The Upper School offers a dynamic college-preparatory curriculum consisting of engaging content courses, specialized reading instruction and innovative electives that build on student strengths and help prepare them for a successful post-secondary experience. Our teachers make the curriculum accessible to students by matching their teaching to individual student profiles and by supporting student strengths and affinities. The Westmark program provides students with a positive and life-changing experience, giving them the skills and confidence for success following graduation.
- Upper School Overview
- Social Studies
- Foreign Language
- Fine Arts
- Physical Education
Westmark’s best practices call for teachers to pair challenging content-based curriculum with explicit skill-based instruction. Our strategies are explicit and research-based. We provide instruction in crucial strategies in comprehension, writing, organization and study skills. In accordance with our mission, Westmark strives to provide each student with the tools necessary to pursue and access their path to success. Technology integration is key to this initiative. In addition to the SMART Technologies available in each classroom, as well as laptop access, each Upper School student is given an iPad loaded with applications to both assist independent skills practice and provide mobile access to assistive technology.
Our class sizes are small which ensure constant and supportive interaction between students and teachers in and outside of the classroom. At Westmark, we are committed to providing support for our students’ executive functioning skills, including explicit instruction in organization and time management. In addition to this taking place within content area classes, Upper School students have a dedicated Study Skills period each day where they work on these organizational and independent learning skills. Teachers scaffold support as students work towards increased independence in managing daily assignments, studying for assessments, and both short and long-term projects.
As part of the Upper School curriculum, support for students' social-emotional needs is woven throughout their daily interactions with our faculty, administration and school counselor. Students attend regular assemblies which include presentations and guest speakers on self-advocacy, resiliency, and positive relationship building. Students are also supported in Homeroom/Study Skills classes to help lessen anxiety and boost self-confidence.
In addition to our college-preparatory core content classes, careful assessment practices are used to place each student in a reading class, if necessary, that is appropriate for the individual student needs. Our reading remediation classes employ a multisensory approach designed to stimulate and develop content and symbol imagery. Highly-trained teachers work to develop targeted skills in decoding, language comprehension, fluency and sight word development. In the Upper School, there is a well-developed plan that enables Upper School Reading students to receive the reading support they require while enabling them to meet graduation and admissions requirements for college admission.
Our English program is designed to strengthen the students’ writing and reading abilities. Through varied literary selections and by using a structured and scaffolded approach to writing that includes the use of graphic organizers and assistive technology, students write response to literature, argumentative, persuasive and informative essays. In their junior year, students use the narrative essay structure to begin to develop their personal statements for college applications. Throughout their four years at Westmark Upper School, students learn how to produce clear and coherent compositions in which their ideas are presented in a logical order and expressed eloquently. Grammar is taught through the writing process and emphasis is placed in the upper grades on teaching students how to vary their sentence structure. The English curriculum is also geared towards understanding figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings and realizing how all of these play a role in an author’s work. Students learn close-reading strategies and develop annotation skills so that they are able to understand both larger themes and main ideas, as well as support claims using evidence and details. Class discussions are designed to help students acquire skills which allow them to participate and collaborate effectively with their peers and respond to different perspectives that are presented to them. Students are also required to give presentations or create projects using the technological tools available to them on their iPad. Course offerings include Honors courses for 11th and 12th graders in this content area.
The math courses at the Upper School cater to a student’s needs rather than their grade level. Student assessments are used to determine a program that best supports and challenges each learner. The math curriculum includes several course offerings. Students can take Algebra in either one or two years. The courses use interactive technology and manipulatives to aid in conceptual understanding of the content material and mathematical ideas. In addition to offering classes including Algebra 1A, Algebra 1B, Geometry, Algebra 2 and Trigonometry/Pre-calculus, students who are not ready for more advanced math courses can take Adv. Applied Math in their senior year, which focuses on real world application of mathematical concepts while also helping students review basic algebra and geometry skills. Conversely, for students who excel in mathematics, beginning in Fall 2017, we will offer a Calculus course.
Westmark requires at least two years of science for graduation, and our offerings include a combination of both life and physical sciences. Our science program employs interactive science instruction, labs and activities, as well as strategies to further develop student science literacy skills. Student learning is further developed with research projects and collaborative learning. Students receive explicit instruction in note-taking, organization and study techniques throughout the science curriculum. All students take Biology, and can also choose from lab sciences (Chemistry and Physics), as well as science elective courses (Anatomy & Physiology and Conceptual Physics.)
Our Social Studies curriculum provides students with an overview of the world in which we are all a part. Our World Geography, World History and American History courses emphasize the study of how cultures react and respond to the physical world around them by studying religion, beliefs, customs, economics, and political development. Significant importance is placed on cultural understanding, map locations, critical thinking issues, reading and interpreting both primary and secondary sources and conducting research. Technology is integrated throughout the curriculum in order to provide students with an interactive experience and enhance understanding. Students further develop reading, writing, discussion, collaboration, technology and analysis skills through class assignments and research projects. As seniors, students take U.S. Government and Economics, studying both the foundations of our current systems and applying that to their understanding of current institutions. Throughout their four years, Upper School students also receive explicit instruction in learning strategies such as paraphrasing, test-taking, and studying that support them across the curriculum.
In the Upper School, students can choose from either American Sign Language or Spanish. Students begin studying a second language in the 10th grade. Our language classes emphasize conversational skills as well as reading and writing, and cultural understandings of the different groups who speak these languages.
Many of our students demonstrate strengths and affinities in the fine arts. In their freshmen year, students are enrolled in an introductory survey of the four arts that students may take during their Upper School career: Drama, Digital Media, Music and Studio Art. The 9th grade year is subdivided into quarters, and students will experience all four elective options. The goal of the fine arts program is for students to become proficient with foundational visual art concepts including studio technique, art history, aesthetic judgment and creative process. In 9th grade Digital Media, students produce the daily news show, Westmark News Network, which is broadcast in all Westmark classrooms. In Drama, the goal is to enhance confidence and personal expression through the medium. Students are encouraged to develop an appreciation for various forms of performance as well as an affinity for a particular area of drama. The Music program exposes students to a variety of musical styles and introduces them to music history.
Subsequently, throughout their remaining high school years, students have the opportunity to take more advanced courses in the arts including: Design 1 and 2, Advanced Studio Art, Theater II and Theater II and finally Advanced Video Production and Film Studies.
In the Upper School, students who are not involved in after school athletics take a daily physical education class. This class focuses on health and wellness, with daily activity designed to support physical fitness. The Physical Education program is designed to help our students develop the habits and desire to continue to make healthy and informed choices throughout their lives.
In addition to the fine arts electives, students also participate in an X-period (Clubs), which provides the opportunity for students to explore affinities and talents, allowing them to express their individual strengths as well as develop new interests. X-Period clubs are developed and based on student interest and offerings have included Photography, Improv, Jam Band, Open Studio, Ocean Robotics, Assembly Task Force, etc. among others.