Aspen Middle School's academic program is rigorous and differentiated. We follow the Colorado and Common Core standards, and our teachers work hard to differentiate and individualize content for our students.
Art is a core content area at Aspen and one of our most challenging classes. We believe that all students benefit from two years of rigorous art instruction. Students learn the vocabulary and application of artistic skills. They also learn project management, including planning, time management, goal setting, task initiation, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation and questioning. Mr. Simons's great experience as an artist and a secondary art teacher combined with the small classes at Aspen enable her students to develop skills that many never thought possible.
I am excited to inform you about Aspen's English Language Arts program. My name is Christina Doerr, and I am the ELA teacher. Here is what a week in my class normally looks like. We begin every class period by identifying the daily objective to determine what we will accomplish that day. We then spend a few minutes practicing grammar skills. We also integrate our daily drills in context with our reading, using Jeff Anderson's Mechanically Inclined strategies.
At Aspen, we pride ourselves on the literature and reading skills that we teach. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students read and discuss several novels, short stories, and poems during the year, many of them connected thematically or historically with the social studies content that students are learning. Students read deeply to analyze literature by using specific reading strategies (making connections, inferring, questioning, visualizing, and predicting) that are supported in all the courses at Aspen. We also spend a few hours a week reading for enjoyment during homework and Forethought class.
The writing program is one of the pillars of our academic success. Students participate in a Writing Workshop class on Mondays and Wednesdays. In Writing Workshop, students practice the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising and editing, and publishing) through a wide range of authentic writing activities, including poetry, narrative, and pen pal letters. Students frequently and regularly conference individually with their teacher about their writings using a rubric, and they develop a writing portfolio of their work. Students also share their work with their peers and talk about their writings. They use self-assessments while focusing on the writing process. I guide them through each step, so students can feel successful and work through each step little-by-little. Parents also provide feedback to their child before students finalize their writings. Students learn that writing is a necessary and useful tool in careers, emails, and daily communication.
Based on assessments, all students participate in a daily literacy or numeracy intervention class. Those students who are assigned to the literacy classes enjoy close readings and annotation of short stories, non-fiction articles, and novels, and some students practice reading fluency skills through computer-based practice with frequent mentoring and class readings of readers' theatres and non-fiction articles.
In math class students strive to learn math communication, computation and concepts. Students benefit from having two professionals in the classroom to ensure that all students' needs are met. We don't simply teach and move on. If assessments show that a student needs additional time, we reteach and they make corrections and/or redo the assessment to demonstrate mastery. If they need more support we provide that via a daily intervention class that focuses on a specific math skills or knowledge deficits. Some students, for example, work on developing accuracy and automaticity in math facts, a crucial skill that can be a barrier to developing higher math skills.
In 7th Grade mathematics, our purpose is to build foundational math skills for life (99% of careers) by students learning the primary math properties (rules of the game of the international language) and the four basic operations (+, -, x, /) with; whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and mixed numbers.
In 8th Grade mathematics, our purpose is to prepare for High School math, specifically Algebra I. We begin the "math mind shift" by learning; variables in equations, basic four operations with real numbers, introduction to functions, solving equations, graphing equations, plus displaying and interpreting data.