Essential Questions in Middle School This Month

September 24, 2013

Dear Middle School Families,

Reflecting back on the first six weeks of school, I am amazed at all that our students have accomplished. I am proud of the content they are learning, as well as the ways they are approaching the learning process. In my weekly observations of classrooms, online grade books, and conversations with parents, I have seen solid academic rigor, as well as innovative strategies. I have observed teachers spending late hours conducting research and collaboration on how to best serve our students. Our dedicated faculty work tirelessly to guide students to an understanding of not only basic fundamental knowledge in core subject areas, but also to create units, lessons, and assessments that challenge them to use higher order thinking skills and develop the mindsets they will need to be successful in a complex and challenging world.

As I read each teacher’s postings in Schoology, I am struck by the thoughtful and engaging construction of their classroom environments. During learning walks I have the distinct privilege of seeing their creativity and hard work come together. Here are some of the essential questions teachers are posing and students are answering. You may have seen these, too

5th Grade:
How does an adverb change a sentence?
What is the impact of having a compound part of speech in a sentence?
How does place value impact how we live? Comparing and ordering decimals?
Is there a relationship between the digits in a number?
How does technology improve our lives?
How can you solve an engineering problem?
How to perform a controlled experiment? What are some science tools?
How might we analyze writing for fact and opinion? In studying a text, how do we
ask questions on context clues, as well as, make predictions and inferences?
How does the development of customs and traditions help to define a culture and a people?
What is the impact of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on the social order and political order in the Middle East?

6th Grade:
In what parts of life do we use proper fractions, improper fractions, and Mixed Numbers?
How might we explain our set-up of certain situations involving factors?
How might we show our knowledge of factors within a certain time limit?
How might we use conjecture to broaden our math knowledge?
How might we decide which operations are needed to solve the problem?
How might we explain our method for solving a mathematical problem?
What are the benefits and challenges of working as an archaeologist?
How might outlining information aid in organization?
Why does conflict still develop?
How do new ideas change the way people live?
What is a primary source?
How Might We use word webs to enhance our written language, partnered with strong helping verbs, in order to support our writing?
What does Patriotism mean? How Might We understand what Patriotism means to me?
What is the Best Way to Find the Truth?
What do Folk Tales tell us about ourselves?
What’s the Story with Johnny Appleseed?
What is the language of science?
What is a system? How do systems interact?

7th grade
What does patriotism mean to me?  (from Veterans of Foreign Wars writing contest)
How is the American Revolution a demonstration of the need for human freedom?
How are revolutions and wars alike/different?
How do we learn to become better readers? What skills are involved? What does research tell us?
How do individual cells make up a system?
Why are cells small?
How might we connect/read in a way that impacts our empathy towards others?
Why do we need negative numbers?
How can you use a model to represent an equation with integers?
How are numbers related on a number line?
How might we create original stories in Spanish?
How do we use nouns and verbs in Latin to write sentences?

8th grade
What are the differences and similarities between civil wars and revolutions?
How can countries avoid the kind of bloodshed and devastation we experienced during our Civil War?
What is inductive reasoning?
What are the long terms goals that are achieved with solving multi-step equations?
What are the qualifications of a hero?
How do devices in our home utilize energy conversion?
How might we create a device that prevents energy transfer and keeps a popsicle cold?
How is heat transferred?
Why does a writer’s point of view matter in literature?
How might we share our writing with others and offer constructive feedback in order to become stronger writers?
How might we analyze the development of the main character and note the changes that take place from his youth to his adulthood?

Outside of the academic classroom, our students are learning a great deal, too. In chapel and in Christian education small groups, students are learning about what it means to have authentic faith, why it is important to serve others first, and how to draw lines related to moral boundaries. On Helping Hands Day, we reached out to the local community of Sandy Springs to construct outdoor classrooms, visit with the elderly, and create relationships with those who have special needs. Extending their citizen leadership skills, students ran for Student Council and delivered compelling speeches and presentations as they learned about democracy and the election process.

We have celebrated the accomplishments of our student athletes through the fall sports pep rally, as well as the All- School Homecoming Pep Rally. Our teachers have created and offered countless opportunities for students to explore their interests outside of the classroom starting with the 2nd annual club fair. We have had spirit days and monthly birthday celebrations, and our parents are collaborating with teachers to coordinate social events at Skyzone (Grades 5 & 6) on October 10 and a Fall Dance (Grades 7 & 8) on October 18.

Teachers met with parents on the Glenn Campus in grades 7 & 8 for conferences. Teachers on the Founders Campus in grades 5 & 6 will meet with parents for conferences on October 23 (details forthcoming). Also, teachers have made it a goal to create clear and helpful communication through Schoology, Power School, and Weekly Emails. Teachers are offering weekly tutorials before and after school to assist students in their learning. Tomorrow, team building will take place during retreats on campus (Grades 5-7) and at Camp Winshape (Grade 8).

My goodness. I have worked in several high achieving schools, but never in a school with a more robust and relevant offering for students. How blessed are we? I am proud of our students, our teachers, and our parents. I am proud of our community and its commitment to high standards of excellence. I am proud to be a Mustang!


Chip Houston
Head of Middle School


2 thoughts on “Essential Questions in Middle School This Month

  1. Tasha Mines says:

    This is such a strong demonstration of what Middle School is currently doing, and how much we are providing our students with an authentic learning experience! You have really captured our first 6 weeks together. One could surely tell that you are an involved administrator that knows what is going on in your division, and surely get around to being in and out of classrooms. What a well written letter for our School community and beyond!

  2. Jenny says:

    I am very proud to work at a school with so many hardworking and caring students, teachers, administrators, and parents. It really does take a village and we are that!

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