Middle School English Bringing More Reading Choices to Classroom

Through enhanced and expanded curriculum in multiple units, students in St. Margaret’s grade 7 and grade 8 English classes will have more choice in the direction their learning takes them this school year. 
 
Consistent with a school-wide goal to design learning experiences that are responsive to student input regarding choice, relevance and well-being, English 7 and English 8 classes are moving ahead with reading units that will take students in a number of different directions with the subjects they are studying. 
 
Here’s a look at what’s in store this school year:
 
English 7
 
Two units in grade 7 English, taught by Christie McMahon and Rachel Mykkanen, have been enhanced to offer expanded choice in reading and subject. 
 
A first-semester unit will explore first-person perspective novels, with students choosing from a list of six novels with a teenage protagonist facing personal and systemic obstacles. The unit, titled “windows and mirrors” is based on professor Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s pedagogical approach focusing on literature as “windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors,” a paradigm that leverages literature as a method for developing healthy identity and empathy.
 
In the second semester, students will take on a narrative non-fiction of their own choosing, selecting a person past or present whom they find inspirational as a creator, innovator or pioneer. Students will practice reading strategies, complete reflective and analytical activities, and participate in literature circles as they read the memoir, biography, or autobiography about the person they chose. They will continue researching the inspirational figure using additional sources until they are ready to compose and then present a speech to their classmates focused on the key traits of their creator, innovator, or pioneer. 
 
 
English 8
 
Grade 8 English is moving toward more classroom choice as well, adding two reading units for the 2022-2023 school year. The units—science fiction/fantasy in the fall and coming-of-age in the spring—allow for individual book choices within a larger collaborative framework of discussion, journaling and projects. 
 
In each unit, which were developed by Dr. Mykkanen and English 8 teacher Daniel Matlock, students will choose novels from curated lists that feature high-interest classic and contemporary fiction. 
 
“The novels feature middle-school-aged protagonists as we believe that students connect more with reading when they see themselves in texts and experience reading as relevant to their lives,” Dr. Matlock said. 
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St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
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San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
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