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Literacy Class - Reading in the Sixth Grade with Mrs. Meehan
Instructor: Mrs. Juliana Meehan   

Literacy Class
Reading in the Sixth Grade
Mrs. Juliana Meehan


A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.

–Neil Gaiman



is a new class that will provide research-based literacy instruction to support sixth graders’ transition from elementary to middle school.  In elementary school, students “learned to read.”  In middle school and high school, students are increasingly required to “read to learn,” i.e., glean new information directly from their reading. This class will help them do just that—derive new learning from their reading.  Students will also gain skill in writing about what they read and in developing their vocabulary.

Picture books, short stories, and poetry will form the cornerstones of this course’s instruction.  These short works can be experienced in a single session and allow readers to discuss a complete work of literature in a short time.  Also, picture books come in a wide variety of genres, formats, and content area topics and contain complex, quality writing that supports sophisticated thinking and discussions.

Students will practice what they learn in these lessons through independent reading (IR) texts in a workshop environment where they will have a wide range of choice in the nonfiction and literary works they read and how they prioritize their work each day. 

Later in the year, students will form reading groups around books they are interested in and conduct self-guided, peer-led book talks.

We also plan to host visiting playwrights, poets, and writers!

Some Things We Know

  • Middle school readers are complex.
  • Middle school readers have interests and preferences.
  • Middle school students want time to read.
  • Middle school reading necessitates differentiated instruction based on the developmental needs of individual students.
  • Instruction must be aligned to readers.
  • Students need access to varied reading materials.

How Is This Class Different from Language Arts?
Literacy for Sixth Graders will work in tandem with the traditional Tenafly Middle School (TMS) language arts class to provide students with additional direct instruction in reading strategies and the time to practice these things in class while the teacher is there to offer expert guidance.  Much of that instruction will be individualized. This can be done because we begin by establishing a community of readers with clear reading routines. Thus, following whole-class lessons and while some students are quietly  engaged reading “just right” IR books (i.e., books that are neither too hard nor too easy for them), others will receive individual or small-group instruction as teachers systematically rotate through the entire class.  This will ensure that teachers meet with all students regularly and frequently.

Literacy and Content-area Subjects

Middle school and high school make great demands on our students to read informational texts.  This curriculum incorporates feedback from TMS teachers in language arts as well as the disciplines of science and social studies to plan instruction.  For example, during the units “Exploring Expository Text” and “The Role of Literature Across the Curriculum,” students will read award-winning science writing and primary source documents from The Story of Science series by Joy Hakim to better understand their science unit on atoms and elements.  They will read about weather, time zones, and economics to coincide with social studies lessons.  In the “Literature and Social Issues” unit, students will read texts that enhance their understanding of issues in the Holocaust unit in language arts.

Essential Vocabulary Instruction

Students will learn high frequency academic words, i.e., words that occur frequently over a very wide range of academic texts--like "analyze" and "interpret.And, since 90% of multi-syllabic English words are Latin-based and most of the remaining 10% come from Greek, we will study word roots too.  Such vocabulary work can significantly boost a student's comprehension level of school-based reading material across disciplines and increase their confidence as well.

Grading and Homework

Literacy is a pass/fail course. Teachers will still provide rigorous instruction, carefully examine student work, and offer timely, constructive, actionable feedback to students.  But students will be able to use this as a stress-free opportunity to grow as readers because they don't have to worry about grades.  They will be required to read every night, and this homework will also count in language arts class.  At various times other homework will be required like writing about their reading, responding to literature, or doing research

Students will be regularly assessed in various ways to measure their growth and to guide instruction.  These assessments include--but are not limited to--the following:
  • Homework (nightly reading and responding to reading)
  • Reading conferences (including goal-setting)
  • Reader response notebooks
  • Weekly reading logs
  • Oral reading analysis
  • ​Project work (e.g., research project)
  • ​Whole-class and small group discussion
  • Literature study group self-assessment and peer assessment
  • MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) testing, a computer-based personalized reading assessment

Materials Needed
Students will use one section of their Language Arts binder for handouts from Literacy class.  In addition, each student will need a composition book.  Pens or pencils are acceptable for notes, whatever works best for you!

Communication With Mrs. Meehan

Throughout the year it would be valuable if we can keep in touch through email at:  jmeehan@tenafly.k12.nj.us.  You can find me on LinkedIn too.
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