English » English Language Arts (ELA)

English Language Arts (ELA)


Students in English are working on developing a variety of skills and becoming accustomed to English routines including spelling, grammar, and writing routinely to live the life of a writer. We began with a poem to challenge stereotypes, moved on to a narrative writing piece, and will soon move into summary writing as we link up with the Adventures of Ulysses.


Students in Language class are working online on the Language Live program at their individual reading levels, reading selected informational texts, participating in phonemic awareness exercises, and writing each day in response to a daily quick write. Pretty soon we will begin daily fluency work, and delve deeper into our Language Live textbooks some grade level texts as well. Our broad goal for this year is to become better readers and writers so we are prepared for high school and beyond!
Writing is an integral part of lifelong literacy and therefore must be formally taught. Through writing, students develop and demonstrate learning in all subjects.

The teachers of Keene Middle School view writing as an essential life skill. The goal of English instruction at KMS is to support students by teaching them the tools to construct and share ideas and viewpoints in a variety of contexts in today's society. Students must be able to understand and share meaning in the world in which they live.

English instruction at Keene Middle School in all grades levels will provide:
  • An opportunity to foster a love of lifelong writing and a mastery of writing skills
  • A culture that strongly supports writing and expands literacy experiences and resources through the integration of readers and writers from our community
  • An environment that supports critical learners who are prepared for lifelong learning and who read and write for a variety of purposes
  • The opportunity for direct instruction regarding all aspects of writing: grammar, spelling, the writing process, vocabulary development and knowledge of the various writing genres
  • Practice, remediation, and extension of the skills used in writing
  • Integrated and interdisciplinary literacy instruction in conjunction with reading and content area teachers who support various writing skills through teaching lab reports, summarizing, identifying main idea, vocabulary, and defending a position
  • Data-driven instruction

Components of the English Classroom

The Writing Process
Keys to Literacy
Independent Writing
Using literature as a model for great writing
The Types of Writing

The Writing Process

At Keene Middle School, students are taught the Writing Process as a way of approaching all of their written assignments. The Writing Process consists of five steps that help students do their best. The five steps are Prewriting, Writing or Drafting, Revising, Editing or Proofreading, and Publishing or Sharing.

In Prewriting, the student explores possible writing topics, brainstorms, collects ideas, and uses graphic organizers to plan the writing before beginning an assignment. During the Writing or Drafting step, the student completes a first draft using the prewriting plan as a guide. The first draft should contain all the required elements of the assignment. In the Revising step, the student reads the writing aloud to himself or herself to check that the paper makes sense and is clear. A peer or adult may also check the writing at this time. Editing or Proofreading happens next and involves correcting for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes before a final draft. Editing or Proofreading can be done by the student, with a peer, or with an adult. Finally, the work is ready to be shared or published. During the final step, the student is able to share the writing with others.

By following the Writing Process, students are supported in their writing by manageable steps and a proven pathway to success. Successful writers follow the Writing Process to create wonderful writing at every level and ability.


The spelling program at Keene Middle School is currently under renovation. Many students arrive at the middle school with a firm grasp of spelling rules, and they spell accurately most of the time. However, other students arrive at the middle school needing assistance with spelling. To help these students further develop spelling skills, spelling instruction is offered periodically in English classes or Focused Group Study at the discretion of the classroom teacher. A school-wide spelling program is being investigated in the hope of adopting a systematic approach to spelling instruction to be used in grades 6, 7 and 8.

Independent Writing

Independent writing at KMS is used for a variety of purposes both by the teacher and the student. This form of writing is defined as any writing where the writing topic and much of the writing process is created and managed by the student.

Teachers assign independent writing for a variety of purposes. To gauge student writing progress periodically throughout the year, teachers will assign short independent writing pieces. This writing provides information to the teachers about student application of previously learned writing and grammar skills. Teachers also use independent writing to build students' positive opinion of writing within the classroom. Some students inherently love to write and will put forth great effort in all writing tasks. Other students, however, are less enthusiastic and independent writing enhances their motivation due to the vast range of topic choice allowed.


Students often ask, "Why do we need to know this stuff?" about many aspects of the formal curriculum; no less questioned is the study of traditional grammar. While it may feel sufficient to refer them to the National Common Core Standards, it does not help the students at KMS to truly appreciate the rationale behind such an intensive study. Here at KMS, we believe that all students should not only prepare for deeper studies at the high school, but that our students also need to find ways to ensure their speech and writing grammatically and structurally reflect their most intelligent selves. Studying grammar helps students recognize when and how to use certain words, phrases, and how to correctly punctuate them. We're teaching young people how to represent their thoughts accurately and precisely, allowing those thoughts to be taken more seriously when these students enter the workforce. So, why do we need to know this stuff? The answer is simple: we need to know how to communicate effectively.

Using the Holt Handbook and Write Source as guides, students in all grades study traditional grammar at many different levels within the contexts of usage and mechanics: parts of a sentence, parts of speech, sentence structure and agreement, capitalization and punctuation, and spelling. Instruction and assessment of these skills may look very different, depending on the instructor, the student, or the skill. During the course of a year, or the entirety of a student's KMS experience, he or she may practice grammar in focused exercises, or the grammatical skill may be folded into a larger writing experience.

By the end of their eighth grade year, students should be comfortable defining, identifying and manipulating all parts of speech, understanding many aspects of punctuation, and writing accurately and precisely. Many skills may be repeated, due to the deliberately spiraled standards-based curriculum.

Literature in the English Classroom

Middle school students are natural imitators. Capitalizing on this tendency, teachers have discovered one way to teach the important skill of writing is by using literature to illustrate exemplary literary examples. By looking closely at the craft of writing and seeing how more experienced writers have taken their ideas and put them on paper, students begin to develop their own voice. Similarly, students begin to read like a writer when they study well-written literature and can develop a level of comfort with finding the right words that show, not tell their ideas. Writers of all ages learn to write by reading the work of other writers and in the process, discover that they become stronger readers from writing about and exploring literature.


KMS teachers recognize that perhaps the greatest indicator of literacy success is the possession of a full and rich vocabulary. In the English classroom we use a variety of vocabulary resources and materials to provide students with opportunities to learn new language. In conjunction with reading teachers, students are utilizing the Prestwick House series, Vocabulary from Latin and Greek Roots: A Study of Word Families. Word Masters is another program that tests students' knowledge of new vocabulary words in an analogy setting. English and reading teachers also tie in vocabulary from the other core subjects to show students how their vocabulary is constantly growing. Finally, students also work with mastering words that they encounter in their reading.

Writing Genres

Students will write a variety of genres all with a clear purpose and audience. The writer's purpose helps to clarify whether they are explaining, persuading, entertaining, or informing. The audience helps guide the writer in making choices about the tone or voice of the piece. These genres are often covered in all three grades but with a different focus, so students have the opportunity to build on previous experiences. The writing process and Collins are the vehicles in which writing genres are taught and assessed.

Descriptive Writing: gives a detailed portrait of a person, place, or event. Strong descriptive writing uses sensory details and observational skills. In 6, 7th and 8th grade, students further their experience with identifying and utilizing figurative language and literary devices. Examples include: character sketches, descriptive essays, and descriptive sentences.

Expository Writing: explains a process, position or idea. This type of writing may present facts. In sixth grade expository writing is often related to a student's everyday life. In seventh and eighth grade, expository writing becomes more formal as students learn how to write to explain by providing evidence to detail an idea or position. Examples of expository writing include; research report, how-to writing, cause and effect, explanatory essays, etc.

Narrative Writing: tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Dialogue, voice, attention-grabbing leads, and strong conclusions are examples of lessons embedded within this genre. Examples of narrative writing include: memoirs, biographies, short stories, and story scripts.

Persuasive Writing: tries to convince audience of the writer's opinion. Students present their position clearly and support it with examples and evidence. Examples of persuasive writing include: advertisements, book and movie reviews, letters to the editor, persuasive essays, and persuasive letters.

Poetry: helps students express emotions and create pictures with their words. Through this wordplay, students experiment with rhyme and other stylistic devices. They also learn that poetic language is vivid but concise and that poetry can be arranged in different ways on a page.

Open Response Writing: answers a multi-layered question in a paragraph format and provides supporting details. Keene Middle School utilizes the Key 3 A.N.S.W.R. method. This five-step process provides concrete support and a dependable set of directions that ensure students answer a given question correctly and thoroughly.