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. Eighth graders run for President and Vice President of the Student Council, lead school assemblies, and read in chapel. Eighth Graders put on a major performance in the Spring, as well as having leading roles in the Christmas pageant in December. They participate in the Faculty-Student luncheon, serve at the school Auction, and have a semi-formal dance in their honor at the end of the year.
The student leadership program is a focal point of the eighth grade year at St. John’s. This program aims to have eighth graders set high personal expectations for themselves, and to encourage the eighth graders to think about who they are, what skills they have, what skills they wish to develop, and what type of person they wish to become. Students meet three times a week with a faculty advisor for the first quarter of the school year, and once weekly thereafter. Students are assigned various readings and group discussion activities to help them better articulate their sense of self and emerging goals. This is also a vehicle for encouraging and shaping community service in this class.
The eighth grade English course is intended to continue improving the skills developed in the seventh grade. Students read a variety of literary genres including short stories, poetry, and novels such as The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Animal Farm by George Orwell. The reading selections have been carefully chosen to coincide with the material covered in Social Studies 8. Students will explore concepts of justice, power, oppression, conflict, and prejudice as they relate to historical events, literary figures and their personal lives. As in seventh grade, vocabulary is studied through the literary works read in class. Throughout the year reading remains a core aspect of the program, as students are encouraged to be active and conscientious readers.
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. In grade eight, students write a variety of types of compositions, including narrative, poetry, persuasive, and expository writing. During the third trimester, students write a research paper which is taught and evaluated by both the Social Studies and the English department. Students also continue to perfect their ability to write a standard five-paragraph essay through instruction, modeling and practice. Rubrics are handed out with each writing assignment so that expectations and evaluation of those criteria are clear. Each student’s written work for the year is collected in a portfolio. Punctuation skills are taught in context through teacher-student conferences and will be individualized for each student. The grammar focus for grade eight consists of a review of the grammar studied in grades six and seven as well as phrases and clauses. Students study two to three grammar units each trimester
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 into three levels of instruction based on ability and learning style. Each class has an average of twelve students, which allows for more individualized attention, customized pacing and cooperative learning. A speaker conducts a workshop on statistics as an enrichment unit.
Eighth Grade Students will 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.
- Simple algebraic factoring of monomials and polynomials.
Eighth grade Physical Science presents a wide range of concepts in both physics and chemistry. Students continue to be exposed to a variety of methods that scientists use to explore and solve problems. In doing so, these problem solving methods are then incorporated into their daily lives, ultimately illustrating physical science as an applied science.
An overview of the eighth grade science includes a review of metric measurement and its application, as well as the continued use of scientific methods in problem solving. As the introduction of physics and chemistry becomes a reality, students are able to explore matter, elements, compounds and mixtures, machines, robotics (using Lego Mindstorms and EV3 kits), energy, and the periodic table of elements.
Projects are assigned each trimester. They are designed so that different styles of learning can be assessed, as children do learn differently. These may include creative writings, technical writing, design and construction of physical model. i.e. a Rube Goldberg Contraption. Note taking is essential; varying methods are used, for example, outlining and graphic organizers. Lab journals are required for in class lab work. This enables the students to see their individual progress in science application.
Social Studies – U.S. History
Eighth grade students study modern U.S. history including the following topics: the Progressive Era, the U.S. Rise to World Power, World War I, the Jazz Age, the 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 U.S. impact and influence 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.
Eighth graders have an opportunity to participate in the St. John’s Model United Nations. MUN is a simulation of the United Nations General Assembly and other joint bodies. In MUN, students represent UN member states and debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. While playing their roles as ambassadors, student delegates make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts and navigate the MUN conference rules of procedure. MUN students travel to the Pan American Health Organization and State Department in Washington D.C for fall and spring conferences.
Upper school students participate in a variety of programs designed to engage and enhance there involvement in global education. During our annual multicultural immersion week, fifth through eighth graders will be representing the following countries, respectively: Turkey, Italy, Guam, and Vietnam. In addition, our World Village program has components in the upper school. Students engage in pen pal activities with students from Spain, Mexico, and Argentina. Eighth grade French students have E-pal relationships with students in Quebec. Seventh and eighth grade science students have an opportunity to travel to Belize as part of a study on climate change and how it affects the country. While there, they will also participate in a community service project in the impoverished town on Democracia. In Social Studies, eighth graders have an opportunity to travel to the United Nations in New York City to take part in the largest international Middle School Model United Nations Conference in the world.
In eighth grade, students focus their learning on interactive Culture Projects that are individually done each trimester. Each project focuses on an aspect of the culture of a certain Hispanic country, culminating in a final Travelogue done in Spanish. Reading of familiar novels such as Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz continues. 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 use the interactive tools available in the Language Learning Lab as well as our Global Village Wiki to increase their fluency. The eighth grade class meets for four forty-five minute periods a week.
Following the Jenney’s First Year Latin I curriculum and the accompanying workbooks and textbooks, seventh and eighth grade Latin students study Latin vocabulary, the first three Latin noun declensions, active and passive voice Latin verb conjunctions, and English grammar and derivatives. Roman culture is also a part of the curriculum and is taught as a two-year cycle and includes two individual projects per student per year. The first semester is either a study of the development of Roman towns, the layout of ancient Rome, the structure of typical Roman forums, and the feast of Saturnalia, or the first semester is a study of Roman mythology. The second semester culture curriculum is either a study of the Aeneid, the Trojan War, and the founding of Rome; or it is a study of Julius and Augustus Caesar and the major cities of Italy. Every two years, a trip to Italy is offered as an enrichment opportunity for students and their families.
As an Episcopal school, Christian values and ethics are two of the cornerstones of life at St. John’s. As such, the religion program is of significant importance in a student’s life. 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 of religion and the formation of early religions. Included in this, students reflect upon the words of ancient philosophers, as philosophy is often the root of religion. They explore the themes of world religions, highlighting their similarities and differences. Each major of world religion’s history, beliefs, symbols, customs, leaders, followers, holidays and rites of passage are examined. Course work includes lectures, video presentations, interactive class activities and projects. Throughout the course, students examine the formation of values, morals, and ethics, and are encouraged to examine the religious and secular values, morals, and ethics that guide them in their daily lives.
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 will 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 will build character and faith through participation in and appreciation of artistic performances both in the school and the community.
Upper School Visual and Performing Arts Rotation
The visual and performing arts program provides a broad spectrum of learning, performing, and appreciation experiences encompassing visual art, drama, instrumental and choral music, movement, and audio/visual production. Students in grades six to eight receive specialized instruction on a rotational basis in art, music, drama, and a/v production while having the opportunity to create and perform at high levels through band, private instrumental lessons, and chamber chorus. Arts instruction is also genuinely connected to the general academic subjects through collaborative projects, cross-discipline experience
Students participate in a trimester long course that incorporates speech, drama, video production and writing. The class will document and report on school, local and world events through written and video journalism, as well as participate in public speaking assignments and formal debates on timely issues.
The eighth grade art curriculum provides opportunity for students to continue to learn and develop new skills in drawing, painting, composition and crafting. Students work in variety of media and techniques. Special attention is paid to perspective drawing and design. Demonstration and step by step instruction are used to ensure students understand the assignment and how to complete it.
Eighth Grade Band is a time for students to synthesize the technical elements of playing an instrument and the musicianship that gives life to music, the language beyond words. They are encouraged to select performance projects each trimester and take leadership positions in the large ensembles. They are expected to accurately and independently prepare a majority of the materials given them in rehearsals and lessons.
The learning tasks in Upper School Physical Education emphasize and teach problem-solving and decision-making skills. The students participate in learning tasks that are organized from a strong and broad curriculum that include, invasions sports, net or wall sports, and personal development activities. The goal of the Upper School Physical Education curriculum is to help prepare students in a variety of activities for high school and beyond. The faculty at St. John’s makes a concerted effort, when possible, to provide co-curricular experience. For example, when the students are studying the Bill of Rights in Social Studies class, they may also complete fitness stations that require the students to know each amendment to determine their next fitness station.
St. John’s students are exposed to and experience a wide range of activities that encompass shared experiences. The Physical Education department organizes and supervises school events such as Community Building Week, International Festival, Blue-Gold events and Field Day. Students are also introduced to the knowledge necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle through weekly wellness topics.
The eighth grade takes two overnight field trips. The first trip is a team-building, problem-solving experience implementing strategies described in the Traits for Success. Challenges include high and low ropes initiatives, goal setting practice, and cooperative activities and games. The second overnight trip is an end of the year adventure. Students will brave one last challenge as a group on this excursion.
In addition to the overnight trips, students will travel off-campus during the year to enrich and broaden their experiences in a variety of curricular areas. Teachers will plan these trips and notify parents as the opportunities arise.
The Eighth Grade Play
The Eighth Grade Play is often a larger-scale musical performed by the eighth grade classes. Past shows have included Bye, Bye Birdie, The Singing Bat, The Secret Garden, Huck Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee In Sir Arthur’s Court. The eighth grade students take on all roles and responsibilities in front and behind the scenes including set design, costumes, makeup, lighting and directing. Eighth grade teachers, the music department, other faculty members, and interested parents facilitate and oversee all aspects of the show.