Your student will progress through three years of English Language Arts (ELA) with me, and it is my goal that by the time students leave me, they will have grown in this subject area and are well-prepared for the challenges honors or AP classes will bring. The content areas covered by ELA include literature, reading, writing, grammar, oral language (public speaking) and vocabulary.
Grammar and Vocabulary
Sixth- through eighth-grade ELA classes use the Wordly Wise vocabulary series to build a solid vocabulary to support reading and writing growth. At OLPH, all the teachers use the Easy Grammar series to teach grammar concepts directly, and this series aids as a clear and definitive resource on the mastery of grammar. Direct instruction of grammar allows students to understand grammatical issues in writing, leading to strong writing skills.
The sixth-grade theme in ELA class is “What is the object of our quest?” My quest with the sixth-grade students is to help them learn to fit into the challenges of middle school. Students focus on learning time management, calendar skills, study skills, and how to organize sixth-grade life.
In sixth grade, students are exposed to various genres. They include mythology, focusing on The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton, fantasy and wordplay with The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and survival stories with Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. The Hatchet unit also integrates other nonfiction books Paulsen has written that connect his personal experiences with the main character of Hatchet. Wonder, realistic fiction, helps students learn about the importance of choosing to be kind. In the genre of historical fiction, Al Capone Does My Shirts deals with the main character’s struggles with an autistic sister while living on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s. During novel studies, students learn about the characters and how they change. Tracking the plot and charting the characters’ reaction to events in the story help students understand the theme of a story. Sixth-graders also work on summarizing what they have read and integrating information into creative writing. Writing newscasts and personal histories round out the year.
The seventh-grade theme is “When is it time to step up?” This year, students also read novels, including The Giver, The Wednesday Wars, Booked and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Seventh-graders analyze the writer’s purpose and discuss the character’s decisions and the resulting outcomes; what made it time for that character to step up? They also watch the movie version of a book and write a compare-and-contrast essay focused on why the director kept or changed key elements in the making of the movie.
The seventh-grade units include poetry and debate. The poetry unit exposes students to all types of poems and encourages them to find their voice in creative writing. They also learn about the elements of poetry, including theme, symbols and poem structure. Booked by Kwame Alexander is written in prose and complements the poetry unit well with its format, creativity and themes.
When we begin the debate unit, I acknowledge that the ability to argue is a skill most seventh-graders excel in naturally. This is the year we take that natural ability and hone it into a more sophisticated life skill, writing research-based arguments for both sides of an issue and presenting it orally to persuade an audience. Students learn critical-thinking skills, which will feed into the next year with Mock Trial.
Eighth-grade ELA is a fun and rigorous year full of growth and new experiences. The overall theme in literature is “Our voice makes a difference in the world.” The literature eighth-graders read and the skill units they participate in allow students to explore possibilities both at and beyond OLPH.
The balance between novel studies and skill units in eighth grade makes it a challenging but interesting year. The novels students read include The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, Stickeen by John Muir, The Wave by Todd Strasser, The Diary of Anne Frank (play) and the Lord of the Flies. Throughout these novels, students analyze the literature looking for character development, figurative language, theme, symbolism, and how these elements are impacted by plot and dialogue.
The skill units are based on life skills that help students become well-rounded citizens. The first unit, public speaking, is an important aspect of many jobs. Eighth-grade students learn to recognize rhetoric and persuasion techniques, and they watch famous speeches to analyze what makes a compelling speaker and an effective speech. Students put their learning to practice by writing speeches that reflect future real-life tasks, such as a celebratory toast or a presentation to an employer. These skills carry through the rest of the year in the marketing unit and the law unit, during which students learn the principles of each discipline and apply them. Teams take a product and create a marketing campaign for it, including commercials, budgets, personas and specific advertising strategies to reach customers. Students present their work to a panel of community business leaders hoping to be hired. Law partners receive a legal brief and try a case against other students, hoping for a verdict in their favor. Professionals in law enforcement, judges, lawyers and even jury members come to class to speak to the class about their experiences.
Middle School Supply List
Supplies will be given to the student’s homeroom teachers.
The middle school teachers want your child to be successful. One key factor in achieving this is organization. We would like you and your child to discuss what might be the best approach to organizing papers and work. There are four options we recommend because we have seen a significant percentage of students be successful using the following tools.
Pick one of the options below:
- A spiral-bound notebook that has a pocket for each of the six subjects in middle school
- A three-ring binder divided into six sections, with pockets for handouts, or a three-hole punch to organize handouts
- Folders for each class for handouts and lined paper to take notes
- Accordion file folder with at least six pockets (You will also add lined paper.)
The deciding factor in which of these systems to pick is your child and how well he/she will stick to one of these systems.
We DO NOT recommend large rolling backpacks. It is our experience that sixth-graders have trouble the first month or so remembering what to take to each class, but our students figure it out eventually. When students have rolling backpacks, they tend to put everything in the backpack rather than learning to prepare and differentiate.
Make sure that your child has reliable access to the internet and a device with a camera and microphone to complete work digitally when at home for various assignments.
Please be aware that some of the supplies below will need to be purchased throughout the year, as needed, to be used at home and at school.
Please label the following supplies with your child’s name:
- College-ruled lined paper
- Graphing paper (8½ x 11, any size squares per inch)
- Black or blue pens (Students should always have two available. Student work should always be done in these basic colors, unless directed otherwise by a teacher.)
- Pencils (Students should always have two available. Avoid plastic-coated pencils because they break the sharpeners.)
- Red pens (or other color pens for correcting)
- 1 set markers (thick or thin)
- 1 scientific calculator
- 1 pair scissors
- 1 bottle glue
- 1 glue stick
- Headphone set with a microphone for use with Rosetta Stone (It must have a USB plug to connect to the computer.) – Clearly labeled with child’s name [such as: Logitech-Headset-H390-Noise-Cancelling]
- 2 composition notebooks (9¾ x 7½ or as close to this size as possible)
- New American Bible (one-time purchase in sixth grade but used in seventh and eighth grade)
- Personal small container of hand sanitizer
- Sticky notes
- Index cards to use as flashcards (lined or unlined for vocabulary flashcards)
- Small stapler with staples
- 2 jumbo-size book covers
- 3 boxes tissues
- 1 roll paper towels
- 1 cylinder Clorox wipes
- 1 ream white copy paper (500 sheets or more, for the office, labeled with your child’s name)
- Extra copies of any of our novels (new or used) to keep in the library for students to use (We already have a full class set of Wonder.)
- Printer ink: Cannon MG, Pixma black 226 (I use the big and small cartridges.)
- Scrapbook paper for projects
- Gift cards to Walmart or Joann Fabrics (I make pillows for the students who earn 300 percent of their AR goal.)
- Amazon gift cards (I load copies of the novels we read onto the class e-reader devices for my students to use.)
- Kindle e-readers (6 inch and paperwhites)
Required Summer Reading
Summer is an excellent time for hanging out with friends, watching obnoxious TV, going on trips and catching up on the reading you enjoy. You will create a summer reading list of only two books by picking one item from each of the two categories below. You may read the book in any format you choose — digital, audio and, of course, physical.
When it comes to taking tests, you have two choices: You may come to school to take the test on the dates published for the summer reading program, or you can wait until we return to school and take your tests then. (The problem is, you might forget what you read at the beginning of the summer, so you will need to review the books to be sure you are ready for the test.)
Summer reading is the first grade you will receive from me. The AR tests are due on August 16, the first day of school. All AR tests must be taken at school, or they will not count toward your grade. Each test will be worth 10 points for a total of 30 points. You must score at least 85 percent on these tests to earn points. These tests will not count toward your first quarter AR goal.
Category One: Find an Author
Pick one book by any of the following authors:
Orson Scott Card
Lois Lowery (not The Giver)
Gary Paulsen (4.8 and higher, not Hatchet)
C. S. Lewis
J. R. R. Tolkien
Cinda Williams Chima
Category Two: Reader’s Choice
You may choose any book you would like, AS LONG AS the AR level is not lower than ATOS 5.0 or Lexile level 775.
Category One: Literature
All students must read one of the following unabridged books from this list. Choose wisely!
The Three Musketeers
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafke
1984 by George Orwell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (The audio version is stellar!)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (It’s not about chocolate!)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Throw Like a Girl by Jenny Finch
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Thurston
Baseball in April by Gary Soto
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
All Is Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Contender by Robert Lipsyte
We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
Girls, Drums and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb
Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh (Zombies!)
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Boys in the Boat (young people edition)
Fault Lines in the Constitution by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson
Rising Water: The Story of the Thai Cave Rescue by Marc Aronson
Category Two: Find an Author
Pick one book by any of the following authors:
J. R. R. Tolkien
Elie Weisel – World War II
Steve Sheinkin – nonfiction
Roland Smith – adventure (mostly mountain climbing)
Tomi Adeyemi – FANTASY!
Category Three: Reader’s Choice
You may choose any book you would like, AS LONG AS the AR Lexile level is not lower than 775 or ATOS below 5.8.
(Please note, reading Cliff or Spark notes does not ensure you’ll pass the test. The people who write these AR tests also read the summaries and will include several questions that are not in the summaries.)
Please do not read the following books because we will read them as a class in middle school:
Sixth Grade: Wonder, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Phantom Tollbooth, The Adventures of Odysseus
Seventh Grade: Hatchet, My Life in Dog Years, Guts, Booked, The Giver, The Wednesday Wars
Eighth Grade: The Wave, The Outsiders, Lord of the Flies