English 6

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In 6th grade English, students read at least six major texts in various genres of literature, including short story, poetry, essay (descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive), and novel. Most of the major texts are read in the literature circle format, meaning that students choose their own reading materials, set their own reading calendars, engage in small group discussion about their books, and present a group oral book project after finishing the book. All reading selections are chosen with an eye on issues of gender, ethnicity, and cultural diversity as they exist in our contemporary world. While reading, students strengthen literal comprehension of texts as well as an ability to draw inferences from implied meanings. They also analyze how a text is structured and how an author employs story elements. Students do a fair bit journaling on their reading in a Moodle Wiki format on the Inside.Catlin site. As writers, students produce poems, stories, and essays for class, taking all major pieces through the writing workshop process: prewriting, drafting, peer responding, revising, proofreading, and publishing. Students use the laptop writing-lab in class to work on keyboarding and other technology skills, saving their work to the Inside.Catlin Moodle and Google Docs domains. They also have many grammar, spelling, and vocabulary lessons over the course of the year in order to enrich their own writing and make it more sophisticated and polished. At the end of the year, each student produces a personal Heroic Journey Anthology of her 6th grade academic year. Last, an overarching theme of the 6th grade is harvesting, and to this end students are given many opportunities to go outside and work in the organic garden, greenhouse, and apple orchard. The sixth grade team is in charge of two major Catlin Gabel concerns: the apple orchard and the Spring Festival plant sale fundraiser. Sixth grade teachers work together to teach a variety of interdisciplinary lessons on such topics as seed collection, photosynthesis, pollination, the foundations of human civilization, wheat harvesting in Mesopotamia, pizza baking in the garden cob oven, and sweetness in apples. Students grow food for the lunch salad bar in the Barn, and they learn how to compost back into the garden to complete the circle. Throughout these interdisciplinary lessons, students are reading and writing across the curriculum—writing for history lessons and reading for science lessons while in Language Arts.

 

Units

Unit Essential Questions Habits Of Mind Content Skills and Processes Assessment Resources Multicultural Dimension Integrated Learning
Heroic Journey / Fantasy & Mythology Genres Literature Circles / Water / Ancient Creation-Flood-Utopian Stories

• How do modern fantasy genre authors use the heroic journey that Joseph Campbell describes in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces?

• How are the ancient flood stories of Gilgamesh, Genesis, and Deucalion similar, and how do they differ?

• How was fresh water central to the establishment of the ancient, agrarian societies of Catal Hoyuk in modern-day Turkey and, later, Mesopotamia?

• Why will fresh water be crucial for the continuance of human civilization on earth? Why are water reduction measures such as capturing rain water so important?

• Which peoples are threatened by the privitazaion of potable water and by floods due of global warming? Why them? How will the world react?

• Noting that a vegetarian diet uses far less potable water than a diet that regularly includes meat, do our eating habits display a responsible use of potable water?

• Autobiographical Incident essay

• Call to Adventure poem

• Short essay responses to thematically related nonfiction articles

• Literal reading comprehension

• Drawing inferences from texts

• Nonfiction reading strategies including prereading captions and pictures, bolded and italicized words, graphs, headings, subheadings, summaries, content questions

• Margin noting fiction and nonfiction

• Book-ending group project.

• Students will be able to identify their protagonist's heroic journey in their group's fantasy novel.

• Students will use Moodle to write book responses and work collaboratively with peers.

• Students will use Google docs to draft, peer respond, and revise their essays and poems.

• Students will use Google calendar to track homework assignments.

• Students will write essay prose with sensory detail and correctly punctuated dialogue.

• Students will write free verse poetry with creative line breaks, sensory detail, figurative language, and urgent concision of language.

• Students will learn successful strategies for collaborative group work, enhancing both their own metacognition and their reliability to others.

• Students will learn successful speaking strategies for delivering an oral report to the class.

• Timed reading assessments

• Literature circle reading comprehension quizzes

• Teacher, peer, and self evaluation grading rubrics for oral book project presentations

• Grading rubrics used for essays and poems

 

• Students will read books in the Fantasy genre in the literature circles format, which encourages free choice, small group student-led discussion, and student setting of reading homework. Fantasy books chosen this fall include the following: Maximum Ride: Angel Experiment by James Patterson; The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman; Inkheart by Caroline Funke; Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien; Eragon by Christopher Paolini; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; Ranger's Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan; and Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Students will also read one of three texts in the Mythology genre, then teach their text to their classmates. Possible mythology/sacred texts included the following: Gilgamesh (McCaughrean); Genesis (New Revised Standard); "Deucalion" and other stories from Mythology and You (Rosenberg and Baker)

History Alive textbook

Nonfiction National Geographic articles: "Fresh Water" and "The Birth of Religion"

• Movies Mulan

"Resurrecting Eden" episode from 60 Minutes on Azzam Alwash, the scientist revitalizing the marshes of Iraq.

• Apple orchard tending: collecting wind fall for composting and for apple juice and apple gallette.

• Greenhouse planting of seeds, bulbs, and cuttings for Spring Plant Sale.

• Organic Garden tending for harvesting of food for the Barn (cafeteria).

• Beekeeper lesson on honey production.

• Mesopotamia and Sumerian Empire lessons team-taught with history class.

• Wheat harvesting, threshing, winnowing, and grinding lesson in our garden to create flour to then use to make pita and pizza in the cob oven.

• Building of cob oven for pizza baking, the culminating lesson in our unit on Mesopotamia, wheat staples, rise of agrarian empires, and food.

Modern Dystopian Novels / Dirt / Science Fiction and Mythology Genres Literature Circles

• How was nutrient-rich dirt and topsoil central to the establishment of ancient, settled, agrarian societies?

• Why will nutrient-rich dirt and topsoil be crucial for the continuance of human civilization on earth?

• Which peoples are threatened by the loss of nutrient-rich dirt and topsoil? Why them? How will the world react?

• How does local, biodiverse, organic farming effect the economy, land, and culture of a place differently than conventional monocrop farming for export by a foreign multinational corporation?

• Do our eating habits preserve or waste topsoil?

• Helper Biography essay

• Faith Poem

• Courage Poem

• Creation / Flood / Repeopling myth

• Short essay responses to thematically related nonfiction articles

• Continue fiction and nonfiction reading lessons mentioned above.

• Students will analyze what natural resources humans need to survive.

• Students will analyze utopian and dystopian stories as distinct types, identifying common themes and plot devices.

• Students will predict what the future of our planet will look like geographically, environmentally, politically, artistically, culturally, and economically.

• Students will write essay prose with sensory detail, mature reflection, and correctly punctuated dialogue.

• Students will write free verse poetry with creative line breaks, sensory detail, figurative language, and urgent concision of language.

• Students will write a myth that follows plot devices of Gilgamesh, Genesis, or "Deucalion," but looking forward to repeopling this earth in the late 21st century after environmental destruction today. In their myths, students must account for the following characteristics of civilization: staple food supply, social structure, government, religion, the arts, technology, and writing.

• Students will continue to use Moodle, Google docs, and Google calendar as mentioned previously.

• Students will learn successful strategies for collaborative group work, enhancing both their own metacognition and their reliability to others.

• Students will learn successful speaking strategies for delivering an oral report to the class.

• Same as above

• Students will read books in the Science Fiction genre in a literature circles format, which encourages free choice, small group student-led discussion, and student setting of reading homework. Science fiction literature circle books include the following: Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi; The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau; The Giver by Lois Lowry; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; and The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.

• Nonfiction National Geographic articles: "Our Good Earth" and "The End of Plenty"

• Movies include Dirt and Vanishing of the Bees

History Alive textbook

• Beekeeper lesson on world of the hive, focusing on division of labor and collaborative societies.

• Photosynthesis and plant fertility lessons in science class.

• Mesopotamia and Sumerian Empire lessons team-taught with history class.

• Repeopling myth written in coordination with Humanities class study of the characteristics of civlization.

The Wednesday Wars & Empathy Unit

• Why talk about empathy?

• Why is empathy one of the most valuable resources in the world?

• How is it possible to feel what another person feels?

• Is protest a necessary part of empathy?

• Why is mercy important?

• How do small acts of kindness change the world?

• How does knowing about war and folly help people arrive at peace and wisdom?

• Metrical Supreme Ordeal Poem.

• Five paragraph expository essay (introductory high school essay).

• Book-ending final group project focusing on degrees of empathy in their book's protagonists and antagonists.

• Personal Manifesto or Declaration Poem.

 

• Students will write expository essays with the following: a clear, compelling thesis; concise accurate topic sentences that make assertions furthering the thesis; examples that illuminate the main points of the topic sentences; explanations of how the examples prove the assertions of the topic sentences; transitions between paragraphs; summative paragraphs tying up main points of the thesis and pointing the reader outside the boundaries of the essay to life outside.

• Students will write moving metrical poetry with correct rhyme and meter.

• Students will continue to use Moodle, Google docs, and Google calendar as mentioned previously.

• Students will learn successful strategies for collaborative group work, enhancing both their own metacognition and their reliability to others.

• Students will learn successful speaking strategies for delivering an oral report to the class.

• Students will improve both literal and inferential reading comprehension.

• Students will learn plot outlines of several of Shakespeare's plays.

• Students will learn form and content of manifestos and declarations throughout history: Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, A Gay Manifesto, Combahee River Collective Statement, A Green New Deal, and The Communist Manifesto

• Students will learn the root causes of the Occupy Movements in the USA and the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East.

• Same as above.

• To establish the concept of people having different degrees of empathy, I will present a PowerPoint lecture of Simon-Baron Cohen's The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty.

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt.

The Empathic Civilization, by Jeremy Rifkin.

• "Raymond's Run" and "Geraldine Moore, the Poet," by Toni Cade Bambara.

• Manifestos and Declarations throughout history: Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Occupation of New York City, A Gay Manifesto, Combahee River Collective Statement, A Green New Deal, and The Communist Manifesto.

 

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• Beekeeper lesson on honey harvesting in spring and splitting of the hive

• Pollination lessons in science class.

• Taste of Sweetness (Michael Pollan) lesson on sweetness in apples.

• Baking in the cob oven in the garden using a family recipe.

• Food Services Director visits class and teaching two lessons: one on coming to U.S. from Vietnam, and one on Vietnamese Cooking.

Gender Literature Circles
  • How do LGBTQ people complicate gender roles and broaden our conceptions of love and family?
  • How are gender roles structured differently for men and women of different ethnicities and socio-economic classes?
  • What is the relationship between homophobia and sexism?
  • Why haven't we had a female president in the USA?
  • In what ways can sexism affect men?
  • What is masculinity? Femininity?
  • What is beautiful for males? For females?
  • Why does homophobia exist?

 

• Variety of poems, both free verse and metrical: Wisdom poem, Compassion poem, Courage Poem.

• Short expository reflective essay on the first days of sixth grade, and the changes from fall to spring.

• Media literacy lessons on advertising techniques, bias, audience, and subtext, especially around music and food, as these are marketed differently to young men and young women of different ethnicities.

• Trust Lifts and Challenge Course: groups of all-boys and all-girls support and place their safety into the hands of classmates, relearning what it means to become reliable and vulnerable.

• Gender skits filmed for moodle and viewed by other class, so that boy classes view and respond to girl class videos and vice versa. Boys work in groups to script, block, rehearse, act, and film situations of typical middle school girl problems and outcomes. Girls do likewise for boys.

• Classes read books from Gender Literature Circle book list, employing Feminist Literary Theory and Queer Theory reading lenses, analyzing constructions of gender in texts and what heterosexism might exist there.

• Students will analyze sexual orientation and gender in our texts, as they differ and remain similar across lines of ethnicity and socio-economic class.

• Students will compare and contrast lives of middle school boys and middle school girls.

• Students will seek the advice from high school aged boys and girls around gender identities, planning healthy choices for themselves as emerging young men and young women.

• Students will continue to use Moodle, Google docs, and Google calendar as mentioned previously.

• Student will research and put into play economic strategies to maximize profit at the Spring Festival plant sale.

• Students will continue to write engaging, moving poetry and essay as outlined above.

• Students will continue to use Moodle, Google docs, and Google calendar as mentioned previously.

• Students will learn successful strategies for collaborative group work, enhancing both their own metacognition and their reliability to others.

• Students will learn successful speaking strategies for delivering an oral report to the class.

• All-girl class provides peer assessment to all-boy class videos and vice versa.

• Grading writing rubrics will continue to be employed for poems and essays.

• Novel The House You Pass Along the Way, by Jacqueline Woodson

• Movie Super Size Me.

Movie The Persuaders.

Variety of McDonalds TV commercials over the years from You Tube.

• Folktales from Not One Damsel in Distress, by Jane Yolen.

• Folktales from Mightier Than the Sword, by Jane Yolen.

• Students will read books that feature strong male and female protagonists. These "Gender Literature Circles" texts will be read in a literature circles format, which encourages free choice, small group student-led discussion, and student setting of reading homework. Sample texts including the following: The House You Pass Along the Way by Jacqueline Woodson; Totally Joe by James Howe; It Gets Better by Dan Savage; Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka; Tangerine by Edward Bloor; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Lizze Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor; and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

• Nutrition, obesity, and diabetes lessons team-taught with science class.

• Sixth grade divides boys and girls up during month of April, so that boys have classes together and girls have classes together.

• Students do a variety of trust and collaboration activities on the CGS Challenge Course.

• Boys Night Out sleep over in the middle school with high school boys acting as mentors and role models.

• Girls Night Out sleep over in the middle school with high school girls acting as mentors and role models.

• Beekeeping lesson on gender roles in a honeybee hive and what it can teach human culture.

• Apple orchard lessons on sucker pruning and apple tree grafting.

• Garden and greenhouse lessons on potting up plants and selling them as a fundraiser at Spring Festival.

 

Heroic Journey Anthology

• How are students the heroes of their own lives, in as much as Mulan was the hero of her life or Gilgamesh was the hero of his?

• Why are good time management and reliable materials management skills so important to complete a successful month-long desktop publishing project?

• How does grammar and usage study improve the sophistication and polish of one's own writing?

• How can we figure out the meanings of a thousand new vocabulary words with knowledge of one hundred Greek and Latin roots and stems?

• How can people become better spellers?

• This is a year-long writing unit that integrates writing within the aforementioned reading units, having students write essays, stories, poems, emails, and web 2.0 social media posts that correspond to the following different stages of the heroic journey identified by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces: Call to Adventure, The Helper, Crossing the Threshhold, Tests, Supreme Ordeal, The Reward, The Return, and The Restoration.

• Throughout the year students are taught grammar and usage lessons in the context of their own writing from Catlin Gabel Language Arts 6th Grade Writer's Handbook, a grammar text co-written by the classroom teacher. Major concepts include the following: parts of speech; phrase type; clause type; sentence type; comma usage; fixing comma splices and run on sentences; possessives; and punctuating dialogue.

 

• Students will desktop publish their own Heroic Journey Anthologies of 40+ pages, incorporating art, photography, essay, poetry, story, scrapbook covers, dedication, title page, table of contents, chapter heading pages, and an About the Author page.

• Students will learn to recognize and react to proofreader marks, so that when they come to a final revision of their more than ten writing pieces from throughout the year, they can utilize their year's worth of lessons and successfully revised their pieces in order to desktop publish their own anthology.

• Students will correctly use commas in their own writing.

• Students will identify and correct run-on sentences and comma splices in their own writing.

• Students will write correctly punctuated dialogue.

• Students will correctly write the possessive forms of singular nouns, plural nouns, and pronouns.

• Students will write with increased sophistication and polish, utilizing the following brushstrokes: syntactic variation including complex sentences with dependent clauses first; appositive and absolute phrases; participial phrases at the beginning of sentences; correcly punctuated dialogue; sensory detail; and figures of speech (simile, metaphor, personification, and hyperbole).

• Grading rubrics will be issued for each major writing piece before the drafting stage, and students will read exemplary pieces in that same writing vein from previous year.

• Spelling quizzes throughout the year assess one hundred commonly misspelled words.

• Vocabulary quizzes throughout the year assess acquisition and retention of Greek and Latin roots and stems.

Catlin Gabel Language Arts 6th Grade Writer's Handbook

• Lessons on book binding and desktop publishing.

• Lessons on print making for the Heroic Journey Anthology cover will be taught in art class.

• Students will write for publication outside of school, in literary magazines, poetry anthologies, and writing contests.