Middle School English
The two-year fifth and sixth grade English curriculum seeks to nurture students’ love of reading and a critical eye towards texts and the world at large. Year One of the course begins with the study of short stories to help students develop a shared language for talking about literature. The class then delves into the study of mystery novels, emphasizing the connection between using clues to solve a mystery and employing evidence to support an assertion as students begin to write arguments of their own. Students then consider how fiction about both recent history (September 11th) and contemporary issues (immigration) works to teach, inform, and persuade readers about their role as critical thinkers and upstanders beyond the classroom. Year Two of the course begins by considering family stories and histories (both in literature and in their own lives) to examine the role of multiple perspectives and individual bias in storytelling. Students then apply this to various works of historical fiction as they continue to develop their understanding of key literary elements. Centered around the autobiography-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming, students study novels-in-verse in order to explore key aspects of poetry and experiment with writing their own.
In 5th and 6th grade English, the key curricular elements include developing increasingly complex strategies for reading comprehension, inference, and analysis across genres (fiction, non-fiction, poetry). As writers, students engage meaningfully in every step of the writing process from brainstorming to revision; emphasis is placed on mastering the paragraph form as students practice developing and presenting their own ideas in clear, logical prose. Throughout both Year One and Year Two, students write narrative, persuasive, and informative pieces, while thinking critically about the purpose and audience in each of these types of writing. Grammar and mechanics are taught in the context of students’ own writing as they revise and edit their work. The collaborative approach to learning and making meaning nurtures students’ skills as listeners, speakers, critical thinkers, and community members.
The two-year seventh and eighth grade English curriculum seeks to inspire students to develop their own opinions and to use their voices (both on and off the page) to let their own lives speak. Year One of the course begins with the study of the Hero’s Journey and examines how and why this archetypal story applies to ancient, mythic characters as much as it does their own coming-of-age experiences. Students then reconsider the literary concept of the “hero” in the context of the Civil Rights Movement as they read historical fiction and John Lewis’ graphic novel series March. The class examines the complex role of cultural and familial heritage in the formation of one’s identity in both fiction and their own lives as well as the power of stories to help us understand ourselves and others. Year Two of the course begins with a study of persuasive arguments and focuses on helping students to evaluate validity and bias as they read others’ arguments and work to construct their own. Students then read various works of dystopian fiction to engage with essential moral and ethical questions about society, civic duty, and individual freedom. Students study Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Tempest) in order to explore key aspects of verse and drama and to consider how and why familiar archetypes make the Bard’s work seemingly “timeless” (or not). At the end of the year, students state their personal life philosophies in their own “This I Believe” essays (based on the National Public Radio program).
In 7th and 8th grade English, the key curricular elements include analyzing how an author’s choices (point of view, structure, genre) help to determine the meaning of a work of literature. Students develop strategies for comparing and contrasting different texts as well as tracing important themes within a single text and across the reading curriculum. As writers, students continue to engage meaningfully in every step of the writing process from brainstorming to revision; emphasis is placed on developing assertions and linking them together to make a logical argument. Throughout both Year One and Year Two, students continue to write narrative, persuasive, and informative pieces of increasing depth and complexity. Grammar and mechanics are taught in the context of students’ own writing as they revise and edit their work. The collaborative approach to learning and making meaning nurtures students’ skills as listeners, speakers, critical thinkers, and community members.