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FAQ International Middle School

1. How is the IMS structured for grades 5-8?
  • 5th grade is seen as a transition year introducing the students to the Middle Years Program (MYP) structure for enhanced success in grades 6-8.
  • 5th grade will focus on learning/applying a high level of organization and preparatory tasks to support the level of learning required in the remaining years of Middle School.
  • Students will be introduced to the International Middle School (IMS) Team’s policies and procedures.
  • Students will receive instruction from teachers with very directed subject-specific training for MYP.
  • Students are assessed against predetermined assessment criteria and not against other students.
2. What is the main difference between the Middle Years Program (MYP) and the Primary Years Program (PYP)?
Please click here for the The IB Mission Statement 
3. How will the students be prepared for 5th Grade and Middle School?
  • The three days of Middle School are used for “Arena Check-In Days.” These are days for organization, team building, and introduction to IMS policies and procedures. Additionally, several teambuilding activities will take place that allow students to interact with peers at the different grade levels.
  • The first lesson every Monday morning will be designated as an advisory period for continuing support, preparation, and organization.
  • During the first months of school, all 5th grade teachers will be planning and implementing lessons directed at preparing and teaching the students how to be successful in the IMS in the first Units of Study.
  • Staff will be prepared to support students in case of any confusion or difficulties throughout the process of change.
  • Each 5th grade student will be assigned to a buddy group for the Arena Check in and these will also be their Yard Duty groups.
  • An organizational workshop series—Organizational Skills, Study Skills, Time Management Skills—will take place throughout the Middle School years.
  • An Internet Safety workshop series (Safety and Security, Digital Citizenship, Research and Evaluation, Be an Upstander! Addressing Cyber Bullying in Schools, Keeping Track of Privacy and Digital Footprints, How to Respect Creative Work in a Copy-Paste Culture) will also take place throughout the years.
  • Scheduling for Grade 5 is prioritized to support their organization and transition.
  • We will focus on involving the parents in the MYP Years (potlucks, coffee meetings, workshops).
  • Academic support teachers will be incorporated as needed.
  • A Special Support Teacher will be incorporated as needed.
  • The Creativity Action Service (CAS) requirement will be adapted by grade level in the MYP Years (10 hours in fifth grade) and CAS opportunities will be posted to ManageBac.
  • Students will be introduced to an online communication platform (ManageBac). This will be used for communication about formative and summative tasks, grades, and school events.
  • Any specific question for a teacher outside of the regular school day should be sent to the teacher as an email (@gais.org).
4. What are the tasks of a Advisory/Homeroom Teacher?

All students will be assigned to an Advisory/Homeroom teacher. This teacher will be their main contact person and Advisory/Homeroom teacher throughout all Middle School Years (when possible). The teacher will help to organize and attend all field trips with the students. They will meet every Monday, first lesson, to address topics such as: social/emotional lessons, organization, planning, document preparation/collection (for field trips, etc.), team building activities, review of ManageBac and IMS policies/procedures, etc.

5. When will Advisory/Homeroom Teachers be announced?

The homeroom teacher, class schedules, and the final assignment of the subject teachers will be announced in early August of the concerned school year. This information will be included in a letter from the principal.

6. What tools will be provided to the students in regards to organization and time management?


  • All students are assigned a locker.
  • Students will be assigned a location for jackets, backpacks, and lunches.
  • Students will be taught to use a Pendaflex organizer to keep their worksheets organized.
  • 5th grade student books will remain in the classrooms where lessons occur, unless they need to be used for homework.
  • We are currently investigating and using electronic textbooks when available.
  • Students will receive a daily planner for recording assignments and for coordinating with homework club or Hort and will also have formative and summative assignments posted to ManageBac.

Time Management

  • Most summative assessment tasks will be completed during the lessons.
  • Students will be supported in organization and time management in order to complete tasks.
  • Students will be given a 5-minute transition time between classes and after breaks. They may also be given a 5-minute break during “double lessons” if needed.
7. How much German/How much English?

For an overview please click here: Multiple Language Track

8. When do we have to make the choice between the German and English language of instruction?

Electives sign up takes place at the end of May of the school year in session for placement in electives for the coming school year.

9. German/English Track and Transition to High School?
  • In the last three years we had 100 percent successful transition (acceptance rate) into high schools.
  • The 2011–2012 academic school year was the first year that the German/English multiple language options was implemented. In the past, all lessons were conducted in German except for U.S. History, U.S. Government, English, and the third language (Language B) courses. This in no way affected smooth transition into U.S. or International High School systems.
  • The recommendation is that students take the subjects that offer the option of choosing between the German/English language of instruction (Humanities and Math) based on the student’s dominant language so that successful learning of the topics is the main focus at these times (as opposed to learning of a language); however, the final choice is up to the parents and student depending on the educational path they may choose to follow. The students will not be allowed to switch from one track to the other during the school year without teacher recommendation for serious academic issues in which the language of instruction is the factor for the recommendation.
10. How is grammar graded in Humanities Courses?

The Humanities courses grade grammar and use of vocabulary as part of its subject-specific criteria. The focus in Humanities will, of course, be on the content studied; however the course will also focus on the students’ abilities to transmit their knowledge and understanding through non-fiction writing tasks (Essay, Research Reports, Current Event Reports). They will also be required to read high-level texts and write in the language of instruction. Therefore, the student should be strong in the language selected (German/English) in order to get the most out of the Humanities class.

11. How much homework will 5th grade students compared to current 4th graders?

Given the fact that many students stay at school until 3:00 p.m. and may have up to an hour of travel time to get home, the school tries to carefully regulate the amount of work required after school hours. Students who do not complete their class assignments in school time may have to finish this work at home. Consequently good use of school time is encouraged.

When assigned, homework must be meaningful and support the lessons. It is up to the teacher to carefully monitor the time spent on this work so that the student’s need for leisure time and rest is not compromised. As a daily average, students should not do more than:

  • Grades 5                           45 minutes
  • Grades 6–8                     90 minutes

Parents should inform the class/homeroom teacher if their child regularly exceeds this amount. No homework will be given on the weekend (assignments given on Friday and due on Monday) although students may need to work on long-term assignments over the weekend.

Homework assignments will be recorded in the classroom. Each student has a homework book provided by the school. Students will be taught how to use the homework book as an organization tool. It is the student’s responsibility to record all homework assignments in this book.

If students have mastered a specific skill or concept at school and worked hard throughout the day, teachers might decide extra homework is not necessary. Nevertheless there are some daily homework assignments that are valuable and should be consistent. Students should spend time every day reading. For German comprehension, every student is assigned an Antolin account and students could use time at home to work on-line. Practicing vocabulary and math facts should be ongoing projects. Having flash cards at home can be very helpful. For other helpful programs, students might want to contact their teachers directly.

Parents might also want to ask students about long-term assignments and help them manage their time, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed the day before a summative assessment is due.

Students will adjust to the demands of more homework as they face these challenges and as they grow older and more mature. Our goal as an IB School is to find a balance for each individual student—they are at the center of their learning. Therefore, we provide a modified program, to meet different needs.

12. Will the students use and/or need a laptop?
  • Students will not be required to have a laptop.
  • On-line research/technology-based projects will be completed using: classroom computers.
  • The IMS has a Mac Book Laptop Cart for Design Technology electives courses and iPad Cart will be specifically in place for use by 5th grade students.
  • In grades 6 and on, students will lease iPads from the school for educational purposes.
  • The IMS offers many on-line resources to guide research as well as links to resources provided by the curriculum.
  • Teachers will provide resource links that are approved for student use.
  • The school provides software to monitor the student activities
13. How many hours will parents and students need to spend at the computer?
  • Computer use will be limited in 5th grade as this is viewed as a transition year.
  • Most computer-based projects will be completed in the lessons; however, students may need to complete some computer-based activities at home.
  • Students and parents will have access to ManageBac for student progress, academic calendar, and other related material. They should access ManageBac at least once or twice per week.
  • There will be weekly/daily digests with information about the IMS available on-line as well.
14. Will they need to learn an instrument? What type of instruments?

In grades 5-8, performing art is an elective. This music class will cover music theory, history, composition, and listening. Students who play an instrument can apply what they learn to their specific instrument, however this class does not require prior music knowledge. This class will prepare students for every type of high school music class as well as give them the tools to transfer musical knowledge into any musical outlet.

Extra focus on instrumental play can be achieved through joining the IMS Bands that are offered as part of the After School Extra-Curricular Program.

15. What volunteer hours for Creativity Action Service (CAS) will be required?
  • A step-by-step guide detailing the CAS process is available to parents in the IB Parents Association Files on ManageBac. The guide is available to students in their Homeroom Files on ManageBac. CAS is taught explicitly in the Arena Check-In Days and follow up/questions can be directed to the Homeroom/Advisory teacher.
  • CAS is a requirement to help students to be involved in the greater community through voluntary service. The hourly requirements for this are as follows:
    • 5th Grade: 10 hours
    • 6th Grade: 15 hours
    • 7th and 8th Grades: 20 hours
16. How will the entry of students from other school systems affect the lessons (such as students working at different levels)?

Every IMS teachers will work to meet the needs of the students using differentiation, a process in which all students receive lessons/instruction based on their particular level of skills and ability. This is most commonly seen in Math and Language Arts courses.

17. What is the Math Curriculum? How does it compare to CA Standards, textbooks etc.?
  • Our track record confirms that all our eighth grade students are well prepared in Math for the high schools. They complete the Comprehension Testing Program from ERB (CTP4). CTP4 (English & Math) had an average above the 90th percentile for all test takers.
  • For the last three school years, all of our eighth grade students were accepted into the private high schools for which they applied. ISEE (Independent School Entrance Test) had an average in the 90th percentile for all test takers.
  • Students at GAIS complete the International Student Assessment (ISA) in Grade 5-7. The ISA assessment program is designed especially for students in international schools in Grades 3-10. It is based on internationally endorsed reading and mathematical literacy frameworks. Further explanation is available at http://www.acer.edu.au/tests/isa.
  • For the 2012_2013 academic school year, our IMS students in 6th grade had a mean score of 492 compared to the international average score of 459.
  • Our timeline in Math is different from the California standards. We spend more time on exploring number sense and arithmetic before we continue with Pre-Algebra, Geometry or Algebra I. Our timeline builds a strong foundation that allows students to apply the concepts in a variety of contexts. However, by the end of eighth grade our students will have proficiency in the entire mathematics framework that conforms to California, German and IB standards and results in successful high school transition.
  • Usually our students are placed in Algebra I Advanced or higher in high schools. Recently, some students were placed in Algebra II Honors.
  • We are using an international textbook from an Australian publisher (Haese & Harris), which complies with our IB standards. http://www.haesemathematics.com.au/book.asp?book=ibmyp1
  • The school is providing an integrated Math Extension Track for advanced students. The selection process is conducted during the first quarter of the school year and will be clearly defined at that point.
18. What is the English Curriculum? How does it compare to CA Standards, textbooks etc.?
  • Students are testing in English on writing/grammar, reading, and expository writing.
  • ISA Reading Scores for the 2012_2013 school year were a mean of 462 compared to the international average of 397.
  • ISA Writing Scores were a mean of 533 compared to the international average of 473.
  • In Expository Writing, students scored 489 and the average was 489.
  • In English we focus on reading comprehension, listening comprehension, written and oral communication, and media literacy in all the grades.
  • In the upper grades, the focus is more on essays and a balanced literacy program, which includes a rigorous reading comprehension component with focus on critical thinking skills.
  • We are using the textbooks that are used in most public and private schools in the area.
19. What is the Science Curriculum? How does it compare to CA Standards, textbooks used, science fair requirements etc.?
  • As in Math, we are looking through three curriculum lenses, which include California, German and IB standards. Some of the concepts are overlapping.
  • While California only covers life and earth science, the IB and Germany require enriching the curriculum with a deeper understanding of Physics, Biology and Chemistry. The earth science component is covered in Humanities (Geography).
  • Our curriculum in the IMS encompasses integrated science in Grade 5 and Grade 6 with the focus on an introduction to biology and chemistry. In Grade 7, the students are exposed to concepts such as acoustics, optics and mechanics. Moreover, we cover the entire range of development and sexuality topics. In Grade 8, the main focus is on thermodynamics, electricity and chemical reactions.
20. How is MYP different from the California public school curriculum?
  • “The MYP is a coherent and comprehensive curriculum framework that provides academic challenge and develops the life skills appropriate to this age group. As part of the IB’s continuum of international education, the MYP naturally follows the Primary Years Program (PYP) and can serve as an excellent preparation for the Diploma Program (DP). The MYP fundamental concepts of holistic learning, intercultural awareness, and communication provide a broad and balanced educational experience, educate the whole child, and promote understanding and respect for all cultures, valuing multiple forms of expression.“  –MYP Principles into Practice, 2008.
  • Subject-specific curriculum guides incorporate all facets of planning; implementation, and assessment of the holistic approach are used in all courses of study in the IMS. The students progress through and are able to reflect on the various stages of achievement within each subject throughout their years in the MYP.
  • Discussion about California State Standards and Middle School Requirements can be found by accessing the following link: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/mg/faq.asp – quest3
21. When will I get more information about the class organization?

In early August, parents receive a Welcome Letter via email including the following: 

  • Supply List
  • Class Schedule
  • Advisory Teacher Assignment
  • Information about the IMS “Arena Check-In” Orientation Days
  • List of IMS Teachers and Information Background/Experiences (most can now be found on the GAIS Website)