The Grammar School
Eighth Grade Curriculum
The curriculum for eighth grade is designed to excite students’ interests in civics, literature, science, history, and all of the subject areas inherent in a liberal arts education. While the curriculum enhances the basic skills students need to be successful in school and in life, it also encourages students to be aware of their role in the greater world. Students are encouraged to develop independent study and work habits, to bring projects to a satisfying conclusion, and to effectively communicate their ideas to others, both in writing and in discourse. Topics are presented with material and perspective from more than one discipline, which leads to learning across the curriculum. Eighth graders are encouraged to make interdisciplinary connections and to recognize that nothing exists in isolation. Students in the eighth grade develop an individual sense of responsibility, and they contribute positively to the overall atmosphere of the school. A top priority is for students to gain self-confidence. Eighth graders take on a variety of roles within the school and in the larger community. This helps them to think beyond themselves and to understand that they can be a positive influence in a variety of settings. This also prepares them for their high school experiences. Community service projects are ongoing, and our connection with Putney Family Services is an anchor to the world beyond The Grammar School.
Eighth grade English emphasizes reading good literature, creative and expository writing, listening, and language skill development. Literature is selected from different genres: non-fiction, biography, drama, poetry, short story, and the novel. Each selection serves as a model of expression and provides a basis for writing assignments. In choosing literary selections, consideration is given to American Studies topics and texts that connect to current social issues. Class discussion is of utmost importance and participation is required. Literature selections for the eighth grade include The Day They Came to Arrest the Book (Nat Hentoff), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain), The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), Johnny Tremain (Esther Forbes), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), To Be a Slave (Julius Lester), April Morning (Howard Fast), The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail (Robert E. Lee and Jerome Lawrence), Hiroshima (John Hersey), and My Brother Sam is Dead (Collier). Students develop the habits of proofreading, peer editing, and keyboarding. Students write first and final drafts of all major writing assignments. Students complete David Popkin’s accelerated vocabulary program Energizers II.
In the eighth grade, students integrate geometry, probability, and statistics with traditional Algebra 1 content. Connections are made between algebra and arithmetic through working with expressions, equations and functions (graphically, symbolically, and in tables). Functions are introduced and students work to solve linear and simultaneous equations. The students, as mathematicians, are asked to participate actively through whole group discussion, sharing work at the board, small-group work, and projects. They are required to read math texts, take notes, and explain their mathematical thinking clearly in writing. They create a neat and organized math binder that contains all their notes, handouts and work. Students continue to develop their skill using a graphing calculator through applications for algebra and statistics. Texts used in this course include but are not limited to UCSMP Algebra and Harold Jacobs Elementary Algebra.
Students in the eighth grade meet two to three times a week to study topics related to chemistry, experimental design, and human biology. The goals of the year are to expand skills in research, refine the use of the scientific method, and identify the connection between behavior and health. Information is gathered through labs, small group activities, and research. Sources of information include selected readings from the Prentice Hall series of science texts, books from TGS’s extensive library, the Internet, and popular media.
The sequence of the science program is:
- Chemistry (matter, atomic structure, acids and bases, forensics)
- Science fair (experimental design, use of the scientific method, presentation)
- Biology (systems of the human body, reproduction, health impacts of behavior)
An overview of important events and people from the explorers to the 21st century will provide students with a chronological framework of American history. Students develop a timeline, learn American history facts, use primary sources to perceive different points of view, and understand periods, movements, and the role of the individual in shaping history. Each eighth grader completes a full research paper, of at least seven pages, on a topic of his or her choice. Field trips may include visits to Washington D.C., Salem, Boston, Lexington, Concord, Montpelier, Gettysburg, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard. American Studies undertakes an in-depth look at the First Amendment and how it influences censorship and issues surrounding banned books. Each student will write a paper on an assigned aspect of censorship and how it relates to the First Amendment. The texts for the course are chosen from The Story of America and We The People. Students also read The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and The Emancipation Proclamation. Students are required to read or listen to the news three times a week, in order to supplement reading assignments in the monthly The New York Times Upfront Magazine, which is used in class. Students gather information and record it in an orderly manner (lecture notes, reading notes, research cards) to strengthen their writing in essays and research papers. Students participate actively by questioning, providing information, forming opinions, and responding to others. Students gain confidence and pleasure in contributing their knowledge and understanding to discussions and enjoy the sense of narrative that lies behind history.
This year, the school-wide Global Educational Theme focuses on South Africa: Food, customs, climate, geography, and schooling are some of the areas that we will explore. We will study Nelson Mandela and the end of the Apartheid government. Examining similarities and differences between our cultures fosters greater understanding and appreciation of people from different areas of the world. This unit will create an opportunity for a community service project that will benefit a nonprofit in South Africa.
In the eighth grade, study skills are taught and reinforced in individual subject areas on a continuing basis. Note taking, planning ahead, active reading, and responsibility for work, are all emphasized, and students are expected to be prepared for class. A planning period every day helps students with organization and provides an opportunity to record and discuss nightly homework. Additionally, all students have access to Google Classroom, which allows them to keep track of assignments from home.
The social curriculum at TGS is designed to complement the academic curriculum and help maintain a healthy social and learning environment. To that end, the discussion themes for the eighth grade year are transitions and responsibility. Classes center on the multiple transitions everyone faces, both at home and at school. The responsibilities students must assume, for themselves, for their peers, and for their communities guide the curriculum.
The eighth grade art experience brings together all of the skills and knowledge gained in past grades, synthesizing into new combinations at a higher level of complexity. Students are expected to create sophisticated and thoughtful works of art. Our art history component focuses primarily on modern and contemporary art, highlighting material that deals with transition and compassion as key elements of the eighth grade experience. Students continue to use their own time to research and plan art pieces executed in class. We study conceptual artists from the 1970s to the present, and each student creates several conceptual works. Projects undertaken in past years include acrylic layer paintings in the 15th-century style, Dream Windows inspired by Andrew Wyeth and Salvador Dali, multi-media layerings in the style of Guillermo Kuitca’s Dairios, and oversized office supplies that reference Jim Dine’s sculptures, carefully rendered in charcoal.
Eighth graders must also be able to discuss artwork critically within a greater historical and social context. Winter art electives are part of the seventh and eighth grade program and students may choose to study a specific subject in-depth and work with a visiting artist. Past electives have included filmmaking, printmaking, ceramics, oil painting, and black-and-white photography.
Fall Chorus and Studio:
Seventh and eighth graders begin the year with one session of 7-8 Chorus and one session of Instrumental Studio, with instrumental offerings and ensemble groups designed according to the interests of the individual students. Offered this year are: Guitar, Ukulele, Electric Bass, Drums, Percussion and Keyboard. We begin with like instruments grouped together for rehearsals. Performance at the Studio Concert in December is expected.
Interested students may choose to participate on their own in the fall Opus 29 and spring Opus 30 competitions, with support from music faculty.
Auditions, casting and rehearsals for the musical take place when we return from December break. The rehearsal period includes six weeks of rehearsals, with two rehearsal blocks per week, two Intensive Weeks, where two thirds of each day is devoted to musical rehearsals, followed by one production week which includes daytime dress rehearsals on Monday and Tuesday and four nightly performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Spring Musical completes the seventh grade music program.
The eighth grade class chooses and prepares two songs for group performance at graduation. In addition, the music faculty supports individual students and small groups who may choose to work on a solo song for performance. Graduation completes the eighth grade music program.
In eighth grade, a variety of learning tools will be used. Some students will work with the Qtalk series, designed to promote conversation and memorization through the use of pictures. Storytelling will support and enhance vocabulary learned with this series. Other students will interact daily with the computer, using Rosetta Stone as a tool for learning. Teaching methods reflect the needs of the current students in French class. Both methods will involve working with the four skill sets of reading, writing, listening comprehension and speaking. There will be regular homework. Class meets three times a week in the French room.
Poetry, songs, plays, speaking and more complex grammar are continued in eighth grade. In addition, students begin to understand and speak in the past tense. In this last year of Spanish, more advanced conversation, grammar, reading, and writing instruction are given. Students begin reading and creating their own similar stories to “La Pequeña Bruja” and “Susana y Javier en Sudamerica.” Students also have the opportunity to Skype with students in Ecuador and Spain and use their Spanish with pen pals. Throughout the year, students are expected to complete a variety of creative projects that reflect their learning for each unit. This is an extraordinary time for students to study and explore old cultures of the American continent. Students study about the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Incas. There is also an optional service-learning trip to Ecuador. Students are able to use their Spanish and be proud of their abilities. We also have the opportunity to meet Spanish-speaking people in our classrooms. By graduation students are expected to have obtained the level of high novice in Spanish. The class meets three times a week.
Eighth graders use the upper-school and main libraries to support class work and reading for pleasure. Other planned activities include a banned books presentation and a demonstration on how to do a proper citation review.
Basic computer skills and an introduction to music technology are important components of the eighth grade program. Students work in groups, individually, and with several faculty members throughout the year in different learning situations.
Physical Skills Development (PSD)
The eighth grade program is designed to help students to develop physically through play, games, and tasks that target specific physical skills. Activities are planned to emphasize the underlying themes of the program: strength, endurance (both muscular and cardiovascular), coordination, game skills, sportsmanship, and establishing physical activity as a lifelong endeavor. Each student also uses the activities as a way to meet physical goals in other areas of her or his life. The fall curriculum includes one class each week focusing on the Presidential Fitness guidelines, one working on challenge-course activities, and one for general aerobic fitness. In the winter, the students cross-country ski on the TGS trails, ice skate at the Vermont Academy rink, and choose between cross-country skiing at Grafton Ponds or downhill skiing or snowboarding instruction at Okemo. Spring activities include team sports, cooperative games, and track and field.