The Middle School English curriculum concentrates on the interrelated study of grammar, literature, vocabulary and composition. This program provides a method for developing skills in two key areas for academic success: writing and critical reading. Boys are encouraged to read with understanding and feeling and to recognize in the experience of literature a common bond with all humanity. Reading selections include modern works and classics chosen to promote the enjoyment of literature and of learning from a wide range of disparate voices. The study of grammar and vocabulary forms an integral part of Middle School English. With a competent command of grammar and a growing vocabulary, the student will be able to meet the increasing demands for good, clear communication skills, both written and oral.
The Grade Five English curriculum is divided into three parts: reading, writing workshop and English mechanics. As a class, students read a variety of novels that complement the history curriculum. The books may include Spinelli, “Maniac Magee”; Lowry, “Number The Stars” and “The Giver”; Curtis,“Bud, Not Buddy” as well as short stories and poetry selections. Films and other media are used to enhance the learning experience. Classroom discussions, which develop critical and analytical thinking skills, are an essential part of the course. For additional challenge, boys may read books they have chosen independently and practice their analyses of text as well as their oral expression by presenting book reviews to their classmates. Written assignments based on the class novels give the boys practice in expository and persuasive writing; special emphasis is placed upon sentence structure and paragraph development. The boys have additional opportunities to develop the fluency of their written expression, as well as their creative writing skills, through regular assignments in a writing journal and stories.
English in Grade Six is first and foremost a literature course. The curriculum is designed to expose students to a number of major literary forms – myths, legends, novels, drama, and poetry– and the terms with which we talk about them. There are intentional points of contact with Grade Six history throughout the year, as English uses History’s focus on Greek and Roman civilizations as a jumping off point for our literary exploration of how societies view journeys – from the grand and heroic to the intensely internal.
Grade Six English instruction concentrates on the development and definition of the elements of the analytical paragraph to build a solid foundation for critical writing in the future. Focusing on topic sentences and outlines, students learn to express their assertions clearly and logically; focusing on incorporating quoted material into their paragraphs, they learn to support and develop their assertions. Lessons in sentence structure and mechanics reinforce students’ basic writing skills, and concerted, consistent work with vocabulary expands their word choice.
The boys also demonstrate their learning through performance throughout the year. From a spoken word poetry slam to student-written plays which update a classic Grimm fairy tale, the boys refine their ability to effectively craft and deliver pieces to an audience. In the spring, students participate in the Middle School Public Speaking Competition.
English in Form I builds on the foundations laid in fifth and sixth, and continues to develop the boys’ reading, writing, and critical thinking skills with a variety of texts and written assignments. Focusing on the themes of identity and what it means to be a man, we look at artwork (painting, photography, and sculpture), poetry, personal vignettes, plays, and novels in order to give the boys different perspectives on these themes. The boys develop their close reading skills through the organizing lens of observation, interpretation, and analysis – a structure they can apply to the analysis of literature in myriad ways.
We also strive to offer the boys a range of writing assignments to develop both their creative and analytical writing and their public speaking skills. We continue to work with the analytical paragraph, introduce the passage explication, and begin working with arguments that extend beyond a single paragraph. In creative writing, we focus on character description and then on short fiction.
Grammar work focuses on teaching the boys clear and intentional sentence structure using their own work as our teaching material.
This course focuses upon and refines the skills of critical reading and writing. By examining what a work says and implies, and by exploring its language and larger structures, the student develops his analytic mind. Literary works are selected for their artistic merit as well as for their appeal to the maturing reader. Independent reading is assigned throughout the year for those boys who seek additional challenges. Through frequent essay and creative writing assignments and regular grammar and vocabulary exercises, the student understands the importance of the written word and gains the skill and confidence to express himself in all areas of composition.