Eighth Grade Curriculum
Eighth grade is a time that many St. John’s students eagerly anticipate. This is the year in which they experience greater privileges and responsibilities and a culmination of their time at the school. Eighth graders assume many leadership roles and are involved in time-honored school traditions throughout the year. Eighth graders are allowed to run for President and Vice President of the Student Council, lead school assemblies, read in chapel, and put on a major theater performance in the spring.
The eighth-grade English curriculum integrates several areas of language arts into its six weekly classes. The main focus is on reading and analyzing literature, writing, grammar, and vocabulary. The course is designed to build upon the skills developed throughout middle school.
The students read a variety of genres that represent both the traditional canon of literature and modern classics of young adult and adolescent literature. The students draw deeper connections between the literature, their own lives, and the world around them. They closely examine the elements of literature represented in each work. In eighth grade, we have a mini unit on the Holocaust, which coincides with the social studies class World War II unit. We read the novel Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
The St. John’s writing program emphasizes the six traits of writing: ideas, organization, style, word choice, voice, and conventions. Students are guided throughout the writing process as they pre-write, draft, revise, edit, and publish pieces. Eighth grade students write in a wide variety of genres including a memoir, different genres of short stories, literary analysis, persuasive, and expository paragraphs. They write at least one five-paragraph essay as literary analysis.
Direct grammar instruction takes place throughout the year with an emphasis on subordinate clauses and types of sentences. The students complete Daily Grams to reinforce basic grammar rules, usage, mechanics, and effective sentence-combining techniques.
The students build their vocabulary by deciphering the meanings of words in context of the literature they read. Additionally, we use Wordly Wise to enhance vocabulary acquisition.
During eighth grade, students study a challenging course in Algebra 1 or Honors Algebra 1. They have daily experiences that build competence through practice, repetition, problem solving, and real life applications as the students develop disciplined mathematical thinking skills. The book, Algebra Structure and Method, Book 1, by Dolciani is the most challenging book in present use and is therefore called, “The Classic.” All students use this book, even though they are divided by aptitude into two levels of instruction. Each class has an average of twelve students, which allows for more individualized attention, customized pacing and cooperative learning. Eighth grade students become proficient in the following areas: solving multi-step equations with positive and negative numbers, exponents, fractions and decimals; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing equations with fractions, decimals, negative numbers and exponents; simplifying and performing mathematical operations with algebraic fractions; analyzing and graphing linear and quadratic equations; creating equations in order to solve word problems; simplifying and performing mathematical operations with irrational numbers; and simple algebraic factoring of monomials and polynomials. Students are continually challenged to apply conceptual understanding in order to solve more difficult and unique problems. Ongoing assessment and feedback enables teachers and students to pinpoint weaknesses and to extend learning to greater depths.
In eighth grade physical science, students explore a wide range of concepts in both chemistry and physics. Students practice applying the scientific method while learning about the composition of matter, the periodic table, and chemical reactions during the first half of the year. Throughout the second half of the school year, students delve into concepts in physics such as force, momentum, work, potential and kinetic energy, waves, electricity, and light. Students engage in class discussion, practice lab write-ups, design a lab for the class, do labs and other hands-on activities, keep daily notes, and follow current scientific advancements and research. By completing labs, hands-on activities, watching exciting demonstrations, and participating in class discussions students rekindle their curiosity and passion for learning all things related to the physical world.
Social Studies – Modern U.S. History
Eighth grade students study modern U.S. history to include the following units: the Progressive Era, the U.S. Rise to World Power, World War I, the Jazz Age, Great Depression, and New Deal, America and World War II, the Cold War Era, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam Era, and Contemporary America. Following the themes of geography, economics, civics, history, and people of the nation and world, students analyze patterns of global change based on international relations and the impact and influence of the United States on them. In addition to using the textbook as a resource and reference guide, students also use, create, and analyze maps, pictures, stories, diagrams, charts, chronology, inquiry/research, and technological skills. Course work includes lectures, video presentations, interactive class activities and projects, and tests. Students regularly follow current events to foster understanding of contemporary events and how they relate to history and world geography.
The goal for eighth grade Spanish is to prepare students for future language interactions in high school. Students increase their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar through different kinds of activities. They continue improving their oral expressions skills as well as written skills. Grammar in eighth grade focuses on the future, subjunctive, and the conditional tenses of regular and irregular verbs. Focus is placed on reading, writing and speaking in a fluent manner. Students are assessed on their participation in class, homework, short essays, projects, quizzes, and tests.
Following the Jenney’s First Year Latin I (a high school level textbook) curriculum and its accompanying workbook, seventh and eighth grade Latin students study Latin vocabulary, the first three Latin noun declensions, active and passive verb conjunctions, and English grammar and derivatives. Roman culture and mythology are a focus of the course, as well as Latin’s influence on our everyday life. Every December the students enjoy the celebration of the feast of Saturnalia at a local restaurant.
Christian values and ethics are two of the cornerstones of education at St. John’s Episcopal School, which is exemplified in the Religion program. Throughout their academic and spiritual career at St. John’s, students have been exposed to all aspects of the Bible and Christianity. In eighth grade, students gain familiarity with major world religions, including three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam. Buddhism and Hinduism are also explored. Students examine the origins, history, beliefs, symbols, customs, leaders, followers, holidays and rites of passage of each of these major world religions. Throughout the course, students are prompted to consider their own values, morals, and ethics in relation to secular values, morals, and ethics. They are encouraged to make intentional decisions regarding moral and ethical decisions that they face in their daily lives.
Upper School Performing and Fine Arts
The arts serve a two-fold purpose in education; academic and aesthetic. Students gain a foundational academic understanding of arts through general instruction and, when appropriate, focused creating and performing opportunities. Students also study the arts to provide an opportunity for social-emotional connections to general academic subject matter as well as to create an outlet for artistic expression. Intentional arts instruction is fundamental to a well balanced education.
The students of St. Johns experience and gain understanding of the role of the arts throughout the world and in their own lives through the acquisition of artistic vocabulary and skills and the exposure to a diverse range of artistic mediums. Students build character and faith through participation in and appreciation of artistic performances both in the school and the community.
Upper School Performing Arts
All Upper School students sing in Chorus and play an instrument in the Concert Band. Students rehearse as a group and study instruments in sectionals led by an adjunct faculty of professional teacher-artists. All students perform in the Winter Christmas Celebration concert and the Spring Festival of the Arts concert. 8th Graders participate in a traditional 8th grade play production as culminating arts experience.
Advanced performing arts students have opportunities to participate by audition in groups like our OASIS Theatre Ensemble and OASIS Jazz Ensemble. These groups focus on building skills for competitive high school arts auditions and experiences.
The eighth grade art curriculum focuses on advancing artistic abilities and art techniques along with developing each student’s unique artistic style. Students engage in and explore various art mediums which can include: graphite and ink drawing, acrylic painting, watercolor painting, ceramics, and more. Eighth grade art highlights observational drawing, graphic design, and large-scale grid drawing. Visual art demonstrations and step-by-step verbal explanations are given to students for each art lesson and project to promote comprehension. The Upper School visual arts curriculum includes cross-curricular projects to promote further understanding and connections between subjects, as well as weekly art sketches that focus on creative design and technical drawing. Students who are interested in applying for a visual arts high school scholarship work with instructors to create a well-rounded visual arts portfolio.
The goal of St. John’s Physical Education program is to facilitate the development of skills to enable students to safely and successfully participate in team, individual, and life sports. Students learn the traits for success while participating in a variety of cross curriculum-integrated activities. Continuing to build on the planned activities completed in previous years, eighth grade students incorporate much more game play into units of study. Emphasis continues on cooperation and communication skills inside a team. Students are encouraged to be moving and engaged. At all levels, physical fitness activities help students to challenge themselves to set individual goals in order to lead a healthy lifestyle.
As part of the annual International Festival, students are assigned a different country each year; in physical education they learn a traditional dance from this country which they perform in the festival.
Every eighth grade student is assigned an advisor with whom they meet in weekly small groups. The advisor is a teacher or administrator who is an advocate for the student and offers academic, social, and emotional support. Advisory reinforces our traits of success, organization and study skills, and gives students an intimate forum in which to have discussions regarding academics, character, and faith.