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. 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 communications 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 are used to 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 exposes 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.
While Grade Six English offers the boys opportunities to write across genres, we spend a good deal of time defining and developing the various elements of the analytical paragraph in order to lay a solid foundation for the boys’ ongoing critical writing. 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 our spoken word poetry slam to their student-written plays in which they update a classic Grimm fairy tale, they refine their ability to effectively craft and deliver pieces to an audience. In the spring, they get to show off those performance chops in the Middle School Public Speaking Competition.
Texts: Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me (summer reading); Coolidge, Olivia. Greek Myths; Hamilton, Virginia & Barry Moser. In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World; Serraillier, Ian. Beowulf the Warrior; Pullman, Philip. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm; Lapine, James and Stephen Sondheim. Into the Woods; Halse Anderson, Laurie. Chains; Hinton, S.E.. The Outsiders; selected poems.
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 work with the analytical paragraph, introduce the passage explication, and begin working with arguments carried over more than one 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.
Texts: Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (summer reading); Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese; Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar; Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Hound of the Baskervilles; selected detective stories (authors to include Christie, Conan Doyle, Hammett, Sayers, among others); Orwell, George. Animal Farm; selected poems; selected short stories; selected artwork.
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.
First Semester: Knowles, “A Separate Peace”; Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”
Second Semester: Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”; Wolff, “In Pharaoh’s Army”