Explore Our Curriculum

Middle School English

The English Department faculty recognize the importance of teaching reading and writing as related, meaning-making processes. Consequently, language skills are taught in the contexts of literature and writing, with the additional support of vocabulary, reading, and grammar texts as needed. Teachers understand and address the learning needs of girls and young women as they become able and independent readers and writers.

As they move through the grades, students read literature that challenges them intellectually and inspires them to reflect on their lives and the world. In daily small group and class discussions of the literature, students are encouraged to develop confidence in their own ideas, articulate reasoned arguments, and respect the opinions of others. Developmentally appropriate literature is taught at all levels, and books are selected for their literary merit. The Department values diversity within the curriculum so that, in addition to important works from Europe and America, students read literature by writers from various cultures outside the Western tradition.

Writing is taught as a dynamic and creative process of discovering and constructing meaning, and students write in a variety of modes, frequently in response to reading. Students draft and revise their writing, and teachers engaging dialogically with each student through the writing process, both in conferences and in detailed written comments on drafts and finished papers. Teachers grant students agency by presenting them with options as writers within the contexts of purpose and audience. Students are encouraged to publish their writing in newspapers, literary magazines, and national student anthologies.

English Department Standards
  • Students understand reading as a dynamic process of constructing meaning that draws on multiple strategies for comprehension and interpretation; students use personal experiences and knowledge of textual elements and literary conventions.
  • Students read literature from different genres, cultures, and historical periods, developing an appreciation for the ways in which literature reflects the range and complexity of human experience. 
  • Students become active, confident, and independent readers who are willing to challenge texts and authors as they use literature to shape their own ideas and reflect on their lives and the world. 
  • Students develop an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of reading and writing that affect the production and interpretation of texts. 
  • Students understand and use reading and writing as powerful ways of thinking and learning that involve such strategies as synthesis, analysis, and problem solving. 
  • Students develop confidence and voice through writing and class discussions, while gaining respect for the constructive suggestions and opinions of others.
  • Students recognize and respect the richness and value of diversity in written and spoken discourse. 
  • Students learn that writing is a process of drafting, revising, and editing that has different purposes and audiences and involves many decisions about language, form, and content.
  • Students develop an enduring appreciation for the power and beauty of language and the value and uses of literature and writing in their lives. 
  • Students understand the strategies, the tools, and goals of research and the demand for integrity and precision in the use of secondary sources.
  • English 5

    In this course, students develop a strong foundation in reading, writing, listening, and speaking through the use of engaging and thought-provoking literature. Analyzing texts allows students to access a variety of perspectives, formed through different cultural and historical backgrounds. Through class discussion, writing assignments, and group projects, students explore key textual elements. These elements include plot, vocabulary, character development, and theme. Writing is taught in response to the literature, actively engaging students in thinking and communicating about the texts. Assignments emphasize the process of drafting, revising, and editing.

    Typical books include: 
    • Bridge to Terabithia
    • The Giver
    • Tuck Everlasting
    • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Greek Myths
    • It Ain't So Awful, Falafel
    • Save Me a Seat
    • Listen, Slowly
    • The Jumbies
    • One Crazy Summer
  • English 6

    For each of these texts, students engage in class discussion, group projects, and writing assignments, which allows students to develop their communication and critical thinking skills. Throughout the school year, students express ideas through a variety of writing assignments, including creative writing, personal narrative, and expository responses to literature. In addition to learning grammar through discrete units and in the contexts of selected readings, students focus on building their writing by developing critical paragraphs. 

    Typical books may include:
      •  A Monster Calls
      • The Westing Game
      • Refugee
      • Catherine, Called Birdy
      • Various texts for book clubs
  • English 7

    In this course, students continue to develop critical language and thinking skills in the context of American literature. Readings are selected both for their literary merit and to complement the study of American history. Language skills, including vocabulary, spelling, and grammar, are taught contextually throughout the course. Focusing on skills of interpretation and persuasion, students build on their work with critical paragraphs and short essays. Students are guided through the writing process; drafting, revision, and editing are emphasized in formal writing assignments. Response journals and discussions encourage individual voice and reflection.  

    Typical books include:
    • The Wednesday Wars
    • Chains
    • A Soldier’s Secret
    • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • English 8

    In this course, students are introduced to literature from a variety of cultures and genres. Often focusing on gender, social, and cultural issues, students practice close reading strategies and write persuasive essays in response to the readings. Effective strategies of interpretation and persuasion are developed, including the use of the text to support and extend arguments.  Through class discussion, written reflections, and cooperative learning, students are encouraged to examine their individual responses as readers and to explore the influences of social norms on their reading. Grammar and vocabulary are studied in the context of literature and student writing.  

    Typical books include: 
      • To Kill a Mockingbird
      • Anne Frank’s diary
      • Farewell to Manzanar
      • excerpts from As You Like It
      • A Raisin in the Sun
      • The House on Mango Street
      • excerpts from The Joy Luck Club
  • Creative Writing

    Elective course | Grades 7–8

    This course is taught in a workshop format with students writing original works, some from writing prompts in class, and sharing them for peer critique. Students focus on specific techniques and elements of the writing process in an effort to improve their writing skills. Evaluation is based on a portfolio of writing and revised drafts indicating effort and progress.
  • Graphic Novels

    Elective Course | Grades 7–8

    This course introduces students to several different genres of graphic novels. The pairing of prose and images build vocabulary and visual skills. The class will focus on the literary elements of  graphic novels and the way they are constructed. The course will culminate in a final project when students will write and illustrate their own work.
  • Creative Writing: Novel and Collections

    Elective course | Grades 7-8

    This course is taught in a workshop format with students writing a sustained, completed work for the trimester and sharing the work for peer critique. Students will focus on writing through the Young Writer’s Program offered by the team at NaNoWriMo to reach a predetermined word count goal for the trimester. Evaluation is based on a complete novel, novella or collection of short stories with a common thread (character, setting, theme, etc.)