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. Finally, they study phrases, clauses, and sentence structure.
Seeing both sides
Your young adult’s critical thinking skills will be put to use this year. In argument papers, students express their fact-based opinions. In a strong paper, they also acknowledge — and use facts to argue against — opposing viewpoints. Your seventh grader’s writing should demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the topic, use clear logic, and incorporate solid evidence from reputable sources.
Your child’s papers should be written in formal language, 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.
- Adding concrete details.
- Choosing quotations.
- Comparing and contrasting concepts.
- Citing cause-and-effect relationships.
- Classifying information.
- Formatting (e.g., headings, bullet points).
- Including graphics (e.g., charts, images) and multimedia.
The language your child uses in these papers should be formal and precise. They should use transition words (e.g. so, if, for, as, and but) and phrases (e.g. in view of these facts, under these particular circumstances) to connect ideas and help their writing flow. Finally, your child write have 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 (e.g. memoirs, personal history) or imagined experiences (e.g. fiction, fantasy). Your child 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. In class, kids will learn and practice transition vocabulary to help guide readers from one scene or timeframe to another (e.g. Meanwhile, back at the space station; Centuries earlier, when Brontosaurus first roamed the swamps…).
Tear it apart and start again
Don’t be dismayed if your seventh grader is asked to replan, re-outline, revise, re-edit, and/or rewrite many of their papers. This isn’t perfectionism or 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.”
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 excuse: “My dog ate my homework.”
Understanding and avoiding cheating
Seventh grade is the year of short research projects using sources like reference books, magazines, and data found online. Your young researcher will learn how to judge the accuracy and credibility of their sources. (For example, Does MAD Magazine have the same integrity as the Boston Globe? No!) Kids learn to paraphrase information and use quotes to avoid plagiarizing. Plagiairism is defined as “using someone else’s words and ideas in a paper and acting as though they were your own,” and it is a form of cheating 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.
Grammar with a capital G
Kids learn about phrases, defined as two or more words that express an idea but are not a complete thought or sentence because phrases don’t have a subject and a verb. Kids also learn two types of clauses. Dependent clauses have a subject and a verb and form part of a sentence. Independent clauses have a subject and a verb and 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.
Seventh graders also start to learn how to use commas correctly. 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 for writing instruction under the Common Core Standards is that writing now involves a lot of… talking. That’s right. 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’ presentations should be well-organized, share main points, and include relevant details and examples. Many presentations will include visual and multimedia 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.