8th Grade Language Arts Syllabus 2016-2017


teacher:  Alison Constant                                                                                                                                                

Ramsey Office: 612-668-4040

email:  alison.constant@mpls.k12.mn.us (preferred contact method)                                                                                                       

voicemail:  612-668-7672

website:  http://rms.mpls.k12.mn.us/constant



This year we will explore how thinkers and writers use their voices—to celebrate, to persuade, to question, to critique, and to urge people to act.  We will also explore how our own thinking, speaking and writing can impact our community and the world around us.

Our work begins with a close examination of who we are—our likes and dislikes, our beliefs and biases, and how these are formed through our experiences and shaped by our community.  From there we’ll consider how personal qualities influence how we view and interact with the world.

Studies will be divided into themes of genre and/or topic, as highlighted below:

approximate timing







speaking & listening focus


belief and action

The Giver by Lois Lowry; independent dystopian lit. novels

responses to literature, including journals, test responses and analytical essays

discussion and interpretation of literature—supporting ideas using evidence from text


poetry and prose

To be determined

vignettes and poetry

To be determined


literary classics

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; independent historical fiction novels

outlines, analytical essays, writing from different points of view

discussion and interpretation of literature—supporting ideas using evidence from text



A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare; independent reading

responses to literature, including journals, test responses and analytical essays

discussion and interpretation of literature—supporting ideas using evidence from text; in-class dramatic performance


Our timing is flexible as we allow sufficient time to explore topics in depth.  Students are expected to keep track of assignments and updates.  Parents, I will email you periodically through the portal so you can see what’s coming up in terms of specific studies and assignments due.  Please be sure your email address is accurate in the office.

PLEASE NOTE:  We will be reading and discussing at least three well-known books this year:  The Giver by Lois Lowry, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakeseapere.  Though some students may have read one or both of these books already, there is a significant difference between independent reading and analyzing text in class in terms of understanding and skill development, so students will be expected to reread the texts and engage in class activities.  Most students who reread these texts enjoy them even more each time they read.



Our language arts classroom is a place to explore ideas.  Students should come to class ready to think and to participate.  Respecting the ideas of others is crucial to building a strong learning community.

Students are expected to be in class every day.  If you are absent, you are responsible for inquiring about what you missed, and to complete any make-up work.



Students are expected to read and write a minimum of 180 minutes per week at home.  When not reading an assigned book, at-home reading is largely of your own choosing.  Newspapers and magazines are acceptable if you are reading (not just looking at pictures).  Internet reading must be pre-approved by teacher.  Texting, IMing, emailing, fanfiction or reading movie subtitles do not count.  Any writing for language arts class is also acceptable. Work for other classes does not count (unless your Reading Workshop teacher assigned a book for at-home reading and that is communicated with me).

Students will record time spent reading or writing at home on a weekly Reading Survey, done in class each Tuesday.  (If you are absent, it is your responsibility to fill in the online rubric at home!)  I ask parents to please check in with your student(s) regularly so you are aware of your child’s reading interests and progress.  I also encourage you to use this time to ask your child about what s/he is reading and writing and to discuss your own interests.


Late work:

Late work will not qualify for exceeding standards.  Some assignments, such as daily work that needs to be finished at home may be due the next day with no exceptions.  If you have an emergency, and need an extension on an assignment, please speak to me as soon as possible.  Reading Rubrics must be completed by Wednesday afternoon in the week they are due to earn credit.  After that they will earn zeros with no make-up options!


Grading and Evaluation:

Students will be assessed for the following ten Long-Term Learning Targets, each worth 10% of the overall grade (state standards follow in parentheses):

1.     I can cite evidence from text to support analysis (,,

2.     I can analyze elements of a text and their influence (,,,,

3.     I can evaluate, respond to and present arguments and relevant evidence (,,,,,

4.     I can compare and contrast structure and meaning of texts and make connections across texts (,,,,,

5.     I can write informative texts, narratives and other creative texts (,,,

6.     I can use technology to publish and collaborate (,,

7.     I can engage effectively in discussions (,

8.     I can read and write a variety of texts independently (,

9.     I can understand and use 8th grade-appropriate vocabulary (,,,,

10.   I can use conventions of standard English grammar and mechanics in writing and speaking (,,

The student gradebook will also have a category for Work Habits which will not be counted towards the final grade but will help us all keep track of students’ work that is not an assessed learning target. It is each student’s responsibility to make up any missing work. Work will not be accepted after each quarter ends.


Ramsey Middle School’s Standards-Based Grading Scale:

Rubric Score

Proficiency Level

Percentage Conversion



88 – 100%



63 – 87%


Partially Proficient

38 – 62%


Not Proficient

0 – 38%


No Evidence



Required Materials:

  • binder with dividers
  • loose-leaf paper
  • two different colored highlighters (preferably not yellow)
  • pencil pouch
  • pencil or pen (at least two each day)
  • iPad (provided by the school)
  • recommend bringing independent reading book

It is essential that students come prepared to class every day. If acquiring these materials is a problem, please let me know and I will help you get what you need.


Parent Involvement:

It is my hope that parents be actively involved in their child’s education at Ramsey Middle School and in 8th grade Language Arts. Please use the online Parent Portal to check in with your student’s progress, and do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your student’s progress.  E-mail is always the fastest way for me to respond. I look forward to conferencing with you and working together to ensure that your child has the best education possible.

We are constantly adding to our classroom library, so if you would like to donate any young adult and age-appropriate texts, our avid readers would be more than grateful! If you have any special areas of interest or expertise and would like to volunteer your time, please talk with me about incorporating your talents into our classroom.