Breadcrumbs

By grade

Grade 5

In Grade 5, the advisory group serves as the organizational and support anchor to the year. Students meet in their advisory at the start of each day. After advisory, students have classes with different teachers for humanities, math, science, world languages, music, art, drama, health, and library/tech.

In Grade 5, we gradually move toward a more formalized learning approach. Children continue to learn by doing, but they practice the skills needed to record, share and generalize from what they have learned. We emphasize the development of skills needed to become independent, lifelong learners. Teachers strive to stimulate every child's interest, curiosity and desire to create, to promote a true love of learning, and to encourage a willingness to take risks.

We plan for students as individuals, helping each child to reach his/her potential. Recognizing that our children come from many different schools and learning environments, we assess their learning needs regularly so that we can provide learning experiences at an appropriate level, and discover any gaps in skill development.

The size of the class grows from 80 students in Grade 4 to 100 students in Grade 5. Students are thoughtfully and carefully transitioned into the Middle School. The Grade 5 advisory provides a transitional "homebase" that is similar to the environment of the Lower School's self-contained classroom. Advisory teachers support students' social and emotional growth, and provide support in organization and transition. Students get lockers, but also retain "cubbies" in their homeroom classroom. Students get to eat lunch in the cafeteria, rather than their classroom, but the hot lunch selection is limited to a "meal deal" rather than a full a la carte menu. Teachers escort Grade 5 students to the buses and a walkers' pickup location during the beginning of the school year.

Parent conferences
In the first and second semesters parents are invited to meet with all of their Grade 5 student's teachers during Middle School arena conferences.  Teachers are seated throughout the Main Gym and parents can elect to meet with as many as they wish.  These conferences are an opportunity for teachers to report on students' academic progress during the first part of the year. Students are not requested to attend the arena conferences.

English

In Grade 5, English is taught as part of the humanities program. At times during the year, the teaching of reading and writing is integrated within the social studies curriculum; at other times, the two areas are treated as distinct subjects.

Within the writers' workshop format, students are encouraged to work with a growing sense of independence and initiative. Teachers expose students to a variety of writing styles and aim to develop each student's unique writing voice. Students are carefully guided through the writing process, and writing lessons scaffold to allow students to build upon strategies and skills learned throughout the year. Organization of writing is a focus, and students hone their planning techniques, developing effective leads and conclusions, working on paragraphing, and incorporating transition words to organize ideas. Teachers stress revising and editing, helping students move independently through the writing process. Vocabulary, grammar, and conventions are taught through direct instruction and reinforced within the context of student writing.

In reading, focus is placed on developing critical-thinking skills, increasing independence, and the ability to analyze a text. Students are exposed to new novels and encouraged to read for deeper understanding through discussion groups, reading partnerships, and independent work. We reinforce active reading strategies, with a specific focus on making inferences and summarizing. Independent reading is a critical component to being a successful reader, and this is heavily emphasized. As students progress through the Grade 5 program, they become comfortable and adept at thinking, speaking and writing about what they read. Teachers aim to integrate reading and writing concepts and skills to enable students to make valuable connections between these areas.

Students examine nonfiction reading and writing in the context of social studies units on Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and ancient Greece. The skills taught include reading for specific information, note taking, organization, sequencing information, writing paragraphs, and editing. Students engage in several self-directed research projects, focusing on building effective research skills. An emphasis is placed on how to formulate research questions, evaluate and cite sources, and effectively share information with a larger audience in multiple ways. Students also develop their presentation skills, speaking in front of an audience to present with expression and clarity.

Mathematics

Grade 5 Mathematics course is based upon the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. In Grade 5, instructional time focuses on three critical areas: (1) developing fluency with addition and subtraction of fractions, and developing understanding of the multiplication of fractions and of division of fractions in limited cases (unit fractions divided by whole numbers and whole numbers divided by unit fractions); (2) extending division to 2-digit divisors, integrating decimal fractions into the place value system and developing understanding of operations with decimals to hundredths, and developing fluency with whole number and decimal operations; and (3) developing understanding of volume.

Throughout the Middle School, there is an emphasis on developing deeper understanding of concepts and how they are connected. We support problem-based learning; in mathematics, students are encouraged to make sense of a situation rather than memorizing techniques and algorithms. At each grade level, a select set of important mathematical concepts, ideas and related procedures are studied in depth rather than skimming through a larger set of ideas in a shallow manner. There is an emphasis on writing about mathematical understanding and demonstrating mastery through constructing viable arguments. Calculators should be used to manipulate advanced numerical situations and to store information. Calculators are not intended to replace mental math operations. Students will be informed when calculators are appropriate for homework.

Reporting to parents is made through fall and winter conferences and two report cards. The semester grade is comprised of check-ups, unit assessments, reflection, and projects. Homework completion is noted and considered in the report under Approaches To Learning. All students who have not yet met content area standards will be given an opportunity to show their growth by making corrections to their assessments.

Teachers seek to differentiate in order to meet the needs of each student. Instruction is responsive to the individuals, and teachers consistently monitor the level of enrichment and reinforcement needed. Performance on a readiness test, the student's year-long progress and teacher recommendation play a role in course placement for the following year.

Science

In Grade 5 Science students work as scientists to gain an understanding of scale in the world around them. Going from the very large, Space, to the very small, the Human Microbiome and the molecules that make up all Matter, students engage in all the scientific and engineering practices. In Earth Science emphasis is placed on modelling to develop conceptual understanding. In Life Science, taking on the roles of medical students and engineering interns, students create models and use simulations to collect data as evidence to support scientific explanations of the phenomena under study. In Chemistry, focus is on observation and understanding of chemical reactions and the changes in properties of matter. Throughout their scientific inquiry, students will have multiple opportunities to read, write, talk and visualize the concepts under study.

 

Humanities

In Grade 5, the curriculum explores the cultures of Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and ancient Greece. Students first investigate how archaeologists use artifacts to learn about early human settlement in Sumer and the subsequent empires that developed in that area of the world. Students research what defines a civilization, learning about the interplay of geography, government, social structure, religion, the arts, technology and writing. Subsequently, students examine the geography and environmental factors that influenced human settlement in ancient Egypt. Students learn about the three kingdoms of ancient Egypt, the social pyramid, and what daily life was like for people according to their social status. The year culminates with a study of ancient Greece, focusing on the rise of democracy and what influences the creation and design of political structures.

Throughout the year, students are developing independence in their research, study habits, and time management. Inquiry-based research is the basis for project work in the Grade 5 program, with a focus on non-fiction reading skills, note taking, and oral presentations.

World languages and cultures

Download a flowchart of world language progressions (PDF).

The MS world languages program offers introductory courses (level Aa) in Chinese, French and Spanish to all Grade 5 students. These courses are designed for true beginners or those who have had minimal exposure to the target language. The Aa Spanish course is suitable for returning ASL students, who have been exposed to Spanish in the Lower School.

The Grade 5 world languages program aims to introduce students to the language and cultures of the Chinese‐, French- and Spanish‐speaking worlds.
This course aims to develop students’ ability to communicate about themselves and their immediate environment using simple sentences containing basic vocabulary and language structures.

Students practice and develop the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing through a variety of communicative activities.

Note: Grade 5 students already fluent in one of these languages cannot enroll in this language class as it is designed for beginners.

Music

Grade 5 students begin instruction on a band or orchestral instrument in addition to participating in the Grade 5 Choir. Each student chooses, with the assistance of the music faculty, an instrument suitable for the individual as well as to balance the instrumentation of the ensembles.

The instrumental program is designed to develop students' understanding of music through ensemble participation. Students learn pieces from music method books, along with age-appropriate concert music, and other scales and exercises. Emphasis is placed on technical development, tone production, good posture, rehearsal etiquette and the importance of regular practice at home.

The choral music classes utilize two-part choral music to introduce the concepts of breathing, tone production, blend, balance and musicianship. Early emphasis is placed on rehearsal skills and group cooperation. Students study a variety of choral literature representing a broad range of time periods and musical styles.

Field studies

Grade 5 students spend four days at Calshot Activities and Environmental Centre which is located on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. The overnight field trip allows the students to experience science in the field, utilizing their ecology skills that have been developed in the ASL classroom. The over arching goal of this trip is to provide the students with opportunities to make new friendships while building team spirit.  In their teams they are engaged in a variety of activities ranging from stream mapping to rock climbing.

Grade 6

In Grade 6, the advisory group serves as the organizational and support anchor to the year. Students meet in their advisory at the start of each day. After advisory, students have classes with different teachers for humanities, math, science, world languages, music, art, drama, and health.

The advisory period at the start of each day is an opportunity for students and their advisor to discuss academic, personal and social issues. Activities are planned to help students develop friendships and feelings of belonging within the class and the wider community.

Teachers work together closely to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of students. Classes in library skills and computer are integrated into the curriculum. Subject area specialists teach world languages, health, music, art and drama. The Grade 6 teaching team meets regularly to coordinate all activities and oversee the progress of the students.

Parent conferences

Grade 6 conferences comprise a mix of parent-only meetings (fall) and student involvement (spring).

Fall: Parents are invited to meet with all of their Grade 6 student's teachers during middle school arena conferences. Teachers are seated throughout the Farmer Family Gymnasium and parents can elect to meet with as many as they wish. These conferences are an opportunity for teachers to report on students' academic progress during the first part of the year. Students are not requested to attend the fall arena conferences.

Spring: Parents are invited to schedule individual 25-minute conferences with their child's advisor. Spring conferences are student-led, and students will report on their progress across the academic program, as well as on their challenges and goals.

English

In Grade 6, English is taught as part of the humanities program. At times during the year, the teaching of reading and writing is integrated within the social studies curriculum; at other times, the two areas are treated as distinct subjects.

Within the writers' workshop format, students are encouraged to work with a growing sense of independence and initiative. Students learn specific writing strategies through whole class mini-lessons, and writing lessons scaffold to allow students to build upon skills learned throughout the year. Teachers stress revising and editing, helping students move independently through the writing process, and students learn to reflect on their own writing as well as to use peer and teacher feedback to clarify and strengthen their drafts. Vocabulary, grammar, and conventions are taught through direct instruction as well as within the context of student writing.

Our reading work throughout the year is balanced between whole class studies of a text and reading partnerships, where students strengthen their own reading abilities by discussing and analyzing texts with other readers. Students use close reading strategies to develop claims about a text and learn to support their ideas with textual evidence. Whenever possible, teachers aim to integrate reading and writing concepts and skills to enable students to make valuable connections between these areas. Independent reading is emphasized for enjoyment and as a way to build reading skills and stamina.

Students examine nonfiction reading and writing in the context of social studies units on ancient China, ancient Rome, the rise of Islam, and the Silk Road. The skills taught include reading for specific information, note taking, analyzing sources, and organizing information. Students engage in several self-directed research projects, focusing on building effective research skills. An emphasis is placed on formulating research questions, evaluating and citing sources, and synthesizing information.

Mathematics

The Grade 6 mathematics course is based upon the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. In Grade 6, instructional time focuses on four critical areas: (1) connecting ratio and rate to whole number multiplication and division and using concepts of ratio and rate to solve problems; (2) completing understanding of division of fractions and extending the notion of number to the system of rational numbers, which includes negative numbers; 3) writing, interpreting, and using expressions and equations; and (4) developing understanding of statistical thinking.

The course is taught from a variety of resources. The core resource is Connected Mathematics Project 3. Buzzmath.com is an online program used to reinforce skills; teachers assign individual and class assignments using this tool. Manipulatives, math games, online resources and calculators are also part of the instruction.

Throughout the Middle School, there is an emphasis on developing deeper understanding of concepts and how they are connected. We support problem-based learning; in mathematics, students are encouraged to make sense of a situation rather than memorizing techniques and algorithms. At each grade level, a select set of important mathematical concepts, ideas and related procedures are studied in depth rather than skimming through a larger set of ideas in a shallow manner. There is an emphasis on writing about mathematical understanding and demonstrating mastery through constructing viable arguments. Calculators should be used to manipulate advanced numerical situations and to store information. Calculators are not intended to replace mental math operations. Students will be informed when calculators are appropriate for homework.

Reporting to parents is made through conferences, two progress reports and mid-semester access to the grade portal. The semester grade is comprised of unit tests, end of unit projects, presentations, quizzes, check-ups, partner quizzes, and investigative work. Homework completion is recorded and noted on the report card. Parents will be notified if there are three late assignments in one semester. All students who have not yet met content area standards will be given an opportunity to show their growth by making corrections to their assessments.

Teachers seek to differentiate in order to meet the needs of each student. Instruction is responsive to the individuals, and teachers consistently monitor the level of enrichment and reinforcement needed. Performance on a readiness test, the student's year-long progress and teacher recommendation play a role in course placement for the following year.

Science

The focus in Grade 6 Science is on thinking, acting and working as scientists and engineers do. Students use scientific thinking processes to conduct investigations and build explanations in order to gain greater conceptual understanding of the material being covered. They mirror the work of scientists and engineers by doing activities that include observing, communicating, reading nonfiction texts, writing scientific explanations, modeling and immersing themselves in the engineering design process. Students create physical models as well as computer models using coding software. They learn how to identify the claim and evidence in arguments and understand the importance of quality evidence and reasoning. The unit questions for the year are: Why do traits vary in plants and animals? Why does the surface of the Earth change over time? How can humans minimize the impact of changes to Earth’s surface? and No one in space can hear you scream. Why?

Humanities

In social studies students learn about early civilizations in China, Rome, and the Middle East, as well as how these civilizations interacted with each other through trade along the Silk Road. Our study of each civilization is based on the common themes of geography, society, politics, economics and culture. Students learn to recognize each of these aspects within a civilization and use them to make connections to our world today.

The Grade 6 program helps students learn to organize short- and long-term projects using appropriate study skills. We emphasize non-fiction reading skills and strategies, writing for the content area of social studies and research techniques. Teachers work closely with the librarians to help students access and evaluate information using online and print resources. Creative projects integrate literature, writing, and art with social studies, and cooperative skills are a focus throughout the program.

A wide range of texts and multimedia resources are integral to the social studies component of the program. The primary social studies texts used are History Alive! The Ancient World and History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond, published by Teacher Curriculum Institute. Other non-fiction readings, such as current events articles, as well as carefully chosen movies and online resources supplement the program. Field trips to local Roman sites as well as the British Museum are used to enhance what we learn about in school.

World languages and cultures

 

Download a flowchart of world language progressions (PDF).

The MS world languages program offers beginners’ and continuers’ courses in Chinese, French and Spanish for students in Grade 6.

Level A is aimed at true beginners and students who have had minimal academic exposure to the target language.

Level Ab is aimed at students who have successfully completed at least one full year of an academic program in their chosen language. Classes are designed to develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills through a variety of communicative activities.

A student who successfully completes the A or Ab courses continues on to a B course.

Music

Students in Grade 6 participate in both an instrumental ensemble—either band or string orchestra—and the Grade 6 choir. Students new to the School, who have never played a band or orchestra instrument before, are given a specified choice of instruments to begin in Grade 6, and receive small-group instruction appropriate to their level. For all students, half of the music block is devoted to singing in the Grade 6 choir. Students who learned to play an instrument in Grade 5, either at ASL or at another school, can continue to build upon that experience and in the appropriate instrument class. The emphasis of the performing groups in Grade 6 is on developing an understanding of communication through music, along with technical and ensemble skills. The ultimate goal is an enjoyment and appreciation of the ability to make music, and for students to think of themselves as musicians.

The Grade 6 band class reinforces the basics of good musicianship, which include good posture, proper breathing, rhythmic accuracy, good intonation, ensemble balance, correct embouchure, proper fingerings, musical phrasing and clear articulation. Students learn many types of concert music, which represent a variety of styles and moods, and perform in both full band and small group settings.

The Grade 6 string orchestra program continues to support the development of technical skills such as proper playing position, rhythmic accuracy, listening and intonation, stylistic use of the bow, musical phrasing and literacy. Students play and perform a wide variety of music reflecting different styles and periods.

Grade 6 choir students learn rehearsal skills, proper tone production, sight-singing and performance techniques. Students practice sight-singing using the solfege system. There is occasional written work. The Grade 6 choir emphasizes the development of musical understanding in a fun and collaborative setting.

Field studies

Grade 6 go to an Adventure Centre near Swindon for four days after the late May Bank Holiday. Cooperative activities on site are combined with time in Bath at the Roman Baths and to Fishbourne Roman Palace. The goals of this trip include developing friendships and strengthening existing ones, challenging themselves by trying new activities and igniting interests in new hobbies, and developing a healthy sense of self awareness and empathy for others.

Grade 7

In Grade 7, the advisory group serves as the organizational and support anchor to the year. The advisory period at the start of each day is an opportunity for students and their advisor to discuss academic, personal and social issues. Activities are planned to help students develop friendships and feelings of belonging within the class and the wider community. After advisory, students have classes with different teachers for English/social studies, math, science, world languages, music, health, and electives.

The Grade 7 curriculum aims to create lifelong learners, and fosters the inherent connections between students and the academic areas that they study. Math students are placed in groups appropriate to their level of aptitude and performance. Students take a world language (Chinese, French, Spanish or English as an Additional Language), and participate in a yearlong music course in Band or Orchestra and Choir. In addition, students take a full year of health education and choose two semester-long elective courses from a range of selections.

Parent conferences
Grade 7 conferences comprise a mix of parent-only meetings (fall) and student involvement (spring).

Fall: Parents are invited to meet with all of their Grade 7 student's teachers during Middle School arena conferences. Teachers are seated throughout the Main Gym and parents can elect to meet with as many as they wish. These conferences are an opportunity for teachers to report on students' academic progress during the first part of the year. Students are not requested to attend the fall arena conferences.

Spring: Parents are invited to schedule individual 25-minute conferences with their child's advisor. Spring conferences are student-led, and students will report on their progress across the academic program, as well as on their challenges and goals.

English

In Grade 7 English, students continue to develop their independence and their literacy skills through writers’ and readers’ workshops, which emphasize student goals, student choice, and individualized support.

In writers’ workshop, students develop their writing skills through genre studies, using their independent and in-class reading as model texts. Guided lessons allow students to receive structured strategies for writing while also learning about the various stages of the writing process. Specific writing lessons may focus on idea development, organization, word choice, or voice. Vocabulary, grammar, and conventions are taught through direct instruction as well as within the context of student writing.

In readers’ workshop, students practice their literacy skills as a class, in literature groups, with a partner, and independently. Through reading a variety of literary, informational, and digital texts, students work toward individual reading goals and standards. Students are exposed to a wide variety of texts, including realistic fiction and dystopian novels, and specific reading lessons may focus on connecting, predicting, inferring, analyzing, and other skills. Students choose texts for their independent reading to challenge and stretch themselves as readers as they work toward their goals.

In speaking & listening, students engage in various discussions around both fiction and nonfiction texts. They learn collegial discussion practices, how to pose intriguing questions, and how to form relevant responses using textual evidence. To practice presentation skills, students give talks to the class focusing on emphasizing salient points whilst using appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Mathematics

In Grade 7, instructional time focuses on four critical areas: (1) developing understanding of and applying proportional relationships; (2) developing understanding of operations with rational numbers and working with expressions and linear equations; (3) solving problems involving scale drawings and informal geometric constructions, and working with two- and three-dimensional shapes to solve problems involving area, surface area, and volume; and (4) drawing inferences about populations based on samples.

Students take one of two math courses: Grade 7 mathematics or Grade 7 advanced mathematics. The courses are taught from a variety of resources and the core resource is Connected Mathematics Project 3. Buzzmath.com is an online program used to reinforce skills; teachers assign individual and class assignments using this tool. Manipulatives, math games, online resources and calculators are also part of the instruction.

Throughout the Middle School, there is an emphasis on developing deeper understanding of concepts and how they are connected. We support problem-based learning; in mathematics, students are encouraged to make sense of a situation rather than memorizing techniques and algorithms. At each grade level, a select set of important mathematical concepts, ideas and related procedures are studied in depth rather than skimming through a larger set of ideas in a shallow manner. There is an emphasis on writing about mathematical understanding and demonstrating mastery through constructing viable arguments. Calculators should be used to manipulate advanced numerical situations and to store information. Calculators are not intended to replace mental math operations. Students will be informed when calculators are appropriate for homework.

Reporting to parents is made through conferences, two progress reports and mid-semester access to the grade portal. The semester grade is comprised of unit tests, end of unit projects, presentations, quizzes, check-ups, partner quizzes, and investigative work. Homework completion is recorded and noted on the report card. Parents will be notified if there are three late assignments in one semester. All students who have not yet met content area standards will be given an opportunity to show their growth by making corrections to their assessments. Performance on a readiness test and final exam, as well as a student’s yearlong performance and teacher recommendations, play a role in course placement for the following year.

Science

The focus in Grade 7 Science is to continue to develop the skills of thinking, acting and working as scientists do. Students explore these skills through the content areas of evolution, energy and forces, and geoscience processes, with a culminating project about human impacts on Earth’s resources. The themes of energy, cause and effect and system interactions help students to construct connections between these concepts inclusive of all three areas of science, life, physical and earth. Students utilize practices such as engaging in scientific arguments, modeling, analyzing data, constructing explanations, and working with engineering practices to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and to communicate these ideas to a wider community.  

 

Social studies

The Grade 7 social studies curriculum explores England, the Asante in Africa, and India through three thematic units: world cultures, encounters, and conflict and change. This thematic focus on history allows students to make relevant connections from the past to the present world in which they live. Through this course of study, students gain an appreciation for the cultures they study, a greater understanding of what happens when different cultures interact, and how that has impacted the world we live in today. Students leave the course considering the role of the individual in ensuring the general welfare of society and how individuals and small groups can enact change on a large scale.

The content for this course comes from a variety of sources, including primary sources, videos, handouts, databases, textbook excerpts, educational websites, and simulations. Students use these sources to establish a narrative timeline of key historical events. Once students have a grasp of this timeline, they consider essential questions that are linked to Grade 7 social studies standards in order to draw their own conclusions about the past and to link those conclusions to the present.

Throughout Grade 7, students focus on key social studies skills. While learning about places and themes, students develop their persuasive writing skills, beginning with individual paragraphs and working up to constructing complex essays. While learning the content, note taking and research skills are explicitly taught. Students also develop historical thinking skills over the length of the year through learning to source documents, analyze primary and secondary sources for reliability and bias, to corroborate findings, and to deal with conflicting information.

World languages and cultures

Download a flowchart of world language progressions (PDF).

The MS world languages program offers two levels of courses in Chinese, French and Spanish for students in Grade 7 (levels A and B).

Level A is aimed at true beginners and students who have had minimal academic exposure to the target language.
This course aims to develop students’ ability to communicate about themselves and their immediate environment using simple sentences containing basic vocabulary and language structures.

A student who successfully completes the A course continues on to a B course in Grade 8.

Level B is for students who have successfully completed a minimum of one full year of an academic program in their chosen language. Building on the skills acquired in the A course, students continue to use simple sentence structures and vocabulary on more familiar topics. Through a variety of communicative activities, students continue to develop the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

A student who successfully completes the B course continues on to a C course in Grade 8.

Music

Students in Grade 7 participate in both an instrumental ensemble—either band or string orchestra—and the Grade 7 choir. Students new to the School who have never played a band or orchestra instrument before are given a specified choice of instruments to begin in Grade 7, and receive small-group instruction appropriate to their level. For all students, a portion of their music block is devoted to singing in the Grade 7 choir. Students who begun learning to play an instrument, either at ASL or at another school, can continue to build upon that experience and in the appropriate instrument class. The emphasis of the performing groups in Grade 7 is on developing an understanding of communication through music, along with technical and ensemble skills. The ultimate goal is an enjoyment and appreciation of the ability to make music, and for students to think of themselves as musicians.

The Grade 7 band class reinforces the basics of good musicianship, which include good posture, proper breathing, rhythmic accuracy, good intonation, ensemble balance, correct embouchure, proper fingerings, musical phrasing and clear articulation. Students learn many types of concert music, which represent a variety of styles and moods, and perform in both full band and small group settings.

The Grade 7 string orchestra program continues to support the development of technical skills such as proper playing position, rhythmic accuracy, listening and intonation, stylistic use of the bow, musical phrasing and literacy. Students play and perform a wide variety of music reflecting different styles and periods.

Grade 7 choir students learn rehearsal skills, proper tone production, sight-singing and performance techniques. Students practice sight-singing using the solfege system. There is occasional written work. The Grade 7 choir emphasizes the development of musical understanding in a fun and collaborative setting.

Field studies

Grade 7 students participate in one field study experience, which coordinates with their study of ecology. Trips are taken to Pembrokeshire in Wales, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. Students are able to experience first-hand many of the larger concepts covered throughout the year. They practice interpreting field data and observations.  There is also an emphasis on team-building and building positive relationships with their peers and advisors.

Electives

Most students in Grade 7 take one elective each semester. Students in the specific learning differences program (SLD) in Grade 7 will take an elective for one semester. All students are asked to rank all available classes in order of their preferred choices (1 for first choice, 2 for second, up through 14 for last choice). Students are assigned to elective classes based on a combination of their choices, random lottery allocation, and to allow for a variety of disciplinary experiences within a student's middle school career. Depending on enrollment numbers, it may not be possible to offer all courses. No middle school elective is a prerequisite for a high school course.

Ceramics: This elective allows students to experience the creative and imaginative possibilities of clay. Students create both functional and sculptural pieces using pinch pot, slab and coil techniques, inspired by ceramic artists from many cultures and time periods. Sketchbooks are used for planning designs, documenting process and reflecting on their work. Students are encouraged to envision, explore, engage and persist as they develop their craft and methods of expression.

Dance: The dance elective provides an opportunity for students to learn about dance and choreography and its relation to music. Students will develop skills in new and innovative genres, such as the acrobatic techniques of break dance and the pace and dynamics of modern dance. Participating in dance develops co-ordination, strength, flexibility and musicality. It can also provide a foundation for students considering taking dance courses in high school. All levels of experience are welcome. Beginners and more experienced dancers will be challenged accordingly.

Design: In this course, students will be introduced to 2-D and 3-D modeling programs and sophisticated laser machining and 3D printing technology to construct innovative designs and products. Students will learn about the product design process and how to use powerful computer software. They will then use state-of-the-art tools to build their designed objects. No prior technology knowledge is required, just a good imagination.

Digital filmmaking: This course focuses on the use of multi-media elements to tell a story. Students will learn what is involved in the filmmaking process and how to edit video clips in iMovie. Using sound and video, students will produce several digital media projects. They will be assessed on their ability to plan their projects, tell a story through movies, and demonstrate effective use of filmmaking and editing techniques.

Digital photography: By examining topics such as exposure, composition, and photographic vision, this course explores how to create compelling images. Students will complete short- and long-term projects in a range of genres such as photo essays, action, portrait and still life photography. The course will also introduce students to basic Adobe Photoshop editing skills. Since it is important to be able to take pictures on-the-go, the school provides digital cameras to the students, although students are also welcome to bring their own cameras from home. Students will maintain a digital portfolio of their best work in Picasa (through their school Google Docs accounts) to highlight their work throughout the semester.

Drama: The drama elective encourages students to explore their imagination, develop self-confidence and self-expression, reinforce speech and communication skills, as well as develop a general appreciation for the theater arts. Students are introduced to the elements of drama (location, character, problem, solution and ending) through the use of theater games, improvised storytelling and scripts. Through role-play, students reinforce their ability to use the elements of drama to develop improvised stories based on fairy tales, myths, dreams, books, films, and personal experiences, which they create, rehearse and present to their peers. Students are required to present an original final performance piece at the end of the semester.

Journalistic writing: Have you ever wanted to see your name in print or have your writing read by many people? This course teaches you the necessary skills to explore the world of journalism. Students examine different types of journalistic writing: news stories, feature stories that you might see in a magazine or the features section of a newspaper, sports stories, arts and entertainment stories such as music and movie reviews, opinions or commentary pieces, and many more. All writing is submitted to The Scroll or the Middle School Yearbook to be considered for publication.

Media studies: Students will explore the impact that media messages have on society and, specifically, themselves. By examining various media messages, such as magazine advertisements and TV commercials, students will learn how to deconstruct each ad to uncover the truth behind the messages. Students will also learn how to use Photoshop, InDesign and iMovie in order to create their own media messages.

Outdoor fitness: Students in this elective will discover how to measure their fitness level, use a heart rate monitor and will learn about the relationship between heart rate and overall health. Classes are very active and held mostly at Primrose Hill. Activities include running, soccer, ultimate frisbee, hockey and flag rugby.

Podcast production: In this elective, students will work together as a class to record, edit and produce their own radio podcasts. Combining music, interviews, news and human-interest stories, the class-created podcasts will be available for all middle school students to listen to. Working as part of a team, students will become programmers, announcers, producers and engineers, and will communicate through their podcasts with a wide audience.

Sculpture: This class allows students to experience the creative and imaginative possibilities of a variety of three-dimensional mediums. Inspired by sculptors and designers from different cultures and time periods, students plan and create sculptural pieces using materials such as paper mache, wire, found objects, and clay. With a focus on individual expression and personal meaning, students are encouraged to push their creative boundaries as they envision ideas, explore possibilities, and develop their sculptural craft.

Service learning: Are you interested in making our school, our city, and our world a better place? In this class students will investigate issues in our community, locally and globally, and use skills and interests to affect positive change. Students will learn more about topics that are important to them, and make plans and decisions for action. With continual reflection and revision, students’ skills will improve and their positive impact will continue to grow. Service learning is an opportunity to be a leader and to make a difference here at ASL and beyond!

Studio art: In this elective, students work on a series of drawing, painting, and printmaking projects. They use a variety of media including watercolors, acrylic paint, colored pencils, chalk pastels and inks. Projects are based around drawing from observation as well as the imagination and creative problem solving is encouraged at all times. Subject matter includes soft toys, cakes, soft drink cans, as well as other still life objects. Over the semester students develop a colorful portfolio of expressive two dimensional artworks that explore the elements and principles of art and work with various techniques and learn about mark making, color, pattern and value. They look at the work of famous contemporary artists as well as those from the past to help enhance their understanding of art production and appreciation.

Yearbook: Make your mark on the Middle School by becoming a member of the yearbook staff! Help chronicle a year in time while learning about graphic design, photography, and copywriting. Learn the basics of layout design and how to use Adobe InDesign, the software used by almost all major publications. Stand-alone projects will also allow you to practice your skills and flex your graphic design muscles. Of course, the most exciting part of being a yearbook staff member is being able to take the interviews you conduct and the photographs you collect or shoot and craft them into a book that everyone looks forward to receiving at the end of the year!

Grade 8

In Grade 8, students have an advisor who meets daily with a group of approximately 12 students. The Grade 8 school day is individually scheduled to allow students to follow a high-school-type schedule with different teachers and classrooms for each subject. Grade 8 students have unique academic, social and emotional needs. They are at an important stage of development where they require guidance and encouragement in making decisions and taking risks.

The advisor program serves a number of functions. On a practical level, it helps organize the grade into small groups for attendance, announcements, photo sessions and similar activities. Its main purpose is to facilitate activities to guide and promote personal and social development. Further, the advisory's daily meeting time provides the student with a school-centered home base. In addition to being the link to home, the student's advisor acts as an advocate for each of his/her advisees, and is the central source of academic, disciplinary, social and personal information about the student at team meetings and parent/teacher conferences. Along with small group settings, the advisor is available on an individual basis as a resource for each student.

Students take a full year of health education and choose two semester-long elective courses from a range of selections. Students also participate in a yearlong music course in band, choir, orchestra or carousel.

English

In Grade 8 English, students continue to grow more independent through our use of modified writers’ and readers’ workshops.

Students explore several genres of writing and media over the course of the year, with the central idea that purpose and audience drive format and style. Genres may include personal narrative, journalistic writing, fiction and poetry. Our classes are writing communities where students apply lessons to their own work and make decisions about their writing process. They practice writing to elicit intentional emotions or connections in their readers, creating greater awareness of the effects of words.

Vocabulary, grammar, and conventions are taught through direct instruction as well as within the context of student writing.

The goal of text study in Grade 8 is to expose students to a wide range of texts and to inspire actively involved readers. During the year, students work individually and collaboratively, both in guided and independent reading of genres including non fiction, drama, novels and poetry. For example, as part of our unit on drama, students take part in a workshop at The Globe Theatre—learning that drama is meant to be performed, not simply read. Students learn to analyze literature, practice annotating text, and participate in small group and whole class discussions. Reading serves as a model for writing and as a means to understand the world.

Students hone their speaking and listening skills through frequent in-class discussions as well as through the Art of Rhetoric unit, in which students analyze speeches and identify rhetorical devices, before writing and performing speeches of their own.

Mathematics

Students take one of two courses: Grade 8 mathematics or Algebra 1. Both courses are based upon the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. In Grade 8 mathematics, instructional time focuses on three critical areas: (1) formulating and reasoning about expressions and equations, including modeling an association in bivariate data with a linear equation, and solving linear equations and systems of linear equations; (2) grasping the concept of a function and using functions to describe quantitative relationships; (3) analyzing two- and three-dimensional space and figures using distance, angle, similarity, and congruence, and understanding and applying the Pythagorean Theorem. The Algebra 1 standards follow those set out in Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards. Both courses are taught from a variety of resources and the core resource is Connected Mathematics Project 3.

Throughout the Middle School, there is an emphasis on developing deeper understanding of concepts and how they are connected. We support problem-based learning; in mathematics, students are encouraged to make sense of a situation rather than memorizing techniques and algorithms. At each grade level, a select set of important mathematical concepts, ideas and related procedures are studied in depth rather than skimming through a larger set of ideas in a shallow manner. There is an emphasis on writing about mathematical understanding and demonstrating mastery through constructing viable arguments. All students in Grade 8 are expected to have a TI-84 graphing calculator. The calculator is used to carry out experiments and activities that allow students to explore concepts and topics in greater depth. This standard graphing calculator is also required for high school mathematics courses at ASL and may be used on SAT exams.

Reporting to parents is made through conferences, two progress reports and mid-semester access to the grade portal. The semester grade is comprised of unit tests, end of unit projects, presentations, quizzes, check-ups, partner quizzes, and investigative work. Homework completion is recorded and noted on the report card. All students who have not yet met content area standards will be given an opportunity to show their growth by making corrections to their assessments. Performance on a readiness test and final exam, as well as a student’s yearlong performance and teacher recommendations, play a role in course placement for the following year.

World languages and cultures

Download a flowchart of world language progressions (PDF).

The MS world languages program offers three levels of courses in Chinese, French and Spanish for students in Grade 8 (levels A, B and C).

Level A is aimed at true beginners and students who have had minimal academic exposure to the target language. A student who successfully completes the A course enters a high school level I course.

Level B is for students who have successfully completed a minimum of one full year of an academic program in their chosen language. A student who successfully completes the B course continues on to a high school level II course.

Level C is for students who have successfully completed a minimum of two full years of an academic program in their chosen language. Building on the skills acquired in the B course, students begin to use more complex sentence structures and expand their vocabulary. Through a variety of communicative activities, students continue to develop the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. A student who successfully completes the C course continues on to a high school level III course.

Science

Science in Grade 8 serves as a bridge to high school science studies and is the culmination of scientific inquiry in the Middle School. The theme of Energy and Matter is interwoven throughout the integrated curriculum. Students continue to develop and refine the scientific and engineering practices through the content areas of chemical reactions, the transfer of thermal energy, weather and climate, the cycling of matter and energy in organisms and ecosystems, as well as ecosystems’ interdependent relationships. The engineering standards within the curriculum are emphasized as students design several iterations within the criteria and constraints. Students continue to reinforce and master the ability to design and conduct experiments and to analyze, communicate and explain the results.

Social studies

The Grade 8 social studies course is designed to focus on the Anglo-American perspective of several themes. US history serves as the core to the curriculum, but its relationship to the UK, and the greater world, is also a major focus. The year begins with a unit on thinking and reading like a historian. This study informs and drives our studies throughout the year. The importance of questioning, challenging and analyzing are essential aspects of all our units.

Our three major units are:
1. Political roots of the UK and US
2. Human rights
3. Conflict and world wars
 
Current events are a continual focus as students connect historical events to present day via newspapers and other media sources. Throughout the year, students examine multiple perspectives, utilize primary and secondary sources and practice the skill of using evidence to support their point of view. Varied perspectives are explored starting with a brief review of the American Revolution, followed by an in-depth study of the challenges of creating a new government. Students examine the newly formed US government and Bill of Rights, and compare it to the British structure. Issues surrounding human rights range from past to present through a study of US and UK related involvement, from subjugation to modern-day slavery. Students then study conflict and world wars with an in-depth investigation of the European theater in World War II to prepare students for the spring trip to Normandy.

In the belief that Grade 8 is an important time to practice critical learning skills, throughout this year, students work on developing and honing skills such as: historical research, the art of argument (both oral and written), examining primary documents, and analyzing historical issues.

Texts and supplemental reading materials include History Alive!: The United States (Teacher’s Curriculum Institute), Heinemann History’s The Twentieth Century World, Reg Grant’s Amnesty International and Donald R. Burgett’s memoir, Currahee! A variety of online newspapers and news magazines, such as The Week, are used to access current events. Also integrated are numerous documentaries/movies/film clips appropriate to the different topics we study (e.g., World War I and World War II).

Performing arts

In the final year of middle school, every ASL student may choose two areas of concentration in the Performing Arts. These include:

  • Band
  • Choir
  • Orchestra
  • Dance
  • Drama

Grade 8 students will attend their two performing arts classes on alternating days, attending one class on Days 1 & 5, and attending the other class on Days 3 & 7.

It is also possible to do a “specialist” concentration in Orchestra or Band, meaning that you do that ONE music ensemble class all four times in the 8-day cycle.

Different combinations are possible apart from pairing dance with drama, and please note that there are no beginner instrument classes in Grade 8.

Band

This ensemble is for students with at least one year of experience playing a brass or woodwind or percussion instrument (percussion includes instruments such as snare drum and keyboard percussion such as marimba). The Grade 8 Band will play a wide variety of music. Members of the band will be eligible to audition for the European Middle School Honor Band.

 
Choir

This ensemble is for students who enjoy singing in a multi-part ensemble. Choir will be organized by gender to allow for vocal techniques and repertoire specific to adolescent development. The Grade 8 choirs will sing a wide variety of music and may include a cappella projects. No previous experience required. Members of the choir will be eligible to audition for European Middle School Honor Choirs.

 
Orchestra

This ensemble class is for students with at least one year of experience playing a bowed string instrument (violin, viola, cello, double bass). The Grade 8 Orchestra will develop intermediate-advanced string technique and play a wide variety of music. Members of the orchestra will be eligible to audition for the European Middle School Honor Orchestra.

 
Dance

This class is for students who wish to explore the art of dance and movement. Students will experience a variety of movement and dance forms through routines, improvisation, and performances both in and out of class to a variety of musical styles. No previous experience required.

 
Drama

This class is for students who wish to deepen their experience with the dramatic arts through improvisation, script-work, and performances both in and out of class. No previous experience required.

Field studies

Grade 8 students participate in an Outward Bound trip in the fall. Based at the Outward Bound center in Aberdovey, Wales, students and their advisors take part in outdoor activities and challenges. The trip emphasizes safety, group cooperation and responsibility, and age-appropriate risk-taking. The trip is of significant value to the individual student and to the positive dynamics of the grade as a whole throughout the school year. In the spring, Grade 8 students travel to the beaches of Normandy to visit World War II sites in connection with their study of American and European history.

Electives

Most students in Grade 8 take one elective each semester. Students in the specific learning differences program (SLD) in Grade 8 will take an elective for one semester. All students are asked to rank all available classes in order of their preferred choices (1 for first choice, 2 for second, up through 16 for last choice). Students are assigned to elective classes based on a combination of their choices, random lottery allocation, and to allow for a variety of disciplinary experiences within a student's middle school career. Depending on enrollment numbers, it may not be possible to offer all courses. No middle school elective is a prerequisite for a high school course.

Artful computing with Arduino: In this elective, students will explore a mix of electronics, computer science, and artistic whimsy by designing and building devices that interact with the world around them. Students will collaborate with others to think of interesting devices that emit light, make sounds, run motors, and respond to temperature, touch, sound, or light and then implement them using the Arduino sensor board. This course is a great opportunity to develop creativity, programming skills, artistry and invention. No prior experience is required.

Ceramics: This elective allows students to experience the creative and imaginative possibilities of clay. Students create both functional and sculptural pieces using pinch pot, slab and coil techniques, inspired by ceramic artists from many cultures and time periods. Sketchbooks are used for planning designs, documenting process and reflecting on their work. Students are encouraged to envision, explore, engage and persist as they develop their craft and methods of expression.

Dance: The dance elective provides an opportunity for students to learn about dance and choreography and its relation to music. Students will develop skills in new and innovative genres, such as the acrobatic techniques of break dance and the pace and dynamics of modern dance. Participating in dance develops coordination, strength, flexibility and musicality. It can also provide a foundation for students considering taking dance courses in high school. All levels of experience are welcome. Beginners and more experienced dancers will be challenged accordingly.

Design: In this course, students will be introduced to 2-D and 3-D modeling programs and sophisticated laser machining and 3D printing technology to construct innovative designs and products. Students will learn about the product design process and how to use powerful computer software. They will then use state-of-the-art tools to build their designed objects. No prior technology knowledge is required, just a good imagination.

Digital animation: This elective allows students to use state-of-the-art software to turn their wildest imaginative ideas into incredible 3D creations. The course is designed to teach the skills needed to produce a short 3D animated movie with a program called Maya. Students will learn how to model polygons to build characters and objects. Adding textures and colors to 3D creations and building a world, or a movie set for models to populate will follow. Next students will set up cameras and lighting and add movement so that the models fly, walk, crawl, roll, climb, slither, swim or move in some new creative way. If you can imagine it, you can build it in Maya.  

Digital filmmaking: This course focuses on the use of multi-media elements to tell a story. Students will learn what is involved in the filmmaking process and how to edit video clips in iMovie. Using sound and video, students will produce several digital media projects. They will be assessed on their ability to plan their projects, tell a story through movies, and demonstrate effective use of filmmaking and editing techniques.

Digital photography: By examining topics such as exposure, composition, and photographic vision, this course explores how to create compelling images. Students will complete short- and long-term projects in a range of genres such as photo essays, action, portrait and still life photography. The course will also introduce students to basic Adobe Photoshop editing skills. Since it is important to be able to take pictures on-the-go, the school provides digital cameras to the students, although students are also welcome to bring their own cameras from home. Students will maintain a digital portfolio of their best work in Picasa (through their school Google Docs accounts) to highlight their work throughout the semester.

Drama: The drama elective encourages students to explore their imagination, develop self-confidence and self-expression, reinforce speech and communication skills, as well as develop a general appreciation for the theater arts. Students are introduced to the elements of drama (location, character, problem, solution and ending) through the use of theater games, improvised storytelling and scripts. Through role-play, students reinforce their ability to use the elements of drama to develop improvised stories based on fairy tales, myths, dreams, books, films, and personal experiences, which they create, rehearse and present to their peers. Students are required to present an original final performance piece at the end of the semester.

Drawing and painting: In this elective, students develop their artistic skills and vision, working from observation and imagination. A variety of media is introduced as students expand their skills with painting, drawing and printmaking media. Subject matter includes candy, still life, lobsters, fish and animal portraits. Students work with watercolors, acrylic paint, colored pencils, chalk and oil pastels and inks. The work of various artists and their techniques is introduced to supplement students’ knowledge of how art is used in the world. Student work is displayed around the school and regular class critiques develop the use of art terminology to communicate ideas.

Explore London: What is your passion: Music? Art? History? Sports? Literature? The city is your extended classroom in this elective as we connect your interests to London’s past and present. Think outside the box and get outside of the building. Students will research and propose local excursions based on themes they care about, and help lead those trips. In addition, they will create and contribute to an ongoing reflective journal that will serve as a visual time capsule of what was discovered over the semester. In addition to time in the classroom, students will travel during the school day to various sites around London, sometimes within the elective block time and sometimes during class time and lunch/recess.  

Journalistic writing: Have you ever wanted to see your name in print or have your writing read by many people? This course teaches you the necessary skills to explore the world of journalism. Students examine different types of journalistic writing: news stories, feature stories that you might see in a magazine or the features section of a newspaper, sports stories, arts and entertainment stories such as music and movie reviews, opinions or commentary pieces, and many more. All writing is submitted to The Scroll or the Middle School Yearbook to be considered for publication.

Media studies: Students will explore the impact that media messages have on society and, specifically, themselves. By examining various media messages, such as magazine advertisements and TV commercials, students will learn how to deconstruct each ad to uncover the truth behind the messages. Students will also learn how to use Photoshop, InDesign and iMovie in order to create their own media messages.

Psychology: This class provides a basic overview of the field of psychology. On the first day of the course, students complete a survey based on the topics they are most interested in, and the curriculum unfolds largely based on their responses. Interactive learning and individual research are emphasized. Explored topics include brain development and function, psychological disorders and treatments, states of consciousness, motivation, and learning styles. We go on a field trip to the Freud Museum and complete the semester with a student-conducted psychological experiment and presentation.

Sculpture: This class allows students to experience the creative and imaginative possibilities of a variety of three-dimensional mediums. Inspired by sculptors and designers from different cultures and time periods, students plan and create sculptural pieces using materials such as paper mache, wire, found objects, and clay. With a focus on individual expression and personal meaning, students are encouraged to push their creative boundaries as they envision ideas, explore possibilities, and develop their sculptural craft.

Service learning: Are you interested in making our school, our city, and our world a better place? In this class students will investigate issues in our community, locally and globally, and use skills and interests to affect positive change. Students will learn more about topics that are important to them, and make plans and decisions for action. With continual reflection and revision, students’ skills will improve and their positive impact will continue to grow. Service learning is an opportunity to be a leader and to make a difference here at ASL and beyond!

Yearbook: Make your mark on the Middle School by becoming a member of the yearbook staff! Help chronicle a year in time while learning about graphic design, photography, and copywriting. Learn the basics of layout design and how to use Adobe InDesign, the software used by almost all major publications. Stand-alone projects will also allow you to practice your skills and flex your graphic design muscles. Of course, the most exciting part of being a yearbook staff member is being able to take the interviews you conduct and the photographs you collect or shoot and craft them into a book that everyone looks forward to receiving at the end of the year!