In the Middle School, students read works in a variety of genres including short stories, novels, plays, mythology, non-fiction related to literature being read (background material, current news on a topic, related essays), and poetry. The level of difficulty of the material increases through the three years from grade six to grade eight. Writing instruction starts in sixth grade building from mastering the complete sentence and a cohesive paragraph to composing a well-developed essay in the eighth grade. Listening mindfully to others is emphasized, as is speaking in class and in more public settings. Students have many opportunities to make presentations. Grammar For Writing is used for instruction and as a resource in grammar. The students work routinely with vocabulary exercises using theWordly Wise program. Vocabulary is also studied in the context of the works being read and student writing.
6th Grade English
Sixth Grade English focuses on reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Texts have included such engaging works as Natalie Babbitt’s The Eyes of the Amaryllis and David Almond’s Skellig. Comprehension strategies, such as visualizing, making connections and making inferences, are taught and practiced. Age-appropriate literary terms and the basic elements of plot are introduced. Special attention is given to setting and the importance of both time and place. Class discussion gives students an opportunity to express their interpretations and views as well as reinforce literary terms and reading strategies. Students write on a regular basis and in a variety of formats, including journals, responses to literature questions, paragraphs on a topic, short essays, personal narratives, creative writing, and poetry. The writing skills that the students work on range from mastering composing complete sentences and developing strong topic sentences to using figurative language. The main goals of grammar instruction are to improve students’ understanding of parts of speech, compound and complex sentences, and punctuation rules.
7th Grade English
In the seventh grade, reading skills continue to be taught, reinforced, and practiced. The focus in literary elements is primarily on plot and character development. Students learn to identify specific character traits and support these with specific evidence from the text. Point of view is also brought to the forefront in the literature students are reading as well as in the students’ own writing. Seventh grade students should be able to identify each part of a simple plot and recognize whether a character is “round” or “flat;” they will also be able to explore the internal conflict experienced by a character. Supporting their interpretations with specific evidence from the text is modeled and encouraged. Seventh graders read more challenging works, such as Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Writing skill development continues to emphasize rich vocabulary choices, varied sentence structure, and clarity of expression. Students write in a variety of genres including descriptive, personal narrative, creative, expository, and poetry. Grammar instruction focuses on more advanced punctuation including dialogue format, complex and varied sentences, and the rules of formal writing conventions such as writing out numbers.
8th Grade English
Eighth grade students read more challenging texts, including Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Several of the novels and plays are historical fiction, complementing their studies in American history. In addition to studying setting, character, and plot, eighth graders explore themes, motifs, symbolism, and irony. Students are expected to support their interpretation and analysis with evidence from the text. Making comparisons within the text as well as across multiple texts is part of the discussion. They are taught to annotate and to learn to use context and language roots to deduce meanings of unfamiliar words. Students gain experience in writing well-developed expository and persuasive essays, personal narratives, and short fiction. Grammar instruction continues, with particular focus on diction, syntax, and formal writing conventions. Poetry by such poets as Billy Collins is studied in depth, and students compose their own anthologies of poems. All students are encouraged to express and support their views in class discussion.