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.
Knowing that the better students read, the better they write, and that the better students write, the better they read, Middle School English faculty move lessons fluidly among reading, vocabulary, spelling, writing, grammar, and other skills. Students learn to comprehend both classic and contemporary works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, to navigate the art of writing, to structure essays that take risks and argue an opinion that is not obvious, and to experiment with writing poetry and fiction and to speak publically. Middle School English faculty lead our students from intellectual childhood to intellectual young adulthood.

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, occasional 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. Students 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 the texts read in class, while being asked to identify 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 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.

    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 memoirs. They revise constantly to ensure that their writing includes a strong thesis statement, good organization, and increasing sophistication of figurative and expressive language.

    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. Students 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.

    Technology plays a critical role in the curriculum. Students not only learn responsible use of technology in order to produce work both in and outside 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 often when completing writing assignments.

    In recent years, the fifth-grade curriculum has included such texts as the following:

    • Ji-Li Jiang, Red Scarf Girl
    • Elizabeth George Speare, The Sign of the Beaver
    • Tina Packer, Tales from Shakespeare
    • D’Aulaires, Greek Myths
    • Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee
    • Linda Sue Park, A Single Shard
    The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children’s Poems
    • Grammar Textbook: Rules of the Game
  • English 6

    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, student work culminates in consolidating insights on the courses theme, which is “What makes a hero?”

    In recent years, the sixth-grade curriculum has included such texts as the following:
    • Sharon Draper, Out of My Mind
    • Wendy Mass, A Mango-Shaped Space
    • Reginald Rose, Twelve Angry Men
    • Karen Cushman, Catherine Called Birdy
    • Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories
    • Tanya Lee Stone, Almost Astronauts
    • Grammar for Writing: Grade 9
    • Assorted short stories, poems, & articles
  • English 7

    Students will explore a variety of text about characters facing vastly different challenges. In doing so, students will discover significant similarities among those characters—most important, that they ask themselves the same questions we often ask ourselves: Who are we? Where are we going? In what do we believe? 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 creative writing—with an emphasis on memoir and creative non fiction.

    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.
    In recent years, the seventh-grade curriculum has included such texts as the following:
    • Grimes, Nikki, Bronx Masquerade
    • Alvarez,A., Before We Were Free
    • L’Engle, M., A Wrinkle in Time
    • Orwell, G., Animal Farm
    • Sadlier-Oxford, Grammar for Writing, Fifth Course
    • Shakespeare, W., A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Sword , A., A Child’s Anthology of Poetry
    • Wiesel, E., Night
  • 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 our investigation of identity, we 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.

    Possible texts and films include:
    • Na, An, A Step from Heaven
    • Cisneros, Sandra, The House on Mango Street
    • Jimenez, Francisco, The Circuit
    • Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird
    • Shakespeare, William, The Merchant of Venice
    • Sword, Elizabeth Hauge (ed.), A Child’s Anthology of Poetry