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Thursday, September 07, 2006

"We're preparing your kids for high school."

Seems utterly unbelievable to me that my little man (at five-ten he's not so little anymore) is going off to high school next year. Last night was eighth-grade open house and the chatter was all about preparing them for high school. Among the changes seen so far this year over last:

• Kids received a syllabus for each of the core classes
• Language arts is no longer language arts; it's English
• Homework level has been upped (although the loss of academic support time this year could also account for increased homework load)
• We're into full-fledge foreign language courses now
• With the exception of SSR (sustained silent reading) Reading is being done at home while classroom time is used for hands-on, discussion, projects, etc.
• There's an emphasis on effective note-taking (thank God!)
• All classes emphasize writing (Woo Hoo!)
• Kids are required to track their grades (resulting in no interim surprises)
• Textbooks are available online (There is a God!)

Among my notes jotted down were the following:
English is focused on literature, writing, spelling and grammar. "When we get to grammar, they'll hate it, but they'll learn it."

Science uses FIVE different textbooks this year. "I like our students to do hands-on work and know that science is evolving."

Math will go through eight textbooks this year! The teachers have a Web site to help students — and parents!

Writing is very important part of Social Studies in preparation for high school. They will be learning how to write five-paragraph essays. "Students will be able to take a stance and defend it."

Social Studies and English work closely together -- this is the year of the Washington, D.C., field trip so there's an emphasis on American History and current events. Science and math work together with physical science and mathematical models.

Computer applications takes kids through word, excel, access, power point and movie maker using real-world applications. For the culminating project, kids will be asked to create a company, design a logo, create a brochure, keep records of profits and inventory and videotape a commercial. Very cool!

Espanol is heavy on language versus culture this first year. And there will be 15 minutes of tarea (homework) every night. "Aprender es vivir -- Learning is living."

I never knew this, but apparently the recommended homework load is 10 minutes per grade level per night. So in eighth grade students should have no more than 80 minutes of homework per night. All teachers advise that if it's taking longer to let them know and seek out extra help.

Thankfully, all teachers provided phone numbers (with voicemail) and e-mail and indicated a preference for how they like to communicate.

I like this curriculum because it plays to Ryan's strengths -- namely writing and real-world applications/relevance. We'll keep our fingers crossed for a good year.

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