Grade 9 | The Capstone Year

Ninth grade at RCS is a special time in the lives of our students. They are the seniors on campus with tremendous opportunities for leadership. As Red and Blue Team Captains, student government representatives, the leads in School productions, and sports team captains, our ninth graders relish their position as role models for the entire school community. Ninth graders at Rippowam Cisqua School participate in a trimester-long TED Talks public speaking course, develop an individual Portfolio project showcasing an area of interest or personal exploration, work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to write a 12-page research-based thesis paper, and have the option to take accelerated math and science classes. Strengthened by the advantages of small class size and individual attention, our academically rigorous ninth grade curriculum provides unique preparation for the challenges of secondary school.

Capstone Experiences

Grade 9 Course Offerings

List of 12 items.

  • Humanities - Global History

    Ninth-grade Humanities provides an overview of the origins of global history through a close examination of the attributes of different cultures and time periods. Through their explorations, students build comprehension of how early civilizations laid the cultural foundations for the world we live in today. The course is skills-based, focused on equipping students with scholarly tools and expertise such as critical thinking and exploring issues from multiple perspectives, as well as examining cause and effect relationships. Additionally, students learn important research and media literacy skills, as well as the MLA rules of citation and footnoting.  Reading and writing skills are reinforced through important note-taking and annotation skills, as well as practice with all stages of the writing process from outlining and drafting, to editing and revision.  

    Our study begins in the first term with global geography and an understanding that geography often impacts other attributes of a culture and ultimately determines destiny.  Then, we examine the earliest origins of man from prehistory and the Neolithic revolution, to the rise of ancient river valley civilizations such as ancient Egypt.  We also look at ancient African civilizations before they were colonized by the Europeans.  In the second term, we explore world religions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.  In the third term, we examine conflict and revolutions as we explore the Crusades, Protestant Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and European Enlightenment.  Throughout all three terms, current events are an integral part of the curriculum to help connect events of the past to those in today’s headlines.  A wide range of guest speakers and off-campus Learning Immersion Days (LIDs) build relevance for students and bring the curriculum to life by showing students the real-word, modern day application of the historical concepts that we are studying.

    To provide an analytical framework for the diversity of cultures studied, we will consider a range of essential questions including: How does geography create destiny?  How do political, economic, religious, and social beliefs impact cultures? What are the causes of revolutions and how do they affect and ultimately change history? To what extent has globalization historically made a positive and/or negative impact on the world?
    Is the history of the world a story of progress?  

    Fall: Prehistory, Neolithic Revolution & Early Civilizations
    Winter: World Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism
    Spring: The Crusades, Protestant Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment
  • English

    Ninth-grade English focuses on analytical and persuasive writing, with an emphasis on process and structure. Instruction is personalized and process-oriented. Composition is broken down into concrete steps: outlining, crafting an argument, selecting supporting evidence, incorporating text, analyzing evidence, and refining mechanics. Through repetition and practice, students hone their ability to communicate and persuade through their use of the written word. In conjunction with traditional writing structures, students will also continue to develop their facility with grammar skills and concepts, largely on an individual and as-needed basis; targeted lessons will be designed for the entire class, also. Creative writing is also explored. Students will engage in a comprehensive multi-genre writing project, and they will have opportunities to submit their writing to various contests and publications throughout the school year. Students keep a Writer’s Notebook that is used for in-class activities and on-demand writing in response to various prompts; this Notebook also serves as a vehicle for class participation in a different modality.

    Students read ancient and modern literature in various genres--fiction, non-fiction, graphic novel, poetry, and drama--and they are encouraged to read actively by annotating and engaging in reflection as they progress through texts. Independent reading is also encouraged. Using the Vocabulary from ClassicalRoots book, students will learn word attack skills, roots/prefixes, and develop their skills to decode unfamiliar words based on context; they will also study challenging contextual vocabulary from the literature they read.

    Students explore the concept of journey, whether one’s own or those discovered in literature and world events. The notion of journey, in life, language, ideas and humanity--individually and culturally--is central to the course, particularly as it reflects the diverse lenses through which all individuals view, experience, and impact the world.

    Students will explore the following guiding questions throughout the year:

    1. Who am I? Who or what determines my identity? How does identity impact agency?
    2. How can one person make a difference in the world? Do the actions of a single person matter?
    3. What is the importance of understanding the concept of “other” as it relates to inclusion and exclusion, both in our personal lives and historically? And how does this understanding impact our own participation in society?
    4. How does the past allow us to shape the future? How can we use tragedy for hope or good?
    5. How does narrative and language have the power to connect people cross culturally? What roles do literature and writing play in our global, technology-driven society?
    Texts include (and are subject to adjustment): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon); Gilgamesh (trans. Herbert Mason); Antigone (Sophocles); The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald); Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi); Night (Elie Wiesel); Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe); A Long Way Gone (Ishmael Beah); The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot); Vocabulary from Classical Roots (Fifer/Flowers); Grammar Revolution--Diagram It!
  • Writing Workshop

    Carefully coordinated with both the English and Humanities classes, Writing Workshop is designed to help students develop and hone their expository writing skills. Elements of effective paragraph writing are explored, with focus on the following areas: topic sentences; integration of compelling evidence, whether textual, historical, or related to current events; effective and pertinent analysis of the evidence; and concluding sentences that reinforce the thesis statement and transition to subsequent paragraphs.   

    In addition to developing paragraphing skills for a variety of types of writing including persuasive, analytical, research-based, historical, and compare/contrast, students will also focus on the following skills: crafting outlines; exploring the pitfalls of plagiarism and employing methods to utilize and cite reliable sources; effective integration of quotations into writing; and consistent revision and editing skills to refine both style and mechanics of their compositions.   

    Group discussion, clear models, and in-class practice provide students the opportunity to develop and practice their skills, while carefully scheduled steps of drafting, review, and revision allow students to achieve successful completion of written assignments. Comprehensive teacher feedback and opportunities for one-on-one guidance allow for significant individualized support.

    Additionally, writing pieces generated from this course may serve as viable options to submit as graded writing samples for secondary school applications.
  • Thesis

    The thesis paper is a key component of the Portfolio project required of each ninth grader. In support of its mission to cultivate independent thinkers, Rippowam Cisqua School encourages its ninth graders to showcase their reasoning and composition skills by researching and writing on a subject of their choice. Approximately eight to ten pages in length, these essays reflect an intellectual journey that provides students the opportunity to reason their way through a variety of research sources in order to develop an original argument on their topic. In short, while implementing the critical tools of reasoning and writing, ninth graders showcase their ability to explain why they think what they think.

    By December, students will have selected a topic that they will dive into during the winter months. The second term is devoted to all of the skills inherent in the thesis process, and those that have been targeted in the prior term’s Writing Workshop course: research, crafting an argument, outlining, drafting, and revision. Note-taking, proper citation format, and learning to accurately document and evaluate sources are among the skills students learn and apply.

    The expectation of the thesis process is that students embrace the independent nature of the project, while partnering closely with their thesis instructors. While each step of the process is highly scaffolded and structured, and each deadline is similarly communicated, cultivating independence and developing self-advocacy and organizational skills is also a goal. To this end, the final thesis paper is assessed with equal weight on both process (meeting deadlines along the way, demonstrating effective use of class time, submitting best-effort assignments) and product (the final paper). Following their completion, students’ papers are bound for display on Portfolio Night, and become permanent additions to the Upper Campus Library collection thereafter.
  • Biology

    In ninth grade, all students study biology. Students are recommended for either the honors or grade level section. While both sections cover the same concepts, students in the honors section are expected to work more independently, communicate their understanding in a more sophisticated manner, and grapple with certain topics that are more conceptually challenging. Students who plan to attend public school in tenth grade are prepared to take the Living Environment Regents exam.

    In biology, we endeavor to help students see that all living things must carry out the same life functions in order to survive. Students learn that the cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all life forms. Students explore cell structure/function, cell chemistry, cell transport, and the transmission of hereditary information through cell division. The dissection of the fetal pig allows students to see how cells are organized into tissues, organs, and systems. The dissection is paired with a study of human anatomy and physiology. We explore how a variety of organisms are adapted to meet the demands of their environment. Throughout the year, evolution through natural selection is discussed as a mechanism by which organisms develop certain adaptations. The course is lab intensive, providing students with experiences that help them make sense of the class discussions and text readings.

    Biology is a course that can be memory-intensive. In an effort to keep our ninth grade course focused on the problem-solving and experiential aspects of science, we have reduced the quantity of vocabulary and concepts that appear in a standard biology textbook. However, there are still numerous vocabulary words that the students need to learn. These words appear in the context of our discussions and lab time, both of which provide a skeletal framework that helps students know and comprehend their meaning. We require the students to apply these concepts in their lab reports, on written assessments, and during classroom discussion.
  • Mathematics

    The ninth grade math curriculum is separated into three sections. Students are placed into honors geometry, grade level geometry, or the second half of the algebra I curriculum. In the geometry curriculum, students study lines and angles, and two-dimensional figures. They begin a review of parallel lines, congruent and right triangles, quadrilaterals, trigonometry, similar polygons, circles, area, surface area, volume, inequalities, coordinate geometry, and transformations. Constructions are completed using Geometer Sketchpad. There is an emphasis placed upon deductive reasoning skills. The core topics remain the same in grade level and honors geometry, but teachers adapt their curriculum to meet the needs of the class and individuals. The honors class delves more deeply into the complexities of geometric proofs. There is a review of algebra I concepts in both geometry courses.

    The ninth grade algebra I course begins with a brief review of the topics studied in eighth grade. This includes translating words and sentences into symbols and equations, solving equations and problems, operations involving polynomials, and factoring polynomials. The course continues with an exploration of algebraic fractions and solving various word problems involving ratio, proportion, percent, mixture, and work. Linear equations are studied next including understanding the slope of line and the ways to solve simultaneous equations. The course concludes with an exploration of inequalities, rational and irrational numbers, and quadratic equations.
  • Introductory Spanish

    Students who began their formal study of Spanish in eighth grade take introductory Spanish. During this year, they continue to develop all of the four major language skills: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking and pronunciation, and writing. Students are expected to attempt to communicate in Spanish as much as possible, asking questions as well as expressing their ideas and opinions. The vocabulary and grammar correlates to the hardcover textbook and digital version of Realidades, Chapters 5-9. We use the video and audio supplemental materials to allow students to see and hear other young people from a variety of Spanish speaking countries. Students practice communicating in complete, detailed sentences. The grammatical concepts are reinforced by a variety of cultural readings and activities. By the end of the year they will be using the conjugated forms of regular –ar, -er, and –ir ending verbs as well as commonly used irregular verbs in both present and preterite tenses.

    We use a variety of activities to introduce and reinforce this material. We sing, tell and read stories and short novels, play games, and do paired communicative activities as well as a variety of other projects. The novels are set in different Spanish speaking countries and provide opportunities to discuss and compare cultural differences. Students demonstrate their proficiency by creating recorded oral projects, and writing and filming dialogues, as well as other more traditional assessments. This course is equivalent to the second half of a traditional Level 1 Spanish high school curriculum.
  • Spanish 2

    In the ninth grade level 2 Spanish program, the class is conducted almost entirely in Spanish. Students discuss all topics in greater depth, expand their vocabulary, and read and write more extensively. New and more complex grammar material is introduced. Students read several short novels as well as poems, legends, fables, and stories from Spanish-speaking countries. These readings are discussed at length; students express their ideas and opinions in Spanish. These readings form the basis for discussions of cultural differences and similarities since each of these readings is set in a specific Spanish-speaking country and refer to many cultural practices. Students have a variety of auditory materials that develop their listening skills as well as to model correct pronunciation and intonation. Many popular music artists are introduced, including Juanes, Selena, Maná, Diego Torres, Bacilos, and others. Discussion of the lyrics allows for further cultural comparisons to be made.

    An important focus in the ninth grade program is on learning and using more complex grammatical structures. These structures are introduced in contextualized settings. Songs, stories, videos, and readings demonstrate proper usage and serve as models for the students when they are developing their own projects.

    Students demonstrate their mastery of these structures in a variety of ways. Students make short oral presentations, create a video newscast, write illustrated books, write and film puppet shows, develop a travel brochure, and take more traditional assessments. Students demonstrate the ability to properly use a variety of tenses: present, imperfect, preterite, future, and imperative, as well as the compound tenses: present perfect, present progressive, and imperfect progressive. Students are introduced to the subjunctive mood and learn how to form and use the present subjunctive in noun clauses, impersonal expressions, and expressions of doubt. Students learn to employ a greater variety of pronouns, adjectives, adverbial clauses, and conjunctions, to make their writing more complex and varied. Students learn to edit and employ similar drafting techniques to those used in their English classes on Google Docs. Students will complete the Level 2 Realidades text. Completion of this year fulfills or exceeds the requirements of a second year of high school Spanish at most schools.
  • Latin

    The ninth grade course emphasizes the grammar of clauses, the dependent uses of the subjunctive, and the reading of classical authors. After reading The Labors of Hercules and The Adventures of the Argonauts, students study select passages from Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic Wars and from Ovid and Livy when time allows. There are nightly assignments in translation. Completion of this year fulfills or exceeds the requirements of a second year of high school Latin at most schools.

    Text: Second Year Latin, Jenny, or Our Latin Heritage, Vol. II, Hines, and Fabulae Faciles, Ritchie.
  • French

    Ninth grade French is a level 2 program. Class is conducted entirely in French. Students discuss all topics in French in greater depth, expand their vocabulary, and read and write more extensively. New and more complex grammar material is introduced. Students read articles from magazines, and short poems from French and francophone cultures. Students write and present a video commercial in French and, as a final term project will research a Francophone artist. Further insight into French culture is provided by viewing French websites and films (e.g., Jean de Florette, Manon). By the end of ninth grade, students have completed units 1-7 and most of unit 8 of the textbook, Discovering French Bleu and Discovering French Blanc.

    An important focus in ninth grade is on learning and mastering complex grammar structures. These include:
    • expressions with depuis / il y a / ça fait
    • present, past, imperative, and future tenses of additional irregular verbs (e.g., croire, courir, conduire, ouvrir, offrir, recevoir, rire, savoir, suivre, éteindre, vivre)
    • reflexive verbs (present and past tenses)
    • imparfait vs passé composé
    • conditional tenses of regular /irregular verbs (including present conditional si clauses)
    • past participle agreements
    • double object pronouns, including y and en
    • relative pronouns (qui /que /dont; ce qui/ce que)
    • introduction to subjunctive mood
    To facilitate the learning of these new language structures, students are regularly provided with exercises, oral activities, and individual or group projects. In addition, assigned readings and inclass films contain samples of the structures students are learning and provide more reinforcement. Much of the cultural focus in ninth grade is on cross-cultural observation. For example, students learn a proverb every month and observe similarities and differences between American and French ways of thinking. When students view the movie, Jean de Florette, they encounter southern French regional dialect, observe French holiday customs, and reflect on their own language and cultural customs.
  • Ethics

    The ninth grade Ethics course is designed to give the students the opportunity to practice the art of decision-making. Through the use of literature, film, group discussion, and journal writing, the students examine the role of ethics in society, school, and their everyday lives as teenagers. The course provides the students with the opportunity to examine what is important to them as young adults, as family members, and as classmates. Literature and film provide the characters to study the decision-making process. Through careful study of fictional characters and the decisions they make, the students are given time to write and reflect on their own decisions before they are asked to make them. Healthy and unhealthy choices are discussed and put in context by the class. As a final project the students come up with their own list of teenage choices and a list of what they consider to be the most important ethics of teenage life.

    Texts: Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger; Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld; Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan.
  • TED Presentation Skills

    We offer the TED course as an engaging entree into the world of effective public speaking. Although students at RCS have carried out presentations at almost every grade level, this course emphasizes the structure and process of developing a thought provoking delivery that has general impact on a wide audience. The TED format was developed in the 1980s to give special attention to brief and powerful presentations that were no longer than 18 minutes. The acronym TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design with the motto, “Ideas worth spreading.

    Our foray into the process takes on six basic principles for TED talks: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story. Some examples of the details within these principles include topics like Arousing curiosity, Using compelling visuals, Using statistics to grab attention, and Delivery techniques for dynamic storytelling. These and other strategies allow the student to create and deliver a vibrant and memorable message to a variety of audience venues. The delivery of the presentation varies based on each student’s comfort level with public speaking. Some have presented to the entire student body at an assembly, others to smaller groups such as the Parents Association.

    Text: How To Deliver A Great TED Talk, by Akash Karia.

Learning Immersion Days

As 21st century learners, our students are growing up in an era that demands unprecedented media literacy, critical analysis, creativity, global awareness and connection, and an ability to communicate concisely, effectively, and compassionately. In order to cultivate these skills, the ninth grade curriculum provides an integrated and interdisciplinary approach to teaching concepts that extends beyond any single subject matter for deeper and more meaningful student learning. For our ninth-grade Capstone Year experience, RCS has created Learning Immersion Days (LIDs) to enhance and complement classroom learning in different subject areas. Each LID will transport students off campus for experiential, hands-on learning, using New York City and surrounding areas as their classroom for the day. These unique excursions will entail several interdisciplinary activities to engage and inspire the ninth graders, who will then return to their RCS classrooms ready to apply what they’ve learned in the real world. LIDs allow students to tap into unique learning modalities using an authentic and substantive approach that is both relevant and timely, and fosters in our ninth graders awareness of and engagement with the rich and dynamic world that surrounds them.