The Middle School Language Arts curriculum comprises the areas of Grammar, Literature, Vocabulary, and Writing. Through these subjects, the students are exposed to and practice the concepts in a variety of manners, including small and large group discussions, note-taking through lectures, hands-on, experiential projects (independent and cooperative), presentations, and writing pieces.
Literature classes at the Middle School level are primarily discussion-based. Students are expected to read 5 to 6 novels per year, as well as one play and several short stories. Generally, the novels and stories share a common theme, several of which are directly related to the Science and/or History curricula. Students of a mixed 7th and 8th grade level group meet once per week to discuss assigned reading in greater depth, exploring relevant themes/motifs, symbolism, literary devices, author intention, character analysis/motivations, plot line, and inference. At the conclusion of each novel, students complete one of the following: a test, a formal response essay, or a creative project as assigned by the teacher. Students are also sometimes exposed to film adaptations of the literature selections. The following is a compilation of reading selections that have been deemed appropriate for the Middle School level:
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, & A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
- My Brother Sam is Dead by Collier & Collier
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller
- Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon
- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Chosen by Chaim Potok
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury
- “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
- “The Bet” by Anton Chekhov
- “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- “Everything that Rises Must Converge” by Flannery O’Connor
- “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe
- “A&P” by John Updike
- “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut
- “The Mask of Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe
- “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
- “The Lady or the Tiger” by Frank R. Stockton
- “A Small Good Thing” by Raymond Carver
- “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving
Writing instruction at the Middle School level assumes many forms. Students study and practice formal essay writing organized in the standard five-paragraph format. During this period, they explore many topics ranging from those persuasive in nature to expository or informative. Students also develop response essays for the novels they have read. They learn about the writing process and practice following through with each of the essential outlined steps. They compose creative pieces in which they explore character development and dialogue, use an active voice, and develop setting, tone, and mood. Seventh year students are assigned a creative autobiography portfolio that is to be composed over the course of several months and comprises a variety of writing formats. During this time, eighth year students participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Focusing on meeting their independently chosen word count goals, students work towards completing a compelling novel by the end of November. Subsequently, during the month of December, all students focus on editing and preparing their pieces for teacher submission.
The primary goal in regard to Grammar is for students to be able to transfer their knowledge of concrete grammatical concepts to more abstract applications through their oral communication and writing pieces. This is implemented first through generating a basic understanding of the concept by means of a lesson that typically involves note taking and teacher modeling of the proper usage of the given concept. Then, students independently practice the concept through a relevant homework assignment, which leads to a larger-scale creative component, such as a group project to create a brochure, skit, poster, game, presentation, etc…
Because Grammar permeates many areas of a student’s learning, it is revisited during Writing classes when the students are expected to reflect what they have learned in their writing. Topics covered during Middle School Grammar classes include the parts of speech, types of sentences (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex), clauses (independent & dependent), punctuation usage (commas, colons, semicolons, apostrophes), direct and indirect objects, appositives, participles, gerunds, & infinitives, sentence errors (fragments & run-ons), active vs. passive voice, homophones and common usage errors.
Literature and Vocabulary are integrated through the selection of words that are drawn directly from the reading material. The manner of introduction to new vocabulary words varies. In some instances, students take notes on each new word and its definition, while at other times, they are provided the words in their context from the book and are asked to formulate definitions based upon the context given. Students are expected to explain their understanding of word meanings and to compare their thought process to that of their peers. It is through these discussions and practices that students familiarize themselves with previously unknown words. Emphasis is placed on applying newly learned words to student writing and speech, providing practice using new words with context clues and developing creative stories using the words appropriately.
Equally important to learning word meanings, is learning to use words correctly, according to their parts of speech, and acquiring a general understanding of word roots and parts. Through this instruction, students are able to gain critical knowledge that will not only serve to expand their vocabulary, but will also provide them with the necessary tools to decipher unknown words in the future. In addition to the aforementioned tasks, Middle School level, students are required to take Vocabulary assessments, which are typically administered on a biweekly basis. During review classes, students often practice applying the words through games and cooperative group activities.