Grade VII Central Subject: The Early American Experience
Naturally embedded in any academic curriculum are human themes. In keeping with Shady Hill School’s traditions, we aim to integrate within all subjects themes regarding character, values, respect for self and others, and the responsibility children have as members of the community.
The Grade VII
Central Subject focuses on early American history, weaving together instruction in English, history, and world geography. We explore throughline questions around the concepts of leadership, responsibility, and groups. Students work in several class structures: whole group, small cooperative groups, pairs, and individually. We emphasize the processes of inquiry, research, and analysis, with students contributing their findings in writing and orally to the shared classroom community. Throughlines:
- How do groups come together? How do they fall apart?
- How do we balance individual needs with group responsibility?
- Do groups need leaders? Do they need followers?
Central Subject (CS): The Early American Experience
Focusing on the period from 1500 to 1789, we examine the causes, developments, and problems of colonization, settlement, and growth. After studying pre-contact Native American cultures and the Age of Exploration in Europe, we examine the confluence of events happening around the world in the early 1500s, as the European and American cultures came into contact. We study the Colonial period, particularly the growth and development of the thirteen English colonies and look closely at the events that led to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. The culmination of the year is a study of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Sources include reproduced primary and secondary documents, library and classroom books, maps, websites, films, field trips, works of art, and guest speakers.
While studying these historical periods, we read novels that relate both thematically and historically. Students practice the skills of reading, literary analysis, and writing and learn to pull salient information from primary and secondary sources, make generalizations, see different perspectives, compare ideas, and draw conclusions. We teach reading from both literary and historical points of view. Both in writing and in class discussions, we emphasize the importance of supporting opinions and ideas with textual evidence. We link students’ writing with authors’ uses of genre (essays, historical and realistic fiction, science fiction, research papers, and poetry), plot, character development, theme, and style/voice. We balance research, expository and imaginative writing, emphasizing clarity and organization. We focus on technical skill in writing throughout the Grade VII curriculum, assessing students’ skills from their assigned work and targeting lessons focused on those needs. We teach grammar skills and vocabulary using lessons from texts and other writing resources.
Seventh grade includes a yearlong geography unit in which students learn to identify countries, capitals, landforms, and water bodies throughout the world. The year culminates with each student producing a map of the world that displays an understanding of the location of continents, countries, and physical features.
Throughout the year, we draw connections among modern, Colonial, and personal contexts. In addition to our curricular focus, we emphasize systems of organization and time management, personal decision-making, and cooperative working skills in the seventh grade. There is a systematic approach to the teaching of affective education; all classes meet in small groups to discuss topics ranging from homework to bullying to human sexuality.
In seventh grade, students receive letter grades for the first time at Shady Hill. Daily assignments, tests, quizzes, projects, and papers are graded. Each student's self-assessment is an important part of the grading process. We generally require several drafts of long-term projects and encourage reflection on goals and standards before each writing assignment. Students often set goals with their teachers as the year progresses, collect and reflect upon their own work, and compare self-assessments with teacher assessments at regular points during the year.
Central Subject Literature and References
A History of US (Volumes 1-3) Hakim; The World Made New, Aronson, Braving the New World, Nardo; A History of the United States, Boorstin; The Crucible, Miller; The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury; Chains, Anderson; To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee; To Spoil the Sun, Rockwood; Blood on the River, Carbone; Rules of the Game 2, Page et al.; Classical Roots B, Fifer & Flowers; and Junior Scholastic magazine.