In literature, students explore what makes a book good. They read one book closely in book clubs and pursue a wide range of independent reading to select books they would like to promote for Bank Street’s Mock Newbery awards. Our Dystopian Literature unit allows students to read classics and modern books by author such as Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, Scott Westerfeld, and Paolo Bacigalupi. They analyze the elements of the genre with a view to writing their own dystopian short stories. Towards the end of year, we shift our focus to historical fiction. We read stories about individuals who braved immense hardships alongside nonfiction about the periods of history in which the novels are set.
The 11/12s writing curriculum is aimed at developing strong organizational and expressive skills. The writing in the 11/12s, as in earlier years, allows students to express themselves creatively and also prepares them to write formal literary essays, research papers, and arguments. Students use writing to prepare for book discussions, to figure out and express their early thinking about big ideas in Social Studies and Literature, and to reflect on what they are learning.
Students also engage in longer writing pieces with a deep revision process. They write expository pieces to describe what they have learned, formal arguments to persuade others, and narratives to tell stories and entertain. Our goal is to help students express their ideas clearly and beautifully. We integrate writing conventions, usage, and sentence structure the revision process. Because their ideas are growing more complex, a particular focus in the 11/12s is on writing and punctuating complex sentences correctly and on organizing paragraphs so that they are clear and coherent.
In their library work, students in the 10/11s and 11/12s participate in the Mock Newbery program. Working with Bank Street’s Center for Children’s Literature, the children’s librarian solicits donations of current books appropriate for 10/11s and 11/12s. Classroom teachers tailor the curriculum to their students’ needs. Students practice and refine their critical thinking and public speaking skills by evaluating and discussing books eligible for Bank Street’s mock Newbery award.
Students in the 11/12s are given a choice of continuing their study of Spanish or beginning a new study of French. Classes meet four times a week. Children must continue with their World language choices for three years.
In the Spanish program, children study the geography of the Spanish-speaking world. They build on the knowledge of Spanish they have acquired throughout their years at Bank Street and continue developing their skills. They expand their language knowledge of useful topics such as clothing, traveling, and food through their exploration of specific countries. They create skits that integrate the grammar and vocabulary they have learned. The skits reflect real life situations that are culturally appropriate. They learn to order and buy food, to bargain in a market, to ask directions, etc. They have quizzes as well as homework assignments that reinforce classroom work. In this way, students read and write what they have learned to say.
In the French program, students are introduced to a new language, develop an ear for French sounds, and acquire basic vocabulary and some simple notions of French grammar. Lesson themes are taken from children’s literature (stories, fables, and poems), authentic children’s games, and artworks from French-speaking cultures. Recent lessons have centered on the folktales of French-speaking West Africa, on the endangered animals of Madagascar, and on peoples and places of different Francophone countries. Children are introduced to the diversity and cultural richness of French-speaking countries. Although themes may vary, each lesson contains the same groundwork material children need to know to continue in French. Students are introduced to reading and writing French through classroom activities and homework.