English Language Arts » Intermediate



Critical to the 21st Century learner is the ability to read, write, speak, listen and think analytically.  These cornerstones of literacy enable communication in all of its expressions.  The National Council of Teachers of English defines language arts literacy as “enabling one to think logically and creatively; express ideas; understand and participate meaningfully in spoken, written, and non-verbal communication; formulate and answer questions; and search for, organize, evaluate, and apply information.  The language arts are integrative, interactive ways of critical thinking; and are essential for student learners to construct meaning and employ communication habits which allow them to effectively and ethically navigate a variety of real-world contexts.  


Westfield Intermediate English Language Arts seeks to empower students as life-long learners so they appreciate and respect the rich diversity of voices and experiences, and are equipped to become global citizens.  Students read from a wide range of texts to build an understanding of themselves and others.  This focus places students in a position to learn, explore, and grow to be empathetic members of society. 


The content of the language arts curriculum is built on a balanced literacy foundation; it encourages students to investigate questions, scenarios and problems.  The balanced literacy approach integrates various modalities of literacy instruction. These modalities incorporate explicit skill development through multi-genre units of study.  Students read a wide range of literature and informational text to become well-rounded informed individuals; teachers concurrently reinforce the reading process to develop students’ capacity for applying familiar active reading strategies to richer, more complex texts. The development of these active reading strategies supports students’ progression through each language arts course, and serves as the foundation for the increasingly complex texts they will encounter as they engage in the production of more sophisticated writing forms.  Students use various strategies to compose thesis-driven essays, crafting clear, logical arguments while developing a wider range of vocabulary usage and experimenting with figurative language in narrative forms.  Building from previously acquired research skills, students continue to strengthen their knowledge and deepen their understanding of the research process.  


In addition to growing students’ content knowledge and skills in the five major areas of literacy learning - reading, writing, speaking, listening, and conventions, we endeavor to develop in our students a lifelong appreciation for the complexity, beauty and power of language. To this end, the New Jersey Competencies for Social and Emotional Learning are intentionally integrated into the learning objectives and essential questions; the expectation is for students to concurrently develop these competencies as habits of mind, and allow these competencies to color the lens through which they consume content, process information, and produce representations of their thinking.



The Intermediate language arts curriculum utilizes the Universal Design for Learning Framework for its multi-genre units of study.  Student learning is guided by essential questions which aim to develop competency across a wide range of literacy skills, foster the successful transfer of these literacy skills to other content areas, and develop competencies in social and emotional learning (SEL).


Each unit includes a variety of voices honoring the diversity of race, class, gender, and ethnicity so that students may grow to understand and appreciate the commonality of the human experience. Stage one of each unit outlines the desired results; it provides aligned State standards and Competencies for SEL, essential questions, enduring understandings, and the relevant knowledge and skills.  Stage two provides assessment evidence by way of suggested formative assessments, and common summative assessments. Stage three presents the learning plan; it is comprised of a comprehensive list of instructional materials, including the anchor text(s), a vast array of supplemental texts (e.g. book club titles, poetry, short stories, and informational text sets including digital media), and a suggested weekly learning plan.


The units of study, and their corresponding essential questions are arranged in sequential order and are as follows:


Grade Six

Unit Title

Essential Questions


Establishing Identity

How do experiences shape a person’s identity?

How do attitude and overall mindset contribute to a person’s success?

What do all children need in order to grow up to lead fulfilling lives?

12-16 weeks

Overcoming Injustice

How does one’s identity influence his or her perceptions of the world?

How does injustice affect a society?

What empowers members of society to overcome injustice?

12 weeks

Choices and Decision-making

How are our identities formed by choices and decision-making?

How can our choices influence how others see us?

12 weeks


Grade Seven

Unit Title

Essential Questions


Reading Strategies

Why are active reading strategies important and how do they help me?

4-5 weeks

Building Relationships

What determines whether a relationship succeeds or fails?

How do biases, stereotypes, and prejudices affect relationships?

How do cultural norms affect relationships?

7-8 weeks


Why is it important for people and cultures to construct narratives about their experiences?

How does self-reflection help us make sense of our choices, motives, and relationships?

5-7 weeks


Is a utopia attainable?

Which values are worth fighting for [to maintain or attain]?

How do communities make their values known? When is it appropriate to challenge those values?

12-14 weeks


What motivates our curiosity to solve problems?

How are problems solved?

Do all problems have solutions?

6 weeks


Grade Eight

Unit Title

Essential Questions



What is resilience?

In what ways are critical thinking and resilience related?

How does literature act as both a window and a mirror in developing resilience?

8-10 weeks

Social Justice

How do societies embrace diversity? To what extent does our society embrace diversity?

What is justice and why do people accept the injustices of the status quo?

What creates bias and how can it be overcome?

8-10 weeks

Emotion and the Teenage Brain

Why is brain research important and how can I use it to better understand my peers and myself?

Emotions – do they control me or do I control them?

8-10 weeks


What defines me at the end of eighth grade?  What do I hope will define me at the end of high school?

In what ways do we assume different identities in different contexts?

8-10 weeks