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.


What’s happening in Social Studies?
Eighth graders focused on preparing for their midterm this week!

Next week, the students will progress through their midterms and into their WWI studies. Students will learn the M.A.I.N. causes of the war and read a primary source on the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Students will progress into the different sides of the war.

What’s happening in ELA?
This week, 8th grade readers reached the central conflict of To Kill a Mockingbird. Readers took part in analysis of Harper Lee’s use of symbolism with discussions of the Mockingbird, Boo Radley’s tree, and the mad dog put down by Atticus. We viewed the first quarter of To Kill a Mockingbird’s film adaptation – learning proper film analysis and the art of adaptive works.

Next week, 8th graders will do a deep study of character archetypes as we climb towards the climax of the novel.

What’s happening in Science?
Eighth graders performed lots of experiments this week! The science room is full of materials and lab sheets! Crickets, record players, bacteria covered petri dishes, and oil spills are just a few of the experiment materials we have laid out and observed in every class. The eighth 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 happening in Math?
This week, 8th graders explored increasing and decreasing by percentages, and how we can apply this to populations and interests. Finally, we compared exponential functions to linear functions! Next week, we’ll review for and take our Unit 5 Test on Tuesday, February 6th. We’ll spend the rest of the week beginning our Quadratic Function unit by identifying patterns in data.

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