COURSE SELECTION GUIDELINES FOR ENTERING 9TH GRADE STUDENTS HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT NEEDHAM HIGH SCHOOL LEVELS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR MY CHILD?

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1 COURSE SELECTION GUIDELINES FOR ENTERING 9TH GRADE STUDENTS HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT NEEDHAM HIGH SCHOOL LEVELS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR MY CHILD? All general education courses are based on the Massachusetts State Frameworks, no matter what level of instruction. All courses at the Standard, Honors, and Accelerated levels are college preparatory. Balance in your child s program is important (a mix of Standard, Honors, and/or Accelerated classes) LEVEL DETERMINATION SHOULD BE BASED ON THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA: Reading skills and interest Writing and research skills Ability to handle long term assignments Conceptual versus concrete learning skills Academic motivation Ability to work independently increases as level increases Pace of the course increases at each level Grade 9 Biology Grade 9 biology is a rigorous course and at all levels works to prepare students to take the MCAS biology by covering the variety of content in the Massachusetts Biology Curriculum. In addition the scientific method is reinforced and students are taught to write formal lab reports (2 per term) according to the Needham High School lab report standards. Regardless of level, content is tied to the following six themes: Unity and Diversity, Transfer of Energy and Matter, Homeostasis, Organization, Structure Meets Function, and Scientific Method. It is the goal of the biology teachers that all students are able to apply content to the various themes by the end of the year. Standard: With direction, students begin to apply content to themes. Shorter tests are given more frequently to allow for mastery of smaller bits of information.

2 Significant MCAS writing and multiple choice prep in class. Guidance with lab report writing and use of computers to generate data analysis. Graphic organizers are often provided to help with note taking as well as writing of essays on tests. Assignments may often be broken down into parts to help students manage workload. Time is spent helping students with basic math concepts and graphing. Vocabulary and word lists are often provided to help guide students writing. Honors: Students gradually develop the ability to independently tie content to larger themes. Unit tests involve synthesis of larger amounts of information. Abstract thinking is gradually introduced into essay writing. Students must learn to develop note-taking skills. MCAS homework assignments help prepare for the exam. Lab report writing involves using rubrics and peer editing. Use of computers to generate graphs is introduced and gradually students are expected to do this one their own. Students are expected to understand basic math concepts and the conventions of graphing. Students can manage long-term assignments. It is expected that appropriate terminology be used when writing essays during class. Accelerated: Students can tie content to larger themes with little direction. Unit tests involve synthesis of larger amounts of information, and review sheets may not be provided. Ability to think abstractly is expected. Students must be able to organize materials and keep up with notes. MCAS prep is limited. Lab report writing involves rubrics and peer editing. An understanding of how to use the computer to create graphs is generally expected, although time will be spent using Excel for statistical purposes.

3 Students must be comfortable applying math concepts to their understanding of biology. Students can manage long-term assignments and balance their own workload. Students incorporate scientific language into their essay writing with ease. Ninth Grade English Ninth grade English students will read and study a variety of literary works and will explore them in terms of the themes and issues they present. Students will begin to develop an understanding of the various forms literature takes, such as the genre of the novel, poetry and prose, drama, and nonfiction. Readings will include works from among the following authors: Homer, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Elie Wiesel, and Harper Lee. Using the writing process, students will focus on organization and clarity of expression in personal and critical writing. In addition, students will complete a written research project, practice speaking and listening skills, and study vocabulary, usage, and mechanics. Standard: Middle School grades in 8th grade English (B, C, or D ) Need to work on skills and comfort in reading, writing, speaking, and listening Need for individual attention to improve skills Ability and willingness to read pages per class with notes or written response Honors: Proficiency in reading and writing Middle School grades in 8th grade English (B or C ) Motivation and ability to manage time and assignments Willingness to work on improving writing Ability and willingness to read pages per class with notes or written response Accelerated: High level of skills and interest in reading and writing Middle School grades in 8th grade English (preferably A or A-) Advanced MCAS level or high proficient

4 Motivation and ability to manage long-term assignments Comfort with challenges and fast pace Ability to study one work in class while reading an outside work Ability and willingness to read pages per class with notes or written response Ninth Grade Mathematics Students entering the ninth grade will take a course in Algebra 1 or Algebra 2. Selection of Algebra 2 over Algebra 1 is contingent upon the student s performance in grade 8. The prerequisite course listed with each course description is the strongly recommended background necessary for student success at that level; however, teacher recommendations will take priority over the prerequisite. In Algebra 1, students will learn traditional topics in algebra. The concepts studied in this course include algebraic properties and the real number system, functions and their graphs, linear equations and inequalities, linear regression and modeling, systems of linear equations and inequalities, quadratic functions, algebraic fractions and real world applications. Additionally data analysis, discrete mathematics, geometry, statistics, and probability will be covered. In Algebra 2 students will learn advanced algebraic topics including exponents, radicals, complex numbers, quadratics, logarithms, sequences series, graphs, probability and statistics. Each algebra course will utilize technology for graphical analysis, data exploration and mathematical modeling. Standard Requires additional development of computational skills Learns best with well-delineated steps and lots of practice Needs assistance with the development of skills in organizational, note-taking, and reading Honors A proficiency in mathematical reading, note-taking, and computation Motivation and ability to manage daily assignments and structured projects

5 Good organizational skills Able to draw from multiple sources and previous concepts Accelerated Includes the same characteristics as honors plus: A high level of mathematical reading and computational skills Internal motivation and ability to manage daily assignments and projects Ability to absorb new concepts quickly; independent learner Excellent organizational skills Ability to handle the accelerated pace Willing and eager to pursue challenges Ability to synthesize new information Ability to use mathematical language to explain connections among concepts Ability to use mathematical language to explain why solutions are reasonable Ninth Grade Social Studies All levels of ninth grade nine social studies classes study world history, from the middle ages to the nineteenth century. The purpose of this course is to have students learn about the historical development of the major cultures and societies. The emphasis is on both European and non-western societies. Areas of focus include geographical knowledge of our world, historical analysis and comparison of different cultures, and political and economic development of societies that have contributed to our modern global community. All students will work on skill development using primary source documents, textbooks, research in the media center and research on the web. Assignments in all courses work to develop analytical thinking and writing skills, research and verbal presentation skills. Standard: Need to work on skills and comfort in reading, writing, speaking, and listening Middle School grades in 8th grade Social Studies (B, C or D) Need assistance with development of skills in reading, note taking, essay writing and research

6 Honors: Proficiency in reading and writing skills Middle School grades in 8th grade Social Studies (B or C) Motivation and ability to manage projects and research papers Consistent work efforts Accelerated: High level of skills and interest in reading and writing skills Middle School grades in 8th grade Social Studies (A or an A-) Motivation and an ability to handle projects and papers that are long term assignments Ability to handle the faster accelerated pace World Languages The World Languages Department offers courses designed to meet the academic expectations of a diversified student body. Students may continue studying a language they studied in middle school or begin learning a new language. If a student began studying French or Spanish in middle school and wants to continue studying that language at Needham High School, then the student should select Spanish II or French II. The level (the last digit of the course number: 1, 2, 3 or 4) depends on the student s learning style, ease of acquisition of language and desire for academic rigor. In general, level 1 students acquire language quickly, incorporate new vocabulary and language structures into existing knowledge with ease, are strong in all four language skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing), recognize and correct errors easily, and look for outside opportunities to use and learn the language. Level 1 courses are excellent preparation for the Advanced Placement course. Level 2 students benefit from more repetition to learn new vocabulary and language structures, need more practice to recognize and correct errors, and have one or two language skills in which they are stronger. Level 3 students benefit from a lot of practice and repetition of language, both new concepts and existing vocabulary, and are stronger in listening and speaking than in reading and writing. Level 4 students benefit from a much slower pace and modified curriculum to acquire the foundations of the language. If a student wants to begin studying a language that is new to him or her, the student should elect one of the first year courses. The student should choose the level based on his or her ability in their first language (see above description of levels). The high school

7 graduation requirement is two years of study in the same world language. Students who want to become proficient in the language by graduation should study the same world language for four years in high school. All courses focus on communicative proficiency, cultural understanding and making linguistic connections. All courses make use of the language lab. All courses above the introductory level are taught in the target language. Below is a checklist of language learner characteristics to help the student select the appropriate level. A student does not have to have every characteristic in a particular level, rather this is a tool for conversation about how the student feels about and learns a second language. Standard: I m not that interested in learning another language (L2), or I am interested but it feels very hard to succeed. I have one or more language skills that are difficult for me (for example, I don t understand well what I hear; I have to see it and write it to remember it). I need a lot of practice to learn new vocabulary. I need a lot of practice to use new and old vocabulary together. I use more simple sentences than complex sentences. When I hear L2 that I don t understand, I don t have a way to figure it out. I often don t do my homework and don t put much effort into my work outside of the school day. I don t like to speak in L2 in the classroom. Honors: Learning another language (L2) is ok, or I m very interested in learning L2 but it s not always easy for me. When I like the activity in class I can do it well. It takes me several times to correct an error and sometimes I repeat errors. I don t always know an error when I see it. I m stronger in one or two language skills than in others (for example, understanding what I hear is easier than understanding what I read). I sometimes hang in there and try to figure out L2 that I can t understand right away. I usually do my homework and put effort into my work outside of

8 the school day. I sometimes try to speak in L2 in the classroom. Accelerated: I love learning another language (L2)! I look for L2 outside of school. After I learn something new I try to use it right away. I like to improve and expand my ability to use L2. I can usually make a correction in my use of L2 after being shown the error once or twice. I like to try new combinations of language and am not afraid to make mistakes. I have confidence that I can figure out L2 that I can t understand right away. I do my homework regularly and put effort into my work outside of the school day. I like to try to only speak in L2 in the classroom.

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