Core academics overview

All Middle School students are expected to carry a full program of studies. Generally, this means core courses in English, mathematics, world languages, science, social studies and performing arts. Students in the SLD or EAL program may have to forgo the study of a world language.

In addition, physical education and health are required in all grades. Art and drama are required in Grades 5 and 6. In Grades 7 and 8, students may choose from a wide variety of special subject electives, which includes the visual arts, performing arts, technology and service learning.


The Middle School English program focuses on developing skills that enable students to be successful and confident readers, writers, speakers, and listeners. Our curriculum is informed by the Common Core State Standards in ELA (CCSS). When appropriate, the curriculum integrates literature selections with units of study in the social studies program, particularly in Grades 5 and 6, when English and social studies are taught as a combined humanities course.

In our writing program, students work through a spiraled curriculum, which emphasizes narrative, informational, and opinion or argument writing at each grade level, with increasing levels of complexity. Teachers model effective writing skills and strategies through direct instruction, and feedback is provided to students in a variety of ways. Writing instruction is based on a writers' workshop model. The goals of writers' workshop are to increase students’ ownership and awareness of the process and craft of their writing. The principles that underpin the classroom program have been derived from research about how student and professional writers actually write. These principles, which are the basis of our classroom practice, suggest that writers need the following: regular blocks of time in which to think, write, confer, revise and edit; response or feedback on their writing; choice of topic and autonomy to make decisions about their written pieces; and time to read.

Another key principle of writers' workshop is that students learn about the mechanics of writing within the context of their own reading and writing work. Skills are introduced through direct instruction and reinforced through independent practice and application in students’ own writing. All students in Grade 5-8 use the online program No Red Ink to reinforce their grammar and conventions skills.

In reading, students are exposed to a variety of literary genres, with the aim of fostering growth in fluency, comprehension, critical thinking skills and insight. Our reading program builds class community and serves as a vehicle for developing students' understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Reading instruction is balanced between whole-class studies of a text and opportunities for students to explore texts in smaller groups or partnerships, incorporating student choice whenever possible. Classroom discussions and written responses to reading are core components of the curriculum. At all levels, students are expected to increase their reading stamina, and regular independent reading is a critical component of this goal.

Throughout our program, students learn to communicate their ideas and to participate effectively in class discussions. Teachers utilize a variety of classroom discussion protocols to ensure equity of student voice and to model different ways of participating. Students develop active listening skills such as paraphrasing, questioning, and summarizing, as they learn to reflect on and build upon the contributions of their classmates.


The Middle School mathematics program is the combination of a set of math learning standards and the instruction used to guide students toward meeting those standards and inspire students to "see mathematics as an exciting, useful and creative field of study”. The Common Core Math Standards (CCSS), designed from research of and benchmarks from a number of different countries’ math curriculum including Australia, Japan, Singapore and the United States and adopted for use by almost every state in the U.S., have been adopted by ASL and in use since the 2012-13 school year.

Each grade level has a year sequence of units of study which provide a road map for each student’s math learning. The CCSS provide not only the vertical curricular coherence, mathematical rigor, and instructional focus necessary to build a strong foundation but also push for students to regularly be engaged in mathematics practices that will equip them for smooth transitions to the next grade or course as well as direction toward STEM careers. The following are the Math Practice Standards that are a crucial part of the students’ learning experiences in school:

•    Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
•    Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
•    Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
•    Model with mathematics.
•    Use appropriate tools strategically.
•    Attend to precision.
•    Look for and make use of structure. 
•    Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. 

Solving rich problems are at the heart any math program that prepares students for the future. Problems are sometimes presented as situations that are open-ended with multiple answers that make sense and sometimes as a situation that will have just one answer but many pathways to the solution. Rich problems also challenge students to make decisions about how to proceed or what mathematical knowledge or connection to apply. Each year they add to their repertoire of strategies for tackling and solving problems with different kinds of numbers and more complexity. Communication of mathematical reasoning is critical so students are expected to present their solutions and thinking, either orally or in writing, to their classmates and/or teacher. In this way, students’ understanding is articulated and shared so that everyone’s thinking is developed.

Assessment in the mathematics program is ongoing and varied to provide feedback to the student, teacher and parents about the student's progress throughout the year. Homework, quizzes, projects and tests generally comprise the formal evaluation. Informal evaluation may include self-assessment and observations made by the teacher. Placement for the following year is determined by performance on a readiness exam, ERB results, a student's yearlong progress and the current teacher's recommendation.

In conclusion, the math program includes the clearly defined Common Core Math learning standards organized into the following mathematical domains: Ratios and Proportional Relationships, The Number System, Expressions and Equations, Geometry and Statistics and Probability. The instructional focus includes regular and frequent student use of the Math Practice Standards and a balanced approach to the use of direct teaching, guided discovery, skill practice to maximize the understanding and efficient recall of procedures and knowledge toward becoming more effective problem-solvers each year.

The grade level or course math standards can be referenced for more detail but instruction time will focus on these five critical areas:

•    Ratios and Proportional Relationships
•    The Number System
•    Expressions and Equations
•    Geometry
•    Statistics and Probability


The Middle School science program aims to instill an awareness and understanding of the natural world and a love for scientific inquiry. Our curriculum is informed by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and provides opportunities to apply scientific and engineering practices and skills. Science classes employ a variety of labs, activities investigations and projects emphasizing the cross-cutting concepts of cause and effect, scale, proportion and quantity, systems, energy and matter, patterns, structure and function, and stability and change within the specific content areas in each grade level. These experiences are introduced and investigated as students at each grade level explore the Physical, Life and Earth Sciences, and Engineering and Design.

Social studies

The social studies program is designed to help students understand the world today through building an awareness of its history, geography and civilizations. Developing appropriate attitudes toward self and others is also a part of social studies, as well as promoting a sense of responsibility for one's actions. Interdisciplinary integration takes place whenever possible.

Standards established by the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) and American Education Reaches Out (AERO), a project of the Near East South Asia (NESA) Council of Overseas Schools, serve as a guide to our program. To shape our units, we use essential questions that focus on key concepts. Through explorations of these key concepts in history, geography and society, we develop an understanding of the past, its influences on the present and implications for the future.

The teaching of specific social studies skills is integral to the program. Assessments are aimed at providing purposeful tasks that give all students the opportunity to demonstrate understanding. Varied assessment practices, including conventional tests, are used to give teachers a holistic picture of student performance.

Each grade level integrates geography skills appropriate to the major themes to be studied during the year, which are:

  • Grade 5: World geography.

    Themes: Change and influence

  • Grade 6: Ancient civilizations.

    Themes: What makes a civilization?

  • Grade 7: British history.

    Themes: Impact of government, religion and revolution on society

  • Grade 8: Current events and American history. Themes: Tyranny, human rights, and the US as a world power

Eight standards, adopted by ASL K-12 social studies teachers, guide the program. Standards are addressed where appropriate in each grade level.

Standard 1:

Time, continuity and change
Students will understand patterns of change and continuity, relationships between people and events through time, and various interpretations of these relationships.

Standard 2:

Connections and conflict
Students will understand causes and effects of interaction and interdependence among societies, including trade, systems of international exchange, wars and diplomacy.

Standard 3:

People, places and environment
Students will understand the concepts of geography and demography, and how geography and demography influence and are influenced by human history.

Standard 4:

Students will understand cultural and intellectual developments and interactions among and within societies.

Standard 5:

Society and identity
Students will understand social systems, institutions and structures and the reciprocal influences of these on the development and identity of individuals.

Standard 6:

Governance and citizenship
Students will understand how and why societies create and adopt systems of governance and other authoritative structures, how these structures address human needs and rights, citizens' responsibilities, and the ideals, principles and practices of citizenship.

Standard 7:

Production, distribution and consumption
Students will understand fundamental economic principles, and ways in which economies are shaped by geographic and human factors.

Standard 8:

Science, technology and society
Students will understand how societies have influenced and been influenced by scientific and technological developments.

World languages and cultures

The ability to communicate effectively with speakers of languages other than English is an essential skill in today's world, fostering greater cultural awareness and understanding. The team builds on and develops the student's confidence and enthusiasm for other languages and focuses on the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing through functions in culturally based discrete contexts.

The Middle School world languages program offers a range of courses in French, Spanish and Chinese for students in Grades 5-8. Classes are conducted in the target language, as appropriate to the students' level of proficiency, and are designed to develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

Beginners courses are aimed at students who were not in a yearlong world languages program during the previous school year. If a student successfully completes a beginners course, s/he will enter a continuers course the following year. Continuers courses are for students who have successfully completed at least one full year of an academic program in their chosen language.

Seven standards, established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and adopted by ASL K-12 world languages teachers, guide the program. Standards are addressed where appropriate in each grade level.

Standard 1:

Interpersonal communication
Students will engage in conversation, express feeling and emotions, and exchange information and opinions orally and in writing in the target language.

Standard 2:

Interpretive communication
Students will understand and interpret written and spoken language on a number of topics presented through a variety of media in the target language.

Standard 3:

Presentational communication
Students will present information, concepts and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics in the target language.

Standard 4:

Students will gain knowledge and demonstrate understanding of the relationships between practices, products and perspectives of cultures other than their own.

Standard 5:

Students will develop insight into the nature of language and culture by comparing their own languages and cultures with those of others.

Standard 6:

Students will acquire, reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through their world languages studies, and will recognize the ways information acquired in world languages classes, and in other classes, relate to and reinforce one another.

Standard 7:

Students will use language and/or demonstrate cultural knowledge and understanding within and beyond the school setting for personal, educational, and professional growth and enrichment.

Performing arts: music

The primary goal of the department is to provide an experience through which students can consider themselves to be musicians: musically literate, technically secure, and confident in performance. The emphasis of the Middle School music program in grades 5-7 is on instrumental and choral ensembles; performing together, in a safe and mutually supportive environment is at the core of a student’s musical experience. Beginning in Grade 5, all students in these grades learn either a band or string orchestra instrument, and sing in the grade level choir. In Grade 8, and as a gateway to High School elective choices, students have the opportunity to add dance and drama to their existing musical experiences in a Performing Arts class.

In line with the rest of the Core Academic subjects, students in music are assessed against a set of Standards. The reporting standards below are derived from the four National Core Arts Standards of Perform, Create, Connect, and Respond.

Reporting standards:

  • Develops and refines artistic ideas and work
  • Brings to life artistic works and ideas through the process of interpretation, refinement, and presentation
  • Applies criteria to analyze and evaluate artistic works and ideas, in order to deepen understanding
  • Relates artistic works and ideas with personal experiences and a greater context

Additionally each student will receive a rating on their performance on the six ASL Approaches to Learning: Collaborative, Respectful, Responsible, Reflective, Engaged, and Resilient.

ASL is a member school of the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS), and through this organization a number of extra curricular opportunities exist for our most advanced musicians.

Special subjects

Middle school special subject courses are designed to appeal to all students and to develop a well-rounded student body. Grade 5 and 6 students take a sampling of curriculum in each area, while Grade 7 and 8 students may choose one elective for each semester.


By providing relevant information, exploring personal attitudes and values and supporting healthy decision-making, the middle school encourages students to take responsibility for the choices they make. Lessons are designed to give students the practical tools they need to reduce risk factors and promote protective factors in their day-to-day lives.

Students contribute to the curriculum for the health class, which meets once per cycle, by raising those health issues which are important to them. Content and teaching methods also evolve based on regular student, teacher and program assessment.

Key curriculum components include: mindfulness, building respectful relationships, strengthening trust and cooperation, mastering communication and helping skills, drug education, sex education, healthy eating, physical fitness, learning to use refusal and conflict resolution skills, media literacy and gender equity. Programs that reinforce the health curriculum include Natural Helpers, Project Adventure, advisory activities, and the Counseling Team.

Health is assessed pass/fail against six standards. Students are expected to:

  • Comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention
  • Demonstrate the ability to access valid health information, and health- promoting products and services
  • Demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and reduce health risks
  • Analyze the influence of culture, media, technology and other factors on health
  • Demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health, and to advocate for personal, family and community health
  • Demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting and decision-making skills to enhance health

Physical education

The Middle School physical education program is designed to encourage maximum participation during class time as well as the means to improve a student's fitness, and develop motor, social and personal skills. During each term, students in Grades 5-8 participate in a variety of sports and activities which meet three times each eight-day cycle. Classes take place both indoors and outdoors throughout the year.

The Middle School program aims for students to:

  • Acquire and refine the motor skills necessary to participate in a variety of physical activities
  • Demonstrate an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities
  • Achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness, and demonstrate knowledge of fitness and wellness principles
  • Exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Value physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction

All Middle School students who are physically able are required to take PE. Attendance requirements for PE are the same as they are for other academic classes. Absence from PE for up to three days due to a small injury or convalescence is possible with a parent's note. For longer periods, a physician's statement is required. Students who are excused from participating in PE activities for health reasons are still expected to attend their PE classes.

Students in Grades 5-6 are given a pass/fail for PE. Reflecting the expectation for a higher skill level in later grades, students in Grades 7 and 8 receive a grade for PE. A student's grade is based on the PE standards, participation, effort and being appropriately dressed for class as well as meeting the goals set for each unit. The Middle School PE uniform consists of appropriate footwear and the ASL shorts and T-shirt, which are given to all students at the start of their Middle School careers. Replacements may be purchased from the PE department. Suitable clothing, such as sweatpants and sweatshirt, is recommended with the PE uniform for outdoor classes.

PE is assessed against five standards. Students are expected to:

  • Demonstrate, transfer and adapt motor skills and movement patterns as needed to perform a variety of physical activities
  • Demonstrate an understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies and evaluating performance as they apply to the learning of physical activities.
  • Take part and be involved in all lessons, complete tasks and be responsible for their own learning
  • Exhibit sportsmanship, and responsible personal and social behavior, that respects self and others in physical activity settings
  • Demonstrate a positive attitude to all activities, actively seek opportunities for challenge and set goals for personal progress 


Fostering new ways of seeing the world and encouraging self-expression through a wide range of media are the major aims of the Middle School art program. Grade 5 and 6 students take art throughout the year and explore a variety of media such as paint, pencil, chalk, ink and some three-dimensional media. Projects stress creativity and imagination, while heightening the students' awareness of concepts central to the fine arts, such as composition, color theory, design and perspective. Grade 7 and 8 students who wish to develop further their artistic talents may choose from several elective courses, such as Studio Art, Ceramics and Digital Photography.

Art is assessed against the following six standards. Students are expected to:

  • Create artwork using the most appropriate techniques and processes
  • Communicate ideas and experiences using chosen techniques and processes
  • Demonstrate increasing technical ability and skill to complete assignments
  • Apply known techniques in new and different ways
  • Analyze artistic problems leading to resolution
  • Reflect upon and assess characteristics and merits of their art work


The School recognizes the importance of technology in the modern world; information technology education is therefore an integral part of the Middle School curriculum. The work done by Middle School students is intended not only to expand students' knowledge of computing, but also to enhance the learning process by enabling students to access, organize and analyze information, improve communications skills and express ideas.

The Grade 5-6 information technology program is designed to introduce students to different software and the use of the Internet. Increasing keyboard and word-processing skills is integrated into the Grade 5 and 6 curricula. A variety of semester-long electives are offered for students in Grades 7 or 8. These courses explore more advanced areas of information technology, such as design/publishing, visual media and programming/robotics. The emphasis of these courses is the use of the computer as a resource for study and for the presentation of information.

In addition to those in the Middle School computer lab, there are computers available for students in each grade area, as well as floating laptop labs. It is mandatory for students in Grades 7 and 8 to have their own ASL-specified laptop to participate in both the core subject and elective programs.

Middle School Laptop Program

All Grade 7 and 8 students participate in the MS Laptop Program. The School provides each Grade 7 student with a specifically configured Apple laptop at the start of the school year. Students take the laptops home during the school year, but laptops remain the property of ASL and are returned at the end of the school year.

The Middle School requires each student to have a backpack to protect and conceal the laptop. Each family should ensure students are able to print from the laptop at home. It is also strongly advised that students have Internet connectivity at home from the first day of school.


The Middle School drama program engages students in a variety of cooperative activities designed to channel thoughts and emotions in a creative and productive manner. Through role-play, improvisation and puppetry, students experience and develop self-confidence, self-awareness and communication skills as well as an appreciation for the dramatic arts. All Grade 5 and 6 students participate in drama for the whole year, to develop imagination and creativity through theater games. Improvisation is used to create stories based on fairy tales, myths and personal experiences. Grade 7 and 8 students have the opportunity to continue their involvement by choosing drama as an elective for one semester. The Grade 7 and 8 drama program expands on the skills learned in Grades 5 and 6, with the focus on developing stories from personal experiences. Each year, there is a Middle School drama production, which is open to students in Grades 7 and 8. This is an extracurricular activity that takes place over a period of 10 weeks.


Library and media literacy skills have taken on a new dimension due to the information explosion and development of new technologies. In the Middle School, the classroom teacher and librarians work together to integrate the learning of library and information gathering skills into the instructional program, and the skills are taught and reinforced in the context of projects and assignments. The Mellon Library believes that a successful approach to research incorporates the best of traditional and technological methods, and that these paths are not mutually exclusive. The Mellon Library webpage serves as an information portal that assembles threads of research, whether they lead to print or electronic documents. Recommended research paths identify the best and most age-appropriate information available on a given topic, regardless of its format. The librarians encourage students to become effective lifelong users of library and information resources.

Other Grade 7 and 8 electives

Grade 7 and 8 students choose one elective each semester from a variety of subjects. Courses are offered in the following areas: Ceramics, Dance, Drama, Digital Animation, Art, Journalism, Psychology, Robotics, Service Learning, Math, Yearbook and Yoga.