A thoughtful, rigorous curriculum and a supportive faculty
Town’s Upper School (grades 5-8) combines a thoughtful, rigorous curriculum and a supportive faculty in an environment that encourages students to read with care and write with conviction. Beginning in the Fifth grade, the program is fully departmentalized, taught by teachers in their areas of expertise. We support our high academic goals by incorporating essential study skills and time management components that are vital in a middle school education. Our faculty are well attuned to the nature and learning styles of developing children entering adolescence and provide structured opportunities for them to talk about the world outside the classroom. As classroom teachers, homeroom teachers and academic advisors, their relationships with students are marked by caring and mutual respect, and often extend beyond school hours and even graduation.
Each child is guided by an advisor.
Each child is guided by an advisor who oversees the academic, social, and emotional well-being of the student. The advisor keeps track of a student’s progress, meets with the student on a regular basis, helps organize the student’s materials, and focuses on time management strategies and goal setting. Each advisor is a subject teacher and is in close communication with the other teachers and parents throughout the school year. A weekly guidance model that takes place at every grade level in the school enables all academic and extracurricular teachers, the learning specialist, the psychologist, and the division head to meet and review the progress of each student.
Upper School students assume roles of leadership.
Upper School students at Town have many opportunities to assume roles of leadership. As the senior students in the school, they run the student government, plan assemblies, organize community service projects and social events, write and edit the literary magazine and yearbook, play interscholastic sports, and form committees to explore issues that concern them.
In English classes students develop both their expository and creative writing and refine their mechanical skills and understanding of grammar. The Fifth grade year is devoted to structure and organization. Reading assignments encourage students to look for different types of structure authors use to tell a story, and the focus of the writing curriculum is outlining, a crucial skill which lays the foundation for all the writing students do. The Sixth grade program emphasizes mechanics. Already in possession of a strong sense of structure, students are now exposed to an extensive grammar curriculum. In reading, they begin to look for symbol and theme. In writing, they learn to develop their own theses and concentrate on proving them effectively. These grammar rules and analytical thinking tools help students express themselves fluently. By Seventh grade, the students make a leap forward in thinking and understanding, enabling them to grasp abstract concepts more easily, read more deeply, and discuss more complex questions. In order to further encourage this developmental growth, the curriculum is designed to help students explore philosophy, culture, and ethics. Effective development of the analytical approach is heightened in the Eighth grade. Language arts skills are reinforced by daily analytical classroom discussions, one-on-one conferences to debate interpretative strategies, multiple writing conferences, lessons and exercises in Barron’s Painless Grammar, reinforcement of vocabulary and repeated editing and proofreading sessions for each written work. The curriculum also promotes a student’s own thoughts and analysis of specific pieces of information within the researching process. Students are exposed to different outline forms, note taking systems, bibliography guidelines, and the referencing of sources, all of which help the students develop a method of researching that best suits their individual learning style.
The social studies and history courses investigate diverse communities from the early cultures through contemporary government and society. Beginning in Fifth grade, students learn about archeology and then explore Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The “Ancient World” tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the highlights each year. The Sixth grade continues to the middles ages by concentrating on Japan, geography and the culture and history of the Feudal Era; Early Medieval peoples and cultures in Europe; the birth of Islam; and the major leaders, events, and features of Damascus, Baghdad, and Cordoba. The Seventh grade concentrates on the Age of Discovery from the 13th through the 17th centuries. Using historical figures such as Marco Polo, Columbus, and Magellan, the students discuss the effects of expanding cultures through global exploration. Then the Renaissance exploration looks at Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Galileo and examine how they influenced history and change. The students partake in an in-class mock Galileo Trial which encourages role-playing and cooperative learning. The year culminates with a look at the last colony of Roanoke. The Salem Witch Trials are used as a backdrop to explore what went wrong and the consequences of being a bystander. The Eighth grade continues the fluid chronology and explores United States history and the philosophies behind revolution and democracy. The course concludes with a contemporary look at the world today and the role of the United States in the changing world.
The mathematics program continues to emphasize reasoning and analytical skills. Small class size instruction, cooperative learning, projects, and extensive use of the computer and manipulative materials, including the Geometer’s Sketchpad, are incorporated. Continuous reinforcement of real-number operations in combination with geometry, pre-algebra, and algebra; problem-solving; and learning to think mathematically are stressed. In the Fifth and Sixth grades students learn all the operations of integers, fractions and decimals; graph linear and non-linear functions; and study basic geometry. Pre-algebra is taught in the Seventh grade, and in the Eighth grade students can take Honors Algebra, Algebra I or Introduction to Algebra. Throughout the program, teachers pose mathematical questions in a variety of forms and balance independent work with cooperative problem solving.
Upper School science classes are held in a modern, fully equipped laboratory. Between the Fifth and Eighth grades students are introduced to the earth, life, and physical sciences through experiment-based curriculum. As they identify ocean life and forms of matter, analyze solutions, wire circuits or study animals, they are constantly developing their critical thinking skills and improving their laboratory techniques. Fifth graders study oceanography through The Voyage of the Mimi, work through a tap water study of NYC’s tap water system, and explore the nature of sound and light. The Sixth graders study the five kingdoms of living organisms and begin a study of earth science. Seventh graders study physics and incorporate properties of magnets, electricity, motion, forces, and energy; and in the Eighth grade, students master basic principles of chemistry and biology.
In the Fifth grade students will take either French or Spanish and will continue in the selected language for four years. The Sixth through Eighth grade language program is a comprehensive first year high school course. The classes are taught almost entirely in French/Spanish in order to build fluency in both speaking and listening. As the study of grammar becomes more rigorous, classes focus on and promote conversation. By the Eighth grade, students read short stories along with their text, discuss them together, write essays and perform skits – all in the target language. The study of French/Spanish literature and culture is enhanced by films, visits to museums, and units on the French or Spanish-speaking countries of the world. By the end of Eighth grade at Town, the expectation is that all students will place into French/Spanish II or II Honors in Ninth grade.
The study of Latin begins in the Seventh grade with a curriculum (Cambridge Latin) which stresses translation and comprehension along with grammar. Students learn Roman history and culture from the stories they read about a family living in Ancient Rome. This course also provides an understanding of linguistic structure and an important foundation for English usage. Students complete the equivalent of high school Latin I.
Fifth graders are introduced to letter grades at the end of the second trimester. Sixth through Eighth grades receive letter and effort grades at the end of each trimester. Portfolios are used as another tool to evaluate and keep track of progress. Students select various pieces of representative work that shows growth in areas such as writing, math, science, and art. Parents meet with their child’s advisor twice during the year and receive written reports, with evaluations of skills and work habits, and portfolios, in December and June.
Throughout the grades, computer education is integrated within the classroom curriculum. The full-time computer coordinator assists teachers in learning how to use Smartboards and various software to reinforce math and reading skills, to augment units in social studies and history, to demonstrate motion and energy utilizing probes in science, and to assist in research. In addition, the Fifth and Sixth grade students take an arts elective course in video animation, architecture, and Photoshop. The Seventh and Eighth graders are encouraged to continue to use what they have learned to produce oral presentations, visual projects, and the literary magazine and yearbook.
Town has two technology labs, one of them serving as a writing lab for the drafting process, in particular. The science labs, hallways, library and classrooms are equipped with Smartboards and computers which are in constant use as tools for learning.