Grade 8 Course Overview

Language Arts:

The Grade 8 Language Arts course prepares students for the challenges of writing by teaching them how to create their own independent writing life. We focus on developing skills and strategies used by real writers to succeed in every step of the writing process.  In class, students are supported by a workshop model that provides them with structure and independence. The class also places an emphasis on developing a strong, independent reading life through mini-lessons, discussions and supported reading time.   Thus, the curriculum supports the value of reading as a lifelong skill and provides students with the tools to discuss works of literature studied together. 

Math – Introduction to Algebra or Algebra I:

Introduction to Algebra 

Students enroll in this course to build a strong foundation before entering Algebra 1, both by mastering skills and connecting their math concepts in meaningful ways. There is an emphasis on written explanations, and students begin to justify and explain their work more thoroughly. The concepts covered include geometric transformations, congruence and similarity, exponents and their applications, modeling linear functions, and solving systems of equations. This course prepares students to think abstractedly, problem solve, and make connections between mathematical concepts. 

Algebra 1

The Algebra I course begins with a brief review of what students should already know about linear equations, with a focus on analyzing and explaining the process of solving equations. Students develop a strong foundation in working with linear equations in all forms, extending solution techniques to simple equations with exponents. Students explore functions, including notation, domain and range, multiple representations, and modeling. Through the comparison of linear and exponential functions, students contrast the concepts of additive and multiplicative change. Students then apply what they have learned to linear models of data, analyzing scatter plots and using lines of best fit to apply regression techniques. The course closes with an exploration of rational exponents, quadratic and exponential expressions, and an introduction to non-linear functions, with a heavy emphasis on quadratics.

Social Studies:

The Social Studies program in Grade 8 is a thematic study of three topics: citizenship, economics, and global issues. Students are challenged to think critically about probing questions such as: What does it mean to be a global citizen? What basic human rights should be guaranteed for all? How is globalization impacting our planet? What is America’s role in the world economy? What are the biggest issues facing our planet today? What should be America’s role in facing the issues of the 21st century? Students can expect lively discussion, differing opinions, and a broader perspective on all issues. Students will also build and reinforce academic skills of critical reading, note taking, essay writing, and research.


The Grade 8 Science course is designed to continue enhancing student interest in science through examining relevant material and creating a safe environment for students to investigate science. Participation in the course will enhance the student’s scientific processing skills through a curriculum of Life Science, Physical Science and Earth/Space Science. Laboratory, projects, investigations, inquiry-based activities, group work, class discussions, and simulations will be the main methods used.

Throughout the year, there will be further opportunities to promote student creativity and problem-solving skills.

Major Concepts Studied:

  • Scientific Inquiry/Scientific Method
  • Astronomy
  • The Nature of Matter
  • Forces and Motion
  • Heredity
  • Natural Selection

Performing Arts:

Students select two courses from Band, Choir, and Drama.


Students in 7th and 8th grade form two Middle School Bands based on years of experience and ability levels. The instrumental music course teaches musical concepts on woodwind, brass, percussion or string instruments and performs band music. Musical concepts include posture, tone, note reading, rhythm reading, technical precision, solo and ensemble performance practice, balance, blend, articulation, tuning, dynamics and phrasing.  Most students have at least one year of experience on their instrument. Students new to an instrument will be in a separate section until they have caught up with one of the advanced bands. All instruction is done in a class setting with mixed instruments.


Choir provides students with the opportunity to appreciate the work and dedication necessary for singing in a chorus. The joy that results from connecting with a piece of music, bringing both the notes and text to life, is a feeling unique to the choral classroom. During their time in choir, students will sing in unison, two-part and three-part harmony, and will be exposed to varying musical genres, dance and movement, and a range of languages.

Students begin to develop a deeper understanding of vocal technique and are exposed to more complicated two and three-part vocal harmony. In addition to the formal concerts, students take part in Random Acts of Singing, during which time they are given the opportunity to share their talents and individual work with the larger community.


Eighth grade drama will focus not only on performance skills, but will also give students the chance to learn about all areas involved in play production, theater history, and technical theater. This yearlong course will give students the chance to develop creative expression, confidence in public speaking and performance, and skills in team building and collaboration.  The overall goal of the drama program is to foster a positive self image in students and to help them use their body, voice and mind as a tool to creatively communicate ideas.

Physical Education

The Physical Education program develops students’ knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary to engage in a physically active lifestyle.  As a result, students learn to be engaged, confident and competent movers who are intrinsically motivated to be healthy and active.  Our learning progression is designed around the five standards determined by the National Association for  Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).  These standards are intended to provide students with the necessary knowledge, processes, and skills to become physically educated, physically fit, and responsible in their physical activity choices and behaviors for a lifetime.

The program emphasizes broad exposure to various physical pursuits so that students will have a wide range of transferable skills.  This allows them the maximum amount of choices of healthy activities when they are making lifestyle decisions on their own.  The MS program strives to offer age and ability appropriate challenges which provide a physically and emotionally rewarding experience.

World Languages

TAISM’s World Languages curriculum is based on the standards and benchmarks developed in the National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project.  Spanish, French, Arabic Heritage Language, and Arabic as a Foreign Language are offered to sixth through eighth-graders. 

World Language courses are characterized by a high degree of participation in student-centered learning activities. Students spend most of their class time interacting with the teacher and with other students in order to develop communicative competence in the language. 

Courses in the middle school offer a balanced approach to language learning, placing equal emphasis on the three modes of communication: Interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational, in accordance with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). 

Focusing on the cultures of Arabic, Spanish and French-speaking countries, a major goal of the program is to foster an understanding of and an appreciation for other cultures, in general, and to cultivate within each student lifelong habits of curiosity, empathy, and intercultural awareness. The study of World Languages also aims to reinforce and endorse students’ knowledge of their native language and of other disciplines.

A special note regarding Arabic Heritage Language in Middle School:

TAISM offers an opportunity for heritage speakers of Arabic to study in their native language within the regular school day. A heritage speaker is an individual who has a personal interest or involvement in an ancestral language. An Arabic heritage student is a student raised in a home where Arabic is spoken, who speaks or merely understands the heritage language, and who is to some degree bilingual, but not necessarily fluent in Arabic.  The results of this intensive study of the Arabic language will be improvement in students’ command of written and oral expression, which will support them in using Arabic in a practical fashion in their day-to-day lives going forward.

English Language Learners (ELL):

The English Language Learner (ELL) program at TAISM is designed to enable students to be academically successful in their regular content area classes. The course builds proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in English in an academic setting.

Course Content:

  • Phonics and spelling skills: Students will explore how words work and the relationship between spelling and meaning.

  • Academic vocabulary: Students will study the most common academic words used across the content areas in middle and high school. They will acquire a working knowledge of word families that allows them to understand and use new vocabulary in the content areas.

  • Grammar: Our focus is on understanding correct grammar and using it to communicate effectively in speaking and writing. This includes studying parts of speech, verb tenses, and using a variety of sentence structures.

  • Comprehension: Students will learn a variety of listening and reading comprehension strategies for various texts. They will be expected to practice these strategies regularly through reading assignments at home.

  • Clear communication in speaking: Our goal is to build proficiency in academic speech. In class, students will participate in a wide variety of activities such as partner and small-group work, reading aloud, giving short presentations, and class discussions.

  • Academic writing: Students will learn about organization for different types of writing, including writing paragraphs and essays. A major emphasis will be for students to edit their own work for mistakes. Again, students will be expected to practice these skills regularly through both in-class and at-home assignments.

Trimester Offering

The following three courses are one trimester (12 weeks) in length. Students rotate through the three offerings in the course of the school year.


Middle School Art is an extension of Elementary Art, in that students are continuing to expand their conceptual understanding of art and its impact on society and culture. Through the process of making art, students will continue to strengthen their ability to manipulate the Elements of Art and Principles of Design.

Grade Eight Focus (Space, Form, Balance, Movement, Perspective, and Composition)

• Continual reinforcement of all Elements of Art and Principles of Design.

• Continual reinforcement of color theory.

• Learning to bypass visual preconceptions and to draw with the eye.

• Identify the use of movement, balance and unity in artworks and the environment around them.

• Manipulating movement, balance and unity to create effective compositions.

• Manipulating color theory to create effective compositions.

• Defining and manipulating form.

• Exploration of the historical/cultural/industrial significance of the development of linear perspective.

Grade Eight Artists (may include, but not limited to): Ellsworth Kelly, Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Claude Monet, George Segal, Alberto Giacometti, Wayne Thiebaud, Vincent Van Gogh, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Please visit our Middle School Art Gallery

Media Literacy

Grade 8 Media Literacy includes five core concepts:

1. All media messages are ‘constructed.’ 
2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules. 
3. Different people experience the same media message differently. 
4. Media have embedded values and points of view. 
5. Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

The goal of this course is to help students become responsible, informed, critical media consumers as they learn about embedded bias, gender roles, and social responsibility. The students deconstruct media messages as they look for biases, analyze media giants and corporate ownership of media, evaluate media construction, and are challenged to construct their own media messages while keeping the core concepts in mind.


The Grade 8 Health program is designed to help students make informed and healthy choices as they transition from Middle School to High School. Students will gain a deeper understanding of their personal health and wellness, and they will have more opportunities to practice and refine health-enhancing skills. Eighth grade health students will also design an advocacy project to promote health and wellness in our community. This course prepares students to make decisions based on their personal values, and to skillfully handle health-related situations in eighth grade and beyond.

Areas of study include:  drug awareness (alcohol focus); current issues in nutrition; body image; recognizing and seeking help for common emotional disorders (depression, anxiety, eating disorders); communication skills (how to have difficult conversations); handling peer pressure; growth and development (focus on pregnancy and birth).

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