Course Syllabus 2016-17


7th Grade Language & Literature Syllabus, 2016-17

Ms. Athorn, Room 411


Contact Information:        

Liz Athorn

612-692-1125 (voice mail)

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Course Description: As the second Language and Literature class for students in MYP, this class builds on English language learning from Level 1, continuing to emphasize the importance of communication, holistic learning, and global awareness.  The course attempts to give the students a balanced experience in the four elements of linguistic performance--reading, writing, listening, and speaking—as well as experience with using and responding to different types of visual media.


Independent Reading:  Students are expected to read at least a book a month independently and to write about the book about once a week.  Weekly homework includes reading at least 30 minutes a night, five nights a week.  Writing assignments about this book will be explained in a bi-weekly packet that summarizes the work for the class at school and at home.


Skills Practice:  Part of the weekly work will include practice on learning Latin and Greek roots, new vocabulary, parts of speech, and grammatical rules for writing.



1st Quarter:

The Narrative: Stories from Different Places


GLOBAL CONTEXT: Orientation in Space and Time

KEY CONCEPT: Connections

STATEMENT OF INQUIRY: The stories that people tell reflect their cultural and physical origins.


In this unit, we will study fiction and nonfiction stories from different places in the world.  We will read a short story set in Moscow, by Natalya Baranskaya, a section from Annie Dillard’s autobiography about her childhood in Pittsburgh, and a fictionalized diary by Edwidge Danticat about a young girl’s move from a village in Haiti to New York City in the early years of this century.  We will look at what makes a good narrative and how stories reflect the places where they happen.  Students will keep a Reader’s/Writer’s Notebook in the classroom to write down their thoughts about what they are learning about narrative writing.  For a final assignment, they will write a short narrative of their own that describes an interesting event and conveys a sense of place.



2nd Quarter

The Roles of Women and Girls in Afghanistan


GLOBAL CONTEXT: Fairness and Development


STATEMENT OF INQUIRY: Gender roles reflect culture


In this unit, students will learn about life in Afghanistan in the 1990s, about Islam, and about the challenges facing women and girls in some other cultures around the world.  We will read the book The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis, as well as portions of Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, and selected news articles about education for girls in other parts of the world. We will study the dialogue in Ellis’s book and practice writing dialogue of our own, adding a scene to the book.



3rd Quarter

Spoken Word: Poetic Talk


GLOBAL CONTEXT: Personal and Cultural Expression

KEY CONCEPT: Creativity

STATEMENT OF INQUIRY: Poets use tools to help readers and listeners to see the world differently.


We will read many examples of poetry in this unit and learn about the tools and techniques that poets use.  Students will each make a collection of examples of these techniques from various poems we have studied or they have found on their own.  In the middle of this unit we will have a Spoken Word workshop with Sentwali, a visiting artist who will be with us for a week, performing his own poetry for us and teaching us how to write and perform Spoken Word poems.  As a culminating assignment, students will each write and perform their own poems, which will also be printed in a class collection.

4th Quarter

Nothing But the Truth: Thinking about Perspective


GLOBAL CONTEXT: Identities and Relationships

KEY CONCEPT: Perspective

STATEMENT OF INQUIRY: People’s understanding of the truth is influenced by their perspective.


This unit is based on a study of the documentary novel Nothing But the Truth, by Avi. In the novel a minor conflict between a student and a teacher escalates into a national political scandal.  Much of the escalation is caused by distortions of the truth made by characters and by the media.  It is quite apparent that characters bring different perspectives to the situation and therefore describe the events in the story in different ways.  As well as analyzing the novel, we will look at real life news events in which the truth was manipulated by the media, including the Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman stories from the Iraq War period.  Finally, we will spend some time reading and watching Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, which is also a study of how lies and distortions can cause havoc, and how important it is to understand perspective in figuring out the truth.  For the final assessment for this unit, students will be asked to describe an incident from the novel or the play from two contrasting perspectives.