San Domenico Middle School Curriculum
"The teachers are dedicated to their trade and to their students, very responsive, hardworking, and inspirational in getting the kids to think in different ways."
At San Domenico School, one of our mission statements is “to recognize what it means to be human in a global community, and respond with integrity to the needs and challenges of our time.” In the English department, we streamline our mission, modeling lifelong learning, individual growth mindset, and what it means to be human. We reinforce our Dominican values of Study, Community, Service and Reflection.
American Library of Poetry award winner,
At San Domenico School, one aspect of our mission is “to recognize what it means to be human in a global community, and respond with integrity to the needs and challenges of our time.” In the English department, we streamline our mission, modeling lifelong learning, individual growth mindset, and what it means to be human. We reinforce our Dominican values of Study, Community, Service, and Reflection.
In all grade levels, we build on the close reading and writing skills of primary school. We study complex psychological, philosophical, and moral themes in literature. Students develop the ability to decipher language and text with a greater awareness of the author’s purpose and strategy, paying attention to the use of word choice, syntax, and tone. Using the philosophy and approach from Lucy Calkins' Units of Study, and the skills defined in the Common Core, we focus on the writing process, scaffolding arguments, writing narratives, and structuring informational and position essays. Students work on strengthening their own composing abilities, including writing with a purpose, addressing and appealing to an audience, creating effective text structures, and effecting an appropriate style while learning to recognize the same in the writing of others. The goal is to prepare students for the rigors of high school English, explicitly teaching students how to organize their ideas, writing clearly and cogently.
- To foster creative and critical thinking, through questioning, reflection, and generating ideas.
- To practice and develop reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
- To practice skills as both independent and group learners.
- To engage in composition based upon the writing process, with a strong emphasis on revision.
- To improve grammar skills through contexts of reading and writing, focusing on how grammatical constructions enrich writing.
- To learn new words and use them in our everyday lives. We will study words in context from our reading and from Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop.
- To recognize and utilize interdisciplinary connections.
- To utilize 21st Century technology to enhance traditional learning, problem solve, and collaborate with peers.
- To develop a love of learning and the self-confidence, self-discipline, and organizational skills necessary for high school.
Common Writing Assessments
2015 Phillips Writing Award recipients.
Using Lucy Calkins’ Writing Workshop and Units of Study, students write the following essays in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade:
- Arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- Informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of context.
- Narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Yearlong programs and activities
In addition to the thematic units, students read books outside of class. Reading selections are recommended and approved. With the goal of building a community of lifelong learners, we encourage students to read for a recommended 30 minutes a night.
Vocabulary is also a yearlong project. Students learn words in context for personal growth. They practice their words, making flashcards and studying for weekly assessments.
Grammar reinforcement is yearlong, and in-context to student writing. Through direct instruction and mini-lessons, students learn mechanical rules based on the Common Core scope and sequence. They are encouraged to explore creative grammatical conventions with the goals of making their writing more interesting and organized.
Students engage in class discussions daily, using speaking skills, taking risks, and collaborating in small groups.
We lay the groundwork for successful mastery of higher mathematics such as trigonometry, statistics, and calculus. Middle school math students develop fluency in basic computational and procedural skills, an increased understanding of mathematical concepts, and use reasoning to solve mathematical problems.
The San Domenico School math program is designed to help students develop their understanding of mathematical concepts and apply those principles to real world situations.
We encourage all students to:
- Develop a solid foundation of math skills and procedures
- Look for patterns and develop an understanding of mathematics
as the science of patterns
- Communicate math ideas and questions effectively
- Use critical thinking and mathematical reasoning to solve
routine and non-routine math problems
- Answer higher order thinking questions where problem solving is the focus
- Make connections within math, and between math and other subjects
- Maximize their curiosity, tenacity, and appreciation for math
- Take responsibility for their learning and be resourceful in
seeking help when they need it
Mathematics: Twelve Thinking Behaviors
Through the math program at San Domenico Middle School, we endeavor to teach the following thinking behaviors:
2. Overcoming impulsivity
3. Listening to others
4. Flexibility in thinking
6. Checking for accuracy & precision
7. Questioning and problem posing
8. Drawing on past knowledge applying it to new situations
9. Precision of language and thought
10. Using all the senses (includes sense of humor)
11. Ingenuity, originality, and insightfulness: creativity and metaphors
12. Wonderment, inquisitiveness, curiosity, and the enjoyment of problem solving
What is Mathematics? Why Study It?
From a presentation at the 2006 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in St. Louis, MO by Jim Rubillo, President of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
- Mathematics is not simply a set of rules, skills, and procedures.
- Rather, mathematics is characterized by the type of questions explored. Mathematics explores "life's questions" from a logical and quantitative point of view.
- People, in every field of endeavor, need mathematical skills and abilities to help them deal with questions similar to the following:
A Non-Exhaustive List of Life’s Key Questions:
How can this information be sorted, organized, grouped, compared, and visualized?
What is the result of this series of actions? Are the steps reversible?
Does it follow? Can you verify that fact? How can we be sure?
Have we reached a maximum or minimum? Can things get better or worse? What's best?
What are the possibilities? Have we missed something?
What strategies are available? Is there a different way to look at the situation?
What are the chances? What are the risks?
Can we simulate or model the situation?
A small part of the situation is visible, but what is "actually" there?
Does a “representative” sample tell you as much about a population as a census? Is a sip as good as a gulp? Can you believe the Gallup Poll?
Have We Reached the Maximum or Minimum? Can Things Get Better or Worse?
The Fundamentals of Medicinal Dosage: A person takes one (1) unit of medicine every day. The medicine mixes quickly into the body's "water supply." The body replaces 25% of its water each day. How many units of the medicine are in the body after: one day? two days? 14 days?
Why does this work?
Are these figures accurate? Do the books balance?
What's missing? What's extra?
Is that result reasonable? Do I have enough resources to solve the problem?
Are these two things related? Does one factor influence the other?
What are the extremes? What is most likely? How much variation can we expect?
What are the ground rules? What limits and opportunities do they impose?
How is the situation changing? How much time will it take?
Spreading, peaking and ending of a flu epidemic:
Every flu epidemic has a "population of opportunity." The epidemic is spread "randomly" until the maximum number of susceptible people contract the flu and the “epidemic is over." Everyone does not contract the flu. Only the “susceptible” people in the “population of opportunity” get sick. We take actions that attempt to reduce this "population of opportunity." Sample actions: immunization shots, isolation of infected people, sanitation, education on risk factors. How can we detect when the "growth of an uncontrolled epidemic" has peaked? How can we predict the maximum number of susceptible persons that will be infected?
Will the proposed change really make a difference? How can we tell? What is our test?
Is there a shortcut or a procedure (algorithm) to perform this task?
What have we learned from our experiences? How can we improve the outcome?
How precise must our work be?
What does this table (or graph) say? How can we present this information?
Is there a pattern here? What's next? Will this trend continue?
How much is necessary to complete this task?
Math Success Skills
Get a “can do” attitude: If you can do it in sports, music, dance, etc., you can do it in math! Try not to let fear or negative experiences turn you off to math.
Take responsibility for studying and recognizing what you do and don't know. Get help early, not just before a test!
Try not to miss class. If you do miss class be sure to get a copy of the notes you missed from another student or your teacher, and check in with your teacher about what you missed.
Pay attention in class or you may miss important steps to learning concepts. Ask questions in class! There are usually other students wanting to know the answers to the same questions you have.
A word of warning
Most lessons build on the previous ones, all year long. You must keep up with the class: attend class, take notes and do homework every day. Falling a day behind puts you at a disadvantage. Falling a week behind puts you in deep trouble.
A word of encouragement
Most lessons build on the previous ones, all semester long. You will always review previous material as you learn new material. Many of the ideas fit together. Paying attention in class and understanding the concepts and connections mean you don't have to memorize as much! These habits will not only give you an advantage on upcoming lessons but in high school, college, and beyond.
The middle school science program provides a thorough knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the basic concepts of the Earth, Life, and Physical Sciences. Classroom focus is on inquiry based learning, literacy skills, and integration of technology. Students are engaged in many self directed projects and involved in hands-on learning opportunities using our science labs, organic garden and extensive grounds of our campus. Through our emphasis on ecoliteracy students learn about connections between science and our everyday world.
6th Grade Earth Science introduces our middle school scientists to their planet Earth! To start the learning process, students learn how to critically read science materials, the science textbook, take notes and apply thinking skills. After in class discussions to support and enhance the readings and research, discovery begins! A variety of hands-on activities, labs and long term projects guide our 6th graders through the scientific method, exploration, and world connections of various topics including: Earth’s Structure, Plate Tectonics, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Weathering, Erosion, Energy Resources, and Ecosystems.
7th Grade Life Science introduces our middle school scientists to the living world around them. We continue the learning process building upon the skills utilized in the 6th grade. A special focus on ecoliteracy is offered to 7th graders through the Environmental Science Project. This is a long term project in which students master all aspects of the scientific method, complete a formal science research paper, carry out an environmental science experiment, make local and world connections, generate a formal lab report, and present to their peers. Their final projects are featured in our Earth Day celebration. Topics addressed in Life Science include: the Cell Structure and Functions of the Organelles; Cell Processes and Energy, Genetics, Endocrine System, Reproductive System and Evolution.
8th Grade Physical Science introduces students to chemistry and physics. As students learn about the concepts behind the periodic table and how to use the periodic table to answer questions about the elements, they also learn about chemical reactions and how those reactions relate to the natural world around them. A strong environmental theme runs through the physical science curriculum as students study the carbon cycle and learn about climate change and ocean acidification. Students write a research paper about a problem associated with man’s impact on the carbon cycle as well as proposing a solution to the problem. Students also learn about basic physics from a practical standpoint. Lab experiences range from chemistry labs to the production of non-Newtonian fluids/polymers (green slime) and designing Diet Coke and Mentos geysers. Students end the year with a STEM project (Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering) in which they build and race model self propelled vehicles and study the physics and math behind their designs. Throughout the year, an emphasis is placed on critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Students are provided with the skills and tools they need to become responsible citizens and leaders, stressing problem solving and critical thinking; we help students understand the role of history in the human experience, become active participants in the democratic process, develop respect for and appreciation of their own culture and world cultures, and to develop an understanding of global needs. San Domenico uses higher-level thinking—analysis, synthesis, and evaluation—and the mastery of concepts, generalizations, theories, and historical connections in the social studies program.
San Domenico School provides students with the skills and tools they need to become responsible national and world citizens and leaders—stressing problem solving and critical thinking to help students understand the role of history in the human experience. Techniques include analysis, synthesis, evaluation, theorizing, writing, and finding historical connections. Students learn about the accomplishments and contributions of early cultures, studied in a geographical context, and are introduced to basic history and geography skills, such as highlighting, note-taking, and annotating. Students study the Islamic world, foundations of African society, ancient Chinese and Japanese philosophies and cultures, as well as the roots of Western European history.
Students become familiar with geographical features of the United States and their effects on settlement, explore the impact of the North American Age of Discovery, and study the development of the colonies and their regional differences. They come to an understanding of the foundations of democracy, particularly the shaping of the Constitution, three branches of government, and major issues surrounding the Bill of Rights. Current political issues and events are explored, including examining the causes of war, particularly the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the results of war. Emphasis is placed on critical thinking, essay writing, and personal involvement in the democratic process.
The Spanish program helps students acquire conversational and academic language in as painless a way as possible. We help students learn to communicate in real-life situations, and understand themselves within a larger cultural context by examining diverse perspectives in terms of economic, social, political, and geographic realities. The Natural Approach method at San Domenico is communications based—allowing speech to emerge, rather than be forced through a complex system of grammatical rules.
The San Domenico Spanish program helps students acquire conversational language before academic language to help students in real-life situations. We strive to create learners who are excited about using Spanish, and understand themselves within a larger cultural context. Assessment is often based on performance, although standard tests and quizzes are given frequently. San Domenico uses The Natural Approach (TNA) where speech is allowed to emerge, rather than being forced through a complex grammatical system of rules; it is communication based. Studies show that the effect of grammar teaching is very limited with short-term exam results. By the time students have completed their middle school Spanish studies at San Domenico School, they will have practiced material typically presented in most Spanish I high school programs.
At first, most of the class is taught in Spanish with English used only for clarification purposes. Students are expected to respond in Spanish through gestures, brief answers, or short sentences. By eighth grade, students communicate entirely in Spanish, with an emphasis on conversational learning and vocabulary building. Cultural focus units include examining cultures of Spanish-speakers throughout the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Ecuador, Argentina, Costa Rica, and others using critical thinking skills as a means of understanding personal, social, political, and cultural differences and similarities.
Students explore art history, principles, theories, and techniques including drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, and design. The courses focus on the development of personal expression, intuitive process, and content in art. At the end of each year students present their works in the student visual and performing arts show Arts in Action.
At San Domenico, students explore their own religious beliefs and traditions and those of others in an ecumenical spiritual environment. They study the books of the Bible, lives of prophets and saints from many traditions, and the history of religions from around the world. The curriculum is based in our Dominican values as well as the progressive ideals of our community, including social justice, service, and sustainability.
In the sixth grade San Domenico students read the books of Genesis and Exodus. Through these stories they study our place in the natural world, our interconnection as a human family, and our relationship to the Divine through faith, visions, and dreams. In the seventh grade students consider what it means to be a spiritual person using Jesus’ life and teachings in the Gospels within the historical context of Roman controlled Judea. They examine his teachings—in particular the parables and Sermon on the Mount. In seventh grade students research Muhammad, the Quran, and modern political issues surrounding the religion of Islam, Buddha and the religion of Buddhism, and they choose a saint or master to research and present to the rest of the class.
In the eighth grade students study religion comparatively. They examine the major world traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism, considering religious founders, holidays, holy books, and sacred places. Through a comparative study of these traditions, students consider the meaning of the elements, patterns, and principles that appear among all religions and uncover the profound commonalty behind all religions.
San Domenico School promotes skills development, physical fitness, and good sportsmanship—emphasizing the importance of physical activity in maintaining healthy lifestyles now and in adulthood. The program provides opportunities for students to realize their own special abilities thorough exposure to a variety of games and activities, focusing on both team and individual sports. Private instruction is also available in tennis, horseback riding and swimming.
Music / Dance Electives
Students may choose among choral music, woodwinds, strings, guitar, jazz band, orchestra, and dance. In addition to learning the respective instrument and practicing, each course covers the historical development of the discipline. Students enrolled in these electives perform at least twice each school year—private instruction is also available through the music conservatory on campus.
SustainabilityAt SD, ecoliteracy is interwoven into all of our classes and curriculum. We believes that as educators we have a responsibility to teach students about interconnectedness, patterns, relationships, and the web of life, so that they have the tools needed to create a sustainable world. San Domenico addresses these critical issues in concrete ways throughout our curricula, policies, and campus practices. Learn more about Sustainability at San Domenico.
Technology / Study Skills / Life Skills
San Domenico's technology program includes computer literacy, electronic multimedia, and integrated classroom technology. The 1-1 iPad program enhances all aspects of the curriculum, and builds student excitement about learning.
The study skills program focuses on the development of the core organizational techniques required for success in high school and college.
Both study skills and technology instruction are integrated into the core academic classes. The life skills program provides students with information and education in a range of areas essential to healthy social development, such as conflict resolution / anti-bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, nutrition / positive body image, responsible internet use, and human sexuality.