An Independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, D.C.

Middle School CurriculUm

Grades 4-6

In Middle School, grades 4-6, students grow exponentially as independent learners and sophisticated thinkers. As students make the shift from "learning to read" to "reading to learn," an inquiry-based curriculum allows children to dig deeply into their growing passions in a wide variety of curricular areas.

Children thrive in small classes: four sections at each grade level. Students study math, language arts, and social studies with their classroom teacher. Classrooms are true communities unto themselves where students have voices that matter. A strong emphasis is placed throughout the Middle School experience on the social-emotional growth of children. The Potomac tradition of assembly helps students to improve their poise and self-confidence speaking in public.

The curriculum is enriched several times a week with special programs in library, science, art, Spanish, music, physical education, and technology. Middle School learning truly occurs everywhere, from fourth grade outdoor education classes to our annual Invention Convention to field trips on the Chesapeake Bay.

We aim to develop critical thinkers, skilled readers, and writers. Homework ranges from 30 minutes to one-and-a-half hours, depending on grade level, in addition to daily independent reading.

Art

All students have creative abilities that can be further developed by exercising their critical thinking skills and artistic potential. Each lesson in Middle School involves students looking at art, talking about art, and making art. To assure each student enjoys a measure of success and builds self-confidence, appropriate tools, materials, and procedural instructions are offered. Great works of art from diverse cultures inform students about different styles of artistic expression. At times, art projects will supplement and enhance homeroom topics. The curriculum includes the following:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Collage
  • Printmaking
  • Sculpture
  • Masks
  • Architecture and Environmental Design
  • Earth Art
  • Commercial Art

Health/Guidance

The Middle School Health/Guidance program is designed to heighten the awareness and understanding of children's physical, social and emotional changes. At each grade level, the Health Coordinator and the Counselor teach several whole class lessons to promote wellness through healthy choices and balance. The Health curriculum includes nutrition, sleep, hygiene, human development, reproduction and the effects of both legal and illegal drugs. The Guidance curriculum includes conflict resolution, self-advocacy, relaxation techniques, time management, and strategies to reduce bullying behavior.

Language Arts

Grade 4

The major goals in fourth grade are to develop and enhance each student's mastery of language arts skills, to encourage and foster appreciation and enthusiasm for literature, and to provide a variety of opportunities for oral and written expression.

Reading and Literature

  • Variety of genres read and discussed by whole class or small groups
  • Independent reading
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Word study and vocabulary
  • Research skills
  • Literary analysis

Written Expression

  • Various styles of writing (narrative, descriptive, expository, poetry)
  • Writing process (pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing)
  • Mechanics of writing (sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation)
  • Word study and grammar

Oral Language

  • Oral presentations
  • Discussions and responses
  • Listening skills
  • Memory work
  • Class play

Grade 5

The major goals in fifth grade are to refine reading comprehension and vocabulary skills with increased emphasis on reading non-fiction, to foster an appreciation of good literature, and to continue development of effective writing, speaking, listening, and research skills.

Reading and Literature

  • Variety of genres read aloud to class
  • Variety of genres read and discussed by whole class or small groups
  • Independent reading
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Word study and vocabulary enrichment
  • Research skills
  • Literary Analysis

Written Expression

  • Various styles of writing (narrative, expository, poetry)
  • Writing process (pre-writing, drafting, conferencing, revising, editing, publishing)
  • Organization of writing
  • Development
Grammar
  • Parts of speech
  • Mechanics of writing (capitalization, spelling, punctuation, usage)
  • Sentence functions
  • Sentence structure

Oral Language

  • Oral presentations
  • Discussions
  • Listening skills
  • Class play

Grade 6

The major goals in sixth grade are to encourage a respect for the use of language and an appreciation for good literature, to help students hone their writing skills, and to encourage students to speak effectively and develop good listening skills.

Reading and Literature

  • Variety of genres read aloud to class
  • Variety of genres read and discussed by whole class or small groups
  • Independent reading
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Vocabulary building
  • Research skills
  • Literary analysis

Written Expression

  • Various styles of writing (narrative, descriptive, expository, persuasive, poetry)
  • Writing process (pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing)
  • Mechanics of writing (sentence structure, capitalization, punctuation)
  • Spelling

Grammar

  • Parts of speech
  • Sentence functions
  • Sentence structure
  • Usage

Oral Language

  • Oral presentations
  • Discussions and responses
  • Listening skills
  • Memory work
  • Class play

Mathematics

The mathematics curriculum seeks to help students realize their full potential as mathematical thinkers. Throughout the Middle School years, conceptual and skill development is embedded in problem-solving activities to encourage deep understanding. There is also increasing exposure to algebraic reasoning and abstraction.

Grade 4 

  • patterns and functions
  • multiplication
  • division
  • geometry
  • estimation
  • decimals
  • fractions
  • probability
  • perimeter and area

Grade 5

  • review of whole number computation
  • number theory
  • multiplication
  • division
  • geometry
  • fractions
  • decimals

Grade 6

  • computation review
  • area and perimeter
  • number theory
  • fractions
  • positive and negative numbers
  • architecture
  • decimals and percents
  • geometry
  • ratio and proportion

Music

General Music

The Middle School General Music program is based on the Orff-Schulwerk approach to teaching and learning, which emphasizes skill-building, music literacy, and the creative aspects of making music, as well as performance technique. Students in General Music have many opportunities to actively make music in class and share their class work in numerous assemblies and inter- and intra-divisional performances.

The Orff-Schulwerk approach incorporates elements of singing, playing recorder and percussion instruments, movement, improvisation, composition, and drama. Sixth grade students also participate in weekly choral rehearsals along with their General Music instruction and continue to play the recorder. Finally, students also have the opportunity to join the Recorder Consort and/or the Drumming Club, both of which meet weekly during recess.

Instrumental Music

The Instrumental Music program in the Middle School teaches basic music literacy, instrumental techniques, and introductory ensemble skills. Each semester culminates with a concert performance. Fifth and sixth grade students are required to select a performance class from one of the following:

  • Concert Band
  • Handbells
  • String Ensemble

Note: Individual music lessons may be scheduled through the Private Lesson program.

Physical Education

The purpose of the physical education program in Middle School is to provide an environment in which each student can develop confidence in his or her physical self. A major goal of the program is to help students master a range of motor skills that are age-appropriate in an atmosphere of trust and enjoyment. The emphasis of this program is developing individual skills and building team concepts.

  • Fall - Soccer, Field Hockey, Flag Football, Fitness Challenges, Recreational Games, Tennis, Badminton, Team Building Activities
  • Winter - Volleyball, Wrestling, Basketball, Squash, Team Handball, Jump Rope, Juggling, Fitness Assessment, Court Games
  • Spring - Baseball, Softball, Lacrosse, Track and Field, Recreational Games

The Potomac School values healthy rivalry, encourage spirited and fair play, and appreciate the positive support offered on the sidelines and in the stands. To continue the positive traditions that have been established and recognized, we ask our community to renew its efforts to embody the ideals of our athletic department and school. Players and coaches will at all times represent themselves, their teams, and their school with pride and poise.

Science

Grade 4

The Middle School science program is designed to expose students to basic concepts and to foster an appreciation of science in their lives through hands-on activities.

  • Biology - arthropods, bones, reconstruction of skeletons
  • Physics - sound, aerodynamics, electric circuitry
  • Ecology - food chains, food webs, animal populations, ecosystems
  • Outdoor Education - Students meet one hour per week to explore habitats and natural resources on our campus. Topics students are studying in science are incorporated into this weekly outdoor study.

Grade 5

  • Chemistry - properties of matter, unknown substance experiments, states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases)
  • Physics - force and motion, simple machines, robotics/design technology, invention convention
  • Biology - human body systems, plants

Grade 6

The sixth grade science program stresses the importance of science in the students' everyday lives while providing them with extensive hands-on activities. Along with inquiry labs, extensive data collection and analysis, students read and report on a science news story weekly.

  • Astronomy - moon, sun, solar system, stars, constellations, scale models
  • Meteorology - atmosphere, water cycle, clouds, build weather instruments, weather station, acid rain, world climate
  • Geology - plate tectonics, Earth's history, minerals, rock cycle, riverbeds, Potomac basin

Social Studies

Grade 4

Fourth grade students explore early ancient cultures as well as world geography as they integrate and share their knowledge through a variety of projects, such as writing reports, building models, giving oral presentations, and performing skits.

  • Beginnings - settlement and farming in early river valley systems, and the foundations of civilization
  • Ancient Mesopotamia - evolution of written language, government and law, religion, education, art and architecture, science, commerce, daily life, customs, geography
  • Ancient Egypt - evolution of written language, government and law, religion, education, art and architecture, science, commerce, daily life, customs, geography

Grade 5

Fifth grade students move from the ancient culture of Egypt in fourth grade to a comparison of Western and Eastern ancient civilizations, focusing on China and Greece. They explore the history, literature, philosophy, geography, and culture of each of these major civilizations through class simulations and discussions, as well as independent research projects.

  • Ancient China: geography, philosophy, government, and history
  • Classical Greek Civilizations: geography, mythology, government, history, art and architecture, as well as a reenactment of the ancient Olympic games

Grade 6

In sixth grade social studies, students study medieval cultures in Europe and the Middle East. Through this exploration, students develop the skills necessary to ask insightful questions, seek well-supported answers and evaluate what they have discovered.

  • Medieval Europe - fall of Rome, Feudalism, The Role of the Church, life in medieval towns, and the decline of Feudalism
  • The Middle East - the origination and expansion of Islam

Library

The Arundel Family Library's mission is to provide programs that help students become skillful, responsible users of information, and adventurous, committed readers. The library provides a collection of current print and electronic resources that reflects the diversity of our community and supports the curriculum. The Arundel’s home page is a portal to all available resources offered to Potomac families.

The Reading program's goal is to awaken in all Middle School students an enthusiasm for reading. Librarians lead genre studies, read selections to students, share new and old titles in discussion, and provide opportunities for students to recommend titles during class time and on the Arundel's web pages. The library maintains an extensive collection of fiction, nonfiction, and ebook titles, as well as other multimedia selections. The library brings in professional authors on a regular basis who share their personal stories with our students and encourage students to try writing on their own.

The Information Literacy program integrates digital information skills with more traditional ones. The program helps students examine a wide variety of sources, practice the research process, develop critical thinking skills, avoid plagiarism, and respect copyright. Librarians, in collaboration with technology specialists, classroom teachers, and language arts specialists design projects that encourage the development of inquiry skills. Students preview, develop research questions, identify sources, develop search strategies, evaluate sources, discriminate between important and unimportant information, cite sources, create a product, and reflect on the research process.

Technology

In the Middle School, the integration of technology and curriculum is highly valued; technology instruction is embedded into every subject area. Students learn to use technology as a creative tool to help them solve problems in their world. Our program's success stems from the collaboration among our innovation coaches, classroom teachers, and librarians, ensuring that the use of computers and all related technologies are integrated with their curricular experience. Our use of technology in the middle school strives to develop basic skills and teach students to be independent users of technology.

Three most important aspects of our program are:

  • Use of real-world technology will prepare our students to do more than just the basics. It gives them a forum to find the role that technology plays in their lives, both academically and personally.
  • Responsible use of technology is critical to students' development as ethical and responsible users, as well as understanding the application of technology and its reflection on the students, their classrooms, their school, their families and beyond. 
  • Access to industry standard tools (programs, equipment and experiences) ensures the skills our community cultivates will reflect our high standard of academic rigor for their lives beyond The Potomac School campus. 
The critical areas covered in our program include:

  • Multimedia (creation of interactive or visual media, e.g., presentations, digital storytelling, podcasts) 
  • Photography/Graphic Design (manipulation and development of original and digital images, e.g., 3-D design, photoshop elements) 
  • Digital Citizenship (responsible and safe use of equipment, resources and online tools) 
  • Typing/Keyboarding (development of keyboarding skills to support their exploration of technology and their curriculum) 
  • Microsoft Office (create and modify work using various Microsoft Office applications) 
  • Computer-Based Research Methods (Internet, online databases, curriculum support software) 
  • Dedicated Curriculum Support Materials (use of tools dedicated to supporting specific areas of the curriculum) 
  • Internet Use/Web Development (designing content for and effectively using resources on the Internet)
  • Computer programming (Tynker and other iPad coding apps)

 

World Languages

The Middle School Spanish Language program, while working to develop language proficiency in Spanish, is primarily designed to capture the unique cognitive benefits of second language acquisition for children of this age. The program follows the content-based Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) model, in which content from the grade level curriculum is used in Spanish classes to advance language goals.

Spanish is introduced in fourth grade and continues in fifth and sixth. Classes in fourth grade meet four days a week with 30-minute periods. The fourth grade introductory course centers on conversational engagements, easing into beginning elements of reading and writing. In subsequent years, classes meet three days a week with 40-minute periods. The Spanish curriculum builds upon previous years' foundations, adding additional reading, writing, and cultural components as the students advance.