English 8 takes as its theme Henry David Thoreau’s idea of “living deliberately.” Eighth graders explore the deliberate life not only through the literature they read, but also through assignments that emphasize individual choices and encourage them to take leadership roles in the classroom. Throughout the year students learn to take on more responsibility for their work and their writing assignments become increasingly complex and varied. In addition to writing expository paragraphs and essays about literature, students explore other styles by writing short stories, poems, and personal essays. Through these projects students learn to be attentive to the author’s voice and begin to develop their authentic voices as a writers.
After analyzing fictional characters from works such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Tempest through class discussions and in their essays, students direct their attention inward. Their personal essays explore who they are and who they wish to become. In the winter, along with writing personal essays and they draw a pencil self-portrait under the direction of our art teacher. These drawings are displayed in the hallways and make a second appearance at graduation, side by side with a senior self-portrait.
English 8 culminates in Declamation Day. Each student presents a memorized passage of his or her choosing. They find their passages in a variety of sources and are encouraged to explore their own interests while searching for a piece to declaim. The multi-paragraph essays they write analyze their passages as both works of literature and for personal significance. On Declamation Day, students present the introductions to those papers and perform their passages in front of an audience of their peers. This project ties together the expository and analytical writing skills that students have honed all year.