Middle School Curriculum Guide
The English program at Rye Country Day School is designed to enable students at all levels to become lifelong learners with the ability to communicate their ideas effectively through the spoken and the written word. To this end, both traditional and innovative, age-appropriate techniques are used to foster a mastery of writing, an enduring love of literature, and an appreciation of diverse themes and voices.
- FIFTH-GRADE LANGUAGE ARTS
- SIXTH-GRADE LANGUAGE ARTS
- SEVENTH-GRADE ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS
- EIGHTH-GRADE ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS
To raise the linguistic complexity of the writing skills of fifth graders, students learn how to provide evidence to support a topic sentence, to compose memorable closing sentences, to write clearly and convincingly with varied sentence structure, and to employ precise language. They begin to read closely to penetrate the surface of novels, stories, poems, and articles.
Reading: Learning how to read actively and to identify meaningful passages and examples of literary devices are important components of the reading program. In addition to reading poetry and a variety of novels as a class and on their own, students enjoy independently three Diversity Reads, which they discuss in three book club sessions as part of language arts and social studies. In a once-a-cycle “Kindling the Classics” session, students listen to literature. Fifth graders independently read books of their own choice, as well. Nonfiction reading comprehension assignments reinforce the skills of finding main ideas, sequencing events, understanding vocabulary from context, predicting, and making inferences.
Writing: Fifth graders compose paragraphs from Quick Outlines, summarize, and receive instruction in editing, revising, and the writing of effective sentences and paragraphs. Occasional creative writing exercises include poems, stories, and letters. Students are encouraged to write in cursive.
Grammar/Mechanics: The teaching of grammar and mechanics is embedded in expository writing exercises with emphasis on the parts of speech, agreement, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. Students learn the ten comma rules. Revising and editing their own work as well as combining sentences reinforce these skills.
Spelling: Students learn spelling rules, study words for spelling quizzes, and are encouraged to copy words carefully, to employ spelling dictionaries, to run spell check on the computers, and to ask for the spellings of unfamiliar words.
Vocabulary: Vocabulary comes directly from their reading. Students also study the etymologies of words through handouts, reinforcement exercises, and discussion. There is a focus on words with both Latin and Greek roots.
Sixth-grade students use both oral and written language and technology for expressive, informative, argumentative, critical, and literary purposes. In order to speak and write effectively, students also explore the structure of language and study grammatical rules.
Reading: Students learn to interpret, synthesize, and evaluate a range of literature that is thematic in nature. In order to read effectively and more critically, students delve beyond a basic understanding of a text and explore elements of literature. Novels are selected to help students take notice of others and the world they live in and bring issues of social justice to the forefront. Class discussions encourage students to explore topics and to be open to contrasting views.
Writing: Expository writing is the focus of the sixth-grade curriculum. The development of the writing process with strong topic sentences and details of support is the cornerstone of the writing program. A major goal is to teach students a formula and structure that can assist them as they write. The year begins with intensive sentence work that transitions to thoughtful paragraph responses and ends with multi-paragraph expository essays. Students are challenged to craft a variety of assignments that reflect independent thinking and analysis. These, along with class discussions, enable students to delve deeper into texts and to express themselves thoughtfully.
Grammar: The sixth-grade grammar and writing programs are directly interwoven. Grammar studies are designed to enhance students’ ability to write and speak effectively. Students deepen their understanding of the parts of speech, which leads to a greater comprehension of the elements that make up sentences. The study of complex sentences and their usage is a cornerstone of the program. The effective use of such enhances the students’ critical thinking skills and ability to craft meaningful paragraphs.
Vocabulary: The study of vocabulary comes from assigned readings and Vocabulary Workshop. Students complete various exercises to assist them in learning word meanings, as well as in studying analogies and word families, in identifying synonyms and antonyms, and in choosing the correct word through the use of context clues and inference.Spelling: Students are held accountable for the correct spelling and part of speech of each vocabulary word. In addition, all final drafts of student work are to reflect correct spelling.
The seventh-grade English curriculum focuses on the theme of culture, identity, and the search for self through a varied and rich collection of short stories, poems, plays, and novels. Students expand their understanding of the world and themselves; consequently, many units lend themselves to public purpose and allow for students’ involvement with the world at large. Over the course of the year, students build upon their foundations of literary analysis and enhance their ability to discuss and write about literature. With a primary focus on the writing process, often driven by the literature, students learn to write for a variety of purposes and audiences. Vocabulary and grammar instruction serves to strengthen the students’ ability to communicate their thoughts clearly and effectively.
Reading: Students are exposed to a variety of literary genres, including short stories, plays, poetry, and novels. Through literature students are able to analyze the forces that motivate characters and enhance their ability to identify main ideas and make inferences about the works; recall information; locate, identify, and discuss plot, theme, characterization, symbolism, setting, and atmosphere; and be familiar with poetic devices and terminology including simile and metaphor, rhyme scheme, meter, and alliteration.
Writing: Throughout the year, students write for a variety of purposes and audiences to more ably express their ideas through the written word. They practice formulating and defending a thesis in a literary essay. By the end of the year, students understand the steps of the writing process and the use of effective transitions, and they are able to revise and edit their work for clarity of expression.
Grammar: Students enhance their understanding of the parts of a sentence and focus on employing the rules of grammar and mechanics to their written work.
Vocabulary: Vocabulary drawn from the literary texts and from workbook exercises emphasizes synonyms, antonyms, and parts of speech, as well as use of context clues to establish meaning.
Spelling: While spelling is not a formal unit, students are expected to use, but not rely on, the spellcheck function on their computers. Together, the study of spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and writing mechanics aims to improve students’ ability to derive meaning from what they read and to strengthen their written expression.
The eighth-grade course in Language Arts emphasizes five major skills: the reading, understanding, and interpretation of literature; extensive writing; the mechanics of English: grammar, usage, vocabulary, and spelling; critical thinking skills; and listening skills.
Reading: The literature that students read includes a variety of enlightening books from both the classic and modern genres. Much of the literature chosen emphasizes humanistic themes and values, helping students to understand the world and to respect people who are different from themselves. The reading encourages both written and oral reactions to its themes and ideas, as interesting, thought-provoking material stimulates thinking and sparks exciting class discussions. Outside reading is always encouraged. We hope that each student grows to appreciate the beauty and diversity of life and humanity through the books we share.
Writing: Clear, effective writing is the most powerful tool students can acquire. The main objective of the writing program is to teach students to write clearly and concisely, thus allowing them to communicate confidently and logically as they strive to incorporate creativity with their own personal writing style. With many models of good reading and writing, we hope to inspire students to write often and without effort.
Students who read, write better, and students who write, read more. The more students are exposed to graceful sentences and rich language, the easier it is for them to create such in their own writing. Good writing takes hard work, and eighth-grade students write regularly both in class and at home, gathering ideas and responding to their reading. Students learn to organize and shape their work, write multiple drafts, practice peer and self-editing, and revise with care and thought.
The eighth-grade writing program includes specific strategies and activities for developing complex sentences, outlining, writing paragraphs and essays, and revising and editing. Our goal as writing teachers is to help students discover their own style of writing, thus making them independent, confident writers who enjoy words and are willing to take risks with language. When students leave the eighth grade, it is our wish that they realize and appreciate the magic and power of writing and the exciting uses of language.
Students write in class at least once a week, using the assigned literature as springboards for their piece or specific writing prompts designed to elicit personal responses. During writing periods, students also learn how to manage timed writing assignments. Throughout the year, students practice writing for different audiences and purposes: to inform, to persuade, to express an opinion, to reflect, and to entertain. In addition, the use of a multiple paragraph outline for formal essay writing is reinforced continually so that students have an organized framework from which to argue a thesis statement with specific examples and quotations from the literature studied.
Grammar: Formal grammar is an important part of the eighth-grade course. A clear and thorough understanding of the fundamental structure of English serves to sharpen students’ power of analysis, to clarify and strengthen their writing, and to help students appreciate the beauty and structure of the English language. A student’s awareness of grammatical principles and their names (parts of speech, phrase-clause work, punctuation, usage) helps in both beginning drafts and subsequent corrections and suggested revisions.
Vocabulary: Vocabulary study is from Vocabulary Workshop, which uses the following exercises to reinforce weekly word lists: completing the sentence, finding synonyms and antonyms, selecting the right word through context clues, and working with analogies.
Spelling: Students are held accountable for correct spelling in all of their final drafts. While there is no formal spelling program in the eighth grade, teachers address specific spelling issues that recur in students’ writing.