Campus Reflections- Middle Division

Kathryn Koontz ’79, P ’10, ’17, Middle Division English Faculty member, reflects on what is happening in Grade 8 English:

In grade 8, we are reading Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. Students are exposed to his inverted text, his play on words, and his use of antithesis in language, for example, light and dark imagery. They can see how a writer can be symbolic with their language and that such symbolism gives the reader clues into the depth and complexity of relationships and themes explored within the text. For example, when Romeo and Juliet talk to each other, they use language more reserved for religion than romance. Students are invited to question why the Bard would have chosen those specific language motifs. What was he trying to say? They are finding that it is a lot like deciphering a code. We have also been constructing Shakespearean insults and playing a game called Pirate Waiter, using pool noodles to have mock duels while using the bard’s best words to hurl verbal slings and arrows, all in good fun. 

Grade 8 English is designed for the student learning experience where students understand that they are constructing their meaning from the material read in class. They look for the impact of setting choices, internal and external conflict within the character, and social and cultural influences. Again, looking for clues to what the writer is artistically communicating through language choices. Students learn to ask questions of one another and make text references, always with the intent of gaining a greater understanding of the literature read in class.

In addition, there is a  weekly literacy practice called Workboard where students have an opportunity to practice independently and in small groups where they have the autonomy to work at their own pace and begin to figure out how to complete work with peers within a more social setting and within an allotted time. Student agency and experiencing work independent of whole class experiences foster confidence and joy in learners.

Learn more about the Lower and Middle Divisions at Stevenson School