Middle School
MS Curriculum


The Middle School English program focuses on promoting students’ reading comprehension, appreciation of literature, and ability to write clearly and correctly.
The English program seeks to foster students’ enjoyment of literature and intellectual inquiry, develop their capacity to read with insight and sensitivity, promote their skills in interpreting the world around them, and cultivate their ability to express themselves with power and clarity, both orally and in writing.
Presupposing that the better one reads and understands, the better one will write, and that the better one writes, the better one will read and understand, the English program nurtures student growth with carefully planned experiences exploring and emulating the work of effective and distinguished writers in a variety of genres.
Students receive integrated instruction in the basics of reading and writing. Subjects include vocabulary, spelling, grammar, sentence mechanics, paragraph structure, organization, basic logic, the use of evidence and even some exploration of rhetoric and style—including creative use of diction and syntax.

English Courses

List of 4 items.

  • English 5

    Fifth grade English students expand upon their knowledge of reading texts, writing analytically and creatively, and thinking critically through active participation in class discussions, group projects and presentations, and creative writing.
    Throughout the year, students are asked to take risks in class discussions based on their work on assigned readings and grammar studies. They work on active reading skills to develop their understanding of the author’s purpose and theme. Together, they learn to analyze characters and passages to gain a better understanding of characterization and plot development with reference to Freytag’s Pyramid. And they identify and explore examples of figurative language embedded in the text.

    As students learn to annotate works of literature—highlighting, writing marginalia and asking questions of the text—they learn to use their annotations to create interpretations of the text and to explore analytical arguments through writing. Fifth graders also use their informal writing to develop analytical ideas, and they respond to QQA (Question, Quote, Analysis) prompts. As students build on their reading skills, they are encouraged to develop an increasing love of fiction and nonfiction texts, as well as an appreciation for sharing literature with their peers. They study vocabulary in the context of the texts read in class, and they strengthen their understanding of the shades of meaning of words and learn to apply them in their writing.
    Students divide their time between analytical and creative writing. They write memoirs, poetry, short stories/responses from the perspectives of literary characters, their own Greek myths and rewrites of the last chapters of novels they have read in order to explore alternate endings and to summarize sequels. Proofreading skills, vocabulary, grammar and organizational techniques are the foundations of writing lessons. Students learn systematically how to pre-write, draft, revise, edit and publish analytical paragraphs, poems, short stories/responses and their memoirs, which are the longest writing assignments they produce all year. They revise constantly to ensure that their writing includes a strong thesis statement or hook for creative pieces, good organization and increasing sophistication of figurative and expressive language, with the proper usage and formatting of dialogue.
    Technology plays a critical role in the curriculum, as fifth graders are responsible for having their own devices for each class period this year for the first time. Students not only learn responsible use of technology in order to produce work both in and out of class, but also learn how to use certain devices and software (e.g., Google Slides and Google Docs), thereby enhancing their technological literacy. Though keyboard typing is not directly instructed, students practice touch-typing and keyboard typing for all writing assignments, both formal and informal.
  • English 6

    In English 6, students encounter texts through the lens of “Mirrors and Windows.” Coined by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, the terms “windows” and “mirrors” refer to an individual’s experience of a text as being either a mirror, something that reflects their own experiences in some way, or a window that reflects the experiences of others, from which they can learn and grow. Course texts reflect a diversity of settings, experiences, backgrounds and abilities to provide both affirming mirror texts and illuminating window texts for all students.
    Students engage in vocabulary drawn from class texts as well as grammar study that strives toward a holistic understanding of the function of language and punctuation, including parts of speech, pronoun and verb agreement, capitalization, modifier usage and punctuation (e.g., commas, semicolons and colons). They also learn unified and varied sentence structure, transitions, punctuation and proper citation format.
    Each unit incorporates a variety of approaches, ranging from whole-class discussions to small-group projects and individual analytical and creative writing assignments. In the process, students study such literary concepts as plot, characterization, setting, symbolism, metaphor, simile and personification. In addition, they learn how these devices help reinforce the theme of each text. Over the course of the year, students learn not only to identify and understand these literary elements but to master them by crafting them in their own writing.
    Students write both formal paragraphs and creative pieces. They develop expository, narrative, descriptive and persuasive pieces, as well as short stories, focused free writes and poems. In the process, they refine the skills of outlining/webbing, organizing ideas and writing both analytical responses to texts and analytical paragraphs. At the start of the year, students choose a topic for their year-long multi-genre writing project that is either a "mirror" or "window" for them, and each creative piece they compose fits some aspect of this larger topic. By year’s end, students spend an entire unit editing and curating these various pieces into a cohesive manuscript with a meaningful narrative trajectory, which hones the critical skill of editing and culminates in a powerful and personal exploration of their topics.
  • English 7

    Students will explore a variety of texts about characters facing vastly different challenges. In doing so, students will discover the questions all people ask themselves growing up: Who are we? Where are we going? What do we believe—and why? How do we fit into the world around us?
    Students will examine the choices characters make, the obstacles they overcome and the people who help and hinder them along the way. In addition, they will consider their own stories, seeking to develop a clearer sense of identity and voice as they develop their skills as readers, writers and thinkers.
    Students concentrate on four- and five-paragraph composition, becoming increasingly aware of the importance of both the thesis and the topic sentence. In addition, they have the opportunity to choose their own outside reading projects and to experiment with various kinds of creative writing.
    Students study vocabulary in the context of the texts they read. After a brief review of grammar previously studied, students confront more difficult grammatical constructions, including complements, phrases, pronoun case, and compound and complex sentences. They also confront matters of mechanics and usage. A public-speaking project culminates the year and encourages students to explore issues of identity, freedom and culture in a first-person narrative.
  • English 8

    Through a variety of texts (novels, poems, short stories, scripts) and visual media (films, plays, visual art), the eighth grade curriculum invites students to explore identity. Students will examine personal identifiers, such as race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic class, religion, ability (mental and/or physical) and sexual orientation, as well as a number of cultural identifiers, such as family composition, language and belief structure. In so doing, eighth graders will investigate their own identities and ask themselves the following essential questions:
    • What elements comprise our identity?
    • Are those elements static or do they change over time?
    • To what extent do they shape our belief system and behavior, and to what extent do our belief system and behavior shape our identity?
    • How does labeling and stereotyping influence how we look at and understand the world?
    By means of an investigation of identity, the course will focus intensely on honing reading and writing skills—particularly close reading, literary analysis, and both analytical and creative writing. Students will analyze characters through the lens of identity and consider how various identifiers influence characters’ decisions and behaviors. To do this effectively, students must first practice close reading and passage analysis skills. Through passage analyses and generative writing, students will begin developing theses, which they will test through their own writing. A major emphasis will be placed on defending theses with text-based evidence. Early assignments will focus on refining paragraph structure and development, but as the year progresses, students will engage in more sustained writing assignments, like analytical and persuasive essays. Creative writing also plays an important role in the curriculum, giving students the opportunity to explore identity through characters they create. In addition, it helps develop their facility and comfort with language.
    Grammar and vocabulary feature prominently in the curriculum as well. Students review parts of speech and basic parts of a sentence. They learn how to enhance clarity and depth through varied sentence structure. Students discuss punctuation and explore how it can affect meaning in their own writing. Vocabulary is selected from the course texts and presented to students using various methods. To demonstrate mastery of their new words, students are encouraged to use them in their own writing.