|Academics >> Lower & Middle School|
Language Arts Overview
Designed to meet the needs of bright and gifted learners, the ACS Language Arts program is an integrated, vital component of study at all levels. Pupils are taught reading, writing, listening and speaking as tools for communication in the twenty-first century. The broad program goals for all students are to: 1) acquire and develop analytical reading skills, 2) acquire and develop writing skills and techniques in narrative, descriptive, persuasive, creative, and expository modes, 3) study and apply standard English grammar in speaking and writing, 4) develop a strong and varied vocabulary commensurate with the student’s cognitive age, 5) explore diverse literary works which will allow students to recognize universal themes and to compare styles and ideas across the curriculum, 6) develop oral communication skills, 7) develop strong study habits and skills, and 8) acquire and use a variety of technology applications for research and writing. Challenging and enriching assignments engage the students at every level, leaving them well prepared not only to meet the demands of the most rigorous secondary school curriculum, but also to develop into critical thinkers and lifelong learners.
The Mathematics program provides a framework in which students develop their mathematical ability while learning to value mathematics and its uses in daily life. Solving problems using a variety of approaches and communicating ideas clearly and logically are emphasized throughout the program. To accomplish these goals, students are provided with opportunities that allow them to discover the beauty of mathematical patterns and the power of logical thinking, to use various strategies and tools to solve problems, and to gather and organize evidence to support their mathematical solutions.
The curriculum is both accelerated and enriched. All students are instructed at least one year above grade level. Enrichment occurs through projects, connections between different areas of mathematics as well as between mathematics and other disciplines. Contests provide students with opportunities to engage in non-traditional problem-solving activities as well as to develop teamwork skills. Technology is used to support the goals of the program at all levels. Spreadsheets and computer software enhance problem solving, graphing, and additional practice of basic skills. Calculator use allows students to concentrate on the problem-solving process, to explore, develop, and reinforce concepts and to discover patterns.
The Science program is experiential, thus enabling students to connect real-life situations to the presentation and adaptation of the scientific method. Students use problem-based learning to solve problems based on everyday life. They can experience the connections between science and technology by using various devices such as tablet computers and lab probes to develop reports and presentations. Research and communication skills continue to be developed and fine-tuned through collaboration, discussion, essays, lab write-ups, and reports. Students are encouraged to develop thinking skills from the concrete to the abstract and become scientifically literate as they connect scientific theories to new evidence. Students are given opportunities beyond the classroom level to enhance their science knowledge and skills. These opportunities include such things as adopting their own personal space in the ACS forest; participation in the Bass in the Class program sponsored by the DuPage County Forest Preserve and the Illinois DNR; monitoring the growth of macro invertebrates in the DuPage River; and participation in science contests, regional and state science fairs, and Science Olympiad.
Social studies at the Avery Coonley School is the integration of the social sciences and humanities in order to provide gifted students with an understanding of themselves and society, prepare them for citizenship in a democracy, and provide the basis for understanding the complexity of the world community. Faculty support students in developing the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions as citizens in a culturally diverse, democratic society in an independent world.
The social studies curriculum draws from multiple disciplines, including: history, archaeology, religion, geography, sociology, and political science. The core curriculum is integrated with the interdivisional subjects of art, music, French, and technology. The focus of instruction is on the development of strategies and techniques that are appropriate to bright and gifted students. Major units of study typically conclude with student-directed, hands-on projects such as: a simulated airplane flight to Paris, France, a Japanese luncheon, a Native American fair, a World Cultures fair, panel discussions, and an Immigration and Ethnic Fair.
It is appropriate to help all students, however young, to expand the limits of their immediate environment and language by exposing them to the richness and variety of another language and culture. In becoming more aware of the world at large, children develop a broader and more sympathetic outlook on life. In addition, in learning to analyze how vocabulary and grammatical structure meld to express the subtleties of thought, they also come to a better understanding of their own tongue. The ACS French program, taught in Kindergarten through Eighth Group, is based on these beliefs.
Success in learning French is fostered through the gradual progression of attaining familiarity with the language through listening and speaking to acquiring the skills of reading and writing. It is a process of mastery built upon habit. Beginning in the Kindergarten program, French teachers work with students to instill enthusiasm and to foster good language acquisition habits. Teachers create a vibrant, authentic atmosphere of learning that is supported by multimedia technology. On this foundation, the older student builds academic skills.
The Arts at The Avery Coonley School
The Avery Coonley School believes that each student has the ability to see the world through the eyes of an artist, and our classes emphasize the creative experience that an artist undertakes. The arts program fosters self-expression in a safe environment that encourages children to take risks and challenge themselves. Although public performances and exhibitions are featured throughout the year, our primary focus is to immerse students in the process of creating visual art, music, and drama. The goal is to develop young people who appreciate and create art throughout their education and their lives.
Visual art students work in a very large, well-equipped art room. After training in the fundamentals of drawing and painting, students advance to more complex techniques such as sculpture, stained glass, architecture, photography, and the potter’s wheel. They explore a variety of media, including watercolor, oil pastels, charcoal, and clay. Along their journey into self-expression, students also learn about the lives and works of great artists in the parent- art-awareness program.
In music, the goal is to become musically self-sufficient. This is accomplished by actively participating in singing, playing the Orff instruments and recorders, dancing, and reading and writing music. A highlight may be performing in an opera in Group Two or singing a Japanese song at the Japanese luncheon in Group Three. By Middle School students continue developing music literacy by playing the choir chimes and singing. Students also study music cultures, the history of jazz, and opera. Field trips to Symphony Center and the Lyric Opera enhance the music program.
The Drama Program, which begins in Fourth Group and continues through graduation, focuses on giving students knowledge of and experiences in acting and dramatic writing, though some time is devoted to directing and the technical arts as well. Through drama games, activities, and performances, students learn about and create a variety of both rehearsed and improvised performances in pantomimes, monologues, scenes, films, and short plays. Work in the theatre arts culminates with writing, designing, acting, and directing one-act plays and producing a professional full-length play script.
An art gallery and the walls of the school feature student work, and the performing arts center provides an ideal location for music concerts and play productions. The arts curriculums are enriched by special optional activities and organizations such as Art Club, Chorus, Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Orchestra, Tech Club, Drama Club, and the Variety Show.
The goal of the Technology Department is to provide each student with the skills necessary to use technology as a tool for problem solving, a means of organizing and presenting information, and a tool for enhancing lifelong learning. The program begins with basic keyboard and mouse skills in Kindergarten and progresses to multimedia presentation, information management, and programming/problem-solving skills at the Eighth Group level.
The curriculum which provides students with developmentally and age-appropriate skills is designed to give students experience and expertise with broad-based concepts that are applicable in a wide range of applications and across multiple technology platforms. i.e. smartboards, interactive response systems, tablets, etc. The program fosters the ethical use of technology both locally and on the Internet. The ultimate goal is that students understand both the possibilities and limitations of technology and be prepared for the inevitable changes that technology brings.
The library program fosters a lifelong love of reading and develops the research skills students will use throughout their lives. Lifelong learning is promoted by emphasizing reading for pleasure, enrichment, and research. Books are read aloud to all groups. Groups Four through Six participate in the Battle of the Books and the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award program. Extracurricular book clubs are offered to all Middle School students as well.
Students in the school participate in a variety of research projects throughout the year. The library coordinates the instruction of research skills with the curricular needs of the classrooms. These information literacy skills include: locating and using sources available in the library, navigating the Internet, creating bibliographies and note cards, developing effective search strategies, and evaluating information. Students are taught to act responsibly with respect to intellectual freedom, access to information, communication of information, and intellectual property rights. The library web page has the two bibliographic formats students use for their research papers as well as links to area public libraries, an online periodical database, and selected research sites.
Physical Education Overview
The Physical Education program spans Pre-kindergarten through Eighth Group. Each level builds upon the skills and attitudes previously learned, and emphasis on character development remains strong and constant.
The overall goals of the Physical Education program are to provide and encourage opportunities for students.
While parents have the primary responsibility for the development of character in young people, school also plays a vital role. During the school year, children spend the majority of their time in the care of teachers and other adults who exert a strong influence on their lives. It is therefore important that school and home develop a close partnership in guiding the student’s moral development.
The development of character has been an integral part of The Avery Coonley School since its inception, with core values integrated into every aspect of the curriculum. In addition, the Strategic Initiative on Character Education has developed Building Blocks of Character that support the mission of the school and form the basis of the Character Education program. These include the following: Appreciation of the Individual, Civility, Gratitude, Honesty, Kindness and Consideration, Responsibility, and Volunteerism. The whole school engages in a unified focus on one Building Block per month. A variety of activities provide opportunities for the heightened awareness of the importance of good character and the role it plays in the everyday life of the school. Literature is a vital component of the program, involving families on a regular basis. Monthly selections on each core value are sent home with each child. Families are asked to spend time together reading and discussing these selections. Students are then encouraged to share their views on the core values through a variety of activities carried out in the classroom and/or advisory groups. At Avery Coonley Academics + Character = Success.
Student Advisory Program
The ACS Student Advisory Program for Middle School students is an affective educational program designed to focus on the social, emotional, physical, intellectual, psychological, and ethical development of students. It is intended to provide consistent, caring, and continuous adult guidance at school through the organization of a supportive and stable peer group that meets regularly under the guidance of a teacher serving as an advisor.
Traditionally, the schooling process has emphasized the three R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic) as the key curricular areas for middle-level programs. In the complex and technological world of the Information Age, however, a fourth R, referred to as "relationships,” has taken on new meaning and new responsibility. School advisory programs must play a major role in helping young people through the turbulence and hurdles of early adolescence.
The advisory program helps bridge the gap between the self-contained Lower School classroom and the independent world of high school. It offers Middle School students the best of both worlds because it provides every student with an advisor who has a special concern for the student as an individual and encourages independence and personal growth needed for high school success.
The goals of the program are:
• To improve the students’ self-esteem
• To develop students’ skills in problem solving
• To develop students’ skills in conflict resolution
• To provide a support system for each student
• To help students develop good study habits and organizational skills
• To provide a forum for student concerns
• To encourage students to perform school and community service