Middle School English Class teacher addressing class

At every grade level, middle school English students grow as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. Students are also developing their critical thinking and habits of mind.

The English curriculum is spiral in nature. Students practice the same skills each year, refining them to higher levels of sophistication. Students read texts in various genres including short story, poetry, essay, and novel—some considered classics, and all chosen with an eye on issues of environmental sustainability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and cultural diversity as they exist in our contemporary world.

Students experience writing in multiple genres such as essay, fiction, and poetry, each of which consist of stages that are valued individually and as inherent to the writing process, from finding a topic to tentative drafts to revisions, and ultimately to a final product. Selections from these various writing assignments are included in their online blogs that they curate over the course of three years.

Students develop keyboarding and other technology skills, and expand their abilities in grammar, spelling, and vocabulary. They arrange individual and group presentations, becoming not only better speakers but also more attentive and engaged listeners.

By the end of eighth grade, students will have developed proficiency in the following:

  • Continuing to develop critical thinking skills
  • Using evidence to support ideas in class discussion
  • Distinguishing between the general and specific (e.g. claim vs. evidence)
  • Assuming primary responsibility in time management, materials organization, and all work
  • Self-advocating for themselves and seeking out extra help from teachers when needed


Making connections explicit between disciplines is an important part of the sixth-grade year.  The developmental theme is The Heroic Journey and the curricular feature is Ancient Worlds. 

Students use these lenses to answer essential guiding questions that include:

  • What are the relationships between society, economy, and environment?
  • What are the most valuable contributions people can make?
  • How do our experiences of being in majority/dominant or minority/marginalized groups shape our identities?
  • Do people have an obligation to make society better?

Students read at least six major texts in various genres. Half of the texts are read in the literature circle format, meaning that students in small groups choose their own reading materials, set their own reading calendars, engage in small group discussions, and present a group oral book project.

As writers, students produce poems, stories, and essays, taking all major pieces through the writing workshop process: prewriting, drafting, peer responding, revising, proofreading, and publishing. At the end of the year, each student produces a personal Heroic Journey Anthology of their academic year.

Students’ experiential learning includes:

  • Climate Change Interdisciplinary Unit with social studies, science, math, and art culminating in a Climate Change Hero Community Presentation


Seventh grade English is designed to support students in their enjoyment of reading and writing while teaching and fostering the skills necessary for literary analysis. The developmental theme is Justice and the curricular features are Environmental Justice; Reading Genres; Poetry; and Three “Isms”: Racism, Classism, and Sexism.

Students use these lenses to answer essential guiding questions, including:

  • If I don’t tell my story, who will?
  • Who is telling the story? Who has been silenced?
  • What is justice? What roles do laws and individuals play in creating a just society?
  • How do people recognize and combat injustice?

Students read three novels as a class and three independent choice reading books in poetry, non-fiction, and short stories. Students continue to learn and practice multiple reading strategies.

Students continue to use the writing workshop approach to generate literary essays, creative writing, creative non-fiction, poetry, and narrative prose. Throughout the year, students make their way through a review of 19 basic writing conventions to help them solidify the mechanics of their writing.

Independent reading project presentations and poetry recitations provide students with opportunities to practice their public speaking, both formally and informally.

Students’ experiential learning includes:

  • Hyla Woods English and Science collaboration: using field study, scientific testing, literature, and writing to determine if an ecosystem is healthy
  • Publishing an anthology of poetry
  • Optional participation in multi-school poetry slam collaboration (SlamBoo)


In eighth grade English, students discover links among literature, history, and humanity. The developmental theme is Identity Formation: Who Am I, Who Are We, Who Are They? The curricular features are Personal Identity (Memoir) and Collective Identity (Holocaust).

Students use these lenses to answer essential guiding questions that include:

  • What does it mean to “fully own my learning”?
  • How are identities formed and what role do we play in the formation of our own identity?
  • How can the stories of history inspire us to be stronger, more empathetic people?
  • What does it mean to be human?

Students read, interpret, and write nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, developing a lens for analyzing their own writing and that of published writers. Reading and writing are inextricably tied so writing assignments are often in response to, or in emulation of, published writers who represent a variety of stylistic devices and voices.

Discussion is also central to eighth grade English, requiring students to reason, marshal evidence for their arguments, and defend their ideas orally. It is through discussion that students recognize important issues, develop intellectual interests, and engage in problem solving.

In addition, students conduct research to construct knowledge focused on personal interests. Students design their own essential question and methodology for research. They then collect, store, and classify data, all while considering their question from multiple perspectives.

Students’ experiential learning includes:

  • Shared Holocaust unit with history (including Holocaust survivor visits, trips to the Oregon Museum and Center for Holocaust Education and the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, creative writing contests, and Holocaust themed book group).