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, Greece, and Rome, looking at the physical, spiritual, and reasoning qualities that define and shape humanity. Students investigate connections among the literature they read and the themes they study in both English and history, allowing them to improve their comprehension and literary analysis skills. The writing curriculum starts off with creative writing as students learn the stages of the writing process and plot structure, which they employ in their yearlong opera project. Additionally, students continue to develop individual skills and writing styles as they learn to write a five-paragraph essay. Beyond improving grammar, vocabulary, and the mechanics of writing, fifth graders participate in experiential learning, discussions, and debates. They have significant long-term projects, which require ongoing organization and synthesis.
Since the Masters School is situated above the Hudson River, it makes sense that the sixth-grade social studies 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. The role of slavery, economics and disease will be a thread throughout the curriculum. A weekly current events class will serve as a tool in connecting the past with the present. Frequent field trips will augment student learning. Throughout the year students will be in the Hudson River (Seining field trip), overlooking the Hudson River (West Point field trip), and on the Hudson River (Constitution Marsh field trip). As a result, the sixth-grade students at The Masters School will enjoy a year of true experiential learning.
Our sixth graders explore a variety of genres in English class. All students participate in a yearlong reading challenge where they discover and explore books with a focus on exploring new and interesting topics and genres. As a whole class, students read The Giver by Lois Lowry (dystopian fiction), Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (historical fiction), and a memoir of their choice to study in Literature Circles (Choices include: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai, Marshfield Dreams: When I Was a Kid by Ralph Fletcher or I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda.) Students also write several literary essays on theme, building a strong foundation in the fundamentals of expository writing. Additionally, students explore creative writing through writing free-verse poems and memoirs/personal narratives. All writing assignments follow the steps of the writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Additionally, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling are areas of study that are highlighted each trimester. Finally, 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.
The journey of Seventh-Grade students involves themes of diversity, identity, and community. Students learn about the history of immigration to the United States, the struggles faced by enslaved individuals and abolitionists, and ultimately the successes of the Civil Rights movement. Students will discover the social factors behind our identities through the use of essential questions. We engage in cultural inquiry, involving American, international, and immigrant culture. Through research, interdisciplinary projects, hands on activities, reenactments, and several trips to the New York metropolitan area, including Ellis Island and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, students are encouraged to explore the rich culture that is New York.
As they expand their views of the world, our seventh graders continue to refine their skills in grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, research, and public speaking. Students will read authors from a variety of backgrounds and voices, including numerous poets and writers of the Harlem Renaissance including Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry, author of “A Raisin in the Sun.” While we emphasize listening and speaking skills through Harkness discussions, students will also improve their public speaking by delivering speeches of the past and then creating their own persuasive speech on a topic of their choosing. This will enhance their ability to speak clearly, persuade logically, and engage the attention of an audience. Additionally, the curriculum emphasizes writing and critical thinking skills, including use of the quick outline, and provides strategies necessary for 8th grade and beyond. Students will craft poetry and art to engage with our curriculum, which will culminate in a physical and metaphorical representation of the entire experience of the seventh-grade year.
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 courage as well as the roles of the individual in American society. Through myriad texts, the course sheds light on how courage forms the basis of adolescence and coming of age. Heavy emphasis is placed on written expression in several areas, including expository and creative forms. 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 five hundred years, from early exploration of the New World to post WWII America. In particular, the class considers various Constitutional issues, and emphasis is placed on studying the pillars of the American Constitution. In addition, students explore duties of the citizen as well as of the country. Diverse interpretations and experiences of American history are given substantial weight. Students actively participate in historical simulations, immersing themselves in critical historical events such as the Constitutional Convention.