Excerpt from Sandra Stotsky’s The Death and Resurrection of a Coherent Literature Curriculum:

A MULTI-YEAR LITERATURE SEQUENCE FOR GRADE 6 TO GRADE 8

The Brearley School is a highly regarded private school for academically strong girls in Manhattan. Brearley’s intellectually rigorous and coherent literature curriculum is the kind of curriculum that should be available in our public schools to a majority of students starting in grade 8 or 9. The amont of writing done and responded to by teachers in thie particular private school may well reflect the low teacher-student ratios that high tuition makes possible, but the rationale for the titles assigned is independent of tuition costs.

Grade 6

  • Folk Tales (summer reading continued into the fall): A large number are read and a few are selected for class discussion. They include: “The Valiant Chattee-Maker” (Indian), “The Young Head of the Family” (Chinese), and “The Wonderful Tar-Baby” (African-American).
  • Ballads: Five Scottish ballads—“Sir Patrick Spens,” “Edward, Edward,” “Mary Hamilton,” “The Twa Corbies,” and “Barbra Allen,” the last two having available English counterparts.
  • Book of Genesis, King James Version, with some abridgement.
  • Greek mythology, based on selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Iliad, and The Homeric Hymns.
  • The Odyssey

The grade 6 curriculum, like the curricula of other grades, is the product of the collective wisdom of many teachers over many years. All Brearley teachers teach at three or four different grade levels simultaneously. While such variety refreshes the teacher, it serves a more important purpose. It means that students receive instruction from teachers who know what their students will go on to learn and what they have already learned; texts read in one grade can be confidently referred to in another grade.

Brearley’s middle school literature curriculum (part 1)
Brearley’s middle school literature curriculum (part 2)