Nell Madigan

5th Grade Teacher / Middle School Dean

T: (718) 599-9600

Owl Blog

At WNS, the advisory program is a key component of our Middle School (grades 5-8). Advisors (MS teachers) meet with their advisees (MS students) on a daily basis to build community and provide social-emotional and academic support. Northside uses The Responsive Advisory Meeting Book from Responsive Classroom as the framework for these meetings. In Advisory, advisors and advisees participate in activities organized around one of seven distinct purposes cited by Responsive Classroom:

  • Building Student-to-Student Affiliation
  • Supporting Academic Readiness
  • Strengthening Advisor-Advisee Relationships
  • Developing Communication and Social Skills
  • Energizing and RE-engaging
  • Reflecting and Recalibrating
  • Extending Learning Through Themes

At the beginning of the year, for example, Advisory meetings are planned for students to build meaningful relationships with each other and to set the groundwork to build a positive learning community. As the year progresses, each student works with an advisor on setting SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, and planning how to accomplish these goals help students focus on academic skills and learning strategies. Later on in the year, students are guided through respectful conflict resolution processes and effective communication strategies. The curriculum goes on to encourage middle school students to take on leadership roles and to connect what they are learning in advisory to the larger world around them.

A Middle School for Brooklyn and Beyond

The differentiating design question for the faculty and administration at Northside  is “How involved are our students in their learning?” This key value runs throughout the entire school. Middle School  students must feel empowered, challenged and intellectually respected. We believe that when students are engaged in the subject matter or skills they are mastering, their learning accelerates. 

With our new Middle School open, we are moving full steam ahead with the development of challenging classes, engaging student activities, and a new athletics program. Students at Northside will graduate as confident learners and enthusiastic participants in the world around them. They will be prepared for their futures at well-regarded high schools and beyond. 

At the core of our program is a commitment to three underlying principles. 

A Strong and Positive Sense of Community

Northside is built on a foundation of supportive students, parents, faculty, and administration. Therefore, we are designing a division based on the enrollment of two sections per grade. Close, meaningful relationships with teachers and peers are critical in the Middle School years which involve tremendous cognitive and physical growth. We know that our students will thrive in a community small enough that everyone knows their names and yet large enough to offer rich and exciting growth opportunities. 

Engaging and Challenging Academics

Research is clear that student engagement equals  student success. Tackling relevant psychological, philosophical, and political questions captivates Middle School students as it mirrors their desire to engage with the adult world. Building on the child-centered, interdisciplinary learning in our lower divisions, our Middle School students are now ready for more rigorous demands. Our carefully designed curricula will provide  our students with multiple opportunities to practice and refine the important skills of writing, reading, speaking, problem solving, and critical thinking thus building academic skills crucial to this stage of development. The key is that we embed these skills in an engaging curriculum.

These are the years where students discover new talents and passions. Athletics, drama, daily foreign language, community presentations, robotics, computer science, literary magazines, and other co-curricular offerings become focal points for their journey of self-discovery. The outcome is engaged, excited, and well-prepared learners.

A Committed Faculty with Demonstrated Expertise in the Middle School Years

The highest design aspirations cannot be met without a committed, knowledgeable faculty who enjoy the energy of Middle School students. Our teachers take responsibility for all of their students’ learning by assessing and addressing individual needs within  curriculum that allows for challenging each student to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

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