Eighth Grade


Language Arts

In Junior High, the focus of the language arts curriculum becomes literary analysis and effective communication through the application of writing, vocabulary, and grammar. Students analyze various genres including poetry, drama, short stories, and novels and analyze these selections through a variety of lenses. Students learn to identify the task, purpose, and audience for each writing assignment and are able to understand and explain the six traits of writing which in turn strengthens their communication skills. A robust research curriculum provides instruction and scaffolding necessary for students to use research ethically and to write a well structured research paper with proper citation. 

Language arts classes in junior high feature year-long studies in vocabulary, grammar, and writing while students move to a different teacher each trimester to participate in concentrated literature units.

Vocab and Grammar
Eighth grade students begin the year with test prep vocabulary to prepare for high school entrance exams taken in late fall. This year, students work through Level C of the Vocabulary Workshop series. This text offers a high level of academic rigor developed for high-achieving, college-bound students. It introduces vocabulary in context and provides practice in close reading of informational texts and with writing prompts. Students’ word knowledge is built through the use of a proven lesson plan design that blends print with robust online components. Students are well-prepared for vocabulary standardized testing experiences.

In addition to the normal text, once each trimester students learn challenging vocabulary and practice analyzing the relationships between words by deciphering analogies in preparation for nationwide "WordMaster" contests. 

We have an excellent grammar and writing series, Pearson's Writing Coach is available via e-book on students' iPad devices. The text is used to support our rigorous grammar curriculum, and to teach usage and mechanics in the context of writing.  

Literature and Writing
Review of student writing guides teacher instruction of the application of language conventions. A robust research curriculum provides instruction and scaffolding necessary for students to use research ethically and to write a well- structured research paper with correct attribution across subject areas. 

Students benefit from practicing different forms of expository writing frequently throughout the year while also excercising their creativity in narrative and descriptive writing assignments. 

Our writing curriculum is grounded in the English Language Arts Common Core and involves everything from cross-curricular research papers to compare-contrast essays to literature responses to personal narratives and opinion pieces. We spend about one month focusing on each of the six writing traits (ideas, organization, etc.) and then combine them and use them as standards for writing rubrics once students are comfortable with each facet. 

 Literature Selections

Students are captivated by The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, a beautiful and moving novel about a German girl coming of age during the Holocaust. Students identify many types of figurative language and analyze enduring themes that Zusak weaves into this rich text while grappling with important moral questions and learning about the forces of good that combatted the horrors of the Holocaust. 

The Harlem Renaissance unit is an exciting piece of eighth grade language arts. Students study the history of the Harlem Renaissance to understand life before and during this time period. With a focus on the periods of slavery and Reconstruction in the United States, students gain an understanding of what fueled this movement. 8th graders read and analyze poetry from the time period by authors such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen. In these poems, students see the struggles of African Americans, the goals of the Harlem Renaissance, and the motivation to achieve equality. Students are exposed to short stories, music, and art from the the era. As a culminating project for the unit, students choose one figure from the Harlem Renaissance to research. They may choose a writer, artist, musician, or activist from the time. The students create a museum exhibit to share what they have learned in their research. Students have the opportunity to present their exhibits and tour the exhibits of their classmates in order to learn about a variety of important people from this time.

Reading To Kill a Mockingbird in Language Arts is always a favorite experience.  To learn the background information for this historical novel, the students work in small groups to research one topic relevant to the setting. Groups research and create presentations on racism in the South in the 1930s, the state of education in the 1930s, the roles of women in the 1930s, the Great Depression, and specific court cases/government in the 1930s.  The students work diligently over several days, first in the library to gather research, and then back in the classroom.  The students use their iPads to create PowerPoint or Prezi presentations.  By completing this project, the students begin reading To Kill a Mockingbird with a greater understanding of the experiences of people living in the South during the 1930s.

By the time eighth grade gathers as a class to enjoy a professional reenactment of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous works, they are already experts on the life and tales of one of America's best known authors. Students have a blast performing scenes from The Tell Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Raven. 

Through a close reading of George Orwell's Animal Farm, students develop an understanding of the allegory and the representation of historic figures in various political and social systems.  Building background to this novel, we explore the historical context beginning with the Russian Revolution up through the rise of Stalin, and concluding with the development of The Cold War. Through literature discussions, we explore moral issues, and the concept of "sameness" and "equality" as represented by the political systems exposed in this novel. Students uncover the examples of propaganda techniques used on the farm and in history, and enjoy creating their own unique advertisements that reflect the use of propaganda techniques.

Students continue in small math groupings for course work in either Course 3 (Algebra Preparation) or Algebra I of the Holt McDougal Math Series.  All students participate in a variety of challenging activities to stretch their mathematical skills, thinking, and application of concepts, as well as practice with higher level problem-solving and test-taking experiences.

Course 3 Key Concepts:
Variables, Expressions, and Integers
Solving Equations
Principles of Algebra
Rational Numbers
Graphs and Functions
Exponents and Roots
Ratio, Proportion, and Similarity
Foundations of Geometry 
Perimeter, Area, and Volume
Data and Statistics
Multi-Step Equations and Inequalities
Graphing Lines
Sequences and Functions

Algebra 1 Key Concepts:
Expressions, Equations, and Functions
Solving Linear Equations
Graphing Linear Equations and Functions
Writing Linear Equations
Solving and Graphing Linear Inequalities
Systems of Equations and Inequalities
Exponents and Exponential Functions
Polynomials and Factoring
Quadradic Equations and Functions
Probability and Data Analysis  

Religion this year is dedicated to understanding and appreciating the Church more deeply.  First, students explore the Church as a mystery, gain an overview of salvation history, learn the origins of the Church, reflect on the importance of prayer, and learn how to serve with the Beatitudes and Corporal Works of Mercy as guide. Next, students study the four marks of the Church- one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. This leads them to an in-depth study of the Church's history identifying key people and events.  From the first years to a growing Church, from facing challenges to reform and a changing world, students follow the long path of the Church to how it began in North America. Lastly, students discover what it means to live a Christian life and how to live by Christ's moral standards as they finish the course focusing on being a witness of the Church through the ways of holiness, faith, worship, family, human dignity, and justice/truth.

Personal reflection and class discussions and activities are utilized to assist students in their faith journey. Students will spend one day in the spring at the St. Raphaela Retreat Center in Haverford as a culminating experience.  

To help our students understand that service is integral to our identity as Christians, 8th grade students are invited to provide service in the Dining Room at Face to Face Germantown.

Eighth grade science emphasizes the study of Earth science.  The school year begins with studies of matter and energy, as well as preparation for the science fair. Students will delve into matter, physical and chemical properties, substances, mixtures, states of matter, forms of energy, energy transfer, atomic structure, and the periodic table.  Students work on an engineering project involving designing and building an insulated cooler and create a presentation relating their in-depth research of an element.

Studies in the second trimester involve Earth's water, atmosphere, and weather. Examination of the properties of water, the water cycle, and the flow of water, lead to student understanding of how water affects all of life and Earth's spheres.  Units including the study of atmosphere and weather follow.  Students have an opportunity to build a windmill, and the trimester culminates in a STEM project involving the "Hurricane Alert" e-Mission.

Science classes during trimester three focus on "The Dynamic Earth."  Students learn about the Earth's surface and interior including weathering, erosion, soil formation, rocks, Earth's layers, and plate tectonics. Earth science studies culminates with volcanoes and earthquakes.  One project during the trimester has students testing their understanding of earthquake resistant building structure with the use of a shake table.

Social Studies
In eighth grade, students end their two-year historical journey using the History Alive series focusing on the United States of America. The curriculum begins with Launching a New Republic and continues on with: An Expanding Nation, Americans in the Mid-1800s, The Union Challenged, Migration and Industry, and A Modern Nation Emerges.

Essential questions are used to focus student learning and reading is paired with engaging, instructional images, and creative, hands-on activites in the Interactive Notebook.

This course is taught utilizing a variety of multimodal, multi-sensory techniques that foster the development of oral proficiency in Spanish. Students acquire knowledge of language functions, varied vocabulary, grammatical structures, and foreign cultures through contextualized presentation, interactive learning, iPad technology, and vocal practice.

Students aim to give commands and advice, express intention, express the progress of an action, and discuss Hispanic heritage present in the United States throughout Unidad 6: Estados Unidos (Unit 6). Students talk about past actions, express actions related to travel, and give negative commands throughout Unidad 7: Argentina (Unit 7). Español, Santanilla 1B will be our textbook of reference. ¡Será un buen año!