The Cooper School Daily

Middle School as Literature

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 Science?
Fifth graders contemplated where in the school could have the most bacteria and then they collected samples! They created hypotheses and will document the bacteria’s growth for the next ten days. They will utilize their microscope skills and observe their samples close up to see the colonies through a different lens. The fifth graders also learned the difference between qualitative and quantitative data which they will apply when they are collecting data. Next week, they will continue to collect data and research more about microorganisms.

What’s happening in Math?
This week 5th graders learned to divide decimals, and how to expand their knowledge on decimal operations to real-life scenarios, before taking our test on Friday! Next week, we’ll begin our 6th Unit in which we will start by studying powers of 10, metric measurements, and converting units of measure.

What’s happening in ELA?
5th grade began drafting arguments for or against the consumption of chocolate milk this week! We learned the importance of structuring an argument well, filling it with specific evidence that flows logically from one reason to the next. We presented our arguments in a great milk debate on Friday.

Next week, 5th graders will begin a new argumentative paper, choosing from a variety of topics with a rich selection of texts from which to pull compelling evidence.

What’s happening in Social Studies?
The fifth graders have pushed past their midterms this week! They focused on success and have achieved it! Students have moved into the Middle Ages of Europe with focuses on the Manor System, Crusades, Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. Students even participated in creating a skit for the Middle Ages to incorporate their material into a unique review strategy.

Next week, we will progress into early modern Europe with focuses on the war through the 20th century. Students will move into Modern Day Europe with high emphasis placed on mapping this week. Students will be challenged to learn the differences between Eastern and Western Europe before diving into the culture of Europe today!

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