Grade 7 is a time when children begin to need more independence, but still need adult guidance, acceptance, and supervision.
The transition from Grade 6 to Grade 7 often means that adults give less advice and direct instruction, and in contrast, encourage students to self-advocate, explore their own issues, and find solutions for overcoming obstacles. The Grade 7 faculty strives to balance steady academic challenge and growth with the need for students to take risks, engage in their communities (academic and social), and feel confident in their abilities to solve problems and to succeed when things don’t come easily or naturally.
Students receive letter grades in their academic courses for the first time in Grade 7. Grades and trimester reports in Middle School help students understand their own learning styles, which allows them to set goals for their academic progress. The overall grade in a course reflects a student’s performance on assessment measures, but also reflects his or her ability to manage time effectively, complete homework in a timely manner, collaborate with others, and participate in the daily activities of the classroom. As a result, there is typically room for reflection, self-awareness, and growth as Grade 7 students learn the underlying skills of becoming an effective student. These skills are deepened through several experiential learning opportunities which are highlights of the Grade 7 year.
We encourage parents to explore letter grades with their children beyond the grade itself and look at the process, or components, through which the grade was calculated. There is no grading curve in Middle School. This means that students will be able to identify a direct correlation between their work habits and performance and their resulting grade.
An overview of the academic curriculum and areas of focus in Grade 7 is below.
As in Grade 6, Grade 7 advisories function as a homeroom for students. Advisors play a critical role in orienting the students to the new building, the increasing expectations of Middle School, and to one another. They also serve as the primary liaison between home and school. Advisories meet each morning for check-in and each afternoon for a work-study period, providing opportunities for students to interact socially under the guidance and support of an adult who knows them well.
During the Grade 7 year, students explore themes broadly characterized as an understanding of self in the larger context. They begin to think about themselves as a part of communities, and we encourage exploration of their role in these various communities.
Students move from themes of awareness in the first trimester to a global understanding of their learning, social, and physical communities.
- Throughout the first trimester, students focus on two primary questions: Who am I? How do I define community?”
- The second trimester themes involve understanding others and relationships with others.
- During the third trimester students ask, What is my role? How can I affect change? and How do I give feedback to others?
Service learning projects, advisory meetings, field trips, after-school activities, the Grade 7 retreat to Camp Widjiwagen, and classroom experiences all give students opportunities to explore these themes.
Within the context of our six-day block schedule, students have two or three of their academic classes each day and can expect to have 20–25 minutes of homework in each of these classes. Students in Grade 7 will spend approximately 60–75 minutes each evening on homework. We realize that some students complete the homework more quickly, while others may take longer to complete their work. Students have a 30-minute quiet study time each day, during which they may meet with their teachers for assistance as needed.
If a student is spending a particularly long time on his or her homework, parents can assist by determining what the obstacle may be. It may be helpful to consult with the advisor to ask the following questions to determine if the student is using study time effectively, if he or she is reading the assignment directions thoroughly, or if he or she needs additional help or clarifiction.
Homework as a process is multifaceted. Parents can assist by checking in with their child on a regular basis, limiting extraneous distractions for students while they are working, and arranging a consistent location for students to complete their work each evening.
English Studio 7 and 8 is a two-year progression using the Reading-Writing Workshop model. In Grade 7 and continuing in Grade 8, students build on their foundations of high-level reading comprehension, writing, and organizational skills. Students study poetry, vignettes, memoir, short stories, and literary analysis. They craft writing in the genres studied, honing their skills through group discussion, regular conferences with their teacher, and incorporation of lessons. Students make guided choices about the books they read and practice literary interpretation through writing and discussion.
In Social Studies 7, each unit centers on an issue, with focus applied to its importance locally and to a region where it is predominant. For example, during the study of water, students examine the Great Lakes region then look at places around the world with contrasting challenges associated with water resources. Other topics include a sense of place, natural disasters, energy, globalization, and climate change. As the year progresses, students become increasingly comfortable formulating answers to questions which help to stimulate curiosity about our world and its inhabitants, and about local, national and global issues.
Social Studies 7 builds on skills introduced in Grade 6 while introducing and reinforcing new skills. These skills include: reading for comprehension, main ideas and supporting details; effective note-taking; organizing and budgeting time; critical video viewing; cooperative group activities; research projects; review strategies; and expository writing. Perhaps most important, the class hopes to tap the creative energy of students while encouraging perseverance, risk-taking, and increased confidence in their ability to express an understanding—orally, visually, and on paper—of the relationships between people, places, and the environment.
Mathematics Course Placement
Placement in all courses for both new and returning students is at the discretion of the mathematics department. Recommendations are based on past performance in mathematics; effort; level of interest; grades; ERB scores; and placement tests and/or exam scores.
Pre-Algebra and Geometry (Prerequisite: Math 6)
This course focuses on rational numbers and their operations, equations, and inequalities. Topics include real number properties, linear equations and graphs, properties of right triangles, geometric formulas, geometric transformations, and probability. Students build their understanding using various models. They apply their skills to problem-solving situations, including multi-step problems, and use estimation to check reasonableness.
Honors Pre-Algebra and Geometry (Prerequisite: Math 6A)
This course focuses on algebraic concepts and reasoning. Throughout the year, students will be working with equations and inequalities. Topics of geometry are threaded throughout the course with an emphasis put on these concepts at the end of the year.
In Science 7, the overarching theme is environmental science with a focus on Minnesota Ecology. Earth science, life science, and physical science is grounded in the environment surrounding St. Paul, with an emphasis on data analysis, modeling, application, and problem-solving. Students test samples from local bodies of water while they study pollution and its impacts on animals and plants. Using a variety of chemical tests, students record and analyze the data to search for trends in the greater Twin Cities areas. They build on this by designing and testing biofilters with the goal of removing these pollutants. During this ongoing project, they learn about and connect the biogeochemical cycles in nature to one another to form a bigger picture of how ecology is interconnected. Students will hone their computer programming skills by creating their own computer simulations and models, allowing them to test variables related to pollution and climate change. They end the year by delving into a student-designed investigation in plant germination which informs their engineering design project related to rain/pollinator gardens and pollinator shelters.
All students in Grade 7 take a music class every day, in a band or orchestra instrument of their choice or in the boys' or girls' choir.
Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to players of string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments at intermediate to advanced levels. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music is played while the students develop musical and ensemble skills and technical proficiency. High emphasis is placed on team spirit and an awareness of others within the ensemble. The orchestra will give two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced string students have the opportunity to participate in the Chamber Ensemble.
Middle School Band and Jazz Band
The Middle School Band is open to woodwind, brass, and percussion players of intermediate to advanced skill. In addition, bass, guitar, and keyboard players may participate in Jazz Band. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music is played while the students develop musical and ensemble skills and technical proficiency. High emphasis is placed on team spirit and an awareness of others within the ensemble. The Middle School Band plays two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced players have the opportunity to participate in the Jazz Band.
Middle School Girls’ Choir and Middle School Boys’ Choir
The Middle School Choir Program is designed to teach students how to sing with healthy vocal technique through age-appropriate choral literature for both Middle School Choirs. The Middle School Boys’ Choir and the Middle School Girls’ Choir both study and perform music from various genres, learn about music theory and vocal terminology connected with the choral curriculum, and perform in a Winter and Spring Concert each year.
Grade 7 students rotate through two trimester-long fine arts classes over the course of the year.
This Grade 7 art experience emphasizes the fundamentals inherent in creating both realistically rendered and imaginary images in a two-dimensional form. Beginning with abstraction, while using a wide variety of materials, all basic concepts of drawing and design are introduced and fostered. Projects include totally abstract collages, contour and modeled still life and self-portrait drawings and surrealistic watercolor paintings--using the self as a metaphor in the creation of imaginary figures. Each student is assessed by the same criteria we would like them to use to evaluate themselves: a personal commitment to their process, constructive participation in group discussions and a willingness to stretch their potential.
The Grade 7 3D course is designed to familiarize students with the processes of ceramics. Students explore a variety of ceramic techniques that will build confidence and a vision for the variety of starting points with this complex material. The class pushes students' to consider ideas, content, and narrative as they relate to developing one's personal visual artistic voice. Students learn to talk about art and have periodic group critiques to discuss what they have accomplished. Students' different learning patterns are celebrated and recognized as a gift to their creativity.
This course includes topics such as food, beverages, places in a city, daily activities, family, and clothing. Ongoing proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing is practiced daily. The students learn the present tense conjugation of regular –re and –ir verbs and the irregular verbs “to take,” “to be,” and “to want.” In addition, they learn commands, the formation of the near future and the past tense. Other grammar topics include the formation of questions, adjectives, possessive adjectives, the partitive articles, and object pronouns. Cultural topics include Paris, cafés, and eating habits.
The curriculum covered at this level includes thematic topics such as weather, travel and visiting others, food and restaurants, shopping for food and clothing, house vocabulary, and special occasions and holidays. Ongoing proficiency in reading, writing and listening comprehension is practiced daily. A number of readers are used to extend their vocabulary. Grammar covered at this level includes indefinite articles, irregular verbs, modal verbs, accusative personal pronouns, the command form, negation, and the future tense. Technology is an important facet of the curriculum. Projects include creating a German menu and choosing a German historical topic to research and present.
The emphasis in this course is on gaining specific speaking proficiency, broadening vocabulary, expanding character recognition, and starting to define and develop oneself in Chinese. Each student completes a travel project on a region or province. Tests and projects have standards and benchmarks that are clearly stated. Topics include: language class foundations, self and community, Chinese celebrations, school and life.
Spanish 7 (Intermediate Spanish A)
By the end of this course, students will be proficient in the following skill areas:
• Grammar: Conjugation of irregular present tense verbs, present progressive tense verbs, preterite tense of regular and some irregular verbs, reflexive verbs, and use of direct and indirect object pronouns.
• Vocabulary: Themes include travel and vacations, sports and health, daily routines, clothes and shopping, and at the market.
• Culture: Topics related to the thematic focus of each chapter presented through the study of three specific regions: Costa Rica, Argentina and Puerto Rico. Students will examine facets of daily life as well as significant linguistic, historical, geographic and artistic phenomena in these areas.
• Functions: Students will be able to talk about, describe, discuss, and express opinions using the vocabulary and cultural contexts mentioned above. Students will speak with novice-high proficiency regarding pronunciation, rhythm and intonation to the degree that most errors will not affect comprehensibility.
Grade 7 students continue use of the school-issued laptops, which they use in all of their academic classes. Laptop computers should be brought to school every day and brought home every day. Students are required to back up all work to their flash drive or to the SPA network.
The purpose of Grade 7 Compass is to explore many aspects of human relationships, and to learn about and practice healthy communication. The course begins with both self-reflective and group activities geared toward creating a safe class atmosphere. As the trimester progresses, we begin to address more specific issues around how we interact with others. The students are given the opportunity to practice positive communication with their peers, including sharing one-on-one and in the larger group, giving and receiving feedback, resolving conflict, and developing and expressing empathy. Class discussions also address issues pertinent to the grade as they arise. With no take-home assignments or tests, the evaluation of a student’s performance in Wellness depends on class involvement and effort to support an atmosphere of mutual learning.
The Middle School Physical Education program is designed to expose students to a wide range of individual and team sports as well as fitness and athleticism activities. Skills, strategies, and safety are taught while instilling self-discipline, cooperation, and sportsmanship as life skills in sport. A positive self image is nourished by developing students’ full range of physical attributes to include: muscular strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility, grace, and agility.