Kindergarten through Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Upper School

Grade Nine

Grade Nine Overview

Ninth graders at Fay experience a challenging and stimulating high school-level curriculum that thoroughly prepares them for tenth grade in a secondary school. In English, students delve into classics, develop a more sophisticated style of writing, and hone their public speaking skills. Most ninth graders take biology, and multiple math courses are offered, including algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus. Students may choose to study Spanish, French, Mandarin, or Latin, and they have regular opportunities to practice language skills with Fay classmates from around the world. Two electives, Topics in Modern American History and Diagnosing The Modern World (an interdisciplinary history/science course) are extremely popular among ninth graders. Students can take advantage of Fay’s Innovation Lab for hands-on learning across all subjects. By virtue of their seniority in the School and intellectual maturity, ninth graders take an active role in their learning and enjoy a collegial rapport with teachers. Alumni of Fay’s Ninth Grade Program cite this unique teacher-student dynamic as a key feature of their ninth grade experience.

List of 10 items.

  • English 9

    In ninth grade English, students focus on literature, grammar, writing, and vocabulary. They are expected to develop a more sophisticated style of writing using a variety of sentence structures and verbal phrases. Grammar is closely integrated with the writing process. Students write expository and personal essays throughout the year, and they are encouraged to go beyond the more elementary five-paragraph model of an essay.
    During the course of the year, students read poetry, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, and Leaving Maggie Hope by Tony Abbott, Fay ‘49. Besides being inherently valuable on its own, The Things They Carried, which is memoir of the Vietnam War, complements the material covered in Topics in Modern American History, a history course taken by many ninth graders. For 2016-17, ninth graders are also reading Bomb: The Race to Build - And Steal - the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon over the summer, and this book will be the focus of our first discussions as well as a reference point as students study the atomic bomb in their history class.
    By the end of ninth grade, students are expected to have a sound knowledge of figurative language, especially metaphors and similes, symbols, allusions, image patterns, and personification. Specifically, students should understand how authors use these devices to convey the deeper meaning behind the writing, as well as how they can use figurative language to enhance their own personal and analytical writing. Students are expected to know how to craft a thesis statement and support it with thorough analysis and specific textual references. Students study vocabulary and grammar in order to develop a more sophisticated written and spoken command of English.
    Students end the year by reading of Leaving Maggie Hope, which is Tony Abbott’s fictionalized account of his time at Fay as a young boarder in the late 1940s. This novel gives students a chance to reflect on their time at Fay and compare it to Fay in the past. As the novel is largely autobiographical, students enjoy reading about Mr. Abbott’s experiences, and the value of reading the book is enhanced by his visit to each English class after we have finished the novel. 
    By the end of the year, ninth grade students should be able to:
    • Identify figurative language with ease (metaphors, similes, personification, symbols)
    • Vary sentence structure by delaying the subject and beginning with verbals (gerund, infinitive, and participial phrases), subordinate clauses, and prepositional phrases)
    • Employ active verbs in their writing
    • Understand and apply advanced strategies in persuasive writing
    • Read independently and bring their insights into academic conversation
    • Employ new vocabulary in their writing
    • Excel in both analytical and personal writing, expanding beyond the standard five-paragraph model
    • Contribute actively and helpfully to class discussions, framing complex questions
    • Demonstrate fluency in public speaking
    • Display courage and confidence as exam takers, mastering content and confronting complex questions with firmly established writing skills and strategies
  • Mathematics

    We recognize that students at this age develop at different rates and appreciate that there is more than one path through the math curriculum; for that reason we conduct careful student placement in the spring of each year to ensure that each student is appropriately challenged. Click here to see detailed descriptions for all Upper School math course offerings.
  • History

    Ninth graders have the option of choosing from one of the following courses:

    Diagnosing The Modern World (DMW)
    Ninth graders in Diagnosing the Modern World (DMW), a team-taught, interdisciplinary science and history course, focus each term on a specific topic or issue of particular importance to the world today and into the future. Students examine these topics from both scientific and historical perspectives and explore the interconnectivity and complexity of the problems that confront the world. Topics are chosen with an eye on current events and typically share a common theme. In the past, the class has covered topics such as disease, energy, food, waste, and war. Depending upon the topic, outside experts often join the class to share expertise and guide students through projects. Field trips ensure that learning happens in an optimal setting that offers context and perspective.
    As students investigate the topics in DMW, they practice the skills needed to be self-motivated and independent learners: collaboration, informed discussion and debate, and independent research. As they explore a wealth of sources and perspectives, they also develop the skills of critical thinking, creative interpretation, and media literacy.
    Topics In Modern American History (TMA)
    In Topics of Modern America (TMA), ninth graders explore the cultural, socio-economic, political, and foreign policy development of the United States from the end of World War II through the end of the Cold War. Focusing on specific time periods, 1945-1960, 1960-1975, 1975-1990, students explore the questions, events and individuals that shaped the actions, attitudes, expectations, and ideologies of modern America. Among the topics students examine over the course of the year are the rise of the United States as a global superpower and the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union, the Civil Rights movement, the 1960s counter-culture, and the impacts of Reaganomics and the War on Drugs in the 1980s.
    In TMA, students continue to develop their critical and analytical thinking skills, using the historical concepts of significance, context, perspective, cause and effect, continuity, and agency to examine primary and secondary source material. Class discussion, writing, and a variety of projects allow students to demonstrate mastery of the content and apply their understanding skills in creative ways.
  • Biology 9

    Biology is a full-year, laboratory-intensive high school course based on the Next Generation Science Standards. Throughout the year, students focus on broad, unifying themes in biology to help them make sense of emerging research. Students develop deep conceptual understandings of four foundational ideas in biology: organismal structure and function, heredity, evolution, and ecology. Students have significant experience with experimental design, scientific writing and argumentation, data analysis and interpretation, and research skills. This is accomplished through student-led research, a digital textbook, collaborative learning teams, primary source materials such as the journal Nature, podcasts such as Radiolab, and TED talks.
    Building upon prior coursework in the sciences, students design and carry out most of their own laboratory experiments, argue their results, and write their conclusions in formal lab reports. Students develop skills to prepare them for future secondary level school work, such as note taking, study strategies, and learning in a digital classroom environment.
    Throughout the year, biological concepts and unifying themes come to life as pressing real-world issues are brought into the classroom, such as genetic engineering, stem cell technology, impacts of climate change, intelligent design, and science denialism. Students learn to observe the world through a scientific perspective, using scientific methodology to produce reliable data. As they study biochemistry, students learn why organismal structure and function is essential to understanding organismal survival. Cell biology introduces students to the cell as the basic unit of life, and investigations focus on how cell structure enables life processes to occur. Students also study genetics and evolutionary biology, focusing on the mechanisms of inheritance, the process of evolution, and the unity and diversity of life on Earth. In the spring, students investigate organismal diversity and how interconnected systems work together to sustain life. To finish the year, students delve into ecology, exploring organismal interactions with the physical environment.
    Science Practices
    The Upper School science practices have been adopted from A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012) and directly build upon the practices from the Lower School. Students who demonstrate success in Biology 9 will be able to:

    • Ask questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering)
    • Plan and carry out investigations
    • Analyze and interpret data
    • Use mathematics and computational thinking
    • Develop and use models
    • Construct explanations (for science) and design solutions (for engineering)
    • Engage in argument from evidence
    • Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information
  • World Languages

    Upon entering the Upper School, students select one world language that they will study for the duration of their time at Fay. Students choose from French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Latin. Placement in all levels is based upon the student’s prior experience in the language, teacher recommendations, and a placement test, including a written and oral assessment. With permission of the department chair and based on the schedule, a ninth grader who has completed two years of study of a world language at the Upper School level may petition to take a second language. Click here to see a detailed list of all Upper School foreign language course offerings.
  • Music

    The music faculty is committed to the concept of "learning by doing" and recognizes the value of performance in every student’s experience. Each year, Upper School students choose a music course from an array of options that include choir, bells, string ensemble, band, and basic musicianship. The courses are designed to extend the theory and performance skills developed in the Lower School, but students new to Fay will also find that they can succeed in a beginning-level ensemble with little or no previous musical experience. Click here to see a complete list of music offerings.
  • Art

    The Upper School visual arts curriculum encourages personal expression and fosters the development of cognitive, motor, and social skills. Interdisciplinary and multicultural projects, art history, and resources within the school and community are integrated through the program.
    Students learn basic art skills as well as the elements and principles of design. In all grades, students have regular opportunities to draw from life and imagination; they also work in a range of media that includes paint, collage, ceramics, cut paper, sculpture, printmaking, origami, digital media, and other two- and three-dimensional media. Eighth and ninth graders have the option to participate in art electives that allow them to focus on specific areas of interest. Click here for a complete list of course descriptions.
  • Advanced 3D Design

    An option for ninth graders, Advanced 3D Design takes place in Fay’s Innovation Lab. The course is designed to build each student’s creative confidence and focuses on the following themes: 

    • Design Thinking, an empathy-based problem solving mindset and process, to help students identify problems and possible solutions
    • Basic Electronics, to do basic programming of circuit boards
    • Digital Fabrication, to design and build 2D and 3D objects using the school's laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and 3D printing technologies
    • Recognizing the moral, cultural, and environmental issues inherent in design and technology
    • Designing and making quality and sustainable products
    Our ultimate goal is to give students the ability to isolate a problem they want to solve and to spend the latter part of the year designing and building solution(s).
  • Wellness 9

    Students in co-educational ninth grade Wellness classes are treated very much as high school students. Students address a number of important topics related to the secondary school search process, drug and alcohol education (including drinking and driving, regrettable sexual acts under the influence, and the dangers of prescription misuse,), the legal implications of underage sexual experimentation, understanding teen depression, and bullying of various forms. Leadership is an important component of the ninth grade Wellness experience, and students participate in a leadership development trip at the beginning of the year to set students up for success. Each student learns about his or her own specific leadership style and how this style interfaces with other leadership styles. The students also participate in a multi-class ethics unit focused on critical and individual decision-making, as opposed to blind obedience to authority or the popular crowd. Lastly, Wellness class is the place where students begin to process the many conflicting emotions associated with leaving Fay School and starting anew.
  • Athletics

    The athletics program takes place every day following academic classes. All students in grades seven through nine are required to participate daily in all three terms. Students choose from an array of interscholastic sports and intramural activities (one per term). Students may try out for competitive interscholastic teams or join an intramural team or activity. However, all students are required to participate in at least one interscholastic sports team each year. Click here for the complete list of athletic options.