English & History:
English and History stand at the center of our rigorous interdisciplinary humanities curriculum. These two subjects are linked thematically, with each grade level focusing on a specific topic or concept. Short and long-term interactive and interdisciplinary projects challenge students at each level.
As students progress through the Middle School, they continue to strengthen skills and acquire new ones. In English, they advance in reading comprehension, writing, literary analysis, speech and grammar. In History, they learn how to think critically about past events and analyze the relationship between cause and effect while refining their research skills and organizational abilities. Students also develop note-taking skills and become adept users of primary and secondary sources, library and information technology, the internet, and resources outside of school.
Fifth graders focus on Egypt and Greece, looking at the physical, spiritual, and reasoning qualities that define and shape humanity.
The literature they read is thematically related to their social studies, allowing them to make important connections and improving their comprehension and literary analysis skills. In ongoing writing workshops, students complete a series of creative writing projects that develop individual skills and writing styles, which they employ in their yearlong opera project.
Beyond improving grammar, vocabulary, and the mechanics of writing, fifth graders participate in discussions and debates. They have significant long-term projects, which require ongoing organization and synthesis.
Since The Masters School is sited above the Hudson River, it makes sense that the sixth grade English and History curriculum uses the river and region as its theme. Students explore American history through the lens of the people and events that shaped the Hudson River Valley, examining how the valley both affected and reflected the development of the United States. Frequent trips to nearby historical sites augment classroom learning.
English class incorporates literature from the region, enhancing students’ understanding of the area’s history and introducing them to its rich literary tradition. Students read a variety of literary genres from different eras and write both creative and analytical compositions. They also participate in regular writing workshops, building a strong foundation in the fundamentals of grammar. By working on group and individual projects, students continue to hone their research skills, learn techniques for effective collaboration, and develop proficiency in public speaking.
Seventh grade study revolves around the theme of diversity and identity. Students learn about United States immigration, explore their own family histories, examine and connect with other cultures through literary analysis and historical research, and discover the social factors behind our identities. They use and analyze news media to explore relevant social issues and step out of the classroom to explore what the world has to offer—particularly New York City. As they expand their views of the world, our seventh graders continue to strengthen their skills in grammar, reading comprehension, research, and studying. The curriculum emphasizes writing and critical thinking skills and strategies necessary for success in the Harkness classrooms of the Upper School.
Building on the interdisciplinary coursework of the sixth and seventh grade curriculum, eighth grade English and History examine American identity.
Engaging hearts and minds alike, the English curriculum focuses on issues of justice and morality, especially as these themes pertain to adolescence and coming of age. The class gives special attention to writing: both creative, through the use of reaction sheets and writers workshop, and expository, typically discussing a book read together by the class. Further, the class emphasizes analytical reasoning, close reading skills, and oral presentation through daily discussion.
Eighth grade History explores the formation and evolution of American identity over the last 500 years. In particular, the class considers various Constitutional issues and the duties of citizens. At the same time, economic interpretations of history are given substantial weight. Several times during the course of the year students participate in historical simulations, immersing themselves in critical historical moments such as the Constitutional Convention.