The Cooper School Daily

Middle School As Literature

Our 8th Grade class has been moving through the literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, and I was giddy to see the kids encounter this piece for the first time. What I didn’t anticipate was for an entirely new aspect of the novel to jump out at me in my re-reading of it. The novel’s 6 year old narrator not only recounts Atticus’s wisdom, Tom Robinson’s tragedy, and the mystery of Boo Radley, but also peppers the novel with quiet observations of her older brother, Jem:
“There he was, returning to me… He lay down, and for a while I heard his cot trembling. Soon he was still. I did not hear him stir again.”
“He stood there until nightfall, and I waited for him. When we went into the house I saw he had been cryin…but I thought it odd that I had not heard him.”
“Jem spent the following Saturday aloft in the treehouse…I had spent most of the day climbing up and down, running errands for him, providing him with literature, nourishment, and water, and was carrying him blankets for the night when Atticus said if I paid no attention to him, Jem would come down. Atticus was right.”
All of these passages made me unexpectedly teary as I remember my rural upbringing with two older brothers that I worshiped like Scout worships Jem. Yet, as I dug deeper, I realized Jem falls into the age range of our TCS kids. He grows from 10-13 in the novel, and Scout’s subtle descriptions paint a universal picture of pre-teen growing pains. For children like Scout, the angst and emotion is a giant mystery that generates confusion and sometimes awe. For us adults, we know how to interpret Scout’s observations of quiet trembling, secret tears, and hours spent alone. We’ve all survived the pangs and felt the triumphs of middle school years.
When I talk about my job, I’ll be the first to admit I default to how silly and awkward middle schoolers are–it’s an easy laugh and it’s also why I love them. However, with my To Kill a Mockingbird reading in mind, I’m inspired to talk about middle school kids with a healthy mix of Scout’s awe and my own experience. Their lives as they are right now are worthy of a paragraph in a Harper Lee novel. When I watch them make up dances on the playground, wrestle with a bad grade, work through social riffs, take a quick, quiet moment in the sun away from the basketball court, I see the poetry that is feeling “stuck” in the middle grades while actually growing like wild below the surface.


Here’s a look at what is happening in each of the classes:

What’s happening in Science?
Sixth graders started to build their biomimicry models this week! It is so exciting to see how different each group’s vision and follow through is as they collaborate with each other. The sixth graders finished up their background research about their nature-inspired organism that will provide solutions to their flood-proof home. The sixth graders also learned the difference between qualitative and quantitative data, which they will apply to their projects when they test them with actual water.
What’s up in ELA?

6th graders followed trails of research this week, investigating the various subtopics and people that could be coming up in their research. For example, writing about Malala Yousafzai may lead to an investigation of girl’s education in Pakistan, then to women’s rights in general, then to terrorist groups like the Taliban. These “trailheads” can then naturally become chapters in a longer form informative essay, which we developed and rewrote all week.

Next week, 6th graders refine and publish their essay chapters. They will then consider how we might adapt our information into a popular new digital format – the podcast.

What’s going on in Math?
This week, 6th graders explored how to use pi to solve problems and find the area of irregular shapes that include circular parts! On Monday, we will review proportional relationships before we take our test on Tuesday, February 6th. Next Wednesday, we’ll begin our new unit by studying fractional and percentage increases and decreases.

What’s happening in Social Studies?
Sixth graders pushed through their midterms this week with success! Students were then asked to progress into Medieval Europe. Students focused on their new vocabulary for the unit.

Next week, students will learn about the conflicts between the Popes and Monarchs, before diving into the Crusades. Students will progress through the decline of medieval society before creating skits about life during this time in Europe.

Important Dates:
February 14th- Valentine’s Day Book Fair, Bake Sale and Bingo!
February 19th & 20th- February Break