Thomas Jefferson - The Middle School Program
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The Middle School Program

Middle School confronts the formidable challenge of negotiating the transition from childhood to adolescence. The course of study requires a high degree of intellectual integrity and rigor yet does not expect the level of sophistication plausible for a high-school student. The instructor must walk the fine line between playing the pedagogue and nurturing the emotional development of a young person into the threshold of adulthood. The consequence of a TJ middle school education is the readiness to tackle a demanding academic program in the Upper School. The student will emerge from the Middle School prepared to write an essay, take comprehensive final exams, organize and apportion time for homework, think seriously about ideas, retain vital facts and details necessary to the presentation of a credible judgment, and engage in civil and reasoned discourse.

The school fundamentally believes that students must acquire the requisite knowledge with which to think critically. That premise then inspires a program designed to inculcate foundational knowledge – in literary study, in the study of history, in scientific disciplines, in mathematics, and in foreign languages. Clearly, the student will additionally acquire the skills to apply certain operations in these disciplines – like conjugating verbs, factoring equations, and testing hypotheses.

TJ fields teams in cross country, volleyball, basketball, soccer, cheerleading, tennis, and track at the middle-school level.


English – Grade Six

The course begins a student’s transition from reading for plot to reading for meaning.  Students read novel-length texts, short stories, drama, and poetry as they are introduced to basic literary terminology and techniques.  Through critical reading, students learn the intricacies of style and technique used by authors to craft complex plots and themes.  In addition, students undertake an intensive study of grammar, from parts of speech through the rules of punctuation.  During the year, student compositions will expand from paragraph to complete essay, with careful attention given to rhetorical forms and modes.

English – Grade Seven
This course builds upon the skills foundation laid in English Six, with students continuing their study of literary forms and genres.  Students will begin to synthesize the elements of fiction and poetry in order to craft informed arguments about texts.  They will be introduced to the basics of poetic meter, poetic terminology, and more complex poetic forms.  The study of grammar will focus on a review of verb tenses and sentence diagramming.  During the year, students will study the various “modes” of essays, which may include Description, Narration, Illustration, Comparison, Causation, and Process Analysis.

English – Grade Eight
This course begins to transition students from viewing texts as individual creations to viewing them as products of culture.  The texts studied, which include several novels, plays, and poems, parallel-in theme and subject-those which they will be examining in other courses.  Students will undertake studies of the language of literature, types of genre, and forms of poetry to interpret texts from specific points of view.  Grammar skills will be reviewed as students review the essentials of argumentation and composition.


The term “mathematics” includes many different references, from the basics of arithmetic we use on a daily basis to calculus, a gateway to the sciences. The study of mathematics develops logical and critical thinking skills that can be applied to all disciplines.

Pre-Algebra – Grade Six
Pre-algebra is a gateway into the world of algebra and geometry.  The topics – which include patterns, formulas, integers, real numbers, and solving equations – are presented in an integrated approach as an introduction to algebra.

Algebra I – Grade Seven and Eight
Building on the basics of pre-algebra, this course focuses on solving linear, quadratic, radical, and rational equations and inequalities. A graphical approach – including domain and range – to the general shapes of some basic functions is also presented as a tie between intercepts and zeros. Factoring, systems of equations, exponents, and radicals also receive emphasis in the course.

Geometry – Grade Eight
The first half of this course concentrates heavily on the deductive proof, focusing on proving lines parallel, triangles congruent, and polygons similar. The second half of the course emphasizes right triangles, circles and tangents, areas of plane figures, and areas and volumes of solids.


General Science – Grade Six
Students explore topics in life science, physical science and earth/space science. Cell structure, reproduction, genetics, plant and animal life cycles and adaptations, human anatomy, and ecosystems are some of the concepts covered in the life science unit. In the physical science unit, the periodic table of elements is introduced, and students learn such concepts as state and structure of matter, light, sound, chemical reactions, motion, and electricity. The earth’s composition, earthquakes, volcanoes, and the solar system are concepts covered in the earth/space unit of the course. Students engage in many hands-on laboratory activities and write lab reports for these activities.

Life Science – Grade Seven
Life Science introduces students to the fundamental concepts common to the study of life. The course offers a basic study of cells, genetics, and the diversity of living organisms. Life Science also addresses ecology and environmental science.

Physical Science – Grade Eight
This course deals with basic chemistry and physics – the two fundamental physical sciences.  One semester is spent on each broad topic.  A major goal of the course is to prepare students for in-depth study of the sciences encountered in the upper school.

Social Studies

World Geography – Grade Six
The world geography course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of the world in which they live. The Earth’s physical features, climates, soils, vegetation, natural resources, and demographics will be studied.  Study skills and time management practices will also be taught.

United States History – Grade Seven
The United States History course is a survey course based on a frontier theme.  It covers the history of this country from the colonial period to the present day through the lens of the American frontier.  Special emphasis will be placed on the Constitutional principles of government, major crises in the history of the country, and the role of different leadership styles in shaping our republic.  Students will also learn historical research methods and writing skills.

Ancient History – Grade Eight
This course is the first of a three year series of courses that provide an in-depth look at Western Civilization.  This course traces the development of the Mediterranean World and Europe from prehistoric times to about 500 CE.  Included in this course are civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome and the great stories and personalities of the Western tradition like Cicero and Julius Caesar.  Students will also continue to hone historical research and writing skills as a part of this course. 

World Languages

Introduction to Chinese – Grade Six
In this course, students are given an introduction to Chinese language and culture.  Oral communication skills are the primary focus, but students are also introduced to the written characters.  They will learn to both write and read Chinese characters and develop an understanding for the language and its origins.

Introduction to Latin  – Grade Seven
This course introduces the student to the essentials of Latin grammar, reading, and translation skills; its ultimate goal being the reading of original Latin literature. Proper pronunciation, the formation of nouns and adjectives, and the present and all past tenses of the indicative mood are studied. The student examines Roman culture through the medium of connected Latin readings set in Pompeii and Roman Britain.

Latin I – Grade Eight
This course stems directly from the foundation laid in Introduction to Latin. Grammar is reviewed and developed. For example, the past tenses of the indicative mood are augmented by their equivalents in the subjunctive, and the participial system is developed. Latin readings set in the first century A.D. deal with the province of Britain and the city of Rome.

Spanish 1 – Grade Eight
This course develops the following linguistic domains: speaking, reading, writing, listening comprehension and culture. Students will learn to express increasingly complex thoughts relevant to their lives through mastering the basic building blocks of language: vocabulary and structure. They will also develop both cultural awareness and communicative skills through selected audio-visual media.

Chinese 1 – Grade Eight
The fundamental method to learn Chinese language is through Pinyin (a phonetic system used to help pronounce Chinese). For most sections of the Chinese AP exam, the test is written in Chinese characters. Thus, emphasizing recognition of Chinese characters begins at this level. Students learn how to introduce themselves, ask nationalities, describe body parts and features, say names of food and drinks, indicate time and date, express personal hobbies, and discuss future dream careers. Chinese culture, history, and idioms are also introduced.


Art – Grade Six
The sixth grade students learn still life drawing from direct observation, working from simple groups of geometric objects, with an emphasis on accurate proportional rendering, along with different ways of rendering space using simple lines.   Studies in Art History cover an introduction to the esthetic and evolution of art from the primitive forms of the prehistoric period, to architectural monuments of ancient Egypt, to the highly advanced figure sculpting of the Greeks.

Art – Grade Seven
Seventh grade students learn ceramics, using several classic methods of vessel making:  coil building, slab building, and pinch building.  Their training in drawing includes an introduction to the use of formal perspective in rendering deep space and issues of human proportion as related to portraiture and basic shading techniques.  Studies in Art History cover the Romanesque and Gothic periods of Medieval Art.

Art – Grade Eight
Eighth graders confront problems of formal design – the issue of the expressive and successful use of compositional strategies in visually resolving arrangements in two-dimensional space culminating in a four color printmaking project.  Students extend their examination of the difference between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space with bas relief sculptures.  More work is done with portraiture and figure drawing, with an emphasis in charcoal medium and shading techniques.   Studies in Art History cover the Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo periods.

General Music – Grade Six
Sixth grade music emphasizes Western music history and places famous composers and important musical innovations in chronological order.  Students continue the study of musical notation, rhythm, and form.  The course balances this academic study with opportunities to sing, create, and improvise music on recorders, Orff instruments, and percussion instruments.  The students learn important works by significant composers, folk songs, and popular music to develop ability.  Students perform at two concerts during the school year.

Instrumental Music – Grade Six
Students may elect to begin instruction on a woodwind or brass instrument in the sixth grade.  They begin by developing proper fundamentals including posture, breathing, embrouchure and fingerings.  Throughout the year, students improve their playing abilities by preparing exercises from a lesson book, ensemble literature for concerts, and solo and ensemble literature for contests.

Instrumental Music – Grade Seven
This course is a continuation of the instruction begun in the sixth grade, implying a year’s experience on an instrument.  After a review of fundamentals, students prepare exercises from a lesson book, increasingly difficult ensemble and solo literature, and the introduction of scale and arpeggio studies.  In addition to instruction on their instrument, students will study theory concepts as required of the literature.

Instrumental Music – Grade Eight
This course is a continuation of the sequence of instrumental instruction begun in the sixth grade, implying two years’ experience on an instrument.  After a review of fundamentals, students prepare exercises from a lesson book, and take on increasingly difficult ensemble and solo literature, and fluency on major and minor scales and arpeggios.  In addition to instruction on their instrument, students will study theory and history concepts as they pertain to the literature.

Vocal Ensemble – Grade Six through Eight
The MSVE allows students with a keen interest in music to develop their musical abilities.  The choir sings two- and three-part music, with an emphasis on independent singing and using correct vocal skills.  The MSVE perform at school events, concerts, and local contests.

Physical Education – Grade Six through Eight
The physical education courses in grades 6-8 place strong emphasis on developing knowledge and skills in various team sports and activities. Students learn basic skills and strategies through lead-up games and activities.  Exposure to a variety of skills and sports allows the student to build motor development.  Students also participate in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test at the beginning of the school year.

Electives  6-8
Middle School students engage in elective courses during 5th hour.  These electives are meant to provide a time for the students to study a topic that may not be part of their core course of study, or allow them to study a particular topic of interest in more depth.  Examples of such electives are Science Club, Middle School Musical, Destination Imagination, Team Sports, Book Club, Robotics, History Day, and Drama.

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