Upper Elementary (9-12) Program
Just as in the other program levels at WMS, the foundation of the Upper Elementary experience is the social curriculum, which is based on the principles of Responsive Classroom. The goal is that all children are known, find a comfortable routine, respect each other, and work through any difficulties that may arise. It is an opportunity to learn about other and discover that everyone is different and has something to offer the group.
The 9-12 Program is where students find their voice and become more independent in asking questions and meeting their needs. Though teachers and parents support students in their transition, they encourage the children to approach adults and fellow students to get what they need.
For 9-12 students, peers take on an importance as never before. Building a classroom community is critical for establishing a safe and productive learning environment. Learning how to speak to others, approach them with questions or comments, greet them and wish them a good day as they leave are all skills that are taught in our classrooms. Students learn how to approach adults for help and to ask for the things they need to complete their assignments.
Students also learn how to solve problems with their peers and teachers. While younger students learn how to listen and share their feelings without being accusatory, older students may have a meeting with another student mediated by a teacher or other adult. They work toward an apology of action, seeking to make amends for difficulties they may have caused.
When students enter the 9-12 Program, they are typically accustomed to reading simple chapter books and writing simple paragraphs. Most also come with the ability to decode most words and derive word meaning from context clues. As they move through the program, they increasingly learn to "read between the lines," inferring meaning from text and comparing their reading to other books or articles they have read, forming their own opinions and ideas. They also learn to write with their audience in mind, whether nonfiction or fiction.
The Upper Elementary Language program is based on the teachings of Maria Montessori, Common Core standards, National Council of Teachers of English, Nancie Atwell, Katie Wood Ray and others thought leaders. Students are assessed at the beginning of each year and throughout the year to monitor progress. Reading and writing are taught in an integrated approach as well as a workshop approach. Each of these seeks to treat reading and writing as necessary skills for success in school and in life.
- To construct, examine and extend the meaning of various forms of text.
- To organize and evaluate information and share it with others.
- To use literary knowledge to connect with society and culture.
- To use oral and written communication appropriate for various purposes and audiences.
A sample of what can be seen in the 9-12 Program:
- Book Clubs: Students and a teacher meet regularly to discuss their reading. Topics include literary elements such as plot, character, conflict and setting.
- Determine an author’s purpose in writing.
- Reader’s Response: Students write to a teacher about what they are reading, sharing their ideas about their books and being prompted to think more deeply or differently about their ideas. (required reading and reading for pleasure)
- Nonfiction Reading: Using multiple sources to read and learn about a topic for presentation, project or increased knowledge.
- Exploring a variety of writing forms including poetry, narrative, expository, report, editorials, fact-opinion and blog posts.
- Writing dialogue.
- Using proper grammar, capitalization and punctuation.
- Writing with the audience in mind; changing writing to address intended audience.
Students enter the 9-12 Program familiar with numbers and the operations that make up arithmetic. They are capable of performing computation, having been introduced to the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; they have varying agility with each.
At the end of sixth grade, they are mathematicians, ready to look beyond numbers to the stories they tell and the meaning behind them. They understand numbers as representatives of ideas, objects and patterns, and learn to solve problems, reason and communicate mathematically, and make math connections.
Examples of Upper Elementary math work include:
- Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing whole numbers, fractions and decimals
- Understanding and finding decimal, fraction and percent equivalencies
- Expressing remainders as decimals numbers
- Developing algorithms for operations as well as the area and perimeter of plane figures
- Solving for unknown numbers
- Locating and graphing points a coordinate grid
- Finding area, perimeter, volume of various geometric shapes
- Statistically collect and represent data
- Order of operations
- How does the world work?
- What is culture?
- What does it mean to be human?
Each year, on a three-year rotating schedule, students focus on one of these essential questions, learning how to ask more questions that guide their learning in science, geography, history and social studies. They may work together, as a class or small group, or may conduct research independently. They study history, geography and economics as they learn more about our relationship to the past, present and future. Physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and geography guide students as they explore our relationship to the physical world. And they explore our relationship to ourselves and others through sociology, anthropology and geography.
Examples of 9-12 cultural studies work include:
- Use of various reference materials including books, magazines and digital sources
- Science projects and experiments
- Outdoor classroom that demonstrates the connection of our natural world to all learning