Our ELA team is currently hard at work, building the Fishtank Plus features for our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade courses. In the process of developing this new content, they have decided to make some adjustments to the Middle School English scope and sequence, including the addition of two new units.
Curriculum Director Caroline Gambell, who is leading these revisions and additions, is excited to share these changes for the coming school year.
“Developmentally, middle grade students are trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world,” says Gambell. “We design curriculum with the belief that the books students read during this time period should support that process. We’re continually revisiting and revising our units to ensure that they’re relevant, rigorous, and engaging—and that they develop students’ understanding of the world around them, and deepen their understanding of themselves.”
A new unit Expressing Yourself: Women in the Arts will join the 6th grade sequence, contributing to the year-long study of coming of age narratives. The core text will be Misty Copeland’s memoir Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina paired with excerpts of other articles about women in the arts. Artistic self-expression is an important component of identity development, and Copeland’s first-hand account details the courage and dedication it took to rise to her position as the first African American principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre.
“We developed this unit in large part because we just didn’t see anything like it in the world of middle grade humanities curriculum. The fine arts are often disconnected from academic learning—at best, an “extracurricular”; at worst, a distraction. We designed this unit to bring the study of fine arts into the ELA classroom, in order to emphasize the value of artistic expression, and to introduce students to the work of diverse female artists.”
This unit replaces Being Jazz in the 6th grade sequence. The Being Jazz unit will still be available as an archived unit.
A new unit Claiming Our Place: Queer Experiences in the United States will join the 7th grade sequence, aligning with the course theme of what it means to be American.
The core text for this unit will be The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater, which tells the true story of an incident in which a genderqueer teen is severly burned after a teenage boy takes a lighter to their skirt. This text is paired with excerpts from A Queer History of the United States for Young People to help students build a deeper understanding of what it means to be queer in the United States.
“There have always been queer people in this country, but their experiences and contributions to American culture have often been erased from history. In writing this unit, we hope to share and celebrate that history; we believe that this unit complicates and deepens students’ year-long interrogation of what it means to be American.”
This unit replaces the All American Boys unit, which is moving into our 8th grade sequence.
Facing Prejudice: All American Boys will move from the end of our 7th grade course to the beginning of the 8th grade sequence. We have decided to start the 8th grade exploration of how power influences human behavior and how people respond to injustice, with this award-winning novel written by two authors—one black and one white—that tells the story of two teenage boys—one black and one white—whose lives intersect unexpectedly as a result of an incident of police brutality.
“Given the ongoing incidents of racially-motivated violence and the recent nationwide (and worldwide) protests in support of Black Lives Matter, we believe that it is essential to create space for all students to engage in discussion on racism and police brutality. Never has this text felt more essential, and we hope that this unit can support teachers and students as they engage deeply and authentically with these issues.”
Our unit on To Kill a Mockingbird will move to the end of the 8th grade sequence.
Much of the material from the current final unit of 8th grade Making Change: Speeches, Essays, and Articles will become incorporated into the Facing Calamity: An Inconvenient Sequel unit, and the complete unit will still be available to access in our archives.
We can’t wait to provide these new and updated units for your and your students for the school year ahead. Stay tuned for email updates on these units and Fishtank Plus for our 6th–8th grade English courses.