Welcome to the English Language Arts Department.
The Tenafly Middle School language arts program builds upon the language experiences of the elementary years and aims to nurture proficiency in the interrelated activities of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and critical thinking.
Through both guided and independent reading and writing activities in the language arts class, students apply comprehension strategies to create meaning from text, deepen their grasp of verbal structures, and expand their vocabulary. In the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes, students study poetry, drama, the novel, memoirs, short stories and non-fiction. Students can expect to engage in whole class readings of a single text, group-readings of different texts, independent reading and research. Grammar, usage, and mechanics of English are taught within the context of writing; additional reinforcement with grammar-text exercises is provided on an as-needed basis.
In each of the grade levels, and in all of the activities of the classroom, the language arts program seeks to engage students with their capacity to use language as a source of understanding and a means of expression. It is important to note that each year, teachers use their discretion in determining which specific activities and texts they will use to meet their students' varied learning needs and capabilities.
The sixth grade program uses the reading and writing workshop model to deepen students’ understanding of the various genres and sharpen their foundational literacy skills. Differentiated approaches to literacy instruction allow students to pursue independent reading to practice strategies learned in class. In addition to student-selected texts, whole-class readings in fiction, memoir, and other genres provide opportunities for shared interpretation. Writing instruction complements the reading workshop as students learn to compose original pieces in the genres they have read, respond analytically to literature, and shift among various modes of discourse such as persuasion and narrative. Throughout the year, teachers place emphasis on writing as a process, providing students with multiple strategies for each stage – from developing “seed ideas” to polishing finished works that can be shared with various audiences.
The seventh grade program extends the work of the sixth grade by immersing students further in the study of various genres. Through independent reading and the study of whole-class texts, students are given regular opportunities to develop individual lines of inquiry about literature. Shared texts such as S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders and short story collections provide students with exposure to classic literature, highly-acclaimed young adult literature, and more sophisticated genres, including allegory, historical fiction, and verse. Writing instruction continues to emphasize process as students experiment with composition in the various modes of discourse. Highlights of the seventh grade writing program include the production of an extended work of fiction, a memoir, and a “Portfolio,” a collection of poems written in fixed forms and free verse.
The eighth grade program provides a capstone experience in literacy as students build upon the foundational skills learned in the earlier grades to study classic literary works and pursue independent inquiry in literature and nonfiction reading. Shared texts such as Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird provide opportunities for students to engage in the kind of close reading and writing about literature that will prepare them for high school. Students continue to write creatively in genres such as memoir and poetry; they also learn sophisticated rhetorical devices for persuasive and expository writing. The “I-Search” project, a research paper on a self-selected topic written in the form of a nonfiction feature article, engages students in the synthesis of ideas across various texts and sources, and in critical research skills. Each student also prepares an 8th grade anthology, a revised and edited collection of his/her best writing and reflective pieces on each sample. Throughout the year, emphasis is placed on “reading as a writer” and writing for authentic audiences.
To complement their language arts coursework, all sixth grade students take a full year of Literacy. In this course, students engage complex fiction and nonfiction texts to hone their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Students at all skill levels benefit from readings drawn from academic disciplines including, but not limited to, language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. Readings also connect with the issues (e.g. family life concepts, anti-bullying efforts, etc.) that inform the social-emotional well-being of all students.