The middle school English program focuses on developing skills that enable students to be successful and confident readers, writers, speakers and listeners.
Our curriculum is informed by the Common Core State Standards in ELA (CCSS). In Grade 5 English and social studies are taught as a combined humanities course and the curriculum integrates literature selections with units of study in the social studies program. In our writing program, students work through a spiraled curriculum, which emphasizes narrative, informational and opinion or argument writing at each grade level, with increasing levels of complexity. Teachers model effective writing skills and strategies through direct instruction, and feedback is provided to students in a variety of ways. Writing instruction is based on a writers' workshop model. The goals of writers' workshop are to increase students’ ownership and awareness of the process and craft of their writing. The principles that underpin the classroom program have been derived from research about how student and professional writers actually write. These principles, which are the basis of our classroom practice, suggest that writers need the following: regular blocks of time in which to think, write, confer, revise and edit; response or feedback on their writing; choice of topic and autonomy to make decisions about their written pieces; and time to read.
Another key principle of writers' workshop is that students learn about the mechanics of writing within the context of their own reading and writing work. Skills are introduced through direct instruction and reinforced through independent practice and application in students’ own writing. All students in Grade 5-8 use the online program NoRedInk to reinforce their grammar and conventions skills.
In reading, students are exposed to a variety of literary genres, with the aim of fostering growth in fluency, comprehension, critical thinking skills and insight. Our reading program builds class community and serves as a vehicle for developing students' understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Reading instruction is balanced between whole-class studies of a text and opportunities for students to explore texts in smaller groups or partnerships, incorporating student choice whenever possible. Classroom discussions and written responses to reading are core components of the curriculum. At all levels, students are expected to increase their reading stamina, and regular independent reading is a critical component of this goal.
Throughout our program, students learn to communicate their ideas and to participate effectively in class discussions. Teachers utilize a variety of classroom discussion protocols to ensure equity of student voice and to model different ways of participating. Students develop active listening skills such as paraphrasing and questioning as they learn to reflect on and build upon the contributions of their classmates.