Designing Your Year
Depending on the length of your school year, the way I have my 8th grade English curriculum broken down might not work for you. For starters, my year is divided into six units of six weeks per unit. The fall semester contains three units of six weeks segments, as does the Spring semester. We have June, July, and half of August off for Summer break (hallelujah!).
I will break down units of study by six weeks, but you are free to add or take away resources to make it fit your school schedule. Also, I never teach the exact same thing each year, so I will have many “options” to add to this series that you can use differently each year. If I find a short story that catches my attention, I add it to my unit. If I read an interesting book over the summer, such as “The Hunger Games”, then I add that novel to my unit.
Being flexible is an important trait to have as an educator, and being brave enough to throw out lesson plans that do not work also helps your career. No matter how much work and energy you put in to the creation of a unit, if the students are not benefiting from it (or if they are bored to tears), there’s no use keeping it in your curriculum.
I had a similar experience with the novel “Star Girl” by Jerry Spinelli. The first year I taught it, my students hated it and dreaded having to read it each day. I thought perhaps it flopped because of my method of teaching, so I tried a different approach the next year and had the exact same results. It was the content that they hated, so I took it out of my yearly plans, even though there is no telling how many hours of hard work I had put in to the lesson plans for that book!
Break It Down!
I will go into greater detail in my Unit Articles for each six weeks, but this is the basic flow of my 8th Grade Reading curriculum:
- 1st and 2nd Six Weeks – Short Story Unit
- 3rd Six Weeks – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- 4th Six Weeks – “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
- 5th Six Weeks – Holocaust Unit, “The Diary of Anne Frank” Play, Night by Elie Wiesel, and other historical documents
- 6th Six Weeks – Contemporary Fiction Unit, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Like I mentioned before, I will go in to greater detail with each unit’s series of articles. In each unit, I will discuss the important skills and terminology I teach with each unit and will give you many options to make the curriculum your own.
Let me warn you in advance about my teaching style: I DO NOT TEACH TO THE TEST.
If you are from a state or country that has standardized testing, you will know what I’m talking about. Each unit is designed to use the resources to teach essential knowledge and skills that eighth grade readers must master before moving on to their ninth grade year of language arts.
I feel that each unit is rich in skills and practice for elements that will appear on standardized tests. At no point do I stop my units to “practice testing skills” and do repetitive (and boring) testing passages. I feel that my students should be adequately prepared through my teaching style and the plethora of mandatory “practice tests” schools implement throughout the year.
In my eight years of experience, I’ve discovered that I’m not a good teacher when it comes to teaching merely through test passages and my students abhor lessons that “teach to the test”, and if I’m bored, they are doubly bored!
Where to Go From Here?
You may see my curriculum plan and ask yourself, “Well, that’s great, but where do I find these resources?”. Many of the stories and novels mentioned are easily found through searching the Internet, but yes, you will have to purchase the novels for your students in order to properly teach them.
Many middle school literature books have several of the short stories and plays that I mention, but you may have to do a little leg work to find them if you do not have the resources at your school. Try websites like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other sites for links to books, or simply search the title and author for links to short stories. I’ll do my best to provide you with good links in each article series, but really look in to purchasing the novels for the units or at least checking them out of your local library and reading them before deciding this is what you are going to teach! You must have a passion for the resources you teach, and my passion might be completely different from yours.
Spend your summers reading materials from your content area, and you will discover resources that YOU love and want to teach, but you can use my passion for these resources in the mean time! Continue reading for more details on the 8th grade English curriculum I’ve laid out.
This post is part of the series: 8th Grade Reading Curriculum
- Curriculum for 8th Grade Reading
- Middle School Language Arts: Build on Literature With a Short Story Unit
- 3rd Six Weeks – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- Essential Resources to Teach the Holocaust Curriculum
- 5th Six Weeks: “Flowers for Algernon” Unit