7th and 8th Grade Language Arts

by Emelio
7th Grade Writing Unit: Free Verse Poetry
Our first unit is a favorite of mine: a study of free verse poetry! I love teaching free verse because these beautiful, wild language-containers that we read together invite feats of meaning making in class. The poetry we’ve read thus far have inspired excellent discussion: we read selections from this portfolio to enter the “strange” language of free verse poetry; “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop to analyze imagery; “An American Sunrise” by Native poet Joy Harjo in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day; and of course, one memorable poem by John Updike that brought up strong feelings for many!

These early discussions provide our entry into reading poetry — and any text — as critics, which is to say, as engaged readers noticing how texts work and how they’re built, what questions they ask, and how they give rise to emotional response. In this work we learn to unpack a text, coming to use literary vocabulary to aid in our critical close readings.  

Students are wrapping up their own poetry writing right now with three finished free verse poems, including one that focuses on imagery in the style of “The Fish”.

8th Grade Writing Unit: 100-Word Memoir (Narrative Writing)
The initial progression of writing work in 8th grade fits within narrative composition. We started the year off by generating lists of our likes and dislikes, then created six-word memoirs, and moved to our first substantial project: writing a memoir in 100 words or fewer. Students needed to write a short, memorable story about one life experience. Like any narrative writing, the story needs to contain tension and resolution, specific and lively details, and a meaningful point. Because the writing is so short, students were hyper-focused on concision, precise diction, and ruthless revision! They had the option to submit their writing to the New York Times’ 100-word memoir contest (the deadline passed on Tuesday, Oct 12), but everyone will have their writing published in a class anthology of supershort memoir. Up next: longer narrative writing in the form of speculative fiction!

Two Ongoing Routines for 7th/8th Language Arts:

Writing Meditation
To start every class, students freewrite for four minutes in their Meditation Journals. The goal is
always the same: to write without stopping. Anything that comes into the mind is fair game; this writing is totally private. As teacher-researcher Peter Elbow has said, “To learn to talk to yourself on paper is hard. It’s a skill. People’s writing gets better when there’s private writing.” We’ll be practicing this critical talk-to-self writing skill all year.

Independent Reading
Independent reading is a significant component of Language Arts. Students will usually have some class time each week to read a book of their choice. For homework, students are expected to read for two hours at home each week. We recently began setting up setting up independent reading expectations and systems, which includes ensuring that each student has a good book in their hands! Students will be setting reading goals soon and will record every book they finish on a Reading Record log that lives in their LA portfolio at school. This year your child will be stretching as a reader, building strong reading habits, and finishing lots of books!
Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.