Middle School Grades 6-8 Curriculum Overview

Continuity is our strength when it comes to educating students of this age. Where students in other schools would be transitioning to an entirely new environment, with unknown faculty, staff and administration, our middle school students have the benefit of continuing their educational experience with people who know and care about them. Here, our program is departmentalized. Your middle school child will change classes throughout the day as he or she migrates from one content area to the next. This Middle School model allows students in these grades to be leaders, mentors and role that provides educational value by promoting patience, tolerance, and acceptance of others.

Our middle school curriculum is aligned with the NY State Common Core Learning Standards and the Diocese of Albany Catholic School Standards. Similar to the Elementary program, Middle School teachers have flexibility with their lesson plans, which enables them to provide a differentiated learning experience for each student.  
Analysis of the testing we do also drives instruction.

Students receive instruction in the five core subjects: Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, Religion, and Social Studies, as well as continuing their studies in Technology, Foreign Language (Spanish or French), Fine Arts (music and art), and Physical Education.  Eighth grade students are enrolled in Living Environment and Integrated Algebra courses (Regents level Biology and Math). Successful completion of these Regents courses and exams, as well as the Spanish or French Language Proficiency Exam, will position your son or daughter to begin their freshman year of high school enrolled in 10th grade courses in these areas.


ENGLISH

SMSA’s primary goal is to develop proficiency in the skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The reading program incorporates a balanced literacy approach that includes the following components: read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, literature study, and independent reading. A wide range of literary genres and other materials are used, and instruction varies from full class to small groups to individualized work.

The literature study portion of our balanced literacy framework is devoted to rigorous texts and reading/writing instructional units of study, which align with the expectations of the Common Core Learning Standard and our keep Diocesan Standards.  At each grade level, students have reading units of study focusing on the close reading of fiction, non-fiction, and grade-specific genres (ranging from mythology to historical fiction to folklore) which will provide students with the strategies and skills necessary to annotate, interpret, and comprehend increasingly more complex literary and nonfiction readings.

In addition to the reading units, students in all grades will develop their writing skills as they learn the craft of writing for the purposes of exposition, narration, and persuasion. Students will be prepared to take the NY State Assessments. Regardless of grade level, genre, or purpose, the focus of writing instruction and practice will be the five basic dimensions to good writing:

  • Ability to convey meaning thoughtfully
  • Ability to develop ideas convincingly
  • Ability to organize logically
  • Ability to use language effectively
  • Ability to apply the conventions of standard written English

English Language Arts at the Middle School Level
English 6-8
The English courses are designed to emphasize basic skills in the areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. We use the Voyages in English, Loyola Press Literature series plus a wide variety of novels to introduce students to the formal study of literature and literary terms. Middle School students gain a deeper understanding of grammar and mechanics. The elements of grammar, usage, punctuation and capitalization are taught using a standard text, the student’s own written work and through literature. Spelling and Vocabulary requirements are drawn from literature, published books of spelling words, and SAT prep resources or other resources. Whenever possible, an integrated approach is used in the teaching of basic skills. Effective writing techniques are emphasized, and considerable time is devoted to the writing process. Most writing is done in response to literature reading. Reading is, of course, emphasized, and students will be expected to read required novels as well as independently chosen books. We utilize peer evaluation, conferencing and other techniques, which are designed to improve written communication. Computer instruction stressing word processing is also included in the Middle School Language Arts curriculum. Students will be prepared to successfully complete the NYS Grade 7 English Language Arts Assessment.

MIDDLE SCHOOL ELA BASIC CURRICULUM AND FOCUS:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Organizational Writing Skills
  • Conventions of Writing, Grammar, Spelling and Vocabulary
  • Focus on Non-Fiction
    • Author Background
    • Intent
    • Historical Significance
    • Critical Review
  • Real World Responsibility, Ownership, Consequences, Tolerance and Spirituality

EXAMPLE COURSE STUDY:
6th Grade Units: Literary Elements of Literature

  • "Flowers for Algernon"
  • Drama
  • Poetry

7th Grade Units:

  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Mystery Writing and Short Stories
  • The Giver
  • The Westing Game
  • Personal Narratives
  • Poetry

8th Grade Units: Expository Writing

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Poetry
  • MLA Research Paper
  • Shakespeare

Middle School Mathematics
Math 6
Sixth Grade math is designed to prepare students to successfully complete Math 6 and provides students with the prerequisite skills for Math 7 and the NYS math assessment. Topics covered include: Integers, rational numbers, exponents, absolute values, problem solving, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division of fractions and decimals, ratios, unit conversions, percents, math expressions, distributive property, evaluating expressions, solving equations, area, surface area, volume, Cartesian plane, graphing, linear equations, and statistics.

Math 7
Seventh grade math is designed to prepare students to successfully complete Math 7, the NYS math assessment, prepare them to take our 8th grade Algebra Class for the NYS Regents, and prepare them for the high-school math program. Topics covered in 7th grade math include techniques in problem solving, operations with rational numbers, operations with integers, number theory, probability and statistics, computer awareness, algebra, geometry and measurement, and transformations.

Math 8 (Algebra 1)
This is the same as Math 9R, which is offered in ninth grade at public schools. All eighth grade students at SMSA take this accelerated Math Class. Our students will be prepared to pursue a five-year mathematics sequence. It is also a prerequisite for further study in mathematics and science at the Honors level. While much of this course is developed around elementary algebra and geometry, topics such as logic, probability and statistics, transformational geometry, and trigonometric functions are also introduced.

The final exam for this course is the Test A Regents exam; students will also be required to complete the end-of-year final math assessment. Students successfully completing the course will receive one high school Regents credit. Since this is a high school level course, attendance is necessary and multiple absences could affect completion of the course. In effect, a student may be denied course credit based on poor attendance. Students will be evaluated at the end of the school year, and recommended to pursue either the Regents or Honors math program in ninth grade based upon the quality of completed work.

Religion
As important as academics are at SMSA, they represent only part of what constitutes an SMSA education.  We educate the whole child - academic, emotional, social and spiritual - a unique and successful formula- which sets us apart from other schools.

 As an academic community, we strive to identify, encourage, and develop our student’s talents.  As a Christian community, we go one step further, teaching them that those talents are gifts from God to be shared with the world for the good of others, reminding them that the greatest among us is the one who serves the least.

Students at SMSA learn they are unique, beloved children of a compassionate God. This belief shapes all that takes place at SMSA and produces the welcoming, joyful and accepting atmosphere found here.

All students participate in regular classroom instruction in the Catholic Faith as expressed by the Church’s Magisterium. The goal it to help our Catholic students grow in that faith, and provide students of other faiths with an understanding of the Church’s teachings and traditions.  About one third of our students are from a non-Catholic faith tradition.

SMSA attends Mass weekly (Friday) and all parents are welcome to join us.  Reconciliation is offered for Grades 3-8 twice yearly (Advent and Lent).  We pray daily, both as a school family and in our classrooms, and students have the opportunity to visit the Adoration chapel once weekly with their class.  

All students participate in Community service, a natural step of putting the gospel message into action.  Food pantry items are collected weekly for St. Mary’s Food Pantry, and classes participate in various other activities such as clothing drives and visits to local nursing homes. We have a proud history of generosity responding to suffering in our own community and in response to national or global disasters.

Opportunities for self-reflection, worship and prayer:

  • Each day: All School Prayer at morning assembly, and at the beginning of each class.
  • Once a Week:
    • Mass at St. Mary’s Church
    • Eucharistic Adoration in the school chapel.
  • During the seasons of Advent and Lent Sacrament of Reconciliation is offered.

We believe that we are called to serve our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and vulnerable. Throughout the year, all SMSA students participate in projects designed to alleviate suffering and respond to the gospel message of service to others, including but not limited to:

  • Weekly non-perishable food donations to support St. Mary’s Food Pantry
  • Creation of valentines for local shut-ins
  • Winter and spring clothing drives that benefit local service agencies

Middle School Science
Science 6
This integrated course addresses the following topics during the year: Life: Structures and Functions, Life: Changes and Interactions; Energy and Matter; Earth: A Dynamic Planet, and Exploring the Universe. It also develops skills such as organization, inference, problem solving, observation, and measurement in the metric system. As identified by the New York State Education Department syllabus, students must also learn to properly manipulate science equipment such as the microscope and triple beam balance.

Science 7
This course in physical science covers the main areas of physics and chemistry. The following topics are addressed during the year: force and work, moving objects, the laws of motion, electricity and magnetism, heat, light and sound, atoms, elements, compounds, mixtures, and chemical reactions. Laboratory and science class skills such as safety, graphing, measurement in the metric system, use of the computer, laboratory procedure, and working with laboratory equipment are stressed. The course is based on the New York State Education Department syllabus in science. Students will be prepared to take the 8th grade Regents Living Environment class.

Science 8
This course is the same New York State Regents course that is offered in high school. Students will be prepared to pursue a five-year science sequence. The teaching methods and approaches to laboratory investigations are designed to challenge our eighth grade science students.

Please note that because this course earns high school credit, the attendance policy in effect at the high school applies to this course as well. In effect, a student may be denied course credit based on poor attendance. Each student will be expected to complete laboratory classes, a mid-year test, and the New York State Living Environment Regents examination in June. Topics included Nature of Life, Ecology, Evolution, Cells, Genetics, Microorganisms and Fungi, Plants, Invertebrates, Chordates, and the Human Body.

Successful completion of this course provides students with one high school Regents credit. Students will be scheduled for, and must attend, one laboratory class each week. These labs may be scheduled after school, and are in addition to regular Earth Science classes.

Social Studies at the Middle School Level Grades 6-8
Units covered include: Iceman, Neolithic Revolution, Egypt, Religion, China, Greece, and American History.

The Social Studies course is a chronological exploration of each topic. Important historical, economic, geographic, and governmental features of the county and time period are studied. Social Studies at the middle school level is in line with NY State and DiocesanStandards. As part of this program, specialized social studies skills are taught. They include the following:

  • Reading maps, charts, and graphs
  • Interpreting political cartoons
  • Reading, speaking, and listening skills
  • Analyzing primary source documents
  • Essay writing
  • Analyzing current events
  • Research skills
  • Studying a given historical period or theme through an interdisciplinary lens

Foreign Language Grades 6-8
In Sixth Grade, each student will choose to focus on either the French or Spanish language. They will begin preparation for a competency exam, which is given in Eighth Grade. Students learn to read, write, and speak the language of their choosing. Students will discover the culture and history of the countries with Spanish or French language speakers.

Library/Technology/STREAM (Science, Technology,  Religion, Engineering,Art and Math) PreK 3’s – Grade 8
During the library portion of this class, students engage in research activities and learn how to access, analyze, and synthesize information from various media sources. Students learn an appreciation for literature, and are permitted to select books for research projects as well as independent reading. They discover various types of genre and conduct author studies.

During the technology and STREAM portion of this class, students engage in computer and hands-on, problem-based learning. Students apply math, science, engineering, technology, religion, art and their knowledge of tools and materials to solve problems. Students learn to identify problems, develop solutions, and test solutions to maximize results.


Art K-8
The art program at SMSA focuses on developing an appreciation for, and an understanding of, the various art disciplines. We encourage students to explore the art forms as an opportunity for personal expression. Students will be introduced to a variety of hands-on activities and experiences that develop perceptual, creative, and motor skills.

Art class also provides a time for problem solving and exploration with a wide range of art materials and tools, including digital media. Students will be introduced to the artwork of the great masters and many cultures. Often, projects are integrated with grade level curricula. Caring for classroom supplies, respecting the work of others, achieving independence, and learning to communicate through art are stressed.

Music PreK 3s – Grade 8
Children are exposed to a variety of activities designed to broaden musical experiences and develop musical skills. Listening activities help develop the child’s perception of music. Musical response is developed through movement, rhythmic activities, singing and playing instruments. The child is also encouraged to create and organize sounds into musical patterns.

All students in Grades 5-8 participate in chorus. Students make up the Choir during Friday Mass. The experience of rehearsing and performing before an audience is a valuable means of developing a true appreciation of music performance, as well as reinforcing habits of cooperation and self-discipline.

Students in Grades 4-8 may elect to participate in band. This is a service provided by Mrs. Facklam, an independent band teacher, for an additional fee.Every student will receive a weekly lesson and ensemble rehearsal.  All band students are members of the Intermediate Band (Grades 4 and 5) or the Middle School Band (Grades 6 - 8). As the performance level increases, the students rehearse together as a band and perform during Mass, concerts in school, and various other venues in the community.

Advanced opportunities are available to students who excel in music. Students may participate in the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Solo and Ensemble Festivals, or other performance opportunities. Students are encouraged to participate fully in the music program, and work hard to achieve a high level of skill and enjoyment.

Physical Education PreK 3’s – Grade 8
Students participate in various health and wellness activities. Instruction emphasizes exercise is a key aspect to physical health and mental well-being. The children in each grade explore units of study in team sports, such as soccer, hockey, volleyball, badminton, and basketball, as well as track, circuit exercises and general fitness.  

EXTRA CURRICULAR OPPORTUNITIES

Each day after school, the hallways of SMSA are filled with the chatter of children heading off to one of many available after-school activities.

Athletics:

  • Basketball (6th-8th, Boys and Girls)
  • Soccer (6th-8th, Co-Ed)
  • Track (6th-8th, Co-Ed)
  • Sports “clinics” for younger grades
  • Ski Club (Grades 4 and up at West Mountain Ski Center)

Students who are interested in playing baseball or softball play on the SMSA/Saratoga Central merged team as part of the NYSPHSAA League. SMSA is also a member of the Friends and Neighbors League. Parents interested in coaching additional sports should contact the principal.

Afterschool Enrichment:

Throughout the year, and in addition to the differentiated  classroom instruction provided during the day, SMSA offers fun and educational opportunities for students at various grade levels.  These classes are taught by SMSA teachers, staff, and/or parent volunteers. Student favorites are:

  • Clay Basics
  • Cooking
  • Study Skills
  • Building with Legos
  • American Girls Learn About American History
  • Scouting
  • Battle of the Books (Grades 3-6)
  • Chess Club
  • Robotics
  • Mad Science

Parents learn about after school enrichment opportunities via the Kerry Blue newsletter and/or flyers.
In addition to these after-school activities, a number of enrichment activities are incorporated into the school day, particularly in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

These offerings include:

  • Middle School Band (Grades 6-8)
  • Junior Band (Grades 4-5)
  • Annual  Musical (School community)
  • Spring Musical (Students only)
  • Yearbook
  • Leadership Club