Curriculum at Hillside
Hillside School provides an education that is attuned with exceptional care to individual student needs. With our small section sizes, we work diligently to ensure that each boy is correctly placed so that he feels fully challenged and fully supported. While we have a strong idea as to correct placement from admissions materials, we continue to monitor a student’s placement throughout his years at Hillside.
Another exceptional characteristic of classroom education at Hillside is the School’s universal emphasis on the explicit teaching of learning skills. Most of us never had a Science teacher, for example, take time from class to talk about how to take notes, how to organize time, how to attack a reading assignment in a textbook. At Hillside, we are committed to the belief that these Middle School years represent prime time for the development of learning skills. We are committed to the belief that every teacher should address these issues through their coursework. And we are committed to the belief that a consistency of approach throughout the disciplines and across the years will create graduates who are prepared to tackle the challenges of learning in the years ahead.
Finally, with the powerful and natural integration of iPads and laptops into the dynamics of learning, we recognize the compelling value of technological fluency for each of our students. We do not believe in using technology for technology’s sake, but to harness the power of technology to enhance learning, and in thoroughly preparing our students for a future in which technology will be a ubiquitous, second-nature part of the world they inherit and create.
We invite you to review our curriculum by subject area, with detailed information provided on each grade.
- World Language and English as a Second Language (ESL)
Hillside’s approach to the teaching of History is designed to be comprehensive in scope and approach. While we recognize that every boy, for example, will likely study American History again in high school and college, we believe that it is vital that he have early exposure to the concepts and the specifics of our nation’s history. However, because we realize that this is a “first pass” at each historical topic, and because we recognize that these Middle School years represent a critically sensitive time for fostering strong, consistent learning skills, we use these courses to inspire a love of history, to gain an intellectual framework for the appreciation of the past, and to develop skills in research, debate, and the meaningful acquisition of textbook information.
Fifth and Sixth Grade Overview
In Fifth and Sixth Grades, students are introduced to Ancient Civilizations and Geography, depending on their specific classroom assignments. Ancient Civilizations is taught in an entirely project-based format without the traditional quizzes and tests that require only regurgitated information. Projects, such as creating and presenting travel brochures, engage students on multiple levels with the 21st Century Skills of creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, communication, and completing specific tasks in the service of a larger collaborative effort. Organization, note-taking, and reading comprehension are key skills developed within the context of these engaging class experiences.
Students in the Geography classroom also work extensively on projects, including a “My Culture” project in which each of our students, whether from 6 miles or 6,000 miles away, discovers more about his own culture and then delivers a presentation to his peers. Students also learn to navigate a digital text, Pearson’s My World Geography, as they master the five themes of Geography and develop an appreciation for other cultures. Again, working in teams and on longer-term projects, students learn the skills of time management and breaking down a bigger project into its constituent pieces.
Whether studying Ancient Civilizations or Geography, the focus in both classes is squarely on the development of the essential skills that students will need as they become engaged, life-long learners and, more immediately, as they move toward the study of American History in Seventh and Eighth Grades.
Fifth and Sixth Grade Skills
- How to read a textbook and use the various parts of a textbook
- Two-column notes
- Identifying main ideas
- Finding supporting details
- Spiraling back to make connections
- How to read a map
- Demonstrating understanding in multiple forms through hands-on projects
- Time management
- Listening and collaborating
- Performing specific roles within a group, including both leading and following
- Resiliency and problem-solving
- Critical thinking
Seventh and Eighth Grade
This represents a two-year continuum, beginning with Pre-Columbian America and moving up to the 20th Century. Because we have many students join us for the first time in Eighth Grade, the second year of American History is designed as a stand-alone course, built upon, but not dependent upon, having been through the Seventh Grade program.
The Seventh Grade History curriculum focuses on major events in U.S. History from the Colonial Period to the early nineteenth century. Historical topics covered include: the early colonies, the road to the American Revolution, the American Revolution, the establishment of the Constitution, industrialization, and reform movements. A strong emphasis is placed on History-related skills including: understanding perspective, cause and effect, determining fact from opinion, drawing conclusions, historical research, primary sources, and interpreting pictures, maps and graphs. Development of study skills, speaking skills, and writing skills is also an important part of this class.
We use a series of textbooks called A History of US written by Joy Hakim and published by Oxford University Press. These books tell the stories of those who lived during the time period. The books used in this course include:
- Making 13 Colonies 1600-1740
- From Colonies to Country 1735-1791
- The New Nation 1789-1850
- Liberty for All? 1820-1860
Apps: Notability, iMovie, Near
The Eighth Grade History curriculum focuses on major events in U.S. History from the Civil War to the early 20th century. Historical topics covered include the road to the Civil War, the Civil War, Reconstruction, westward expansion and Indian relations, the rise of industry and big business, immigration, the Spanish American War and the rise of imperialism, the progressive era, and events of the 1920s. A strong emphasis is placed on History-related skills including: understanding perspective, cause and effect, determining fact from opinion, drawing conclusions, historical research, primary sources, and interpreting pictures, maps, and graphs. Development of study skills, speaking skills, and writing skills is also an important part of this class.
We use a series of textbooks called A History of US written by Joy Hakim and published by Oxford University Press. These books tell the stories of those who lived during the time period. The books used in this course include:
- War Terrible War 1855-1865
- Reconstructing America 1865-1890
- An Age of Extremes 1880-1917
- War Peace and All That Jazz 1918-1945
Apps: Notability, iMovie,
The Ninth Grade History curriculum consists of three trimester-long courses through which students rotate.
This Senior History course is designed as a complement to Economics and Peace Studies. It is structured to help students learn about the American government system. We focus on the three branches of our Federal Government. We discuss the responsibility of citizenship and the current political issues and pending legislation that could impact our lives. All Seniors are expected to be active participants in this course. Good listening skills are as important as being a good presenter of one’s ideas – both in writing and verbally. Students show their mastery of the material in a combination of ways, most notably through a series of projects that the students completed this term. Their final project required students to write a rule for Hillside, in groups, and to try to get it passed by Mr. Beecher.
This course serves as a hands-on introduction to real-life economics. We spend the first third of the term covering fundamental economic concepts, and then begin a series of projects and presentations. Through these projects, students exercise essential skills, such as independent research, persuasive writing, public speaking, and the application of theoretical concepts to real-life problems. Our major projects include a presentation and paper on any economic current event and a Shark Tank-styled group project in which students pitch a product or service to a board of “sharks” (teachers acting as venture capitalists). Throughout the trimester, each student follows and regularly reports on the stock of any publicly owned company. The trimester culminates in a combined paper, PowerPoint, and oral presentation on an economic topic of the students’ choice.
Economics: Principles in Action by Arthur O’Sullivan and Steven M. Sheffrin
Apps: Bloomberg, Notability
This course emphasizes violence-prevention as it attempts to introduce students to the great ideas and philosophies of civilized human beings and peacemakers such as: Mother Teresa, Mohatma Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Strong emphasis is placed on discussion and class participation, cooperative learning, and community service.
Other topics include bullying, racism, and the slave trade. Students design individual peace posters and give presentations on current events and on an individual peacemaker. They also create an iMovie based on a group reenactment that leads to an anti-bullying video called Doing the Right Thing.
Apps: Nearpod, iMovie
English classes at Hillside engage students through carefully selected book choices tailored to the needs and interests of each grade level and, often, of specific class sections. Skill work in reading, writing, critical thinking, vocabulary, grammar, and group discussion are emphasized at each level.
Fifth and Sixth Grade Skills
The Fifth and Sixth Grade English classes focus on the development of foundational skills through books and hands-on projects centered around the themes of Money and Gratitude, which are taught on a two-year rotation.
- Making evaluations
- Making predictions
- Asking questions
- Answering guided reading questions that come directly from the text
- Answering questions that require inferences from the text
- Understanding the meaning of vocabulary based on the context in the text
- Writing a summary of a section, chapter, or whole text
- Recognizing character traits and different types of characters
- Discerning the difference between main characters, supporting characters, and minor characters
- Pulling out the main ideas of a text
- Recognizing problems and solutions represented in the text
- Recognizing clues in test questions
- Writing answers that echo questions in order to promote accuracy and precision
- Recognizing clues in test questions
- Reading to prepare for a test
Language Arts Skills
- Recognizing parts of speech: adjectives, adverbs, nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, articles)
- Using correct punctuation: periods, exclamation points, question marks, commas, semicolons, apostrophes)
- Writing and identifying different types of sentences, including declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative
- Identifying subjects and predicates
- Writing sentences, paragraphs and stories
- Developing and using different types of sentence structures
- Identifying and using the elements of story development
- Using of graphic organizers
- Writing paragraphs with a hook, thesis statement, supporting details, and a conclusion
- Writing for fun (journaling)
- Writing different types of paragraphs for different audiences (persuasive, compare and contrast, biography, autobiography, cause and effect, personal narratives, letters, emails)
- Using writing to prepare for a test
- Writing answers to test questions
Fifth and Sixth Grades Book selections are typically made from the following titles:
- Middle School - The Worst Years of my Life
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
- 21 Balloons
- Lawn Boy
- Lemonade War
- Lemonade Crime
- Toothpaste Millionaire
- Lunch Money
- Because of Mr. Terupt
- Mr. Terupt Falls Again
- Soul Surfer
- Believe: The Victorious Story of Eric LeGrand (Young Reader’s Edition)
- Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition)
Seventh - Ninth Grade
English classes in the Seventh through Ninth grades reinforce and extend the solid foundation provided in our Fifth and Sixth Grades by further developing students’ skills in grammar, vocabulary, active reading, critical thinking, discussion, presentation, and both creative and academic writing. Teachers build these skills by continually spiraling back to reinforce and elevate foundational skills to the next level. Students’ needs as writers and readers are assessed and reassessed regularly with extension activities and lessons provided to deepen their engagement and elevate them to new levels of abstract thought and accuracy in both written and oral expression. Teachers also emphasize the use and understanding of literary terms and the building of the domain-specific vocabulary needed for the academic study of English.
Instruction is differentiated both across and within grades and individual classes by providing opportunities for student voice and choice that is uniquely available in our small classes. We respect and honor a diversity of learning styles, opinions, strengths, and weaknesses as we work together to enhance our skills and realize our potential. The use of two-column notes, graphic organizers, and an emphasis on each step of the writing process characterize the English classroom at Hillside. Technology is used to engage students, to elicit creative responses to literature, to organize notes and lessons, and to improve each student’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively in a variety of formats and styles. Literary elements and discussion skills are emphasized at each level.
Apps: Notability, Socrative, Quizlet, Inspiration, Popplet, Google Drive, Nearpod, Explain Everything, and iMovie.
Sample of Teacher Selections By Grade
Students in Grades Seven to Nine read selections from the titles below. Please note that different sections read different books in response to teacher choices based on students’ needs, interests, and experience, so this is not meant to be a comprehensive or prescriptive list of books read by all students in a given grade level.
- Selected Short Stories
- Excerpts from Boy: Tales of Childhood
- Maniac Magee
- Knots in My Yo-Yo String
- Number the Stars
- Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes
- So Far From the Bamboo Grove
- A Day No Pigs Would Die
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- Coville’s Short Stories
- Far North
- Devil’s Arithmetic
- Book of Three
- Pig Boy
- Alfred Hitchcock
- Island of the Blue Dolphins
- The Pearl
- Flowers for Algernon
- Of Mice and Men
- Animal Farm
- A Wrinkle in Time
- Golden Sail
- The Outsiders
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- Selected Short Stories
- Bamboo People
- Lord of the Flies
- A Christmas Carol
- The Catcher in the Rye
- Romeo and Juliet
- The Great Gatsby
- Brian’s Song
- A Separate Peace
- Purple Hibiscus
In keeping with Hillside’s guiding belief in the power of individualized schedules, each boy is placed in the section of the Mathematics curriculum that will ensure the ideal balance of challenge and support. As a result, there is no “Eighth Grade Math” class. Instead, there is, for students in each grade, a range of coursework, that enables Hillside to properly place each student in the appropriate section of Math.
Students returning to Hillside will be placed on the basis of their previous experience here, along with their teachers’ recommendations. Students new to Hillside will be placed on the basis of information gathered through the admissions process, including recommendations from their previous schools. If there is a question about the placement of any student, we will administer an individual assessment to him, so as to determine the optimum placement.
Such placement can be shifted during the course of a school- year, particularly if we should see that he needs more support. Notably, students who have been placed in more accelerated sections must earn a B+ to remain in such sections; we consider the foundations of mathematics to be critical enough that we will not continue to accelerate a student who is not excelling in the coursework he encounters. The approach to fine-tuned placement of students in Math sections is a cornerstone of an individualized Hillside philosophy.
Fifth and Sixth Grade Skills
- Using basic operations
- Understanding whole numbers and decimals
- Performing basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division)
- Writing whole numbers and decimals in standard, expanded and word form
- Comparing and ordering whole numbers and decimals
multiplication/division with decimals
- Mental math
- Rounding whole numbers
- Rounding decimals
- Estimating sums and differences
- Data, graphs and probability
- Collecting data
- Bar, line and circle graphs
- Mean, median, mode and range
- Fractions and mixed numbers
- Understanding fractions
- Fraction relationships including GCF, simplest form, equivalent fractions
- Fractions and decimals
- Adding and subtracting fractions
- Like and unlike denominators
- Least common denominator
- Adding and subtracting mixed numbers
- Multiplying and dividing fractions
- Linear measurement and perimeter
- Time and temperature
- Measuring solids
- Volume and capacity
- Weight and mass
- Using Ratios, proportions and percents
Seventh Grade General Math
This class is designed to give students a grounding in the skills and concepts of Geometry. Certain basic algebraic skills are reviewed as needed, including solving multiple-step equations, evaluating expressions, the coordinate plane, and simplifying radicals. Topics covered in the Geometry class include: Basic vocabulary and rules, line segments, angles and transversals, polygons, triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, two-column proofs, coordinate geometry, similar polygons, the Pythagorean Theorem, introduction to trigonometry, perimeter, area, and volume.
Texts: Prentice Hall Mathematics - Geometry, 2007 edition.
Seventh Grade Pre-Algebra
The primary goal of the Seventh Grade Pre-Algebra course is to solidify the students’ general math skills and introduce them to new concepts in preparation for Algebra. This course moves at a rigorous pace, covering topics ranging from solving one- step equations and inequalities, factors, fractions, and exponents, probability, graphing and the coordinate plane, to a glance at geometry with area and volume. When students have mastered the key concepts of Pre-Algebra, they are introduced to beginning Algebra topics.
Text: Prentice Hall, Pre-Algebra
Apps: Schoology, Notability, MyScript Calculator, Explain Everything
Eighth Grade Pre-Algebra
The primary goal of the Eighth Grade Pre-Algebra course is to solidify the students’ general math skills and introduce them to new concepts in preparation for Algebra. This course covers topics ranging from solving one step equations and inequalities, factors, fractions, and exponents, probability, graphing and the coordinate plane, to a glance at geometry with area and volume. When students have mastered the key concepts of Pre-Algebra, they are introduced to beginning Algebra topics.
Text: Prentice Hall Pre-Algebra
Apps: Schoology, Notability, MyScript Calculator, Explain Everything
Eighth Grade Introduction to Algebra
The Eighth Grade Introduction to Algebra class is designed to serve as a bridge between Pre-Algebra and Algebra I. We review and solidify Pre-Algebra skills and introduce students to Algebra I topics at a moderate pace. Topics covered include operations with integers, order of operations, evaluating expressions, powers, radicals, combining like terms, the distributive property, solving equations and inequalities, linear equations in the coordinate plane, expressions and word problems, polynomials, and factoring.
Text: Holt McDougal, Mathematics - Course 3
Eighth Grade Algebra
Eighth Grade Algebra is designed to be a full and rigorous program in high school Algebra. While in many schools, Algebra courses cover many of the basics of the discipline, this course is designed to cover the full range of topics expected for eventual entry into Algebra II, including such topics as complex quadratic functions, rational and irrational equations, imaginary numbers, and systems of linear inequalities.
Because the depth of this course comprises what is typically a Ninth Grade curriculum, Eighth Grade boys will be admitted to this course only by demonstrating considerable fluency in all areas of mathematics, up to and including Pre-Algebra. Similarly, students will be able to remain and earn credit in this accelerated course only by maintaining a B+ average.
In style, this is a high-energy course featuring considerable emphasis on developing every student’s ability to teach, and to learn from, one another. Correcting one’s errors is a key component, since the development of skills in high school mathematics is so clearly dependent upon the strength of the underlying foundation.
Class frequency: Four 50-minute periods per week
Homework: Given nightly; work may be submitted electronically or on paper
Assessments: Homework is graded; regular quizzes and tests; trimester and final exams
Text: Algebra: Structure and Method, Brown, Dolciani/Houghton Mifflin (Book will be completed within the school-year)
Apps: DragonBox, Desmos, Notability
Eighth Grade Geometry
This class is designed to give students a basic grounding in the skills and concepts of Geometry. Certain basic algebraic skills are reviewed as needed including solving multiple step equations, evaluating expressions, the coordinate plane, and simplifying radicals. Topics covered in the Geometry class include: basic vocabulary and rules, line segments, angles and transversals, polygons, triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, two-column proofs, coordinate geometry, similar polygons, the Pythagorean Theorem, intro to trigonometry, perimeter, area, and volume.
Text: Prentice Hall Mathematics - Geometry, 2007 edition.
Ninth Grade Algebra
Ninth Grade Algebra is designed to prepare students for High School-level mathematics courses in terms of both mathematical knowledge and the 21st Century Skills required to succeed in the modern educational environment. Students will cover traditional topics including solving equations, defining and graphing functions, properties of radical and rational numbers and exponents, quadratic equations, and factoring and algebraic manipulation. Additionally, students will utilize technology to enhance their understanding of material, as well as training in skills such as presenting and public speaking, note-taking and organization, data analysis, and real-world problem solving, using iPad apps such as Desmos, Notability, and DragonBox.
Texts: Prentice Hall, Algebra 1, Bellman, Bragg, Charles, Hall, Handin, Kennedy
Apps: Explain Everything, Desmos, Notability, Wolfram Alpha, MyScript, DragonBox
Ninth Grade Algebra II
This Ninth Grade accelerated course is designed to give students a solid review of the major Algebra I concepts such as simplifying expressions, solving linear equations and systems, and using radicals. On top of this review, the specific Algebra II topics include three equation systems, new strategies for solving quadratic equations and their graphs, simplifying complex polynomials, complex numbers, solving rational and irrational equations, and graphing conic sections.
Text: Prentice Hall, Mathematics - Algebra II
Hillside’s Science curriculum meets Middle School boys right where they are with an emphasis on lab skills and hands-on projects. Middle School students learn by doing, and teachers leverage the active engagement that comes from project-based learning to teach essential science skills and habits of mind, in addition to the important social skills necessary to problem-solve and contribute to a team. Students’ natural curiosity about the world in which they live is nurtured and honed to fit the academic demands of the science classroom.
Fifth and Sixth Grade General Science, Year 1
This class revolves around a general Science curriculum with a strong backbone of project based learning and inquiry based educational practices. Throughout the year students cover a multitude of concepts and content areas including, but not limited to, Earth’s internal composition, plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, environmental science, levels of organization, conservation issues and methods of conservation, as well as the construction and application of alternative energies. As the year progresses, students build introductory level lab skills such as using tri-beam balances and learning metric measurements as well as basic utilization of Vernier probes. There is also a strong focus on developing interpersonal skills through project, group work, and experiments.
Fifth and Sixth Grade General Science, Year 2
This class revolves around a general Science curriculum with a strong backbone of project-based learning and inquiry-based educational practices. The Science curriculum for this year is broken down into two main areas of focus: Earth’s waters and astronomy. Students begin the year with a look at different biomes, conservation issues surrounding water use, and freshwater resources. They investigate different areas of the planet through this lens and address issues both near and far as they work out conservation problems in their own backyards and across the globe. From here, the students do a complete 180 degree turn and learn about Science on a much larger scale as they investigate our solar system, galaxies, stars, and constellations. This diverse curriculum helps students understand the vastness of Science and the variety of its foci. Throughout the year, students are also building introductory-level lab skills such as using tri-beam balances and learning metric measurements as well as basic utilization of Vernier probes. There is also a strong focus on developing interpersonal skills through projects, group work, and experiments.
Seventh Grade General Science
This class revolves around a general Science curriculum with a strong backbone of project-based learning and inquiry-based educational practices which are founded in the construction of large community projects and an increased number of experiments when compared to previous years. The content is quite varied and allows for students to explore weather and climate, plant physiology, and simple machines. Throughout the year, much of the content is related to real-life issues and conservation concerns. With this focus, students develop different solutions to conservation problems utilizing their newfound knowledge and understanding. As the year progresses, students become involved in an increasing number of experiments and labs. Accordingly, they develop a series of mid-level lab skills such as metric measurements, making observations and recording data, and writing full-scale lab reports.
Eighth Grade Introduction to Physical Science
The Eighth Grade curriculum is an Introduction to Physical Science (IPS). The students learn the basics elements of Chemistry (matter, atoms, periodic table, bonding, and acid/bases/salts) and Physics (forces, gravity and Newton’s three laws of motion). Students utilize many different pieces of scientific equipment during the course. The curriculum also incorporates the use of scientific probes and technology in the IPS course. The final aspect of the course involves group projects, kitchen chemistry, rollercoasters, and solar cars.
Ninth Grade Biology
The course is a basic survey course in Biology. The students will begin their adventure in the study of Biology by looking at the way the biotic and abiotic world that they live in is organized. Starting with the cell, we will progress from looking at how this single cell organism is made to the different types of multicellular organisms that make up our present-day world and what special features they use to survive. To do this, we use a hands-on, lab-intensive, approach to learn the fundamental concepts in Biology. In addition to content knowledge, there is a strong emphasis in the class on learning to problem-solve and think critically about information. We work to develop science and writing skills that will hone and reflect students’ current understanding as well as preparing them for continued success in high school science classes.
Hillside offers students a compelling opportunity to develop familiarity and even some real fluency in a second language. For our international students, that language learning will focus on the acquisition of powerful, effective English skills. These skills will be addressed in classrooms and textbooks, in socializing and sports -- and also in the ESL class, dedicated exclusively to helping international students develop comprehensive writing, speaking, and reading skills in English.
For all of our English-speaking students, Seventh Grade marks the gateway into World Languages. Boys will be able to experience a trimester of each of the school’s language programs -- Spanish, French, and Mandarin. Beginning in Eighth Grade, boys will choose a language in which they will specialize for the next two years.
Note: Boys for whom World Language study is not recommended will be able to further enhance their English skills by enrolling in the Foundations of Language program, part of the range of Tutorial offerings.
Seventh Grade: While some boys will enroll in Hillside’s Foundations of Language program (providing an extended opportunity to develop English reading and writing skills), most of them will enroll in a survey course on Modern World Languages. Boys will take one trimester each of Spanish, French, and Mandarin. This approach enables every individual to develop some foundation and familiarity with each language – and to make the eventual choice of a language specialty in Eighth Grade more thoughtful and informed. Language study involves rich conversation, writing, and technological opportunities.
Eighth and Ninth Grades: In the summer before his Eighth Grade year, each student will be allowed to make an important decision. Each boy, in consultation with his family, will submit to the school a slate of World Language preferences, ranking the order of his selections from first choice in a language to third choice. Notably, virtually every student is enrolled in his first choice -- either French, Spanish, or Mandarin. Each is a full, intensive course unifying vocabulary, grammar, speaking, reading, and writing skills -- along with a growing structure for developing working conversational skills. In Ninth Grade, each boy will continue expanded study in his chosen language.
Seventh Grade Spanish is an engaging, introductory course designed to develop speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills while gaining an understanding and appreciation of the various cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. The focus of the Seventh Grade curriculum is to briefly introduce students to basic topics, including greetings, classroom objects, numbers and time, days, months, and seasons. Students are also exposed to the geography of Spanish speaking countries and various cultural components, including traditional music and food. The Seventh Grade curriculum also includes various projects ranging from Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration to Hispanic Heritage Month and more.
The Eighth Grade Spanish curriculum is designed to develop speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills while gaining an understanding and appreciation of the various cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. The focus of the Eighth Grade curriculum is to re-introduce, refresh, and extend students’ ability to use Spanish in relation to greetings, classroom objects, numbers and time, days, months, and seasons, and describing the world around them. With this working vocabulary and a growing knowledge of basic grammatical structures in hand, students begin to use the language more readily in classroom exercises. Students are also exposed to the geography of Spanish speaking countries and various cultural components, including traditional music and food. The Eighth Grade curriculum also includes various projects ranging from Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration to Hispanic Heritage Month and more.
Ninth Grade Spanish I
Ninth Grade Spanish I is designed for students new to Spanish in the Ninth Grade. During the course of this introductory year, students develop speaking, writing, reading and listening skills while gaining an understanding and appreciation of the various cultures of the Spanish speaking world. The focus of the Ninth Grade curriculum is to introduce students to basic topics, including greetings, classroom objects, numbers and time, days, months and seasons, and describing the world around them. With this basic vocabulary and knowledge in hand, students begin to use the language more readily in classroom exercises. Students are also exposed to the geography of Spanish speaking countries and various cultural components, including traditional music and food. The Ninth Grade curriculum also includes the conjugation of verbs and prepares students to enter Spanish at a high school level.
Ninth Grade Spanish II
Ninth Grade Spanish II is a second-year course designed to provide students with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the language. Spanish II covers a variety of topics that will help the student transition into a more advanced curriculum at the secondary school level. Topics covered in Spanish II class include: feminine and masculine nouns, definite and indefinite articles, regular and irregular verbs, and formal, informal, and indirect pronouns. Students are also learning about the Spanish culture throughout the term via numerous projects that involve researching Spanish-speaking countries and people.
Text: Ven Conmigo, En Camino Level 1B, Holt, Rinehart and Winston
Apps: Notability, Showbie, Babbel, Duolingo
The Seventh Grade Mandarin course acts as an introduction to Mandarin studies at Hillside. The goal of the course is to give students some insight into the language as well as the rich culture of China. Students work through a series of vocabulary lists in Mandarin to begin their understanding of the language. The biggest emphases of the class are the various projects that allow each student to get a glimpse of Chinese life. Some of our major projects include researching and learning about the Chinese Zodiac, a television family album, and a final project on the various cities and regions of China.
The Eighth Grade Mandarin class is geared towards students that have committed themselves to the study of the Chinese language and culture for their Eighth and Ninth Grade years at Hillside. Our class utilizes the Rosetta Stone Program to guide our focus through basic speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills throughout the school year. Some major topics we cover are: pronouns; past, present and future tenses; numbers; question words; and basic descriptive sentences. The students also learn about China through its holidays, traditions, and culture by completing various projects ranging from researching Chinese New Year to creating tourism brochures and iMovies about regions and cities of China.
The Ninth Grade Mandarin class continues the work with the language that students completed in their Eighth Grade year. As the students increase their knowledge of the language, the focus of our new vocabulary and grammar shifts primarily to day-to-day conversations. The class continues to use the Rosetta Stone Program to guide our focus through speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills in the language. The goal of the class is still to provide a snapshot of life in China through its language and rich culture.
In Seventh Grade French, the boys are introduced to some fundamentals of the language. The boys are engaged in the language while learning vocabulary, including greetings, school terms, numbers, and time. In class, after learning a new topic, we practice using the new vocabulary and concepts with examples or interactive games. We work on pronunciation and conversing with each other while completing examples and creating dialogues. At the end of the term, the boys complete an investigation into a francophone country. Each student picks a country and researches its culture, location, and most importantly, the European influence and how French made its way to their country. This allows the boys to gain insight into French as an international language.
The Eighth Grade French class is made up of students who have chosen to focus their world language study on French. Students are exposed to grammar, vocabulary and culture, while working on their pronunciation and written work. The class covers the three types of regular verbs and irregular verbs in the past and present, and also delves into different vocabulary themes. Students work together during in-class activities, as well as on group projects, to help build their confidence and strengthen their understanding of the language. The class often utilizes the apps Flipgrid and iMovie to record movies or short videos, allowing students to listen to and work on their own pronunciation. With small class sizes, every student is able to practice his knowledge, understanding, and pronunciation of the language daily.
The Ninth Grade French class is a continued introduction to the French language. The class builds on the basics they learned as Eighth Graders while sharpening their foundations of the language. Using Allons-y and additional materials, we cover past, present, and future verb tenses, grammar, building a vocabulary, and working on pronunciation. The class focuses on reading and writing as well as oral skills. Students regularly read short stories, write in journals, and utilize their iPads to record videos and audio clips, allowing students to listen to and work on their own pronunciation. With small class sizes, every student is able to practice his knowledge, understanding, and pronunciation of the language daily.
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL)
Fifth and Sixth Grades
ESL 5-6 is a beginner level course designed for novice second-language learners. The ultimate aim of this course is to offer students an introduction to fundamental English structures and concepts and to expand their language abilities. Students will practice constructing proper sentences and paragraphs, work on pronunciation patterns, and learn about simple grammar structures and useful language functions. Each day the boys will expand their vocabulary and practice the four basic language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. We’ll practice reading for comprehension and main ideas. Writing will focus on making complete sentences, spelling, and punctuation. The boys make writing portfolios and keep their writing samples in them. We drill grammar exercises orally and incorporate class discussions and group work into the course. Course readings will be at the beginner level, yet engaging and appropriately challenging depending on students’ needs. This course is designed in a fun yet educational way. Students are encouraged to voice their opinions and engage in an interactive learning environment.
Texts: Sky High 2, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, All About the USA, An Introduction to Writing, The Hardy Boys, Side by Side.
Apps: Notability, Subtext, Nearpod
ESL 7 is an upper beginner level course designed for second language learners who have basic English language skills. The ultimate aim of this course is to offer students an introduction to increasingly complex English structures and concepts, and to continue to expand their language abilities. Students will review the construction of proper sentences and paragraphs and work on drafting formal essays and letters. They will also begin the fun process of creating their own stories. We’ll reinforce proper pronunciation through repetition and learn about mid-level grammar structures and language functions. Each day the boys will expand their vocabulary with words that they keep track of in their writing journals. A strong emphasis on the four basic language skills - reading, writing, speaking, and listening - will be reinforced. We’ll practice reading for comprehension, identifying main ideas, skimming for general knowledge, and scanning for details and key words. Writing will focus on making complete sentences, spelling, punctuation, and connecting sentences and paragraphs through the use of appropriate transitions. The boys make writing portfolios and keep their writing samples in them. We drill grammar exercises orally and incorporate class discussions and group work into the course. Course readings will be at the upper-beginner level, and students will continue to read for key concepts and also be introduced to the process of making inferences, speculating about the future, and drawing conclusions. This course is designed in a fun, yet educational way. Students are encouraged to voice their opinions and engage in an interactive learning environment.
Texts: Sky High 3, More Abut the USA, True Stories, Brian’s Song, The Hardy Boys
Apps: Notability, Subtext, Nearpod
ESL 8 is an intermediate level course designed for second-language learners who have solid English communicative skills and a developing aptitude for academic English. The aim of this course is to introduce international students to a comprehensive study of the English language, with the ultimate goal of improving students’ language skills and preparing them for an advanced level of English before they are ultimately mainstreamed. Students will expand their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills within the framework of a multicultural approach to education that includes critical thinking, collaboration, analytical reading, and exercising their creative energies. Topics we will focus on in class include: analyzing the fundamental components of a novel (plot, theme, motif, etc.), constructing four types of essays (descriptive, expository, persuasive, and narrative), writing creative pieces, making journal entries, developing college interest letters, formulating movie reviews, and more. Idioms, proverbs, and intermediate grammar structures and language functions are woven into this class along with American cultural content. Students will also be taught listening comprehension skills that implement scanning, skimming, and intensive, and extensive reading exercises. Stimulating class discussions, group work, and pronunciation drills will serve to give students ample opportunities to practice their speaking skills. TOEFL instruction is given once per month.
Texts: Sky High 4, Of Mice and Men, The Best of Mysteries, 63 Short Stories, Even More True Stories, More About the USA: A Cultural Reader, and Longman Prep TOEFL, Academic Writing
Apps: Notability, Nearpod, and Subtext
ESL 9 is an advanced level course designed for second-language learners who have strong communicative English skills and an increasing aptitude for academic English. The ultimate aim of this course is to offer students a comprehensive study of the English language in order to prepare them for the mainstream classroom. We will read and analyze some of literature’s classics that include Sherlock Holmes, A Christmas Carol, Dracula, and more. Furthermore, students will continue to practice a variety of writing strategies that include formulating narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive essays. The boys will be afforded plenty of opportunities to make journal entries, write formal letters and emails, draft opinion pieces, create poems, and engage in creative writing. They will learn to write with the idea of targeting a particular audience and will experiment with writing in the first, second, and third persons. There is a heavy emphasis on formal writing and analytical reading in this class, but students will also be introduced to complex grammar structures, new vocabulary, and the subtleties of the English language such as sarcasm, reading between the lines, humor, colloquial expressions, and much more. Class discussions and group work are a vital element of this course. Students are encouraged to voice their opinions, to implement critical thinking techniques, and to think outside of the box. TOEFL instruction is given once per month.
Texts: Sky High 5, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes’ Classics, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Longman Prep TOEFL, College Writing
Apps: Notability, Nearpod, and Subtext
In addition to the full range of academic options during the week, Hillside students are able to explore a number of courses known as “Specials” that open up fields of Art (drawing and painting, ceramics, three-dimensional modeling, and digital media), Music, and Leadership to them. The enrichment resulting from these explorations touch not only a more personal and artistic side of each boy; they also underscore Hillside’s enduring belief in the development of talents and passions. Many students begin to see themselves in a new light through their exposure to the variety of opportunities, challenges, and media available to them.
Fifth and Sixth Grades
In Fifth and Sixth Grades, students are able to take sequential, semester-long courses in Visual Arts and Music. In his Music classes, each student will have the opportunity to appreciate music and composition -- and to have the chance to join together singing. During his Art classes, each boy will have the opportunity to explore and develop his skills in drawing and painting, his appreciation for perspective and shading, and his own growing use of color and composition.
During his Seventh Grade year, each boy will continue to explore the worlds of Visual Arts and Music. However, it is during this important year that Leadership is added to the sequence of Specials courses. Leadership provides careful and thoughtful opportunities for each boy to develop a powerful sense of team spirit -- as well as team leadership. Each of these three courses (Art, Music, and Leadership) lasts for one trimester, and each boy is thereby empowered to explore and enhance potential interests and talents in each of these areas.
Eighth Grade Specials expand to encompass four quarterly courses. Each boy will take part in a rotation of programs that includes Two-Dimensional and Three-Dimensional Art (including the construction of small wooden race-cars, which boys race against one another to determine a school champion), Music, Leadership, and a course in Hillside's brand new iLab that focuses on 3-D printing, robotics, and programming. These offerings provide hands-on, active experiences that enhance the feel of each boy’s day and allow opportunities for new passions and talents to take root.
Ninth Grade Specials offer boys a sequence of four quarterly courses. Each boy will take part in a rotation of programs that encompass Visual Arts (expressive and instructional development of drawing and painting skills), Media Arts (digital animation and Photoshopping), Music (including musical composition with Garageband), and Leadership (with a real emphasis on developing personal leadership skills and serving others).
See details on each of these Specials:
In fifth and sixth grade music class, students explore the rich history of American Popular Music where they will learn to appreciate the value of the contributions musicians and composers in the past have made to help pave the way for a new century of music.
In seventh, eighth and ninth grade, students learn in depth the biographic information of European composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner and Verdi (to name a few) and discover what makes them special and how they have enormously contributed to our world. Awareness and appreciation of fine music are nurtured by having discussions, analyzing the music and partaking in creative musical activities about the composers.
All grades will have the opportunity to learn the basics and fundamentals of music theory, such as treble and bass clef note writing, rhythmic dictation, ear training exercises, time signature, tempo and dynamics. In seventh, eighth and ninth grade, students will also learn to expand their creative musical ability by applying their knowledge through the use of iMovie and GarageBand apps where they create their own musical works through various projects. There are also musical games and activities such as JINGO and musical baseball to help introduce students to symphonic instruments and their sounds. There are also opportunities for students to explore vocal singing where students learn a new song every week and perform as a class at the end of the school week.
Visual Arts (Fifth through Ninth Grades)
Hillside’s Visual Arts Curriculum is designed with a strong belief that creative expression in all forms plays an integral part of adolescents’ development. As such, it is essential to create an environment in which students are encouraged to explore and express their imaginations freely. Through hands-on work, positive reinforcement, and a non-judgmental attitude, we strive to make students’ experiences in the Arts both fun and challenging. Our curriculum is designed at each grade level to expose students to multiple forms of creative expression and to nurture the specific skill sets and attitudes necessary for success. Students learn the basic principles and elements of art as well as art history and art movements such as Realism, Abstractionism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism.
Our Fine Arts curriculum gives students the opportunity to experiment, to explore, and to express their artistic views by looking at the world through a wide lens with the understanding that Art is a language of communication that elicits and thrives on imagination and creativity. If students can imagine, fantasize, conceptualize, and visualize, they can create works of art. Throughout the school year, rotating displays of student accomplishments transform our hallways into art galleries for all to enjoy.
Leadership (Seventh to Ninth Grades)
The goal of the Leadership Program is to develop and reinforce self-awareness as well as the awareness of others through a variety of cooperative games and activities. The integrity and success of the program is contingent upon effective communication through the development of respect and empathy of each individual, the ability to work collectively as a unified group, and the positive growth through the commitment to the experience.
Teamwork, communication, creativity, self-confidence, the ability to solve problems, and determination are qualities that can be nurtured in leadership and are assets in life. Throughout the term, the boys learned how to inspire others through common goals, to be open-minded towards different approaches, to develop a greater self-awareness as they take risks and to develop problem-solving skills through creativity and cooperation. In addition to team-building exercises and class activities, they boys were also engaged in our community service initiative where we traveled to Bolton Manor to work and spend time with senior citizens.
Media Class (Ninth Grade Only)
Media is in the Ninth Grade Specials rotation and taken for a quarter of the school-year. The Media focus is divided into three key topics: animation and stop-motion, three-dimensional modeling, and image editing. The class starts off in the realm of animation and stop-motion video. Here students work together to create group animations or stop-motion videos. Next we delve into Autodesk Maya for three-dimensional modeling. With this the students work to digitally construct a complex spaceship of their own imagining. We finish the Media Class with learning some Photoshop skills. Individual portraits of the class are taken, which the students use to combine features of themselves and their classmates into one new portrait.
Hillside’s Tutorial Center provides students with a uniquely powerful set of Tutorial courses. Each of them is for a limited team of boys, usually two to four. Each of them provides a specific architecture to address a boy’s specific need and grade level. Each is constantly customized to the needs of its small Tutorial group, and each is taught by a learning specialist.
As a school that specializes in serving both “traditional and non-traditional learners,” Hillside recognizes the vital importance of specialized skill development, whether in Language Arts, Math, Organization, Social Skills. or Foundations of Language.
Each Tutorial is available for an additional fee to appropriate students of any age and grade. These courses generally meet twice per week. Notably, boys who enroll in the Tutorials meet during a Flex period, and are therefore do not miss any core classes.
Though the academic Tutorial courses will often dovetail with the work and expectations of a boy’s classes, the sessions are not specifically designed to provide homework support. Instead, they are crafted to develop powerful skills foundations. Those skills are designed to translate directly to their classroom work and their academic confidence. Beyond that, because of Hillside’s professional orientation toward explicit skill development in all of its courses (for example, a Science teacher will teach note-taking skills and a History teacher will teach boys how to dissect and analyse a textbook), the Tutorial program is designed to be reinforced by all of a student’s teachers. While at many schools, Tutorial courses exist in relative isolation, professional development among the teachers at Hillside ensures that the work done and the gains achieved in the Tutorial program are integrated into a boy’s academic and social growth..
This Tutorial focuses on developing reading and writing skills. The students practice active reading strategies including predicting, questioning, making inferences, drawing conclusions, and visualizing. Articles, short stories, and readings from their core classes are used. The writing process for essays, stories and summaries includes brainstorming ideas related to a topic, organizing ideas using graphic organizers, writing rough drafts, revising, editing, and presenting a final draft. We focus on sentence development, paragraph structure, and essays. Grammar and vocabulary are also important aspects of the Tutorial. Content from the student’s English, History and Science classes are used to reinforce and enhance these language arts skills.
The goal of the Math Tutorials is to support and enhance understanding and ability in mathematics. The tutorials try to create an environment in which mathematical knowledge can be developed. They aim to inspire confidence in individuals to empower them to try to reach their true potential in this subject. A multi-sensory approach to the material is used as much as possible. During the tutorials the students follow a syllabus, which either parallels or enhances the topics being covered in their regular math lessons.
The Organizational Tutorial is a study strategy and support course that provides students with structured and systematic support to develop and hone their metacognitive awareness (learning how they learn) and executive function strategies so they can apply appropriate study strategies when approaching academic tasks. Students also learn how to manage their materials and how to use their time effectively, particularly with regard to planning and completing short- and long-term assignments and projects. The course is divided into four components: materials management, time management, study skills, and organized thinking.
Social Skills Tutorial Classes focus on the utilization of appropriate social skills, as well as on the identification of the importance of such skills, primarily via use of the Social Thinking curriculum. This curriculum aims to assist students in the development of a deeper understanding of social relations and social communication. Students will go beyond simply naming and learning the social skills; rather, they will be encouraged to gain a better understanding of how the social world works and why specific social skills are important in differing contexts. Topics include: expected vs unexpected behaviors, introversion vs extroversion, hidden rules of communication and relationships, verbal and nonverbal cues, experiencing and coping with stress, managing conflict, empathy, asking for help and responding to a need for help, peer pressure, and social media.
Foundations of Language
Foundations of Language I
The core Foundations class addresses a broad set of needs across comprehension, vocabulary, writing. and study strategies.
- Phonics and Vocabulary: This includes the study of the phonetic structure of language for decoding unfamiliar words when reading and spelling. The Wilson Reading System, an Orton Gillingham approach is used in this tutorial, while the Word Identification Strategy is used to study root words, prefixes and suffixes for reading, spelling and improving vocabulary.
- Comprehension Strategiess: The students use various research-based strategies and graphic organizers to improve comprehension and higher-order thinking skills. The active reading strategies taught include: making connections, questioning, visualizing, making inferences, drawing conclusions, determining importance, and synthesizing information. The students read a variety of fiction and non-fiction, including articles, short stories and novels.
- Fluency: The students practice fluency through oral reading and exercises from the Read Naturally program in order to improve accuracy and comprehension.
- Written Expression: Using a structured approach and various graphic organizers, the students practice sentence, paragraph and essay writing with an emphasis on organization, clarity, and the inclusion of supporting details.
- Study Strategies: A number of research-based strategies are practiced in order to move the students toward independent learning and studying.
Foundations of Language II
Foundations of Language (FOL) is an intensive writing and study strategy course. FOL II provides students with a structured and systematic program for developing and enhancing their writing abilities and study strategies.
- Writing: This course begins with sentence structure and mechanics, building to paragraph and essay creation. Emphasis will be placed on organization of writing and citing appropriate evidence to support claims. Students will learn to analyze, generalize, paraphrase, infer, and synthesize information throughout the writing process. Students will also develop an understanding of the responsibilities of the writer - an awareness of audience, the need to develop a thesis, the value of collaborating with other writers, and the necessity to continuously review and edit. Writing skills will be supplemented by instruction in grammar and vocabulary.
- Study Strategies: The course will incorporate a variety of study strategies including but not limited to time management, test taking skills, materials management, and organized thinking.