The Middle School English Program develops students’:
- proficiency in writing and speaking
- reading comprehension and retention
- facility with figurative language and literary abstraction
- understanding of grammar, usage, and syntax.
The department chooses literature to challenge, encourage, and engage students at each grade level. In addition to the reading that students are assigned in English class, each student also has a free choice book going at all times. A period is set aside each week for all students and faculty in the Middle School to read for pleasure. During this period, students read with their advisors, who are modeling pleasure reading themselves. Writing assignments, creative and expository, often are paired in some way with assigned reading. Each student’s vocabulary study is individualized through Membean, a web-based program, and vocabulary growth is monitored by each student’s teacher. Students study grammar at each grade level. Each year every student chooses and then declaims a significant work to his or her English classmates. Thus begins a school-wide series of auditions to discover approximately twelve excellent declaimers, three to five from each grade, who perform before the whole school each February or March.
The 5th grade English program develops students' language arts abilities through intensive reading and writing workshops. Students read excellent, developmentally-appropriate works together as a class that amplify the grade theme, “To Be Compassionate” — novels like Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Skellig by David Almond, and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, in addition to short stories, personal narratives, and poetry — and participate in a robust independent reading program that will help them join Thayer’s community of readers. A focus of the program is to have students reading for enjoyment and sharing that joy with other students and teachers. Differentiated instruction and student choice are further reinforced by literature circles and/or book clubs. Writing assignments vary from creative to expository and are often coordinated with work in other disciplines. True to the writing workshop format, students enjoy a lot of time during class to write and develop their narrative, descriptive, and expository skills. Our 5th grade teacher is regularly joined by a member of our Hale Learning Center, who helps provide focused one-on-one support for students. Within the context of their own writing, students develop their understanding of proper punctuation, capitalization, and spelling rules, while also being introduced to the parts of speech. Exposure to roots, prefixes, and suffixes, be they Greek or Latin, aids student vocabulary development and works in tandem with the 5th grade’s Latin program.
The 6th grade English program encourages a love of reading, instills appreciation of language, and develops students' abilities to express themselves. It emphasizes vocabulary, grammar, and composition skills that are reinforced across all disciplines in the core classroom. The individualized writing program targets areas that need improvement for each student. In addition, students improve dictionary and research skills through their writing. The program shares multidisciplinary units with history and is a component of the grade theme (To Inspire: Nature and Civilization). Literature includes: Goodnight Mr. Tom, And Then There Were None, The Trojan War, and Slake’s Limbo. Students also read selections from D’Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. The Trojan War and D’Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths complement 6th grade history.
The 7th grade English program exposes students to more literature and develops each student's ability for self-expression. While English covers many important skills, if there is a focus at this grade level, it is reading. All students, even the best readers in 7th grade, have reading skills that can be improved. We identify them quickly and help students improve over the course of the year. With their writing, students learn the importance of revision as they sharpen their word choice and phrasing in various descriptive, narrative, and expository compositions. Grammar study builds on the parts of speech students were exposed to in 6th grade. Rules of punctuation are included. Literature includes A Long Walk to Water, The Giver, Of Mice And Men, Flying Lessons & Other Stories, Shakespeare selections, Enchanted Air, The Thing About Jellyfish, and selected poems. Literature, some discussions, and some writing assignments support further understanding of the grade theme (To Rise: The Individual and Society).
The 8th grade English program widens students’ experiences as writers, readers, and speakers of English while preparing them for the expectations of humanities in the Upper School. After a quick review of 7th grade material, students study more abstract levels of grammar and usage that are applicable to their speech and writing. Literature includes Brown Girl Dreaming, To Kill a Mockingbird, Shakespeare selections/Julius Caesar, “This I Believe” essays, and Fahrenheit 451, in addition to selected short stories and poems. Literature, some discussions, and some writing assignments in this course support further understanding of the grade theme (To Contribute: Citizenship and Leadership).