The transition to lower secondary
Moving into Lower Secondary (Middle School) from Primary can be an exciting time, but it can also create anxiety for some students. We work hard to make sure that every child feels as welcome and as comfortable as possible by being adaptable to each student’s specific needs and helping them develop relationships. We also continue to nurture the student’s love of learning that they developed in their earlier school years. Your child will have the opportunity to assume more responsibility as they transition from class to class independently, take responsibility for their work, and have more choices in pursuing their interests.
As a small school, our students also enjoy the benefit of being familiar with many of the secondary school teachers, who teach both primary and secondary school students. They also enjoy arranged “shadow days,” where they follow a Year 7 student through a day in the life of a secondary school student.
School day, structure and support
Each day begins with students meeting with their Form Tutor and Advisory group. Each Tutor will ensure that their students have everything they need for a great day at BISW, including the support they need socially and emotionally and not just academically.
Your child’s Form Tutor is your primary point of contact. They will contact you about your child’s successes and any concerns they have about their wellbeing or progress.
Students also have weekly assemblies, where they come together with their year group or the whole school.
Some students may need more support than that which is provided by their Tutor and Head of Year. That’s why BISW also has a Learning Support Director, School Counselor, Assistant Head of Lower Secondary, Head of Secondary, and specialist teachers who all play an active role in the care and well-being of our students.
Furthermore, each year group is divided into two form groups based around the House system, which provides a vibrant social structure to our diverse learning community. There are four Houses: Shenandoah (blue), Chesapeake (green), Potomac (red), and Patuxent (yellow). Throughout the year, our students receive House-based rewards, take part in team-building activities in their Houses, participate in House competitions, and contribute to their House’s efforts to win the famous House Cup!
BISW uses the English National Curriculum as the basis for exciting and creative learning in our students’ Lower Secondary (Middle School) years.
All students take the following courses:
- English Language and Literature
- Performing Arts
- Computing and Technology
- Visual Art
- Physical Education
- Spanish or French Languages
- Health and Well-being
Teachers can assess students using the “Mastery Approach,” which helps them plan an appropriately challenging curriculum for each student. Gone are the days where students are "taught" content with the hope that some of the information endures as knowledge. Instead, at BISW, each student has to learn challenging, non-negotiable information based on their current ability in a subject. In this way, it is possible for our teachers to extend the learning of all students – and not just the ablest.
At BISW, we believe in having a growth mindset. As a result, there is no limit to what students can achieve with resilience and hard work, under the skilled instruction from their teachers.
We send a report home four times a year:
- One snapshot report about “settling in” in October
- Three end-of-term reports with comments
- Three times a year, we also hold Learning Review Conferences where each student and their parents have appointments with each of their teachers to discuss their progress and further steps.
- Each end-of-term report has an:
- Attainment Grade: A*–G
- Approach to Learning Grade: Exceeding Expectations (EE), Achieving Expectations (AE), or Not Yet Meeting Expectations (NYE)
End-of-term reports record the level of work attained in that term. There are no surprises in any report, as all ongoing attainment data is updated regularly on ManageBac. Therefore, the reports should simply be a formal confirmation of each student’s progress that term.
Lower secondary school learner profile diploma
The BISW Learner Profile Diploma helps our students explore the IB learner profile traits that we value in our Upper Secondary School (Middle School). It encourages our students to seek out new opportunities, while reflecting on their work and experiences throughout the year.
With an emphasis on Community, Action, and Service (CAS) as well as academic and emotional elements, the diploma motivates our students to be truly critical thinkers and global citizens of the future. Furthermore, it supports students with a unique Lower Secondary experience that enables them to have the skills they need for Upper Secondary.
Students can log learner profile activities and learning experiences from their curriculum work and through a range of club offerings that support the diploma program.