he Middle School English curriculum encourages students’ love of reading and writing and introduces and reinforces the skills students need in order to read critically and to express their thoughts effectively. Throughout their four years in the Middle School English program, students are exposed to the fundamentals of writing, reading, spelling and grammar, and they are expected to develop as analytical and thoughtful readers and writers. By the end of their 8th grade year, students will have been challenged to explore and analyze their reading, moving away from plot summaries to a deeper reading of the text. Eighth graders are exposed to a wide range of themes and literary terms (theme, symbol, tone, climax, irony, metaphor, simile, etc.) and are expected to be able to discuss them in class and in writing, as they become well prepared for our Upper School English program.

Grade 5 Central Studies

The purpose of the Central Studies program is to integrate disciplines of study ‑ history, literature, writing, art, geography, music, drama; to give life to a period of history; to promote the joy and accomplishment that comes from knowing a subject well; and to use material that offers depth and variety to appeal to a range of interests and abilities.

The fifth grade Central Studies course centers on the medieval period in Great Britain and includes social studies, literature, and writing. It is geared toward developing sound study habits and helping students to assume responsibility for themselves. As the year progresses, the children are led from concrete to more abstract thinking skills such as analysis, critical thinking, and evaluation. Topics and activities are selected to enhance this age group’s fascination with the past and to guide them as they grow into independent thinkers and responsible adults.

Literature & Writing

The literature that we read, analyze, discuss and write about ties into the social studies topics and includes the following: “The Legend of King Arthur,” “The Legend of St. George and the Dragon,” “The Legend of Beowulf,” “Catherine Called Birdy,” “A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver,” “Adam of the Road,” “Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest,” “The Apple and the Arrow,” “The Door in the Wall,” “A Single Shard,” “Kite Fighters,” “Ventures” anthology, poetry.

A portfolio assessment approach shapes the fifth grade writing program. Students write often, using the writing process. The student chooses some topics and forms, while others are assigned. Assignments may be based on social studies topics or literature. Students’ working portfolios, including plans, drafts, and records, are kept in the classroom. Students establish their own criteria for assessment, and through self‑evaluation, peer conferences, and teacher conferences, they take responsibility for their effort and improvement. Students may select their best pieces for a “showcase portfolio,” which they share with classmates, teachers and parents.

Grammar & Spelling

Grammar topics include parts of speech, parts of a sentence, sentence types, verb tenses and usage, phrases, capitalization, punctuation, and various elements of usage and mechanics that arise in the course of daily work. Teachers use traditional grammar exercises alongside daily experiences and the students' own writing, to provide meaningful lessons.

Spelling lessons provide the basic rules of how words are constructed, helping students develop an understanding of the concepts underlying spelling. Usage and meaning are stressed and are important elements of spelling tests.

Grade 6 English

The main objective in English is to inculcate in students a love of reading that extends beyond the classroom. The ultimate goal is to create lifelong readers. To foster our goal of creating lifelong readers, sixth grade English meets for a double period every day, with two periods a week dedicated to independent reading. Students select books and upon completion, produce a variety of book presentations and projects designed to address different learning styles.

Literature, Writing & Speaking

The terminology of literary analysis is taught so that students may knowledgeably participate in class discussions of challenging novels such as “Bud, Not Buddy” (Curtis), “Long Way from Chicago” (Peck), “The Shakespeare Stealer” (Blackwood), “The Call of the Wild” (London), “A Wrinkle in Time” (L’Engle), “Holes” (Sacher), “Westing Game” (Raskin), “The Cay” (Taylor), and “Cheaper by the Dozen” (Galbraith). We also have a storytelling unit where we read folktales from around the world and learn a story well enough to perform. Students learn to defend their opinions, support their ideas, and consider other points of view in a respectful atmosphere. Writing assignments cover a wide range, including both creative and expository writing, news articles, journals, letters and poetry. Artwork often augments the written work.

Vocabulary, Grammar & Spelling

Vocabulary words are generated by the literature at hand. Students keep their own vocabulary notebooks in which they log “the word of the day” and construct sentences using the words accurately. Grammar is taught traditionally in sixth grade, beginning with the parts of speech and moving on to sentence construction. Students learn basic spelling rules and develop an understanding of the concepts underlying spelling.

Grade 7 English

Literature & Writing

Our study of literature begins with storytelling, using both Greek mythology and modern short stories from around the world. Students then read the play “Twelve Angry Men” and an Agatha Christie mystery to practice not only their powers of observation but also their ability to understand character and motive. They examine setting and conflict in either a historical fiction (“Lyddie,” “True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle”) or a fantasy novel (“The Giver,” “Watership Down”). They experiment with language and metaphor in a poetry reading/writing workshop. Finally, they combine those talents to enjoy Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Students experiment with a wide variety of writing forms: personal narrative, letter, short story, character description, essay, journal, newspaper article and poetry. Some assignments are specifically designed to enhance and assess reading comprehension; other times the students choose topics and styles of interest to them. Part of the year is devoted to creating a portfolio of fiction and poetry.

Vocabulary, Spelling & Grammar

Vocabulary words are presented in a variety of ways to teach different vocabulary skills: reading in context, understanding dictionary definitions, learning synonyms and antonyms, and using Greek and Latin roots. With the study of Greek and Latin roots, students become more aware of how to spell a word by its parts. They learn how to add suffixes to change the grammar of a word.

Grammar units are tied closely with the editing of writing. Students first review the parts of a sentence. That knowledge is then applied to different strategies for combining sentences, increasing sentence variety, and punctuating sentences. These skills are reinforced throughout the year as they revise and polish their writing.

Grade 8 English

Eighth Grade English is the study of words, their meaning and their usage. From the daily discussion of vocabulary, to properly punctuating a sentence, to grasping the meaning of a challenging passage, our students develop a healthy respect for the written and spoken word.

Literature & Writing

Literature is at the core of the course. Eighth graders read more powerful literature than they have ever read before in school. They are challenged to explore and analyze their reading, moving away from plot summaries to a deeper reading of a text. Their readings include novels (“Of Mice and Men” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”), an autobiography (“Black Boy”), a variety of Agatha Christie mysteries, a play (“Romeo and Juliet”), Greek mythology (“The Trojan War”), and short stories from our anthology (“Short Stories: Characters in Conflict”). As a result, eighth graders are exposed to a wide range of themes and literary terms (theme, symbol, tone, climax, irony, metaphor, simile, etc.) and are expected to be able to discuss them in class and in writing.

Writing assignments range from expository to creative writing exercises; students write four to six papers each mark period. Most of the topics arise from the readings in both the short story anthology and the novels. A four week poetry project highlights mid‑year activities; students are exposed to some of the great poets and have an extensive opportunity to explore their own poetic abilities. Students are expected to word process all of their work.

Vocabulary & Grammar

All vocabulary work in done in conjunction with the reading. Students maintain a vocabulary notebook where a log of the “word of the day” is kept. Students are expected to be able to both define a word and to accurately use the word in a sentence. Vocabulary tests are given after every 20 words.

In eighth grade the grammar text becomes more of a source book, a place to go to seek guidance rather than a source of never ending grammar exercises. As problems arise in their writing (comma usage, for example), the grammar text is always there with the answers. Students keep a “grammar” notebook where terms (i.e. clauses, phrases, subordination, and comma usage rules) are defined, and student generated examples support the terms. To enhance their writing, the students are encouraged continually to explore the use of subordination, using subordinate clauses and verbal phrases; the grammar text is an invaluable tool in this exploration.


Dr. Dan Collins

Titles: US English

Larry Desautels

Titles: US English

Laura Errickson

Titles: US English

Sarah Jacobson

Titles: Upper School English Teacher, Upper School History Teacher

George Kloepfer

Titles: MS English

Julia Marthia

Titles: MS Learning Specialist

Dr. Laurie Ousley

Titles: US English

Mr. Roddy Potter III

Class of '82
Titles: US English

Charles Ptak

Titles: VI Form Dean

Ms. Deborah Regan Howe

Titles: MS English

Dr. Andrew Sutherland

Titles: US English