After 16 years of teaching at both the middle school and college level I can finally say I have it all figured out. Just kidding. That is the beauty of teaching (and life); you never really get it all figured out. Teaching middle school is no exception. If there is any place that is filled mostly with people who have no idea what is going on, it’s a middle school. This is why I love it.
I also love to read, which means I love to share what I’m reading. More than anything else, I want my students to enjoy what they are reading so they may develop a lifelong habit of reading. The main way I foster this is through open , organic discussions about what we are reading; plot, characters, setting, conflicts, and themes are all topics of discussion as are thoughts, reflections, and predictions the students have.
Students will explore the themes of courage, family, and identity. We begin with 90 Miles to Havana, a novel chronicling the adventure of a young boy whose parents send him to Miami from Cuba in the early 1960s. We will study the genres of fantasy and science fiction, closing the year with 1994 Newbery Medal winner, The Giver. Students will begin the 3 A’s: acquainting themselves with the greater story, analyzing for literary significance, and annotating their thoughts and reactions. The best part is, they won’t even realize they are doing that.
Students will explore the themes of justice, freedom, and identity. We begin with the middle school classic, The Outsiders. A poetry unit in which students will study well-known poets, read novels in verse, and write a collection of their own poems using varied literary devices precedes a Revolutionary War novel, Chains, in which a young slave girl fights for her freedom. Advanced Literature students also explore short stories and novellas, including The Pearl and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and end the year with Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm. On-level Literature students will close the year with literature circles on a book of their choosing. Of course, we build upon and explore our 3 A’s at a higher level with more in depth studies of historical events and climate surrounding the story, more advanced literary terms, and, much to their chagrin, more involved annotation.
Students will explore the themes of conformity vs. individuality, censorship and the power of words, and the effects of apathy on a culture. Advanced literature students begin with a study of controversial short stories and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. During the third quarter, they move into an intense and extensive study of the Holocaust through the eyes of Liesel Meminger, also known as The Book Thief. They close the year with the middle school classic, Lord of the Flies. On-level students will explore the allegorical Animal Farm, a Holocaust novel we may decide on as a class, and end the year with a survival tale. All students will take the 3 A’s to the highest level in preparation for the honors and Pre-AP classes awaiting them in high school.