An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

Grade 8

Grade 8 students are the leaders of the Middle School. Their social needs have settled down a bit, and they learn how to balance social and academic 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. 

Overview

Advisory and Developmental Themes

Grade 8 advisories continue to function as a homeroom for students. Advisors play a critical role in orienting the students to the new 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.

Homework

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 his or her 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 he or she is reading the assignment directions thoroughly, or if he or she needs additional help or clarifiction.

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.

Experiential Learning

Language Immersion Week

In late January and early February, 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.

Naturalization Ceremony

In late fall, students in Grade 8 plan and host a United States Naturalization Ceremony as part of their Social Studies unit on immigration in Minnesota. In 2019, 126 individuals became United States citizens during the ceremony, which is held on the Randolph Campus and attended by all Grade 8 students and teachers, in addition to the families of the new citizens. Grade 8 has hosted a naturalization ceremony every year since 2010, and the event has become a favorite event of the entire community which is often attended by parents and Randolph Campus faculty and staff.

Technology Tools

Grade 8 students continue use of the school-issued laptops, which they use 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.

Subject Areas

English

Students enter English 8 with a strong sense of our program's workshop protocols, expectations, and opportunities, and throughout eighth grade, they deepen their understandings 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.

Social Studies

In Social Studies 8, students develop sound social science skills through the study of modern U.S. history, building on and reinforcing skills introduced in previous years. The theme of our culminating unit, Taking a Stand, is woven into our 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. Social 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.

Math

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; effort; level of interest; grades; ERB scores; and placement tests and/or exam scores.

Math 8 
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.

Algebra I
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).

Honors Algebra I
This course introduces the development of the real number system. The understanding of the basic principles of the real number system, the expression of these principles in precise algebraic language and their use in algebraic proof are a major focus. Topics also include computation with real numbers; simplification of algebraic expressions; the use of variables; solving equations, inequalities and absolute value sentences; order in the real numbers; set notation; operations with polynomials; factoring polynomials; and operations with algebraic fractions. In addition to the material covered in Algebra I we 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.

Honors Algebra II and Trigonometry
The focus of this course is the study of mathematical functions. The algebra portion of the course develops the concept of a function through the study and graphing of relations, the language of sets , functions as special relations, properties of functions, and operations on functions. These ideas are used to investigate variable quantities, formulas, direct and inverse proportionality, linear functions and their graphs, and quadratic functions and their graphs. The trigonometry section of the course includes unit circle and right triangle approaches to the six trigonometric functions, radian measure, graphs of the circular functions, proofs of trigonometric identities, and the use of inverse functions to solve trigonometric equations. Application problems are studied in both the algebra and trigonometry portions of the course.

Science

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.

Music

All students in Grade 8 take a music class every day, in a band or orchestra instrument of their choice or in the boys' or girls' choir. 

Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard musicians at intermediate to advanced levels. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music 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.

Middle School Band and Jazz Band
The Middle School Band is open to woodwind, brass, and percussion players of intermediate to advanced skill. In addition, bass, guitar, and keyboard players may participate in Jazz Band. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music 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 Middle School Band plays two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced players have the opportunity to participate in the Jazz Band.

Middle School Girls’ Choir and Middle School Boys’ Choir
The Middle School Choir Program is designed to teach students how to sing with healthy vocal technique through age-appropriate choral literature for both Middle School Choirs. The Middle School Boys’ Choir and the Middle School Girls’ Choir both study and perform music from various genres, learn about music theory and vocal terminology connected with the choral curriculum, and perform in a Winter and Spring Concert each year.

Fine Arts

Grade 8 students take a trimester-long studio art class, and may also choose from additional electives.

Art 8
The Art 8 course continues the journey of developing fundamentals inherent in creating realistically rendered and individually expressive work. Projects will embrace the use of traditional drawing tools with less conventional ideas about drawing and mixed media projects. Beginning with several basic and beginning exercises, the class works on still life, nature themes, mixed media observation, and personally inspired choices. Each student is assessed by the same criteria we would like them to use to evaluate themselves: a personal commitment to their process, constructive participation in group discussions and a willingness to stretch their potential.

Art 8: Clay
This course is designed for students who wish to continue developing their skills in ceramic processes. Historic and contemporary art/artists processes will be explored through experiments, demonstration, and discussion. Original 3D projects will be created by students using techniques presented in class, beginning with the historical significance and design of the vessel, and moving on to diorama, installation, and sculpture projects. Each student is assessed by the same criteria we would like them to use to evaluate themselves: a personal commitment to their process, constructive participation in group discussions and willingness to stretch their potential.

Art 8: Video Design
Students in the video elective will begin work with the fundamentals of the moving image. Students will capture original imagery and sound toward their own video idea or narrative. Original video / moving image projects will be created by students using basic video techniques presented in class. Students will work on solo and group projects while learning to navigate the multilayered process of designing content. Each student is assessed by the same criteria we would like them to use to evaluate themselves: a personal commitment to their process, constructive participation in group discussions and a willingness to stretch their potential.

Theater 8: Acting
This course is designed for Grade 8 students who wish to expand their knowledge of theatre and acting techniques. Units include improvisation, character development, and script analysis. Students will participate in a variety of theatre games and improvisations, rehearse and perform a monologue, and their rehearsed scenes will be shared with an invited audience.

Theater 8: Script Writing
This class introduces students to the craft of writing for the stage with an emphasis on process and risk-taking. Students will write their own monologue, scene, and 10-minute plays. They will explore scene structure, action, events, voice, and dialog. As a learning community, we will discuss and examine the students' work using the Critical Response Protocol. We will also have staged readings so the playwrights can see and hear their work. Finally, a few of these scripts will be chosen to be produced and performed at the Spring Student Showcase.

Theater 8: Devising
In this course, we will create an original, ensemble piece of theatre. Devised theatre pieces do not start with a script; they start with a stimulus: an idea/concept/topic (beauty, power, expectations, immigration, global warming, etc.). Working collaboratively, students will create and develop a play that they will rehearse and share with an invited audience.

World Language

French 8
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, daily life and travel. They can use simple sentences in present, past, and future that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this level typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students experience language immersion for an extended period and which provides students with opportunities to present themselves and their knowledge of French and the French-speaking world. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Bien dit! Level 1 series. After successful completion of French 8, which completes Level I, students will move into French II.



German 8
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 in present, past, and future that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this level typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Mid range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students experience language immersion for an extended period which provides students with opportunities to present themselves and their knowledge of German. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Deutsch Aktuell series. After successful completion of German 8, which completes Level I, students will move into German II.



Chinese 8
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 level typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students experience language immersion for extended periods that introduce life in the Chinese community and provide students with opportunities to present themselves and their knowledge of China. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Zhen Bang textbook, including narration in the past, present, and future time frames. After successful completion of Chinese 8, which completes Level I, students will move into Chinese II.



Spanish IIB
By the end of this course, 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.

Students in Spanish IIB converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Spanish, building on the information and vocabulary that they learned in Spanish IIA. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the second half of the Avancemos II textbook, including narration in past, present and future time frames. After successful completion of Spanish IIB, which completes Level II, students move into Spanish III.

Computer science

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 techniquest 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. Students who have successfully completed Computer Science 6, 7, and 8 in the Middle School have met the outcomes of the Upper School introductory course called "Programming and Problem Solving" and are prepared to take any Upper School elective for which it is a prerequisite.

Physical Education and Wellness

In Fitness 8 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, the Compass 8 wellness 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.

The Grade 8 Courage Retreat is hosted by Youth Frontiers and incorporates high energy, activities, small groups, and sharing in order to inspire students to take positive risks in order to make a healthy difference for themselves and their communities.

Each fall, Grade 8 students plan and host a Naturalization Ceremony for community members obtaining American citizenship as part of the students' Social Studies unit on immigration.

The Human Density Experiment is a favorite eighth-grade tradition in which several students dunk themselves in a human-size "test tube" and then use the skills they've learned in science class to calculate density.

Grade 8 students take part in a week-long language immersion experience each year. During immersion week, students spend time immersed in their language of study—Chinese, French, German or Spanish—playing games, cooking native foods, studying cultures, and practicing their language and conversational skills.

Field trips to places like the Baaken Museum (pictured above) are incorporated in each grade-level to build on classroom knowledge and to provide new opportunities for learning through experience.

The eighth grade "Sludge" unit is a favorite, investigative experiment for students in which they are given the task of separating a sludge mixture using all the lab skills they've acquired since the beginning of the year.

The end of the year is full of milestones for each division. In the Middle School, eighth-grade students celebrate the transition to the Upper School with the annual Grade 8 Moving On Ceremony.