On any given day in a
English classroom, a visitor might encounter a group of students writing furiously in their journals, belting out poetry in oral renditions, rehearsing play scenes or vying for prizes in a team language competition.
Activities are many and varied. Since English is the primary language of instruction in the school, the English program has an extensive curriculum of its own, and work in this subject is integral to work in all other subjects as well. Come mid-year, many of the Middle School students put their oral and dramatic skills to the test by performing in the annual Middle School musical.
In Middle One, English and Humanities are closely linked, with the themes, texts and topics of one subject frequently complementing the other. Fifth grade students read a selection of novels, stories, memoirs, plays, essays and poems. They experiment with different types of writing. They practice the skill of oral presentation in both formal and informal settings.
In Middle Two, the second year of the Middle School, students also study English in conjunction with Humanities. The sixth grade curriculum encourages students to appreciate the beauty and power of language through reading in a variety of genres and experimenting with writing in multiple forms.
From Middle Three onward, the students study English as a separate subject. In Middle Three, grade seven, a focus on science fiction serves as one thread connecting many of the books. Poetry reading, writing, and performing are sprinkled throughout the year. A notable activity is the storytelling event, where students present their own stories for an evening audience of UNIS families.
Middle Four students tackle literature that is increasingly more mature in theme and language, including a full-length Shakespeare text. Some of the works studied are autobiographical, and the students finish the year in Middle Four by penning substantial memoirs on their own. They also learn the formal requirements of debate and present debates on topics of their own choosing. It is in Middle Four that students are encouraged to expand their taste in personal reading and move beyond adolescent literature to more adult texts.