Grade 8 students are the leaders of the Middle School. They have become skilled at balancing academic and social priorities more effectively.
In Grade 8, advisors and faculty work to create opportunities for student autonomy, creativity, and leadership. Students are now becoming well-versed in the ability to reflect on their learning and plan meaningful short-term goals for themselves. During the Grade 8 year, responsibility and accountability shift almost entirely to the student, and the student takes part in most conversations about his or her learning. Through appropriate, incremental steps, the Grade 8 faculty works to prepare students for the increased expectations and requirements of the Upper School.
By Grade 8, students often have good insight into their own learning skills and take pride in their work. The practice of reflection and work review has become a part of their normal routine, and students work towards independence in setting reasonable goals. Most have developed organizational strategies that help them plan for long-term projects and look ahead to congested times in their schedule. Grade 8 is an opportunity for students to try new strategies, receive feedback, and alter their habits as they settle into an academic routine that best suits their learning styles and needs. Students at this age typically want to be in charge of their learning and are more willing to meet with their teachers independently when they have a question or concern. The experiential learning opportunities that are part of the Grade 8 curriculum are also designed to foster students' independence as they move towards the Upper School.
As in other grades, teachers may send home academic progress reports to note unsatisfactory work, or a sudden change in habit or performance over the course of the trimester. Copies of these reports go to the advisor and to the grade-level team leader, who confer with students. Students also continue to receive grade reports at the conclusion of a unit, such as in math or science. This provides an opportunity for discussion at home about the student’s standing in a given class and potential areas for improvement.
Grade 8 advisories continue to function as a homeroom for students. Advisors play a critical role in orienting the students to the building, the increasing expectations of Middle School, and to one another. They also serve as the primary liaison between home and school. Advisories meet each morning for check-in and each afternoon for a work-study period, providing opportunities for students to interact socially under the guidance and support of an adult who knows them well.
During the Grade 8 year, students begin to think about themselves as individuals within a community, and we encourage exploration of how their decisions reflect their values and ideas. In Grade 8, students are better able to understand how their actions and words affect those around them. They are encouraged to make decisions on their own and are offered feedback from their peers and the adults in the community. Their identity formation is now in the testing phase, and teachers help to reinforce a self-image of efficacy and confidence.
Within the context of our six-day block schedule, students have two or three of their academic classes each day. In Grade 8, students can expect to have 30 minutes of homework in each of their classes, spending approximately 90 minutes each evening on homework. We realize that some students complete the homework more quickly, while others may take longer than the average to complete their work.
If a student is spending a particularly long time on their homework, parents can assist by determining what the obstacle may be. It may be helpful to consult with the advisor to ask the following questions to determine if the student is using study time effectively, if they are reading the assignment directions thoroughly, or if they need additional help or clarification.
Homework as a process is multifaceted. Parents can assist by checking in with their child on a regular basis, limiting extraneous distractions for students while they are working, and arranging a consistent location for students to complete their work each evening.
Language Immersion Week
In late January, Grade 8 students take part in a week-long world language immersion experience where they spend each morning fully immersed in their language of study: Chinese, French, German or Spanish. Middle School world language teachers are often joined by native speaker teachers and volunteers from countries around the world to guide the students during the week.
Grade 8 students continue use of the school-issued laptops in all of their academic classes. Technology ethics discussions continue in Computer Science 8. As confidence and competence with technology grow, students leave the Middle School well-prepared for independent use of technology in Upper School. Additional lessons related to multimedia production and editing are taught with support from technology faculty.
- Social Studies
- Visual and Performing Arts
- World Language
- Computer Science
- Physical Education and Wellness
Students enter English 8 with a strong sense of our program's workshop protocols, expectations, and opportunities, and throughout eighth grade, they deepen their understanding of genres, language structures, their audiences, and their own voices. As in previous years, students make reading and writing choices with the support of their peers and teachers; these choices, inspired by consistent reflection, demonstrate a developing sense of literature, self, and the world. Students read widely and progress toward meaningful goals compelling them to stretch and to develop flexibility, and they study genres--poetry, creative nonfiction, short fiction, and literary analysis--with purpose and play, both individually and as class communities. As the oldest students in the middle school, eighth graders take on greater ownership of their literary learning, while seeking resonance between what they read and write and what feels urgent in their own lives.
In Social Studies 8, students develop sound social science skills through the study of U.S. history, building on and reinforcing skills introduced in previous years. The theme of the culminating unit, Taking a Stand, is woven into the work throughout the year. This focus helps students to ask meaningful questions, craft persuasive arguments, and share evidence-based information on many of the topics which engage the culture around them. Course texts are pulled from authentic primary and secondary sources in a wide variety of media formats, giving students the opportunity to compare and contrast different forms. They likewise produce work in multiple modes—expository texts, public service announcements, oral presentations, letters, videos—with the goal of leveraging the strengths of each medium to communicate with genuine impact.
Academic content and skills focus primarily on the disciplines of history, citizenship and government, supplemented with content and skills from geography and economics. Units of study include U.S. Government, Civil Rights, the Personal History Project, and Media Literacy. The year concludes with the Taking a Stand project in which students research and present a well-informed persuasive argument on a contemporary issue in the United States. Targeted skills include: research—finding and evaluating sources, making sense of and organizing information, taking notes, and documenting sources; expository writing; non-fiction reading comprehension; seminar/discussion; oral presentation; active study strategies; and time management.
Mathematics Course Placement
Placement in all courses for both new and returning students is at the discretion of the mathematics department. Recommendations are based on past performance in mathematics; level of interest; ERB scores; and placement tests and/or exam scores.
Math 8 is intended to prepare students for an Algebra I course. The overarching goals of this course are mastering foundational algebraic concepts and number sense; further developing student skills; and increasing readiness for abstract thinking. Topics of study include probability, statistics, exponents, scientific notation, proportions, algebraic expressions, linear equations, and applying algebraic skills in problem-solving. Emphasis is placed on the progression of understanding from concrete to visual to abstract. In order to help students understand abstract underlying prealgebra concepts, ideas will often be presented in an applied context and/or utilizing concrete materials.
Textbook: Math in Focus 2020 Accelerated
Algebra I is a formal introduction to the notation, skills, and conceptual framework of the foundational principles of algebra. Students review simplifying algebraic expressions before becoming fluent in solving one-variable equations and inequalities. The course then progresses to the study of linear equations and inequalities in two variables. Emphasis is placed on the multiple representations of a linear equation, including a table of values, graph on a coordinate plane, and symbolic notation. Systems of linear equations are solved via graphical and algebraic methods. The course also includes properties of exponents, polynomial expressions, factoring, and an introduction to simplifying radical expressions. Students will develop fluency with abstract algebraic reasoning through the use of concrete and pictorial models (e.g, bar models, algebra tiles, and other manipulatives).
Textbook: Algebra 1, Pearson
Honors Algebra I
Honors Algebra I is a formal introduction to the notation, skills, and conceptual framework of the foundational principles of algebra. Students review simplifying algebraic expressions before becoming fluent in solving one-variable equations and inequalities, including absolute value sentences. The course then progresses to the study of linear equations and inequalities in two variables including graphing linear inequalities in two variables and systems of linear inequalities. Emphasis is placed on the multiple representations of a linear equation, including a table of values, graph on a coordinate plane, and symbolic notation. Systems of linear equations are solved via graphical and algebraic methods. The course also includes properties of exponents, polynomial expressions, factoring polynomials, an introduction to rational expressions, and simplifying radical expressions. In addition to the material covered in Algebra I, this course will develop problem-solving skills, cover problems in more depth with additional difficulty, and study the development of the axiomatic system of algebra through proof and logic.
Textbooks: Big Ideas Math, Algebra 1, A Bridge to Success
Honors Algebra II
The focus of this course is the study of mathematical functions algebraically and graphically. Throughout the course, students build upon their previous understanding of linear and quadratic functions while introducing absolute value, radical, exponential, logarithmic, and rational functions. The concept of a function is introduced through the study of properties of functions, operations on functions, and function notation. Students will use a variety of graphing utilities to enhance their understanding of the transformations of functions graphically and algebraically. In addition, there will be a strong emphasis on modeling real-world data using different types of functions and understanding which function to use. Students finish the year with an introductory study of probability and statistics.
Textbooks: Big Ideas Math, Algebra 2, A Bridge to Success
TI-84 Graphing Calculator required
Science 8 is an introduction to a wide range of physical science concepts. The curriculum immerses students in the skills and practices of being a scientist and engineer through daily lab work and communicating their results in writing. The broad base of transferable lab skills, physical science, and chemistry content introduced in the first trimester allows students to master the content related to the characteristic properties of matter while becoming confident scientists in the lab. The first four units culminate in an investigative project called SLUDGE, where students will employ their lab procedures and deductive reasoning to identify a range of mystery substances. Their experiences working in groups and problem-solving in the first and second trimester will continue with the atomic structure, the periodic table, electricity, and electromagnetism. These concepts will link back and inform what they learned about in the first part of the course. The year comes to a conclusion with an engineering challenge where students are asked to extend their learning with an electronics-focused project.
All students in Grade 8 take a music class every day, in a band or orchestra instrument of their choice or in the choir.
Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to players of string, wind (including flute, clarinet, oboe, and french horn), percussion, and keyboard instruments at intermediate to advanced levels. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to music from popular movies is played while the students develop musical and ensemble skills and technical proficiency. High emphasis is placed on team spirit and an awareness of others within the ensemble. The orchestra will give two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced string students have the opportunity to participate in the Chamber Ensemble.
The Middle School Chamber Ensemble is a sectional group of the Middle School Orchestra. It is open to players of string and keyboard instruments at the advanced level. Participation is by recommendation only and students new to the orchestra program need to audition. Students will perform a wide variety of challenging literature in addition to participating in the Middle School Orchestra curriculum and ensemble. High emphasis is placed on individual responsibility, organization, and motivation. The Chamber Ensemble will participate in two concerts during the year. Students are expected to practice as necessary outside of class to achieve group success. Students participating in this class are encouraged but not required to take private lessons to accelerate their skill development.
Middle School Band and Jazz Band
The Middle School Jazz Band is open to saxophone, trumpet, trombone and drum set players who have successfully passed beyond the beginner level. In addition, a limited number of guitar, bass guitar, and keyboard players who have demonstrated the ability to play at this intermediate level may participate in MS Jazz Band. A wide variety of age-appropriate literature from jazz classics, to swing, blues, pop and rock is used for students to develop musical and ensemble skills as well as technical proficiency. Students are expected to practice as necessary outside of class to achieve group success. The Middle School Jazz Band plays a winter concert along with the MS Orchestra and a spring concert that is jazz only, along with the Upper School Jazz Band.
Middle School Choirs: Treble, Beginning Voices, and Cambiata
The Middle School Choir program is designed to teach students how to sing with healthy vocal technique through age-appropriate choral literature and pop arrangements. Middle School Choir is split into three sections: SSA Treble Choir, Beginning Voices for new singers who need a jump start, and Cambiata for students who are singing tenor or bass or whose voices are in the middle of dropping. Alongside the choral curriculum, students will engage in a music theory and fundamentals curriculum including note-reading, sight-singing, basic keyboard skills, and audio recording and mixing.
Art 8 draws together the culminating content of Art 6 and Art 7 - more complex projects in each area will allow students to express themselves through personal choices. Students are introduced to each project using present-day art techniques while learning about art in contemporary and historical contexts. Current events and cultural awareness are highlighted through artistic explorations. An inclusive and diverse selection of artists will be featured with each project. Students will participate in the creation of, and other aspects pertaining to, public viewing of their art. Students will study the following units: photography, ceramics, drawing and painting, and digital art.
This course is designed for Grade 8 students who wish to expand their knowledge of acting techniques and playwriting. Our units include character development, script analysis, and playwriting. The students will participate in a variety of theatre games and improvisations, rehearse/perform a monologue and scripted scene, as well as write their own 10-minute play. Each student is assessed by their willingness to keep an open mind, personal commitment to doing their best, active participation in class, and taking part in the creative process.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in Chinese IB converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Chinese, building on the information and vocabulary that they acquired in Chinese IA. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the integrated Chinese I textbook. After successful completion of Chinese IB, which completes Level I, students move into Chinese II.
By the end of this level, students can participate in conversations and present information on a number of familiar topics using increasingly complex sentences. They can handle short social interactions in everyday situations, write messages about familiar subjects, and recognize the main topic and some supporting details heard or read. Students completing this level typically demonstrate proficiency in the Novice High to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. This course explores how traditional medicine and health, unique features of the Chinese educational system, and Chinese extracurricular activities all have a profound impact on daily life for children and adults in modern China. Themes and grammatical structures align with the Zhenbang II (真棒) and Tales and Traditions I textbooks.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving activities, foods, clothing, city life and home life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs). Themes and grammatical structures align with the Voces Français Level I series, including narration in present and near future time frames. After successful completion of French IB, which completes Level I, students move into French II. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and supporting details of short written and spoken messages on everyday topics such as foods, daily routines, childhood memories and general health. In addition, students study the French speaking world by creating and imaginary person from a non-European French-speaking country. Students can participate in conversations and present information on several familiar topics using increasingly complex sentences in the past, present, and future. Students completing this level typically demonstrate proficiency in the Novice High to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines.
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in German IB converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in German, building on the information and vocabulary that they acquired in German IA. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Deutsch Aktuell 1 text series, including narration in the present,and future,. After successful completion of German IB, which completes Level I, students move into German II.
By the end of this level, students can participate in conversations and present information on several familiar topics using increasingly complex sentences. They can handle short social interactions in everyday situations, write messages about familiar subjects, and recognize the main topic and some supporting details heard or read. Students completing this level typically demonstrate a proficiency in the Novice High to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Utilizing materials in Deutsch Aktuell Level 2, as well as selected short stories and novels, this course focuses on a variety of topics, such as travel, food, holidays and festivals and high-frequency topics to help students engage in social interactions with German-speaking peers.
By Spanish IIB, students can participate in conversations and present information on a number of familiar topics using increasingly complex sentences in past, present, and future time frames. They can handle short social interactions in everyday situations, write messages about familiar subjects, and recognize the main topic and some supporting details heard or read. Using rich authentic materials, students start the year studying ancient civilizations of indigenous people of the Americas, followed by a focus on modern cities and neighborhoods. In the winter, students learn about the Basque region of Spain through a dramatic miniseries and learn about food preparation with recipes from around the Spanish-speaking world. Students also present a “how to” demonstration on a topic of their choice. In the spring, students study human impact on the natural world and strategies used to mitigate climate change. In the final unit of the course, students study the stories of young migrants to the U.S. with a film study. Applying the idea of windows and mirrors, cultural inquiry is woven throughout thematic units as students explore their own practices, perspectives, and products (mirrors) along with those of various Spanish-speakers (windows).
In Spanish II in the Middle School, students study fairy tales, legends, and pre-Columbian civilizations from Mexico and other countries as they learn how to communicate using past tenses. Students then delve into comparing daily routines across countries and how to handle illness and trips to the doctor. Sharing childhood accidents and mischief is a highlight of this unit. Students also learn to follow and explain recipes for various dishes from Spanish-speaking countries and study facets of immigration. The grammar focus during Spanish II is on the preterit, imperfect, and future tenses, commands, and pronouns (reflexive, indirect, direct, etc). As is true of all levels, the course builds on previous coursework and prioritizes the use of authentic materials to guide students towards proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Computer Science 8
This introductory course gives students a foundation in the basic skills needed to solve problems by writing computer programs. In this project-based class, students collaboratively create interactive applications while learning about the basic building blocks of computer programs such as conditionals, loops, functions, and events, and how to utilize these elements in problem-solving and algorithm design. Students also learn about the techniques for writing and perfecting programs, such as modular design and debugging methods. Students develop their technical communication and collaboration skills through scaffolded group work and presentations.
Physical Health and Wellness 8
In this course students will explore topics and activities designed to promote individual physical and emotional health and well-being. As part of the school's Wellness curriculum, students engage in discussions and activities to explore various topics that help promote a healthy sense of self and a positive approach to fitness, nutrition, and healthy habits in general. As a physical education class, the emphasis is on learning life-long skills in fitness training and team competition.
In Grade 8, Compass class explores health-related topics such as substance use and abuse, stress management, nutrition, and sexuality. Compass 8 builds on Compass 7 by helping students understand and consider how to make healthy choices that align with the goal of developing a health-conscious mindset. Compass 8 is delivered seminar-style; experts in the field are brought in to present current research and understanding of these topics. As such, Compass 8 is not represented on a student's report card, but it is an integral piece of our social/emotional and sexual health curriculum.