The students in the middle grades encounter a
variety of academic, social, and developmental
changes. They are expected to assume more
responsibility in the learning process. Study skills
are stressed, and emphasis is placed on extracting
meaning from content using contextual clues.
By the third grade, Spalding phonograms have
been mastered, but they are still reviewed regularly.
Students are introduced to cursive writing using the Spalding method, which is designed for ease of transition from manuscript to cursive by providing concrete, specific instruction. This preciseness of instruction in the formation of letters allows uniformity. Weekly spelling tests continue throughout the middle grades, gradually increasing in difficulty.
Beginning in fourth grade, the Open Court Rise textbooks are used for reading. These textbooks are generally reserved for gifted programs, but at Valley Academy, students have been prepared to succeed with these advanced texts. The texts feature more classical literature selections and sophisticated words interspersed among age-appropriate vocabulary. Students begin to analyze works in terms of structure, theme and writing techniques. Genres include legends, fables, folktales, biographies, myths, poems, and classics. Critical reading skills are taught, including consideration of the author’s purpose in writing. This idea carries over to the writing process when our readers now become thoughtful, reflective writers.
The middle grades are important for honing writing skills. Students are taught writing techniques designed to help them clarify their thoughts and express them imaginatively and sequentially. Students develop and refine basic writing skills such as use of a thesis statement, introductions, and sentence dress-ups. Grammar in speech and writing is stressed. Continued use of Spalding Language is enhanced with an introduction to Six Traits Writing skills. Students gain mastery of the identification of parts of speech and types of sentences, as well as learn about fragments, phrases, clauses, run-ons, punctuation, capitalization, and letter writing. The middle grade writing program culminates with a formal research paper in the sixth grade.
Students also study poetry analysis in depth in the middle grades. They memorize and recite poetry selections from great writers such as Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, Patrick Henry, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Saxon math lessons continue through the middle grades. In addition to computation skills, students gain a thorough understanding of fractions, decimals, basic geometry concepts, integers, consumer math, ratios, and percents. Algebraic concepts are introduced, and periodic timed tests in basic math ensure retention.
In the middle grades, the social studies curriculum (history and geography) is designed to enhance students’ understanding of the world and provide students with valuable tools for future studies. Proven historical fact and geographic knowledge lay a traditional foundation for the understanding of the world. Students memorize and recite all the Presidents of the United States in order. They also memorize all 50 U.S. states and capitals. Lessons in Arizona, American, and world history are brought alive with special curriculum additions including projects based on the countries of students’ ancestors. Students are given the opportunity to participate in the National Geographic Geography Bee, where our students routinely compete at the State level.
Science becomes a more integral part of the curriculum as the students move into the middle grades. Students in these grades use previous knowledge to explore new ideas. They learn formal scientific process skills and application of scientific principles. There is more experimentation. Students study many areas of science, such as earth science, electricity, magnetism, sound, light, geology, and space science.
The curriculum is rounded out with Special Area Classes.
Students may participate in an optional Before and After School Program.