Middle school teacher: Frank Lee
Hutch School is a unique learning environment. Students in grades four through seven come to Seattle from many places with an array of learning needs and experiences. The richness that comes from our diversity is an important part of leaning here; discussions cover topics that might be new to some students while others know a great deal about them. We might attend a play and, for some students, will mark their first experience in a theater. Or we may learn about a new invention and wonder together about how it might change our world. We encourage all voices to be heard and respected.
Our multi-age setting and small class size makes our program a place where students feel comfortable talking about what they are experiencing while going through normal adolescent times. Intermediate and middle school years are unique for any child. During this time we want students to feel safe, confident and to find their voice as a learner if they have not already had this opportunity.
Learning is a collective process; we learn so much more working together. Students in grades four through seven are learning to share ideas, express opinions, substantiate them and listen to others. Discourse is important in the Middle School class. It is important to support one another and learn to work cooperatively. And it is important to learn to disagree with each other in a productive way, Students strive to turn in work that makes them proud, use their time effectively and learn together as part of a community.
Students may have specific lessons from their school at home to complete while in Seattle. If this is the case, we will work with teachers and families to complete that curriculum. Students are most successful in our program when we can talk with the school at home and decide together what work needs to be completed while the student is at Hutch School. Our program is a blend of individualized learning and learning together as a class.
The Middle School curriculum is based on the Washington Common Core Standards for Language Arts, Social Studies and Math. These standards outline what skills, strategies and content are to be included in the program at specific grade levels. These standards include:
We seek to communicate with parents of each student and their teachers at home about the child’s specific needs. Insights that come from people who know the child well are helpful! Often by knowing the last book a child has read or the current math concept they are working on, we can come close to providing materials that they are comfortable with as they begin at Hutch School.
During the first week at Hutch School, a student will meet with the teacher for assessment in a variety of areas including reading, writing and math. The results of the assessments, along with conversations with parents and communication with the teacher at home, help us understand a student and prepare instruction based on their needs.
Assessments are most often made through observing a student in class and talking with a student about school. Other assessments include listening to a student read and using a Running Record guideline to note how fast a child reads, when they change words, how they read a word they don’t know, etc. In math, we give the student a series of tasks that allow us to understand their current level. Throughout their time at Hutch School other assessments might include spelling tests, rubrics in writing or project work, and self assessments of their completed work.
Our curriculum is often presented as an integrated theme to allow for a variety of abilities in our students. The whole class can share a common experience of a book, experiment or visit to a local museum then complete assignments that differ according to abilities, grade levels, and learning needs.
The class is often divided into small groups for instruction. If a group of students would benefit from more instruction in a certain area, they will have the opportunity to learn about it and practice. For example, a lesson on multiplication facts might be a review for some students or an introduction for others while students who have already mastered the facts will be working on a different task.
The Middle School class uses a workshop model for reading and writing, a time when students are working on individual assignments. This includes reading books and other forms of literature, learning new skills, and demonstrating the skills. Language Arts lessons also include spelling, grammar and other fundamentals. Students record their thoughts and ideas about their reading in a reader’s notebook and the teacher responds to their writing. The Middle School classroom and Hutch School have extensive libraries for student use. We can also access the public library for materials.
Writing assignments are opportunities to practice new skills, to explain new things they have learned or for many other purposes. Students learn about writing essays, poetry, short stories and writing in other forms. They share their writing in class and work with each other to edit work. We also work on collaborative writing projects that give students the valuable experience of working together toward a common goal.
All students at Hutch School have the opportunity through the Writers in the Schools program to work with a professional writer. The writer teaches a lesson in our classroom each week.
The Middle School math program is taught by two teachers – the Middle School teacher and our part-time math teacher. This allows math instruction to be structured to meet individual student needs.
Our goal is to teach the content that is being covered by the home school when possible. We assess students to best understand their needs and seek to communicate with home schools to work toward keeping on a similar curricular path.
Our emphasis in Social Studies is learning about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. It is interesting to learn about this new place where students are living for a short while! The goal is to learn about learning – to understand how to approach new topics and look at several ways to present what we have learned.
Units center on history or geography and include lessons on maps, cultures in the area, or current events. Students work individually and in groups to formulate questions, research answers, and present what they have learned. Field trips are common; we visit many parks, museums, landmarks and businesses around the Seattle area.
Many science topics also center on our local environment. Throughout the year, we study salmon and their life cycles, whales (including our local pods), electricity and weather. We specifically focus on the scientific method and organizing experiments. The goal is for students to learn to actively participate in their learning by asking questions about topics we study and – through exploration, interviews and research – find answers.
Most of our units of study last a few weeks or months and will involve several subject areas. This example is The History of Seattle. During the course of the unit students learn about geography, history, industry, the development of institutions and transportation.
The Arts are an important element of the Hutch School curriculum. We contract with local artists to provide instruction in drama, art, music and dance. Seattle has many cultural organizations and we attend plays at the children’s theater, visit museums and watch performances in many venues. We seek learning opportunities for our students and take advantage of the rich culture that Seattle offers.
In class, students learn to work in partnership and in groups. They may be paired with a grade level peer, a younger or older student or in a group with several others. Students learn to understand a variety of abilities and appreciate the unique talents of individuals.
Students are expected to treat each other with kindness and respect. Everyone is part of the class and each person makes their own efforts toward supporting the community.
Students meet weekly in a group with a social worker at Hutch School. Students may also meet with the social worker individually.
A typical day in the Middle School classroom begins with a task to complete as students arrive, often a logic puzzle or grammar assignment. We put our heads together to correct the work and to talk about how different people approached finding a solution.
Then we look over the schedule of the day and talk about upcoming events. Many days, we also take the time to welcome a new member to our class by introducing ourselves and orienting the student to our school.
The day progresses with a writing lesson that introduces a concept like organizing thoughts and then students work on a task at their level. Students enjoy sharing their writing, so we take time to do that before moving into a reading lesson or spelling lesson. If it is Tuesday, we are joined by our writer from Writers in the Schools who makes creative writing an adventure! Other times during the year we may have a drama workshop or work with a professional artist.
We take the time for a healthy snack and a few minutes to talk, enjoy a story together or discuss current events. The morning finishes with a math lessons taught by the Middle School teacher and the math teacher; we divide the class to best meet the needs of each student. Lessons include learning multiplication facts to pre-algebra and everything in between.
Midday we break for recess, walk a few blocks to the park with the rest of Hutch School and play basketball or soccer, swing on the swings, climb on the play structure or just run on the field. Back at school, it is lunch time and the whole school eats together.
Following lunch on most days is a time for silent reading with each student enjoying their own book. This might be a book that is assigned in class or, on other days, a book of the students own choosing.
The day ends with a science lesson that spills out to the sidewalk in front of school so we can experiment with bubble blowing solutions. Or we might be involved in creating a museum display about Seattle’s involvement in the Alaskan Gold Rush.
Our days often end in a flurry of activity as we organize the room, gather homework and discuss our plans for following days.