Teachers at this grade level have re-examined how powerful literature can be in teaching tolerance, recognizing prejudice, and addressing racism in our culture. This year will see the introduction of new texts and resources that will engage students in experiencing varied perspectives from diverse cultures, including contemporary authors and characters that allow them to see our society through different points of view. We will encourage you to speak to your student about issues that make them curious about how they can connect to others and to the world.
Students entering sixth grade will have read literature from a wide variety of genres such as mythology, folktales, and fables from around the world. They will have studied classic and contemporary fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction related to historical and scientific topics. They will apply this prior knowledge to the year’s overarching theme of exploring new perspectives.
Sixth grade students will study why point of view is important in literature through the analysis of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction texts. Through the examination of fantasy and realistic literature, students will explore the elements of fiction and informational text; they will identify and analyze complex characters, text structures, and the development of theme. They will explore these themes through the close reading of works in whole class novels and literature circles.
In addition, the year will center on three types of writing: narrative, expository, and argument. Students will engage in the writing process at least once a quarter, including the use of graphic organizers, drafting, and peer/self-revision to publish their work. By the end of sixth grade, all students will demonstrate their understanding of the writing process through one expository essay, one narrative, and one persuasive piece presented in a writing portfolio. In their literary analysis, research essays, narratives, and oral presentations, students will draw on multiple sources, including literary, informational, and multimedia texts. Students will write in a variety of genres including response to literature, narrative, persuasive, and expository as they develop writing portfolios. Students will continue to develop their vocabulary while investigating unfamiliar words from literature and using them in their own working vocabulary. Additionally, students will advance their communication skills as they explore various methods of presentation, including multimedia. Students will also develop and structure ideas in order to strengthen their argumentation skills exhibiting these in class discussions, debates, and presentations.
By the end of sixth grade, students will have a deeper understanding of new and varied perspectives. With this knowledge of point of view and perspective, they will be ready to critically examine the search for self-identity.
Writing in English Language Arts Grades 6-8
As outlined in the West Hartford District Curriculum Overview documents, writing is one of the basic skills developed over all three grade levels of middle school. Students learn the basics of grammar, usage, and mechanics through regular practice in a variety of writing genres, but their development as writers does not stop there. Students apply the skills they learn in English during other classes such as social studies and science. By the time students arrive at Conard and Hall, they have experienced instruction and assessment that calls for higher-order thinking, creativity, and reflection. Though the samples offered in this brief description indicate the thoughtfulness and care West Hartford Middle School teachers put into their instruction of writing, it is by no means a comprehensive list of student writing tasks and experiences in West Hartford middle schools.
Students practice writing in genres, understanding the characteristics familiar to readers and the organizational structures authors use. Comparison and contrast essays, narrative fiction in creative writing tasks, and reflective journaling in response to literature require students across the grade levels to see how organization and development shape the author’s message and create the means of understanding for the audience. In works collected throughout the year in student writing portfolios, students practice the skills of word choice and sentence fluency displaying voice in their personal narratives and reflective essays. As writers across the disciplines, students practice expository writing skills of descriptive language and supporting points with details from non-fiction texts. This is especially true in social studies where students practice open responses citing the text, respond critically to primary source documents, and employ steps in the writing process as they complete a research experience. As they progress, middle school students at the honors level will interweave supporting examples with commentary required in advanced courses at Conard and Hall.
Students at the middle school level begin regular practice with sentence fluency, developing the skills of writers who vary sentence length and type to communicate both with an audience and for a purpose. Students at the middle school level are encouraged by all teachers to practice the skills of topic development and elaboration, as these skills are put into practice in both everyday writing tasks such as open-ended questions and complex writing tasks such as formal thesis papers and research papers requiring multiple drafts. Teachers differentiate instruction in writing by addressing specific student needs and providing focused correction for classes, small groups, and individuals. Students then use the feedback in teacher comments to practice the skills of revision and editing in their own written work. These skills are shared across the curriculum, so that what is practiced in English language arts class is applied in other subjects requiring a variety of writing tasks.
Parents are welcome to ask questions and discuss the focus of writing instruction in the classroom. English teachers across the district are willing to share their students’ writing development and discuss how parents can help with writing outside of the classroom. Here are a few good questions to ask your son or daughter about their writing:
- What is this assignment asking you to include in your writing?
- Have you included supporting evidence for your written answers?
- Have you made your points to the reader in clear and concise language?
A good way to start the conversation about his or her writing is to act as the reader in a writing conference where you provide a real audience for their writing.