A Message from Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School: March 2
Karen Leavitt, Head of Lower School
Dear Lower School Families, 
Our eighth graders are in the throes of composing their most complex and sophisticated piece of writing to date: Eighth Grade Term Paper, a capstone academic experience at BZ. This year’s theme—belief—is a nuanced and layered topic, which all students will be considering as they craft their paper. This is a months-long project resulting in a final product filled with topic sentences, claims, evidence, reasoning, citations and quotations. A truly impressive feat.
As such, there is great importance for our Lower School students to compile a set of foundational writing skills that will continue to be refined until they are put to use in eighth grade and beyond. Beginning in first grade, student writing expectations begin to grow higher. Starting at the word and simple sentence level, students practice letter formation, writing stamina, idea generation, sentence structure and vocabulary daily. Year after year, learning targets grow, enabling students to be more competent authors.
Below, you will read about how our oldest Lower School students are putting these writing tools to work with their fourth grade Immigration Paper. This is the first paper of its kind and requires students to synthesize years of amassed writing skills into a piece of culminating work. Of course, fourth grade teachers scaffold the project with graphic organizers, outlines, brainstorms, small group discussions and 1:1 conferencing to ensure students are most successful. After a unit learning about immigration and Ellis Island, students engage in questioning sessions to determine what they are interested in learning more about. The research paper focuses on some of the following learning objectives:

Topic Generation/Questioning: 

Students use knowledge learned in class to brainstorm a Big Picture Topic. They ask as many questions as possible to channel their curiosities into categories.


Using books and websites, students gather facts about their chosen topic. They are learning the strategies and importance of finding credible and reliable online sources. In addition, they are taking notes on notecards by topic, which makes their paragraph composition organized and sequenced.

Paragraph Composition: 

Students blend facts from their notecards into well-formulated paragraphs using topic sentences, proper and varied sentence structure, enhanced vocabulary, and punctuation.

Non-fiction Text Features:

Synthesizing knowledge they have learned about since first grade, students include features such as table of contents, glossary, captions, labeled diagrams, graphs, maps, sidebars, keys, timelines, and/or an index to enhance their reader’s understanding. 


Students learn how to give proper credit to their book and website sources.  
This impressive fourth grade writing effort ends with a 5-6 page research paper and some very proud students and teachers. Stay tuned for some exciting examples from this year’s fourth grade class, coming soon! The final product sets them up well for success in middle school and prepares them for increased writing demands and assignments, like their eighth grade term paper. As we know, practice makes progress and we will continue to encourage and celebrate our budding writers!

Karen Leavitt
Head of Lower School

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