"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go... " – Dr. Seuss, Oh The Places You'll Go
Eighth grade is the culmination of a Barnesville education. Emphasis is placed on further building leadership skills in preparation for the transition to high school. Students are encouraged to strive for a higher level of independence and self-advocacy. Opportunities such as reading the morning announcements during Morning Meeting, leading early childhood/prekindergarten buddy meeting activities, and doing community service that places students in settings that require leadership skills. During weekly class meetings, students participate in leadership discussions and volunteer to oversee committees in preparation for leading different school activities such as dances, Family Fun Night, and selecting a class gift. Finally, the students learn to manage their time, strengthen their study skills, and become advocates in their learning process. Eighth grade provides a challenging, integrative, and exploratory curriculum with varied teaching and learning approaches to help reinforce concepts.
Eighth grade language arts focuses on further development and refining of the students’ basic skills of vocabulary, grammar, writing, and literature. Prior to the beginning of the eighth grade year students are assigned summer reading and essay. The school year begins with a discussion of the book and essays.
Throughout the year, students read the following five novels: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and Animal Farm, by George Orwell. A literary analysis is conducted during the reading of each novel. In addition, an integrative hands-on project is developed to further enhance learning.
The annual mid-year mock Authors' Wax Museum is held in the gym for younger students. Eighth graders select and research their favorite authors and then assume their personas. As visitors travel about the museum, authors are “brought to life” and they deliver a short biography before becoming “frozen” again. Writing lessons are generated from themes studied in the novels. Students respond to different writing prompts such as, “What does it mean to walk in someone else’s shoes?” or “Can you judge a book by its cover?” Reaction papers are written to reflect on themes such as courage, racism, forgiveness, growing up, and diversity. Enrichment of reading skills such as restatement, context clues, contrast clues, cause and effect, critical thinking, and inferencing are reinforced too.
Vocabulary instruction comes from work in the Sadlier-Oxford vocabulary book as well as words taken from novels. Lessons on synonyms, antonyms, analogies, completing the sentence, choosing the right word, and using the word correctly are presented weekly. Grammar is taught through daily edits in writing prompts and assigned writing, and as weaknesses are observed in student work. Students are expected to utilize and incorporate both new words and proper grammar into their writing. The transference of these skills is invaluable in preparation for secondary school applications and work as well as writing the end-of-year research paper in Social Studies. A balance of formal writing and journal writing is provided to continue to expand the students’ enjoyment for personal, informative, and creative writing.
Finally, oral presentation skills are refined to help students feel confident speaking in front of others whether giving an in-class presentation or standing before 200 people in the gym during the end-of-year graduation speech. Language Arts, for an eighth grader, is not only learning about the English language, but also the “art” of the language. Taking risks to improve communication skills on all levels is encouraged whether it is in the written or artistic form.
In eighth grade, students study the latter half of the Algebra I curriculum, once again using the Prentice Hall Algebra 1 book and Glencoe workbooks. The Algebra I course introduces and explores more advanced algebraic concepts. Students solidify their understanding of these concepts by modeling and investigating real-world problems, with more emphasis on process and understanding than on memorization. Often more than one solution path is explored, and students are encouraged to discover different strategies and methods to solve problems.
The use of cooperative groups to solve challenging varieties of word problems is stressed throughout the year. A key component of this curriculum is to allow students to explore their own personal strategic preferences and strengths. Students are encouraged, through class discussions and cooperative grouping, to articulate their mathematical reasoning processes.
This course traces the emergence of modern America in the late 1800s up through the modern presidency. The historical progression depends on the particular class being taught; sometimes explorations into women’s suffrage or yellow journalism or technological advances occupy more interest depending on the personalities of the students in the class. During major election years, much more time is spent engaging in presidential debates and the electoral process. Classes meet every day of the week, and an additional class period is scheduled each week to also connect with the Middle School focus on belief systems and ethics.
We utilize several highly engaging texts by Joy Hakim (An Age of Extremes, War, Peace, All That Jazz, and All the People), which cover topics ranging from politics, geography, and the World Wars to technological growth, civil rights, and baseball. Supplemental material is used to provide depth in a number of areas including the history of jazz or the Holocaust, or an oral history of the U.S. (students have read Having Our Say, a New York Times best seller about two sisters’ recollections of America over their 100+ year lives or some other first-hand account). Primary resources become a focal point of class reading as well (Susan B. Anthony and Franklin Roosevelt speeches, propaganda materials used during the world wars, etc.), and a connection to the literature being used in language arts classes is commonplace (To Kill A Mockingbird blends in well with the historical focus on the civil rights movement, for example).
Students really hone their skills in critical reading and analysis, and regular essays are a central feature of this class. Every student culminates this skill building process with a required research project at the end of the year on a topic of their choosing (loosely based on issues or events central to the latter part of the 20th century.)
Eighth Grade Science is a mix of both chemistry and physics. It starts out with the study of chemistry. The first topic in chemistry is what makes up matter and the properties of matter. Next the properties of solids, liquids, and gases are examined. This is also the first chapter where the students apply math to solve volume and pressure problems. Using formulas to solve applied math problems is continued in each chapter throughout the rest of the course. The study of chemistry continues with the study of atoms and the periodic table. The study of chemistry is concluded by learning about elements and their properties.
After chemistry, students learn about vector and scalar quantities, Newton’s laws, forces, and energy in systems. As a culmination to eighth grade science, students build their own self-powered cars in a group challenge. Students track their revisions through photos and blueprint drawings and they reflect on how Newton’s laws, speed, acceleration, and mass affect their success at each successive revision.
Eighth grade students meet four times a week for 45 minutes. They use the Santillana program for grammar, but also learn through collaborative art projects, filming of original videos, interactions with their art classes and outdoor activities.
A major milestone in their growth as Spanish speakers comes toward the end of the year as students prepare to take the second or third level of the National Spanish Exam. In class, students derive grammatical rules from exercises created for their level and with their needs in mind.
They write and read in Spanish, and practice speaking through oral presentations, on-the-spot descriptions of images, discussions of major world issues, oral exams, dynamic performances and collaborations with the school´s art program. Their growth from seventh grade depends on the complexity of the projects, the number of written and oral evaluations, the skill level required for the reading and writing assignments, their leadership in creating original activities for the lower grades, exposure to images that demand a level of oral description superior to the previous years´, and their tackling of the National Spanish Exam.
Eighth grade students look forward to a variety of physical education activities and often have a voice in choosing the sports and games they would like to play. The team-building challenges are more complex and require even greater communication and cooperation among students.
Life-long recreational activities, and demonstrating skills and safety in the units of field hockey, soccer, cooperative games, basketball, rhythms, fitness, softball, floor hockey, dance, volleyball, outdoor games, indoor games, ultimate Frisbee, gymnastics, and flag football are emphasized. Each unit begins with fundamental skills, then lead-ups, small games, and then large games. Technically correct skill acquisition and working cooperatively with others are the two main goals for each unit.
In eighth grade art, students are granted more autonomy as they work toward developing their individual styles. Some projects are thematic, while others invite students to explore topics that are of particular interest to them. As always, we cover a wide range of media including photography, drawing, painting, digital art, printmaking, and ceramics. In March, every eighth grader participates in a juried art show at the Black Rock Arts Center in Germantown. We frequently work with an artist-in-residence, who serves as a mentor through the exhibition process.
Students apply their skills in many arenas in their culminating year in music. In charge of their own song selection and given full creative expression, students compose musical pieces throughout the year. In further research of composers, students are charged with writing their own stories about their selected musicians. Stories are then shared with their peers. Contemporary music is a main focus of study.
The eighth grade student is an independent library user and researcher who enjoys the full range of electronic and print resources in the library and through subscription databases. Eighth grade students produce a research paper on a topic from the latter half of the Twentieth Century to the present. The librarian assists the social studies teacher as needed with materials on the research topic, materials on the research process, and access to and materials on the MLA 7 citation.
Eighth grade students are encouraged to participate in the Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Reading program. They are encouraged to select and checkout books from the library’s print or ebook collections.