Middle School Literature and Composition

Click here to view/print the UPDATED list of assignments for the semester.

Monday, September 13

Today I reviewed the most common edits I made on your rough drafts, so hopefully some things are a little clearer now. To my knowledge, I’ve read and left comments on all of your papers. If you didn’t receive feedback from me, let me know ASAP.

We also covered some ground with grammar. I presume it’s review for most of you, but based on the Quill results, I know a few of you can use some grammar help. That being said, log into the Quill classroom to see what activities have been assigned to you. Some of you only have a couple of assignments, but others have more to do. We’ll continue with grammar work over the next few weeks. Basic things will show up on the semester test, so taking notes is helpful!

Homework Due by Friday, September 17

  1. Sign into Quill to see what activities have been assigned to you.
  2. Read pages 1-139 in Esperanza Rising. Then take the reading quiz.
  3. As you read, take notes on Esperanza as a character. What is her personality like? What are her circumstances at the beginning of the book compared to the middle of the book? What is at stake for her and her family? Write down whatever jumps out at you. Bring these notes to class so you can share your thoughts with everyone.
  4. Finalize your essay on Stay Where You Are and Then Leave. Print and bring to class to turn in.
  5. Edit the paragraphs you wrote in class today and type them in a new document. Make sure each paragraph has varying sentence structures! Print and bring to class next week.

Monday, August 30

Today we mapped out the major plot points of Stay Where You Are and Then Leave. Hopefully you all took notes because they’ll be helpful to you over the next 10 days as you write your rough draft.

We also worked on drafting your thesis statement and accompanying paragraph topics, so you should have plenty in your notebook to use as a starting point.

Remember, sometimes it helps to start with a thesis QUESTION so you can develop a thesis STATEMENT:

  • What do you want to write about? What parts of the book stood out to you as important? (Really endeavor to answer this question before you start writing.)
  • What were the major turning points in the story? Where in the story does Alfie’s journey take a new direction, and why?
  • What parts of the story prompted an emotional reaction in you?

Once you’ve formed a working thesis statement, start mapping out what your body paragraphs will cover. Make sure your body paragraphs support your thesis.

Guidelines for your essay:

  • Write an expository essay (just the facts! no opinions!) that connects crucial plot points in the novel to the concept of Rising Action, Climax, and Falling Action.
  • Draft your essay in a Google Document
  • Aim for 500-600 words
  • Keep to the third person point-of-view
  • Use proper format: Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced, one-inch margins, plus a heading, title, and a Works Cited page
  • Write a catchy hook at the beginning and put your thesis statement at the end of the introduction
  • Quote directly from the book in your body paragraphs to support your claims. (I passed out this example in class.)

Homework Due by Friday, September 10

Write the rough draft of your essay with a Works Cited page in a Google Document and SHARE it with me by Friday, Sept. 10. Please be in touch if you have questions.

Monday, August 23

Good morning! I wish we could be together in class today, but since we can’t, I’ll lay everything out for you here.

The first thing you need to do is print out the Basic Outline for a Five-Paragraph Essay. Place it in front of you as you listen to the audio lecture. You are welcome to make little notes on the outline as I go over it.

In the audio lecture linked below, I review the outline and Works Cited page, along with what your first essay will cover. We’ll go over all of this in class again next week, but do your best to follow along today.

Homework Due by Sunday, August 29

  1. Click here to listen to the audio lecture. It will open in a separate browser. Make sure you’ve printed out the Basic Outline for a Five-Paragraph Essay and have it in front of you.
  2. Finish reading Stay Where You Are and Then Leave, then take the reading quiz online.
  3. Answer the following questions about plot points in the novel and bring them to class next week so we can discuss them: 1) What is the inciting incident of the novel, and why? 2) What are the major plot points that make up rising action? 3) What is the climax of the novel, and why? 4) When does the falling action begin?
  4. Print this worksheet on essay structure. Use the Basic Outline for a Five-Paragraph Essay to fill in the blanks. Bring it with you to class next week.
  5. Use your MLA Handbook to draft a Works Cited entry for Stay Where You Are and Then Leave. Print and bring to class next week so we can review them together. Be sure to use the proper font format 🙂
  6. If you haven’t completed the grammar assessment on Quill, please do so as soon as possible. Instructions are in the homework list from last week.

Monday, August 16

It was lovely to meet all of you this morning! Whether or not English is your favorite subject, I hope you’ll enjoy some of the things we read and appreciate learning how to write an academic paper.

Today I talked about how the class will be structured – reading books, writing papers, taking weekly quizzes at home, and taking an open-notes semester test on the last day of class. (Please take notes each week! You’ll be grateful on test day.)

We briefly touched on MLA Format and why that monster exists. Admittedly, it is NOT the most fun part of English class, but once you learn how to use the handbook, it will make paper writing much easier in the future. Be sure to bring your MLA Handbook to class each week.

We spent the rest of the class time talking about Freytag’s Pyramid. The notes you took today will certainly show up on a test later. Be sure you understand the five main acts of a plot structure (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution), along with a few extra elements (Inciting Incident, Complications, and Reversals).

Homework due by Sunday, August 22

  1. Read Ch. 1-6 in Stay Where You Are and Then Leave. Click here to take the reading quiz.
  2. Read pgs. 10-13 in your MLA Handbook (8th Edition), starting at the bottom of pg. 10 where it reads “Evaluating Your Sources.” Then spend a few minutes observing pgs. 14 and 15. It may go over your head, but we’ll talk about it in class on Monday. I just want you to get familiar with some of the terminology before we meet again.
  3. If you haven’t joined the Quill classroom yet, please do so (class code: mixing-net). I have assigned two grammar diagnostic assessments to see where everyone is grammar-wise. These are not graded, so don’t stress! Just do your best. 🙂

Be in touch if you have any questions or if have trouble signing up for Quill.

Click here to view/print upcoming assignments.


This class is designed to help 6th through 8th graders identify literary elements in novels, analyze plot details, and write academic essays in MLA format.  There will be weekly reading assignments and quizzes, several essays throughout both semesters, and several tests. We’ll also work on grammar in class and through Quill.org on a regular basis. 

Please get a copy of the 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook. Students will need to use them both in class and at home.

Books are listed in the order we’ll read them:

Fall 2021
Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
Within Reach: My Everest Story by Mark Pfetzer

Spring 2022
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Call it Courage by Amrstrong Sperry
The Pearl by John SteinbeckFantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

*Short stories will be provided

Students need access to Google Docs and a gmail account, either their own or access to a parent’s, so they can submit rough drafts to me and receive feedback in a timely manner.

They also need to join my Quill.org classroom online (class code: mixing-net) by the first week of class. Students will take a diagnostic assessment first so I can see where everyone is grammar-wise, then they’ll have assignments to complete throughout the semester.

See everyone on Monday, August 16!