Middle School Curriculum Update

November/December 2019


In writing and reading workshop the students completed their final narratives. They learned how to craft a thesis statement for essays about how specific inventions affected Britain’s economy, society, and the environment. The groups completed reading the novels The Giver, First Light, and City of Ember. As a creative writing assignment, each student wrote an alternative ending or an epilogue based on the novel they read. In Humanities class, we continued our study of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. The students created map simulations based on Manchester’s expansion during the time of the Industrial Revolution. Through multiple sessions, they were asked to draw roads, coal mines, houses, shops, churches, pubs and graveyards to their maps. They quickly discovered how crowded their mock cities became without proper planning. The students learned about the different types of coal and their uses and roles in the Industrial Revolution. We learned about coal mining,working conditions and worker and animal safety at the time. The students visited The # Nine Coal Mine in Lansford, Pa. They viewed the museum’s coal mining artifacts, rode a train and walked in the mine. In addition to the invention essay, each student selected and completed a project about child labor and working conditions, the cholera epidemic and living conditions, or inventions to conclude our study of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. In this unit we explored the move from agriculture to factory life, the textile industry, energy sources like steam, coal and iron, and advancements in transportation due to canals, improved roads, and railroads and the changes in society, the economy, and the environment.

In our weekly meetings with our partner group, the Fox Class, the partnered students wrote stories and then created stop animation videos of their stories. As a follow up to their Wishes for the World, the Middle School Students held two fundraisers, a pretzel sale and a holiday breakfast and plan to distribute the proceeds to several organizations.


Pre-algebra – We have been working on extending our knowledge of working with numbers to incorporate many different aspects into our work at once, so that operations become smooth and thoughtful. These include: order of operation, arithmetic properties, decimals, fractions, and operations with negative numbers. It is incumbent on the students to truly be able to “think” with a mathematical mindset in order to understand what a problem is really asking and to develop an efficient approach to solving it. For example, grasping what the problem -1 34 ÷ 12 is asking, and to be able to estimate the answer, involves a complex understanding of numbers and mathematical concepts. Additionally, we have continued to work on a variety of mathematical puzzles and conundrums as we seek to become increasingly comfortable playing with numbers and solving ongoing complex problems.

Math 6

Math 6 students began studying Chapter 3 in the CPM math program. In this chapter, students begin by focusing on multiple representations of portions, ratios, and equivalence. It then moves into work with integers and signed rational numbers. The first half of Chapter 3 focused on equivalent fractions and ratios, and introduces the concept of multiplying by the “Giant One”, i.e., multiplying both the numerator and denominator of a fraction by the same number to get an equivalent fraction. In this section, students will also examine the connections between fraction, decimal, and percent representations for portions of a whole. We looked extensively at correlating these three numerical forms. Here they look at how the meanings of percents, fractions, and decimals are related, how to represent a quantity in each of these forms, and how to move between these representations. They also connect these ideas to the concept of ratios. Ratio and proportion are an important focus of this course and this lays the groundwork to connect this big idea to portions and operations with rational numbers.

The second half of Chapter 3 began with having students looking at motion on a number line. Integer expressions are used to represent this motion, with motion to the left being represented by adding a negative number and motion to the right represented by adding a positive number. As they work in this section, students also create their own number lines on which to represent solutions, providing practice with setting intervals and scaling one-dimensional axes in preparation for work with coordinate graphs in Lesson 3.2.4. They work to locate positive and negative numbers on the number line, which leads to finding distance using absolute value. Lastly, they connect this idea of distance to finding the length of a horizontal or vertical line segment on a coordinate graph and plotting points in all 4 quadrants. Students should be familiar with graphing coordinate points in the first quadrant from their work in previous courses.

In addition to completing Chapter 3 in the CPM program, students continued to learn new properties of algebra: exponents, monomials, binomials, and how to apply the distributive property to monomials and binomial expansions, or FOILing. Finally, students regularly complete handouts in the MathCounts program, which organizes regional and national math competitions. Students are well-established in new, rigorous materials and making good progress in their understanding of pre-algebra concepts.

Physical Science

Middle School Students covered a range of topics this month in Physical Science, After previously studying the relationship between potential and kinetic energy, we began to look at elastic potential energy, especially as demonstrated in springs. We learned about English mathematician Robert Hooke and his namesake equation, Hooke’s Law, which correlates displacement of a spring with force. We conducted several explorations of springs that studied the correlation between restoring force and displacement of the spring using various masses and springs of different spring constants. One of these included the construction of a miniature projectile launcher made with the springs from a pen. In our second unit this month, we again looked at the transfer of forms of energy, this time using a marble track. Students began with the challenge of designing a track that required the longest time for a marble to complete. This led them to focus on conserving potential energy and looking for ways to minimize kinetic energy. We returned to simple machines in our third unit and examined the many manifestations of the 6 simple machines - the screw, wedge, inclined plane, pulley, lever, and the wheel. Students used levers and inclined planes in the design challenge of launching an object as high as possible with materials found in the MakerSpace. We performed a similar challenge in our unit on catapults. Overall, students are enjoying seeing the fundamental concept of energy transfer in various guises and physical phenomena.