The vision of the Ramapo Ridge Middle School English Language Arts Department is congruent with what precedes and follows the middle school experience of the Mahwah Public Schools: We wish to promote the continued development of essential reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing skills in our students through a range of rigorous, relevant, and meaningful learning experiences. Various cooperative and independent research-based instructional methods shall be used to advance the understanding that the English language arts - in all its forms - have crucial significance in their lives as emerging adults in a rapidly changing world. As such, students will work on a novel-based approach in regards to reading, and their writing experience will consist of grade appropriate pieces, including descriptive, explanatory, persuasive, and expository writing tasks. The curriculum for each grade level has been designed around carefully selected, age-appropriate thematic concepts.
Sixth Grade Language Arts
As sixth grade students enter Ramapo Ridge, developmentally, they look for approval and acknowledgement from their new school community at large; this includes peers, teachers, and others. Thus, the lens through which language arts content will be viewed in sixth grade is: “A Search for Acceptance.” This thematic approach will be developed through the following reading texts: Belle Teal (Ann Martin), Dovey Coe (Frances O’Rourke Dowell), Wonder (R.J. Palacio), and Freak the Mighty (W. Rodman Philbrick).
Sixth Grade Reading
The sixth grade reading curriculum is driven by the philosophy that reading is thinking. To that end the teacher’s role is to teach the reader not the reading. In other words, the teacher teaches the strategies necessary for comprehension. The main goal in the sixth grade reading curriculum is to create independent, active, lifetime readers who engage in their reading and derive enjoyment from it. The reading curriculum is based on the Readers Workshop units of study. The units will encourage students to look closely at the art and science of reading, while also being cognizant of their own progress by choosing books from their classroom’s leveled reading selections. Research shows that the amount of time students spend in independent reading is the best predictor of reading achievement. Furthermore, when a student interacts with the text, his comprehension increases and he becomes a proficient reader. The teacher targets and models various reading strategies for both fiction and nonfiction and confers with students, checking to see that the students are applying the strategies.
Seventh Grade Language Arts
Progressing to seventh grade, students naturally begin to contemplate their own identities and their roles within a greater community. By understanding the conflicts of those within literature, we can better understand our own conflicts and ultimately, ourselves. Therefore, the thematic focus in seventh grade is “A Search for Identity.” This very search will be rooted in the following novels: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain), The Giver (Lois Lowry), Tangerine (Edward Bloor), and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (Wendy Mass).
Eighth Grade Language Arts
Finally, eighth grade students will integrate the important lessons about acceptance and identity from previous years in order to examine the intricacies of humanity; hence, our thematic concentration in eighth grade is “A Search for Humanity.” Requisite skills and concrete understandings about language and its functions will be embedded within the literature and writing incorporated at each grade level. These lessons, and this very search for humanity, will be grounded by the following texts: The Diary of Anne Frank (play), Heroes, Gods, and Monsters of the Greek Myths (Bernard Eyslin), Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck), Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes), Heroes (Robert Cormier), and The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd).
The scope of these curricula will allow our students to adequately conceptualize both individuality and community as they advance through middle school; consequently, their transition to the ninth grade theme of “Interdependence and Independence” will be logical, sequential, and smooth.