Literature is a window into new ideas, cultures, lives, and experiences outside of our own, as well as an opportunity to see our own experiences reflected on the printed page. Students read literary works from an array of authors and genres, including nonfiction. Reading done comprehensively is an active process that includes annotations, written responses, and class discussions. Writing is employed as a thinking tool as well as a means of self-expression. Students continually revise their writing to improve their content, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, voice, and mechanics, with the support of a peer audience, written feedback from the teacher, and one-on-one student-teacher writing conferences. Outside of class, students participate in an independent reading program that includes visits to our Library Media Center for book talks, book selections tailored to the themes explored in class, and the opportunity to read at school on a daily basis. Our visiting author program gives students the chance to meet and hear from many authors whose works they have read in class.
Sixth-grade English begins with an in-depth study of writing mechanics, preparing students to write confidently and clearly throughout the year. We explore literature through diverse novels, poems, and short stories. Class texts include All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg, Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Misfits by James Howe, The Giver by Lois Lowry, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, and The Crossover, a novel written by our 2019 visiting author, Kwame Alexander. Literature-based vocabulary units enhance reading comprehension and individual voice development in student work. Writing projects complement each text and expose students to various forms of writing: expository, editorial, analytical, argumentative, and poetry. Through regular Student Reading Challenges, students are encouraged to read books of their choice.
The theme of 7th-grade English is childhood and coming of age. Students read, discuss, and write about a variety of texts that grapple with this period of growth and identity formation. Readings include Booked by Kwame Alexander, Diary of Anne Frank, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, and a selection of short stories and poetry. Through a combination of narrative and analytical writing, students explore the concept of individual voice, while also refining written and oral expression. They continue to develop vocabulary and grammar skills through regular mini-lessons and practice exercises. Through the Literature Circle program, as well as Student Reading Challenges, students are encouraged to read books of their choice.
Eighth-grade students concentrate on the formal literary analysis of classic and contemporary literature, as well as creative writing—including poetry, journal writing, and memoir. Students also learn figurative language and create a class anthology of poetry. Readings include The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. ln addition to these texts, students read a novel written by Kwame Alexander, who was a visiting author in 2019. Sometimes, students lead discussions; other times, the teacher does so. Writing assignments— both paragraph and essay forms—demand abstract thinking, inferential reasoning, and the incorporation of textual evidence. Students work in pairs to master new vocabulary by writing, presenting, and teaching each cycle’s words in the form of dialogues. They continue to hone grammar and punctuation skills through exercises and writing. Through a robust Literature Circle Program, as well as Student Reading Challenges, students are encouraged to read books of their choice.