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English/Language Arts
Welcome to the TMS Language Arts Department!

The Language Arts program builds upon the language experiences of the elementary years and aims to nurture proficiency in the interrelated activities of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, and critical thinking.                                   
Through both guided and independent reading and writing activities in the Language Arts class, students apply comprehension strategies to create meaning from text, deepen their grasp of verbal structures, and expand their vocabulary. In the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes, students study poetry, drama, the novel, memoirs, short stories and non-fiction. Students can expect to engage in whole class readings of a single text, group-readings of different texts, independent reading and research. Grammar, usage, and mechanics of English are taught within the context of writing; additional reinforcement with grammar-text exercises is provided on an as-needed basis.
In each of the grade levels, and in all of the activities of the classroom, the Language Arts program seeks to engage students with their capacity to use language as a source of understanding and a means of expression. It is important to note that each year, teachers use their discretion in determining which specific activities and texts they will use to meet their students' varied learning needs and capabilities.
Grade Six
The sixth grade program uses the reading and writing workshop model to deepen students’ understanding of the various genres and sharpen their foundational literacy skills. Differentiated approaches to literacy instruction allow students to pursue independent reading to practice strategies learned in class. In addition to student-selected texts, whole-class readings in fiction, memoir, and other genres provide opportunities for shared interpretation. Writing instruction complements the reading workshop as students learn to compose original pieces in the genres they have read, respond analytically to literature, and shift among various modes of discourse such as persuasion and narrative. Throughout the year, teachers place emphasis on writing as a process, providing students with multiple strategies for each stage—from developing “seed ideas” to polishing finished works that can be shared with various audiences.
Grade Seven
The seventh grade program extends the work of the sixth grade by immersing students further in the study of various genres. Through independent reading and the study of whole-class texts, students are given regular opportunities to develop individual lines of inquiry about literature. Shared texts such as Orwell’s Animal Farm and Hesse’s Out of the Dust provide students with exposure to classic literature, highly-acclaimed young adult literature, and more sophisticated genres, including allegory, historical fiction, and novels in verse. Writing instruction continues to emphasize process as students experiment with composition in the various modes of discourse. Highlights of the seventh grade writing program include the production of an extended work of fiction and a “Poetfolio,” a collection of poems written in fixed forms and free verse.
Grade Eight
The eighth grade program provides a capstone experience in literacy as students build upon the foundational skills learned in the earlier grades to study classic literary works and pursue independent inquiry in literature and nonfiction reading. Shared texts such as Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird provide opportunities for students to engage in the kind of close reading and writing about literature that will prepare them for high school. Students continue to write creatively in genres such as memoir and poetry; they also learn sophisticated rhetorical devices for persuasive and expository writing. The “I-Search” project, a research paper on a self-selected topic written in the form of a nonfiction feature article, engages students in the synthesis of ideas across various texts and sources, and in critical research skills.  Each student also prepares an 8th grade anthology, a revised and edited collection of his/her best writing and reflective pieces on each sample. Throughout the year, emphasis is placed on “reading as a writer” and writing for authentic audiences.
Sixth grade students take a cycle of four quarterly courses in Literacy in the Content Areas: Language Arts Literacy, Mathematics Literacy, Science Literacy, and Social Studies Literacy. This cycle functions as a complement to the reading and writing workshops of the sixth grade language arts curriculum by promoting the reading of expository nonfiction with passion and a critical mind. Highlights include reading nonfiction for appreciation, building competencies for reading content-area texts, selecting nonfiction books and articles for independent reading, building stamina and comprehension in reading, judging the validity of sources, synthesizing ideas across texts, engaging in individual conferences with the teacher regarding reading progress, and developing a wide inventory of reading strategies that may be applied to general reading and discipline-specific texts.
Summer Reading

This has been another enriching and productive year in our Language Arts classes at TMS. Alongside the diverse array of instructional units at all 3 grade levels—from learning how to read critically with various “lenses” in the 6th grade to writing fiction like the masters in 7th grade and conducting research on a topic of personal interest in the 8th grade, students have had many opportunities to choose their own books for independent reading (IR). Now that summer is here, we want to encourage you to keep reading—and to read as much as possible. Instead of assigning books for summer reading, we ask our 6th and 7th graders to capitalize on the time that summer affords them and to read what they want to read. If you would like some suggestions, the following sites offer lists of what’s popular in Young Adult literature.

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/booklistsawards/booklistsbook The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) site requires users to provide some basic personal information before it grants access to their book awards lists. Once you access the site, you’ll be able to see current winners and 20 years of past winners of various book and author awards.

http://www.mymcpl.org/teens/recommended-books-movies-music-teens The Mid-Continent Public Library website has recommendations for teens who like everything from graphic novels and fantasy to nonfiction and humor. They even have a list for teens who “Hate to Read.”

For me, a good summer would include the opportunity to read whatever I wanted to read, not something that a teacher told me to read. If you are trying to become a better reader, then make sure you read books that aren't a breeze. They should be enjoyable to you, but should force you to stretch yourself intellectually. They should make you think. They should include words you don’t already know (and you should take some time to learn what those words mean). If you do as much of this as you can, you will be in good shape for another year of Language Arts at TMS.

For our 8th graders who are continuing to Tenafly High School next year:

Tenafly High School’s Summer reading assignments for students moving on to Tenafly High School’s 9th grade in September are posted at the following location:


On behalf of the English Language Arts department, I wish you a great summer and some good reads!


Mr. Ross
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