular song lyric, creating a music video.

Each year at Mount de Sales, students write essays and research papers, progressing from exposition to argument to analysis and synthesis, until they leave MDS well prepared to write college level papers. Beginning in 6th grade, Katherine Smith teaches her students to compare and contrast academic concepts in their writing.  Building on this foundation, Martha Barrett guides middle school writers through increasingly complex and varied writing, introducing research skills, descriptive and narrative writing, and literary analysis.

Students write to express their ideas and beliefs. Emma Butler challenges ninth graders to identify and share their passions in This I Believe essays, and Theology teachers ask students to reflect thoughtfully on their community service work, on their faith or their doubts.

Students write to explore and confirm their strengths, talents, and goals.   My 11th grade students write their first college essay as an English assignment, then collaborate with their college counselor and senior English teachers to revise and rewrite these vital documents.

Students write to prepare for college and career success.  Among our many AP course offerings are classes which focus on specific writing skills, including AP Language and Composition, AP Literature, AP World History, AP U.S. History, AP Seminar, and AP Research. In AP classes, students develop the critical thinking and analytical skills, manifested in writing assignments, which propel them to excellence in college classes.

All students are expected to communicate their acquired knowledge and skills through writing.  Across the curriculum, semester examinations contain sections requiring written expression.  Seniors who participate in the Senior Practicum maintain a blog describing their unique experiences and accomplishments.

Mount de Sales also offers extracurricular opportunities to write:

We are grateful to our generous alumna, Susan Crawford (’63), who sponsors the annual Ardmore Scholarship for student writers.  Ms. Crawford motivates and inspires creative writers to submit poetry, stories, and essays, rewarding the best with MDS scholarship funds.

Our school literary magazine, Page Break, offers students an opportunity to see their creative writing published.  I invite you to look for Page Break on the MDS website (under Publications) to see shining examples of poems, stories, and essays showcasing the work of our talented students. Student writers also compete in the GISA Literary Competition each spring, crafting personal, argumentative, and rhetorical analysis essays.

We believe that strong writing skills will allow our graduates to flourish in their college studies, their professional careers, and their adult roles as active, informed citizens. A school-wide focus on writing challenges MDS students to learn, discover, create, and persuade, forging ever deeper academic and human connections.

Interested in reading more from our MDS de Sales Sheet, Fall Edition? Click here.