Middle School Required Courses
We prepare our students to take academic and creative risks and learn from both their successes and failures.
We encourage middle schoolers to take personal responsibility for their own learning while supplying the tools, information, and organizational skills necessary to progress through the upper grades. Our six required year-long classes are math (traditional or compacted), English, science, social studies, world language (French, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish), and physical education. Students are assigned all of their classes by the school, with the exception of world language, which is student/family choice. Students remain in their world language choice for all their Middle School years.
Sixth-grade English creates a base for future learning and development. Throughout the year, students alternate between all-class and student-choice novels focusing on common themes such as developing a growth mindset and analyzing the journey of the hero. Examples of all-class novels include Wonder, The Outsiders, The Giver, and Julius Caesar. Examples of thematic student-choice novels include The Running Dream, Peak, Heat, Hatchet, Julie of the Wolves, and Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Hunger Games, Legend, Wrinkle in Time, and Ender’s Game. While reading, students concentrate on skills that improve general comprehension. These skills include identifying themes, practicing inference strategies, understanding vocabulary, and making real-life and personal connections. The primary writing focus for sixth graders is using textual evidence to support their ideas. Writing exercises include essays, creative writing, poetry, and biographies of Rowland Hall graduating seniors.
The themes in the literature of English 7 are connected with the world studies curriculum to explore concepts of individual and group identity, immigration, cultural conflict and societal change. Students read selected novels, poems, articles, and short stories from a variety of cultural perspectives in exploration of these themes, and write responses, essays, short papers, poems, and short stories demonstrating lessons learned. Seventh-grade writing focuses on structure, grammar, integration of textural evidence, and revision in the writing process. Active reading is directly taught through metacognitive reading strategies. Students also build vocabulary by studying words within the context of the literature read in class.
Eighth-grade English includes an exploration of traditional and contemporary literary works, as well as short stories, music, and poetry. Class discussions expand upon the reading and are used to enhance understanding of the literature. These discussions also improve the student's ability to communicate, listen, and think critically. In addition, writing assignments, both creative and formal, build upon the themes and issues raised in each literary piece. Finally, grammar, mechanics, and study skills build upon skills taught in the seventh grade.
Students explore ancient civilizations and examine the processes of studying cultures over time. Students learn about the major physical, political, religious, and artistic elements that helped shape and create the rich histories and civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome.
World Studies introduces seventh-grade students to the diverse cultures of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Through the social sciences’ perspectives of geography, anthropology, history, sociology, political science, and economics, students gain insights into how people around the globe live, the issues they face, and how we are connected to one another. Music, art, dance, literature, food, and service learning are integrated to bring world’s cultures to life in this class. Additionally, some units connect to or are collaborative efforts between the seventh grade English curriculum and seventh-grade physical sciences curriculum. The skills emphasize active reading, debate, note taking, writing (expository essays, research papers, oral histories and personal reflections) and participating in discussions. This course is designed to encourage students to explore their world and to learn how to be critical thinkers.
Eighth-grade American Studies is carefully designed to use a variety of defining moments in our nation’s history as a vehicle to help students develop a more meaningful connection to their local, national, and global community. The course will focus on numerous aspects of American History, ranging from the revolutionary period to the present. Students will learn to analyze these events by using a wide variety of sources and strategies. To provide a general direction, a set of essential questions will serve as a catalyst for analysis, discussion, and evaluation of the chosen events for this course. Ultimately, through a better understanding of historical circumstances, students will begin the process of considering and defining their role as an American citizen.
Sixth-grade science is a general study of life science and physical science. Life science is divided into two parts: ecology and genetics. In ecology, we focus on the desert biome, the interconnections that link all life on earth, and plant and animal adaptations. Our genetics unit focuses on heredity and the probability associated with heredity. Physical science is divided into two main topics: electricity and the physics of structures.
This course includes aspects of earth science, chemistry, and ecology. Chemistry covers the nature of elements, compounds, chemical reactions, and energy transfers. Earth science explores rocks and minerals, earth's history, plate tectonics, catastrophic natural events, and human use of mineral resources. Our study of ecology will begin at the Teton Science School and continue here at Rowland Hall as we look more closely at interactions within ecosystems and at human impacts on both living and non-living components of our environment. All of these topics will involve an emphasis on the scientific method of observation, questioning, data collection, and analysis as students apply their knowledge to engineering challenges and real, present-day issues.
Eighth-grade science presents a survey of physical sciences and scientific processes with an emphasis on hands-on experimentation, analytical thinking and problem solving, and development of technical communication skills. The course begins with an in-depth study of chemistry applied through cooking and nutrition, which leads into investigating how organ systems support the functions of the human body. The latter half of the course explores the physical sciences - meteorology, climatology, wave physics, and astronomy. The planning, execution, and analysis of scientific experiments and lab projects are the central teaching tools for this class.
Mathematics 6 and Compacted Mathematics 6
The sixth-grade math curriculum is designed to provide a challenging and engaging experience for students and to foster an enjoyment and understanding of math. Students work cooperatively to solve problems, share strategies, and teach each other. There is a hands-on, discovery approach in introducing new topics and reinforcing previously learned concepts. Group work and partner work is common. The focus is on developing critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills, competence in computation, and number sense. When sixth graders complete the school year, math will be more relevant and more important in their lives, and their confidence in their mathematical abilities will increase.
There are two sixth-grade math courses: Math 6 and Compacted Math 6. Students in the Math 6 class are expected to meet the traditionally high standards of the Rowland Hall math curriculum. The class provides numerous opportunities for students to extend their learning and problem-solving skills, and work both collaboratively and independently. The Compacted Math section works at a more rapid pace, has a higher degree of independent learning, and spends more time on complex problem-solving skills.
Specific topics of study for all sixth graders include operations with fractions, decimals, percents, ratios, and positive and negative numbers; order of operation; distributive property; calculating surface area and volume of various three-dimensional shapes; exponents; use of variables; and graphing.
The course covers algebra and geometry concepts with an emphasis on problem-solving strategies through mathematical investigations. Some of the topics covered include the use of variables, tables, graphs, and symbols as representations, similarity, rate, ratio, proportion, percent, proportional reasoning, understanding and using integers, linear relationships expressed in words, tables, graphs, and symbols, simplifying expressions, solving algebraic equations, and working with graphing calculators.
Compacted Mathematics 7
Students continue to develop algebraic thinking and problem-solving skills. They analyze real-life situations and study how they can be modeled by linear, inverse, exponential, or quadratic relationships. Recognizing patterns, defining and manipulating variables, collecting and graphing data, and predicting outcomes are all central to the curriculum. Students continue to work on mastery of skills: fractions, signed numbers, solving equations and inequalities, and simplifying expressions while manipulating radical expressions, polynomials, and exponents. Geometry concepts, such as properties of quadrilaterals and triangles, the Pythagorean Theorem, area, length, and distance are developed throughout the curriculum.
Students continue to develop algebraic thinking and problem-solving skills. They analyze real-life situations and study how they can be modeled by linear, inverse, exponential, or quadratic relationships. Recognizing patterns, defining and manipulating variables, collecting and graphing data, and predicting outcomes are all central to the curriculum. Students continue to work on mastery of skills: fractions, integers, solving equations and inequalities, and simplifying expressions while manipulating radical expressions, polynomials, and exponents.
Compacted Mathematics 8
Students will explore geometry through inductive and deductive processes, technology, constructions, and algebraic connections. Topics of investigation include logic, angle and line relationships, triangles and other polygons, congruence, and similarity. Although the curriculum focuses on Euclidean geometry, students also study coordinated geometry and its transformations. Trigonometric ratios of sine, cosine, and tangent are used to solve triangle problems. Students will use area, volume, geometric probability, and geometric relationships to solve real-life problems. Aside from learning these skills and concepts, students will develop their ability to construct formal, logical arguments and proofs in geometric settings and problems.
Students learn and practice study and organizational skills necessary for success in world language learning. Sixth grade French focuses on vocabulary, expressions, and dialogues and grammar pertinent to real-life situations at home, at school and in the community. Students learn the present tense of -ER verbs, irregular verbs, pronouns, articles, adjective and adverb usage. Emphasis is placed on not only reading and writing skills, but also listening comprehension and speaking, enabling students to carry on dialogues with native speakers. Students explore the culture of multiple Francophone countries and focus on the geography of France and Francophone Europe.
Students build on topics learned in Sixth Grade French and review the learning and organizational skills necessary for success in world languages. Seventh grade French focuses on vocabulary, expressions, dialogues and grammar applicable in real-life scenarios such as ordering food at a café, shopping in a market, traveling on an airplane or train and discussing sporting events. Some of the grammar topics students learn are the present tense of -IR and -RE verbs, several more irregular verbs, the future proche, comparisons and demonstrative adjectives. Students continue to learn more about various Francophone countries and focus on the geography of French-speaking Canada as well as Caribbean and Polynesian islands. Students are encouraged to speak French in the classroom, and by the end of the year the class is conducted primarily in French.
Eighth-grade French students review topics and skills covered in both sixth- and seventh-grade French classes. They are introduced to even more vocabulary, dialogues, expressions and grammar to increase their conversational abilities in commonplace scenarios such as discussing cultural pastimes, art, movies, and theater as well as expressing discomfort and illness. Students learn the passé composé, imperfect and future tenses, direct and indirect object pronouns, more irregular verbs, and the imperative. Students are introduced to French literature by reading abbreviated versions of contemporary novels and more Francophone culture is introduced with an emphasis on geography and culture of French-speaking Africa. The class is conducted almost entirely in French, preparing students for the challenging high school program.
Mandarin Chinese 6
Mandarin Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect and is the national standard language of the People’s Republic of China. Our beginning Mandarin Chinese course is intended for students with no prior knowledge of the language. This course will introduce the Chinese Pinyin system: initials, finals, tones, and rules of phonetic spelling. Reading and writing skills are introduced and students develop basic skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.Students will also begin to learn some of the history and culture of China.
Mandarin Chinese 7
Students continue to develop and master the essential linguistic skills required for listening, speaking, reading, and writing the Chinese language. The structure of the class focuses on learning the basic grammar and vocabulary elements by studying the language in authentic contexts using simplified Chinese characters and Pinyin. Oral/aural skills, role-playing skits, group activities, conversation, multimedia resources, and realia are used to reinforce individual and collaborative efforts. Students will continue to further their understanding of the history and culture of China.
Mandarin Chinese 8
Students will further develop the four essential linguistic skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing by expanding on the grammatical structures and vocabulary studied in the sixth and seventh grade. The ongoing mastery of vocabulary and grammar introduced at each level is essential for future success in Chinese. Oral/aural drills, oral presentations, role-playing skits, question and answer practice, conversation, compositions, group activities, multimedia resources and realia are utilized to reinforce grammar concepts and sentence structure. Individual and collaborative efforts are essential factors for the development of proficiency. Students also continue to explore the history and culture of China.
Spanish 6 assumes no prior Spanish language experience and serves as a student's initial inquiry into Spanish study. The class is well-differentiated so that students with broadly differing experience levels can all find appropriate challenge. Given younger students' ability to hear detail and nuance, emphasis is placed on accurate pronunciation and listening. Major objectives are establishing a cooperative classroom environment and instituting a learning sequence that begins with the basics of sentence structure and verb conjugation. Additionally, Spanish 6 presents a broad palette of content including a wide variety of theme-based vocabulary, agreement, and verb conjugation in the present and past tense. A multimedia classroom allows an interactive approach to investigating the hispanophone world.
Spanish 7 builds on the aural and oral patterns established in Spanish 6 while employing heightened expectations for writing and reading proficiency. Idiomatic expressions, irregular verbs, an expanding set of verb tenses, parts of speech, sentence structure, and vocabulary highlight the grammar content. Writing exercises address controlled topics (confining vocabulary to established themes) and open topics of personal interest requiring students to independently seek answers to vocabulary and other mechanical needs. Project work is critical to developing skills around studied content. Students strengthen conversational skills by asking and answering questions and engaging in role play. A myriad of digital and video based projects afford meaningful avenues for content application and self-assessment.
Successful completion of Spanish 8 provides students with the preparation necessary for a smooth transition to high school Spanish II. All topics typically covered in high school Spanish I are addressed by year's end thus most students elect to move directly into high school Spanish II. The most proficient may enter Spanish II-Conversation. Grammar content includes object and reflexive pronouns; the preterit, conditional, future, present progressive and perfect tenses; expressing the future with "ir" and other two-verb constructions; prepositions; and idioms. In writing, students express original, opinion based thought around topics of culture and personal interest. Vocabulary broadens to include study-lists generated by students representing their areas of interest. In addition to conversational methods established in Spanish 7, students are asked to create target-language presentations in a variety of live, paper-based, and digital formats.
Physical education includes instruction in basic skills, game rules, safety procedures, and rules of etiquette in a variety of team and individual activities. This instruction is unit based, and teachers typically teach four units per trimester.
Students are divided into coed (sixth- and seventh-grade) and single-sex (eighth-grade) classes.
Units of instruction include volleyball, basketball, soccer, flag football, Gaelic football, rugby, floor hockey, speedball, team handball, softball/baseball, track and field, archery, golf, badminton, tennis, pickleball, Frisbee, aerobic fitness, fitness acrobatics, weight training, fit for life fitness, adventure ed, bouldering, climbing, and yoga.
Our Middle School has an average class size of 16 students. Every child is well-known and supported in the ways that best meet their needs.