Like all Middle School students, eighth graders are issued an iPad to use throughout the school day. Students change classrooms at each period for study with teachers who lend focus to a single area of study. Reading, language arts and social studies combine in the Middle School to form an integrated Humanities block. This allows teachers to explore subjects in more depth through a cross-curricular platform, expanding concept understanding and mastery. Latin instruction is offered four times per week.
Eighth graders participate in the eighth grade play each spring, prepare to receive the sacrament of Confirmation, and benefit from coaching and additional classroom practice to ensure they are well equipped for high school entrance exams and the increasingly rigorous curriculum of the coming years.
Eighth Grade Curriculum
All eighth graders take a full year of Algebra 1, using the McDougal Littell Algebra 1 textbook. Fundamentals continue to be enforced while students learn to solve and graph linear equations and inequalities; to solve absolute value equations and inequalities; polynomials and factoring; exponents and exponential functions; and rational equations and functions. Students are taught how to study for the math placement exams for various high schools. A field trip to the Board of Trade and the Federal Reserve Bank is used in discussing careers involving mathematics. Seventh and eighth grade students gifted in the area of mathematics may apply for the Loyola Academy math program, or may engage in honors math tracking on the SFX Campus. Students enrolled in the Loyola Math program begin each day with math instruction on Loyola’s campus, returning to SFX for the remainder of the school day.
We believe that the key to academic success is found in the development of strong reading and comprehension skills. With this in mind, eighth grade students are challenged to read 50 independent reading books during the school year, in addition to our in-class study of literature and academic texts. The core of our literature study is our daily study of poetry, supplemented by critical analysis of short stories and contemporary novels. Students also participate in performance-based units of a Shakespeare comedy and participate in an annual field trip to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Weekly non-fiction reading during social studies includes articles on a variety of topics from The New York Times Upfront and online resources.
Writing curriculum is also performance-based, using the workshop approach of Nancie Atwell and the National Writing Project. Eighth grade students study and produce poetry (tritinas, sestinas, pantoums, villanelles, sonnets, and odes), essays, fiction (both short and long form), and literary criticism. Students also practice timed writing in anticipation of high school entrance and placement exams. Both grammar and conventions are taught via the writing workshop; in addition, students complete daily editing exercises and practice new sentence forms by imitating the more complex grammar used in published literature.
The historical focus of the eighth grade Social Studies curriculum is on the United States from the Civil War to the present, including the Civil War and Reconstruction, World War I and the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War, and the Modern Era. The final quarter culminates in a multimedia presentation about the forces that shape America today, and their historical roots. Regular class time is devoted to current events and a discussion of world issues. Students also complete their study of the Illinois Constitution.
Every Middle School homeroom meets twice per week with a dedicated specialist as part of our English review program. Grammar, usage, and conventions are reinforced, noting that a review of these elements is essential to high school language success. Test taking and organizational strategies are also incorporated, teaching important skills that benefit students across all subject areas.
All Middle School students receive science instruction in the school’s dedicated science lab, which was refurbished in 2010. As part of our science curriculum, sixth through eighth grade students are required to participate in our annual science fair. Students research, design an experiment, and write a report in one of several scientific disciplines, which is judged by a panel of community members, teachers, and school parents. Students learn to hypothesize, manipulate variables, interpret data, and identify findings with the use of iWork’s Keynote and Numbers, both on their iPads and using the lab’s SMART Board. “Winning” presentations are eligible for participation on the Regional and State level in March and early May. Specific areas of study through Middle School include the foundations of science and experimentation, a full year of Earth Science and Biology, and a full semester of physics and chemistry, respectively. Students are introduced to each discipline with support from the Glencoe 2011 online text.
Latin curriculum continues to build a strong linguistic and analytical foundation for eighth grade students as they prepare for high school foreign language study. The primary goal of eighth grade Latin is reading the language. To accomplish the goal of fluent Latin readership, students will read selected passages from classical authors along with textbook readings. In addition to acquiring another corpus of vocabulary, students also learn the perfect tense system, principal parts of verbs, and all six verb tenses of indicative mood. Noun topics include the dative case, the fourth and fifth declensions. Students undertake individual studies of Roman historical or literary figures, culminating in a newsletter project and artistic presentation. Other cultural topics include the Roman Republic, legendary heroes of the Republic, Roman roads and travel, the citizen army, Rome and Northern Europe, Rome and North Africa (Punic Wars), aqueducts, and the Circus Maximus. The textbook and workbook used are Lawall, Gilbert. Ecce Romani IB (Pearson), 4th ed., 2009.
The school libraries provide a dynamic learning environment with a collection of over 5,000 titles, integrated technology, and a fully automated catalog. The library provides access and resources that enhance our curriculum, and support the research and reading needs of our students and staff. Our Destiny online system allows patrons access to the Saint Francis library catalog from any internet source at school or from home. It also provides access to our growing e-book collection and the ability for patrons to manage and personalize their individual user accounts.
The library curriculum includes a regular library period for preschool through eighth grade students. For younger students, the curriculum builds skills and proficiency to access library resources and services. The focus is on instilling a love of books and learning. Older students work to become independent users of the library resources, with an emphasis on developing informational literacy skills. For middle grade students, the curriculum emphasizes information literacy, integrated technology and the expansion of access to information in a responsible manner. The library circulates over 800 titles per month and is staffed by a full time librarian. Nationally celebrated author visits, campaigns including Respect Each Difference and One Author, One Community, Battle of the Books programming, and Blue Stem and Caudill reading challenges are just a few of the rich offerings supported by the school library.
All Middle School students are issued an iPad for their personal use throughout the school day, and for homework tasks at home. As in all K-8 grades, Middle School students also benefit from a SMART/Interactive White Board in every classroom, and check out other tools for targeted academic applications. Online resources are incorporated into all areas of curriculum.