Grade 8 Student Development
They are growing into a world of increased opportunities and heighted responsibilities
This age is a time marked by dramatic growth in many aspects of eighth graders' lives. Intellectually, they are ready to move to a higher degree of sophistication and abstraction in all areas of study. Similarly, they are growing physically and socially into a world of increased opportunities but equally heightened responsibilities.
Thirteen-year-olds are reaching out into the world. Many experiences are happening for the first time. Some of them are complex enough that it often takes some reflection to incorporate them into the eighth graders' understanding of themselves and the world.
This need for understanding requires time alone-to reflect, to ruminate. They may give the impression of withdrawing; however, this reflective behavior is actually a deeper investigation of reality and its complexities. It takes time and self-examination to clarify and organize their experiences.
Thirteen-year-olds display a heightened sensitivity to criticism. They need milder rebukes but firm, well-defined limits. Though many begin to withdraw from the company of their parents in public, they often need opportunities to calmly discuss issues important to them.
They are becoming more discriminating about their friends. However, they still feel a strong need to feel part of the group, and the group members are constantly searching through the media for models to which they can compare themselves and others.
Indisputably, they need good role models - at home, on the playground, in the classroom. They need to see adults who accept responsibility, work with diligence and purpose, behave with civility and dignity, and contribute to society.
They are developing a richer sense of humor. Some may delight in mimicry and impersonation. They are more acutely aware of personal appearance, constantly refining group standards. Mirror-time goes way up.
The need for healthy doses of clear direction, patience and encouragement rivals the need for large quantities of food. They also have a great hunger for knowledge.
The word that best characterizes the curriculum of grade eight is active. Thirteen-year olds are doers. While their coursework is founded on the basic skills, their capacity to learn and their level of interest soar when they are actively involved in their learning. For instance, typical instruction might include the use of videotaping and delivering a presentation on a unit in literature in addition to the writing and discussing traditionally encountered.
The English Language Arts curriculum focuses on knowledge and application of skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Students will read literature and informative works from American authors. Independent reading is expected of each student. Students develop vocabulary in cultural, historical, literary, and specialized (i.e. math, science) contexts. This fosters the understanding of ideas, arguments, and perspectives found in the text.
Students write structured essays (introduction, body, and conclusion) and develop skills in narrative, expository, persuasive, and descriptive writing. They write essays and deliver presentations that are clear, focused, and coherent and incorporate proper, grade-level written and oral conventions, such as sentence structure and variety of expression. Students will incorporate research techniques as they move into more sophisticated forms and styles of writing.
A greater level of abstraction and variety of representations greet the eighth grade student in mathematics. The student moves from number to variable, from specifics to generalization, and from description to informal proof, all in anticipation of the move to the broader mathematical sense beyond the realm of numbers. These concepts prepare them for the sophistication and complexity of the high school program.
The eighth grade mathematics curriculum also encompasses understanding concepts of variable, expression, equation, inequalities and nonlinear equations; constructing, reading, and interpreting tables, charts, and graphs; devising and conducting experiments to determine probability; applying geometric properties and relationships; and investigating perimeter, area, volume, angle, measure, capacity, weight and mass.
In social studies, eighth grade students study the ideas, issues, and events from the framing of the Constitution up to World War I with emphasis on the geographic and economic conditions which affect the course of history. After reviewing the development of America's democratic institutions, particularly the shaping of the Constitution, students trace the development of American politics, society, culture, and economy and relate them to the emergence of major regional differences. They learn about the challenges facing the new nation, with an emphasis on the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War. They view and make connections between the rise of industrialization and contemporary social and economic conditions. Students continue to develop skills in chronological and spatial thinking; research; evidence and point of view; and historical interpretation through a writing process that leads them to critically evaluate, speculate, analyze, and interpret the changing face of the nation.
Eighth graders are expected to write critical evaluations, speculative analyses, and reports of information as they study history. Writing will help them clarify their understanding and deepen their appreciation for the idea that history is a story well told.
Eighth grade science classes emphasize the connections between concepts and ideas in the traditional science subjects: earth science, physical science, and life science. As in other disciplines, students will tackle higher, more abstract thinking processes as they become well grounded in experiential, manipulative, lab-oriented problems.
Earth science studies include astronomy, geology and natural resources, oceanography, and meteorology. Ecosystems, cells, genetics, evolution, and the classification and relationships of living things constitute the body of knowledge covered in life science. Investigations in physical science includes matter, reactions and interactions, force and motion, and energy.
The eighth grade physical education class is considered a "catch all" year. By eighth grade, the students have been introduced to many sports, health concepts, cooperative activities and physical fitness. Students will utilize their prior knowledge when participating in team sports and set realistic goals for themselves in the fitness lab. They will complete eighth grade physical education with a positive attitude and increased confidence to make the decision to live a healthy, drug-free life!
From choices such as multimedia communications to journalism, eighth graders can select from a wide-ranging list of electives. Some electives will enrich their artistic abilities (band, drama, and chorus), others will lead to enhanced knowledge and skill and the world of technology (computer communications, robotics, video production), while some will strengthen their academic preparation (Spanish, public speaking, and journalism). Additionally, it is common for eighth grade history and English classes to use an interdisciplinary approach This approach typifies the school's efforts to create in eighth graders a sense of "connectedness" to the world around them. History Day projects are another example of how the figures and events from a textbook come alive and become part of the life of a student. In the realm of science, the school and county science fairs serve the same function, connecting the student's active learning to the real world.
It is important to mention two goals of the middle school. One is to continue the outstanding parent involvement so vital in our K-5 schools. To that effect, several "parent nights" mark the school calendar.
The second goal is the infusion of drug, alcohol, and tobacco education awareness throughout the curriculum, whether connected to obvious areas of study in the life sciences or to literature selections that show the harmful effects of bad decision-making regarding drugs and alcohol.
Students should leave middle school ready to enter high school with the tools necessary for success. Eighth graders should have learned and refined skills in reading and writing that help them tackle the more demanding ideas, concepts, and textbooks they will encounter in high school. They should know how to budget time to complete assignments or projects in multiple subjects. They should have developed a greater sense of responsibility for their own work and an ability to work independently. By now, they have had many experiences that tested and improved their interpersonal skills in small and large groups. They should not only have deepened their body of knowledge about the world, they should also have confidence in knowing the skills and habits of scholarship.
We want them to leave middle school with a sense of genuine accomplishment and an eagerness for even greater challenges ahead.