Topic outline

  • 8th Grade Language Arts

    "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing."
    - Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


    Harper Lee's quote neatly sums up so much of what we set out to do in English class.  Through the wonders of books, the finesse of writing, and the riches in discussion, I hope that we will all learn to love one another and grow in Language Arts class this year.

    • Unit 1: Literary Analysis (Fever 1793)

      Fever 1793

      Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793 Book Cover

      The primary text for this unit is Laurie Halse Anderson's Fever 1793, a piece of historical fiction that centers around the Yellow Fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in the late eighteenth century.  Students should have come to school having read this book over the summer.  Additionally, students should have completed a summer packet.

    • Unit 2: Informational Nonfiction

      An American Plague

      The primary text for this unit is An American Plague, a brilliant piece of nonfiction by Jim Murphy.  In it, he compiles vast resources and information about the Yellow Fever epidemic that struck Philadelphia in 1793.  This is a familiar topic for us, as we just covered it with Fever 1793.  This unit will take a much more historical approach, however, challenging students to blend rich historical information with exquisite language in order to validate opinions and viewpoints.

    • Unit 3: Informative/Explanatory Writing

      This unit features a continuation of the previous unit, though with a different approach.  Whereas we focused primarily on absorbing and evaluating information and viewpoints before, we are now focused on taking what we have learned and formulating our own opinions.  Students will utilize large amounts of class time and rich resources to compile newspaper articles surrounding the topic of the yellow fever, including, but not limited to, its causes, its medical facets, those involved with its harm and cure, etc.

    • Unit 4: Speaking and Listening (Part One)

      The main focus of this brief but poignant unit will be active speaking and listening.  The topic will center around a current issue or debate in our society, culture, or area.

    • Unit 5: Literary Nonfiction

      The Diary of a Young Girl

      Our next novel comes at a very apt time: a time for Thanksgiving.  In her memoir, Anne Frank recalls her years in the Secret Annex, the unknown hiding place she and seven other Jewish individuals hid from the Nazis during the Holocaust.  Told from first person point of view in a diary format, we almost feel like we were there with Anne as she shares with us everything that happened to her and her family in often heartbreaking but oftentimes uplifting ways.

      We will take a blended approach to this unit, both reading its original text and learning about the unforgettable history that surrounds the story's events. 

      To help ensure students keep up with the reading, which is the longest this year, they will have a Reader's Log that outlines what pages to read each night as well as a space to record a brief summary (2-3 complete and quality sentences) as well as a memorable quote from that night's reading.  Students will have time in class to read, but they are expected to read the majority of the text at home, including on the weekends.  This will help ensure that we are able to learn as much as possible in a relatively short time!

      Fortunately, the Solanco curriculum will help us expand our horizons by engaging in a brief analysis of the filmed version, something that is not included in every school's ideologies.  This is a rare opportunity that we will surely maximize the final day of this unit.

    • Unit 6: Fiction (Part One)

      For this unit, which will split the 2015 and 2016 years, we will focus on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol as well as Anton Chekhov's "The Bet."  Both are fiction short stories and both will provide ample opportunities for rich discussions and acquisition of important literary elements.

      A Christmas Carol will follow our Anne Frank unit and will be just in time for the holidays.  Dickens' classic tale provides the perfect chance to discuss large, important issues such as greed, love, forgiveness, and living a healthy, productive life.  Before we say goodbye to 2015, we will watch portions of the film (multiple versions) and we will have a brief quiz to ensure that students do not forget about what we learned after we return from our December break.

      Once we return to school in January and usher in 2016, we will study Chekhov's "The Bet," another short story that tackles serious issues such as morality, justice, and society.

      The assessment for this unit is one of the more challenging: an exam that calls upon students to recall important information and apply it to literary elements.  The test will feature multiple choice, matching, and essay response questions.

    • Unit 7: Poetry

      The first two weeks of January, students will be learning about two poets and poems: Langston Hughes and Robert Frost and "Mother to Son" and "The Road Not Taken," respectively.

      Our end goal for this unit is to make sense of poetry, namely to discover the underlying messages and themes using figurative meaning and the figurative language devices we have come to know and love.  Specifically, we will be studying terms like "form," "irony," "mood," "sound," symbolism," and "theme."

    • Unit 8: Argumentative Writing

      This unit will focus primarily on the vital skill of develop, supporting, and expressing a claim.  This will be a very comprehensive unit that features much research and organization.  Ideally, students will develop and/or refine important skills that will be of incredible help at the high school and beyond.

      Much of the project will be done in class -- both in the classroom and in the library -- but it is also important for students to keep up with outside work as well.

    • Unit 9: Speaking and Listening (Part Two)

    • Unit 10: Fiction (Part Two)

      For this month-long unit, we will be reading Irene Hunt's Across Five Aprils, a novel that follows young Jethro Creighton for the four most crucial years of his life, the years spanning the American Civil War.

      This unit features a wide variety of individual, partner, and group activities as well as focuses on key skills such as organization in writing and presentation of thoughts (connecting back to several of our previous units this year).

      To ensure the novel is read on a timely basis, students will read 1-2 chapters per night.  It is imperative that students keep up with the reading so that they are prepared for each activity and assessment along the way.  Activities in class will be based around the night's previous reading to help students understand the chapter and deepen their knowledge.

      Included assessments in this unit are a Reading Buddy that students will complete alongside their reading each evening, individual and partner activities that examine primary and secondary source documents, a mock trial, a text-dependent analysis essay, and an activity featuring Civil War music.  The culminating assessment for this unit will be a unit test on March 19th during class.

    • Unit 11: Narrative Short Story

      For this unit, students will have a chance to be as creative as they can be.  The end goal of this unit is for students to plan, write, and publish an original short story centered around the Civil War time period.  First we'll study well-known short stories and the elements they require before students will have a chance to brainstorm and plan (hopefully outside if the weather permits!) their stories before writing them.

      Perhaps one of the most exciting days of the year comes at the end of this unit, when students will be able to show off their stories by "publishing" them at our annual book signing event.

    • Unit 12: Drama

      To wrap up a long but successful school year, we'll be studying William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  This is one of the playwright's most famous works and is commonly studied in high school.  That means that our students will be challenged and held to high expectations.  To aide in the text, which is almost like a foreign language to those who have not yet read Shakespeare, we will do most of the reading in class. 

      We will blend both live action reenactments starring the students themselves and watching the filmed version in increments so that students can absorb all they have learned that day.  Students will be expected to keep a reader's log, which will record what happened that day in class. 

      The final assessment for this unit will be a creative, hands-on pamphlet centered around the themes of the play.

    • This topic

      Non-Curricular Days

      Today we learned all about the different ways to learn and Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory!