Middle School Curriculum
In Middle School, all students have art class each week throughout the 4 years. Their art knowledge, skills, and curiosity continue to broaden. Self-expression is of primary importance. Students have a studio atmosphere allowing them to explore their interests, develop ideas, and advanced technical skills. Students participate in positive critiques with their classmates, teaching them to see the value of their own ideas and feelings as well as to respect those of others.
Students also learn to understand and appreciate art through the four disciplines of art: aesthetics (knowing about), art criticism (knowing why), art history (knowing who, what, and when), and art production (knowing how). Making connections and constructing meaning in the artwork is also learned. Students learn to problem solve and think creatively as they compare and contrast ideas while developing an appreciation of art and learning to recognize diverse perspectives. All Middle School students keep a sketchbook for one-quarter each year to practice skills and explore ideas. The art curriculum is enhanced by cross-curricular lessons, field trips and visiting artists.
The Middle School Communication Arts curriculum ensures that students enter high school prepared to communicate via reading, writing, speaking, and presenting. In fifth grade, students master writing 5-paragraph essays that emphasize research skills, descriptive writing, and essay organization. Fifth-grade students practice their analytical reading skills through exposure to many genres. The sixth-grade students focus on realistic fiction and non-fiction through readers’ workshops, creative writing, and projects that require effective research and introduce presentation skills. The students in seventh-grade practice writing for specificity, read in the science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction genres, and exhibit high school-level presentation skills. Finally, eighth-grade students combine all of the previous years’ skills into a yearlong, intensive project that requires in-depth research from multiple sources, creative expression, presentation skills, and writing in four different styles. Eighth graders also read deeply in the historical fiction genre with an emphasis on real-world connections. The Communication Arts department expects students graduating from Oakhill Day School to know how to write multiple-page essays in a variety of styles. Throughout all four years, they will have deepened their knowledge of grammar through the application of grammar concepts; they will also participate in an individualized spelling and phonics program. They will have read both classic literature (e.g., A Wrinkle in Time, Night, or Julius Caesar), and contemporary and cutting-edge literature, and be able to discuss all types of literature on personal, analytical, and real-world levels.
Middle School students should be familiar with all of the various sections in the Library. We want students to be able to navigate through any Library they might encounter in the future and find the resources they need. While our Middle School Library contains Fiction and Non-fiction books, Biographies, and Reference books, most of the Fiction books are arranged according to genre. Students are becoming more aware of the kinds of books that they like the best and identifying themselves with various genres of books. We spend time reading for enjoyment in our Library classes. It is important to continue to foster their lifelong reading habits as they begin to prepare for high school and beyond.
Middle School students are introduced to the Missouri state book awards – the Mark Twain Award for 4th-6th Graders and the Truman Award for 6th-8th Graders. Students are encouraged to read at least four of the twelve nominated books for the current year. They can then vote for their favorite and their votes are submitted and actually help to determine the winning author. They also have the opportunity to participate in an optional literacy based quiz bowl event called the “Battle of the Books” in the spring.
Middle School students will develop a good understanding of the many resources – both in print and online – that the Library has to offer. Students know how to use the Oakhill online Library card catalog to find the books they need. They also become skilled at navigating the Mid-Continent Public Library website. There they can search for books and place holds on books. We want them to appreciate the value in having a public Library card and we ensure that they have access to their account number so they can use it in class. They can also use the numerous online databases for research purposes. We use our time in Library class to reinforce the work students are doing in their Communication Arts classes. By the time students are in the 8th Grade, they are ready to use all of their experience to help them explore and investigate their Mission Possible Project topic, to complete a wide variety of writing assignments, and to develop a polished presentation.
The Middle School Math curriculum develops Oakhill students into critical thinkers. The curriculum in 5th grade focuses on 6th-grade concepts with a heavy emphasis in fractions and decimals to provide students with a firm foundation for 6th-grade pre-algebra. During 6th grade year, students work through a pre-algebra course while reviewing materials from previous grade levels, preparing their Algebra path for the remainder of their Oakhill career. Based on aptitude, standardized test scores, grades, and teacher recommendation, students are on a pace to complete Algebra by their 8th-grade graduation. Through placement, students are on a track to complete Algebra 1, split over their 7th and 8th-grade years or Algebra 1 their 7th-grade year and Geometry during their 8th-grade year. Regardless of the path taken, the math department challenges the students through differentiation and review to ensure students fully grasp middle school appropriate mathematical concepts.
Middle School music classes occur twice a week for forty-five minutes. Students divide their time composing, applying theory on instruments, accompanying themselves, and listening to and classifying different genres of music. Middle School students perform during the holiday season, at Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day, and at the Eighth Grade graduation.
Students interested in additional music can take advantage of quarterly electives. Garage Band, guitar, and music composition classes are offered. The Middle School Choir is a non-auditioned group that meets once a week on Thursday afternoons from 3:30 until 4:00 This choir club meets all year round. Drama is another choice in the third quarter for those students interested in participating in a musical in the early spring. This class is held after school from four to five two days a week.
Middle School students engage in many sports units and activities throughout the school year.
During the year, the class has two-week units covering a wide range of sports. Each sports unit provides students the basic knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the sport. Workout Wednesday and fitness weeks are also incorporated into the P.E. curriculum to teach students personal and lifetime fitness. All exercises are explained and practiced to encourage the students to learn the correct form of the exercises to benefit their own body and to promote personal health. Following each two-week unit, students receive a fun week where they are engaged in playing many fun traditional P.E. games: Dodgeball, Capture the Flag, Kickball, and King of the Court.
The middle school science curriculum strives to develop constructive creativity linking relationships to the world around us. Through the use of the scientific method, science journals, recording of observations, the formation of hypotheses, and analysis of results during class; students constantly develop the scientific skill sets needed to succeed. Our state of the art facility, higher level questioning, group collaboration, and projects including hands-on exploration and discovery; helps to ensure our students are prepared for high school and consistently enroll and succeed in higher level science classes. Each year in middle school students are challenged in various scientific disciplines. Students are exposed to life science, earth science, physical science, science inquiry, STEM projects and concepts that spiral on an annual basis. Students are treated as individuals allowing for tailored curricular needs and collaboration with other divisions through cross-curricular projects. This design allows the science department to teach to the whole child. The curriculum is further enhanced through engaging and exciting field trips including a bi-annual 7th/8th-grade field trip to the Florida Keys to end the marine biology units.
Oakhill Middle School students have expanded leadership roles being challenged to participate in the school's robust recycling, compost, and school garden programs as well. Further avenues of scientific exploration include Science and Robotics clubs. The ultimate goal of the science department is to create lifelong science learners.
The Middle School Division explores our local community, our state, US regions, the union of United States, and, finally the international community of nations. Students explore new concepts and develop meaningful insights, spiraling and adding depth of knowledge throughout their middle school years. This concentric learning approach reaches all across the Social Studies curriculum at Oakhill, from early childhood through 8th grade.
In fifth grade, students learn about city planning and the relationship between citizens and their local government. They study state government and then begin their exploration of American history. Beginning with pre-Columbian North America, students are exposed to the history of indigenous peoples, the discovery of our continent, and the crafting of our nation. Their journey through US history culminates in a study of the Revolutionary War and the forming of the Constitution. Fifth grade’s international focus is on the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, and China.
In sixth grade, students learn local history starting from Francois Choteau to the present day. They also focus on what citizenship is at the local, state and federal levels. Their regional focus is on 19th-century conflicts between Kansas and Missouri. In sixth grade, US history studies span the 19th century from its beginning through Reconstruction. Sixth grade’s international focus is on the ancient cultures of the Inca, Maya, and Aztec in ancient South America.
In seventh grade, students explore current aspects of immigration in Kansas City. They then focus an economic look at the Midwest region. This is followed by a US history curriculum that begins pre-World War I and ends post-World War II. Their international focus is on the classical ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.
In 8th grade, students work with local government to learn how communities are planned, maintained and funded. They work together to present a major development plan to the Planning Commission of Gladstone. State and national governments are studied from both a historical and contemporary perspective. Students participate in an in-depth study of the US Constitution. US history in eighth grade picks up at post-World War II and continues to the end of the 20th century. Eighth grade’s international focus spans from the fall of Rome through the Middle Ages in Europe.
Fifth grade: Upon entering 5th grade, students increase responsibility and Spanish exposure with weekly assignments using an online language learning tool. This tool/website requires students to complete unit lessons each week (as assigned by Oakhill teacher). The outside of class exposure keeps a student’s momentum going forward and strengthening their skills thus increasing their confidence.
Units throughout the year will build on listening, speaking, and reading comprehension skills regarding ways to express ‘likes and dislikes’, basic conversation phrases/comments, articles, nouns, and adjectives, school-associated environment, increased verb exposure, reading short novels, expanding vocabulary in various units, culture and traditions of Spanish speaking countries, and increasing the independent year-end counting goal to prepare them for stating populations, years, etc.
Storytelling activities will provide additional exposure to more complex verb tenses such as preterite and imperfect. Storytelling involves a circling technique that allows students to learn in a fun and silly manner.
Students will also learn the location and capitals of Spanish speaking countries throughout the world while focusing on the largest populations within the United States of America.
Sixth grade: Sixth-grade students continue with weekly assignments outside of class using an online language learning system, as well as, frequent interaction with verb conjugation activities to build skills and confidence outside of class. Students will continue to strengthen their language skills through class activities, a variety of units, projects, and storytelling units.
Students will spend time learning about the various regions/states of Mexico and produce a short presentation on their region in the Spanish language. This project pushes the students to use and apply their language skills in a comfortable setting. Students are tested on the information at the end of the unit.
Units or other areas of focus will include improving reading comprehension in small groups with short novellas; expanding food and restaurant associated vocabulary, phrases, asking for directions, working with telling time, frequent impromptu conversations, as well as the introduction to the ‘immediate future tense’. ???
Seventh grade: For the first time students will be divided differently than in other classes as it is based on their comfort levels, confidence, and use of the language abilities. Classroom dynamics are also taken into consideration to allow for ALL STUDENTS to succeed.
Seventh-grade students will continue building their language skills and confidence as they will have additional exposure to more complex verb tenses and how to correctly use them. Units will include an in-depth study of Spanish speaking countries throughout the world. Students will create their own storytelling endings of class stories or entire short stories to present to the class using the classic TPRS circling style.
Students will revisit the human body and relearn the ‘classic parts’ while diving internally to learn more about the organs and health-related terminology. Short novellas and a play activity will increase reading comprehension skills.
Eighth grade: Students should confidently work with verb conjugations in the present tense and have a moderate comfort level with immediate present and simple past tenses. Students will research heroes in each of the Spanish speaking countries and learn their roles in the fight for independence. Students will create short presentations in/as first-person narratives describing themselves and their involvement in the countries struggle for independence.
A Quinceañera unit will allow students to understand the importance of this ‘special day’ and the importance of the many details included in the event.
Continued focus/work with verbs to further strengthen skills using the present verb forms. Students will receive an introduction to basic past and present progressive forms as well as ‘immediate future’ through activities, novels, etc.
Middle School students are eager to put their knowledge of technology to full use through our BYOL (bring your own laptop) program. Students bring their own laptops to school, utilizing them in all subject areas, providing for full integration of technology in their education. All Middle School students participate in dedicated technology classes that focus on age-appropriate digital citizenship, covering privacy, cyberbullying, online safety, plagiarism, and social media. Formal technology instruction also includes applying and expanding skills with presentation tools, wikis, blogging, movie making, podcasting, computer-aided design software and computer programming.
Oakhill is committed to providing our students with authentic, relevant and collaborative digital experiences. As part of this commitment, students have the opportunity to become Techsplorers on Twitter, taking advantage of an authentic audience and giving them a genuine opportunity to create their digital footprint. Using a supervised account, students share their stories in their words, determining what they feel is important to share. Each student signs their tweet, providing a way for each individual voice to be heard. In doing so, students experience the realization that their voice has a true impact on the world around them. Oakhill also actively participates in several global events including International Dot Day, Character Day, the Global Read Aloud, Hour of Code and the Invent It Challenge, all giving students authentic opportunities to build their essential 21st-century skills as they connect, communicate and collaborate with classrooms around the world.