A Model Curriculum for the First 8 Grades: Guidelines From 'James Madison Elementary School'
Following is the curriculum, by subject area and grade level, proposed by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett in James Madison Elementary School.
Preparation for reading and writing. Elementary phonics is introduced and letter-sound associations are emphasized. A significant part of each day is devoted to teacher-directed storytime, which stimulates students' interest in reading and gives them an opportunity to experience and discuss various forms of imaginative literature: fables, fairy tales, poems, short stories, and nursery rhymes. Teachers' transcriptions of student stories provide first experiences with the process of writing. Students are introduced to the school library, where they learn its layout and rules, and the proper care of books.
Phonics instruction continues, integrated with a carefully designed program of reading and writing. Students build vocabulary while they read--silently and aloud--a variety of stories, poetry, fairy tales, folktales, and legends. Grammar is introduced: nouns, verbs, and their agreement; elementary rules of punctuation and capitalization; and simple sentence structure. Instruction in writing begins and includes attention to the alphabet, handwriting, spelling, syllabication, and the reinforcement of grammatical lessons through short writing assignments (sentences, story summaries, and creative and descriptive exercises). Students visit the library regularly and borrow books for independent reading.
Phonics instruction is completed and students begin to read silently for longer periods of time. Group reading of imaginative literature emphasizes the development of interpretive skills: making generalizations, drawing inferences, and determining character motivation and plot sequence. Vocabulary and spelling work is done both in the context of readings and in isolation. Instruction in grammar covers word order, pronouns and their antecedents, adjectives, contractions, and possessives. Cursive writing is introduced, and student writing assignments include stories, poems, letters, and simple book reports. Children have frequent opportunities to share their reading and writing with classmates. During library visits, students learn to identify books by their titles, authors, and illustrators.
Students expand vocabulary and comprehension skills while they read and discuss various literary forms: fables, legends, poems, plays, and nonfiction articles. Reading work includes exercise in choral speaking to allow children to refine their oral language abilities. Grammatical instruction covers subject and predicate rules and the function of adverbs. Attention to spelling and penmanship continues. Lessons in writing emphasize formal process (outlining, drafting, revising, and editing) and more advanced compositional skills: word selection (synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms); detailing; and paragraphing. Independent reading and writing are a significant part of each day. At the library, students learn basic reference skills with tables of contents, indexes, atlases, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and the card catalog.
An introduction to critical reading, with selections from classic children's literature: adventure and animal stories, fables, legends, myths, and tall tales. Students identify story structure, examine cause-effect relationships, and distinguish fact from fiction. Topics in grammar include compound subjects and predicates, and verb tenses. Spelling work introduces etymology as a tool. Students continue to refine handwriting and vocabulary. Writing assignments emphasize the construction of introductions and conclusions in creative and expository composition, and introduce more advanced techniques like summarization and dialogue. Independent reading and writing are a significant part of each day. Students use library visits to prepare written and oral book reports.
A continued introduction to critical reading, with selections from a variety of new and familiar genres and styles: short stories, essays, plays, short novels, and biographies. Students investigate plot and characterization in detail, interpret figurative speech and conditional statements, and distinguish stated and implied main ideas. Grammatical lessons include inverted word order, direct and indirect objects, conjunctions, prepositions, and prepositional phrases. Written work emphasizes research skills and revision, and students are expected fully to apply their knowledge of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary to final drafts. Speaking exercises require students to deliver a short original talk before their classmates. Independent reading and writing are a significant part of each day. Students continue to use library visits to prepare written and oral book reports.
A review of reading skills developed in the early grades, and an introduction to classical mythology and simple lyric, narrative, and dramatic poetry. Reading selections serve as subjects for a variety of writing assignments, including short essays, narratives, letters, and book reviews. Speaking exercises require students to memorize and recite selected short poems. Students hone library skills (bibliographies and note-taking) during preparation of a research project. Topics in grammar include irregular verbs and the subjunctive mood. Independent reading and writing are a significant part of each day.
A thorough survey of elementary grammar and composition. Students diagram sentences; review the parts of speech and the structure of sentences; learn the active and passive voices; and study verbals (infinitives, participles, and gerunds), independent clauses, and subordinate clauses. Readings in literature serve as models of good writing and as subjects for students' own frequent writing exercises, including short essays, book reviews, and a research paper. Instruction in composition covers topic sentences, supporting ideas, transitions, varied sentence structure, conclusions, and the development of individual style. Students are given continued experience in classroom speaking and use of the library.
A survey of elementary literary analysis. Students read, discuss, and interpret a careful selection of novels, short stories, essays, plays, and poetry. Classwork emphasizes close reading of each work for theme, style, point of view, plot, setting, character, mood, irony, and imagery. Readings serve as models of fine composition and as subjects for writing assignments that stress a mastery of elementary vocabulary, grammar, usage, mechanics, description, persuasion, narration, and exposition. Students are given continued experience in classroom speaking and use of the library.
History, Geography, and Civics
Preparation for history, geography, and civics. Historical understanding is encouraged by a focus on important holidays and the individuals or groups they celebrate. Geography lessons begin with identification of home and school address and routes between the two, and include the names of community, state, and nation. Students are taught elementary concepts of distance and direction, the globe as a model of the Earth, and simple map-making exercises. Initial citizenship education concerns the importance of school rules; the value of honesty, fair play, hard work, and the Golden Rule; the meaning and importance of the American flag; memorization and understanding of the Pledge of Allegiance; and identification of the President, the White House, and the nation's capital in Washington.
Historical instruction includes attention to American customs through study of traditional and patriotic songs, legends, and folktales; lessons about daily life in the American past; and a unit on the beliefs, traditions, and geography of a foreign country. Other lessons in geography teach students to give and follow simple directions; to identify common landforms; and to trace initial connections among landscape, climate, land use, transportation, and commerce. Civics instruction encourages good character through stories about moral problems and their solutions; develops individual responsibility through assignment of classroom chores; identifies familiar American symbols (the bald eagle, the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the Capitol, and Uncle Sam); and briefly describes the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Students expand their understanding of the past through study of the lives and accomplishments of important American leaders (e.g., George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr.) and famous scientists and inventors (e.g., Benjamin Franklin, the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and George Washington Carver). Timelines are used to promote a more concrete understanding of the past, present, and future. Where appropriate, students explore their own family backgrounds and discuss the customs, beliefs, and geography of their ancestors' homelands. Further geography instruction teaches students to recognize cardinal directions, map symbols, and physical and cultural distictions among urban, suburban, and rural areas. Civics instruction focuses on the duties and privileges of citizenship, and voting and elections.
History lessons explore the culture, beliefs, and daily life of selected Native American peoples. Students learn about Columbus, the impact of European settlers' arrival, the influence of Native American traditions on contemporary society, and the location of major Indian tribes and settlements on maps. Additional instruction in geography focuses on the travels and adventures of such significant explorers as Marco Polo, the Vikings, Sir Francis Drake, Balboa, Daniel Boone, Henry Hudson, Lewis and Clark, and Admiral Peary. As they trace the explorers' paths, students refine their map- and globe-reading skills, identifying latitude, longitude, the equator, the continents, the oceans, the hemispheres, and the poles. Civics instruction examines the Massachusetts and Virginia settlements, and their ideas about religious tolerance and local government.
Major topics in American history and culture from early settlement to the Civil War, taught through story and textbook readings. Students study the French, Dutch, Spanish, and English settlers; daily life in the colonies; the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution; the Constitutional Convention; the Louisiana Purchase and westward expansion; the growth of canals and railroads; and sectional differences preceeding the Civil War. Where possible, local and state developments are highlighted. Map work identifies the 13 colonies, and follows westward migration and national expansion to the Pacific. Civics covers the functions of the three branches of government, the two-party system, and constitutional issues surrounding slavery.
Major topics in American history and culture from the Civil War to the present, taught through story and textbook readings. Students study events leading to the Civil War; slavery and abolition; the war itself; Reconstruction; the industrial revolution; urbanization and immigration; World War I; the Great Depression and the New Deal; World War II; the Cold War; the civil-rights movement; and the war in Vietnam. Where possible, local and state developments are highlighted. Students commit the 50 states and their capitals to memory. Map work identifies Union, border, and Confederate states; traces major military campaigns; and describes source countries of 19th-century immigration. Civics lessons address major constitutional issues and amendments, and examine democracy and its adversaries in the 20th century.
Major topics in world history and geography from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, taught through story and textbook readings. Students study early man; ancient civilizations of the Near East, India, and China; classical Greece and Rome; the growth of Judaism and Christianity; the Byzantine Empire; Charlemagne; the rise of Islam; and early civilizations in Latin America and Africa. Map work traces the growth and decline of civilizations in the ancient world and follows the sea and land trade routes that facilitated the spread of civilization and contact among cultures. Work in civics explores the roots of democracy in the Greek city-state and their contemporary application to American government.
Major topics in world history and geography from the Middle Ages to 1900, through story and textbook readings. Students study feudal Europe, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the scientific revolution, exploration and colonialism, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, parliamentary democracy in England, the industrial revolution, and the emergence of modern European states. Map work charts the expansion and decline of empires and follows the development of national political boundaries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. Work in civics explores contributions to democracy made by European political thought, and its contemporary application to American government.
Students take both of the following half-year courses:
American Constitutional Government. Study of the U.S. Constitution and discussions of the political structures and principles it establishes: separation of powers, checks and balances, and republican government; duties of congressional authority and its limits; national elections and the electoral college; the president and vice president, their terms of office, and their responsibilities; the system of federal courts, due process, and judicial review; and provision for amendments.
World Geography. Students identify, analyze, and compare physical and cultural characteristics of major world regions and major countries in each. Attention is given to international boundaries; capitals and principal cities; major landforms and bodies of water; climate, weather, and natural resources; transportation and communication; commerce and economy; population growth, decline, and shift; major races, languages, cultures, and religions; agriculture; and politics and government.
Students use woodblocks and other manipulatives to develop number sense and to count and compare the sizes of sets. They solve story problems that introduce simple addition and subtraction, classify objects, identify simple geometric shapes, and learn how to tell time.
Students learn to count, count back, and skip count; estimate and compare the sizes of sets; recognize geometric shapes in a variety of positions; measure and compare lengths; read simple bar graphs; solve story problems that involve addition and subtraction of one- and two-digit numbers; and are introduced to concepts of simple multiplication and division.
Students learn place value by grouping physical objects; round numbers to the nearest tens and hundreds; master simple addition and subtraction facts; estimate solutions to large-number addition and subtraction problems; solve story problems that involve multiplication and division facts; discuss coins and the money system; and are introduced to fractions. In geometry, students recognize properties of two- and three-dimensional shapes; classify models of plane and solid figures; and learn about edges, sides, and angles.
Students master the multiplication table; develop computational proficiency with two- and three-digit addition and subtraction, two- and three-digit by single-digit multiplication, and division with single-digit divisors; and solve story problems that involve whole-number operations, fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals. Manipulatives are used throughout to extend concepts of place value to other bases; to add and subtract decimals; and to find equivalent fractions. In geometry and measurement, students learn units of length, area, volume, weight, and time; measure area and volume using squares and cubes; and interpret bar and picture graphs with units greater than one. Class projects involve the collection, display, and analysis of data, and include simple experiments in probability.
Students solve story problems that reinforce whole-number operations and fraction and decimal concepts; use estimation and rounding to divide large numbers by two- and three-digit divisors; interpret line graphs; compute mean, median, and mode; and, where and when possible, organize and display graphs and data on computers. In geometry, topics include symmetry, congruence, and parallel and perpendicular lines; acute, right, and obtuse angles; and more advanced characteristics of polygons.
Students explore prime numbers, factors, multiples, the number line, negative numbers, and the concept of infinity; learn percentages and ratios using physical materials and representational models; identify and convert equivalent fractions and decimals; and study more complex probability problems using "hands-on" experiments. In geometry, students estimate angles and make protractor measurements; draw, measure, and compare triangles and quadrilaterals; and, where and when possible, use computer graphing software to model two- and three-dimensional shapes.
Students learn arithmetic and geometric series; the associative, commutative, and distributive properties of numerical expressions; exponents; square- and cube-root concepts; and basic functional relationships. Story problems involve percentages, ratios, negative numbers, and simple equations with variables. In geometry, topics include the relations among length, area, and volume; features of circles, cylinders, spheres, and cones; the Pythagorean theorem and the angle-sum theorem; and model construction of the regular polyhedra.
Grades 7 and 8
Students take two of the following three full-year courses in sequence, beginning where appropriate with either General Math or Pre-Algebra:
General Math. A thorough review of basic topics in arithmetic and geometry, and their various applications.
Pre-Algebra. Students learn rational and negative exponents; scientific notation; Euclid's algorithm; factorization of linear expressions; and basic principles of formal logic. Story problems involve fractions and decimals; ratio, proportion, and percentage; the order of operations; and linear equation and inequalities. The Cartesian plane is introduced and used to solve problems of location and distance.
Algebra. Students solve quadratic equations by factoring, completing the square, and applying the quadratic formula, and they use substitution and matrices to solve systems of linear equations. Algebraic modeling is used to explore problems of exponential growth and decay. In context of the Cartesian plane, students learn ideas about functions, absolute value, range, and domain; interpret graphs and their relations to corresponding equations; and analyze the effects of parameter changes on graphs of functions. Story problems relate quadratic and linear equations to geometric concepts. Problems in logic are solved using Venn diagrams.
An introduction to science, with an emphasis on the observation of familiar, everyday things. Students identify common plants and animals, sense organs and their functions; simple topographical features (e.g., mountains, valleys, oceans, and rivers); the sun, Earth, and moon; heat and cold; light and shadow; common colors; and groupings of like objects. Instruction should encourage hands-on discovery and exploration of objects and phenomena.
Topics may include the characteristics and habitats of animals; pet care; the parts and growth patterns of plants; differences between day and night; common weather conditions and climate; properties of water and air; and forms and sources of energy. Students handle and observe growing plants; monitor and record facts of their development; and perform simple experiments involving variations in water, soil, and sunlight, predicting results and testing their hypotheses.
Topics may include seasonal changes and life cycles in various organisms; how seeds mature into plants; differences between vertebrates and invertebrates; the Earth's orbit and its effect on the seasons; the effects of the moon on tides; basic ideas about magnets and magnetism; forces of motion; and simple machines and their inventors. Students construct their own magnetic compasses, use them to determine general directions, and participate in orienteering games and exercise.
Topics may include the growth stages of animals; the food chain; simple rocks and minerals; basic physical and chemical properties of matter; the solar system, planets, moons, stars, and galaxies; important events and achievements in the history of space exploration; and electricity and electric charges. Students collect, compare, classify, and record the shape, size, weight, and texture of different rock and mineral samples.
A special emphasis on the earth sciences. Topics may include rock formation; glaciers; the process of erosion; the creation of fossil fuels; the atmosphere and weather forecasting; and stages of the water cycle (rain, evaporation, and clouds). Additional topics from the life and physical sciences may include the life cycle and behavior of social insects; important bones and muscles of the human body; distinguishing features of comets, asteroids, and meteors; heat as a form of energy; and the idea of heat transfer. Through news reports and, where possible, their own observations and measurements, students monitor changes in local rainfall, temperature, barometric pressure, sunrise and sunset, humidity, and wind speed and direction, and learn simple techniques of weather prediction.
A special emphasis on the life sciences. Topics may include the reproduction of plants and flowers; the process of photosynthesis; the basic structures and functions of the human body; food groups and nutrition; and the evolutionary history of the Earth, including fossils, dinosaurs, and other prehistoric life. Additional topics from the earth and physical sciences may include geological change over time; problems of pollution and conservation; and complex machines and the concept of work. Students examine cross-sections of celery stems and tree trunks, grow mold on bread, observe mushroom spores by making spore prints on paper, compare different types of algae, and investigate water movement through plant and flower roots.
A special emphasis on the physical sciences. Topics may include the atomic theory of matter; states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas); conservation of matter; relations among weight, volume, and density; and simple optics, including telescopes. Additional topics from the life and earth sciences may include the structure of the Earth's crust and plate tectonics; distinctions between living and nonliving things; and instinct and learning in animals. Students explore, record, and graph boiling and freezing points of common substances; examine light filtered through a prism; and explore the reflection and refraction of light rays by mirrors and through lenses.
A broad study of biology as it applies to cells, organisms, and larger life systems. Topics may include the structure of cells; the functions of cellular organelles; elementary concepts in genetics and the role of dna; embryology and fetal development; the function, structure, and interaction of various organ systems; classification of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals; the structure of communities within ecological systems; and the major ecological systems of the Earth. Laboratory exercises include observation with microscopes and simple animal dissections.
A broad study of chemistry and physics designed to familiarize students with further atomic and macroscopic properties of matter. Topics may include the metric system of measurement; elementary particles and atomic structure; the periodic table; the structure of molecules; compounds, solutions, and mixtures; chemical reactions; Newton's first law; potential and kinetic energy; cells, batteries, and electricity; and the motion and octaves of sound waves. Students generate and observe simple chemical reactions, isolate various substances from solutions and mixtures, and measure the effects of different weights on the arc of a pendelum, synthesizing previous laboratory work into formal principles of scientific method and procedure (hypothesis formation, identification of necessary tools and materials, testing and retesting, data collection and analysis, and concluding written reports).
Grades 4 through 6
An introduction to one foreign language, with a strong initial emphasis on pronunciation, intonation, conversation and dialogue, and vocabulary building. Grammar begins with simple verbs and sentence structure. Students read and write short passages. Attention is paid to elementary cultural material from countries in which the language is national or widespread, including children's games, folk songs for choral singing, fairy tales, legends, and simple arts and crafts.
Grades 7 and 8
Two full-year elective courses of formal language instruction, building on previously acquired skills. Together these courses cover material studied in the first year of high-school foreign language: more advanced vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and constructions; extended conversation; selections of foreign literature; writing assignments; elementary translations; and frequent cultural lessons.
Kindergarten through Grade 3
An introduction to basic ideas and skills in music and art. Music lessons familiarize students with rhythm and melody through classroom songs, recordings, and experiments with simple percussion instruments; teach students to identify musical instruments by their shape and composition; and introduce distinctions among pitch, volume, and timbre in musical sound. Art lessons include exercises in painting, drawing, and craftmaking; instruction in shape, color, form, texture, and the visual effects they create; examples of sculpture, painting, photography, design, and architecture that illustrate these effects; and first attempts to identify and describe content in works of art. Where and when possible, field trips are made to museum art exhibits and concerts.
Grades 4 through 6
Continued study of music and art. Music lessons familiarize students with the lives and works of selected great composers; teach them to recognize different musical styles and forms; introduce recordings of music from other countries and cultures; demonstrate how sounds are made and notes are played on various musical instruments; and begin a hands-on investigation of elementary theory--including such ideas as harmony, tempo, key, and simple notation--as applied to music heard and studied in class. Art lessons familiarize students with selected great painters, sculptors, architects, and photographers; refine their ability to look at art and interpret it; and provide classroom opportunities for work on creative projects in a variety of media, with emphasis on elements present in the works of art they have viewed--perspective, proportion, scale, symmetry, motion, color, and light. Where and when possible, field trips are made to museum art exhibits and concerts.
Grades 7 and 8
Students take both the following two half-year courses in the theory, history, and practice of music and art:
Art Appreciation. An introduction to major developments in the Western visual arts, from prehistoric drawings to the present day. Classroom activities include short reading which expand the vocabulary of art history, biography, and criticism; examinations of a small number of works in detail through film, slides, or museum trips; and instruction in techniques of drawing, color-mixing, and painting.
Music Appreciation. An introduction to major developments in Western music, from earliest surviving examples to the present day. Classroom activities include short readings which expand the vocabulary of music history, biography, and criticism; examinations of a small number of works in detail through recordings, classroom performance, or concert trips; and instruction in elementary techniques of composition and instrumentation.