Middle School English: Journey Together A


In a tight-knit community, students study 4 major literary themes by reading 4 novels, various short stories, poetry, and informational texts. Take semesters A & B for a complete curriculum, which includes reading, writing, and speech. Let’s start exploring the wonderful world of literature together!


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Timezone: America/New_York

Section A

  • STARTS: Sep 11, 2023
  • COURSE LENGTH: Sep 11, 2023 - Dec 16, 2023 13 Weeks
  • LIVE CLASSES: Mondays & Wednesdays 11:00 AM - 11:55 AM
  • TEACHER: Karen Lemons
  • CALENDAR: View Entire Calendar


Community, books, laughter, and learning! Students develop critical reading and writing skills, make friends, and enjoy coming to class. They have a teacher that will invest in them and care about them. Our class becomes a community that is the best of the best possible online learning environments.


Check Language Arts off your list of subjects to teach. This semester’s course can be taken in the fall and in the winter to get a complete year of English. Students build a foundation for learning as they read and study 8 novels while exploring 8 major literary themes. Their novel studies are complemented by poems, short stories, and informational texts that bring slightly different flavors to the theme.


The great thing about studying literature is that we learn about our world and ourselves because stories are about the human experience. Books help us build knowledge and understand more than just the book we’re reading. In this middle school English language arts course, students take either a semester or an entire year and study 4-8 of the major theme topics found in literature. While doing so, they are building reading, writing, and speaking skills, mastering those learning standards while having fun.

What are the 8 themes? I’m glad you asked. Here are the theme topics along with our novels:
FALL SEMESTER (this class):
SEPTEMBER: Identity–The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: Coming of Age–Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
NOVEMBER: Community: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
DECEMBER: Sacrificial Love–The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

**If you take semester B
JANUARY: Friendship–Holes by Louis Sachar
FEBRUARY: Family–Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen
MARCH: Nature–The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
APRIL: Perseverance & Grit–Carry on, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

A Snapshot of Each Class:
  1. We begin with writing–sentence construction work, so students learn to write correctly, succinctly, and artfully.
  2. Next, we read a piece of literature. Sometimes we will read a part of our novel together; other times, we will read a short story, poem, or piece of informational text.
  3. Students discuss the literature with their classmates and teacher to determine how the author developed the theme. This is where the teacher intentionally integrates teaching about how to analyze literature. For example, they learn to look for figurative language while taking apart a poem. Or they learn the significance of the setting when analyzing a short story. In this part of the class, students are closely reading, analyzing, thinking, and speaking.
  4. The teacher goes over the weekly piece of writing. These are short pieces that can be completed with 30 minutes of homework on top of their weekly reading. The teacher offers graphic organizers and direct teaching on how to do the critical thinking required to formulate an organized and effective short piece of writing.
  5. Finally, students have the opportunity to show their learning in an independent way in their homework assignments.
Writing Focus:

Writing content this semester will focus on responding to literature in fully-developed essays. In addition, they will learn to summarize, paraphrase, analyze, evaluate, and create through writing about literature. Students will have teacher modeling, example papers, graphic organizers, and explicit directions on how to write well. The live classes include intentional teaching, and students will get practice time while being guided by the teacher. Grammar is presented as a set of tools to be manipulated and crafted for function and to write something beautiful.

Reading Focus:

This class includes instruction and practice in all required learning standards for middle school English language arts. This includes instruction across multiple genres and various purposes. They will also learn to read for pleasure as well as how to tackle assigned reading with gusto and skill. We will study 4 novels together as a class. They will read 8 if they take both semesters. The goal is to turn them into lifelong readers! They will read for 100 minutes a week for homework. Reading standards and objectives are integrated through various texts touching on multiple genres.

Communication Focus:

Communication skills and norms are intentionally taught. For example, the “dominator” will learn to give others a chance to speak and will even learn to involve others to help bring forth their ideas. The quieter students learn to take risks and put themselves out there because they have good ideas and important things to say. These skills are taught through various methods, including speeches, presentations, and Socratic seminars, which often become the favorite for students. Communication standards and objectives are integrated through one-on-one conversations, using the chatbox, and large-group discussions. We also talk about how an online community is established, and students are encouraged–but not forced–to keep their cameras open. This helps all students feel connected to each other as a community of learners. It also helps Mrs. Lemons picture your face when she reads your writing. We feel closer to each other when we see each other.

Expectations for Learners:

Students will read for 100 minutes a week. I want them to fall in love with books! They will be quizzed on their reading, and we implement other measures to hold them accountable for their learning. You pay a lot of money for this class, so we work to make sure kids are learning! They will also have one writing assignment per week, but it will be a short piece. Being an active participant in our community will help learners have success! Students will give class presentations, participate in group discussions called Socratic Seminars, read aloud, and express opinions and thoughts orally, through writing assignments, and even the chatbox. Active engagement is the key to success in this class.


I give specific and authentic feedback on student writing through the teacher tab of the classroom and on Google Docs. I also give feedback orally and with the chatbox immediately in class. If you require formal grades, please ask at the beginning of the semester, and I will provide them.

Get to know Mrs. Lemons and our teachers a little more. You may visit The Lemons-Aid Team where you can read bios.


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Check the offerings of this course on Outschool. Courses on Outschool are secular.

The Lemons-Aid Way: Our Approach to Teaching and Learning is Explicit!

Explicit teaching is a method of instruction students desperately need! It is the opposite of a constructivist philosophy whereby students try to construct meaning themselves.


Instead of leaving students to magically figure out how to write an essay or read or do a geometry proof, we teach explicitly, which is backed by a large body of evidence, and it’s how Mrs. Lemons teaches her undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates in college to teach! We do it this way because it’s how kids learn.

Explicit instruction is “a structured, systematic, and effective methodology for teaching academic skills. It is called explicit because it is an unambiguous and direct approach to teaching that includes both instructional design and delivery procedures. Explicit instruction is characterized by a series of supports or scaffolds, whereby students are guided through the learning process with clear statements about the purpose and rationale for learning the new skill, clear explanations and demonstrations of the instructional target, and supported practice with feedback until independent mastery has been achieved.”
-Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching by Anita L. Archer and Charles A. Hughes.

Anita Archer trained Mrs. Lemons in workshops, and it changed her teaching. Read a little more about the research behind explicit teaching here and here.

To read more about your teaching and learning methods, read Mrs. Lemons’ blog.

We have adopted The Master’s Seminary Doctrinal Statement.

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