Middle School

Curricular Overview

General Studies

Language Arts:

Our Language Arts curriculum focuses on reading and analyzing poetry and literature, writing, grammar, and development of vocabulary. Students analyze various writing styles and elements such as theme, plot, character, tone, and setting of classic and contemporary literature. Our English teacher challenges students to cite Yosemite Triptextual evidence to support explicit or inferred claims. We believe that exposure to classic and contemporary literary works improves overall writing in students. Students continue to develop their writing styles and focus on narrative, expository, and persuasive writing. Explicit writing instruction is critical, and we focus on developing ideas, organization, voice, word choice, mechanics, convention, sentence fluency and writing technique. As budding authors, students practice the writing process by prewriting, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing. Our Language Arts curriculum is aligned to California Common Core State Standards.

In 6th Grade English, students are exposed to literary novels, poetry, short stories, and an online non-fiction program, Newsela. Examples of literature and short stories that students read include: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown; My Mother’s Secret by J.L. Witterick; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai; The Circuit by Francisco Jiménez; The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; and Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs. Literature circles encourage rich discussion and serves as a space in which students share ideas and opinions. In these circles, students cite textual evidence to support their opinions. Explicit grammar and vocabulary is taught on a weekly basis.

Throughout middle school, our English students analyze works of poetry, short stories, fiction and non-fiction. In 7th grade, students explore the theme of overcoming challenges and read novels such as: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park; Wonder by R.J. Palacio; Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall; and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Through discussion and analysis, students discuss their interpretations of the novel, literary elements, and themes. They take it a step further and write compelling essays supporting their interpretations. Explicit grammar and vocabulary is taught on a weekly basis.

In 8th grade, students explore various themes such as dystopia and historical tragedies through the lens of a Holocaust survivor and William Shakespeare. Examples of literature students read include: Animal Farm by George Orwell; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; Night by Elie Wiesel; and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. To complement our literature program, students engage in more sophisticated writing honing and refining their essay composition skills. Explicit grammar and vocabulary is taught on a weekly basis.



Our comprehensive mathematics curriculum focuses on strengthening student understanding of mathematical concepts and the application of these concepts to real world problems. We believe all students can learn and succeed in developing mathematical skills, and our math program prepares our middle school students for high school. We tailor our math program to challenge students across all skill levels. Our mathematics curriculum is aligned to California Common Core State Standards.

6th Grade: Math in Focus 6 or Pre-Algebra

7th Grade: Math in Focus 7 or Algebra

8th Grade: Algebra or Geometry



Science is innately interesting, and our hands-on science curriculum allows students to apply theoretical concepts to the real world. Using an integrated approach, students investigate principles of physical science (physics and chemistry), Earth science, life science, and engineering by asking questions and constructing experiments to test their scientific ideas. Through experimentation and analysis, students actively engage in scientific inquiry and reasoning, which advances their conceptual understanding as well as critical thinking skills. Each year, the curriculum increases in complexity and sophistication, and students are challenged to think deeply about real world problems. Our science curriculum is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

6th Grade: Design Thinking, Scientific Method, Energy, Molecules to Organisms, Heredity, Earth’s Systems, and Earth and Human Activity   

7th Grade: Design Thinking, Scientific Method, Matter and its Interactions, Molecules to Organisms, Ecosystem, Earth’s Systems and Human Activity

8th Grade: Design Thinking, Scientific Method, Motion and Stability, Energy, Waves, Heredity, Biological Evolution, Earth’s Place in the Universe



Our history program integrates geography, culture, governance, economics, world and American history. The goal is to teach students to critically analyze historical events through multiple perspectives as well as to evaluate local, national and global issues. The history program helps shape students identities and global awareness. Our curriculum prepares students to be civic-minded individuals who can research issues and platforms to make informed decisions. Our history curriculum is aligned to California Common Core State Standards.

6th Grade: Ancient Civilizations: Early Human Migration to the great Roman Empire

7th Grade: World Studies: Roman Empire to Modern Era

8th Grade: U.S. History: Colonies to Civil Rights



Hebrew is a defining component of our academics, and our Hebrew program is recognized for its excellence. Our Hebrew program is divided into two tracks, dovrei Ivrit and dovrei Anglit. The dovrei Ivrit track is designed for native Israeli and advanced Hebrew speakers. The curriculum is imported from Israel’s Ministry of Education and, as a result, our students learning is aligned to the corresponding grade level in Israel. Equally strong is our dovrei Anglit track. Our hands-on program is designed to develop Hebrew language skills, reading, writing, and speaking Modern Hebrew. Our students are exposed to Israeli literature, music, and culture strengthening their connection to the State of Israel.


Judaic Studies

Middle School BoysThe Judaic Studies program is designed to hone our students’ analytical and critical thinking skills while strengthening and applying their understanding of Jewish traditions and values in their daily lives. Goals of our program are to empower our students to: 1) feel comfortable attending and actively participating in prayers at any synagogue; 2) develop their skills to independently analyze a text and 3) instill in them Jewish values, which they will carry with them through life. In our program, students gain a love of learning while critically analyzing classic Jewish texts and commentaries. By analyzing the meaning of ancient Jewish texts, students develop logical reasoning as well as critical thinking skills. Our classes also serve to enhance our students’ biblical Hebrew vocabulary as well as to allow students to explore moral and ethical issues through the lens of a Jewish framework.
SPHDS has adopted a Beit Midrash learning model in which students learn collaboratively in small groups. In the Beit Midrash, middle school students have a choice of two learning tracks for Judaic studies based on their interests. Within each track, Chavruta partners (or learning groups) will be developed based on the students’ academic level.

Gemara Track:

The Gemara track is geared for students who are interested in focusing on textual learning with a strong emphasis on Gemara while maintaining a high level of Chumash, Navi, and Halacha. Students will acquire analytical and critical thinking skills enabling them to become independent learners.

Tanach Track:

The Tanach track is geared for students who are interested in focusing on Chumash and Navi. In addition to Chumash and Navi, students will learn Halacha and be able to choose from a variety of Judaic experiential of Judaic textual classes that will be offered.