Course Introduction

Mr. Norton's 7th-grade Language Arts class not only supports a student's development of the content standards, but this class also offers a unique opportunity for students to develop their identity through continuous, thematically focused introspective literary analysis.  To do this, students will actively engage in thinking, writing, and communicating their thoughts about the themes related to the literary selections. The quarterly themes include an examination of the following, sequential, essential questions: What sources of strengths help us succeed in life? What is the difference between right and wrong? What is the relationship between the individual and society? Who am I and what do I believe? 

Knowing who we are is hard. Give yourself a break. Eliminate who you are not first, and you'll find yourself where you need to be.

-Matthew McConaughey

Habits of Scholarship

In Mr. Norton's 7th-grade Language Arts class, students’ character development is equally important as developing vocabulary knowledge and mastering reading and writing skills. Throughout their educational journey, students are working to become effective learners, ethical people, and contributors to a better world.  Perseverance, responsibility, and collaboration are essential for success in school and in life. To support the development of these skills, Mr. Norton evaluates the following habits of scholarship on a regular basis (The associated scoring rubric for habits of scholarship can be found in Google Classroom and Infinite Campus):


All students can choose to put forth effort towards learning despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.


All students can choose to be prepared for learning and bring the required materials to class.*


All students can choose to participate by asking questions or making comments during class.

*Students are expected to bring a planner and a charged, working device to class on a daily basis.

†Students are expected to actively engage in their learning by asking questions and participating in classroom discussions on a weekly basis

Academic Skills & Knowledge


The novel studies are the backbone of Mr. Norton's curriculum because exposure to well-chosen and engaging texts is crucial to student reading success. These important books help students practice deep thinking and reading comprehension strategies. Students will experience a variety of genres in literature including novels, a novella, short stories, and an autobiographical excerpt. All literary selections are accompanied by an in-depth oral literary response and analysis and include rigorous formative assessments for reading comprehension. These standards-based reading assessments help students assess what they do understand about a text, as well as what they do not understand. Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they've read. This stresses critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are required for success in high school, college, career, and life. The related scoring rubric for reading assessments can be found in Google Classroom and Infinite Campus


All literary selections are accompanied by associated vocabulary assessments.  Students will acquire and use a range of Tier 2 Academic and Tier 3 Domain-Specific Vocabulary. The rigorous formative assessments employ a multiple-choice format, and the results are often used to set learning goals. For the summative assessment, students will be required to apply their knowledge of the vocabulary as well as parts of speech by using the words in an essay. The related scoring rubric for vocabulary assessments can be found in Google Classroom and Infinite Campus. The vocabulary lists for each quarter can be found in Google Classroom.


In addition to the oral literary response and analysis, all literary selections are accompanied by written, introspective literary response and analysis assessments. Students will analyze the associated literary themes by writing expository paragraphs and essays as well as a creative epilogue and statement. Because Mr. Norton focuses on mastery, his paragraph writing expectations do not change as the year progresses, however; his essay writing expectations increase in complexity as the year progresses. Every student will receive intensive, individualized, differentiated writing instruction via score feedback and one-on-one Writer's Workshops, based on the 6 + 1 Traits® of Writing. The writing traits that students will develop in 7th grade include organization, ideas, word choice, and conventions. The aim of these writing activities is to help students master both paragraph and essay writing. The related scoring rubrics for paragraph and essay assessments can be found in Google Classroom and Infinite Campus.

Curriculum Program

Prestwick House Novel Unit Lit Plan foundational units for reading instruction. The Prestwick House curriculum provides useful instruction and intervention strategies to support student growth in literary reading comprehension and vocabulary development. The reading comprehension strategies include: targeting overall comprehension of language, teaching vocabulary, teaching thinking strategies, having students practice reciprocal teaching, and directly teaching comprehension skills (such as sequencing, story structure using the plot mountain, how to make an inference and draw a conclusion, and the different types of figurative language). The quarterly units include formative reading and vocabulary assessments to regularly monitor student achievement and growth.

The 6+1 Trait® Writing Model of Instruction & Assessment. The  6+1 Trait® curriculum comprises 6+1 key qualities that define quality writing. These are: Ideas (the main message), Organization (the internal structure of the piece), Voice (the personal tone and flavor of the author's message), Word Choice (the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning), Sentence Fluency (the rhythm and flow of the language), Conventions (the mechanical correctness), and Presentation (how the writing actually looks on the page.) The quarterly units include formative paragraph and summative essay assessments to regularly monitor student achievement and growth.

Grading Practices

Infinite Campus is the main method that Mr. Norton uses to communicate information regarding a student’s academic achievement and engagement. All teachers at Cresthill Middle School utilize standards-based reporting practices.  Instead of the all-or-nothing, percentages-and-letter-grades system, a standards-based approach considers evidence of learning and the data it produces. Work Habits scores report on a student's habits of scholarship. Content Knowledge scores report separately on a student's progress toward the reading, vocabulary, and writing content standards. The specific, associated scoring rubrics for habits of scholarship, paragraph assessments, reading assessments, vocabulary assessments, and essay assessments can be found in Infinite Campus and in Mr. Norton's Google Classroom. You can find out more about Cresthill Middle School grading practices by selecting this link.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a web-based platform that is integrated with a student's school Gmail account. Google Classroom saves time and paper and makes it easy to distribute and collect assignments, communicate, and stay organized. Students in Mr. Norton's class will receive a special code to join his Google classroom.  Once they join, they may invite parents and guardians. Mr. Norton regularly uses Google Classroom to share important announcements with students via the "Stream" page.  Coursework resources and materials, scoring rubrics, and homework resources are shared with students via the "Classwork" page. This page is also where students access the reading, vocabulary, and writing assessments. 

Advanced Language Arts Class 

Students in Mr. Norton's 7th-grade Advanced Language Arts class will experience a different pace, depth, and complexity of instruction. Specifically, students in the advanced class will independently read two additional above-grade-level novels and complete the associated accelerated written literary response and analysis.* This is a rigorous class requiring students to think analytically while expressing ideas clearly and the material presented will challenge students to a higher level of thinking. The critical thinking tools employed in this class help students dig deeper into a concept and understand that concept with greater complexity.

*Completion of the independent homework is a requirement for placement in 8th-Grade Advanced Language Arts.

Contact Information

Please email me if you have any questions or concerns.  

Robert Norton, MA Ed.