How do boys learn to think clearly, write persuasively, and read critically?
It's a process – one that benefits from expert guidance and practice. Boys in middle school read engaging books and stories so they can learn to love reading and to read critically. They learn to interact and think critically about the text and their own ideas as they related to what they read. Finally, practicing express their thoughts in writing completes the process. Becoming good readers and writers is the main emphasis of middle school English.
Before I attended McCallie, I thought that reading and writing were chores. At McCallie I discovered the joy of the written word.
The main focus of sixth grade English is to begin refining the basic communication skills that the boys learned in their various elementary/home schools. We will do this by developing those skills in four major strands: reading/literature, grammar, writing, and speaking.
For the reading/literature strand, we will introduce the various genres and literary conventions, but the main focus will be on reading for comprehension and for pleasure. In the grammar strand, we will primarily address the parts of speech, types of sentences, and editing skills. We will center our writing strand around the areas of paragraph writing, stages of the writing process, and narrative, essay, and descriptive writing. Speaking will be woven throughout the course, from activities as simple as reading passages aloud in class to making project presentations. To the greatest extent possible, the course's content will be integrated with that of other sixth grade classes. (Two semesters, 6th grade)
The learner will identify, read, and analyze several different genres of literature.
- The learner will analyze and implement his knowledge of author's purpose, author's perspective, audience, and story elements in various pieces of writing.
- The learner will express himself creatively and effectively through writing.
- The learner will understand the political, economic, social, cultural, and religious atmosphere of other cultures, as they relate to common class readings.
- The learner will read with comprehension at literal, figurative, and critical levels.
- The learner will write clearly, logically, and imaginatively.
- The learner will speak articulately and persuasively.
- The learner will make judicious and thoughtful use of technology.
- The learner will manage time productively and efficiently.
- The learner will respond appropriately to a variety of assessment instruments.
- The learner will cultivate academic self-reliance and intellectual risk-taking.
- The learner will value both collaborative and independent learning.
- The learner will demonstrate joyful curiosity.
- The learner will commit to learning through challenging work.
- The learner will acknowledge and accept constructive criticism.
- The boys will read short stories, plays, poetry, and novels.
- The boys will identify author's purpose, author's perspective, audience, and story elements in their reading and purposefully use them in their writing.
- The boys will complete frequent informal writing assignments and several additional formal writing assignments.
- The boys will read and complete projects about Neighborhood Odes, The Bronze Bow, and Lyddie.
- Boys will speak in front of their classmates frequently, from the informal speech of answering questions and seminaring to more formal speaking activities like project presentations. In addition, boys will be responsible for adding new words to their vocabularies.
- Boys will use technology to do the following: various Internet research assignments, weekly use of www.m-w.com for finding vocabulary information, and word-processing papers.
- Most assignments in 6th grade English take more than one sitting to complete. In order to be successful, the boys must manage their time well. The teachers will guide them in the appropriate skills to do this.
- The boys will complete a variety of assessments throughout the year--from standard paper-and-pencil tests to writing to projects to performance tasks to field studies.
- The boys will have many opportunities throughout the year to make choices of what activities to pursue within a broad framework of options provided by the teacher. For example, the teacher might present the end goal of demonstrating an understanding of a reading. One student might write an essay to show his understanding, while another might perform a skit, and yet another might create a piece of artwork.
- Throughout the year, the boys will have many opportunities to work both independently and within groups.
- The boys will have many opportunities throughout the year to make choices of what activities to pursue within a broad framework of options provided by the teacher. Fun in learning will always be encouraged.
- The teacher will evaluate completion of the active reading assignments and the analytical documents that the boys will complete while reading the novels.
- Author's purpose, author's perspective, audience, and story elements will be assessed in the boys' writing using rubrics that address those elements.
- Boys' writings will at times be assessed holistically, at times using more detailed rubrics, and at other times for correctness of grammar.
- The teacher will assess the boys' understanding of the social climate in the settings of their novels by examining the final products of their projects and also through use of standard objective tests of factual recall.
- Most assessments of speaking will be informal; however, at least once during the year the boys will give a speech that will be formally graded (using a rubric) by the teacher and his peers. In addition, boys will take weekly vocabulary quizzes, using words drawn mostly from their reading.
- The efficient and productive management of time will be considered met by boys who consistently turn in work on time and well-done.
- Throughout the year, many assignments will be assessed by examining the originality that is demonstrated in the final product.
- After working in cooperative groups, boys will complete formal assessments of themselves and other group members.
- To demonstrate joyful curiosity, the teacher will converse frequently in an informal way with boys. Also, at the midpoint and end of the year, the boys will write about what their favorite activities were in class and explain why.
- Rubrics for projects, performances, and papers will be designed to address higher order thinking skills.
- To assess the acceptance of constructive criticism, the teacher will note the level to which students' incorporate peer advice in their writings.
The purpose of seventh grade English is to help students read more analytically and with greater comprehension, understand and utilize language more clearly, and write with correctness and style. A firm grounding in the elements of grammar will build upon the base established in the sixth grade. In addition, close readings of various works of literature will provide the foundation for future academic endeavors. Writing skills such as sentence combining, outlining, and essay writing will be combined with reading assignments or as a follow-up to grammar assignments to further reinforce the students' understanding and usage of language. (Two semesters, 7th Grade)
Students will acquire a basic understanding of the grammar of the English language.
- Students will improve skills in writing, including sentence-combining with proper punctuation, paragraph development, outlining, and organization of an essay.
- Students will improve reading and comprehension skills by the close reading of essays, short stories, and novels.
- Students will be introduced to the basic characteristics of poetry through close examination of several poems.
- Students will improve speaking skills in various ways including:
- Leading and contributing to small group and class discussions.
- PowerPoint presentations.
- Oral reading.
- Socratic seminars
- Students will improve study skills including organization of materials through:
- Use of study guides.
- Students will be introduced to literary concepts including character/characterization, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and theme.
- Students will begin to use higher level thinking in exploring terms that apply to various prose forms including symbolism:
- Character motivation.
- Students will understand the parts of a plot line and apply them to various works of literature.
- Students will learn to appreciate that some questions have no single best answer.
- Students will develop respect for other students' points of view and be able to respectfully offer differing points of view.
- Students will develop an appreciation for the power and beauty of the English language.
- Students will expand their vocabulary with teacher generated lists as well as words taken from the context of the literature studied.
- Students will increase their appreciation of reading for pleasure.
- Students will learn to effectively and efficiently manage their time when completing longer assignments such as papers and projects.
- Students will actively and thoughtfully participate in discussions of literature.
- Students will learn to offer constructive criticism when participating in peer editing.
- Students will be required to listen to and take notes from expository lectures by the teacher.
- Students will be required to organize handouts, tests, and writing in an English folder using document protectors.
- Students will be assigned homework in the form of grammar exercises (traditional and in-context), reading (short stories, novels, essays, and articles), creation and completion of study guides, vocabulary, and writing assignments.
- Students will write an original short story, applying the elements of the short story.
- Students will work in pairs or groups to peer edit their writing.
- Students, working with a partner, will conduct research for a short biography of a favorite author by using the internet, Ebsco, and other library sources.
- Students will work in pairs to create a PowerPoint presentation.
- Students will write poems based upon "Birches" by Robert Frost and "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein.
- Students will write poems emulating their favorite poet's style.
- Students will create and/or complete study guides for some novels.
- Students will correct tests and have corrections checked by teacher.
- Students will write an expository essay related to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in which they compose a letter of recommendation for Tom Sawyer to attend McCallie School.
- Students will view dramatized versions of several pieces of literature they read to enhance their understanding of that work.
- Students will compare and contrast dramatized versions of their literature to the work itself.
- Students will be given an introductory tour of the library.
- Students will be tested frequently and cumulatively on grammar material covered in homework.
- Homework in grammar will be "partner" graded in class.
- Writing assignments will be graded by instructor using a narrow rubric designed to concentrate on a few items.
- Student folders are frequently checked for content and organization.
- Students are tested on novels using study guides, notes, handouts, and class discussion as the basis for both objective and subjective questions.
- Test corrections are individually checked by teacher.
- Literature tests feature a variety of questions including matching, multiple choice, discussion questions (short answer and essay), and identifications (characters, quotes, ect.).
- Exams are comprehensive but focus upon those learning points which have been reinforced throughout the term. Questions will consist of multiple choice, matching, identification, vocabulary, short answer, and essay.
- Students will be tested frequently on the understanding and use of new vocabulary words.
- Students will be quizzed periodically on the content of a reading assignment from a short story or novel prior to its discussion.
- Students will demonstrate responsibility through the thoughtful, accurate, and timely completion of homework assignments.
- Students will complete parallel reading assignments each semester, with extra credit available for pages read beyond the minimum requirement.
The year begins with a review of the grammar foundation begun in the seventh grade. Later study of clauses and verbals leads to workshops in the practical application of complex sentences in the boys' writing. Other grammar topics include fundamental punctuation rules, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, correct verb usage, and syntax. Weekly vocabulary study, with lists of words taken from the context of periodical articles, is an integral part of the course. The literature in this course includes the study of short fiction, poetry, drama, and novels, with students reading such works as Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird, Twelve Angry Men, and The Outsiders. Students gain experience writing analytical compositions in response to literature, keeping journals, composing creative pieces, and writing an autobiography. (Two Semesters, 8th Grade)
- Students will learn to apply fundamental grammatical concepts to their speaking and writing. Among the central concepts are the following:
- Making subjects and verbs agree.
- Using verb tense logically and clearly.
- Making pronouns agree with their antecedents.
- Constructing complex sentences using adjective, adverb, and noun clauses.
- Punctuating compound and complex sentences correctly.
- Using verbals as a method of sentence combining.
- Varying sentence structure.
- Using correct syntax.
- Avoiding unintentional sentence fragments.
- Students will become aware of the power of an expanded, varied vocabulary.
- Students will grow to appreciate the content and themes of a range of literature, including fiction, drama, poetry, and non-fiction prose.
- Students will learn to discriminate between formal and informal writing styles.
- Students will become increasingly aware of literary devices such as irony, symbolism, metaphor, and foreshadowing.
- Students will learn to distinguish between literal meaning and figurative meaning.
- Students will express themselves in writing creatively, analytically, and independently.
- Students will display an awareness of the ambiguities present in everyday life.
- Students will perceive common themes in a variety of literary works.
- Students will display an increased self-awareness through journal writing and an autobiography.
- Students will increase their sensitivity to other races, creeds, religions, and lifestyles.
- Students will respond to literature thoughtfully and insightfully.
- Students will recognize the interplay between themes in literature and events in American history.
- Students will learn to offer constructive feedback to their peers, both orally and in writing.
- Students will develop the ability to manage multiple projects and efficiently use their time.
- Students will grow more comfortable confronting and analyzing ethical or moral dilemmas.
- Students will begin to understand the political, economic, social, cultural, and religious developments and forces that have contributed to the story of people in the United States and in the world.
- Students will grow to appreciate reading for pleasure.
- Students will become familiar with the definitions of at least 250 new vocabulary words gleaned from periodical articles or novels, paying special attention to the context in which the words are used.
- Students will conduct a year-long search for vocabulary words from sources outside the classroom, including novels, essays, periodical articles, television shows, and everyday conversation. Examples will be posted on the vocabulary wall in the classroom.
- Students will complete exercises concerning grammatical concepts such as agreement, verb usage, and syntax.
- Students will correct and discuss frequent “grammar bites” concerning clauses, verbals, and punctuation of compound and complex sentences.
- Students will read and discuss literature from these major genres: the novel, short fiction, poetry, and drama.
- Students will read and discuss To Kill a Mockingbird, paying special attention to the social, economic, cultural, and religious forces which intertwine in the tragic drama of the trial of Tom Robinson and his defense by Atticus Finch.
- Students will peer edit each other’s work periodically, offering suggestions for revision that writers will be expected to follow up on.
- Students will conduct a shadow study of a minority alter-ego and write journal entries about the experience.
- Students will keep a journal for three months, recording and filtering their everyday thoughts and experiences for later use in preparing their autobiography.
- Students will write a five-chapter autobiography, one chapter of which explores the person they have become as they anticipate their entry into the high school.
- Students may have an opportunity to write an original short story, using stories covered in class as models.
- Students will recognize the interplay between United States history in the 20th century and literature by discussing events in and leading up to the civil rights movement.
- Students will show an awareness of a character’s feelings, thoughts, and motivations by reading aloud excerpts from novels, short fiction, and plays, paying particular attention to emotion and voice level.
- Students will organize themselves so that they can, during any particular grading period, conduct multiple projects, such as study vocabulary, complete grammar bites, read a novel, and keep a journal.
- Students may have the opportunity to compose an original poem, using poetry studied in class as a model.
- During the trimester when journals are used, students will write four journal entries per week of at least 200 words per entry. These will be read and commented on weekly by the teacher.
- Students will write responses to different issues which grow out of our study of literature. These responses will be evaluated using a rubric that establishes guidelines for both content and composition skills. The following are typical of the writing projects a student may undertake:
- An essay on a decision the students once made that turned out really well or which resulted in disappointment (a project which grows out of the "Sheila Mant" short story).
- An essay on two literary devices present in a short story the students choose to read.
- "Atticus Finch is no run-of-the-mill man" essay, based on a comment Dolphus Raymond makes in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- "You are there" response paper to the trial process in the play Twelve Angry Men.
- "The Changing Nature of Love" response paper while reading Romeo and Juliet.
- Students will compose a five-chapter autobiography which serves as the culminating project of their middle school years.
- Students may have an opportunity to write an original short story, evaluated by a rubric which the students help to establish.
- Students may have the opportunity to compose an original poem, evaluated by a rubric which the students help to establish.
- Students will take frequent quizzes on the content, and to a lesser extent the interpretation, of short stories and novels which are assigned.
- Students will correct sentences on Grammar Bite Quizzes, which contain inaccuracies in sentence punctuation.
- Students will take objective tests over major grammar units such as verb usage, parts of a sentence, clauses, verbals, and agreement.
- Students will take tests which contain both objective and subjective questions over major literary works studied in class.
- Students will demonstrate responsibility in the timely completion of homework assignments.
- Students will complete parallel reading assignments each semester, with extra credit available for pages read beyond the minimum requirement.