Discovering personal greatness in pre-school through grade 8 students - Burlington, Vermont

8th Grade

Math

“The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.” -Euclid

Our goal in the middle grades is to foster an appreciation of mathematics and to build a foundation of understanding and fluency. For students to gain the most from this experience they need to bring no more than eagerness and grit.

The middle school mathematics curriculum is a comprehensive program, which spirals from the 6th through the 8th grades. It has a particular focus on the notion of proportionality and maintains an algebra strand throughout its progression. In Grade 6 the curriculum moves specifically through the topics of ratios and unit rates, fractions, decimals and arithmetic operations, expressions and equations, geometry, and statistics and probability. In Grade 7 it progresses through the topics of ratios and proportional relationships, exponents, signed numbers, algebraic expressions and equations, percents, geometry, and statistics and probability. The Grade 8 curriculum exposes each student to the major topics of Algebra I. Therefore, students work at developing fluency in proportional reasoning, percents, algebraic expressions and equations, linear, exponential and quadratic functions, radical expressions, factoring, and geometry.

Science

The curriculum for Science at the Mater Christi School is often described as “spiraling” because students investigate 3 areas of Science each year (Physical, Earth/Space, and Life).  Students build their knowledge and skill base each year after a brief review from content presented the previous year. This allows students to receive more consistent exposure to the material than in a more traditional “single content area per year” model.

8th Graders at MCS investigate some chemical properties of matter, the Periodic Table of the Elements, atomic structure, and chemical equations to begin their physical science for the year. Further work in the physical sciences allows students to study some basic kinematics and physics (for Example- using the falling body formula to investigate acceleration due to gravity). Students study systems with balances and unbalanced forces, and investigate the nature of several different forces. In Space Sciences, students study the Universe and Astronomy. The structure of the Universe and Galaxies, as well as the methods used to measure things like the large distances between stars. Students learn how scientists use the Electromagnetic spectrum to learn about the content of stars and their properties. In the Life Sciences, students learn about Photosynthesis, Cellular Respiration and Human body homeostasis and disease.  Cellular processes and human health are the final topics of the 8th grade year.

Literature

Literature for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students is humanities based and is focused on the oral and written analysis of all genres of literature. This includes fiction, short fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, art, film and music. The course also covers the historical and social issues surrounding the works being studied.

Works spanning the 6th to 8th grade curriculum in general include:

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  • Witness by Karen Hess
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Students will study various other works including music, film, short stories and poems. The course meets and exceeds the Core State Standards for Literature and Writing and includes oral, written, active and creative projects. 8th grade students finish their year by completing a high school research paper.

A sample of an 8th grade Literature unit includes the students studying the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Students will read the novel while focusing on the many literary qualities of this work. They will explore the novel not only through the thematic focus of adventure and survival but also as a symbolic and cautionary tale of human behavior and civilization. Further lessons will focus on the psychological and religious aspects of the work. Writing will include analysis of literature through essay.

English

Mater Christi’s English Curriculum is based on three core components: grammar, vocabulary, and writing. We address each area independently and then apply them to the writing process as a whole. Our 8th grade grammar work includes a review and practice of previously learned sentence structures as well as a focus on voice, mood and verb tense. The class uses Sadlier-Oxford’s Vocabulary Workshop Level D. In addition, students build their vocabulary in class with vocab stories, skits, imagery, and interactive games.

Writing instruction is based on the 4 major rhetorical modes: narrative, descriptive, persuasive and expository. Emphasis is placed on the daily habit of writing by having our classes journal on various prompts at the start of every class. 8th grade writing projects include classmate biographies, developing complex fictional characters, a holiday argumentative essay, and a research paper that applies one of the seven Catholic social justice teachings to an issue in a developing nation.

Social Studies

8th Grade focuses on United States History.  Students will focus on current conditions that exist in the United States and make attempts to try to develop an understanding of them through studying the past.  The more we all know about the history of the world around us, the more we can make sense of the world today.

Throughout the United States History course, students will be using the text Holt Social Studies: United States History. This textbook provides a complete history of the United States, from the first Americans through to the present day. This important story of our nation is told through an informative and richly illustrated narrative, supported by reading questions that check students’ comprehension and special features that enliven the study of history.  The textbook has been made available to them electronically as well.

The goals for the course are for students to:

  • Develop a strong understanding and appreciation of United States history
  • See how United States history fits into the larger scope of world history
  • Understand how United States history influences life today
  • Recognize connections between United States history and other disciplines
  • Build a solid Social Studies and academic vocabulary
  • Develop thinking skills that support the ability to challenge assumptions, think creatively, and solve real-life problems
  • Have fun

French

The third year of Middle School French solidifies the content of the first two years and provides the additional knowledge necessary to enter into French II as a freshman in high school. Emphasis is on listening and speaking, while grammar study reinforces intermediate writing skills. Units will include food, the city, travel, and the contemporary Francophone World. Students will learn how to get around in a French speaking city and have a greater understanding of the diversity of the French speaking world.

By the end of the year, students will be able to give detailed summaries of their daily activities, outings, etc. in both the present and past tenses, while also being able to express what they want and are able to do. In terms of listening, they will be capable of understanding more abstract conversations and descriptions of events in the past given by the teacher. In their writing they will have the skills to employ three different verb tenses in paragraph form and correctly use prepositions unique to the French language. For each level of French, the emphasis is on participation, i.e., speaking French every day in class.

Religion

Students study World Religion and social justice. They employ reading comprehension strategies in understanding scripture readings, and research materials. Technology is used for students to demonstrate their understanding of Catholicism and world religions. Journal writing, biweekly reading and writing assignments in current events, as well as research enrich student centered religious studies. Prayer and devotional activities are individualized and inclusive of all spiritual traditions.