Overview for Language Arts

Encinitas Country Day School
Overview of Language Arts and Drama Classes – Room 222
Middle School ~ 2017 – 2018
 Dear Parents and Students,
This overview of my Language Arts and Drama classes will give you a comprehensive insight into what your child will study in my classroom, during his/her three years in our Middle School.  My Language Arts program is designed to stimulate a passion for good literature; to expose one’s soul to the art of poetry; to open one’s mind to endless new ideas; to create a forum for exciting and enlightening debates and discussions; to enrich and nurture your child’s mind; to develop good thinking skills; to encourage a desire to write extremely and research thoroughly; to appreciate the importance of reading; to expand one’s vocabulary; to experience the pleasure of great drama; and to evolve into a highly educated and cultured being , who is motivated academically, inspired, and delights in the dance of life-learning.
I will follow the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy, the Montessori Method of Education, and various traditional methods of teaching, as my students build knowledge from content-rich fiction and non-fiction.   I will emphasize the development of good critical thinking skills and the ability to collaborate well with one’s peers, which is essential in today’s world of technological advancements.
My class will incorporate a wide range of essential skills which will encompass the following: A variety of literary genres; cross-cultural awareness and studies; numerous reading strategies; reading comprehension; visual literacy; cause and effect; the analysis of informational texts; the identification of of factual details; comparisons and contrasts; predictions and responses to texts; summaries; oral recitation; research; personal expressions; literature versus personal experiences; literary terms; journal writing; creative writing; projects; class presentations; résumés; letters, and much more!  The following is an outline of my curriculum.
Genres of Literature: There are five genres of literature.  1. Fiction: Invented stories with imaginary events.  a. Realistic Fiction; b. Historical Fiction;   c. Science Fiction; d. Fairy Tales; e. Mystery. 
2. Non-Fiction: True stories about actual characters/people and events.  a. Autobiography; b. Biography;   c. Informational Reports; d. Reference.
3. Plays: Stories written and performed on a stage by actors. 
4. Poetry: Literary work in metrical form.  a. Narrative; b. Lyrical; c. Free Verse; d. Villanelles; e. Haiku;  g. Blank Verse; h. Nonsense Verse; i. Limerick; j. Rap etc.
5. Folk Tales: Anonymous, timeless, and place-less stories, originally told by word of mouth, rather than formally written by an author.
Poetry: Each grade in Middle School will study several of the GREAT poets. For example: Coleridge, Dickinson, Field, Noyes, Poe, Shakespeare, Shelly, Tennyson, Whitman, Wordsworth etc.  The following terms will be studied with respect to poetry:  Theme, simile, metaphor, symbolism, alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhythm, refrain, echo, pace, and lexicon.
Masters of Literature:  Biographical Studies…Jane Austen; Ray Bradbury; Charlotte Brontë; Emily Brontë; Charles Dickens; Ernest Hemingway; George Orwell; Edgar Allen Poe; William Shakespeare; Mark Twain; and Elie Wiesel, etc.
Literature Study:  Your child will learn three methods for literature study and analysis: 1. C.R.C. Method: Your child will learn to write C.R.C.’s (Claim, Reference, Commentary) about the books we read in class.  2. S.I.F.T. Method: Your child will examine the following: Symbolism, Imagery, Figurative Language, and Themes.  3. A.X.E.S. Method: Your child will explain the following: Assertion, eXample, Explanation, and Significance.  These three methods will enhance your child’s understanding and appreciation of the texts that he/she will read.
Literature for In-Class Reading and Literature on DVD:  DVDs based on great literature will be presented throughout the school year.   Please see the reading list for the Grade level of your child.  It is under “Literature” on this site.
Literary Terms:  Your child will receive a thirteen page list of literary terms that he/she will study in class and apply to his/her readings.  For example: Theme, plot, protagonist, antagonist, metaphor, stereotype, flashback etc.  A “Literary Terms Test” will be given upon completion of a page of terms.  Your child will have a week to study for the test.
Elements for the Analysis of Literature:  Each book that is read in class will be analyzed by the following process.  1. Exposition(Introduction); 2. Rising Action; 3. Climax; 4. Falling Action; 5 Resolution (Conclusion).
Forms of Writing:  Sentences; Paragraphs; Journal Essays; Reports; Outlines; Biographies; Autobiography; Poetry; Letters; Fables; Myths/Legends; A Stage Play (6th Grade); A Screenplay (7th Grade); A Novella (8th Grade); A Children’s Book (6th and 7th Grades); Speech (8th Grade); Résumés (8th Grade); Special projects (6th, 7th, 8th Grades).  Throughout the school year topics may be added to the writing assignments, as they arise in everyday life, or are of particular interest to my students.
Grammar: Your child will utilize grammar and punctuation workbooks in my classroom.  The following are some of the concepts covered in these books:  Parts of a sentence; Parts of Speech; Formation of Plurals; Phrases/Clauses; Subordinate clauses; Capitalization; Rules for Spelling; Symbolic grammar (syntax); Sentence analysis; Prepositional, adjectival, and adverbial phrases; Punctuation.  In addition to this, derivatives of Latin, Greek, and French will be studied.  Etymology, in general, is also explored.
Vocabulary and Spelling:  Your child’s vocabulary and spelling will be taken from a variety of sources:  1.Wordly Wise 3000 comprehension workbook;  2. A list of 1,001 most commonly misspelled words;  3. A list of 500 words from SAT college entrance exams (8th Grade only); 4. The literature studied in class.
Listening Skills:  Listening skills are an integral part of learning.  Therefore, I will read aloud periodically to my students.  For example:  Aesop’s Fables; The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (children’s version); Shakespearean Tales; Tales of Mystery by Edgar Allen Poe; Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Irish mythology.  Various myths, legends, and fairy tales from around the world.
Communication Study: Good communication skills are essential for any Language Arts classroom.  Hence, it is important to look at how the art of communication has evolved over time, and to appreciate how far modern man has progressed in the art of communication.  We will examine the history of communication, the history of language and English, communication skills, oral communication, and famous speeches.
History of Art:  Each Middle School class will study the History of Art, if time permits.  This will be enhanced with DVDs and viewed on the T.V.
Grade 6: Georgia O’Keeffe, Leonardo De Vinci, Jackson Pollack, Vincent Van Gogh, and Auguste Rodin.
Grade 7: Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, and Auguste Rodin.
Grade 8:  Rembrandt, Salvador Dali, Michelangelo, Vermeer, Henri Matisse, and Auguste Rodin.
Appreciation of Dance and MusicalsCats;  Excerpts from Alvin Ailey’s Dance Company, Excerpts from Paula Abdul’s dance videos;  South Pacific (Grade 6); Phantom of the Opera (Grade 7); West Side Story (Grade 8).
Homework:  Homework will be assigned on a weekly basis, apart from occasional short summaries or literary studies.
Sixth Graders will have a biweekly spelling/vocabulary test and a comprehension lesson from their Wordly Wise workbooks. There will be writing assignments in addition to the Wordly Wise homework.
Seventh and Eighth Graders will have weekly spelling/vocabulary tests and a comprehension lesson from their Wordly Wise workbooks.  However, Wordly Wise homework will not be assigned when a Literary Terms Test is scheduled.
In addition to the above, my students will have reading and study assignments for their Theater Production Classes, and various written assignments throughout each month.  Extra time will be given for “Special Projects.”  All written homework must be saved on the “home” computer, as rewrites with my corrections are mandatory, in order to raise my students’ writing skills to a more sophisticated level.
Due Days for Weekly Homework:
Wednesday: Grade 6
Thursday: Grade 7
Friday: Grade 8
An “F” grade or below is a “failing grade.” Parents will be notified if a student fails a test, forgets, or doesn’t do his/her homework, or is uncooperative during class.  Final grades for school reports include: Homework grades, test results, grades for special projects, class-participation, and overall effort.
Grading System:
90% – 100%  = A Range (97% and above = A+)
80% – 89%    = B Range (87% and above = B+)
70% – 79%    = C Range (77% and above = C+)
60% – 69%    = D Range (68% and above = D+)
50% – 59%     = F Range (57% and above = F+)


My Weekly Blog:  Please subscribe to my blog on the WordPress blog site ( it is free), and you will automatically receive information about my classroom, homework, special events, field trips etc., within minutes of my posting.   My blog address is:


Please encourage your child to be diligent in completing his/her homework and meeting due dates.  This will ensure success, which will develop high self-esteem and confidence.
My students will be given assignments and projects throughout the year, which will enrich and broaden their minds, while elevating their intelligence to a higher plane of knowledge and understanding.
Assignments and Projects : Grade 6
  • Write a Modern day Fable
  • Write a Spooky Story
  • Write an Outline of Skellig
  • Write a Narrative Poem
  • Write a Stage Play
  • Write and Illustrate a Children’s Book
  • Design a Board Game
Grade 7
  • Write a Myth or a Legend
  • Write a Heroic Poem based on the heroes of Beowulf
  • Write an Outline of Beowulf
  • Write a Screenplay
  • Write and Design a Magazine
  • Write a Reaction Paper to Inside the Walls of Troy
  • Write a Chapter Book
Grade 8
  • Paraphrase and summarize Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • What have you learned by reading Animal Farm by George Orwell?  (There are five parts to this paper.)
  • Write an Outline of Animal Farm
  • A Career Project (Very comprehensive)
  • A Narrative Poem based on The Odyssey
  • Make a Map of Odyssey’s Voyage
  • Design a Media Scrapbook (Positive and Negative examples of the Media)
  • Write a Novella
Theater Production/Acting Classes:  The Sixth Graders will have Theater Production once a week, on Thursdays, from September through December.  Please see the list of reasons, as to why this class is good for your child.  It is under “Theater Production/Acting Classes” on this blog site.  In December, the Sixth Graders will perform A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  The Seventh and Eighth Graders will have Theater Production Classes beginning in January, 2018, through May, 2018.  In May, the Seventh Graders will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, and the Eighth Graders will perform a Shakespearean play (TBA).  The exact dates for the plays have yet to be determined.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
My E-mail address is: susan.mcguirk@ecdschools.org
However, I would prefer to speak with you in person, if a question or concern requires anything more than a quick response.  In addition to this, you can make an appointment to meet with me after school from Monday through Friday.
The secret of good teaching is to regard
       the children’s intelligence as a fertile field,
in which seeds may be sown, to grow
under the heat of flaming imagination.
                                                                – Maria Montessori


Miss Susan