Program Update: English with Cilla and Lisa

Sixth Grade

In September, 6th graders created a virtual bookshelf. We listed and discussed books we love and, through the process,  became a community of readers. Students reminisced about picture books, chapter books, and series books. They had many favorites in common, among them the Warriors series, Wings of Fire, Harry Potter, and the books of Rick Riordan. They chose ten texts from their lists and wrote about the significance of each in their life, arranging and illustrating these reflections on a "textual lineage" poster. They can share these with visitors and friends on Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day (Oct. 27th). 

 This month, we began an all-class novel, The House on Mango Street, a lyrical coming-of-age story set in a Chicago neighborhood in the 1960s. The protagonist, Esperanza, describes her family's hairstyles and how kids played outdoors. These vignettes inspired the prompts for students' first narratives. Students are learning to identify effective and artful storytelling elements in what they read. As our personal narrative writing unit gains momentum, they will practice incorporating these writing strategies into their stories. Also on the horizon is a vocabulary quiz. Students learned about coordinating conjunctions (ask them about FANBOYS) and wrote compound sentences for ten new vocabulary words, providing context clues that reflect the word's meaning. 

For fun, whenever there is time, I read Ellen Raskin's zany mystery, The Westing Game, aloud. An intriguing clue appears on every page. Students keep asking for another chapter. 

Your students are engaging in reading, writing, and thinking around the concept of identity in 7th Grade and coming of age in 8th Grade.

7th Grade

Students have reflected on names and what names might (and might not!) reveal about our identities. They interviewed a family member and wrote a short piece about their name, origin, and what it means to them or their family. It was fun to swap stories and learn who was named for whom, how families went about choosing names for their children, and what students particularly liked about their names.  

Seventh graders also wrote an identity poem inspired by the work of Jonathan Rodriguez and Rudy Francisco. Maybe your 7th grader would be open to sharing a favorite line or two with you? They are now starting to wrap up our banned books week unit. Look for a display to come in the hallway soon! 

We look forward to EW parent and King County Library System outreach services specialist Alison Li joining us in a couple of weeks for an in-person conversation on the challenges facing libraries and what kinds of services libraries offer. Thank you in advance for your generosity and expertise, Ali!

8th Grade

Students are in the midst of a short story unit using coming-of-age texts from a variety of authors. They began the unit reflecting on when they will be "grown up" and how they'll know. Responses ranged from "In all honesty, I don't think I will ever be totally grown up," and " my mid-twenties: the human brain is fully developed around this time," to, "When I'm grown up I'll shower with music blasting…[and] make a quiche without peppers," and, "What I'm trying to say is that I'm already grown up. Every day, I grow up more." Your students are interesting and thoughtful people. Skills-wise, we are focusing on close reading of a text and teasing out themes and evidence to support our thinking about what we've read. After their fiction and non-fiction reading and academic writing, eighth graders will write a fictional, coming-of-age short story based on incidents they've seen or experienced.

All students benefit from a robust independent reading practice. This has become more challenging over the last decade as readership has decreased amongst young people. However, at the same time, YA books are booming. If you have a reluctant reader, check out these articles for ideas on nurturing reading at home. There is something for everyone out there! If your child balks at sitting and reading, please try audiobooks and permit them to try several books to find something they engage with before giving up. By the time they leave EW, we hope they can describe the kinds of books they enjoy and have the tools to seek them out on their own.