Middle School (Grades 1-4)
Middle School Coordinator Dawn Wheatley.
The Middle School consists of six classrooms located on the third and fourth floors, with two classrooms for each age group: 6/7s, 7/8s, 8/9s, and 9/10s.
Children in the Middle School benefit from specialist teachers in woodworking, art, music, drama, physical education, Spanish, and, in the oldest group, a math and science specialist. The two youngest groups, the 6/7s and the 7/8s, also have classes with a movement specialist. All groups use the school library and have computers in their classrooms.
Curriculum in the Middle School
An educational approach that addresses the entire emotional, social, physical and intellectual being of a child.
The social studies curricula in the Middle School gradually move from the "here and now" in the 6/7s to "long ago" in the 7/8s and 8/9s and to "far away" in the 9/10s. Students continue to learn primarily from direct experience; however, as they get older, they also resort to other, less immediate sources of knowledge such as books, museums, pictures, documents, and computers.
Through this kind of work, children begin to make powerful connections between historical and distant occurrences and the situations they experience in their everyday lives. All of the social studies curricula draw upon and extend children's developing skills as readers and writers. In each study, children have opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary activities that enrich their learning in a variety of ways.
Children's reading experiences range from whole and small group to individual instruction; from the development of phonetic and comprehension skills and understanding to a focus on the more advanced skills of prediction, characterization, and author's language; and from discussions about specific books aimed at developing an appreciation and love of literature to the individual exercises aimed at supporting reading and writing skills. Throughout all these experiences children listen to stories, read their own books, read recipes and math sheets, write observations and answer questions on trip sheets, work from workbooks, and write their own pieces.
During weekly trips to the library, the librarian reads and discusses stories from different literary genres. Children borrow books and learn about the organization and uses of the library.
Our writing program offers children a variety of genres. Teachers expect children to respond to assigned writing and to originate their own topics. Students use writing to explore and express their beliefs; to synthesize information and to incorporate the conventions of writing spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, and organization in to their written work. Learning how to revise and edit is a major emphasis in our work with students. Students recognize teachers and other adults as learners and writers, meet with peers for help and advice, and share work in both small and large groups. They feel the importance of having the authority to make some choices about how and what they write, and they realize that rethinking and revising are natural and essential parts of the writing process.
The Middle School mathematics program emphasizes conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas. Students explore relationships and properties of number through the use of materials, including Unifix cubes, Dienes blocks, color cubes, and pattern blocks, before they write down their discoveries. They learn to perform fundamental operations and derive algorithms (common procedures for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) by using manipulatives. Middle School children relate mathematics to practical and real-life situations through measurement, telling time, money, mapping, graphing, patterns, spatial relations, and statistics.
The program provides a balance between the development of a strong number sense and problem solving skills on the one hand, and practicing computational skills on the other. Math instruction involves a variety of experiences, including investigations with materials, class discussions, games, projects, and paper and pencil work.
At each age level, students review, consolidate, and build on prior knowledge. Teachers encourage students to develop their own intuitive mathematical sense and to trust their hypotheses. There is as much emphasis on the strategy, process, and mental exercise used to solve a problem as on getting the right answer. Valuing the process as well as the product is an essential part of the school's philosophy regarding learning; we believe learners internalize new concepts through a thorough grasp of the process involved.
Mathematics is taught by the classroom teacher in the 6/7s, 7/8s and 8/9s, and by a math/science teacher in the 9/10s.
Teachers develop the Middle School science curriculum in collaboration with the Middle School Coordinator and the Math/Science Coordinator. Science is taught by the classroom teacher in the 6/7s, 7/8s and 8/9s, and by a math/science teacher in the 9/10s.
Across the age groups, the study of science is hands-on, inquiry based, and interdisciplinary. Scientific investigations are organized around real-life experiences so students can build hypotheses and ask questions about the world around them.
Students meet for Spanish instruction in half groups throughout the Middle School, and the program builds on the work done in the Lower School. Whereas the focus in the Lower School is on receptive language and creating a disposition for language learning, the emphasis in the Middle School is on helping students develop strategies for acquiring and retaining the language.
Art and Shop
In their first year in the Middle School, children come to the art and shop studios for the first time. Painting, drawing, clay, collage and construction, paper mache, and printmaking are done in the art room. Shop has wood, a variety of construction materials, and carpentry tools. As children gain an understanding and appreciation of the expressive qualities of materials, they develop skills and discover their potential for creating increasingly complex subject matter in art and shop.
The Middle School's music curriculum is largely influenced by the philosophy of Kodaly, while also including techniques from the Orff approach. Singing traditional songs of various cultures and time periods provides the foundation for musical literacy and for studying the comparative and structural elements of music; among these are pitch, dynamics, tempo, texture, and form. Students are able to take ownership of these concepts when they use them in their own compositions and improvisations. Along with accompanying songs with instruments, children create original music in their instrumental work. In an age appropriate manner, all students improvise. Children in the 7/8s through 9/10s perform for their parents and the whole school in January at Winterfest and at the Spring Concert in May.
Building on skills acquired through formal instruction, discussion, and storytelling, students become proficient in the following areas: finding information, selecting books, understanding fiction/non-fiction, using shelf markers, comprehension and appreciation of folktales, assisted use of the computer catalog, awareness of genres, and how to care for books.
The 6/7s and 7/8s hone their critical skills by evaluating picture books and also their abilities in library use. By the end of the 8/9s, students can independently search the catalog and discuss books critically. They are able to do research using encyclopedias, indexes, and electronic databases. In the 8/9s and 9/10s, children are in the process of becoming information-literate. With the cooperation of classroom teachers, students embark on research that enables them to become discerning and capable users of information. They learn how to gather data efficiently and effectively, evaluate it critically, and then use and present it accurately and creatively. The 9/10s become self-reliant as library users. In order to support their independent research, they continue to develop their skills in evaluating print and on-line materials for accuracy, currency, and bias.
The Middle School actively participates in the selection of the book to be honored by the Irma S. and James H. Black Book Award, which Bankstreet presents each year to a picture book. The children in the 8/9s and 9/10s select four finalists after evaluating over twenty current picture books. The 6/7s and the 7/8s, together with their teachers and the librarian, read the four finalists and choose the winning book. The librarian also asks the children to recommend new titles to be considered for inclusion in the annual Best Childrens Books of the Year, a book published by the Children's Book Committee at Bank Street.
Physical education teachers introduce activities based on their approaches to children's cognitive and physical development in order to give all children an opportunity to succeed. In physical education, as in other areas of the curriculum, staff members encourage and support the participation of all students in activities, but allow the children to develop at their own pace, free from any pressure to perform at certain skill levels at a particular age.
The program has three goals. The first, and perhaps the broadest, is to help children feel good about their bodies. Teachers encourage students to take perfectly safe risks by trying out new activities, expressing themselves through movement, and engaging in spatial/physical problem solving. The second goal is to help children develop and refine skills, strategies, competencies, and fitness through their involvement in tumbling, gymnastics, games, and sports. In realizing this goal, children learn how the body works during exercise, and how to maintain the body's well being through regular exercise and fitness routines. The third goal involves social learning. This includes learning good sportsmanship, that is, how to play cooperatively with team members and by the rules, and the proper way to act when you win and when you lose. It also includes learning how to enjoy wholesome physical activity on a regular basis.
Children in the 6/7s have movement class once a week and physical education once a week. The 7/8s have movement class once a week and physical education twice a week. The 8/9s and 9/10s have physical education three times a week.