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?
Seventh graders performed lots of experiments this week! The science room is full of materials and lab sheets! Solar panels, mannequin heads, homemade batteries, and video game players are just a few of the experiment materials we have laid out and are being observed during every class. The seventh graders learned the difference between qualitative and quantitative data to apply to their observations. Next week, they will continue to work diligently on their data and begin to make conclusions.
What’s up in Math?
This week, 7th graders explored scatter plots, lines of best fit, outliers, trends, and associations/patterns in data. Next week, we’ll expand on how to use scatter plots and trends in real-life scenarios before reviewing for and taking our test on Thursday, February 8. We’ll finish off the week by creating rules for tables!

What’s happening in ELA?
This week, 7th grade wrapped up The Watsons Go to Birmingham, drawing final historic connections to the 16th street Baptist Church bombing. Readers submitted final reflections on the theme of the novel and a short answer assessment questions. On Friday, we did a survey of topics in Black History and various critically acclaimed historical fiction novels associated with those histories. Students ‘shopped’ for an independent study novel from these choices.

Next week, 7th graders will begin reading their self-selected black history novels as they research the events and people that inspired them.

What’s going on in Social Studies?
Seventh graders began their unit studies on Westward Expansion. We started the week with a focus on the new vocabulary terms before diving into Jackson’s presidency! Students progressed through the presidency of John Tyler. They were then asked to research and anonymously introduce an assigned president to the class, the class was asked to use their new content to guess which President was being introduced to the class.

Next week, the students will progress with their westward expansion studies through a webquest activity. Students will study the Oregon trail and prepare for the trail themselves in a supply activity!

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