Curriculum Guide

A Woodberry education is grounded in the idea that intellectual thoroughness and moral integrity are the best college prep a boy can receive. Our graduation requirements are designed to ground and challenge boys in the core academic subjects while giving them room to explore new interests and pursue a wide range of electives.

Woodberry's academic program is carefully designed to prepare boys for their future. Courses in each department begin by helping students master the basics of a subject before moving on to a more critical, in-depth examination of each field.

The Daily Schedule
The daily schedule is designed to change as boys grow and mature. Most classes for third formers and fourth formers meet five times a week for forty-five minutes. These short, daily sessions allow for frequent work as students master key concepts in each academic discipline.

Fifth and sixth formers take classes that generally meet three times a week — once for forty-five minutes and twice for ninety minutes. This schedule more closely matches what students will see in college. The longer sessions also allow classes to pursue a variety of activities in one period, perhaps moving from a short lecture into a group discussion or hands-on project, followed by a time to share results with classmates.

Woodberry's schedule also rotates from week to week. By moving the times when in person classes meet, we minimize the amount of class time that might be missed due to athletic or extracurricular commitments and ensure that students see teachers at different times of day.

Department Overviews

List of 8 items.

  • English

    With a curriculum that embraces both the traditional and the progressive, the Woodberry Forest English Department teaches critical reading and effective writing at every grade level. Starting in the ninth grade, students learn to organize their thoughts coherently and to express their ideas in clear, precise prose even as they begin to experiment with style, voice, figures of speech, wit, rhetorical strategies, poetic devices, and form. Reading assignments, ranging from Shakespeare and his contemporaries to the most recent memoirs, essays, and poetry, reinforce the principles of good writing and reveal minds that have defined American and other cultures. The department also uses clippings from daily newspapers, current magazine articles, films, letters, speeches, websites, and advertisements to engage, instruct, inspire, and sometimes provoke students. Hence the claim to be both traditional and progressive. While teachers demand that students encounter familiar canonical writers from the past, write in standard English, and master the principles of English grammar, they also employ non-canonical texts, visual arts, and modern media to prompt students’ thinking. The complementary processes of reading and writing constitute the foundation of what the English Department teaches, and everything else—grammar, vocabulary, test-taking skills, research—must contribute to the primary goal of producing nuanced, thoughtful, canny readers and confident, controlled writers.

    In the third and fourth forms, classes cover standard English grammar, formal and informal essay writing, and readings from different centuries in five genres: essay, poetry, drama, novel, and memoir. The students in the fifth and sixth forms write in longer, more sophisticated forms and read challenging works that serve as models of good writing and that generate lively discussion.

    The English Department asks its students to learn how to read actively, how to decode a complex text, how to respond to voices from earlier centuries, and how to respond to works in any genre of nonfiction or fiction.

    The study of writing progresses from basic work with sentence structure and paragraphs to personal narrative to more formal analytical writing. In the fourth form students take a timed writing exam in December to evaluate their ability to write a personal narrative and again in April to demonstrate their ability to analyze a text. In the fall of the fifth form, students begin to work with rhetorical strategies. The sixth form classes revisit and expand on the skill set of earlier forms. Every student meets at least once per marking period with his English teacher for a private conference to discuss their writing.

    Placement in honors and regular sections in the fifth and sixth forms is at the discretion of the department.

    View all English Courses

  • Extradepartmental Electives

    Woodberry offers several elective classes that fall outside the established academic departments. Though each of these courses is unique, all generally offer students the opportunity to dig deeper into a unique subject or topic. 

    View all Extradepartmental Electives
  • Fine Arts Program

    Woodberry Forest’s Fine Arts Program consists of three departments: drama, music, and visual arts.  These programs are bound by the common goal of teaching students how to think critically and creatively, how to make art of the highest order possible, and how to appreciate their world more deeply.
    Woodberry Forest requires new third and fourth formers to complete three trimester courses in the Fine Arts or to have two years of participation in a musical ensemble prior to graduation, and new fifth formers to complete two fine arts courses. Courses taken prior to attending Woodberry Forest can count towards this requirement.

    View all Fine Arts Program courses
  • Foreign Language

    The foreign language department seeks not only to develop in students the ability to communicate in other languages, but to convey a fuller understanding and appreciation of other cultures as well. Demonstrating a broader knowledge of language and culture will prove invaluable for those who look to take positions of leadership in the current social, political, and economic climate. Woodberry offers instruction in Mandarin Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish. Courses in modern foreign languages stress oral and written communication while exploring the cultural heritage of the countries where those languages are spoken. Courses in Latin acquaint students with Greek and Roman customs, laws, morals, and religion as they help build vocabulary and translation skills. In addition to classroom offerings, summer study and language immersion programs in Spain, Nicaragua, and China are offered. Students must successfully complete the third level of one language to fulfill the school’s graduation requirement. They are initially placed in foreign language class based on their results on a proficiency exam that they must complete, without any help, in the summer before their arrival at Woodberry.

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  • History

    The disciplined study of history encourages students to pose questions, examine evidence, and reach conclusions about the development of humankind. At Woodberry Forest students discover the historical method of gathering and interpreting factual information from primary and secondary sources in order to gain a better understanding of the past. The History Department stresses reading, writing, note-taking, and outlining to help students develop vital communication and critical thinking skills.

    Woodberry Forest requires three history courses: Stories and Histories for third formers, US history for fourth formers, and one of several transnational electives for fifth formers.

    View all History courses
  • Mathematics

    The Woodberry Forest mathematics program teaches students to draw conclusions using both contemporary and traditional approaches and to justify and prove conjectures through examples, counterexamples, or formal proofs. The courses offered include traditional college preparatory offerings for secondary school: Geometry, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Precalculus, Calculus, Statistics, and a Seminar in Advanced Mathematics. Independent study opportunities are also available for the most advanced students. Students are required to successfully complete a course beyond the level of Geometry and Algebra 2 in order to satisfy the school’s graduation requirement. Honors classes are available in courses beyond Algebra 1, and students are placed in these courses based on their aptitude and performance in mathematics. Initial placement is made based on the student’s transcript, standardized test scores, and recommendation from their current math teacher. Student's may also be asked to complete an online placement test during the summer. Promotion to the next level study in a sequential course requires a final grade of C- or better. Unless otherwise specified, all courses are year-long. 

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  • Religion

    Religion has always had a major impact on the history, art, literature, philosophy, politics, and economics of all civilizations. Holy texts (of which the Bible is one) are the most influential books in world literature. With the expansion of cultural globalization, it is essential for students in the liberal arts tradition to become familiar with the Bible and its teachings as well as the fundamental components of other major world religions and their sacred texts. When asked why he was taking more than the required course in religious studies one student said, “It seems like we’re all floating down the same river but in different canoes. I’m really interested in the other boats and who’s paddling them.”

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  • Science

    Woodberry Forest is a physics-first school, introducing its students to the science curriculum through a laboratory-intensive, conceptually-underpinned physics course for third formers. For students entering Woodberry in the third form year, the sequence of required courses is physics in the third form, chemistry in the fourth form, and biology in the fifth form. Those who enter in the 4th form take chemistry, then biology 5th form year if they haven’t already taken a high school laboratory-based biology course.

    The science department believes not just in learning about science, but also in doing science.  Every course, at every level, spends at least a quarter of the class time, and usually much more than that, doing hands-on laboratory activities.  Students leave the general-level courses with an understanding of evidence-based scientific reasoning, as well as an understanding of how experimental evidence is gathered in each scientific discipline.  Advanced coursework is available in all areas.

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Woodberry Forest admits students of any race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, and national or ethnic origin to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs. The school is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant students.