Middle School English

Menlo Middle School students use iPads to enhance reading in English class. Photo by Pete Zivkov.

Writing. Reading. Thinking.

The Middle School English program fosters an environment in which students learn to think and read critically, articulate their ideas through writing and speaking, and develop an independent voice. Students have opportunities to share books with peers, lead class discussions, reflect on their work and ideas, write creatively and persuasively, discuss current events, and quench their thirst for exploring the finer points of the English language. Throughout the three years, students develop study skills, the ability to manage time and materials, and mutual respect and tolerance. 

Students strengthen their ability to actively analyze source material, synthesize and organize information, and clearly communicate ideas through the written and spoken word. This course contributes to the sixth grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, managing time and materials, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance.

Meet our Middle School English faculty.

Course Catalog

  • English - Grade 6

    Sixth Grade English focuses on the idea of voice: students explore and develop their own voices through reading, writing, and speaking; they read, examine, and learn from the voices of authors and classmates; and they develop a thoughtful understanding of voices, perspectives, and philosophical issues from a variety of literary genres. Throughout this exploration, we’ll also consider a guiding question, shared with the Sixth Grade History course: “How do we solve the challenges we face?” We investigate through discussions, debates, written work, collaborative learning, interactive simulations, and active reading. Technology and digital media are integrated as appropriate throughout the curriculum. Students expand their overall learning strategies, including time management, organization, study skills, and self-assessment, and they practice mutual respect and compassion with their classmates.

    As writers, students refine the steps in the writing process; strive for clear, precise, and effective writing; and explore several expository and creative modes. Vocabulary and grammar usage are strengthened throughout the year. As readers, they learn to engage deeply with a text, question thoughtfully, and connect what they’ve discovered to their own lives, their sixth grade community, and the wider world.

    During the course of the year, we will read poetry, short stories, non-fiction, and novels, including: Seedfolks; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Dragonwings; and The Giver. Throughout the year, selections from the young reader’s version of Omnivore’s Dilemma contribute to the sixth grade interdisciplinary theme of sustainability.

  • English - Grade 7

    Seventh grade English emphasizes critical and creative writing, the revision process, reading, literary analysis, and study skills. Students will examine recurring themes of character, perspective and empathy.  Students practice the application of academic skills across the curriculum as they learn critical thinking and writing through discussions, projects, and self-reflection, as well as active reading and note taking. In addition, this course actively contributes to the seventh grade interdisciplinary goals of developing study skills, honing organization and time management, and practicing mutual respect and tolerance through cooperative learning.

    Students learn the writing process through narrative and persuasive essays, creative writing, journal writing, and poetry, with a focus on revision through peer-and self-editing.  Vocabulary and grammar usage are strengthened throughout the year. Students begin to study character and voice through short stories written in the voice of 13-year-olds. Simultaneously, they learn about the service-learning theme of poverty by examining causes of poverty and potential solutions to the issue both local and worldwide. In the second semester, To Kill a Mockingbird provides students with a framework for ethical discussions and the opportunity to collaborate and truly embody a character in the novel through original monologues. Students analyze the relationship between place and identity through the lens of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood; they also use this text to examine the graphic novel as a literary medium.  The poetry unit focuses on interpretation, appreciation, and writing.  The culminating seventh grade project, at year’s end, integrates problem-solving, research, and presentation skills across the core classes.

  • English - Grade 8

    The aim of this course is twofold: to guide students toward more perceptive reading as well as more articulate writing. Similar to a writer’s workshop, students practice the craft of shaping thoughts and share aloud what they have written. Similar to a book group, students lead class discussions and present evidence that supports their conclusions.

    The year begins with the students discussing and writing about various world philosophies. During the first few weeks, students also begin two year-long programs: vocabulary study and journal writing. In eighth grade English, students spend significant time exploring different genres of formal writing, focusing on thesis development, supportive topic sentences and substantial evidence. First quarter, the emphasis is on persuasive writing; second quarter, the emphasis shifts to descriptive writing, including travel writing and narratives. Prior to the annual trip to Washington, DC, students read and discuss various short stories, poetry, and soldier letters from experiences capturing both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, followed by a unit exploring various modes of peace.

    Second semester begins with Lord of the Flies, with discussions regarding individual responsibility in the absence of adults. The unit culminates with a formal mock trial charging Ralph with negligence in Piggy’s death. Formal writing instruction continues in the same vein as first semester, but with an emphasis on quotation integration and concise writing in analytical essays. Similar to the first semester co-curricular unit with History class when reading our first novel, Copper Sun, we finish the year with a final collaborative unit on the decades from 1920 - 1970. Drawing from literature (including Of Mice and Men), poetry, music and the arts, students supplement their knowledge of each decade’s history with various modes to gain deeper and well-rounded understanding of each decade.