GCS ELA Department News

Think and Wonder, Wonder and Think. ~Dr. Seuss

AIS Reading with Mrs. Wilson

In AIS Reading, students are reading from multiple sources of information. Here is one class who is using the local newspaper to locate information by learning to recognize and appreciate the wide variety of features in the newspaper. The students learned that there was much more to the paper than just the sports section!

Students also look forward to independent reading time. This reading practice is one of the student's favorite activities as they get to choose their own books and a comfy place to read it too! (see photos above)

ELA 7 with Mrs. Aierstok

7th grade students are examining working conditions, both historical and modern day. Students begin their study by reading the novel Lyddie by Katherine Paterson, a novel about a young girl working in a factory during the Industrial Revolution. As they read, students are looking at how the plot, setting, and characters of the novel interact, and how the author develops her central theme. Students will then be connecting their learning to a speech by Cesar Chavez in which he explains how the United Farm Workers union came together to fight for the rights of farmworkers in California during the 1960s and 70s. Finally, students will be looking at modern day working conditions in clothing factories around the world. Students will make a pamphlet guiding other teenage consumers on making responsible choices when buying clothes, and how those choices can impact workers’ rights.

Throughout the study, students will be practicing the skills of close reading, using evidence from the text to support a claim, and writing an extended argument.

English 8 With Mrs. Bristol

The 8th graders have finished reading the novel Inside Out and Back Again written by Thanhha Lai in which a young, Vietnamese girl journals through the format of free verse poetry about her life experiences as Saigon, Vietnam is taken over by the Communists from the north and her life is turned “inside out”. The 8th graders are learning about the universal refugee experience, or the fact that all refugees go through the same decision-making and emotional process as they flee their homeland, search for a safe place to start a new life over again; often learning the traditions and customs of a new culture.

Students have read several informational articles about the history and experiences of refugees from diverse ethnicities, and we’ve been using a bulletin board to keep track of these events on a timeline. The students are using all of this information to create research-based narrative poetry about how the life of a fictional refugee is turned inside out and back again. These completed poems will be displayed in the Library Media Center in the near future.

On Thursday, November 13th guest speaker, Mr. Dan Severson, a native of Cambridge, spoke to the students about his experiences during the Vietnam War. Mr. Severson served in the United States Army for 23 years and creates an active presentation in which the students are engaged in the subject matter and the presentation is student-driven. The students asked very thoughtful questions about everything from how he got his start in the military to how he reflects upon the war more than 40 years later, and everything in between. (see photos above)

English 9 with Ms. Hoffman

Greetings from the English 9 classroom! Time has been moving quickly, and so have we! Pictured is our first class assignment, Narrative Vision Boards. This process allowed us to create visual representations of goals and/or desires in our lives before transposing those symbols into a flowing narrative. Next, we delved into the contemporary short story, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves,” by Karen Russell. We read closely, developed arguments and constructed a multi-level paper proving our position. After our knowledge of the story was at what we believed to be its greatest, we again viewed the story as an analogy for the Native American Boarding schools. As our knowledge and understanding grew, so did our appreciation of the complexity of the text. Using additional short stories, we analyzed literature using literary terms to reveal yet another layer of meaning we can add to a text. Our next big upcoming project is research, where we will utilize our Library Media Specialist, Mrs. Nicole Carner, to learn valuable research skills and apply them to an authentic research topic. We will write a traditional MLA style paper as well as share our findings to the class in a formal presentation. Students are also reading independently at home for a book report due December 2, 2014.

ELA 10 with Mr. Christopher

Hello, from Mr. Christopher’s English 10 class. We are beginning the new marking period by giving new life to a very old play: Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Classes are enthusiastically creating their own performances of Act one, Scene one, and bringing Shakespeare to life in the classroom. The performances are completely student led. Kids are in charge of acting, directing, producing sounds, designing the set, interpreting the text, and recording the show. The end product will be judged by other classes and select staff to determine which class created the “best” show. The winning class will be rewarded with pizza!

AIS ELA with Mrs. Barrett

Mrs. Barrett’s AIS ELA classes incorporate high interest reading material, along with Common Core standard-based activities to strengthen students’ skill sets. This class is reading from the Scholastic Scope magazine, which incorporates real-life information and scenarios presented in a palatable and approachable way for ELA learners.

Students also engage with technology through various lessons in AIS ELA as they work together to build skills.

Find Scholastic Action and Scholastic Scope magazine here:



Mrs. Barrett’s seventh grade AIS ELA classes started a “Words of Wisdom” wall. Whenever they encounter a new vocabulary word, they learn the definition and add the word to their wall! They love the interconnectedness between the text and classroom environment.

English 11R With Mr. Nevins

The Common Core Regents exam will be administered Monday, January 26, 2015. This graduation requirement is a comprehensive exam and students have been working on writing from argument as is required in Part II of the test. Students have been assigned an Independent Reading assignment – a high school level piece of pre-21st century fiction is the text requirement.

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In response to reading an article entitled “What’s Eating America” by Michael Pollan the AP English Language and Composition students symbolically protested behind stalks of corn.

AP English Language and Composition with Mr. Nevins

Students are continuing to practice close reading to develop appreciation for the materials in our class. We recently finished reading a chapter in the textbook about Education and “to what extent do our schools serve the goals of a true education”. Readings from authors included Francine Prose who was a National Book Award finalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Baldwin, author Sherman Alexie who won the PEN/Hemingway Award for his work The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and poet laureate Billy Collins.

English 12 with Mrs. McDonald

Students read, discussed, and analyzed nonfiction personal narratives, focusing on how the authors use structure, style, and content to craft narratives that develop complex experiences, ideas, and descriptions. Throughout the unit, students learned, practiced, and applied narrative writing skills to produce a complete personal essay suitable for use in the college application process.

We then entered the Anglo-Saxon world where we studied the epic narrative poem Beowulf.

As we move into the second quarter, we are looking at interpretative literature starting with the short story. Using the EBC Framework students will discuss effects of authorial choice and craft on the meaning of literary texts. Stories in this unit include works by Cheever, Joyce, Baldwin, Oates, Marquez, Mansfield, and Orwell

AP Literature and Composition with Mrs. McDonald

In an advanced placement course in literature and composition, students are required to study intensively several representative works from various genres and periods. To begin our investigation into the author’s craft, we started the year with a short story unit. We also heard student presentations of Biblical and/or Greek

and Roman mythology stories often alluded to in major works of fiction. We followed with The Things They Carried, a novel that looks not only at the Vietnam War but the craft of writing. As we head into the second quarter, we will be studying Beloved by Toni Morrison.