Seventh graders need to avoid dangling modifiers, hasty drafts, and plagiarism! They rewrite to tighten their writing; they critique each other’s essays to learn what’s vague or missing; and finally, they study phrases, clauses, and sentence structure.
Seeing both sides
Your young adult’s critical thinking skills will be put to constructive use this year. Argument paper assignments ask students to express their opinions, while acknowledging — and arguing against — opposing viewpoints, too. A seventh grader’s writing should demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the topic, use clear logic, and incorporate solid evidence from reputable sources.
Students learn to indicate the relationship between claims and reasons with phrases such as absolutely irrefutable, leads one to question, ridiculously off-topic. Your child’s papers should be written in a formal style, with clear introductions and concise conclusions that summarize their position. Sounds pretty adult, right? Never fear, assignments are often on tween-friendly social issues, such as Do middle schoolers spend too much time on Instagram?
We formally inform you
Your seventh grader will also write informative and explanatory papers on science and social studies topics. They’ll be expected to employ a range of “strategy tools” such as:
- Adding definitions for complex words or ideas.
- Using academic vocabulary.
- Referring to concrete details.
- Choosing quotations.
- Comparing and contrasting concepts.
- Citing cause-and-effect relationships.
- Classifying information.
- Utilizing formatting (e.g., headings, bullet points).
- Including graphics (e.g., charts, images) and multimedia.
Transition words ranging from the peewee variety (so, if, for, as, and but) to longer-winded phrases (in view of these facts, under these particular circumstances) are expected from your young writer. The language they use should be formal and precise, with a succinct synopsis as a conclusion.
Believe it…or not?
Some of the most fun — and challenging — writing of the year will be narrative story assignments that portray actual events (memoirs, personal history) or imagined experiences (fiction, fantasy). Your emerging wordsmith should experiment with effective storytelling techniques. These may include character development, plot twists and pacing, precise descriptions, tone of the narrator’s voice, crisp dialogue, and adventurous action. They’ll study and practice transition vocabulary to guide readers from one scene or time frame to another, such as, meanwhile, back at the Neptunian space station … or centuries earlier, when Brontosaurus first roamed the swamps … .
Tear it apart and start from scratch
Don’t be dismayed if your middle schooler is asked to replan, re-outline, revise, re-edit, rewrite many of their papers. This isn’t perfectionist punishment — it helps students sharpen the precision, complexity, pacing, and variation of their literary technique. “By the time I am nearing the end of a story,” says Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least 150 times. … Good writing is essentially rewriting.”
Meeting in the web
Seventh graders interact and collaborate online to create and publish writing that links to online sources. Regular online communication with teachers — often in Google docs — is increasingly prevalent, along with emailing or uploading completed assignments. The challenge for kids? Believable replacements for the classic “My dog ate my homework” excuse.
Don’t be a copycat
Seventh grade is the year of short research projects — investigations using sources ranging from massive, dusty reference books to glossy print magazines to web data found thanks to skillful online searches. Juvenile detectives learn how to judge the accuracy and credibility of their sources. e.g. Does MAD Magazine have the same integrity as the Boston Globe? They practice paraphrasing information and using quotes to avoid plagiarizing. Defined as “using someone else’s words and ideas in a paper and acting as though they were your own,” plagiarism is a cheating crime that has reached epidemic proportions. Citing their work correctly is the antidote for this error. Papers should follow formats for citations and end with a bibliography.
Inspired by true events
In seventh grade, students examine historical fiction to understand how authors use information from long ago in creating new, imaginary stories. For example, Catherine, Called Birdy is the invented diary of a 13th-century girl who is pressured by her father to marry a rich, old, shaggy-bearded oaf with disgusting eating habits. The author, Karen Cushman, uses details about medieval daily life and superstitious thinking from the Dark Ages to craft a dramatic portrayal that is relevant and even relatable for modern-day young adults.
Grammar with a capital G
Kids study the function of a phrase, defined as two or more words that express an idea (but not a complete thought or sentence because it doesn’t have a subject and a verb). They learn two types of clauses. Dependent clauses have both a subject and a verb and form part of a sentence. Independent clauses have both a subject and a verb and they create short, complete sentences inside larger sentences.
Seventh graders learn to recognize and use four kinds of sentences. Simple sentences have a single independent clause, with one subject and one verb, e.g., Harold eats pie. Compound sentences have two or more independent clauses, connected with a conjunction, e.g., Harold eats pie because it’s delicious. Complex sentences contain one independent clause and one dependent clause. e.g., Harold eats pie whether it’s hot or cold. Compound complex sentences have at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause. e.g., Jerry eats pie because it’s delicious whether it’s hot or cold.
The common mistake of dangling modifiers happens when modifying words are disconnected from the word they’re meant to modify or the attachment is vague. For example: Alice painted the turtle on the table. Did Alice paint a picture of a turtle on the table surface? Or did she paint the shell of the turtle itself? We’re just not sure.
Commas separate adjectives that are equal in value in terms of how they modify the word they describe. If you can reverse the order of the adjectives, then they are equal and you need a comma. For example, Jordana found a red, vintage bag at the thrift store. Since you could also describe it as a vintage, red bag, you need a comma. But you don’t need a comma in this sentence: Mateo wore a yellow rain jacket. Why? Because the reverse order — a rain yellow jacket — makes no sense (unless we’re talking about new species of wasp).
Speak up for the back row
A new focus of Common Core writing involves a lot of … talking. Oral presentations will take center stage for many of your seventh grader’s assignments. The idea is to present their research-backed opinions, arguments, or ideas to their classmates aloud, using formal language, clear pronunciation, and at a volume loud enough for everyone in the class to hear. Kids’ speeches should be focused, coherently organized, and include relevant details and examples, plus occasional enhancement from multimedia tools and visual displays. Again, it sounds like a lot, but it’s meant as practice to set your child up for real-world, on-the-job success in the future.
Here’s a preview of the presentation skills required in high school.