Humanities is a course that connects history and language arts by integrating reading, writing, oral communication and history. Students nourish their love for reading by delving into novels, short stories and poetry, while actively annotating for symbolism beneath the surface of the text and cross-disciplinary connections. Reading instruction focuses on research strategies using primary and secondary sources. Students analyze literature through a variety of genres in order to view the world through an informed, multicultural, social justice lens. By eighth grade, they are exposed to a strong canon of classics, which they dissect not only for their significance to the era in which they were written, but also how they relate to and can teach us about the world today. Students write daily, with the goal of developing technically strong pieces, both in terms of expository and creative writing. With each composition, they practice all components of the writing process. Grammar, vocabulary and spelling instruction are integrated into the Humanities curriculum. When they graduate from CDS, they not only have countless thesis-style essays in their writing portfolios, but also annotated bibliographies and research papers, which they develop through a rigorous eight-week-long project through the University of Virginia libraries during both their seventh and eighth grade years.
Students learn history through engaging in role-playing, debating, writing, researching and discussing literature. Students develop a general understanding of the core historical themes and content of the United States, then pursue research in much narrower areas of their own historical interests, allowing them to display their mastery in a number of ways. Differentiation is at the heart of class. Each student gains an understanding of historical patterns and makes connections between historical events and what is happening in our world today. Rather than confining teachers to superficial study of numerous facts, CDS instructors are given the flexibility to focus on sustained study of important historical events. Upon completion of eighth grade, CDS students are prepared to excel in high school Advanced Placement History, as well as English Language and Composition.
At Charlottesville Day School, the middle school mathematics curriculum builds on the foundations gained from our elementary mathematics program. With a focus on exploration and discourse, students investigate numbers while additionally developing efficient algebraic and geometric reasoning.
The curriculum aligns with both the Common Core Standards and the Virginia Standards of Learning. Additionally, pedagogical decisions in our mathematics program are influenced by the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics. We provide students with rich instructional tasks that are appropriately and comfortably challenging. The contextual nature of these tasks keeps students highly engaged as they collaborate, reason and creatively connect new content with prior knowledge. Students are provided differentiated and challenging opportunities, along with appropriate support to build confidence as a learner and help to solidify not only mathematical concepts and skills, but who they are as mathematicians. Students learn to embrace mistakes, appreciate hard work and perseverance as well as value their own learning process and that of their peers.
Fifth grade math focuses on number sense to gain flexibility with numbers, data/probability, and geometry/measurement as well as an introduction to algebraic concepts. Students explore, question, develop and sharemathematical ideas, as well as practicing skills through games and more traditional means. CDS teachers believe that learning should be purposeful, hands on, relatable, engaging and fun. We believe that all students can successfully complete and enjoy challenging tasks and understand advanced mathematical concepts given appropriate support. We also believe that fifth grade is a crucial year to nurture mathematical curiosity to foster confidence in students as they take greater mathematical risks.
With a focus on proportional reasoning and algebraic concepts, our sixth grade mathematics course builds on content covered in fifth grade and serves as the formal introduction to pre-algebra. Students will experience an intellectual shift as they expand the number system to include positive and negative values and further conceptualize by distinguishing between rational and irrational numbers. A heavy concentration in proportional reasoning, moving from thinking additively to thinking multiplicative about relationships/patterns, strengthens students’ abilities to be more malleable and efficient problem-solvers. As we move into symbolic algebra, students will learn about variables, equations, and formulas. The application of newly explored algebraic understandings allow students to make contextual connections to data and statistics.
Seventh and Eighth Grade
As seventh graders, CDS students either continue to develop their algebraic thinking and proportional reasoning in our Pre-Algebra course or enroll in Algebra I, an honors level high school course taught on our campus. The pre-algebra course deepens understanding of prerequisite skills and further develops the understanding of proportionality and algebraic reasoning in an intimate learning community. At the completion of the seventh grade pre-algebra class, rising eighth graders will transition into a high school honors algebra class.
Algebra I at CDS is an investigative journey to understand a variety of mathematical relationships. Successful completion of Algebra I earns students a high school credit. Students who complete Algebra I as seventh graders will be enrolled into a second high school credit honors course as eighth graders. The Geometry Course at CDS is designed so that students “learn by doing” where students have fun and are actively engaged in investigations and activities. By developing conceptual understanding and interacting with new ideas, students gain factual knowledge, build proficiency of procedures, and become better at applying their learning. Students learn to be open to new ideas by solving problems, examine alternatives, think critically, and collaborate to expand their ideas. Students will also gain experience with inductive and deductive reasoning moving from informal reasoning by developing their justification skills until they are ready for a more systematic approach of formal proofs.
Science at CDS takes an interdisciplinary approach, making connections to English, history, math, PE, and health and nutrition. Middle school is a time to expand learning to think like a scientist, becoming more familiar with materials and methods scientists use in the real world, and building and using models that demonstrate understanding of concepts. Students apply scientific research and evidence within science units and are strongly encouraged to investigate individual scientific interests and communicate these with their peers and teachers. Human impact, both positive and negative, is explored throughout middle school science classes and gives students a platform to acquire emerging argumentation using evidence skills. Engineering design principles are also applied throughout core science disciplines.
Science units for fifth and sixth grade incorporate general concepts from life, Earth, and physical disciplines of science. Emphasis in fifth grade is building more depth of scientific understanding and skills learned in the elementary grades. Fifth and sixth grade students learn about the disciplines of science through a broad lens of four main areas: atmosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. Science units in seventh and eighth grade also incorporate the three main science disciplines. Emphasis in seventh grade is placed on learning about vertebrate body systems and the concept of systems working separately, as well as together, in individual organisms and the environment through a study on ecology. Eighth graders have a more in-depth look into the physical and Earth sciences, drawing on connections between these two fields and how they influence and affect the life sciences. Emphasis is on basic chemistry, energy and forces, and how these concepts are connected with earth’s geological structure, climate and weather patterns, our atmosphere and beyond. Eighth grade students also connect their scientific understanding to their Spanish class, taking an in-depth look at the science of the Spanish speaking area they will travel to in the Spring as part of their Spanish class.
Spanish is a core subject for middle school students at CDS and meets four times per week. Students are exposed to a great deal of spoken and written Spanish each day using a communicative approach that is engaging and leads to language acquisition. The cultures of Spanish-speaking countries are explored through authentic songs, art, television commercials, short films, infographics and reading selections. Novels, read as a class and independently, stimulate language acquisition as well as cultural discussions and understanding. In eighth grade, our students travel to a Spanish-speaking country to increase fluency, explore customs, and provide meaning and purpose to learning the language. While we differentiate, our goal is for our Middle School students to complete the Spanish I curriculum and to have moved into Spanish II curriculum by the end of eighth grade.