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Language Arts
Instructor: McKenna   

Eight Green Language Arts Course Syllabus

Ms McKenna

Email: mmckenna@tenafly.k12.nj.us

Course Site: Google Classroom
Per. 1 
Per. 2 https://classroom.google.com/u/0/c/NTA4NDc3MzExN1pa
Per. 6/7 https://classroom.google.com/u/0/c/NTA4NTk4ODg0Mlpa
Per. 10 https://classroom.google.com/u/0/c/NTA4NTgyMTQ2Mlpa
Per. 11 https://classroom.google.com/u/0/c/NTA4NTY0OTc2M1pa​

Availability: Students can stop by for help in the morning or immediately after school.

It’s helpful for students to see me before or after class to make an appointment to work together at a mutually convenient time.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.  I check my email every afternoon & I do my best to respond in a timely fashion.  I find a conversation can often be more efficient than email, so please include in your email the best phone number with which to reach you.


Eighth grade has proven to be a year of tremendous growth for students. Students are challenged to expand their reading stamina; their knowledge of literature and the English language and its conventions; their passion for the written and spoken word; their courage; and their view of themselves and their world.  Through the arts of language--reading, writing, speaking, and listening--students will explore the theme of  identity.  They will grapple with questions such as:  What are the events in my past that have shaped who I am today? What are my goals and dreams? What do I love? What am I passionately curious about?  What are the issues and ideas I feel strongly about and what, exactly, do I think about them?  What do I know for certain and what is important for me to share with others?


Individual Units of Study:

  • Storytelling: performing personal narratives

  • John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

  • Reviews and editorials

  • I-Search Project: students develop and refine their research questions

  • I-Search Project: students research extensively, interview experts, write a research article, and present their research at the I-Search fair

  • Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

  • Student speeches combining elements of personal and argumentative writing

  • Book clubs


Yearlong Studies:

  • Independent reading: Students choose and read books independently, but with the support of teachers--and parents. They conference with me and peers about the books they are reading.  They write letters/essays and give book talks.  They are supported with mini-lessons designed to help them select books that they will love and books that will challenge them.  The mini-lessons also promote deeper comprehension and help students to develop literary analysis essays on theme and author’s craft and essays comparing and contrasting works.


  • Vocabulary development: Students learn vocabulary in the context of shared texts and study Greek and Latin roots and affixes.  This year, we will also explore the interactive vocabulary site Membean to facilitate “multimodal” individualized vocabulary development.


  • Study of G.U.M. (Grammar, Usage, & Mechanics): Technical aspects of writing are explored in the context of each writing unit. In addition, a sentence-composing approach allows students to analyze and emulate grammatical structures from great literature.

  • Poetry and nonfiction reading: Almost every week of the school year includes reading, written responses, and discussion of an “Article of the Week” and a “Poem of the Week.”


Homework:  I expect students to bring their independent reading book to class each day and to read 20 minutes per night (roughly 20 pages, depending on the book and the reader), five times per week.  Students will compose succinct responses to their reading during each week and keep a record of their reading throughout the year.  In addition, students will often be asked to complete assignments that pertain to the day's class work.  


Mrs. Wendy Damiano, one of our incredible support teachers, updates homework for 8G core subjects on her Fusion site: http://special-education-j.ms.tenafly.k12.nj.us/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?gid=2306801&sessionid=181f37d8ffbf050f6ba45d7cb36c1025​
You may also find her site through the staff directory on the TPS website.


Grading: I use a total points system where students earn different points for different assignments. Points may range from five points for a basic homework assignment to up to 100 points for major writing pieces, projects, and presentations.


If you have a question or concern about a grade you see on the portal, please ask your child for an explanation first.  Encourage your child to talk with me about it.  Then, if you still have questions or concerns, please email me and I will call you to clarify and discuss your concerns.


How can parents help children with reading and writing this year?  Some suggestions…

  • Talk to your child about his/her reading and talk about what you are reading with your child.

  • Discuss how you choose books to read for pleasure.

  • Visit a library or bookstore together.

  • Read a book together and talk about it.

  • Take turns reading aloud; no one outgrows the desire to hear a great story.

  • If you write, share your writing process with your child.

  • Show an interest in your child’s writing without taking over the piece (a delicate balancing act, I know).

  • Ask questions about a piece to help the writer focus, organize, and expand where necessary.  If your child asks for suggestions, offer only one or two at a time.  Students will be writing constantly—they don’t have to fix everything at once, and when they feel overwhelmed, they may shut down.

  • If you help with editing, please explain why the change must be made, so your child learns the rule or principle behind an error.

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