Language Arts Courses
In fifth grade, students become active members of an avid community of readers and writers. We aim to provide students with the skills to generate well-written responses to all genres of text in order to develop and share their responses to these texts with others. Students are encouraged to think critically about what they read and to analyze and evaluate information and ideas. They then share these responses to text in a variety of ways that are authentic to today’s world, such as creating blog postings, developing research questions and presenting research findings to peers, making iMovies to convince peers to read books they enjoy, and crafting short stories and memoirs. Students work collaboratively with peers to discuss their responses to text, examine different types of writing, and to improve the content and clarity of their writing in a meaningful context.
Students in fifth grade study a variety of works of middle grade fiction and nonfiction with a variety of themes, all chosen to widen their world view and to promote conversation about what it means to be a contributing member of society.
The primary goal of the sixth grade language arts program is to increase the learning experience and the overall enjoyment of literature and writing. With this overall goal in mind, the program utilizes a combination of an independent and an assigned reading program. Students improve comprehension strategies and critical thinking skills by reading a variety of genres including fiction, non-fiction, short story and folktales. Selections are chosen in order to increase the cultural and social literacy of our students and strengthen their acquaintance with classics. The sixth-grade writing program provides students with effective writing skills with an emphasis on sentence and paragraph structure and coherence. Students are provided the opportunity to publish their writing for authentic audiences. All written work appears on the classroom blog. Vocabulary, spelling and grammar are incorporated into the double period schedule as an integral part of the reading and writing programs.
In seventh-grade Language Arts, critical thinking and thoughtful self-expression are emphasized. Students read and write across multiple genres — including novels, short fiction, memoirs, nonfiction, and poetry--with choices in both texts and writing topics offered whenever possible. Reading emphases throughout the year include the use of active reading strategies, analysis of literary elements, and interpretation of literature that blends personal response with ideas supported by evidence.
Writing goals center on attending to the traits of writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation) and moving through the writing process with deliberation, care, and pleasure. Students produce many paragraphs and other short pieces as well as more extended work, such as personal narratives, character sketches, compare/contrast essays, persuasive letters and literary essays. Individually and in small groups, they use technology to create multimedia, interactive projects and presentations, and publish some of their work (as well as responses to others’ work) on individual blogs. Vocabulary learning takes place through the Membean website, as well as the study of academic and context words. Grammar topics and practice are covered through a variety of resources, including a general text as well as practice worksheets and the No Red Ink website.
English 8 is an introduction to literary analysis through the study of literary elements and genres (short fiction, lyric poetry, drama, nonfiction, epic poetry, and the novel). The primary textbook is organized on the premise that life is full of questions, and literature helps us answer them. Each literature unit is organized around a series of essential questions and, with the exception of the units on major works, includes readings from several genres.
The writing component in 8th grade serves as a transition from the creative writing that dominates in middle school to the kind of analytical writing expected of students in the Upper School. I emphasize real-world writing purposes, the kind of writing we hope our students will be doing twenty years from now. Each unit focuses on a specific discourse: express and reflect, inform and explain, evaluate and judge, inquire and explore, analyze and interpret, and take a stand/propose a solution. We look at mentor texts (professional samples as well as models I sometimes write in front of the students), student writing samples, and a variety of assignments and strategies proven to elevate student writing.
We also will be placing a heavy emphasis on the process of writing, and will be breaking that process down into multiple components: getting started, organizing ideas, connecting ideas, choosing the right tone, making meanings clear, giving writing flair and punch, and of course, using correct grammar.