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Language Arts

5th Grade
Our language arts program includes whole class read-aloud, independent reading,  literature, writing, and grammar. Read-aloud allows students to see strong reading habits modeled, as well as engagement in discussion around character development and plot. Independent reading helps students build an appreciation for life-long reading, and they are encouraged to explore a variety of authors and genres throughout the year. 

In literature class, students read and understand grade-level-appropriate material and describe and connect the essential ideas, arguments, and perspectives of the story. They become familiar with setting, point of view, and the use of metaphors, similes, and figurative language to influence readers’ perspectives. Book groups are an essential part of the literature curriculum as they encourage reading for understanding, connect reading with personal experience, and allow for practice with participation in a discussion by taking turns and respecting the opinions of others.

The Reading Response notebook is where students do more structured writing that demonstrates their understanding while identifying larger themes and concepts. They also learn and use annotation skills, citing themes, posing questions, and making connections to inform class discussions. 

The Writer’s Notebook is intended for more informal writing, and to allow students to get in the habit of daily writing. It serves as a place for them to capture their ideas, process events, and generally get whatever is happening in their world down on paper. 

The fifth graders publish the school newspaper. Students will examine the overall structure of a newspaper and how to write an article, differentiate between feature and hard news stories, and understand how to avoid bias in their writing. Students choose their own topic, develop Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions, and locate source documents to inform their piece. Understanding how to utilize source material and effectively paraphrase ideas is also an integral part of this unit. 

Weekly grammar and vocabulary class focus on parts of speech, word usage, and sentence structure. Students use the Wordly Wise book to study vocabulary, including prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, antonyms, and analogies. 

6th Grade
The themes of revolution and Black liberation permeate the sixth grade study of literature. Whole class texts include As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds and Selma, Lord, Selma by Frank Sikora, Rachel West Nelson, and Sheyann Webb. Students also have an opportunity to select their own texts and lead literary discussions in book clubs. Sample book club options may include One Crazy Summer, The First Rule of Punk, A Good Kind of Trouble, Ahimsa, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, and King and the Dragonflies. Short stories, essays, poetry, and other supplementary texts are added throughout the year. Students’ exploration of literature builds from comprehension to inference as students study plot, character, theme, language, and symbolism. Many classes revolve around the art of discussion, asking meaningful questions, listening, responding thoughtfully, and creating meaning together. Students identify key passages, interpret themes, discuss connections, and analyze quotations as they discuss the meaning of a book. Students have ample opportunities to deepen their understanding of the books that they read through creative projects, historical research, and formal literary essays. 
 
Foundations provides a forum to study literary devices, orthography, syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. The grammar program builds on fifth grade content and covers usage and sentence structure. In conjunction with the writing program, students develop language and style to make their writing more sophisticated. Vocabulary is cultivated through units in Wordly Wise.
 
Oral and written communications go hand in hand. Discussions are reinforced with writing assignments that address themes that students study in literature and history classes. Students complete teacher-assigned writing projects as well as work on self-initiated pieces. They explore various narrative forms through explorations of testimonials, informative literature, and expository writing. Additionally, students engage in a creative writing component that includes poetry and short stories. As writers, students are grounded in thinking critically about their writing, the writing process, drafting, revising, and polishing pieces as they learn about structure, style, and mechanics. One of the major goals for sixth grade is the use of primary and secondary sources and text-based evidence writing, which is addressed through analytical and creative writing projects. Students learn about essay structure and aim for five- or more paragraph essays to gain a strong foundation for expository writing in later grades. Other large writing projects include a class presentation inspired by the Black Liberation study and the spring research paper in history. 

7th/8th Grade 
For seventh and eighth grade, MCS has a two-year rotating curriculum for English, science, and history. In year one, we begin our year in English and writing by focusing on the ways power shapes the lives of the characters in the stories and books we’ve been reading, including “Flyboys” by Tobias Wolff and Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez. Students analyze texts, both in groups and individually, completing assignments focused on character development, theme, and symbol. Eighth graders have also read a variety of texts focused on nature writing in preparation for their farm essay drafts. We also continue our work on vocabulary and grammar development.

In seventh grade English and writing, we continue our work on literary analysis. Looking at the novels Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida by Victor Martinez and The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, students examine the texts for theme, symbol, and characterization, with a particular focus on how gender, social class, and race impact characters' experiences. The first trimester, students revise their first major analytical essays, complete projects focusing on the idea of multiple intelligences, and create original poems. The seventh grade begins work on their autobiography, a multi-chapter project that is a major focus of writing class for the next few months. We continue our focus on vocabulary development and grammar, with an emphasis on giving students tools to create nuanced and polished writing.

In our literature classes, students continue their explorations of theme, symbol, and character in the graphic novels Persepolis and American Born Chinese. We also begin examining the work of Shakespeare, first by dissecting his sonnets and then with our reading of Romeo and Juliet. This unit focuses both on analysis and performance. We discuss concepts like wordplay, subtext, iambic pentameter, and irony while also examining the elements that make a performance engaging and memorable. Students continue developing their voices as analytical writers both through shorter response assignments along with essay writing. Additionally, they develop their voices as memoirists as part of the autobiography project. Students also continue their work on grammar and vocabulary development, giving them tools to share their thinking with nuanced and precise language.

In year two, we begin the year in our English classes reading and discussing James McBride's memoir The Color of Water. Through in-depth discussion, group work, close reading, and individual analytical writing assignments, students explore themes connected to family, religion, racial identity, and death. They also examine the concept of voice in the novel and highlight significant symbols McBride employs in the story. In writing classes, students read and analyze essays written about the natural world and begin drafting essays on a meaningful experience they had at the MCS Farm. They also build their vocabulary through regular word lists and assessments.

In the second trimester the eighth graders use their English and writing classes, for planning and creating speeches for the annual MLK March or leading discussions about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Students work on completing and revising an analytical essay on the memoir The Color of Water. In our studies of vocabulary and grammar students explore parallel structure and the use of colons and semicolons.

In our literature classes, we continue our exploration of theme, symbol, and character through class discussions, group work, and close reading. In our unit on Greek Mythology, we focus on ideas of power, obedience, and gender. And in our final unit on Julie Otsuka's When the Emperor Was Divine, we examine ideas around justice, assimilation, white supremacy, and history's lasting legacy. For their final analytical essay of the year, eighth graders dissect song lyrics for messages about our society and world as part of the Music and Culture assignment. Additionally, they create complex characters, and engaging, surprising plots for their short stories. We continue our work on vocabulary development and grammatical understanding with a focus on how to construct developed, polished writing.
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