Humanities (5-6)

List of 2 items.

  • Fifth Grade

    HISTORY: The history curriculum focuses on studies of ancient Egypt and Greece for the bulk of the year. Comparisons between these civilizations lead to generalizations about cultures as well as to an understanding of their differences. Geography, literature, and the arts are some of the avenues used to explore these subject areas. We will investigate the essential question "What is culture?" and explore the ancient world through map skills, timelines, and charts.  
    ENGLISH: The English program encompasses several different areas of emphasis. Students are introduced to various types of literature and literary themes and techniques. Vocabulary development is also an important adjunct of the literature program. Using a reader’s workshop approach gives students opportunities to practice critical reading skills through different units of study, including inferential thinking, finding themes and motifs within a text, historical fiction, and nonfiction. Different reading skills and concepts are taught through mentor texts, and students are asked to apply these concepts in their independent reading. In conjunction with independent reading, students discuss literature in small book club groups. The goals of the literature program are twofold: to encourage students to enjoy reading and to help them become more perceptive, competent readers, and thinkers.
    Writing is another essential part of the English program. Students continue to develop both expository and creative writing skills, to increase their knowledge of grammar and the mechanics of writing, and to develop their research and reporting skills. A writer’s workshop approach is used as students brainstorm, draft, revise, and publish their prose.
    Formal assessment begins at the beginning of the second trimester. Grades are based on projects, oral and written assignments, tests, in-class writing assignments, and homework.
  • Sixth Grade

    History: Sixth-grade Humanities begins with a unit on world geography and mapping skills that raises students’ awareness of the location of continents, oceans, and the countries of the world. It culminates in a research project on various countries that includes presentations using digital media, writing, and providing citations. Our next unit is a comparative study of the five major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Both the geography and world religions studies raise awareness of cultural universals and diversity, as well as examinations of identity and stereotypes. A significant portion of the year is devoted to an in-depth study of the European Middle Ages beginning with the Dark Ages and proceeding through successive examinations of the three “estates” of medieval society — the nobility, the peasantry, and the clergy. This study also involves the creation of a Medieval Museum and a research report on cultures around the world outside of Europe during the same period. The year concludes with a shorter unit on the European Renaissance. Students gain knowledge and develop critical thinking through activities such as reading, discussion, writing, research, using technology, art, and projects, with frequent written responses to issues and ideas.

    English (Literature): The sixth-grade literature program exposes students to a variety of literary genres and terms, inspires them to enjoy and deepen their understanding of literature, and teaches them to respond actively, expressively, and critically to what they read. Class literature is largely integrated with the History curriculum through several works of historical fiction. In addition to independent reading and books read aloud, class books include: The House on Mango Street; Catherine, Called Birdy; A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver; and A Boy of Old Prague. At the end of the year, the students complete a study of the Great Depression and break into groups that read books set during the Great Depression.

    English (Language): Writing, both expository and creative, is a major emphasis of the sixth-grade English curriculum. In the writers' workshop, students develop their abilities to express ideas clearly and effectively in a number of genres (personal narrative, fiction, paragraph composition, essays, poetry) and to read and respond to others' writing critically. Writers' workshop offers students the opportunity to practice techniques of brainstorming, revision, editing, and proofreading; to identify and practice the traits of good writing; to expand their knowledge of conventions in grammar and writing mechanics; and to explore different modes of written expression. Writing is taught and critiqued using the 6 Traits of Writing: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and correctness of conventions. Emphasis is placed on both personal expression and discovery of one's own voice, as well as on clarity of exposition that stresses precision and efficiency of language. There are also ongoing classes on grammar, including parts of speech, punctuation, and sentence combining; vocabulary development (using content from literature, writing, and History); spelling; speaking, listening, and study skills.

    Trimester grades are determined by averaging the grades earned on homework, quizzes, tests, and the writing portfolio, with larger projects and tests weighted more heavily.

English (7-8)

List of 2 items.

  • Seventh Grade

    In English, we strive to develop confident, appreciative, and analytical readers and writers. This growth is supported by work on critical reading and comprehension, the writing process and writing mechanics, vocabulary development, and grammar. The English course also includes a component of independent reading, fostering our students’ love of reading as a lifelong activity.
    Literature: The goals of the literature program are to inspire students to enjoy reading, to expose them to a variety of literary genres, to help them develop their views of themselves and the world, and to teach them to think actively about ideas they encounter. Through our literature selections, we examine themes related to cultural identity, change, and what it means to move from one stage of life to another by reading, discussing, and responding to a variety of texts. The girls read the novel Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hinton the summer before beginning seventh grade, and we spend the first few weeks exploring themes related to the book. Our next unit will explore such essential questions as “What does it mean to be a community?” and “What does it mean to be American?” through the 2016 novel Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes as well as news articles, primary sources, and service-learning projects.  The next unit is Keeping Corner, a book of historical fiction by Kashmira Sheth that allows students to continue the exploration of cultural differences as well as how events current to the book’s time period play into the development of identity and culture. Students will culminate the year in differentiated book groups, reading and discussing a variety of books, developing their small group leadership skills, writing a variety of letters, and practicing and demonstrating their literary analysis skills through in-class writes.
    Writing: In seventh-grade English, students develop their abilities to effectively express their ideas and to read and respond to writing critically. They practice several modes of writing, including journaling, assignments focused on description, and the expository essay. To strengthen each student's writing structure and understanding of mechanics, style, and organization, we focus on writing as a process and encourage drafting and engagement with the 6 + 1 Traits of Writing. Periodic goal setting and writing conferences also play a major role in the each student's development as a writer.
    Vocabulary: In order to continue to grow as readers and writers, we further expand our vocabulary by focusing on vocabulary based in the literature we read as well as Latin and Greek roots. With a strong foundation of roots, students can derive the meaning of unfamiliar words by breaking them into parts. Students explore both the new words based in our reading and root words in their own writing
    Grammar: The primary objective of seventh-grade grammar study is to develop a firm understanding of the parts of speech, parts of a sentence and punctuation. In the winter, we take a break from formal literature study to deeply dive into a grammar unit, where the parts of speech are reviewed and more deeply understood through the use of art. Students then transfer their understandings into group, projects and individual assessments developed around the usage of the parts of speech.
    Assessment: Grades in English reflect the variety of assignments and activities. The overall grade is determined through two main categories — Homework & Quizzes, and Writing & Projects. Grades for homework are earned through thoughtful and thorough completion of each assignment. To encourage the development of critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills, every essay assignment includes a drafting and revision process. For some assignments, students may have opportunities for further revision; at times, additional revisions will be required.
  • Eighth Grade

    The objective of this course is to improve students' confidence and competence in writing, reading; and critical thinking while exploring who they are through literature.

    The goal of the 8th Grade English curriculum is to help students become more confident and critical readers, writers and thinkers. We begin the year with a focus on injustice and inequality through the assigned summer reading. Throughout the year, students will explore connections between literature and their identities, the other classes they are taking and the world around them. After finishing our summer reading unit, students will continue to explore the elements of literature and the course themes, through reading various memoirs and primary source documents highlighting youth voices from times of crisis like excerpts from Anne Frank’s Holocaust diary; unpacking the terms “refugee” and “immigrant” through The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez; analyzing gender identity and presentation in Shakespeare’s As You Like it, and finally looking at transgender rights through Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonky.
    Writing: The writing curriculum is based on the idea that writing is a process and there is no such thing as perfect. As such, students will learn how to respond to feedback, edit and revise, revise, revise. Assignments are designed to help students deeply investigate literature and develop their own writing processes. As in seventh grade, students will continue to develop their use of textual evidence to support a thesis statement in expository essays, as well as sharpen their literary analysis skills. Periodic goal-setting, reflection, peer editing, and writing conferences play a major role in the students' development as writers. The 6 + 1 Traits of writing will continue to be a lens through which we will look at the entire writing process.
    Vocabulary: Since a strong vocabulary is best built by reading literature and by recognizing and learning new roots, students will review Greek and Latin roots, as well as collect and study words from their reading and use them in their writing. 
    Grammar: This year, students will continue to study grammar as a means to improve their writing. They will learn about phrase, clause and sentence types and will experiment with sentence structure in order to build fluency and become more effective, precise and artful writers. By analyzing composition models, students will explore the many ways to write effectively with varied and complex sentence structures.
    Assessment: Graded assignments will fall into one of two overarching categories, as described below:

    • Homework/Classwork/Quizzes (40% of the overall grade)
      This percentage includes graded homework assignments, classwork assignments and quizzes.
    • Essays/Projects (60% of the overall grade)
      This percentage includes all graded essays and graded projects - basically all assignments not considered homework or classwork.

    Grades for homework are earned through thoughtful and thorough completion of each assignment. To encourage the development of critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills, every essay assignment includes a drafting and revision process.  For some assignments, students may have opportunities for further revision; at times, additional revisions will be required.

History (7-8)

List of 2 items.

  • Seventh Grade

    This course focuses on how cultures affect one another and how the spreading of ideas influences the development of culture. We will examine the nature of cause and effect in history and the advantages and challenges associated with increased connectivity within the world. We will begin by building a true understanding of our own culture(s) as a way to gather insight and perspective. From here, the course will focus on four slices of history that will illustrate the dynamics of how cultures influence those they come in contact with.

    Fall, Trimester 1:
    Lenses through which to view the world
    In the first trimester of seventh-grade history, students are introduced to the “Four Worlds”: political, economic, social, and cultural, each having its own set of actors, each with various sources of power and influence, each with different and often conflicting priorities. We began with the “four worlds of me,” an activity designed to help students understand how they are part of each world, how they are affected by conditions in each, and how they are able to influence conditions in each. Students also read the “Nacirema” article and discussed cultural assumptions and the concept of cultural distance. Students also discuss what professional historians actually do.

    China and the Mongol Empire
    We will begin our exploration of how the dissemination of information affects the world by studying the culture of ancient China and how its inventions of the compass, gunpowder, paper, and movable type helped shape the world around us. We will then examine how the Pax Mongolica created safety and stability along the Silk Road, in turn leading to increased trade and communication between the East and West.

    Winter, Trimester 2:
    Islam and the Mali Empire
    Next, we will look at how Islam embraced trade and built upon the knowledge of both east and west. Students will explore the geography of the Middle East and North and West Africa and study the origins, expansion, and contributions of Islam (such as an improved compass) as well as the trade and wealth of the Mali Empire. Students will also examine the impact the emergence of Islam had on the medieval world.

    Age of Exploration (Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia)
    After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, Europeans had to look for other passages to ports in the East. Students will explore the trade and economic factors that led European governments to seek new trade routes to Asia, and how this process came to shape the world as we currently know it. Through this unit, students will begin to understand basic economic fundamentals and the social and cultural impacts of exploration in Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

    Spring, Trimester 3:
    Printing, Questioning, and Concluding
    Students will analyze the impact of the printing press on Europe and explore the impact of the paper and movable print, first developed in China. As we study the Protestant Reformation, we will see how the ability to print quickly, cheaply, and in multiple languages sparked curiosity in Europe, leading to the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment and shaping the world of today.

    Cultural Heritage Project
    In this unit, each student conducts research, writes, and creates a display about her family heritage and/or the history of her community. The project is both a culmination of our study of cultures from around the world and a celebration of the rich cultural diversity and experiences in our community. The project will take place over a seven-week period, with students given time to work on their research and writing projects in class.
  • Eighth Grade

    This course focuses on the study of various themes within American history, taking an in-depth look at select topics and ensuring that students have an overview of the general timeline of U.S. History. Our study is guided by the concept of living in four worlds (political, economic, social, and cultural) and by the theme of rights, including citizens’ rights, states’ rights, and human rights. In addition, we will delve into current events in order to understand the relationship between past and present.

    In the first trimester, students are introduced to the “Four Worlds”: political, economic, social, and cultural, each having its own set of actors, each with various sources of power and influence, each with different and often conflicting priorities. We begin with the “four worlds of me,” an activity designed to help students understand how they are part of each world, how they are affected by conditions in each, and how they are able to influence conditions in each. Next, in independent study projects presented to the class, students research the events that led 13 colonies to form the United States of America and find parallels between these events and the 2016 U.S. election. For the remainder of the trimester, we will discuss the election and study the structure of our government.

    In the second trimester, students will learn about the events leading up to the writing of the Constitution and its safeguards against tyranny. Students will learn about the ideas of Federalism and Anti-Federalism and further discuss the separation of powers within the U.S. government. Students will also examine the Bill of Rights, research Supreme Court cases involving the amendments, and create presentations involving both. Finally, we will begin to look at the growth of the country and its Westward expansion.

    Students will study the new nation and the different societies that emerged in the North and the South, analyzing geography’s role in creating different economic systems which in turn supported very different cultures. Included in this analysis will be an in-depth look at how, by ignoring the implications of slavery, the new republic set the stage that eventually led to the American Civil War. To close out the semester, students will then research a local or national topic that they believe worthy of reform in today’s society (local or national) and create a Present Day Reform Project, taking action to advance a cause that they believe merits their time.

Department Faculty

List of 5 members.

  • Photo of Jacqueline Beutell

    Jacqueline Beutell 

    6th Grade Humanities, 6th Grade Advisor
    415.751.0187, ext. 367
  • Photo of Damian Gates

    Damian Gates 

    Upper School History Teacher; Seventh-Grade Advisor
    415.751.0187, ext. 312
    University of Massachusetts, Amherst - B.A.
    Lesley University - M.Ed.
  • Photo of Alexandra Glass-Katz

    Alexandra Glass-Katz 

    7th Grade English
    415.751.0187, ext. 249
  • Photo of Kelly Hoy

    Kelly Hoy 

    Fifth-Grade Humanities Teacher
    415.751.0187, ext. 333
    University of Rhode Island - B.S.
  • Photo of Juliana Neves

    Juliana Neves 

    English, Grades 7 & 8; Grade 8 Advisor
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.


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