Three students discuss a project together

Grade 8 Curriculum

Eighth grade is the culminating year at Belmont Day when students take pride in being the leaders of our school and consolidating all they have learned. The curriculum focuses on critical thinking, abstract reasoning, creativity, and core foundational skills. All eighth graders complete a Capstone project—a year-long investigation of a unique topic that interests them. Through this project, students write a substantive research paper, create hands-on work, and present their work to an audience of peers, parents, and faculty. Outside of class, eighth graders are mentors (and rock stars!) to their pre-kindergarten buddies. They captain our teams, take leads in the seventh and eighth grade play, and, in the spring, travel together to a destination related to a curricular area. They come to know themselves as learners and manage their own academics by effectively using resource periods when all teachers are free for support, questions, corrections, and enrichment. They write graduation speeches reflecting on their journey at Belmont Day and they head off to high school poised to make the most of their secondary education.

Program Highlights

  • Capstone
  • Arts electives
  • Seventh and eighth grade play
  • Interscholastic athletics program
  • Advisor program
  • Pre-kindergarten buddies
  • Class trip

Specialist Time

  • World language four times a week for 50 minutes
  • Arts electives four times a week for 60 minutes (music, visual art, theater arts, woodworking, and technology)
  • Athletics four times a week for 60 minutes
  • Clubs, advisory, and resource time

Grade 8 Subjects

Eighth graders are ready to tackle complex material. The language arts curriculum focuses on active and critical reading, reflective and creative writing, and thoughtful and substantive discussion. Skill development is considered equally as important as effective and respectful classroom participation. Reading books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The 57 Bus, House on Mango Street, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, poems, short stories and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we challenge our students to answer the following essential questions:

  • Where does prejudice come from?
  • How do gender and culture impact other’s impressions of us?
  • How do race and class impact responsibility, identity, and privilege?
  • how does an author clearly show character growth?
  • How is a short story or novel most effectively structured?
  • What are the best practices of successful writers?

In writing, students experiment with a variety of genres: creative (poetry, vignette), essays and responses, journal, research paper, short fiction, and speech, and learn how to revise work after receiving feedback.

Eighth grade students will:

  • read actively, closely, and critically
  • be introduced to a variety of literary genres and structures (historical and realistic fiction, vignette, poetry, speech, essay, short story, non-fiction, and drama)
  • learn and correctly use increasingly complex and precise vocabulary
  • compose meaningful discussion questions related to reading
  • engage confidently and sensitively in a variety of discussion formats
  • write reflectively, analytically, and creatively
  • use direct evidence from texts to support ideas
  • learn, practice, and employ effective essay structure
  • develop ability to smoothly integrate quotes into writing
  • fully understand literary terms: tone, symbol, characterization, theme, author intent, and plot structure

Eighth graders engage in a rigorous Algebra I curriculum. This is accomplished by ensuring facility with graphing, graph interpretation, algebraic expressions, functions, and other representations leading to an increase in flexibility and the development of multiple forms of reasoning. A variety of techniques such as direct instruction, collaborative learning, and project work are used, placing the focus on both the process and the product. Students are generally prepared for Geometry or Algebra II in ninth grade.

Topics of study include:

  • Relationships
  • Functions
  • Linear equations
  • Linear systems
  • Linear inequalities
  • Polynomials
  • Quadratic functions
  • Radical functions
  • Data analysis

Eighth grade students will:

  • think clearly, use logical reasoning, and communicate effectively about their understandings and solutions
  • identify relationships, sketch, and interpret graphs
  • write, evaluate, and solve equations
  • graph linear equations and understand slope as a rate of change
  • solve systems of equations
  • compute and reason with real numbers
  • solve and graph inequalities
  • explore exponential functions
  • write and solve polynomial equations
  • solve and graph quadratic equations
  • simplify, solve, and graph radical equations
  • Analyze sets of data and create and interpret data displays
  • work neatly, check work, attend to precision, select efficient approaches, and have a repertoire of strategies
  • use data as a context for algebraic thinking
  • develop facility with proportional reasoning and other real world applications of algebraic concepts

A girl at her desk

The eighth grade social studies curriculum supports the research related to the Capstone project and teaches students to make an effective outline, take useful notes, make use of critical feedback, generate a thesis, use evidence to support assertions, and write a formal research paper. The curriculum is informed heavily by Facing History and Ourselves, The Choices Program, and the Zinn Education Project. The first unit is the individual in society asking “Who am I?” and “How do others see me?” followed by units that address the question of “Who are we?” Students study the origins of American Democracy and the American Revolution. They become very familiar with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and see how these documents impacted the subsequent Civil War and Reconstruction. Students use the history of the United States to understand World War I and II, and the Holocaust. The program includes regular reading assignments, non-fiction writing projects, debate, and classroom presentations.

Eighth grade students will:

  • develop effective note-taking skills
  • learn to summarize important information from primary sources, nonfiction, and the web
  • effectively curate and use evidence and rhetoric in debate
  • learn to connect information from multiple sources
  • identify and understand multiple perspectives and points of view
  • vigorously participate in class discussions
  • provide evidence to support opinions
  • plan, organize, and deliver effective class presentations
  • respond thoughtfully to questions through active participation

The eighth grade science program is a course in introductory physical science that includes a focus on basic chemistry. In addition, students complete the topics of meiosis and genetics. They use the scientific method as a valuable tool for posing important questions, creating hypotheses, and improving observation skills. They hone their abilities to collect, organize, and analyze both qualitative and quantitative data as well as determine appropriate conclusions by conducting more complex laboratory experiments. Students develop their ability to communicate scientific ideas both orally and in written form using appropriate terminology.

Topics of study:

  • Cell division: meiosis
  • Genetics and DNA
  • Lab safety and equipment
  • Properties of matter
  • The periodic table
  • Properties of elements
  • Atomic structure and bonding
  • Chemical reactions

Eighth grade students will:

  • understand the concepts of basic genetics and heredity
  • appreciate the intersection with mathematics through using scientific notation, metric measurement, significant digits, and solving equations
  • be introduced to the particle theory of matter
  • observe changes in the states of matter and analyze changes in temperature, mass, and weight
  • appreciate the genesis, organization, and utility of the periodic table
  • construct formal lab reports
  • understand the combination of elements to make compounds through ionic and covalent bonding
  • balance equations
  • work safely and effectively in a laboratory setting

The middle school world language program develops general language skills, intellectual discipline, and the vocabulary, grammar, and basics that allow students to continue language studies at an advanced level in high school. We support the development of our students as citizens in the diverse community of Belmont Day and in the world. Exposure to broad cultural experiences nurtures curiosity and joy.

Students use textbooks and also learn through varied experiences including projects, interviews, videotaping, using auxiliary technology, presentations, research, pen pals, partner and small group work, and games. For French and Spanish, classes are taught almost exclusively in the target language. The curriculum generally prepares students to take French II, Spanish I, or Latin II in high school.

Eighth grade students will:

  • learn to understand, speak, read, and write in French or Spanish on an expanding number of topics
  • continue to expand grammar concepts
  • become more independent in their language learning through the use of class notes, the text, and resources outside the classroom (dictionaries, online resources, internet research, etc.)
  • develop good study habits, including effective vocabulary acquisition, note-taking, and using a language textbook
  • increase awareness and appreciation of cultural practices in French or Spanish-speaking countries
  • become aware of cultural bias when reviewing materials and information

During the sixth through eighth grade program, topics of study may include:

  • family
  • food
  • weather
  • likes/dislikes
  • geography
  • descriptions
  • hobbies and sports
  • clothing
  • travel
  • cars
  • poetry
  • house
  • towns
  • weekend and vacation activities

During the sixth through eighth grade program, the development of grammar includes:​

  • sentence structure
  • verb conjugation
  • adverbs and adjectives
  • pronouns (subject, object, reflexive)
  • prepositions
  • questions
  • negation
  • present, past, and future tense

Seventh and eighth grade students are invited to make choices about what artistic areas they would like to explore and will experience opportunities to experiment across the domains. They choose from among nearly 30 elective arts courses in music, theater arts, technology, visual art, and woodworking, offered during four eight-week sessions throughout the year. At the end of each session students gather to share their completed pieces and reflect on the artistic process. Seventh and eighth grade students who are passionate about theater arts present a play each spring.

Arts electives vary from year to year. A sampling of recent options includes: Acapella, Drawing Explorations, Painting Explorations, Books as Art, Architecture in Clay, Kinetic Sculpture, Sewing and Fashion Design, Film, Game Programming, Mobiles, Pottery Wheel, Digital Photography, Digital Soundscapes, Comedy Through the Ages, Fiber Explosion, Global Goals Intensive, Latinos Making Music in the U.S., Improv, A Half-Cubic Foot of Wood, Print Shop Processes, Costume Design, Collage, Composer’s Forum, Hip-Hop Artists and Their Legacy, Public Speaking, Ukelele 101, Wooden Mechanical Mechanisms, Build a Table, Carving, Clock-making, Telling Our Stories, Shakespeare, Advanced Acting, Makeup Design, Prop Creation, Musical Intensive.

Eighth grade students will:

  • Design and create projects and activities determined by the particular course
  • Use various references for project and performance ideas
  • Incorporate planning for ideas and designs for projects and modify as needed
  • Recognize and use various materials, tools, and musical instruments appropriately
  • Explore and refine advanced techniques according to the individual’s abilities
  • Recognize, develop, and use an appropriate art and music vocabulary
  • Develop an understanding of the work of various artists, musicians, composers, and cultures
  • Perform and compose based on their understanding of musical concept, instrumental technique, and genre
  • Collaborate with others to create a collectively satisfying studio and performance experience

Eighth grade students participate in the interscholastic athletics program, which allows athletes to focus on their passions while encouraging a committed approach and strong leadership. Following the middle school model of independence, choice, and responsibility, students are given the opportunity to select which three sports they would like to participate in over the course of the school year. During each season, students further their sport-specific skills, learn in-depth game strategies, and compete against other schools. To round out their athletic experience, students also participate in cooperative games, team-building activities, and fitness challenges in between interscholastic seasons.

Sports offered:

  • Fall: soccer, field hockey, flag football, cross country
  • Winter: basketball, volleyball, fencing, wrestling, P.E.A.K.: physical exercise, adventures, knowledge
  • Spring: lacrosse, tennis, track and field, ultimate frisbee, mountain biking

Eighth grade athletes will:

  • compete actively and extend their personal limits
  • increase their strength, stamina, and agility
  • acquire sport-specific skills and knowledge
  • learn how to work within a team setting
  • appreciate the school’s six core values

Two students present at sharing assembly

The comprehensive social competency and health and wellness curriculum provides an opportunity for students to learn about structures and importance of community, personal relationships, and healthy individual choices. In the middle school, the curriculum aims to help students confront and understand many complex issues. The Choices curriculum for seventh and eighth graders centers on making good choices in life and putting your best self forward. Students work with a team of four faculty members to explore such issues as: friendship, inclusiveness, LGBTQ topics, drugs, and adolescence. Interviewing and preparing for high school and on-demand writing are also covered.

Eighth grade students will learn:

  • the elements of positive social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, self-control, and empathy
  • that there are similarities and differences in people in terms of needs, emotions, and cultures
  • to respect and care for your body
  • to respect all community members through the use of respectful language, actions, and attitudes

Topics of study:

  • Personal and digital identity
  • ​Family life
  • Emotional health
  • Physical health
  • Self-care, including healthy choices
  • Sexual health, including identity
  • Navigating interpersonal relationships

Two students work with a teacher

Advisory Program, Resource Time, and Learning Support

Of utmost importance are the relationships that students develop with their teachers and each other. The advisory program is designed to develop a strong group dynamic, extend the student adult relationship beyond the academic classroom, identify a trusted adult who knows and can advocate for all facets of a student, and to teach the social skills necessary for students to build positive relationships with peers and adults

Resource time is a time when all faculty and students are free. Students have the time seek help from peers or adults, meet with teachers, and correct, extend, and complete work. This time teaches students to advocate for themselves, identify their strengths and challenges, and manage their academic work load.

In addition, the learning specialist works with students as a whole group, in small groups, and individually. In conjunction with the learning specialist, teachers strive to help students with explicit strategies for writing, for studying, and for tackling assessments.

The Capstone Project is a culminating work of independent study, completed by each eighth grade student under the guidance of a dedicated faculty mentor. It demonstrates each student’s unique interests and his or her written oral, organizational, and production skills.

Eighth grade students will:

  • identify a major interest or area of new discovery
  • do preliminary research and take notes using technology
  • create a cohesive outline that addresses the question they seek to answer and that relates directly to the thesis statement
  • write and edit a formal eight to ten page paper complete with standard citations and bibliography
  • create a project that complements the study
  • meet weekly with a faculty or staff mentor and lead the meeting to ensure that work is timely, complete, and excellent
  • arrange for components of the project: interviews, videos, construction, etc.
  • prepare a twenty-minute presentation that will be given to peers, parents, faculty, and guests
  • be ready to field questions from their audience
  • reflect on the experience in order to build on it in high school

Students work with innovation teacher Kurt Robinson in the IMPACT Lab

At Belmont Day, technology learning tools are available in each classroom. Students have access to Apple laptops, iPads, and Chromebooks, exposing them to different platforms and applications. In seventh and eighth grades, students are provided with 1:1 Chromebooks, allowing for seamless integration of technology across all subject areas. Google Apps for Education provides valuable, interactive tools for faculty and allow students to access their work anytime, anywhere.

Belmont Day’s middle school technology curriculum is centered in the IMPACT Lab, a collaborative workspace tailored to serve students as they embark on a wide range of learning experiences, including designing and printing 3D objects; programming with Scratch or JavaScript; developing game apps; linking computers to objects in the physical world using Makey Makeys; building and programming Lego robots; and individual and collaborative problem solving and brainstorming.

Our Teachers

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