Academics

Curriculum Guide

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 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 7 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 third form, students learn to organize their thoughts coherently and to express their ideas in clear, precise prose. 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 our own and other cultures. But we also use clippings from the daily newspaper, current magazine articles, films, letters, speeches, websites, and advertisements to engage, instruct, inspire, and sometimes provoke our students. Hence our claim to be both traditional and progressive. While we demand that our students encounter familiar canonical writers from the past, write in standard English, and master the principles of English grammar, we also employ non-canonical texts, visual arts, and modern media to prompt our 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.
  • Fine Arts

    Woodberry Forest’s fine arts department consists of four programs: drama, speech, music, and visual arts — that includes desktop publishing. 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 expects 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 skills and critical thinking.
  • 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. 
  • 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.”
  • Science

    Woodberry Forest is a “physics-first” school; we introduce students to the science curriculum through Conceptual Physics, a required course for third formers. For students entering Woodberry in the third-form year, the normal sequence of courses is to take Conceptual Physics in the third form, Chemistry in the fourth form, and Biology in the fifth form — completing the required sequence. Boys who come to Woodberry in their fourth-form year, and who have taken biology in a previous school, will normally take chemistry as fourth formers and physics as fifth formers.
Graduation Requirements
Entering third formers must complete at least 20 credits. This includes:

Four in English

Two to four in mathematics, including Geometry, Algebra 2, and one course beyond Algebra 2

Three in foreign language, including completion of the third level of one language;

Three in science, including conceptual Physics, Chemistry, Biology

Three in history, including Stories and Histories, US History, and a fifth-form history elective

1 in Fine arts

1/3 in religion

Entering fourth formers must complete at least 15 credits, and entering fifth formers must complete 10. Further details on the graduation requirements can be found in the full Guide to the Academic Curriculum.
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.