Humanities

PBA’s middle school Humanities program combines literature, history, and Language Arts classes, with writing assignments integrated into each course. Humanities courses meet in both grade-level and multi-age classes, with equal emphasis on critical thinking skills, lively discussions, and the honing of traditional academic skills like reading comprehension, note-taking, research, and essay writing.

Sixth graders learn to write essays unified by compelling and original thesis statements, and these skills are practiced and refined throughout the middle school years. Other writing assignments include poetry, short stories, reflective journal writing, and personal narratives. Historical simulations allow for a wide variety of real-world writing activities like mock treaties, newspaper articles, and letters to and from historical figures. Students use Google Docs to draft and revise their work and share it with their teachers, and they complete guided activities designed to train them to be savvy, skeptical researchers who identify reliable sources, cite sources correctly, and avoid plagiarism. 

In literature classes, students read a variety of engaging literature, learn to annotate and keep track of literary elements, and participate in frequent class discussions. Large-group discussions of a common text are balanced with opportunities for students to choose their own books. In recent years, middle schoolers at PBA have studied Lois Lowry’s The Giver, William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony, Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev, Christopher Paul Curtis’s Bud, Not Buddy, Avi’s The Button War, and Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, as well as the anonymous Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, selected poems and short stories, and a different Shakespeare play each year. 

Middle schoolers at PBA study ancient, medieval, and American history in a rotating three-year cycle. History classes challenge students to identify the geographical, political, economic, religious, and social factors that drive human actions. Whenever possible, we make connections between history and the present day, and we craft assignments that engage students both analytically and creatively in their study of the past.

Sixth grade students study English grammar and spelling patterns with the goal of preparing them for the exciting challenge of Latin in the 7th and 8th grade. Their Language Arts course includes sentence diagramming, etymology, and a wide variety of games and creative activities designed to help them hone their skills.

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