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.
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.
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grade Overview
In Fourth, 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.
Fourth, 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
Reading & Language Arts
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.
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grade Skills
The Fourth, 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
Fourth, 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)
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 “Fifth 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.
Fourth, 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
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.
Fourth, 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.
Fourth, 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.
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.
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grades
In Fourth, 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.
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.
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.
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.
At Hillside School’s Wick Tutorial Center, students gain valuable support in key academic areas. Tutorials are offered in Executive Function, Math, Foundations of Language, and Social Skills. The small tutorial class size of two to four students enables the learning specialists to tailor their approach to the individual’s unique strengths and challenges. Tutorials are offered two times a week during the student’s Flex periods, ensuring that the students do not miss critical work in their core classes. The learning specialists collaborate with classroom teachers to integrate skills and topics from the core curriculum into tutorial sessions. The use of multi- sensory techniques and differentiated instruction gives each student the best opportunity to optimize their chances for success. Tutorials also help each student enhance his executive function and develop a foundation of organized thinking and literacy strategies that can be applied to all subjects. These key elements of of the Tutorial Center reflect Hillside'’s commitment to serving the needs of diverse learners.
The EXECUTIVE FUNCTION TUTORIAL (EF) supports students in the areas of reading comprehension, written expression, and difficulties with aspects of organization. Active reading strategies include making connections, questioning, visualizing, making inferences, drawing conclusions, determining importance and synthesizing information. Written expression is taught using a systematic, structured approach. Organization of written work including sentence, paragraph and essay structure is also part of this tutorial. The emphasis is on the organization of the writing and inclusion of supporting details. The organized thinking strand encompasses the use of graphic organizers, webs and two column notes, to enhance reading comprehension and higher-order thinking skills. Increasingly, this encompasses both technology (on iPads and laptops) as well as on paper. Time management strategies include, prioritizing homework assignments, management of study hall time, and long term project planning. Materials management involves the organization of binders, backpacks, and lockers. Other study strategies include sequencing, summarizing, textbook skills, and test taking strategies. This tutorial meets for two sessions per week.
During the MATH TUTORIAL (M) the students follow a syllabus that either parallels or enhances the topics in the classroom. It may be necessary to revisit earlier topics to review these concepts in order to fully comprehend the classroom work in progress. It may also be appropriate to prepare students ahead of time for new work that will be introduced in class.
Foundations of Language
FOUNDATIONS OF LANGUAGE (FOL ) is an intensive reading and writing tutorial that meets four times per week in place of a foreign language. The Wilson Reading System, an Orton Gillingham approach, is used for phonics instruction for decoding and spelling. Fluency is addressed through oral reading and fluency exercises. Comprehension strategies are taught through a variety of strategies including an emphasis on active reading strategies: making connections, questioning, visualizing, making inferences, drawing conclusions, determining importance and synthesizing information. Additional instruction is also given in graphic organizers, webs and two column notes as study strategies to enhance comprehension and organized thinking. Written expression is taught using a systematic, structured approach. The students practice sentence, paragraph and essay development. The emphasis is on organization and inclusion of supporting details.
SOCIAL SKILLS TUTORIALS (SS) focus on the utilization of appropriate social skills, as well as on the identification of the importance of such skills, 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. This tutorial meets once a week.