The seventh grade novel and the Night of Words
The seventh grade humanities curriculum includes a grand tour of the conventions and styles of the English written word.
The tour explores the furthest boundaries of written expression, from the freest verse to the tightest journalism. But it also explores the in-between spaces: the persuasive essay, the one-on-one interview, the campaign speech, the statement of belief, the online petition and the letter of introduction.
The most spectacular of these journeys is the full-length novel that every seventh grader produces. The process begins with a deconstruction of the conventions of the novel, and processes like characterization, setting development and pacing of the plot.
Seventh graders take November to write the first draft of their novels, guided by the structure provided by the National Novel Writing Month Young Writers' Project. Students are paired up with one another for encouragement and feedback, and polish their drafts until they share them with Gordon faculty and staff volunteers, who serve as official first readers of the work. After a conference with their first readers, and a few more rewrites, the students lay out the novels and creat the cover art, and the novels are professionally printed in small editions.
Reading and writing are not silent projects in seventh grade, either. Throughout the year, students are called upon to perform their work. These performances can be as straightforward as the delivery of an opening argument in a mock trial, or as nuanced as a staged reading of a poem, drawing on students' experience in Gordon's theater program as well as the confident risk-taking that is present throughout the school's curriculum.
The seventh grade writing curriculum culminates in the Night of Words. Students review the considerable body of written work they have created over the year, and select one or two pieces to adapt for live performance. They'll rehearse with Gordon theater faculty and professional spoken word poets, then present their work to family and friends in a powerful, dazzling, funny and moving cabaret.