Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

What’s Happening with Middle-School Honors Language Arts?

In recent years, middle-school parents have voiced dissatisfaction with the honors language arts classes in our middle schools. The complaint, in a nutshell: not enough writing and not enough challenging reading outside of class. “The people spoke and we listened,” wrote GWMS 1 language arts department chair Claire Given in an email to me last week.

On Thursday, August 29, all ACPS middle-school language arts teachers attended a day-long workshop on strategies for infusing more challenge and rigor into the honors curriculum.  The grade-specific workshop was led by teachers, including Ms. Given, who have received recognition for teaching at a higher level.  I hope to check in with Ms. Given soon to get some real-life examples of the increased rigor, but I would also love to hear from middle-school parents about whether they are noticing a difference.

(Incidentally, once your student arrives at the T.C. Minnie Howard campus, your concerns about rigor will be allayed when you see the reading list for Honors English 9 (World Literature), which last year included Oedipus Rex, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and The Odyssey.  I’m told that these selections are very similar to those for 9th graders at The Potomac School.)

The late August workshop that Ms. Given led is one of dozens of examples of how our teachers are constantly engaged in interesting and relevant professional learning.  On that very same day, for example, the Miracle League of Alexandria, a group of citizens dedicated to supporting recreational opportunities for individuals with special needs, sponsored a training session between more than 60 ACPS physical education teachers and the Alexandria Recreation Department’s Therapeutic Recreation and Sports Offices. The focus was on shared experiences with teaching special needs kids.

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