Our Middle School Curriculum (Grades 6 - 8)
Our middle school literature curriculum aims to support our students on their journey to becoming lifelong readers by exposing them to a wide range of high-quality literature.
There is no single thing a person can do to improve their vocabulary, general knowledge, and reading comprehension that is as effective as reading books. The goal of our literature class is simple: if we help our students uncover their love of reading and give them time to read nearly a book every week, they'll develop higher-level reading skills needed for success not only in school but through adulthood.
This customized class meets in small groups of six to study, discuss, annotate, and evaluate written works from our carefully-crafted list of high-quality literature. This format allows us to provide individualized literary instruction, giving each student freedom to read books that challenge them while enticing their curiosity.
Mathematical problem solving is a critical element of logical thinking and lifelong problem solving. For our students to translate their learning to authentic, real world situations, they need a variety of strategies and tools to draw from. Our middle school math program exposes students to various mathematical operations, guiding them to think critically through the medium of math.
Our multi-faceted approach to math class is completely unique, honed from our years of tutoring. Since math is skill-based, we believe students should be challenged to master new skills at an individualized pace. Each math class contains only six students so that our teachers can fully customize to each student. The skills that students work on are based on their readiness, not their age or a pre-designated course list.
We provide frequent opportunities for feedback, independent paper and pencil practice, and personalized online learning. Our students are motivated to set their own goals and progress at the pace they find most comfortable. Individualized goals and pacing are essential to building confidence in students, which is a critical element in helping students develop into strong math problem-solvers.
Our goal is to help students move through at least a year’s worth of math content each year, culminating with the mastery of algebraic concepts and real-world applications of their skills in mathematics.
Writing skills are one of the most important sets in any job or field of study. The study of writing also allows students to develop a set of skills for critical thinking and the logical organization of thoughts. Surprisingly, writing is rarely taught systematically or practiced extensively by school-aged children. Our writing class teaches the skills necessary to write well-organized and vividly detailed paragraphs and essays about literature, research, non-fiction, and other formal writing topics.
At Vine, our daily writing class is dedicated to developing and practicing important formal writing skills. It’s a highly customized class in which students are instructed in a ratio of six students to one teacher, allowing the teacher to work intimately with each student. While course activities and writing prompts are often common to the class, each student’s goals are individual. Time is spent organizing and drafting essays, meeting regularly with the teacher for highly customized feedback and instruction, and developing a deep understanding of English grammar. Ultimately, we aim to move each student from his or her current writing skill level to the next level, challenging children appropriately according to their strengths.
Beginning in grade three, Spanish instruction becomes available. Third through fifth graders either begin instruction in Spanish or are enrolled in a skill building class for developing further reading skills in decoding, fluency, and comprehension. By grade six, all students are enrolled in Spanish. Our Spanish program is, at it’s core, a traditional, academic Spanish course in which students learn grammar and vocabulary systematically. It is not immersive, as immersion is not effective in a one period-per day format. It, does, however, integrate quite a bit of conversing, reading, and writing in Spanish. Some of the features of our Spanish class include:
- A deliberate emphasis on skills for memorizing vocabulary. The abstract nature of memorizing words from another language create an excellent opportunity for us to teach study skills for memorization.
- Grammar instruction that is gradual and systematic. Students are taught in a group, but are expected to master sequentially more difficult skills only when previous skills have been mastered. There is a constant customization for each student in this course.
- Multi-level presentation. This class is designed so that someone who has never taken Spanish before can learn right next to someone who has been with us for a few years. All skills are introduced in such a way that new students can master the basics and advanced students can add on sequentially more difficult skills.
- Conversation is constant. All students participate in memorizing, applying, and extending patterned conversations that compliment their grammar and vocabulary instruction.
- ·Rigorous expectations. When a student is with us for multiple years, our curriculum is designed to prepare them to start high school Spanish in a challenging Spanish two course.
Vine’s middle school history curriculum is conducted in a traditionally structured class of up to 18 students. In this course, the teacher delivers dynamic lectures that make the story of history come alive for students. We chronologically work our way through ancient, European, and American history to help students develop a strong sense of the story of western civilization. We look at the impact great people and major events have had on the past and on our world today. As we do this, we constantly circle to history's great themes that are universal in all time periods. For example, we look at how geography shapes history, how conditions of freedom allow humans to flourish, and how the search for resources is a driving force in history. Armed with a strong sense of past failures and successes, students develop the tools for understanding of their world.
Throughout all of this, another purpose of this course is to help students develop a wide variety of executive functioning skills, such as note taking skills, studying skills, and assignment management skills. For example, in third through eighth grades, we actively teach students how to take notes. We begin very simply, with a word at a time, and gradually move each student to be able to record more and more detail with greater and greater conciseness as he or she listens to a lecture. With this systematic and customized approach, every student learns the skills needed to thrive in a traditional classroom setting.
Through our middle school science program, students learn important scientific facts while studying the methods scientists used to make key discoveries.
Science is presented hierarchically, beginning with simple observations and progressing to more complex insights. In our middle school science program, we cover the concepts of matter, physical science, and life science. Students are asked to thoroughly understand what they can see or perceive right in front of them before asked to understand what cannot be directly observed. Through this approach, our students learn to be astute observers and questioners.
Underlying all of this, our goal is for our students to learn to appreciate the power of the human mind and the amazing things it is capable of!
At Vine Academy, every student has two full periods of project based learning each day. This interdisciplinary class encourages in-depth and hands-on exploration of topics using relevant, real-world methods of research, preparation and presentation. These projects encourage creative thinking, independent learning, and the development of discipline-specific skills. You can learn more about this unique course here.
At Vine, our school is a work day. Students have four periods of work in the morning and four in the afternoon. We pride ourselves on using that time efficiently, on making the most of the minutes we have.
Our work day also means that by the middle of the day, our students need a real break. Students have a 40 minute lunch period and a 40 minute elective period to reset their minds before their afternoon classes pick up again. Our electives are a time to engage our bodies and minds in different ways the rest of the day.
As a small school, we cannot offer every elective, but we’re pretty proud of what we do offer. Each of our teachers uses the elective period to teach our students about an art, hobby, or skill that he or she is passionate about. Our electives include theater, chess, programming, crochet, art, creative writing, crafts, food preparation, yearbook, and more!