Language Arts

In language arts classes, Park students experience reading and writing as both art and craft. Each year, students receive direct instruction in reading strategies designed to enhance reading comprehension. Students read novels as a whole class and participate in smaller book groups where they read books of their choosing centered around a theme. Required recreational reading and library time support students’ development as independent readers and help them appreciate a variety of genres and authors.

In each class, students explore all stages of the writing process including brainstorming, drafting, revising, and editing for grammar and mechanics. They explore many genres each year, including poetry, memoir, fiction, essays, argument, and writing based on research. In addition to whole-class assignments, students have the chance to try their own independent writing projects in writing workshop.

Sixth Grade

Students examine the theme of community through units based on the following essential questions:

  • • How does a group build an inclusive community?
    • How do communities choose to define themselves?
    • What are the obstacles to full membership in a community?
    • How are stories from different times and places about me and my community?
    • How do individual roles in a community develop or change?
    • How can the idea of community challenge its members?

Readings for these units include short stories, poetry, novels, memoir, and non-fiction. In addition to gaining experience in different genres of literature, students will also learn and practice reading strategies so that they continue to improve their reading skills. Recent whole-class texts have included Seedfolks and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. More than 15 other titles are offered as options for literature circle work.

Sixth graders establish discussion norms in order to prepare for and participate in student-led book discussions.

To establish writing workshop practices, writing instruction begins with a review of the paragraph. Students also write in genres such as memoir, fiction, drama, and poetry. Lessons in revision and editing support students in improving the quality of a piece of writing, as well as teach them how to be more independent writers. Writing workshop also includes the study of sentence structure, focusing on completeness and style.

Seventh Grade

Seventh grade language arts students explore the theme of identity through the following essential questions:

  • How do individuals choose the stories that define their identities?
  • How do individuals use stories to construct their personal and cultural identities?
  • How does a community balance the needs of an individual with the needs of a group?
  • How can public identity help or harm an individual?
  • What are the essential components of an individual's identity?
  • How do circumstances and life experiences shape an individual's identity?

Students explore this theme by working with a variety of texts, including novels, short stories, plays, poems, essays, and memoirs. Recent whole-class works include The Giver, A Raisin in the Sun, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Students also read and discuss books in smaller groups. As students develop their skills for writing literary analysis, they gain a mastery of developing and composing an opinion, supporting their opinion with evidence, and using writing mechanics to strengthen the effectiveness of their writing. Thus, they work to hone the stages and components of effective essay writing. Students continue to write across a variety of genres, including memoir, poetry, reflection, short fiction, expository, and drama.

Eighth Grade

The theme for eighth grade is the concept of advocacy, or the power of the individual or groups to effect change. Eighth graders study a variety of literary genres, such as poetry, memoir, biography, fiction, satire, and drama. Recent works include To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Students also participate in Advoc8, a multi-disciplinary project designed for students to use skills and knowledge developed during Middle School in order to take on roles as advocates for change. During Advoc8, students choose a topic about which they are passionate and, with faculty and peer collaboration, create an individualized or group project, which culminates in the creation of authentic, innovative, solution-oriented advocacy.