In thoughtfully designed and intellectually stimulating lessons led by passionate faculty, middle schoolers become fearless creative writers, constructive literary critics, and academic researchers. They reach new heights of intellectual curiosity and discussion during independent work and group projects, and dive into classic novels, essays, poetry, and texts, discovering beauty in the written word.

Sixth Grade

Sixth graders begin the year with an “I Am From” poem, a writing task that asks students to think both deeply and playfully about their identities and those of their family members. An exploration of self is a crucial component of any worthwhile English curriculum – and of particular importance at a time when the self is undergoing tremendous change. This activity sets the stage for the rest of the year, and introduces the importance of drafts, revisions, and constructive critique.

Students then segue into a short story unit, during which they study several short stories and a narrative poem. The short story is an accessible vehicle through which students hone and demonstrate their knowledge before embarking on a full-length novel. Major literary elements, such as setting, plot, point of view, characterization, mood, symbolism, and theme are reviewed throughout this unit. Students also begin to engage in higher-level thinking through discussions of abstract ideas and connections between the texts and their own experiences. The concept of “mirrors and windows” is also introduced during this unit to support students in their quest to understand themselves and others through an empathetic, open-minded lens.

Once a solid foundation has been established, students move on to novels, which remain the focus for the rest of the year. They explore literary devices with significantly more depth, and learn new skills such as flashbacks, foreshadowing, irony, identifying and analyzing figurative language, and interpreting significant quotations through close reading and academic writing. Students engage in independent and collaborative work throughout the units in order to develop both self-reliance and teamwork.

Throughout the year, students are expected to read and respond to independent texts monthly. They are introduced to a clear and accessible academic writing outline, which helps them organize their thoughts in an efficient manner, develop a clear claim, and utilize relevant supporting details. There is also a focus on vocabulary, and students are encouraged to elevate their writing with the new diction they learn from the texts we study.

Assessments take the form of traditional exams as well as more creative projects so a variety of learning styles can be represented and celebrated.

Seventh Grade

In seventh grade, students search for meaning. In classes designed to boost their critical reading and thinking skills and hone their creative voice, students dive into an exploration of self and have deep discussions about choices and consequences.

The seventh grade year begins with an immersive discussion about values, an activity that requires students to question their priorities and their connection to the world around them. It is paired with a writing piece that necessitates the use of explicit language, proper punctuation, and careful revision. An Ethical Decision Making Unit, whereby students are guided to critically think through a decision-making process and connect it to a value that drives the decision, is the next building block in the curriculum.

Utilizing these newfound skills and sense of self, students transition into a short story unit. They read several short stories, all of which require characters to make moral choices. Literary elements such as setting, plot, point of view, characterization, mood, symbolism, and theme are reviewed. The students incorporate their ethical decision-making skills and engage in deeper, higher-level thinking through discussions of abstract ideas and connections between the texts and their own experiences.

The remainder of the year focuses on further development of critical reading skills through a variety of novels and texts of steadily increasing sophistication. Through close reading, critical academic writing, class discussions, and presentations, students deepen their ability to analyze, evaluate, and critique text independently. Students actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures by reading, listening, and working independently and collaboratively.

Throughout the year, students read and respond to texts. Using a structured writing academic outline, students will formulate a clear thesis and defend their claim with pertinent supporting details.  We carefully review conventions including spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and sentence structure in order to hone the students’ writing skills.

Eighth Grade

The eighth grade English curriculum is designed to prepare our students for the rigors of high school and beyond. Students think deeply about their place in the world at large during classes led in The Socratic Method – a seminar-style lesson in which the teacher functions as a facilitator while encouraging students to draw their own conclusions.

It is a year of discovery. Students are introduced to classic writers like Poe, Steinbeck, and Shakespeare. They are given the tools to transcend the written word in order to understand the depth of the text. Author’s craft is emphasized so that students may begin to understand the significance of various styles of writing. To nurture an appreciation of various literary genres, independent reading is mandatory and accompanied by maintaining personal response journals. Student-driven book discussion groups allow them to share their newfound knowledge with their peers.

Writing skills are honed throughout the year, particularly expository writing. In a workshop setting, students learn to develop a thesis and collect material from the text to support an argument. In addition, peer editing is employed to help students master the essential skills needed to perfect their written work.