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.
An overview of the academic curriculum and areas of focus in Grade 8 is below.
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.
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.
English Studio 8 is a continuation of the two-year progression using the Reading-Writing Workshop model which begins in Grade 7. In Grade 8, students build on their foundations of high-level reading comprehension, writing, and organizational skills. Students study poetry, vignettes, memoir, short stories, and literary analysis. They craft writing in the genres studied, honing their skills through group discussion, regular conferences with their teacher, and incorporation of lessons. Students make guided choices about the books they read and practice literary interpretation through writing and discussion.
In Social Studies 8, students practice and develop sound social science skills while studying aspects of modern U.S. history. The question “What role does the individual play in society?” guides much of our work, and the curriculum provides opportunities for both personal insight and insight into general patterns of human motivation and behavior.
The 8th grade theme, Taking a Stand, is woven into each unit. It is our hope that this focus will help students formulate and share informed opinions on the material and meaningfully interpret their world and their place in it. Units include Immigration, U.S. Government, the Personal History Project, and Civil Rights. The year culminates with the Taking a Stand project, where 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; thinking critically; problem solving; citizenship; self-advocacy; risk taking and flexibility; test preparation and test-taking; 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; effort; level of interest; grades; ERB scores; and placement tests and/or exam scores.
Algebra I (Prerequisite: Grade 7 Pre-Algebra and Geometry)
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. The pace of this course is fitted towards student needs. * Note: The pace of the Beginning Algebra course is adjusted for student needs.
Honors Algebra I (Prerequisite: Grade 7 Honors Pre-Algebra and Geometry)
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 (Prerequisite: Honors Algebra I; this course is normally taken in Grade 9)
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 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 boys' or girls' choir.
Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to players of string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments 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.
Grade 8 students take a trimester-long studio art class, and may also choose from additional electives.
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.
This course includes topics such as travels, commerce, transportation, furniture and rooms in a house. Ongoing proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing is practiced daily. The students learn the present tense of regular – ir verbs, and the irregular verbs “to be able to,” “to put” and they review commands, the near future, and the past tense. Other grammar topics include direct and indirect object pronouns and adjectives. Cultural topics include research on tourist destinations in the provinces of France, in Paris and Martinique. All levels of the Middle School French program use integrated texts, workbooks, readers, CDs, DVDs, and a variety of Internet activities.
The curriculum at this level includes thematic topics such as entertainment and making plans with friends, household chores and responsibilities, music, sports, parts of the body, travel and describing a trip, transportation, giving and getting directions, geography of Switzerland and Austria, and foreign influence in Germany. Ongoing proficiency in reading, writing and listening comprehension is practiced daily. Students read a series of short novels provided in class. Grammar at this level includes accusative prepositions, compound nouns, the dative case and prepositions, dative verbs, the present perfect tense, dative personal pronouns, and possessive adjectives. Technology is an important tool both in and out of class. Students complete projects, such as video scripts and short films. Students can communicate and present familiar topics with simple sentences and memorized phrases, write short messages, and recognize familiar words and phrases when heard or read.
This course is meant to truly ensure a basic level of proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing before high school level 2. Students learn all 32 provinces by their Chinese names. They are familiar with the major regions of China and actively interact with each other and the larger Chinese community by interpreting authentic and current information, and presenting themselves and their knowledge of China. Topics include: identity, shopping, visiting friends, making phone calls, writing formal letters, going out to a Chinese restaurant, and weather.
Spanish 8 (Intermediate Spanish B)
By the end of this course, students will be proficient in the following skills:
• Grammar: Irregular present-tense verbs; regular and irregular preterite verbs; reflexive verbs; imperfect vs. preterite tenses; conditional tense; future tense.
• Vocabulary: Topics include, but are not limited to: travel by air, train, and car; activities in summer and winter; going out with friends to concerts and movies; personal grooming; shopping at the market, shopping for clothes, and renting videos; technology and the internet; geographical locations.
• Culture: Topics cover traditions for traveling in Spain and South America; artists (art and music) past and present; opposite seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres; using cell phones and phone cards; indigenous clothing; seeking medical care.
• Functions: Students will be able to talk about, describe, discuss, and express opinions using the vocabulary and cultural contexts mentioned above. Students will speak with moderate proficiency regarding pronunciation, rhythm and intonation to the degree that most errors will not affect comprehensibility.
Upon successful completion of Spanish IIB, students progress into Spanish III (third level Spanish) in the Upper School.
Grade 8 Wellness examines individual health as it relates to personal choice. A topic-driven class, the students will receive current information on subjects such as stress management, relationship and sexual health, drug and alcohol awareness, internet and media safety, physical health and body image. Students attend seminars throughout the year conducted by the Middle School counselor or outside experts in the field. With each topic explored, the class will simultaneously examine the many factors that influence the choices we make, including the media, our local culture, the SPA community, our families, friends, and our own personal values. Through media resources, class discussion and individual reflection, students will consider the complex nature of personal choice, reflect upon their own decision making “style”, and explore the impact of these factors on personal health and wellbeing.