Hillel Academy’s language arts program guides students in developing critical reading skills, expand their vocabularies, improve their written and oral communication skills, and enhance research skills through analysis of both literature and nonfiction. Students in the youngest grades begin to develop their writing skills with an emphasis on compositional organization, editing, spelling, and correct use of conventional English. For reading and comprehension, students will read both literature and nonfiction. This allows students to begin to develop an appreciation of great literature while also learning how to read and write critically and accurately.
In middle school, students gradually transition from using a textbook series to reading whole works of literature, both fiction and nonfiction. Throughout, students continue to develop their reading, comprehension, writing, spelling and vocabulary skills.
Students read widely across genres while considering the rhetorical devices authors use to make themselves understood. Students will then employ these techniques in their own writing, so what they write is both a clear expression of their thinking and says something meaningful. This course requires reading a variety of texts, including novels, plays, poetry, short stories, and non-fiction. The course is divided into a series of topic blocks which includes reading text, class discussion, and written exercises, including an essay. The essays allow students to practice the form, and will include idea generation, planning, information gathering, execution, editing, and revision. Students will also focus on the technical aspect of writing, including spelling and grammar. Finally, students will practice their penmanship skills, which develops handwriting, spatial awareness, and manual dexterity, using a variety of tools and materials including pen and ink, chalk, charcoal, pencil, brush and paint, and ballpoint pens.
The eighth grade curriculum consists of the development of literary analysis, writing skills, and reading comprehension. Students read a variety of grade-appropriate novels that lend themselves to the discussion of important life questions. The students explore many universal and pertinent themes found in literature such as personal growth/maturation, self-sacrifice for the greater good, good vs. evil, gender roles, heroes, morality and ethics. They also explore the use of symbolism and recurring motifs. In addition to discussing literature, the students develop their analytical writing skills. They focus on structuring an essay with an obvious thesis statement, supportive evidence from the text, and clear and cogent evaluation. Their analysis should also contain recognition of a variety of literary terms and figurative language such as metaphors, similes, personification, hyperbole, and so on. Students may incorporate use of these literary terms when writing creatively as well. Students also concentrate on improving grammatical skills, reviewing comma usage, apostrophe use, quotation marks, dialogue, and so on. Finally, students work on vocabulary development.