||In fifth grade, students are immersed in the lives of ancient cultures and civilizations. They study the great stories of Buddha, the Fall of Troy, and the Olympics. Through these archetypes of human striving, the students learn the values of grace, beauty, and strength. How fitting is the language arts program for the fifth grader in mirroring these virtues through the power of the written and spoken word! The students have daily practice in choral and individual speaking in poetry, prose, story recapitulation and oral reports and they learn to speak with good diction, appropriate syntax, and artistic expression. Students delve deeper into poetry, learning acrostic, opposite, shape, limerick and haiku. Once the students understand the mechanics of each, they are able to generate their own. The student practices accurate spelling through dictionary use, oral instruction, and tests. The student also learns to develop simple outlines, emphasizing main idea and supporting details, from the many curriculum topics of the year. Additionally, the student develops good paragraph writing skills, and learns to proofread and edit. Grammar and syntax rules are learned, such as the eight parts of speech, prepositional phrases, punctuation, and active and passive voice. Students review declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative sentences. From writing thank-you letters to docents, teachers and parent volunteers to journal writing, students have many opportunities to practice their writing skills. By using the following methods, students hone their skills and become fluent writers. Fifth grade-appropriate readers, like Sign of the Beaver or Black Ships before Troy, are read and discussed for recall and comprehension. Students also write book reports including main characters, setting, summary, descriptions, and personal opinions. Book reports vary from book to book and can be as interesting as acting out a scene, creating a comic strip or writing a review. After the North American geography block, fifth graders choose a state to research. This project usually includes a written, artistic, and oral portion. Students are welcome to bring a dish featuring food that is familiar to that region as well.
In sixth grade, the birth of the Roman Empire gives rise to a new perspective: black or white, right or wrong. Precision was demanded in the technology of the time. Clear thinking and swift resolution was seen as triumphant virtues of humankind. Perhaps, such is true of the new demands of the sixth grader in the language arts! Grammar skills include the expansion of vocabulary and introduction to etymology through words from the context of the Roman and Greek language. Spelling skills are reinforced by dictionary use, oral instruction and tests. Students review punctuation, proper capitalization, and develop paragraphs with supporting details. Like the miles and miles of aqueduct leading to the great city of Rome, the students assemble more complex written paragraphs containing simple declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative sentences. Students also explore expository and narrative writing. Students demonstrate competencies in editing and writing samples of these types of essays. Transitions are a helpful tool for students, connecting one idea to the next. Students practice and identify simple, compound and complex sentences. Additionally, they’re introduced to prepositional phrases, both adjectival and adverbial. Given topics from their geological studies of rocks and minerals, and the geography of biomes and landforms, sixth grade students research then develop simple outlines emphasizing main ideas and supporting details. Students write a country report. Given addresses and review of form, students write business and friendly letters or newspaper articles as an opportunity to develop different styles and tones of writing. Personal stories are written in a weekly journal. Students read many literature books, like Call it Courage or Where the Red Fern Grows, and engage in class discussions regarding main sequence of events, setting, main ideas, description of the problems, and resolution, for example.
In the seventh grade, the stories of the Renaissance inspire the seventh grade adolescent with archetypes of beauty and adornment. The Age of Exploration heralded the courageous travels to spread cultural arts and gain treasures of wealth and knowledge, and such is the same for the seventh grade student in the language arts. In the context of the Renaissance, students listen to and read aloud ballads, poems, legends and folktales from around the world, as well as reading assigned literature novels. The students learn to appreciate the English language both in terms of artistic form and content and in terms of formal grammar skills. These grammar skills include writing of formal letters, original compositions, ballads, and essays that demonstrate skills in use of active and passive voice, parenthetical expressions, homophones and homographs, and consistent use of capitalization and punctuation. Within one block during the year, the students focus daily on the emotions of wish, wonder and surprise in literature and learn to express these contrasting moods through choral recitation, dramatization, composition writing and poetry. Students use grade-appropriate sentence construction with descriptors, conjunctions and transitional phrases and sequential paragraphs with good structure, like topic sentence, supporting details, and closure. Through regular writing practice and independent assignments, students learn to edit their own writing including the spelling of words. Spelling and vocabulary applicable to the topics studied continue to be learned. A number of the books in seventh grade reflect the overall theme of the Age of Exploration, the Renaissance and the Reformation. A few recommended readers for this age group include The Second Mrs. Giaconda, The Merchant of Venice, and Catherine, Called Birdy. Students learn to read and comprehend various kinds of literature including instructional, explanatory, expository, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and prose. Students are able to recall facts, mood, supporting details, and description of characters from reading material. Finally, students are assessed by a variety of means, including but not limited to discussion, book reports, written questions, skits, and quizzes. Typically, seventh graders visit Oregon to participate in Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival. During the visit, students attend two to three plays and may also attend workshops on stage combat, costuming, make-up, etc.
In eighth grade, through biographies of American leaders who shaped the nation in their resolve to be the voice for the many, and through the stories of human striving and successes during the Industrial Revolution, the students develop their own individual voices through writing and oral presentation. Through anatomy, physics, and organic chemistry, the students appreciate the interconnected nature of life and make the subtle connections with language as a powerful catalyst for growth and change. The major language arts project of the eighth grade year is the Eighth Grade Research Project. It is a three-part project that includes a written research paper, an oral presentation, and a practical experience piece. Many of the language arts skills of which the students need to gain proficiency are practiced through the report. Individualized research in a topic of interest is a significant leap in developing their inner voice shouting to be heard and reflecting their self-identities. Reading of a variety of written texts and resources is an eighth grade skill, of which the report certainly requires. Further development of the following skills is also practiced both through the report and through weekly assignments: self-editing, essay-writing of expository and narrative forms, spelling, vocabulary, and sentences that have proper phrases and clauses. In addition to the oral presentation of the research report and the drafting of their Graduation speeches, the students will also expand speaking skills as in previous years, with emphasis on the extemporaneous speaking, discussions, debates, poetry, and other oral reports. The eighth grade play is another major language arts project. As in previous years, the students develop their skills in memorization, projection, diction, enunciation, and articulation through the play or musical. The play or musical, with a direct connection to the curriculum, brings the language arts program to life, expanding the skills of the students. Quality literature novels are read by the students and may include Lord of the Flies, Cannery Row, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Good Earth. Eighth graders practice and solidify all language arts skills from previous years.