Curriculum

During the middle school years, students experience rapid growth intellectually, emotionally, and physically, and gradually take ownership of the learning process, build relationships, and come to appreciate their own individuality as they prepare to take on the challenges of high school. Although the middle school’s academic program is rigorous, our expectations are aligned with the developmental capacities of our students and fully supported by the close work and passion of our highly trained and experienced faculty.

One of the greatest differentials of an independent school is that the curriculum is taught and developed by the teachers. Our program is based on a number of well-established factors, including national and statewide standards, the school’s mission and the foundation of vertical cohesion and using skills taught in one grade level, are built upon in the following grade levels. Middle school (grades 6-8) coursework includes:

Middle School Courses

Click on the links below for course details.


English

Middle school English is a sequential program of grammar, composition, vocabulary, reading, literary criticism, oral expression, and research skills. Therefore, each course reviews all concepts and skills from the previous year(s). Students are strongly encouraged to read independently in addition to the assigned literature. The social studies and English curricula are frequently integrated to form interdisciplinary units. Courses offered are as follows:

Sixth Grade English
Sixth-grade composition instruction focuses on the stages of the writing process from prewriting activities through proofing and editing. Students concentrate on sentence structure and the organization of one to five-paragraph essays in each of the discourse methods. They also express their creativity in poetic and narrative compositions. In their literature studies students read a variety of genres and apply reader response, historical, cultural, and formalistic criticism. Sixth graders will learn and practice several methods of oral communication, such as class discussion, oral presentation, and small-group conversations. Students research using prescribed methods of note taking and bibliography creation and practice paraphrasing and summarizing. They distinguish fact from opinion and relevant from irrelevant information. They learn outlining in the production of a two- to four-page research paper.

Seventh Grade English
Composition instruction in the seventh grade continues to explore the writing process with focus on organizing techniques and leading to the creation of the five-paragraph or more essay. Students write in a variety of styles, including such creative forms as journaling, poetry, and letter writing. Seventh graders read many different genres of literature and use a variety of critical methods of evaluating texts. Full-class and small-group discussions and individual and dramatic presentations are among the ways students will practice oral expression. As they create a five-page documented paper, students research in a variety of print and electronic sources, differentiate between logical and emotional appeals, and present outlines using more sophisticated subdivision.

Eighth Grade English
Students in the eighth grade practice all elements of the writing process to compose in many varying styles, including poetry and reader’s response. They learn to create an effective thesis and concentrate on the structure of the five-paragraph essay. As they read in a variety of genres, they analyze texts using such methods as biographical/historical and moral/philosophical criticism. Students learn to recognize faulty generalizations and stereotypes. They compose a five-page documented paper with a refined focus, using a formal outline.


Fine Arts

While a strong academic curriculum is at the heart of the Keith Country Day School experience, our performing and visual arts programs are the soul. Fine arts are integral to a country day school education. The fine arts department believes that every student can achieve a measure of success in the arts. Our comprehensive program works toward providing students broad fundamentals in the fine, creative and performing arts. As a result, our students develop self-confidence and a willingness to expand their horizons. Middle school students are required to take two fine arts classes per year. Below are the course descriptions for music, art and theater.

MUSIC

Middle School Chorus
Middle School Chorus is a choral group of mixed voices singing one-, two-, three-, and four-part choral music in a variety of styles and from various historical time periods. Students develop skills of good vocal production, sight-reading, and collaborative work through the study of a varied repertoire.

Beginning Band
The class is designed to give sixth graders an opportunity to learn to play a band instrument through formal class instruction.

Intermediate Band
The intermediate-level band course is for seventh and eighth graders who have completed Beginning Band or the equivalent. In addition to further study of music reading, musical concepts, and instrumental techniques, the course offers expanded performance opportunities.

Middle School Ensemble
Middle School Ensemble is a technique and performance class for those desiring to play stringed instruments. The instructor places students in levels after an assessment. Students will learn the techniques of the specific instrument, as well as music reading and various music concepts.

Piano
Piano is open to students from 6th -12th grades. It is designed for beginning pianists who have had no previous piano instruction. The focus in the class is to introduce students to the skills and techniques necessary to play basic piano repertoire. Note reading, rhythm, dynamics, expressive terms and playing techniques are covered topics.

ART

Sixth Grade Art
Sixth-grade art includes drawing, painting, printmaking, fibers, three-dimensional design, ceramics, and mixed media approaches to creative expression.

Seventh Grade Art
Drawing, painting, design, graphics, printmaking, fibers, three-dimensional design, and mixed media approaches to creative expression comprise the content of this course.

Eighth Grade Art
Drawing with various media including pastels and scratchboard, ceramics, additive sculpture, batik, and mixed media approaches to creative expression are the features of the eighth-grade course.

THEATER

Sixth Grade Drama
This course is a survey that introduces basic theater terminology, concentration, cooperation, trust, sensory exploration, communication, emotions, storytelling, creating a character, writing and play production. The students will rehearse a performance showcase of the elements studied in the course during class and one or two weeks after school. A showcase presentation will be performed second semester.

Seventh Grade Drama
The seventh grade drama course builds on knowledge attained in Drama 6. Students will explore acting through improvisation, writing, theater exercises, and more in-depth monologues and scenes. The students will rehearse their class play during class and for one to two weeks after school. The play will be performed second semester.

Eighth Grade Drama
The eighth grade drama course builds on knowledge attained in Drama 7. Students will continue to work together to create theater pieces using improvisation, literature, characterization and student writing. The students will rehearse their class play during class and for one to two weeks after school. The play will be performed second semester.


Foreign Language

Students who are well prepared for the global economy of tomorrow must have a solid grounding in the traditional disciplines, be able to work in diverse groups, communicate in more than one language, and appreciate the diversity of world cultures. Keith’s middle school offers an inspiring foreign language curriculum that includes Latin, and Spanish. For many middle school students, the foreign language curriculum begins in sixth grade with Introduction to Latin. In fact, most middle school students take two foreign languages. Keith’s high school graduation requirement is to study one language for a minimum of four years, but students can take one modern language and Latin for all six years if they choose. Middle school course offerings include:

Introduction to Latin
This introductory course enables sixth-grade students to learn about ancient Roman family life and culture, mythology, Latin-based etymologies in English, and some basic Latin vocabulary and grammar. Students translate from Latin into English many stories about a typical Roman family’s meals, entertainment, education, city and travel.

Latin I-A
Latin I-A is designed for those seventh graders who have high achievement in English and who have shown good potential for learning a foreign language. The course work is the equivalent of one semester of high-school Latin I and carries the same credit value. The course is an introduction to the fundamentals of Latin grammar and the workings of the language. Study of Greek and Roman mythology is an integral part of the course, as are selected topics of Roman history and civilization.

Latin I-B
Latin I-B continues the study of basic grammar and vocabulary begun in Latin I-A. After a thorough review of material covered in seventh grade, this course concentrates on additional vocabulary, grammar, and translation. Students also study history, mythology and the legacy of Latin in English. Upon successful completion of the course, students advance to Latin II in grade 9.

Sixth Grade Spanish
The goal of sixth-grade Spanish is to familiarize students with the vocabulary and phrases necessary to express themselves in everyday situations, to understand basic conversational statements, and to ask and answer simple questions. It also introduces students to the Spanish-speaking world, its culture, customs, history, and geography.

Spanish I-A
Spanish I-A is for those seventh-grade students who have high achievement in English and a good potential for learning a foreign language. This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of the Spanish language: its vocabulary, grammar, and basic verbs. Students will also learn about the culture, customs, and geography of Spanish-speaking countries. The coursework is equivalent to one semester of high-school Spanish and carries the same credit value.

Spanish I-B
Spanish I-B is a course for eighth-grade students who have successfully completed Spanish I-A. It covers the second-semester of the high-school Spanish I, and is equivalent to one semester of high-school Spanish, carrying the same credit value. It begins with a review of concepts covered in I-A and continues with the acquisition of basic vocabulary, conversational skills, grammar, and verbs. Students continue to increase their knowledge of Spanish-speaking countries and their culture, customs, geography, and history. Students can enter Spanish II upon completion of the course with a grade of C or better.


History

In the middle school, the sixth and seventh grades focus on world geography, history, culture, and current events. Courses follow a regional approach to the study of the historical, political, economical and cultural development of the world. Our goal with middle school social studies is to help students develop skills that will be essential to their success in upper school coursework. Such skills include critical thinking, reading with understanding, clear written and oral communication, and focused study and research. Teachers train students to interpret and create maps, charts, and graphs, as well as to use technology as a tool for research projects and presentations. Middle school courses are as follows:

Sixth Grade Social Studies
The sixth-grade social studies curriculum focuses on the cultural geography of Asia and Africa. Each regional unit helps students develop geographical knowledge through a careful study of political and physical maps and map interpretation. In addition, students also gain a broad-based understanding of key historical figures, events, and cultural characteristics. Critical thinking, research, writing, and oral presentation skills will also be emphasized in class activities and projects. Social studies themes and cultural studies are often integrated into interdisciplinary units with the English department.

Seventh Grade Social Studies
The seventh-grade social studies curriculum builds upon students’ cultural literacy and geography skills learned in the previous year. Critical reasoning, research, writing, analysis of political cartoons and primary source documents, and oral presentation skills will be emphasized through class activities and projects. This course features a broad-based study of the history and cultural geography of Europe, Russia, and Latin America. All units accentuate the role of geography and its influence on history and culture. Current events are an integral part of weekly class activities.

Eighth Grade Social Studies
The eighth-grade social studies curriculum is designed to help students develop a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the history of the United States from the pre-colonial era to the Civil War era. This multi-disciplinary course highlights the nation’s historical, political, cultural, economic, and institutional development. An in-depth study of the Constitution along with the causes of the Civil War and its effects on United States history will be emphasized through projects, debates, and historical analysis. The course culminates with a five-page United States Civil War research paper in coordination with the eighth-grade English course.


Mathematics

Keith’s middle school math program and curriculum, while traditional in nature, offers students several strong college-preparatory courses which continue through high school. Although the course-work often paces at an honors level, we are able to meet the needs of a wide-range of students and provide additional resource time for students who need extra help. Keith’s mathematics department centers upon the standards set forth by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Critical thinking skills, an appreciation of the scope of mathematics, logic, reasoning and problem solving all are major components of the department. Middle school course offerings include:

Math 1
Math 1 assists students in the sixth grade to develop the necessary skills for success in subsequent math classes. Students work on basic arithmetic skills, as well as mathematical concepts including algebraic equations, basic geometry, graphing, estimating, and problem-solving strategies.

Math 2
Math 2 helps students to develop the skills necessary to prepare for a successful intensive course in pre-algebra or the first year of algebra. Topics covered include basic arithmetic functions, problem solving, estimating, rounding, graphs, statistics, algebraic equations, and geometry.

Pre-Algebra
This course is designed to prepare students for their first year of high school algebra. The units of study review, but in greater depth, many of the same topics students have practiced in previous classes. Both review and new topics with an emphasis on their relation to algebra are part of this course. Integers, rational numbers, variables, number theory, and equation solving are among the topics covered.

Accelerated Algebra
This course is equivalent to two semesters of high-school Algebra and carries the same credit value. It is designed for students who have shown ability and comprehension in their previous mathematics courses and are now ready for a study of High School level work. Algebra is the foundation for all future mathematical studies and this course is a rigorous approach to the first year of Algebraic concepts.

Accelerated Geometry
This course is equivalent to two semesters of high-school Geometry and carries the same credit value. It is designed for students who have demonstrated a solid foundation in Algebra I. Deductive proofs using definitions, theorems, and postulates is a focus of this course. In addition, the course bridges the gap between the physical world and the use of Algebra and Geometry.


Physical Education

The physical education and health curriculum are important components to Keith’s middle school. These courses are designed to help teach our students about living an active, healthy lifestyle. PE and health expose students to a variety of physical activities, including individual, dual and team sports, and health-related fitness.

Middle school physical education stresses active participation, skill development, and cognitive understanding. In addition, a strong emphasis is placed on teaching good sportsmanship and team building skills. Not every Keith student aspires to be an athlete, but we do want our students to develop an appreciation for physical activity as well as the social, cultural and emotional benefits of playing sports.

Although the core of the health program consistently focuses on personal health, wellness, the practice of progression and health-enhancing behaviors, each year of the middle school health program includes different, age-appropriate content. For example, in sixth grade, students explore the kind of changes that they will experience during their teen years. Topics covered include puberty, building safe and healthy relationships and social health. By seventh grade, they learn more about peer relationships, peer pressure, conflict resolution and nutrition. Finally, in eighth grade, the course covers body image, abstinence, delay tactics, birth control and how alcohol and other drugs affect the body.


Science

In preparation for one of the region’s most demanding and enriching upper school science program, Keith’s middle school science program offers young learners individualized opportunities to make new friends and explore the natural world around them in a safe, structured environment. Using a close partnership with both the lower and upper school faculty, the middle school curriculum builds on previous knowledge and has a vision of the information necessary to find success in subsequent courses. Each course uses National Science Education Standards, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and Core Standards established by the National Science Teachers Association to build the foundation for learning key concepts in becoming competent scientists of the future.

Developed around a constructivist-learning model of education philosophy, our thematic, hands-on, multi-sensory curriculum includes skill development in early literacy, mathematics, the use of technology in scientific investigations, and the synthesis of classroom content with real world experiences and observations. The science faculty recognize that the disciplines of science are continually evolving and new issues and controversies are always emerging. They are not only masters of their content area, but they also understand the different ways that children learn. Our faculty appreciates that for students to learn we need to give them time to collaborate, relate the material to the learner’s interests and experiences, and develop products that not only hone rote skills but also solidify conceptual understanding. Our courses offer each student an opportunity to build on previously learned knowledge through research, experimentation, presentation, and discussion. Our underlying educational approach is designed to challenge higher order thinking skills and introduce students to realistic methods of science.

In the middle school, our holistic approach allows for specific disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science to be incorporated into all science courses and the establishment of a seamless curriculum into the upper school. Keith is very fortunate to have a 15-acre property that is nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood, surrounded by beautiful trees and a picturesque view of the Rock River. It is the perfect environment for young students to explore the world around them. Additionally, it is located less than a half a mile from community resources like Sinnissippi Park, the University of Illinois Medical School, the Nicholas Conservatory, and the Anderson Japanese Gardens, many of which allow unique learning opportunities for Keith students.

Sixth Grade Science
Major topics included in the sixth-grade year include the applications of science and technology, ecological patterns of living things, the biology of microorganisms, the basic building blocks of matter, and chemical and physical changes that occur in the creation of compounds.

Seventh Grade Science
The seventh-grade course of study includes the interactions and diversity of living things, chemical properties of solutions and solvents, the physics of force and motion, the structure and design in historical architecture, and the synergized world of past and present astronomy.

Eighth Grade Science
In the eighth-grade, students study life processes and the flow of energy, the physics of work and energy, problem-based exploration of forensic science, the fragile relationship between oceans and climate, introductory particle physics, and the continuity of life through genetics.


Technology

In an accelerated academic setting, computers are tools used to enhance individual learning. Now, more than ever, technology is a critical ingredient to a global education and connectivity is the new essential for students and parents to communicate and collaborate. At Keith, students begin using a laptop computer in every class starting in sixth grade. Applications like Google Apps for Education and NetClassroom provide students, faculty and parents an array of customizable tools to work together more effectively.and hardware such as SMART boards and the Epson Industrial Projectors play a major role during classroom instruction.

In order to prepare both our middle and upper school students to compete and thrive in college and their future careers, technology is integrated into all aspects of the curriculum. Technology courses and requirements include:

Laptop Computers — Anytime, Anywhere Learning Program
In 1998, Keith Country Day School became the first school in Illinois to develop a comprehensive laptop computer program. Each student in grades 6-12 must have a laptop for daily school use. Students can use a personal laptop or purchase one through the technology office. Computer usage is coordinated with specific classroom subjects, which include the use of equipment as a tool for problem-solving, word processing, researching and cognitive-reinforcing skills.

To compliment the laptop program, Keith is a wireless campus which provides high speed Internet usage for research and in-depth study. Each classroom can serve its maximum student capacity on-line. Additional outlets for students and faculty are available in the library, Gaylord Commons and other gathering areas.

6th Grade Computer Applications
Sixth grade students are required to take a computer applications course designed to familiarize them with using their laptop on campus. Loading softwares, using the school network, learning relevant usage of open source programs, keyboarding, research on the internet and presentation skills are just a few of the many ways the laptop program is put to use in sixth grade.

Computer Support
To assist our technology program, we provide support for the hardware and software technology needs of both students and teachers by maintaining a Computer Technician and Network Administrator.


Student Development

The Student Development Office is about helping students understand their personal and intellectual strengths, their passions and aspirations, and their unique identity. College preparation is the main emphasis of the department and it begins in the middle school program, and continues through the high school years.

Middle school students are exposed to a variety of careers through many career exploration activities. Personal values, interests, and goals are surveyed, and middle school students begin to understand who they uniquely are and how they can contribute to the world. At the end of middle school, a high school course plan is developed which will challenge each student to reach their college and career goals.

Learning Resources

Keith Country Day School strives to have all students to gain independence in their work habits, confidence in their ability to learn, and the master the ability to retain academic material. Our learning resources department provides students with the extra help they need to be successful. The primary goal is to coach students who need skill building and help with time management. Other forms of assistance can involve reading, writing and study skills development, math tutoring, test-taking strategies and working in small groups. Our approach involves:

  • Brain-based learning principles
  • Strength-based approaches
  • Provide opportunities for success
  • Work closely with parents and classroom teachers