In grades 6 – 8, students are ready for new levels of intellectual challenge. If they have followed Great Minds's Wheatley Portfolio up to this point, they should have a strong background in mythology, folktales, and fables from around the world; classic and contemporary fiction and poetry; and literary nonfiction related to historical and select scientific topics. They should be able to write a short paper in which they articulate a central idea and support it with examples from texts.
Through the diverse use of texts, new topics are introduced and old ones reintroduced in greater depth deliberately across the middle school grades. As in the earlier grades, many units combine fictional narratives with historical accounts; students may build background knowledge while considering similarities and differences between fiction and nonfiction. For example, in seventh grade, students build upon the “Literary Heroes” unit from Grade 4, and then read about the Middle Ages, as they compare varying depictions of medieval characters. Students make connections between literature and science as well: In sixth grade, they read about flying from literary, historical, and scientific perspectives, and in seventh grade they consider to what extent the science in science fiction must be truthful.
The arts are integrated into the units, both for comparison with literature and for enrichment. Through class discussion, close reading, and careful writing, students deepen their understanding of all of these works and concepts. The suggested texts reflect a wide variety of cultural and personal perspectives and accommodate a range of interests. The unifying themes allow students to consider what seemingly disparate texts have in common; for instance, one unit focuses on determination, another on survival in the wild, and another on the greater good. The arts are deeply integrated into select units; students look at how authors and artists are similar in a grade eight unit, “Authors and Artists.”
Students hone their writing skills through a variety of assignments and projects. They learn to write cogent arguments, responses to literature and informational text, narratives, reflective essays, and more. Each unit includes word study, with special attention to word origins and history. Students work with graphic organizers in order to clarify their ideas and plan their writing. They engage in discussions, give presentations, and deliver expressive readings of literature. By the end of eighth grade, students have learned many ways of looking at a text, have built historical, scientific, and cultural knowledge and understanding, and have learned to express their ideas clearly. They are prepared to explore literature as a subject in itself and to engage in close textual analysis.
The content cloud below distills the key content knowledge in the Middle School maps. The larger an event, name, or idea appears, the more emphasis it receives in the maps. As you examine this cloud, do keep in mind that the Middle School maps contain much that is not included here.