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Holton-Arms' deep commitment to providing a rigorous college preparatory program is buttressed by a remarkable array of academic, artistic, and athletic choices at every stage of a student's development.

Throughout Lower School (grades 3 through 6), Middle School (grades 7 and 8), and Upper School (grades 9 through 12), the Holton curriculum creates scholars who are comfortable with open-ended learning and celebrates the different ways each girl views the world.

Find out more: Lower School CurriculumMiddle and Upper School Course Offerings


Many consider the fall semester of English 12, a required class in personal narrative, to be the signature course of the Holton English Department.  It is a major departure from the other levels of required English where the girls study great writers, practice expository writing , develop a broader vocabulary, and review English grammar.  All senior sections use Ken Macrorie’s Telling Writing as the major text, and teachers supplement with articles from newspapers, The New Yorker, and a variety of other sources.

Macrorie presents a sequence of “W” assignments, with “W” the abbreviation for “Writing.”  The first Ws are “free,” where the goal is to shake off inhibitions about writing and let natural instincts take over.  Any topic is acceptable, and students may roam from one topic to another without constraint.

The direction of the class soon moves to narrative, or the telling of stories.  In the world outside of Holton, these stories are sometimes called “creative non-fiction,” a label which suggests that the stories are generally true but may need to be modified for literary purposes. 

Most girls discover that they have much rich material for these more focused Ws, material which includes the people, places, and experiences which have meant the most to them.  They tell stories of family and friends; travel, vacations, camp; and activities such as sports, drama, student government, and clubs.  They may write about issues that face them or their families and political issues which affect the community.  Some write about heart-wrenching conflict or serious medical problems, and others focus on the ups and downs of friendship and a changing dynamic with extended family.  Most girls end up writing about all of the above as they try to navigate a key transition point in their young lives.

Ellen Case, Chair English Department


Alaska - Kelsey Roberts, '11

            “Sorry about my dog,” the girl next to me says as her little white dog began yapping from under the seat in front of her, “I hope she doesn’t bother you.”

            “Oh no, that’s okay,” I say.

            “You’re not allergic, are you?”

            “Well, yeah, actually I am. But it’s not really a big deal,” I say.  Actually, it was a big deal. READ MORE >>>

Gravity Sucks - Hannah Kojm, '11

The 12-seater plane was shaking uncontrollably.  We were flying through a thunderstorm.

            Dad asked:  “Hannah, are you all right?”

            “Come on, Dad.  I hate small planes.”

            I curled up my legs so that I could wrap my arms around them.  I was sitting in a little ball.  We were moving through a thunderstorm with lightning.  There was even a little hail.  The turbulence was wild. READ MORE >>>

Scared Away - Abby Cohen, '10 

            “Mom, do you know how to get rid of hiccups?”

            “Well, have you tried drinking water upside down?

            “Yeah, it didn’t work.”

            “Have you tried holding your breath?

            “Yep, I already did that too.”

            There was silence for a few seconds, disturbed only by my hiccupping. READ MORE >>>

Running Away - Chandler Fench, '08 

 “We’re leaving!” we yelled from the front door.

We packed six peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and all the mousetraps we could find. I left Betenda because I didn’t want her to get kidnapped or freeze. She doesn’t like sleeping outside, and Jim and I would be sleeping outside for a while until we found an empty train to sleep in. It wouldn’t be dangerous because we packed a lot of mousetraps to put around us while we slept so nothing could get to us. I left Betenda in the den so someone would find her and take care of her. I told her I loved her and if anyone wasn’t treating her gently, she should tell an angel in baby language so the angel could fly to tell me in normal language.  READ MORE >>>


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Holton-Arms School | College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12
7303 River Road, Bethesda, MD 20817     301-365-5300     CONTACT US | SITE MAP | EMPLOYMENT

Inveniam viam aut faciam • I will find a way or make one
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