Most protagonists strive to escape their confining situations by using their imaginations to create a more harmonious existence. These imaginative efforts take the form of intellectual, social, and spiritual aspirations. Still, what makes these characters lives less than they want? What can they do to overcome their limits and live a happier life? What will they find on their quest for a better life? The answer to these questions lies in the visions presented by the authors, poets, and playwrights studied this year.
Each unit draws on a variety of approaches ranging from whole class discussions to small group projects to individual presentations. In addition, students complete at least two interdisciplinary projects each year. In the process, students study such literary concepts as plot, characterization, setting, foreshadowing, flashback, metaphor, simile, personification, and symbolism. In addition, they learn how these devices each help reinforce the theme.
Students write both formal essays and creative pieces. In fact, they develop expository, narrative, descriptive, and persuasive essays, as well as short stories, legends, children’s books, free writes, poems, and news articles/features. In the process, they refine the skills of outlining/webbing, organizing ideas, writing introductory paragraphs starting with a hook and ending in a thesis, and creating supporting body paragraphs with specific examples from literature, current events, personal experiences, and interviews.
Students study vocabulary drawn from class texts, as well as from a master list of words often misused in student writing. They practice grammar not only in the context of their reading and their own writing, but also in weekly formal grammar study. Grammar study includes parts of speech, pronoun and verb agreement, capitalization, modifier usage, and punctuation (commas, semicolons, and colons). They also learn unified and varied sentence structure, transitions, punctuation, and proper citation/bibliographical format.
Further writing skills develop through teacher- and student-generated sentence completions, analogies, original sentences, and crossword puzzles.
At the year's end, students present speeches about the year’s theme, first crafted as essays and then delivered as speeches. This activity incorporates the year’s skills in critical reading, clear writing, and articulate speech. Students also present modified portfolios.
In recent years, the sixth-grade curriculum has included such texts as the following:
• Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
• Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
• Coming of Age: Fiction about Youth and Adolescence
• Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
• Sadlier-Oxford, Grammar for Writing, Fourth Course
• Homer, The Odyssey
• Lester, Day of Tears
• Rose, 12 Angry Men
• Staples, Under the Persimmon Tree