Gordon's curriculum, from the earliest years, demands that students learn to express their ideas in words, and view themselves not just as readers of literature and history, but also as authors. In seventh grade, students reap the rewards of that preparation in a year that continually challenges them to document - and share - their thoughts and passions.
The most visible seventh grade writing assignment is the original novel that each student completes over the course of the year. The stories, characters and settings are the student's own creations, and there is no minimum word count. The requirements, then, are based on the class's own study of the essential elements of this form of literature: characterization, conflict, and the roller coaster rhythms of an effective story arc.
As the books go from initial outline to professionally bound volumes, each author gets careful feedback from their peers, their teachers, and volunteer readers drawn from faculty and staff throughout the school. In the process, students get a master class in how to receive, and use, feedback.
Their work on their novels is paralleled with dozens of smaller humanities assignments that incorporate a dazzling variety of styles and formats. At the end of the year, students have compiled an impressive portfolio of essays, poems and reflection. They draw from that portfolio for the Night of Words, where each student performs a piece of their own work for classmates, family, faculty and friends.
The verbal assignments are not limited to humanities class, either. In science, students learn how to write a concise and script videos and presentations as they study a variety of engaging topics including biomedical engineering and the chemistry of elephant toothpaste. In math, they talk through calculations in class every day, and produce written reflections after every test and quiz. In theater electives, they're writing their first plays, then performing their work for one another. It's a long way from Kindergarten writer's workshop, but the work is essentially the same: students are continually challenged to reflect on their own ideas and passions and find the words that will bring them to life.
As seventh graders are encouraged to develop their own voices, they also have new autonomy in their school days. Visual and performing arts are taught as electives, four mornings a week, and the weekly innovation block allows students to choose from a selection of topics in design, technology and engineering: the robotics team, a math filmmaking challenge, and classes in coding sustainability, and theater set design.