Middle School Academics - Grades 6 & 7
The Middle School program supports boys’ growing ability to make independent decisions. They choose a foreign language to study for the remainder of their time at Fenn and the sports they will play each season. As they make these choices, boys not only develop criteria for decision making, but they also acquire more freedom to move about the campus. Fenn is one of the best boys' preparatory middle schools in New England, where students can learn about the world as they experience it.
– Kate Wade, Head of the Middle School, English Teacher
In Middle School, the curriculum becomes more challenging and rigorous. Social studies teachers, for example, hold Socratic seminars in which boys discuss important historical questions. After preparation, they contribute their thoughts on topics such as “What failures occurred during Reconstruction that made the Civil Rights movement necessary?”
Each boy has an advisor who is also one of his teachers. In morning homeroom, his advisor helps him get ready for the day. Students return to advisor groups during Help and Work period, a quiet time in which to do homework, reading, or consulting with a teacher. Each boy’s teachers, advisor, and division head are in frequent communication with each other and his parents. Academic and observable learning grades--engagement, preparation, and conduct--provide information on how well boys are doing as learners.
Middle School (6 & 7 Grades) Academic Curriculum
Middle School English
In the Middle School, students in sixth grade continue to build upon the many reading, writing, and organizational skills introduced in the Lower School. As readers, boys read both class texts and independent books of choice and begin to more critically analyze what they read. As writers, they continue to practice paragraph writing and move to a deeper understanding of writing using textual support. Boys continue to explore and use technology for writing and organizational purposes. Some common apps used are iMovie, Google Docs, and Notability.
Sixth Grade English class offers boys the time and direct instruction they need to continue to refine and develop specific reading, writing, and organizational skills. As boys enter into the middle school, many of them are still emerging and developing as readers and writers. In this sixth grade English class, boys will be able to work closely on their reading skills and develop strategies to better and more comprehensively read and understand complex texts, move from concrete to inferential interpretations, and build independent reading lives. Boys too will continue to practice their writing skills and gain critical instruction in how to organize their ideas and move from creative to analytical writing that begins to weave in textual evidence and support. Students have the opportunity to write multi-genre assignments such as journals, narratives, poetry, personal and class blogs, perspective pieces, and expository responses to literature. Oral presentations and discussions foster understanding, participation, and confidence in public speaking.
Seventh Grade English is focused on the theme of identity. Throughout the year, students think critically about the identity of the characters they meet and the traits, characteristics, and experiences that define them. Additionally, students explore their own identity and emerging sense of self. Building on knowledge and skills they develop in sixth grade as both readers and writers, students experience a variety of literary genres through class texts and their own independent reading. Teachers introduce and reinforce reading strategies such as recognizing and interpreting literary elements, and they emphasize the technical reading skills necessary for close and active reading. As writers, students compose expository pieces, personal narratives, and poetry. Within each category of writing, teachers apply appropriate scaffolding to support students as they take on increasingly sophisticated writing assignments as the year progresses. Discussion, oral presentations, and group work are integral components of the course.
Introduction to Languages
In the first term of sixth grade, all students are introduced to both Latin and Spanish—with five weeks focusing on Spanish language and culture and five weeks focusing on Latin language and Roman civilization. At the end of these ten weeks, each student selects which language to pursue for the remainder of his years at Fenn, and begins formal studies of either Latin or Spanish.
In the Latin portion of the introductory course, students learn a basic vocabulary of about 150 words, the importance of word endings to determine the context and meaning of a Latin sentence, some basic patterns of English grammar, and, through background readings and small projects, a great deal about life as it was lived in ancient Rome and the surrounding provinces. Our text is an introductory workbook written and edited by members of Fenn’s Latin Department.
The Spanish segment of the introductory course focuses on the four major areas of language acquisition: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. During this introductory course, students work in a practical context, learning vocabulary and the basic elements of grammar. In addition to the studies of the language, students learn about the traditions and history of Spanish-speaking countries.
Latin is at the root of many languages, including English. Through their legacy of cultural achievements, the ancient Romans who spoke Latin have contributed significantly to American life, especially in the areas of art, architecture, political thought, and engineering. Fenn’s Latin program emphasizes the reading of Latin with ease, understanding, and enjoyment. Students pursue with enthusiasm the language written and spoken by the ancient Romans which can be learned more through reading than through speaking; develop good strategies and organizational techniques for mastering the grammar and vocabulary of Latin and other world languages; expand their understanding of English grammar and vocabulary; and appreciate aspects of their cultural background as Americans which they inherit from the ancient Romans (and Greeks).
In Sixth Grade Latin, a student who has opted to continue with Latin focuses on the life of Horatius Quintus, a boy about his age who later grew up to be the famous Roman poet Horace. Continuing to learn the basic grammar of the Latin language, by the year’s end, students build a working vocabulary of about 500 words, and learn three cases (nominative, accusative, ablative) and their uses in the Latin sentence. Because boys often learn best when engaged actively, the course includes three major projects: catapult building, mosaic making, and gladiator training. Each project ends with a hands-on activity that has boys up and out of their seats, living like the ancient Romans, and applying the aspects of the language and history they have learned.
Spanish is a rich and beautiful language spoken in many parts of the world. Learning Spanish leads to an increased awareness, understanding, and acceptance of other languages and cultures, as well as an increased understanding of one’s own language and culture. The main goals of the Spanish program is to prepare students to speak in sentences and communicate effectively in the language; to read and correctly use Spanish grammar; to develop Spanish listening comprehension skills; to learn about the history, culture, geography, and people of Spanish-speaking countries; and to increase students’ enjoyment and appreciation of the culture, friendships, and travel in Spanish-speaking countries.
In Sixth Grade Spanish, a boy who has chosen to continue studying Spanish will learn grammar and vocabulary in a practical context. The class setting invites and encourages boys to speak in Spanish so that by the end of sixth grade, students are able to speak about likes and dislikes, school life, pastimes, and food. The goal for the sixth grade is to empower students and give them confidence in their ability to speak in Spanish. The class also explores the traditions and customs of Spanish speaking countries through projects and class presentations.
The Seventh Grade Spanish course focuses on developing the student’s ability to communicate in the Spanish language through practice in conversation, study of grammatical structures (including communication in the present, past, and future tenses), and development of a rich vocabulary that will empower the student to become an active and creative user of the Spanish language. The textbook we use in seventh grade focuses on grammar and vocabulary while also integrating cultural aspects of Spanish-speaking countries. The program is accompanied by audio and video activities as well as music, poetry, short stories, and folk tales of Spanish-speaking countries. Students in seventh grade have the opportunity to take the National Spanish Exam, Level I.
Middle School Mathematics
There is intentional overlap in material between Lower and Middle School mathematics in an effort to lay a strong foundation for the algebra and geometry courses that the boys will take in Upper School. Each boy continues to develop his computational skills and understanding of basic concepts in Middle School, and the instructional approach continues to engage our students in a variety of ways to meet the needs of different types of learners. Whole group instruction, small-group instruction, and collaborative work are all used, and regular homework continues to foster effective organizational skills and study habits.
While we are not interested in accelerating our math program simply for the sake of acceleration, we do acknowledge that there are boys who have developed a strong background in math and have the ability and interest to move at a quicker pace. With this in mind, individual students are placed according to educational needs in either regular or accelerated sections.
The Sixth Grade Curriculum includes broad background work in algebra and geometry. Students continue to develop their understanding of numeric operations, measurement, and data representation and to cover topics in number theory and probability. Students intensify their study of algebra through work with variables, patterns, functions, and sequences, and develop algebraic skills in simplifying expressions, working with fractions and decimals, and solving equations. Geometric concepts include symmetry, areas and angle relationships in polygons, similarity, and proportion.
The sixth grade mathematics text is:
- Passport to Algebra and Geometry, Larsen, Boswell, Kanold, and Stiff
In Seventh Grade, we continue academic sectioning to address the varied educational needs of individual students through the pace at which mathematics material is covered. After a careful review of the important tools of arithmetic and geometry introduced in sixth grade, students move on to a more focused look at algebra. Visual and algebraic models are a central part of the course.
Students are required to purchase a graphing calculator, which is incorporated into the course while computer software and websites continue to be incorporated into classroom instruction. Students do significant work with the coordinate system and explore such topics as slope, the distance formula, and equations of lines. Students are introduced to functions, function notation, and work with transformations. Study and organizational skills continue to be taught and utilized. This course provides the algebraic background for success in Fenn’s eighth grade Algebra I curriculum. Some students will complete and master the entire Algebra I curriculum during this year and will be ready for Honors Algebra or Honors Geometry/Trigonometry in eighth grade.
Seventh grade mathematics texts include:
- Pre-algebra: An Accelerated Course, Dolciani, Sorgenfrey, and Graham
- Algebra One Concepts and Skills, Larson, Boswell, Kanold, and Stiff
- Algebra and Trigonometry, Foerster
Middle School Science
The Middle School Science Curriculum introduces new concepts and content in the domain of technology and engineering and challenges students to apply concrete and abstract concepts as they continue to refine their lab skills, skills of observation, and skills of expression in preparation for the investigations they will undertake in Fenn’s Upper School. In addition, students begin to make connections between data and observations from lab activities and the theories and concepts that are researched and discussed. Students are introduced to the tool of the lab notebook and learn how to maintain a detailed and organized lab notebook to facilitate their learning.
Sixth Grade Students explore the topics of ecosystems, weather, the water cycle, birds, and groundwater. As in the Lower School, sixth grade science integrates all domains of science while focusing on applying concepts in physical science, life science, and earth science. Students are expected to demonstrate increasing proficiency and mastery of lab skills, and assessment blends student performance of these skills with their ability to accurately apply course content to their hands-on work.
Fenn’s campus is our extended classroom, and students hone their observation and research skills by studying the flora and fauna of the local ecosystem, applying ecological principles of food webs and energy flows. They supplement laboratory measurements and observations with research, including hands-on investigations of concepts including photosynthesis, the water cycle, weather patterns, and the flight of birds. In addition, the science domain of technology and engineering continues to be further developed and reinforced within the course of study.
Seventh Grade Science focuses primarily on the domain of physical science and integrates a strong technology and engineering component. The course builds upon the observation skills of the previous year and builds proficiency in measuring. Students use technology and Vernier probes to conduct controlled experiments about force and motion, and are challenged to apply concepts of physical science to the world around them. Through the process of scientific inquiry, topics such as electricity and the electromagnetic spectrum are introduced. Students isolate and test variables as they design wet cells and electromagnets to specifications. The curriculum increasingly emphasizes making connections between lab observations and measurements and the concepts reinforced during class discussions. Seventh grade students are introduced to formal lab report writing, and assessments place added emphasis on how well students express scientific concepts via graphs, data tables, diagrams, presentations, and written reports.
Resources and texts used in Middle School Science include:
- Sixth grade: Prentice Hall Science Explorer Series (Weather & Climate) and Middle Science with Vernier
- Seventh grade: Prentice Hall Physical Science - Concepts in Action; and Physics with Vernier
Middle School Social Studies
In the Middle School, social studies builds upon and deepens an understanding of culture. In sixth grade, students take a World Cultures and Geography course that introduces the concept of globalization and connects them with cultures and other students from around the world. The course seeks to promote cross-cultural understanding through hands-on projects that challenge students to engage with and propose solutions to real-world problems. In seventh grade, students turn their attention to the history of the United States. Building on their emerging understanding of globalization, geography and culture, students engage deeply with the people, ideas and events that have shaped American history from pre-colonial times to the present. Through hands-on projects, primary source documents and critical analysis of cause-and-effect relationships, students will explore issues of justice, freedom, and equity as they seek to understand events in their historical context.
Sixth Grade social studies, called World Cultures and Geography, explores the dynamic interplay between patterns of human behavior and the places where people live. Students will learn to apply a wide range of geography skills as they seek to understand the complexity and diversity of the world in which we live. The course strives to promote cross-cultural engagement and understanding, and examines the rich cultures and histories from around the world, including South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Students will connect with other students from these areas through Skype/FaceTime and other communications technology in order to foster an appreciation of similarities and differences between them and to cooperatively address real-world problems. Moreover, students will examine the world-wide impact humans have had on the environment and will develop strategies for creating a more just and sustainable world.
Resources for sixth grade social studies include:
- World Cultures and Geography, Milson, Altoff, Bockenhauer, J. Smith, M. Smith, & Moore
- Other readings as assigned.
Seventh grade social studies, “The American Experiment,” focuses on the overarching theme, “Liberty and Justice for All?” By exploring important questions about freedom including “What does it mean to be free?” “What are the benefits of freedom?” and “Should freedom ever be restricted?”, students will broaden their understanding of key issues and events in American history and culture. As they seek to answer these questions, students will build on knowledge and skills taught in previous years in the areas of reading and writing, geography, and current events. Students will learn to recognize and interpret primary sources and practice the skills necessary for careful, analytical research. Discussions, oral and visual presentations, and Socratic Seminars are integral components of the course. Students will learn and practice elements of both expository and persuasive writing to support the development of organized and clear written work.
Resources for seventh grade social studies include:
- History Alive! The United States Through Modern Times, Teachers Curriculum Institute
- Other readings as assigned.