The Hillside School middle school program provides students with differentiated instruction to ensure that all learners are challenged and prepared for high school and beyond. Strategies and assistive technology are used to support individual needs, and opportunities to strengthen Executive Skills are a critical component of the middle school program.
Strong and balanced literacy instruction is at the heart of the middle school curriculum, and is reinforced in all subject areas. This may take the form of writing a myth in social studies, publishing the results of an experiment in science, writing and recording a script in technology, or analyzing a word problem in math. Students are taught reading strategies to help them comprehend both fiction and expository text, and the EmPOWERTM method is used across grade levels and content areas to teach writing explicitly in a variety of forms and for a wide range of purposes.
Assistive technology encourages students to play an active role in their education and familiarizes them with programs and software which may continue to benefit them as they progress in their educational and professional careers. Each student is assigned a laptop and has the opportunity to use assistive technology for a variety of purposes like text-to-speech software to dictate thoughts, audiobooks online, and software to conduct research, take notes, and edit writing pieces to improve their quality.
Middle school students move between classrooms throughout the school day, and receive instruction from several content and specialist teachers. Core academic subjects consist of English language arts (reading, writing, speaking/listening, and research), math, social studies, and science. Students also have art, physical education, guidance, library, and technology classes on a weekly basis.
Each trimester, middle school students have the opportunity to participate in clubs to enhance social skills, explore their interests and practice executive skills such as collaboration and flexibility. Students brainstorm ideas for the clubs each marking period which allows teachers to appeal to a wide array of students interests and offer a variety throughout the year. Past clubs have included cooking, knitting, retro games, robotics and inventions.
Project Read Linguistics®
The Project Read® Linguistics curriculum is the phonics program for students in the middle school. This multisensory curriculum builds upon prior knowledge through a sound/symbol organization chart that displays the 44 speech sounds and their alternative spellings.
The program honors diverse learning profiles and provides lessons built on direct concept teaching, multisensory strategies, systematic instruction and higher-level thinking skills. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham method and has been regarded by reputation for over 45 years.
Project Read® Story Form Comprehension
The curriculum uses a systematic multisensory approach for analyzing and synthesizing fiction text for higher-level thinking.
Project Read® Report Form
The curriculum teaches students a systematic multisensory process for interacting, analyzing, systematizing, classifying and organizing informational text for higher-level thinking and test-taking.
Visualizing and Verbalizing® by Nancibell®
Students are exposed to fiction and non-fiction selections, children’s literature, novels, poetry and short stories that encompass a variety of genres. The Visualizing and Verbalizing® program teaches students to visualize while reading and verbalize their images, which helps them strengthen their concept imagery (the ability to create a “movie in your mind” when reading).
The goal of Guided Reading is for students to develop strategies to apply independently. During Guided Reading, teachers model reading processes, monitor individual students’ progress to apply strategies and continually assess for accurate comprehension.
Listening, speaking, reading and writing vocabulary learning is directly and indirectly embedded into the curriculum. Direct instruction includes providing students with specific word instruction and teaching students word-learning strategies. Assistive technology programs are available for school and home use.
Language is a reflection of thinking and research shows that the patterns of language and thinking can be represented graphically. Brain Frames®, a component of the EmPOWERTM writing method, are a collection of six visual-spatial displays of language used across all content areas and grades that allow teachers and students to “frame” what is in their minds.
The EmPOWERTM method is utilized across grade levels and content areas to explicitly teach how to write in a variety of forms and for a wide range of purposes. This may take the form of a writing a myth in social studies, publishing the results of an experiment in science, writing and recording a script in technology, or analyzing a word problem in math.
The six steps of EmPOWER are:
Evaluate…pick apart my assignment to figure out what I have to do
Make a Plan…plan how I will do it and choose strategies
Organize…organize my ideas
Work…work my ideas into writing
Evaluate…assess the quality of my text
Re-work…make necessary changes
Additionally, grammar instruction is designed to teach the rules of English with lots of practice and helps students become better writers, readers and speakers. Basic spelling skills are emphasized throughout the curriculum with the transferring of correct spelling into everyday writing being the goal. Students are instructed on how to use multiple technology and assistive technology programs which are available for school and home use.
Saxon Math takes an incremental approach to math, scaffolds instruction of each concept and continues to review information introduced earlier. This allows students the time and practice to retain math concepts to the level of mastery. Students build skills and confidence through daily opportunities to review, develop mathematical reasoning, and apply knowledge. Engaging manipulatives and hands-on learning tools help students develop and demonstrate understanding. Concepts from every math strand are woven together and connected throughout the year. Skills or concepts are reinforced throughout the years, helping students build a strong foundation of understanding.
Based on the needs of the students, teachers use a wide variety of instructional materials to look at useful ways to solve problems, analyze data and make associations, build number sense and how to adapt newly learned concepts into everyday life.
Social studies provides students with skills for productive problem solving and decision making as well as for assessing issues and making thoughtful value judgments. Social studies instruction integrates these skills and understandings into a framework for responsible citizen participation locally, nationally, and globally. Ancient civilizations for grades 6 and 7 and civics classes for grade 8 are scheduled twice weekly. Students practice reading and comprehension strategies, use research skills, collaborate on projects, hone presentation skills, and participate in off-site field trips and various onsite community-related presentations.
Science at The Hillside School provides students with meaningful opportunities to understand and explore the natural world. Our science programs implement the same tools and strategies used elsewhere in the curriculum to strengthen academic, executive, and social skills.
Sixth grade science instruction is split between the regular classroom and the newly remodeled West Wing science lab. In the lab, students carry out hands-on activities and experiments that complement the regular classroom instruction, such as building electric circuits, exploring the properties of matter, and demonstrating Newton’s Laws of Motion.
Science is taught as a separate subject in grades 7 and 8, meeting twice a week in the science lab. The curriculum focuses on core ideas to foster conceptual learning. Students continue to strengthen executive skills with hands-on experiments. Seventh graders study Life Science; their many labs include using digital microscopes to look at cells, isolating DNA from bananas, and measuring rates of photosynthesis and cell respiration. Eighth graders study Physical Science; they carry out chemical reactions, measure densities, and identify elements with flame tests. Students use the same strategies and receive the same support in the science program as in the regular classroom. Science class provides multiple opportunities to practice writing as a way to demonstrate understanding.