Welcome to the Saint Mary’s Catholic School Middle Years Programme(MYP) Blog!  A new blog will be posted every three weeks which is a change from last year.  In these blog posts you will find overviews of what is being covered in each subject.  For dates of upcoming assignments please check your child’s student agenda where they are required to write down upcoming tests, quizzes, projects, and homework.

So far the students are embracing our enforcement of uniform compliance and being prepared for class.  Any student not in compliance will be sent to the office.  Parents might have received an email notification of such an occurrence.  Our new computer system allows us to immediately communicate with parents.  Our goal is that students are in class learning so we are encouraging and reminding the students about tips on how to be prepared.


Language and Literature- Mr. Schaefer


6th Grade Literature and Vocab–  We are done with our review of our summer reading novels.  As a culminating assignment for summer reading the students were required to write a three paragraph essay in class with clear guidelines for each paragraph. I was pleasantly surprised with how well these were written and the level of insight they provided.  The students have started Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Our study of this novel will go through into October.  Along with our study of Twain, we have begun using our vocabulary book.  Every Friday the students will have a test on either vocabulary or spelling.

 7th Grade Literature and Vocab–  Our review of summer reading is over, but not before the students had a chance to divide into teams and have debates on assigned topics.  I was quite impressed with the arguments the students proposed for topics like cell phones in school and school uniforms.  Now we are reading To Kill a Mockingbird.  We will be reading Harper Lee’s classic novel until well into October.  This should lead us to some interesting debates about what justice really means while giving the students a greater understanding of life in the South in the 1930’s.  We also have begun using our vocabulary book.  Every Friday the students will have a test on either vocabulary or spelling.

 8th Grade Grammar and Vocab–  The eighth graders finished their first unit in the grammar book.  If you hear them singing the song about interjections then I must apologize.  I can’t take credit for any interjections they might use at home or in school.  Our next unit will cover nouns.  Nouns are no different from when we were young, but are important to know about nonetheless.  We also have begun using our vocabulary book.  Every Friday the students will have a test on either vocabulary or spelling.

Language and Literature- Mr. Maddock

6th grade Grammar and Writing– The kids are writing every afternoon in class, and then attending to the nuts and bolts of learning Grammar. Over the next week or so they will be moving toward a simple descriptive writing piece, which they’ll turn in for a grade. They performed well on their first of what will seem to them an endless series of grammar quizzes. We’re studying Sentences- the building blocks of the culture!

7th grade Grammar and Writing– We’re beginning the year by determining how much the 7th grade remembers about the 8 Parts of Speech from all the hours we spent talking about them in 6th grade. The findings have been mixed, though not entirely discouraging! The kids are also writing each day, and I’ll be looking into their journals very soon. It is important that you remind them that performance in 7th grade counts!

8th grade Literature and Language– The 8th grade begins this year reading Fahrenheit 451, a book about the importance of books. We’ll be paying attention to learning the terms helpful to the study of literature, and the kids will be urged to begin marking up their books with annotations. In writing, the year-long focus will be on written response to the texts we’re reading, and that has already begun in earnest.

Science- Mr. Short


The students are settling in nicely and are generally well prepared for class. Throughout the year we will be working on approaches to learning which teaches students different ways to learn and what works best for them.

6th grade:  The students are finishing up learning about scientific methods. They will be using this information every year in science. Following that they will be spending a few weeks in the lab. The student will learn how to use all of the equipment and how to measure accurately.

7th grade:  The students have finished reviewing scientific methods and the SI system. They are now learning about Newtonian physics. They will learn about distance, speed and acceleration.

8th grade: The students reviewed scientific methods and the study of earth science. Now they are are learning about mapping and topagraphy. After that we will begin geology.


Language Acquisition- Madame Rooks


French classes are all going well.  Your students are enthusiastic and enjoying building on their previous knowledge.

6th Grade:  We have already completed our first chapter in a unit of 3 chapters.  Students are using greetings and courtesies successfully to introduce themselves and get to know people in French.

7th Grade:  We have just completed our review of last year’s material and will begin our first new unit of study next week.  The students’ accents are beautiful!

8th grade:  We have been reviewing and will finish that up next week and begin a new unit of study on shopping for groceries.  It has been fun to see your children again and delightful to see how much they remember in French and can actually say!

Be prepared to hear about more French food and cooking!


Bon Weekend!

Mme Rooks

Language Acquisition- Senora Thompson


6th grade:  We are off to a great start in 6th grade!  Everyone is so excited to learn a new language.  They are learning how to get organized in order to be successful in Spanish class.  They are working on their first Unit and have taken their first vocabulary quiz (Palabras 1). They should be able to tell you when their next quiz will take place because they are taking time and writing their assignments in their agendas.  They started with Greetings and Courtesy words and are able to greet, ask names and have a short conversation in Spanish.  Our next section of study will be school supplies.  ¡ Hasta luego!

7th grade:  We have been busy reviewing our first two Units in ¡Buen Viaje! and this week we started Unit 3 “Las compras para la escuela”. In this Unit we will review school supplies, colors and learn clothing vocabulary.  When we get to the clothing vocabulary, they will have a Fashion Show!

We have also been working on our organizational skills and they know how important that is for learning.  These two classes are doing such a wonderful job of trying to talk in Spanish whenever they can.  I love their enthusiasm!

8th grade:  We are still reviewing in 8th grade!  I can’t believe how much they learned last year and it seems that they have remembered just about everything.  They have taken several quizzes on verb endings and have practiced quite a bit in class.  Next week we will finally be be prepared to start something new!  We will begin Unit 7 and they will learn about Sports.  They will learn vocabulary for soccer, baseball and basketball. My parents are big National fans and I usually call them while in class and let the students hear all that my mom has to say about baseball.  It’s always entertaining!

The ONE thing we need to work on more in class is talking in Spanish!  I have advised them that they need to work on this, please encourage them at home. They are a great group of students and I know they can do it.


Math- Mrs.Dyer



Upon my arrival at St. Mary School on September 9, I found my students had started the year successfully in the capable hands of Mrs. Graham.   After getting to know each other on the first day, we got right down to work.  All classes were already at least half way through the first chapter!   The first chapter test of the year for all classes will take place starting Friday, September 11th.  During the next few weeks, we will focus not only on concepts, but keeping an organized notebook and test prep.  I am delighted to be at St. Mary’s and look forward to working with the middle school students and meeting all parents.


Math- Mrs. Schiavo

Sixth Grade Pre-Algebra:  Welcome to our world of Pre-Algebra – the foundation for all higher mathematics.  We hit the ground running and are continuing with much enthusiasm.  We are just about finished Chapter 1 – The Tools of Algebra. Our focus for the chapter is on the unique vocabulary of mathematics, reading and writing mathematics.   My goal is to help my students read mathematical problems better by sensitizing them to vocabulary.  Also, we have completed our first two quizzes.  Check out the bottom of assessments; most will contain statements of mathematical amazement, amusement and challenge.  I add these facts to help nurture the students’ curiosity.

Seventh Grade Algebra:  I am excited about our new textbook/workbook that the students are using. The book uses a balanced approach to instruction (skills practice and application) helping students to think abstractly, reason and inquire about relevant math problems.  We have been working in Chapter One.  Although many of the concepts are not new, we were introduced to them last year, our focus is on the application problems.  We are working on analyzing and reasoning problems in different applications, learning how to interpret a question and come up with strategies for solving the problems.  Explain, discuss, what to you think and how do you know are popular phrases that we deal with in every section.  Most of our class time has been spent talking mathematics.


Individuals in Societies- Mrs. Tuskey


6th Grade:  Now that the students are comfortable with some of the basic vocabulary of an IB school, such as global contexts and learner profiles, they have begun their first unit of study. “Exploration and Revolution” focuses on the impacts of European exploration on the New World. They will then look at the formation of the original Thirteen Colonies, the events leading up to the American Revolution, and the Revolution itself. Finally, they will debate whether or not the Revolution was inevitable. The global context for this unit is identities and relationships.


7th Grade:  The students will be exploring the good, bad, and the ugly of the growth of the US starting with Reconstruction in a unit called “Growing Pains.” Reconstruction will be followed by an in-depth look at the benefits and problems caused by the westward expansion of the US and the rapid growth of cities and population in the Northeast. They will explore the numerous issues of this era by understanding the perspectives of some of the people who lived during the time through primary source documents. The global context for this unit is fairness and development.


8th Grade:  The students’ first unit of study, “Down By the Riverside,” focuses on the earliest civilizations of man, all of which developed in major river valleys. After answering the basic question of what are the characteristics of a civilization, the 8th graders will delve into the worlds of several ancient peoples, including the Sumerians and the Assyrians. From there it’s time to explore early India and China. The unit concludes with the ancient Greeks and Romans. The global context for this unit is orientation in time and space.


Religion- Mrs. Slifka

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All grades: A Binder quiz- “open book” will occur every 15 days or so to prepare students for the midterm. We do not have one next week, likely the week of 9/21. These will be corrected and reviewed in class, and then put into the religion binder. Use these quizzes as a study guide for the Tests & the Midterm. Most quizzes will include a set amount of time with an open binder. The quiz will not be “Open Book” the entire time during the quiz, so they should not fully rely on this. It is meant to help them know what they still need to work on. I will ask students to star the questions they looked up to help them prepare for test or the mid-term.

We are working on a project for all of middle school students on the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. Each grade has a part in this program. We are working with Religious Arts and Languages in developing something special. This is a creation new to Saint Mary’s and all of middle school are helping to develop it. More to come as it evolves.

6th Grade:  areas we have or will work on in class in the next week or so include:

  • Organizing and understanding the routine of 6th grade
  • PEACEKEEPERS is our Anti-bullying program: We started with Acceptance towards themselves.  Recognize that each individual is unique and should be treated with love and respect
  • Recognize conflict and explore ways to seek resolution- Matthew Kelly dvd
  • Learn and apply the steps of good decision making
  • Understand that an informed conscience is vital to decision making




7th Grade:

  • Recognize the positive qualities in people who are different from
    • PEACEKEEPERS  theme is  starting with Acceptance towards others
  • Understand the God reveals Himself through Scripture and Tradition
  • Recognize that conflict exists and explore ways to seek resolution
  • Apply the steps of good decision making based on God’s law and
    • teaching of the Church Matthew Kelly dvd
  • Pray formally and spontaneously as an integral part of the day, practice
    • prayer types: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication (petition)
  • review one luminous mysteries
  • Share the message of our Christian faith- Jesus Journal


Drama this year—We could use some costumes for 7th grade in class drama (religious arts).  Even if you donated 1 thing it would help.  I found a link on making apron costumes that looked interesting…    I also thought right after Halloween we could collect costumes that might work for class.




8th Grade:

August – September

  • Model reverence for the Bible as the inspired word of God
  • Know that God reveals Himself through scripture in the Old Testament
  • Know that God reveals Himself through scripture in the New Testament
  • Share the message of our Christian faith- Jesus Journal- this is new and a bit different.  It is a class journal and comes home several times a year.
  •  Recognize the dignity of each person and acknowledge the positive qualities in persons who are different from us as we are all created by God
  • -PEACEKEEPERS Accepting or changing situations (the serenity prayer- accept /change/ know the difference)
  • Rosary- the students are creating a skit for our 7th graders to perform on how to pray the Luminous Mysteries.  We are working on this in class and in Religious Arts.


Extra credit is accepted weekly to help with grades.  You may want to do a few of these early so that if you need this towards the end of the semester, it could help significantly.


Students can create a

  • one page summary on the readings from the Sunday mass or a service for our Protestant students;
  • a piece of Art or Music;
  • a power point or video;
  • another pre-approved creative idea that shows in detail the message from the readings/ homily for that week.  This must be turned in within the week of that mass (1 per week will be accepted).

 Design- Ms. Oliver



6th grade:  Friday we will finish Global Contexts. There will be a Global Contexts quiz on Tuesday, 9/15/15. The students will begin learning about the design cycle and they will be working in their journals in class.

7th grade:   Students are developing internet search skills and evaluating source reliability. After reviewing the Design Cycle, their first Design Cycle project will be assigned.

8th grade: Students are developing internet search skills and evaluating source reliability. After reviewing the Design Cycle, their first Design Cycle project will be assigned.

PE- Coach Spicer



The 6th-8th grade students are midway through the physical fitness unit.  Currently, the students are participating in some fitness tests, which measure flexibility, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance.  Instead of focusing on traditional standards to measure a student’s success or “health,” the students can each see their progress over the course of their middle school years because we have kept records for each of them since 6th grade.  The current 6th grade students have been introduced to fitness concepts in elementary school, but now they will start to have a greater understanding.  The motivation has been great to see in all grades, as they strive to improve on their personal performances, which can demonstrate an increased level of fitness and strength in some areas.

In addition to fitness testing, the students are learning strength exercises, as well as which muscles and parts of the body those exercises strengthen.  The students will be able to take some of these exercises (and understanding) and use them in the future.  Some of them already use them from their participation on various athletic teams or training programs.

Physical fitness and the promotion of physical activity is the most important thing the students can gain from this class, so it is something that is emphasized throughout the year.

Music- Mrs. Taylor


Composer of the Month: September/John Phillip Sousa

As a 13 year old he was sent into the military only to run away and join a circus band. He went on the compose and conduct some of our nation’s greatest music.


6th grade:  Begin Music 2nd Semester. They may bring their Music Process Journals (1 in. binder) down to the music room to be labeled and stored.

7th grade:  “Music that Endures” projects have begun. The 7th grade will be taking a field trip to see the Richmond Symphony perform “ Music in America” at 11:30am on Wed. Oct. 28th. Permission and chaperone forms will be sent home next week. This performance will serve as the inspiration for their performance critique paper which will be due on Dec. 1st. The 7th grade will be part of the Nativity and Christmas program that will be presented here in the church on the night of Thurs. Dec. 17th 7-8pm-save the date.

8th grade- Religious Arts: Students have begun music work on a special Rosary project that we will be presenting in Oct. along with adding some new and exciting features to next week’s celebration of Constitution Day.


The link to SMCS Choir/Cantor information: http://saintmary.org/smcs-choir-2015-16/

Students may join through the month of Sept. only and will be working towards a performance with the Richmond Symphony here at Saint Mary’s on Wed. Dec. 9th

Art- Mrs. Dunham


6th Grade Religious Arts:   Mrs. Dunham and Mrs. Slifka will begin a unit on the Rosary next week with Religious Arts students.  Sixth graders will be approaching the Rosary from a visual standpoint.  They will be developing corresponding imagery to correspond with the Rosary.

6th Grade Art:  Sixth graders have begun establishing their Art routine.  They are completing their weekly homework and are remembering to always bring their sketchbooks to the Art room.    We have begun a short drawing unit, emphasizing value and space.  These are skills that will be reinforced weekly with homework assignments.

8th Grade Art:   Eighth graders have begun a unit on Micrography, or word picture art.  They will be drawing their likeness out of nothing but descriptive words.  I was impressed by the quality of their first drawn homework assignment.  Great job, Eighth graders!