Middle School Curriculum
Monument Academy adheres to The Core Knowledge Sequence Guide. The Core Knowledge Sequence is a detailed outline of specific content and skills to be taught in language arts, history, geography, mathematics, science, and the fine arts. As the core of a school’s curriculum, it is intended to provide a coherent, content specific foundation of learning, while allowing flexibility to meet individual student needs.
The Sequence represents an effort to describe and state the specific core of shared knowledge that all children should learn in U.S. schools, and that speakers and writers assume their audience knows.
It should be emphasized that the Core Knowledge Sequence is not a list of facts to be memorized.
Rather, it is a guide to coherent content from grade to grade, designed to encourage cumulative academic progress as children build their knowledge and skills from one year to the next.
The Core Knowledge Sequence is distinguished by its specificity. While other standards provide general guidelines concerning what students should be able to do, they typically offer little help to teachers in detailing specific content or skills. The Sequence provides a solid foundation on which to build instruction. Moreover, because the Sequence offers a coherent plan that builds year by year, it helps prevent the many repetitions and gaps in instruction that often result from vague curricular guidelines.
Beyond the core subjects, every child at Monument Academy benefits from Art, Music, Physical Education, Spanish, Technology, and Library classes and instruction. It is our desire to provide a solid balance in our offerings.
The Four S’s
Core Knowledge Is:
Many people say that knowledge is changing so fast that what students learn today will soon be outdated. While current events and technology are constantly changing, there is nevertheless a body of lasting knowledge that should form the core of a Preschool-Grade 8 curriculum. Such solid knowledge includes, for example, the basic principles of constitutional government, important events of world history, essential elements of mathematics and of oral and written expression, widely acknowledged masterpieces of art and music, and stories and poems passed down from generation to generation.
Knowledge builds on knowledge. Children learn new knowledge by building on what they already know. Only a school system that clearly defines the knowledge and skills required to participate in each successive grade can be excellent and fair for all students. For this reason, the Core Knowledge Sequence provides a clear outline of content to be learned grade by grade. This sequential building of knowledge not only helps ensure that children enter each new grade ready to learn, but also helps prevent the many repetitions and gaps that characterize much current schooling (repeated units, for example, on pioneer days or the rain forest, but little or no attention to the Bill of Rights, or to adding fractions with unlike denominators).
A typical state or district curriculum says, “Students will demonstrate knowledge of people, events, ideas, and movements that contributed to the development of the United States.” But which people and events? What ideas and movements? In contrast, the Core Knowledge Sequence is distinguished by its specificity. By clearly specifying important knowledge in language arts, history and geography, math, science, and the fine arts, the Core Knowledge Sequence presents a practical answer to the question, “What do our children need to know?”
Literacy depends on shared knowledge. To be literate means, in part, to be familiar with a broad range of knowledge taken for granted by speakers and writers. For example, when sportscasters refer to an upset victory as “David knocking off Goliath,” or when reporters refer to a “threatened presidential veto,” they are assuming that their audience shares certain knowledge. One goal of the Core Knowledge Foundation is to provide all children, regardless of background, with the shared knowledge they need to be included in our national literate culture.
Taken from the Core Knowledge website at: http://www.coreknowledge.org
New federal and state initiatives are seeking to address the underlying reasons for our children’s poor academic performance—especially in mathematics. While it is true that America’s math students generally perform below those in other developed countries, the problem is not with our students but rather the way they are being taught math. For more than 25 years Saxon Publishers’ research-based programs have produced dramatic, sustained results in mathematics. More and more educators are turning to Saxon programs because they work. This is part of the reasoning behind Monument Academy’s choice to use this curriculum.
Saxon stresses basic math skills to better prepare students for higher learning. In fact, Benjamin Bloom, the renowned University of Chicago education professor and researcher, said teachers using the Saxon method “could take a whole generation and make great mathematicians of them.”
The success of Saxon programs can be attributed to the program’s unique, effective, and research-based pedagogy, which helps students develop a deeper understanding of concepts and how to apply them. Saxon’s innovative instructional approach breaks complex concepts into related increments, recognizing that smaller pieces of information are easier to teach and easier to learn. The instruction, practice, and assessment of those increments is systematically distributed across a grade level. This distributed approach ensures that students gain and retain critical thinking skills.
John Saxon (1923-1996), founder of Saxon Publishers, pioneered this innovative instructional approach while teaching junior college algebra. The retired U.S. Air Force officer and engineer developed his methodology as a result of his students’ inability to comprehend or retain the algebra they were being taught. The positive learning results achieved by his students inspired him to author his first textbook and start his own publishing company. Today, thousands of teachers, administrators, parents and students have discovered the numerous benefits of using Saxon programs, including higher test scores, increased self-confidence and a solid foundation in math skills.
For more information visit http://www.saxonpublishers.com
In E.D.Hirsch’s Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (2002), he outlines a theory behind the idea of cultural literacy and education. As a Core Knowledge© school, we espouse this theory in our literacy program throughout our school. Hirsch states that the literal words we speak, read and write are just the tip of the iceberg in communication. An active understanding of the written word requires far more than the ability to call out words from a page or the possession of basic vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and inferencing techniques. We have learned that successful reading also requires knowledge of shared, taken-for-granted, information that is not set down on the page.
To grasp the practical importance of that point for our entire educational system, we need to ask a fundamental question. Why is high national literacy the key to educational progress in all domains of learning, even in mathematics and natural sciences? We have long known that there is a high correlation between students’ reading ability and their ability to learn new materials in diverse fields. That sounds vaguely reasonable, even obvious, but why exactly should it be the case? Let’s try to understand the not-so-obvious reason for the high correlation between reading ability and learning ability.
The true measure of reading ability is the ease and accuracy with which a person can understand diverse kinds of writing. All standardized tests of reading ability include samples from several different subject matters. But why isn’t one long sampling just as effective a test as several short ones? Well, if reading ability were a purely generalizable skill, one long sample would be an adequate diagnostic test. But in fact, reading ability is not a generalizable skill. If a young boy knows a lot about snakes but very little about lakes, he will make a good score on a passage about snakes, but a lower score on a passage about lakes. So to get a fairly accurate picture of his overall reading ability, we have to sample how he does on a variety of subjects.
But notice that this variability in a person’s performance shows us something of utmost importance about reading ability. To have a good general reading ability, you need to know about a lot of things. If you know about lakes and snakes, and rakes and cakes, you will have higher reading ability than if you just know about snakes. Aha! You might say, that simply means you will read better if you have a broad vocabulary. That is true. But remember what it means to have a broad vocabulary, knowing a lot of words means knowing a lot of things. Words refer to things. Language arts are also knowledge arts. (taken from the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch, 2002, pg. xiii)
One of the reasons we use many diverse literary experiences in our school is to honor the need for children to be exposed to many ideas and concepts. A broader sampling of information creates a more knowledgeable individual. We use classic literature from preschool through the eighth grade to reinforce these principles. For more information on our reading list and available literature, please see the classroom teachers or request a copy of the Core Knowledge Sequence.