Reading and writing are embedded in our interdisciplinary humanities program in the Middle School. Students express themselves creatively within the social studies content and beyond it. Throughout the 6th to 8th grade years, students write memoirs, editorials, and short stories. Teachers provide many opportunities for students to engage in analytical reading and model strategies for reading com- prehension and analysis. We balance expository and imaginative writing, stressing clarity and organization. Vocabulary development and the rules of spelling and grammar are incorporated into lessons; students are encouraged to recognize the importance of self-editing. Students read fiction and nonfiction independently and in small groups, and share their thinking about reading with their peers both face-to-face and in online blogs.
- What are ways in which authors create characters who change over time?
- What strategies do authors use to create a sense of identity for their characters?
- How does a text reflect a set of cultural values?
- What makes a hero different from a celebrity?
Sixth graders examine character development across a wide range of literature. They compare and contrast themes in different genres such as poetry and short stories. Students expand their ability to converse about what they are reading through regular discussions and forums. Some of the books that students may read: Walk Two Moons, The Uglies, The Absolutely True Adventure of a Part-Time Indian, and America Street. Students continue to work in genres like essays and narratives, bringing new craft techniques and critical thinking skills to these forms.
In 7th grade students are introduced to the works of William Shakespeare and have the opportunity to enact scenes from his plays. They examine closely the use of language and experiment with writing in a similar style. Some other books that students may read: The House on Mango Street, Chains, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Young Adult version). Their writing includes fiction as well as persuasive and informational pieces that provide students with a chance to do more in-depth integration of research-based evidence.
Eighth graders employ a variety of literary techniques such as flashbacks, variation in point of view, and comparison of themes across three texts in their writing. They analyze complex texts and think about abstract themes in literature such as: how doing the right thing can sometimes lead to problematic outcomes, or the ways in which characters find happiness in the face of adversity. They incorporate this analysis into both written and oral presentations. Some of the books students may read: The Diary of Anne Frank, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Things Fall Apart.33