Inside Our Classrooms: Language Arts - Fall 2013


In language arts class, the kindergarteners are developing their phonemic awareness on a daily basis. During a lesson on the letter “F,” the students paired off to sort pictures according to the beginning sound, with the pictures with the sound of “F” as its own separate group. The students are also learning to decode unfamiliar words. During the choral reading of a pre-decodable book, the students decoded new words by using picture clues and looking at the beginning sounds of words. 

First Grade

First graders are learning that the “Bossy R” changes vowel sounds! When the “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” and “u” are followed by an “r” they make a new sound. First-grade students are becoming skilled readers and spellers of “Bossy R” (“ar,” “or,” “er/ir/ur”) words. Take a peek at their fall-themed “Bossy R” trees!

Second Grade

Second Grade jumped right into the school year by learning about the different types of nouns and how to make them singular, plural, and even possessive! Students continued to develop their writing and grammar skills, while continuing to review phonics. The second graders finished their first independent chapter book, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and started the next book in the series, Caleb’s Story. In Language Lab, students have enjoyed reading a weekly story from readers and putting their imaginations to work!

Third Grade

In third-grade English, students will get to see the play Robin Hood, a humorous adaptation of the original folk legend. The two-man show, performed by Scotland’s acclaimed theater company, Visible Fictions, will take place at the Kennedy Center in March. Also stay tuned to find out what happens to Chester the cricket, who accidentally takes a commuter train heading to New York City in The Cricket in Times Square!

Fourth Grade

In fourth-grade English, a field trip to the Kennedy Center integrated the English and history curricula. Students saw Orphie and the Book of Heroes, which follows a young girl’s odyssey in search of a female hero. Along the way, she meets many familiar characters from Greek mythology and comes to find a hero within herself. Students will also find out what happens to the Clock family when Arrietty Clock gets too curious for her own good in The Borrowers!

Fifth Grade

So far, the year has gone very well for the Fifth Grade as students move closer to the end of Billy’s journey with his dogs in Where the Red Fern Grows. Students are learning from loving sacrifices that continue to appear as the story unfolds. Dovetailing with this classic work are the Open Court stories, shorter narratives that are allowing students the opportunity to apply their critical reading skills on a smaller scale. 

Grammar instruction continues nicely as students have left behind the realm of nouns and moved on to their new unit on verbs. Students will learn how to find direct objects and distinguish between tenses, among other skills. Finally, “Wordly Wise” and spelling continue to expand students’ content knowledge as they master new words and build on those foundations laid in years past.

Sixth Grade

Things are heating up in the sixth-grade classroom as they move closer toward the treasure with young Jim Hawkins and the despicable Long John Silver in Treasure Island. Students are learning how to comb through passages and sift out the key details, allowing them to read more confidently and untangle knotted plots more readily. 

Besides honing their reading skills in this classic work, students are also working in their Open Court readers for a chance to work on shorter, more concise narratives. They have moved on from their noun unit to its grammatical cousin, the pronoun, and students will soon learn how to properly use “who” and “whom,” among other skills. Besides the impressive vocabulary students learn through their exposure to new words in literature, they continue to build a wider array of vocabulary and spelling words through the “Wordly Wise” and spelling regimen. With all parts working together, students move along with young master Hawkins toward their own treasure. 

Seventh Grade

Seventh graders have begun the year by exploring early Medieval texts through circle readings, class discussions, and creative work. Reading the poetic text of Dante’s Inferno out loud, students have truly learned to appreciate both his literary prowess and sharp sense of humor. They have not only read the text; they have also explored it through independently created maps and sketches of its fascinating underworld beasts. To conclude the unit, they will analyze the text’s greater allegorical and satirical importance. Their grammar and vocabulary studies provide them with the tools to do so — students have been learning to use clear grammatical structures and “Wordly Wise” words in their writing to express themselves on a more elevated level. With the parts of speech, four vocabulary units, and the Inferno mastered, the first quarter has certainly been a challenging, yet entertaining experience for the seventh graders.

Shakespeare also takes place in the first quarter, helping to prepare the seventh graders to embark on their performance of one of the Bard’s full-length masterpieces. Students have mastered the basic information of Shakespeare’s life through class discussion and highly competitive JEOPARDY! games, with the winners certainly claiming their bragging rights. Perhaps more importantly, they have achieved a greater understanding of Elizabethan language structures through “backwards translation” of modern-day conversations into Shakespearean speech, and through an in-depth study of sonnet structure. Students wrote two very impressive class sonnets, the first about the trials and tribulations of upper-school homework, and the second about their profound, yet tragically unobtainable desire for superpowers. Shakespeare himself would have been moved!

Eighth Grade

Students embarked on their final year at Westminster with the study of the early American texts that formed the intellectual basis for modern-day society. However, they have not just looked back on the texts with an eye for the pure facts; they have entered into the world of colonial America and its authors. When reading Native American myths, they wrote and performed their own myths based on a class discussion of myth structure. To better comprehend the language of the Puritan sermons, they read selected lines from an actual sermon from a podium in front of the class, taking on the role of Jonathan Edwards and the Puritan preachers. Finally, they have looked at the lives of both Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin to understand not only the importance of their texts, but also why these authors chose to write them. Their study of these critical texts has been complemented by their ongoing grammar and vocabulary studies, which enable them to write longer essays in a clear, formal tone. Throughout first quarter, eighth graders have constantly been presented not only with information, but also with the question of why they must read a particular text or learn a particular grammar point. All the preceding years of their Westminster education are beginning to come together to prepare them for this final year of classic literature, advanced writing, and detailed grammatical studies.