Middle School Curriculum

Making a building model in Visual Arts.

Developing
Independence

The Middle School program is designed to give students an increasing level of independence over their three years in Middle School. In the 6th grade, students are assigned to a homebase teacher who meets with them several times a week. In addition, each student in the homebase group is assigned to the same four teachers for mathematics, history, science, and English. This allows for meetings and coordination to take place between those disciplines and provides a way for the teams of teachers to meet and discuss the students they share. In the 7th and 8th grades, the students meet with their homebase teacher a few times a week as part of the advisory program. They have their own individualized schedules but meet up with classmates at lunch and grade-level meetings. Middle School students take five academic subjects, an arts course, and physical education.


Arts

In 6th and 7th grade, students choose to study two of our three art disciplines: Music, TDF (Theater, Dance, and Film), and Visual Arts. After exposure to these varied art experiences in the first two MS years, 8th graders choose to focus on a full year course in one of these disciplines.


Music
Students in grades 6 and 7 with a background and interest in beginning or continuing a musical instrument can elect to enroll in exciting ensembles, such as a String Ensemble or Concert Band that features woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Department of Music students begin to focus in their last year of Middle School (Grade 8) with longer and more frequent class meetings. These students have the opportunity to study in various performing groups, such as Arioso (the 8th Grade Choral Ensemble), Orchestra, Wind Symphony, Concert Band, Jazz Combos, and Jazz Ensemble. 


Drama
Students become familiar with the performance possibilities and theatrical facilities at Riverdale and are introduced to acting, staging, auditioning, lighting, and video.


Visual Arts
These courses consist of an introduction to the basic elements of two-dimensional art. Students learn various aspects of basic drawing and composition as a foundation to all other work in the visual arts.


Dance
Students explore the fundamentals of movement and creative expression and learn the basics of ballet, jazz, and modern dance technique.


Physical Education

Physical Education promotes the personal growth of each child. It provides opportunities for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction. Our aim is to develop physically educated individuals who have knowledge, skills, sportsmanship, appreciation of exercise, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of physical activity. We value lifelong learning of individual fitness, health, and sport skills by creating a safe environment that promotes teamwork, encouragement and finding your personal best. We emphasize integrating physical skills and body awareness in order to create an enjoyable and healthy lifestyle.


GRADE 6 COURSES


Middle School
Design

This is a year-long course that is divided into quarterly units. The first quarter is dedicated to Study Skills, a class designed to help students adjust to the academic demands of the Middle School. During this unit, Learning Specialists teach students skills and strategies that are typically challenging, yet increasingly important, for sixth graders, including independent problem solving, test preparation, test taking, time management, active listening, and organization. During the next three quarters, students rotate through units in Technology, Outdoor Education, and Maker’s Lab. Throughout the course, the students also occasionally work with the Community Engagement Team to draw connections between these units and our campus community.


English 6

A course designed to develop students’ writing, vocabulary, grammar, reading, and textual analysis skills and to broaden understanding of the writer’s craft through the thematic study of literature. The works studied include Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, and Esther Hautzig’s The Endless Steppe, books whose common themes are social: diversity, belonging, and class. An important goal of the course is to develop an appreciation of the power of literature to transform students’ lives through vicarious expansion of their experience and through critical and sympathetic understanding of literary characters.


History 6:
The History and Culture
of New York City

Students in History 6 immerse themselves in the cultural, geographic and social history of New York City. The course traces four major themes: resources, labor, immigration, and urban planning from the Lenape roots of the city to the present day. We take a case study approach that allows students to go in depth within specific historical periods and make comparisons and connections across time. The course is writing intensive, with a focus on making formal arguments through carefully structured paragraphs that support ideas with evidence. There are also opportunities for creative projects and field trips throughout the year that let sixth graders live out the experiences of New Yorkers across time and place.


Mathematics 6

Math 6 is designed to improve students’ ability to interpret and display data, solve word problems, and perform computations with whole numbers, integers, fractions, and decimals. Students will be introduced to using variables to represent unknown quantities and solving basic algebraic equations. A variety of problem-solving strategies will be emphasized as students explore topics in number theory, geometry, measurement, and probability. A pull-out level of our Math 6 course is offered to students based on placement test results.


Science 6:
Earth and Environmental Science

A hands-on and technological approach to applying the scientific method and making connections between physical science concepts and the real world. Students investigate Earth’s structure, plate tectonics, and the role of water in shaping our planet. Lab activities are a regular part of the semester and are included within each unit of study.


Language

Students are required to take a language class in Chinese, French, Latin, or Spanish. After 6th grade, students who would benefit from study strategy and executive function support from our Learning Research team take a Study Skills course in lieu of those language classes.


Chinese 6
The first course in the basic Chinese language course series designed to introduce the language and cultures of the Chinese-speaking peoples. It presupposes no prior knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. This course aims to provide the student with a rudimentary knowledge of the Chinese romanization system (pinyin), pronunciation, tones, the writing system, vocabulary, and sentence structure.


French 6
Language study at this level becomes more structured. Students acquire more basic oral, listening, writing, and reading skills as they move through a curriculum of thematic units. At this level, the student’s grade will be based on his or her class participation, short daily homework assignments, occasional larger projects, and, of course on oral and written tests. The weight of each of these factors will vary, with the formal in-class assessments usually deemed the most important.


Latin 6
A reading-based introduction to the Latin language and to Roman civilization. The textbook Ecce Romani and supplemental materials introduce at least the first three declensions of nouns and adjectives, several tenses of verb forms, as well as pronouns and infinitives. Students explore word roots, derivatives, and the wide influence of Latin on English vocabulary. Roman civilization is examined through a study of daily life in ancient Italy and through myths and history.


Spanish 6
Language study at this level becomes more structured. Students acquire more basic oral, listening, writing and reading skills as they move through a curriculum of thematic units.


GRADE 7 COURSES


Health 7

Health 7 is a full year, pass/fail course which meets once a week. The Health 7 course focuses primarily on issues related to the social/emotional health of young people, problem solving and good decision making.


English 7

English 7 develops students’ writing skills and introduces them to the thematic study of literature, using books that are accessible and interesting to young readers. The works studied include Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In all of these works, the authors address ambition and hope blocked by adversity or injustice. Creative and analytical writing are included in the curriculum, and different modes of writing are frequently assigned. Rules of the Game 2 is used to teach formal grammar and usage.


History 7:
American Politics and Government

How can we understand the same events from different perspectives? Why do written rules succeed or fail? When is compromise necessary? What’s the difference between what is right and what is legal? These are the questions we will be exploring in seventh grade history. We will spend the year in an in-depth study of American government. A key component of the course will be a series of simulations, in which students take on the role of various political players: senators, diplomats, judges, and protest leaders. The course also emphasizes persuasive writing, careful annotation of primary and secondary sources, and the ability to make connections between theory and reality, past and present.


Mathematics 7:
Pre-Algebra

A course designed to strengthen students’ competence in arithmetic and to introduce them to the concepts and skills that they need in subsequent courses in mathematics and related fields. Topics include fractions and decimals, integers, non-base 10 systems, algebraic expressions and equations, ratios, proportions and percents, graphing in the coordinate plane, topics in plane and solid geometry, roots and radicals, problem-solving, number theory, and introduction to statistics and probability. An honors level of our Math 7 course is offered to those students who have successfully completed Mathematics 6 (Pull-Out). Students new to Riverdale may also be placed in Math 7 Honors, as may returning students who both excelled in our regular Math 6 course and demonstrated the ability to think critically and creatively.


Science 7:
Life Science

A hands-on approach to life science with an emphasis on developing scientific inquiry skills by having students engage in experimental design, investigation, data analysis, and oral and written communication of scientific explanations of biological concepts. Topics include cell biology, the human body, and ecology. The integration of technology with science is emphasized, especially in projects.


Language

Chinese 7
This course builds upon the elementary knowledge and skills introduced in Chinese 6 and continues to focus on deepening, strengthening, and refining the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. This course introduces students to uncomplicated and familiar communicative tasks and grammatical structures related to self, family, home, daily activities, interests, personal preferences, as well as personal needs such as shopping and traveling. By the end of Chinese 7, students will be exposed to approximately 400 frequently-used simplified characters and will be expected to actively use 170 of them.

French 7
This course is designed to develop and strengthen skills in the four main components of language acquisition: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Basic grammatical principles and level-appropriate vocabulary, as well as oral/aural practice using the state-of-the-art language lab, will be used to foster eventual second-language use in the classroom. Films, short stories, the Internet, and other media will be used to reinforce grammar and vocabulary work.


Latin 7
A continuation to the Latin language and to Roman civilization. Ecce Romani and supplemental materials introduce declensions, indicative verb forms, pronouns and infinitives. Word roots, word formation, and derivatives are explored. Roman civilization is examined through a study of the city of Rome and through myths and history. After Latin 7, students enter into the Upper School course, Latin II.


Spanish 7
This course is designed to develop and strengthen skills in the four main components of language acquisition: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Basic grammatical principles and level-appropriate vocabulary, as well as oral/aural practice using the state-of-the-art language lab, will be used to foster eventual second-language use in the classroom. Films, short stories, the Internet, and other media will be used to reinforce grammar and vocabulary work.


GRADE 8 COURSES


Health 8

Health 8 is a full year, pass/fail course which meets once a week. Health 8 focuses primarily on issues related to the physical health of adolescents.


English 8

English 8 provides a study of selected novels, plays, memoirs and poems, with continual attention to developing skills in personal narrative and analytical writing, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. The longer works include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (summer reading), J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Sophocles’s Antigone, and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Students also read selected poems, particularly sonnets, and essays, along with additional works selected by each teacher. Class discussion focuses on imagery and symbolism, character development, plot, style, and narrative points of view. Significant time is devoted to the development of writing skills.


History 8:
World Geography and Ancient Cultures

History 8 introduces the history of early India, Han dynasty China, ancient Rome, early Islam, and the Middle Niger Delta.  Each unit centers on a set of essential questions. Early India and Hinduism: What are the attributes of a good ruler?  How are these ideals established? Han Dynasty China: To what extent does ideology—in other words, ideas about how government should function—shape the actions of government leaders, and to what extent do leaders act on the basis of practical necessity? The Roman Republic and Empire: How do multiethnic states deal with the religious minority groups that reside within their borders? How are these groups perceived? What rights are they granted? What privileges are they denied? Why? Early Islamic Caliphate: How does a government expand the territory it controls and consolidate its power over that region? Middle Niger Delta: What are effective systems of power in a variable geographic environment and climate? How does a government maintain peace in a multiethnic society?

Over the course of the year, students will practice reading scholarly secondary sources, become more adept at understanding and analyzing primary sources, and work on crafting well–reasoned historical arguments. In addition, students are required to learn the geographical locations of every contemporary country in the world.


Algebra I

Algebra I is a course that covers the basic structure and techniques of algebra and develops students’ facility in applying algebraic concepts and skills. Topics include the real number system, equations and expressions, absolute values and inequalities, linear equations and inequalities, systems of linear equations and inequalities, word problems, polynomials, rational expressions and equations, quadratic equations, irrational numbers, and an introduction to functions. An honors version of the course is offered to those who successfully completed Mathematics 7 Honors. Students new to Riverdale may also be placed in Algebra I Honors, as might returning students who both excelled in our regular Math 7 course and demonstrated the ability to think critically and creatively.


Science 8:
Chemical and Physical Science

A hands-on approach to chemistry and physical science with an emphasis on applications to environmental science, atmospheric science and earth science. Areas of investigation include properties of matter, states of matter, atomic structure, the periodic table, chemical bonds, acids and bases, and nuclear chemistry. Each topic in this course will be introduced with a case study that will be followed by an in-depth look at the science behind the case study. Labs and activities will reinforce the concepts, along with discussion of the topic in science and history and current news articles.


Language

Chinese 8
Chinese 8 builds upon the preparatory knowledge and skills introduced in Chinese 7 and continues to focus on deepening, strengthening, and refining the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. This course introduces students to familiar communicative tasks related to weather, food, directions, and social life, as well as personal needs such as seeing a doctor, giving gifts, etc. Authentic and more complicated Chinese grammatical structures are also introduced in this course, such as the comparative structure, resultative complements, direction and location words, time duration expressions, “ba” construction, potential complements and directional complements.

French 8
A review and enhancement of basic grammar and skill in oral communication. Readings vary but usually include material from Bienvenue, plus an extended chapter story in French, “Le Mystère des Faux Billets.” Vocabulary is taken from the readings, the texts, and classroom situations. About thirty minutes’ of homework is assigned after every class. Assessments during the quarter include oral projects, one or two major tests, quizzes, and dictations.


Latin II
A course that completes the introduction of grammar, including participles, and the subjunctive mood and its uses. With Ecce Romani II, this course prepares the students to begin to read Latin literature.


Spanish II
Students who have completed Spanish Ia and Ib in 6th and 7th grade have completed the equivalent of Spanish I, the introductory high school Spanish course. So those 8th graders enroll in Spanish II, a review and enhancement review and enhancement of basic grammar and skill in oral communication covered in Spansih. Readings vary but usually include material from Bienvenidos, plus extended readings in the Spanish reader, Alejandro. Vocabulary is taken from the readings, the texts, and classroom situations.

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