Leanna Vergis

leanna.vergis@bdms.org

 

 

 "Teachers have three loves: love of learning, love of learners, and the love of bringing the first two loves together."  ~ Scott Hayden

 

Curriculum Overview

"Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart."  ~Salman Rushdie

Students will cover all five core areas of the curriculum: reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and public speaking. Interdisciplinary cooperation across the subject areas allows students the opportunity to practice their skills in all areas within the content areas as well as in their English class.  A major goal of the middle school ELA curriculum is to prepare students for high school level work, specifically by providing students with the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to be successful in meeting the reading and writing demands of the Regents exams. The program also helps students to improve their executive functioning skills, specifically with regard to organization of materials, prewriting organizational strategies, adherence to due dates, and note-taking methods.  Respect for different learning styles and strengths is demonstrated in all planning, and students are given opportunities to shine in ways that best reflect their own learning profile.  Each year will result in a capstone, keepsake book written by the students to celebrate their progress, as well as 4-6 formal essays of varying length that can be used as writing samples for high schools or to build a writing portfolio.  We seek to have our students graduate from our program with a stronger ability to analyze text, a keener use of the English language, a confident approach to writing, and a love of literature. 

Literature

The 7th grade literature program continues the genre and stylistic studies introduced in sixth grade, expanding students' literary repertoire with the introduction of historical-fiction, thematic realistic-fiction, dystopian science-fiction, alternating narratives, and prose-in-verse.  Additionally, students are introduced to more sophisticated literary elements such as tonality, narrative point-of-view, setting, character studies, conflict, plot mapping, and more in order to utilize intermediate strategies of literary analysis.  Each quarter, all students will be reading a novel together in the classroom as well as reading an independently assigned text in order to assess their understanding of the skill being taught through our whole-class piece.  Creative book projects will be assigned on a quarterly basis to appeal to different learning styles, allowing students to demonstrate their mastery of skills in their own unique ways.  Students are encouraged to read and respond to more than one book on each quarter’s suggested reading list, and extra credit is available should students choose to partake in this opportunity.  From the summer before 7th grade through the end of the academic year, students will study: Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare; The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff; The Giver by Lois Lowry; The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; as well as many independently read pieces of middle school literature.  Throughout the year, students will engage in many interdisciplinary learning experiences using these texts, underscoring the relationships that exist between ELA, social studies, and religious studies within the middle school curriculum.  

Writing

Literature and writing within the ELA curriculum cannot be looked at as entirely separate entities since they coexist in symbiosis, each lending itself to strengthening the other and giving us the chance to allow our students to hone and demonstrate necessary skills.  7th grade is a very important year for writing as it begins a formal, two-year study of the three Regents styles of essay formation: Thematic, Central Idea, and Argument.  7th graders also carry over their study of tone and narrative perspective in literature to their formation of narrative and descriptive pieces of writing.  Students will also practice their ability to use the RACE model to format document and text based responses, fine-tune their mastery of the MLA format, and compose their first research paper.  Much like its sister component, literature, the writing curriculum is a cross-curricular endeavor; skills taught in the ELA classroom will be reinforced, practiced, and assessed throughout the content areas. All written work will be checked prior to submission using the BDMS editing checklist and will be graded based on rubrics. 

Vocabulary

The study of vocabulary in grades 7 and 8 is an immersive program focused upon building students’ lexicons, both to enhance their comprehension of literature and their ability to most effectively convey intended meanings in their writing.  Vocabulary words are built from cross-curricular lists, allowing students the opportunity to practice these terms in multiple classes and utilize them in various contexts.  Both formal and informal assessments of vocabulary mastery will happen continuously throughout the year.  Quarterly word studies will be differentiated, with each student assigned words both that are universal to all classmates and words that are specifically chosen for his or her needs as a student.  Increased word acquisition is not only crucial at this age, it is also very individual in nature and is thus treated as such.  

Grammar

The grammar program in grades 7 and 8 is dedicated to forming a functional understanding of English syntax in order to enhance students’ reading comprehension and writing skills.  The ELA grammar program also works closely with students’ foreign language instruction to ensure student success in tackling a new language with varied grammatical structures and rules.  The topics covered throughout the 7th grade year are as follows: 

  • Correlating conjunctions

  • Natural vs. Inverted Order sentences

  • Subjects of imperative and interrogative sentences 

  • Continued Word Function

-Noun functions two, three, four, five

a)  Direct objects

b) Indirect objects

c) Predicate nouns (predicate nominative) 

d) Object of the preposition

-Transitive and intransitive verbs

-Linking verbs when connecting subject to nominative 

-Modifiers: adjectives and adverbs

1. Adjectives

    ~Function

    ~Identification

-With linking verbs

-Directly toward nouns 

~Comparative Forms

~Vocabulary Integration

 -Use of a thesaurus

-Substitution of words

2. Adverbs

-Use with verbs

-Use with adjectives

-Use with adjectives

~Comparative Forms

~Vocabulary Integration

-Use of thesaurus

-Substitution of words 

3. Prepositions

~Prepositions

~Prepositional Phrases

~Misplaced Prepositions

  • Introduction to Clauses
  • Editing syntax for clarity

 

"That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Students will cover all five core areas of the curriculum: reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, and public speaking. Interdisciplinary cooperation across the subject areas allows students the opportunity to practice their skills in all areas within the content areas as well as in their English class.  A major goal of the middle school ELA curriculum is to prepare students for high school level work, specifically by providing students with the opportunity to learn the skills necessary to be successful in meeting the reading and writing demands of the Regents exams. The program also helps students to improve their executive functioning skills, specifically with regard to organization of materials, prewriting organizational strategies, adherence to due dates, and note-taking methods.  Respect for different learning styles and strengths is demonstrated in all planning, and students are given opportunities to shine in ways that best reflect their own learning profile.  Each year will result in a capstone, keepsake book written by the students to celebrate their progress, as well as 4-6 formal essays of varying length that can be used as writing samples for high schools or to build a writing portfolio.  We seek to have our students graduate from our program with a stronger ability to analyze text, a keener use of the English language, a confident approach to writing, and a love of literature. 

Literature

The 8th grade literature program acts as the “grand finale” to the BDMS literacy program, an educational journey students begin from their first day of kindergarten in our lower school or from whatever year we were blessed enough to have them join our school family.  This is the year students begin truly studying the classics, delving deeply into literary analysis, and becoming high-school level literature students.  Each quarter, all students will be reading a novel together in the classroom as well as reading an independently assigned text in order to assess their understanding of the skill being taught through our whole-class piece.  Creative book projects will be assigned on a quarterly basis to appeal to different learning styles, allowing students to demonstrate their mastery of skills in their own unique ways.  Students are encouraged to read and respond to more than one book on each quarter’s suggested reading list, and extra credit is available should students choose to partake in this opportunity.  From the summer before 8th grade through the end of the academic year, students will study: Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals, Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes; Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis; Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck; Night by Elie Wiesel; To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee; short stories and poems by Ray Bradbury, James Joyce, Shirley Jackon, Langston Hughes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Frank Stockton, John Updike, Robert Frost, Percy Shelley, Claude McKay, William Shakespeare, and Georgia Douglas Johnson, as well as many independently read pieces of middle school literature.  Throughout the year, students will engage in many interdisciplinary learning experiences using these texts, underscoring the relationships that exist between ELA, social studies, and religious studies within the middle school curriculum.  

Writing

Literature and writing within the ELA curriculum cannot be looked at as entirely separate entities since they coexist in symbiosis, each lending itself to strengthening the other and giving us the chance to allow our students to hone and demonstrate necessary skills.  8th grade is a very important year for writing as it concludes a formal, two-year study of the three Regents styles of essay formation: Thematic, Central Idea, and Argument.  8th graders will learn to form their own thesis statement, infuse tonality in expository pieces, and write with multiple purposes.  By the end of 8th grade, students will have mastered all Regents styles of essays and will have a very healthy portfolio of written pieces, graphic organizers, and other pre-writing tools to take along to high school.  Much like its sister component, literature, the writing curriculum is a cross-curricular endeavor; skills taught in the ELA classroom will be reinforced, practiced, and assessed throughout the content areas.  All written work will be checked prior to submission using the BDMS editing checklist and will be graded based on rubrics. 

Vocabulary

The study of vocabulary in grades 7 and 8 is an immersive program focused upon building students’ lexicons, both to enhance their comprehension of literature and their ability to most effectively convey intended meanings in their writing.  Vocabulary words are built from cross-curricular lists, allowing students the opportunity to practice these terms in multiple classes and utilize them in various contexts.  Both formal and informal assessments of vocabulary mastery will happen continuously throughout the year.  Quarterly word studies will be differentiated, with each student assigned words both that are universal to all classmates and words that are specifically chosen for his or her needs as a student.  Increased word acquisition is not only crucial at this age, it is also very individual in nature and is thus treated as such.  

Grammar

The grammar program in grades 7 and 8 is dedicated to forming a functional understanding of English syntax in order to enhance students’ reading comprehension and writing skills.  The ELA grammar program also works closely with students’ foreign language instruction to ensure student success in tackling a new language with varied grammatical structures and rules.  The topics covered throughout the 8th grade year are as follows: 

~Final review of noun functions

-Functions of nouns

-Breakdown of various sentence types

-Punctuation Nouns in direct address

-Interjections 

~Pronouns and antecedents 

-Subject pronouns

-Object pronouns

-Possessive pronouns as adjectives

-Interrogative pronouns and case rules 

~Advanced Verb/Verbal Function

-Active and Passive Voice

-Gerunds

-Gerund Phrases

-Infinitives

-Participles

~Advanced Clauses

-Complex sentences

-Formation 

-Breakdown 

~Subordinating conjunctions

 

 

 

 

The eighth grade religion program follows the guidelines set by the Archdiocese of New York.  Students in grade 8 undertake a fascinating study of Church history, spanning from the birth of the Church through modern times.  They will cover Church Councils that continue to inform our faith today, periods of time like the Crusades and the Protestant reformation that still influence our modern religious practices, and the lives of many of the greatest saints and religious leaders of our Church.   Students also cover the Health Environments curriculum set forth by the Archdiocese of New York, helping students understand the Church’s official stance on topics such as human sexuality, respect for creation, and conscience-guided goal formation.  A large portion of the eighth grade curriculum also focuses on sacramental preparation as our students do have the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the spring of their eighth grade year if this is something their families are interested in pursuing.  We use a sacramental program specifically designed to meet the needs of modern adolescents, allowing them to explore topics in multimedia formats and reflect upon important questions of faith as they take this huge step in their religious lives.  Interdisciplinary studies are undertaken between Fine Arts, ELA, and religion, allowing students to study the works of C.S. Lewis through his Church history-based allegory, Prince Caspian and preparing music for school masses, as well as studying religious relics, architecture, and art integral to our early Church. 

See Google Classroom.