Program Update: English

Your students are gifted writers! Seventh grade recently wrapped up a poetry unit in which we focused not only on writing our own poetry, but on immersing ourselves in the power of poetry performed aloud. In honor of Black History Month, we particularly focused on the spoken work of Black poets such as Maya Angelou, Rudy Francisco and Elizabeth Acevedo. Ask your student what differences they noted between their experiences of silently reading a poem and its spoken performance. After some practice annotating poems and reading for figurative language, students dove deep into writing their own poems, often around a theme, which they then thoughtfully organized into a small chapbook. To celebrate their work, students read from their chapbooks at a “coffee house” (more of a “cookie house,” actually) last week. They created some wonderful pieces which we are looking forward to sharing during Spring Arts Night. Next up: genre-based book clubs and tackling informational writing using a ‘zine format.


8th graders continued to grow their literary analysis skills via their all-class novel, Akata Witch. Using a modified “TQI” protocol, students were asked to come to class prepared with thoughts, questions and insights based on their reading to discuss in small groups. After small group discussions, each group chose two topics or questions they wanted to pursue further with the whole class. These discussions led to strong conversations, particularly about what makes a character come alive in a reader’s imagination and how an author chooses to pace and conclude a novel. Students had a choice of prompts for composing a literary analysis essay on the book and it has been fun to see how their writing skills have grown over the year as they add more evidence and analysis to their work. This week, we launched a travel writing project based on a memory from Rome. Ask your 8th grader what memory they chose and what sorts of specific details they are using to bring that experience to life for their readers.


Black History Month Community Collaborations. All grades participated in the National Council of Teachers of English’s annual African American Read-in throughout February. Events included reading picture books written by Black authors with preK-1st graders at The Bridge School and reading about Ida B. Wells and working with 4-5th graders to create a “Black Lives Matter through history” art project for our hallways. Over at Paperboat Books, students read from African American authors at family storytime and created shelf-talkers to promote books they’d read by Black authors. Thank you to our wonderful students, Paperboat Books, The Bridge School, and our own Dawn Fornear for helping us make these community events celebrating Black literature a success!