Reading and writing are skills essential to professional success and lifelong satisfaction
Literature and Writing Workshop is a three-year arc for learning and advancing these skills while developing an enduring appreciation for the richness, power, and beauty of writing and literature in the broadest terms.
We focus on skills in reading and interpretation, writing, presentation, and vocabulary. Some of these skills include:
Reading/interpretation: fiction novel, non-fiction article, poetry, short story, film, literary criticism, essay, testimonial, and graphic novel
Writing skills: includes individual and collaborative notetaking; advanced grammar, style, tone, voice, and punctuation; literary response and critique, essay, email, article, use of images and captions, source citation
Presentation skills: solo and group presentations, preparing and delivering formally and informally, timing and rehearsing, performer-audience relationship, and multimedia visuals
Vocabulary: daily individualized, adaptive vocabulary learning and practice
Class Highlights include:
- Intensive paper writing and presentation
- Frequent (often daily) writing conferences
- Socratic seminar discussions
- Fast-paced class blogging program with weekly deadlines and online publication
- “Playing vocabulary” at vocabulary.com
- Individualized, writing instruction and feedback
The language of math and thinking logically should become as natural as thinking in language
At the middle school level, Countryside offers the following courses: Middle School Math, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Advanced Math (Geometry or Algebra II in alternating years). Middle School Math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra utilize textbooks from the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, which is a continuation of the Everyday Math program.
Middle School Math is designed as a bridge between elementary math and more advanced middle school math courses. The course focuses on developing fluency with key topics in arithmetic, basic pre-algebra, and proportional reasoning, among others. As part of their study of scale and proportions, students design a house floor plan to meet the requirements of their assigned client.
Pre-Algebra is designed to prepare students for an algebra course through the development of key algebraic and logical reasoning skills. Students will explore connections between algebra, geometry, and probability using multiple representations and applied problems. Emphasis is placed on helping students transition from arithmetic reasoning to algebraic reasoning. As part of their study of probability, students design and build a carnival game in which the player has at least a 30% chance of winning.
Algebra introduces functions and explores the properties of linear, quadratic, and exponential functions. Strong emphasis is placed on understanding and using multiple representations of these functions in problem-solving and real-world applications. Another area of focus is the development of fluency with algebraic techniques related to expressions and solving equations. As part of their study of quadratic functions, students will build small catapults and describe the path of the projectile using mathematical language.
Advanced Math A (Algebra II) is designed to follow an introductory Algebra I course without requiring a course in Geometry. The course covers general properties of functions, with emphasis on polynomial, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions. Through hands-on activities and mathematical investigations, students will develop a deeper understanding of how these functions are used to describe and model real-world phenomena.
Advanced Math B (Geometry) formalizes and extends geometric concepts introduced in elementary and middle school courses. The course covers two-and three-dimensional geometry with emphasis on creating traditional constructions, representing situations using geometric models, and justifying arguments using deductive reasoning. Students will develop and deepen their understanding of geometric relationships, explore more complex geometric situations, and learn how to construct formal mathematical arguments.
We teach hands-on investigative skills to get students excited about the world around them
Our students develop an in-depth understanding of science content and develop key skills like communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem-solving, and flexibility. They learn to understand and value the pursuit of science and work it into their world views.
Each year of our three-year cycle of topics combines physical science, earth science, and life science topics. All units also teach, apply, and practice science and engineering principles. Areas of study include:
- Cells and microorganisms
- Vertebrate biology
- Invertebrate biology
- Skeletal-muscular, lymphatic, and immune system
- Vision and hearing
- Adolescent development
- Reproduction and sex education
- Plate tectonics
- History of the Earth
- Light and sound energy
- Electromagnetic spectrum
- Applications of 3 Laws of Motion
Our students explore their own science interests through Science Bump Blogs. These blog posts involve students with the science around them - the everyday science they "bump" into all of the time. This work is student-designed and student-driven. On a rotating basis, each student publishes their Science Bump Blog on our safe KidBlog platform. Their peers read, learn from, and comment on each other's work.
We encourage a curiosity about the world of the past, present, and future
It is the year 3020, and our students are part of a team excavating items on a historical site from 1,000 years ago. What could these items be?
The middle school curriculum uses historical chronology and historical narrative to organize its three classes.
In Ancient Civilizations, students learn about perspective and mapping, the origins of cultures and civilizations, and early civilizations such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Judaism and the Israelite Kingdoms, Ancient India, and Ancient China. Our sixth graders also learn about Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic, African, and Asian civilizations.
In Empires and Nations, students study Medieval Europe, the Crusades, the Black Death, the Renaissance, early exploration, colonization and slavery, the New World and emergence of the United States, and the U.S. Constitution.
United States & the World covers early national government and Westward expansion, the U.S. Civil War, early Colonialism, World War I, World War II, the rise of dictators, the Holocaust, civil rights, the Cold War, and recent cultural and political revolutions.
As the chronology of history progresses, students approach geography, political science, economics, civics, and anthropology. Students hone and shape critical thinking, writing, reading, researching, and note-taking skills. The emphasis on experiencing social studies continues through role-plays, creative assignments, small-scale simulations, and projects tied to the essential questions for each unit.
In addition, the curriculum incorporates both weekly geography lessons, thoughtful research and debate, and current events discussions.
- World Languages
- Fine Arts
- Performing Arts
- Computer Programming
- Physical Education
- Character Education
Our middle school students choose between Chinese, Spanish, or Latin
We offer two levels of Chinese in middle school. The novice level is equivalent to the first semester of high school Chinese I, and the intermediate level is equivalent to the second semester.
Students learn to speak, read, write, and listen in Chinese while learning about the Chinese culture. Students learn appropriate grammar, sentence structure, and various vocabulary words related to multiple events and experiences.
There is a strong emphasis on providing context and conversational examples for the language concepts presented in each unit. Both Chinese characters and pinyin are presented together, and students interact in a 90 percent Chinese-language environment. In addition, students in our upper level Chinese work toward mastering their goals to meet the national standards of ACTFL.
Students are enriched by the Chinese culture through various celebrations and projects including performing at the local library for Chinese New Year.
Spanish classes at Countryside are not your traditional world language classes. We use a method called “Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling” (TPRS®). It is basically story-based immersion presented with compelling comprehensive input focusing the instruction on the student’s acquisition of language. Acquisition is an effortless, involuntary process, which results in long-term memory. With this approach, the students are listening before speaking and learning vocabulary and grammar in context by example and usage. It is an exciting way to help students develop true proficiency.
We offer two levels of Spanish in middle school. White level covers topics including: our class and ourselves, our likes and dislikes, our families, our days and our lives, and our schedules and plans. In addition to present tense, Green level utilizes actions in the past. Whereas White level may cover our families or activities, Green level discusses our families or activities – then and now.
The goal for every student is, that by the time they leave middle school, they will have reached a proficiency level that allows them to continue taking in input from the outside world and continue building their own language proficiency to the level they desire.
The middle school Latin classes deepen the focus on Latin grammar concepts and expand their vocabulary. They learn the six cases of nouns and the groups to which nouns belong. They learn the forms of the nouns belonging to each group, and how each form has a specific function in a Latin sentence. They learn the six tenses of verbs in the active and passive voice. They are introduced to many different types of grammar structures, such as relative clauses and dum clauses.
The students also study Roman culture, including history, mythology, and the daily life of the Romans. The students discuss the founding of Rome, the famous heroes and their stories, as well as some of the prominent figures in Roman history, such as Caesar and Augustus. The middle school students also learn Latin and Greek roots, suffixes, and prefixes to help develop vocabulary building strategies. There are two levels of Latin in the Middle School.
Our middle schoolers compose their own original pieces and play them on the keyboard
The 6th-8th graders gain a deeper understanding of the various musical genres, as well as notation. We work towards understanding the different facets of the genres and what makes the music unique to that genre. The middle schoolers also spend time composing original pieces both by hand and using software. As we continue to learn about notation and genres, students work to play their original composition, as well as others, on the keyboard.
Middle school art explores different mediums, techniques, and concepts
Projects range from simple black and white to multi-style art projects. Students begin by creating their own coloring page (and the students combine them to make a coloring book.) The class moves on to a multi-style art project where they first learn and practice three styles - realistic art, non-objective art, and abstract art. Then the students choose a subject/object that they draw or paint in those three styles.
In a book making project, the class discusses different style artists' books and students choose one to create themselves. They have the choice of flip books, pop-up books, flap books, 3D books, tunnel books, or exquisite corpse books. The class then moves on to work in stop-motion.
Middle schoolers begin with foundational theatre games focusing on creativity and collaboration. Through group warm-up games, students learn the importance of eye contact, listening, and connecting as an ensemble. Through mime and creative movement games, they use their imaginations to express themselves individually.
Utilizing a variety of improvisation games and scenework, the middle schoolers enjoy playful, creative interaction that is often abandoned during adolescence. They develop original scenes and skits, with an emphasis on character development, relationship, conflict, and inevitably...comedy!
In a typical (non-pandemic) year, eighth graders complete a capstone performance project for the entire Countryside community. They present their comedic one-act or musical with costumes, microphones, light, and a full set on the Cathie Webber stage at the end of each school year.
We encourage the development of problem-solving skills
Each trimester, a subset of middle schoolers work on developing their problem-solving skills through studying computer science. Our curriculum is largely inspired by code.org, and has a three year cycle including computer science fundamentals, web development, and interactive animations and games. Students complete a final project which they present at the showcase event near the end of the course.
Our middle schoolers worked on the basics of building web pages: sample project about music through the decades
We care for the social and emotional side of our students
A typical Countryside Middle School day begins and ends in Advisory which is much like a homeroom might be at another school. Our Advisory, however, is a purposeful three-year program that matches each student with a teacher who serves as a supportive guide through the many challenges of the complicated and exciting middle school experience. Countryside’s Advisory program is concerned with the whole student as a unique and wonderful individual, not just academically but also socially and personally. Our students grow and thrive in the classroom, in the home, and in the community.
Each Advisory group is like a small family with its own personality and traditions that change and grow over time. These Advisory groups help teach students to work together toward shared goals like our annual campout, doing volunteer service in the Champaign-Urbana community, or having an intimate and happy Friendsgiving feast just for themselves. Advisory is the foundation of the broad Countryside Middle School experience.
We focus on developing skills and participating in activities to stay fit-tor-life
Our PE class emphasizes personal fitness during this time when COVID restricts our usual PE games and activities. The goal is to keep students active and engaged each period as they use different skills to participate in a wide variety of activities.
We want every student to discover activities they enjoy and can continue to do for the rest of their lives. The class also covers soft skills including cooperation, perseverance, sportsmanship, hard work, and goal setting.
Activities during COVID include:
- Yard Games including Cornhole
- Racket sports - tennis, pickleball, and badminton
- Human Foosball
- Disc Golf
- Cup Stacking
- Fitness Drumming
Character development is one of the most fundamental aspects of any child's education
The principles instilled during childhood influence the type of citizen, parent or leader a student will become. Our Character Building program helps model appropriate behavior. We strive to nurture the growth of these ideals in our students' social and emotional development.
These qualities include:
- Good Judgment