Eighth graders enjoy weekly visits to the Lower School, where they engage in fun activities with their Lower School buddies.
The eighth-grade English curriculum celebrates and explores classic literature through dynamic class discussions that illuminate our lives today. We draw parallels between the lasting themes and symbols from these works to current society. The works of literature center around the search for identity: “Animal Farm,” “Of Mice and Men,” “The House on Mango Street,” “Lord of the Flies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Romeo and Juliet,” as well as various short stories and poems. This focus on themes and symbols translates into analytical and insightful writing projects that accompany nearly every unit.
Writing in eighth grade is an integral part of the curriculum and focuses on critical textual analysis and the importance of quality editing practice. Students compose pieces in various styles, and the students also construct a formal research paper in the spring in conjunction with the history department. An independent poetry project involves the in-depth exploration of a particular poet and his/her work.
Vocabulary enrichment comes from the texts we read in class and the required outside reading material. Students complete vocabulary organizers weekly where they document unknown words and explore meanings on Friday. Students must read 40 pages a week in their independent reading books. They must also complete a major project each quarter on one of those books.
Algebra I in the Middle School is structured for eighth and accelerated seventh graders and is a high school, Carnegie-credit course that supports the NCTM and Common Core Standards. Students build a solid foundation of skills and concepts in preparation for Upper School mathematics by rigorously investigating topics such as foundations for algebra, equations, algebraic proof, inequalities, functions in general, linear functions, systems of equations and inequalities, exponents and exponential functions, polynomials and factoring, quadratic functions and equations, radical expressions and equations, rational expressions and functions and data analysis and probability. While problem solving, critical thinking and active involvement are fostered throughout, there are opportunities that both intrigue the most accelerated students and meet the needs of those who require more experience. Students expand their mathematical understanding and learn how to confidently design a logical, successful approach to challenges that are related but not specifically targeted. The course incorporates cooperative and independent learning, verbal and written communicating, reflecting, self and peer evaluating and using appropriate technology. Good citizenship, with its relevance to the classroom and beyond, as well as persistence and accountability are fostered in an environment where the history, language, beauty and usefulness of mathematics are referenced continually.
This course is designed for students who need additional preparation before entering the formalized study of Algebra I. While an in depth review of pre-algebra topics is covered in semester one, second semester focuses on algebra concepts. Students are engaged in representing problem situations with symbolic expressions, functions, and equations. They are expected to solve multi-step equations involving the set of rational numbers efficiently and accurately. Students investigate relationships among data, in particular linear relationships. This courses serves as an introduction to modeling and solving contextualized problems through graphs, tables, and symbolic representation. Functions are identified as linear or nonlinear and their properties are contrasted through tables, graphs, and equations. Logical and critical thinking are emphasized through application.
Eighth grade students study physical science, which is an introductory course that prepares them for both chemistry and physics. The first semester is primarily devoted to the study and interaction of matter and the periodic table. Beginning with the classification of matter, students learn the differences between pure substances and mixtures, which is the perfect lead in to studying the periodic table. We then learn how different elements and compounds form bonds and why they form those bonds. The second semester moves us into introductory physics, where we begin with the forces applied to, and the motion of, objects, as well as Newton’s Laws. Then we study the different forms of energy, and how energy is never lost or gained, but can easily transform. Our final unit is the behavior and characteristics of waves. Highlight projects over the course of the year include varied chemistry and physics demonstrations, the gummy bear incineration, finding the acceleration of the cars on Skylyn Drive, and determining the force applied to students in wheeled office chairs, among others. Students then finish the year with “The Big Picture”, a distillation project where they show how everything that’s been studied throughout the year is connected.
US History Topics and Public Speaking
After building a contextual framework in seventh grade, students add layers to their understanding of America’s story by investigating various topics in US history in eighth grade. They continue to build upon historical thinking skills and begin to demonstrate an ability to consider historical content in ways that require thought, judgment and deep understanding. A major area of focus is historical argumentation, or the articulation of historical claims and the use of evidence to support them. In addition to major topics in US history, students will gain skill and experience in public speaking including the research process, outlining, and delivery. The capstone experience is a lengthy extemporaneous speech delivered in front of an audience of their teachers and peers on a US history topic of their choosing.
Latin IB covers the second half of the Latin I curriculum. Students continue to expand their study of vocabulary, grammar and syntax as they translate elementary Latin passages which are increasingly complex. Oral drills, group activities and multi-media resources are used to reinforce the student’s ability to read and write in Latin with accuracy. Roman history and culture are explored through excerpts of authentic Latin texts. Individual and collaborative efforts are essential factors for the development of proficiency. The students take the appropriate level of the National Latin Exam in March. Students enter high school well-prepared to continue their study of Latin.
Eighth Grade Spanish is the equivalent of Spanish I taught in the Upper School. Students who successfully complete Eighth Grade Spanish will continue on to Level II in the Ninth Grade. This course is taught primarily in the target language, recognizing that immersion is a vital element in language acquisition. The incorporation of cognates (words similar in Spanish and English), repetition, gestures, props, and dramatization facilitate comprehension. Important goals of this course are to establish a level of comfort, confidence, and familiarity with the language as well as to develop cultural awareness. Students are expected to follow both written and oral instructions in Spanish. In addition to building a base of vocabulary and developing proper pronunciation, this course covers grammatical concepts such as basic sentence structure, noun/adjective agreement, the conjugation of regular and irregular verbs in the present and preterit tenses, possessive adjectives, and positive and negative commands. Activities incorporate the basic skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
In French 1, students begin to speak, read, write, and understand basic French. They will learn to talk about themselves, introduce people, order food and drinks in a café, give directions, tell time, make plans, and read a subway map. Present and near future tenses will be covered as students build their vocabulary.
An emphasis on technique drives the eighth grade art program in Middle School. Students are given the opportunity to hone their skills through assignments in observation drawing, grid drawing, watercolor, pastels, ceramics, printmaking, mosaic, cartooning, painting on canvas, collage, assemblage and wire sculpture; while producing work that relates to their own lives and their own world. With a priority on technique and the act of creating work rather than on the student’s talent, they are encouraged to see themselves as artistic beings. They are instructed and directed throughout and encouraged to engage their own creativity in the process. In the end a student who has completed his/her work in Middle School art should be able to speak about his/her artwork, explaining how it has been accomplished and relating it to his/her own existence.
Eighth grade band is a continuation and advancement of skills learned in seventh grade band. It combines with the SDS Upper School Band for their class and ensemble times. Students work on their music skills by playing in small ensembles and full concert band. Each student will also prepare solo works and work on preparing for auditions. Students have multiple opportunities to perform for audiences throughout the year.