It is a pleasure to share a brief overview of all areas of the Grade 8 West Hartford Curriculum, including descriptions of our Unified Arts program, School Counseling, Library Media Services, and Gifted Programs. Our curriculum is based on the Connecticut Core Standards and provides instruction on the essential skills and understandings necessary for success on both district and state assessments.
Inherent in our curriculum is the belief that every student can and should learn. Instructional strategies that your child will experience include but are not limited to: collaboration, active and direct learning, problem solving, guided discovery, independent activities, and differentiation.
This curriculum comes alive in the hands of our talented teachers who are committed to ensuring that our students reach their highest potential. We are dedicated to accommodating children’s diverse needs, the way they learn, their experiences and interests, and to facilitating continuous educational growth. If you should have any questions about your child’s curriculum, your classroom teacher is the best source of information.
No single document can fully explain the rich and complex nature of the school curriculum and instructional goals. We know that learning is optimized in a partnership with families, teachers, and schools. Working together, we can use your experiences as a family and our work in the classroom to create a respectful climate of academic success, healthy personal and social development, and joy for lifelong learning.
Paul W. Vicinus, Jr.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
Students entering eighth grade will have read literature through many different lenses. They will have explored literature from different time periods, authors’ perspectives and writing styles, and evaluated different themes and literary elements. Students will have experience writing narratives, expository essays, as well as argument essays over varying time frames for different tasks, purposes, and audiences. Students will apply this prior knowledge as they explore the year’s overarching theme of the individual and society.
Eighth grade students will study complex psychological, philosophical, and moral themes in literature and informational texts. While examining different genres, students will analyze passages, dialogue, scenes, or words that are critical to the development of a story, theme, or central idea. Through the critical evaluation of classical and contemporary literature, students will focus their writing and class discussions on how literature helps us define the tension between the needs of the individual and the greater good of society. Students will begin to understand that family, community, and society influence one’s decisions and that judging morality is a complex, nuanced undertaking. Students will be encouraged to develop empathy/ compassion for the varied forces that shape one’s actions. Students will read historical fiction as they explore this theme. They will discuss how authors’ perspectives might produce accounts of historical events that differ from what we know happened. In class discussions and literary responses, students will identify figurative language, word choice, voice, and tone. Students will come to class prepared to discuss assigned texts, respond to diverse peer perspectives, ask questions of others, and work collaboratively towards deeper understandings of learned material. Speaking, listening, and language enrichment will remain focal points in the eighth grade language arts curriculum.
In addition, the year will center on three types of writing: narrative, expository, and argument. Students will engage in the writing process including the use of graphic organizers, drafting, and peer/self-revision to publish their work. In their literary analysis, research essays, narratives, and oral presentations, students will draw on multiple sources, including literary, informational, and multimedia texts. Furthermore, students will demonstrate the command of formal English appropriate to audience and task. Through all units, students will develop vocabulary strategies, as well as grade appropriate grammar skills, with a focus on understanding new words based on prior knowledge of prefixes, roots, and suffixes. As the year progresses, students will be expected to demonstrate increasing command of English language conventions, including grammar and vocabulary.
By the end of eighth grade, students will have a rich background in literature and literary non-fiction, with a grasp of historical context and many nuances of the works they have read. With this knowledge of the individual’s role in the greater society, they will be ready for the rigors of high school.
Writing in English Language Arts Grades 6-8
As outlined in the West Hartford District Curriculum Overview documents, writing is one of the basic skills developed over all three grade levels of middle school. Students learn the basics of grammar, usage, and mechanics through regular practice in a variety of writing genres, but their development as writers does not stop there. Students apply the skills they learn in English during other classes such as social studies and science. By the time students arrive at Conard and Hall, they have experienced instruction and assessment that calls for higher-order thinking, creativity, and reflection. Though the samples offered in this brief description indicate the thoughtfulness and care West Hartford Middle School teachers put into their instruction of writing, it is by no means a comprehensive list of student writing tasks and experiences in West Hartford middle schools.
Students practice writing in genres, understanding the characteristics familiar to readers and the organizational structures authors use. Comparison and contrast essays, narrative fiction in creative writing tasks, and reflective journaling in response to literature require students across the grade levels to see how organization and development shape the author’s message and create the means of understanding for the audience. In works collected throughout the year in student writing portfolios, students practice the skills of word choice and sentence fluency displaying voice in their personal narratives and reflective essays. As writers across the disciplines, students practice expository writing skills of descriptive language and supporting points with details from non-fiction texts. This is especially true in social studies where students practice open responses citing the text, respond critically to primary source documents, and employ steps in the writing process as they complete a research experience. As they progress, middle school students at the honors level will interweave supporting examples with commentary required in advanced courses at Conard and Hall.
Students at the middle school level begin regular practice with sentence fluency, developing the skills of writers who vary sentence length and type to communicate both with an audience and for a purpose. Students at the middle school level are encouraged by all teachers to practice the skills of topic development and elaboration, as these skills are put into practice in both everyday writing tasks such as open-ended questions and complex writing tasks such as formal thesis papers and research papers requiring multiple drafts. Teachers differentiate instruction in writing by addressing specific student needs and providing focused correction for classes, small groups, and individuals. Students then use the feedback in teacher comments to practice the skills of revision and editing in their own written work. These skills are shared across the curriculum, so that what is practiced in English language arts class is applied in other subjects requiring a variety of writing tasks.
Parents are welcome to ask questions and discuss the focus of writing instruction in the classroom. English teachers across the district are willing to share their students’ writing development and discuss how parents can help with writing outside of the classroom. Here are a few good questions to ask your son or daughter about their writing:
- What is this assignment asking you to include in your writing?
- Have you included supporting evidence for your written answers?
- Have you made your points to the reader in clear and concise language?
A good way to start the conversation about his or her writing is to act as the reader in a writing conference where you provide a real audience for their writing.
The Middle School Mathematics Grade 8 Curriculum incorporates the Connecticut Core Standards for Mathematics (CCS-M). The program goals focus on the following content domains:
- The number system
- Expressions and equations
- Statistics and probability
In all grades, the following mathematical practices are integrated throughout the program:
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
- Model with mathematics
- Use appropriate tools strategically
- Attend to precision
- Look for and make use of structure
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
In grade 8, the major themes include extension of understanding and application of irrational numbers, radicals, integer exponents, and congruence, similarity, Pythagorean Theorem, volume and bivariate data. In addition, the understanding of proportional relationships as they relate to linear equations and the concept of a functional relationship are developed.
The World Language Curriculum incorporates the National Standards and the State of Connecticut Frameworks for World Languages. Students may study Chinese, French, or Spanish. Our program goals focus on:
- Communication: to use language in three modes: interpersonal, interpretive and presentational
- Cultures: to understand cultures through products, practices and perspectives of speakers of that language
- Connections: to understand relationships of language to other disciplines and new frontiers
- Comparisons: to develop insight into one’s own language and culture as well as those of the new language
- Community: to apply language beyond the classroom in a global setting
In all grades, emphasis is placed on development of oral and written communication skills; links to other disciplines are encouraged.
Grade 8 students look beyond their immediate environment to their own community and the larger world. Attention is paid to the development of reading in a cultural context and to writing comprehensible text. Oral communication skills that reflect age-appropriate relevance remain the primary objective.
Upon successful completion of the middle school World Language sequence, students earn one high school credit and either one or two years advancement in French, Spanish, or Chinese at the high school level.
The eighth grade science program focuses on the development of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas focused on forces and motion, energy, chemistry, waves, and space (universe, stars, solar system).
Students will engage in engineering tasks that involve designing, testing, and modifying solutions to solve real world problems.
Our curriculum is developed from the Next Generation Science Standards and seeks to present science learning in a three-dimensional method that integrates Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts.
During the 8th grade, students will explore the following concepts and skills:
Scientific Investigations: Students will engage in engineering and scientific processes that allow them to ask questions and define problems, construct and interpret models, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data and effectively communicate.
- Forces and Motion: Designing investigations related to force and motion, Newton’s Laws, gravitational forces, electronic and magnetic forces, forces and everyday life.
- Energy: Constructing and interpreting graphs comparing types of energy (i.e. kinetic vs. potential), temperature and particle motion, states of matter, energy transfer, heat vs. temperature, investigating thermal energy transfer, practical applications of energy transfer.
- Chemistry: Developing models to describe the structure of matter, properties of matter and analysis of different substances, chemical reactions, conservation of matter, chemical vs. physical properties and reactions, chemistry in our world.
- Waves: Wave properties, types of waves (sound, light, etc.), using descriptive and mathematical representations of waves, waves in every-day life.
- Space: The universe and stars, the solar system, using models to represent the earth/moon system and scale properties of objects in the solar system, space exploration.
The purpose of history and social studies is to prepare students to ask and seek answers to meaningful questions and prepare them with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to become informed participants in an ever-changing global community and to act responsibly to improve its condition. The social studies curriculum is aligned with the national College, Career, and Citizenship (C3) frameworks as well as the Connecticut state social studies curriculum frameworks. Key disciplinary content and skills, as well as core literacy standards for reading, writing, speaking and listening are embedded within our curricula. Our curriculum is driven by student inquiry and requires students to engage with compelling questions in order to understand the world around us and take informed action based on their learning.
In addition to disciplinary content, students are equipped with the tools necessary to engage in inquiry. In particular, students will learn to:
- Recognize, develop, and articulate compelling questions.
- Gather and evaluate sources and then use evidence to understand the complexity of multiple social studies topics.
- Explore multiple perspectives to develop their own understanding of history and social studies topics.
- Engage in conversations and share their understandings of the world around them.
The eighth grade social studies program introduces students to the study of American history from the era of the Revolutionary War through the settlement of the American west. Students will also study topics in state and local history from the same time period. Students develop and apply the essential social studies skills of chronological thinking, historical analysis and interpretation, historical decision making and historical research to better understand themes and events in American history. Reading of primary sources and supplementary historical fiction is an integral part of this course. All students participate in a guaranteed research experience during the eighth grade year through their social studies class.
The library media program in the middle school continues to build on the foundation skills taught in grades K-5 for students to become critical users of information and readers for lifelong learning. Standards for the 21st-Century Learner published by the American Association of School Librarians provides the framework for instruction. By the end of grade 8 students will:
- Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.
- Demonstrate adaptability by changing the inquiry focus, questions, resources, or strategies when necessary to achieve success.
- Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers.
- Continue an inquiry-based research process by applying critical thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation, organization) to information and knowledge in order to construct new understandings, draw conclusions and create new knowledge.
- Use the writing process, media and visual literacy and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.
- Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess.
- Show an appreciation for literature by choosing to read for pleasure and expressing an interest in various literary genres.
Our middle school students participate in 36-day unified arts rotations in the areas of physical education, music, art, health, and technology education in grades 6 through 8. The following pages include descriptions of the curriculum. Below please find a sample student schedule of Unified Arts courses throughout the grade 7 year.
Rotation 1: PE morning, Art afternoon
Rotation 2: Health morning, Music afternoon
Rotation 3: Technology & Engineering morning, PE afternoon
Rotation 4: Art morning, PE afternoon
Rotation 5: Music morning, Technology & Engineering afternoon
Note: The Unified Arts Program is delivered slightly differently at Bristow Middle School where there are 6 rotations, each lasting for 30 days. The UA curriculum and the courses are identical to the other two middle schools with the only difference being that at Bristow, physical education and health are combined into one course of study called “Wellness.” Every student will be in a wellness rotation at any given time throughout the year.
The middle school curriculum emphasizes understanding the creative process through the Visual Arts. To align with state and National Standards (NCAS) students focus on: Connecting/Exploring Culture through learning about concept and skill, Creating and developing skills through exploring art materials and techniques, Responding applying appropriate terms in critique and reflection and having Aesthetic Discourse while supporting one’s own judgement.
The curriculum, which is currently being revised to align with NCAS, is grounded in inquiry, Assured Learning Experiences and specific vocabulary.
Middle School students have the opportunity to experience such art processes as printmaking, drawing, painting, and using technology applications to make art, and creating three dimensional art.
The middle school music curriculum includes classroom instruction for all students in grade 8 and is aligned with State and National Standards to ensure a comprehensive and sequentially appropriate experience. The elective program includes band, orchestra, and choral ensembles. Further extension and enrichment of the curriculum is offered through co-curricular ensembles: jazz band, select string, and vocal ensembles.
Performance Ensembles Performance ensembles focus on building individual and ensemble skills through a broad selection of music literature. Components include:
- Ear Training
- Bow Control
- Sight Reading
- Tone Quality
Instrumental students also receive small group instruction focusing on individual technique within a specific instrument grouping.
Students, through the use of Music Technology, develop their performance skills on the keyboard, explore compositional styles, apply music theory and notation concepts, and continue their study of composers and their music.
STEM: Science → Technology → Engineering → Math
Helping student’s gain the skills required to succeed in today’s challenging world including critical thinking, problem solving and the ability to drive advancements in STEM. The Technology & Engineering Department puts the “T&E” in STEM.
Our program goals seek to enable students to:
- Advance technological and information literacy
- Apply creative problem solving and critical thinking skills within the design process
- Understand the impacts of technology on society
- Collaborate to enhance experiential learning and communication in a diverse environment
- Develop STEM career awareness and exploration
Focus: Communication, Graphic Design and Computer Science
In the 8th grade students use the principles of design and the engineering process to solve various challenges. Units of study introduce students to the graphic design process, the creation of messages through visual communication and engineering principles with an emphasis on CAD software, 3D printing, engineering, digital photography, coding and game design. With a strong vertical articulation within the middle school Technology & Engineering program, students prepare for advanced approaches to STEM careers at the high schools.
Health education emphasizes students developing healthy lifestyles.
Fundamental to developing healthy lifestyles are opportunities to learn to apply health literacy skills. These skills include decision making, goal setting, effectively communicating, accessing information and resources, analyzing what influences our actions, and advocating a healthy position. These align with National and State Standards.
Students practice these skills using different health contents. The major topics are listed below.
- Wellness, physical fitness
- Steroids, ecstasy/club drugs
- Stress, stress management, suicide prevention
- Healthy relationships, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, contraception
The goals of physical education are for students to develop fitness and skills in the movement areas of dance, adventure education, and sports. An integral part of physical education is the development of the responsible and respectful behaviors in both cooperative and competitive activities. The sequential and varied experiences contribute to the total well-being of each student. Concepts, strategies, rules, sportsmanship, teamwork, and basic movement skills are all woven into the offerings. After-school intramurals provide additional times for students to participate in fitness activities according to their interests.
Eighth grade students will participate in a number of activities that may include the following:
- Adventure Education
- Invasion sports (basketball, lacrosse, soccer, team handball, Ultimate Frisbee)
- Net sports (badminton, pickleball, speedminton, tennis, volleyball)
- Track and Field
Changing for Physical Education is optional; it is not a requirement. Students should be dressed in clothing that allows for maximum participation. Sneakers are a requirement. Appropriate attire for colder, outdoor classes is recommended.
Special Education, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), remedial reading services, and math support are available for students who may need them.
A comprehensive school counseling program model is planned, preventative and measurable. It is based on developmental theory and designed to meet the needs of all students as they progress from grades K-12. Content standards define what students should know and/or do at each grade level and provide a scope and sequence for program implementation.
School counselors provide skills and experiences that promote student academic, social-emotional and career development. These skills and experiences are provided through both Direct and Indirect services and define the nature and role of today’s school counselor.
Direct Services are face-to-face interactions between the counselor and students. Examples include:
- Delivery of the school counseling curriculum
- College and Career Readiness Activities
- Individual/Group Counseling
- Crisis Intervention and Responsive Services
Indirect Services are interactions the counselor has with others on behalf of students. Examples include:
- Advocacy to ensure equitable access and opportunities for all students
- Consultation with parents, school-based personnel and community agencies
- Collaboration within and outside the school community
- Program coordination and management
- Leadership initiatives to enhance student learning and promote healthy development
- A Guide to Comprehensive School Counseling Program Development : State of Connecticut: State Board of Education 2008
- American School Counselor Association (2012). The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, Third Edition. Alexandria, VA: Author
QUEST, WHPS Gifted and Talented Program, has been serving the needs of high-ability, creative, and motivated students since 1994. The program provides services to support an individual student's social, emotional, and unusually advanced academic development by offering experiences for the integration of their ingenuity, consistency of encouragement, and the fostering of goals. Students gain a greater understanding of their creative minds and talents. Through the use of 21st-century skills, the curricula provide the opportunities for inquiry-based learning with a focus on personalized projects guided by the QUEST teacher. The individualized studies garner student’s access to experts and like-minded peers. QUEST teachers encourage students to demonstrate high-level practical skills and a capacity for creative thinking, which are tools that are instrumental in students realizing their innovative potential to: Question the world around them, Understand the need to learn and grow, Explore the past, present, and future, Search for solutions and meanings and Think creatively and critically.
A student who is identified has unique individual educational and social and emotional characteristics. These students require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school to fully develop their capabilities as mandated by state statute. The responsibility of the school committee is to identify specific academic student needs that require appropriate supplementary services. Once identified at the elementary level students continue participation in middle school QUEST. Students may also be evaluated in grades 6-8.
“Gifted and Talented” means a child identified (1) possessing demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of very superior intellectual, creative or specific academic capability and (2) needing differentiated instruction or services beyond those being provided in the regular school program in order to realize their intellectual, creative or specific academic potential.
QUEST at the middle school level is designed to meet the unique academic, social and emotional services of identified students in a supportive educational environment. The curriculum integrates best practices for gifted learners, creative and divergent thinking, talent and interest development, real-world problem solving, critical and evaluative thinking, and independent learning that requires task commitment. Interaction and engagement promote the social, emotional, and developmental modifications of program structures to assist students in reaching their cognitive and creative potential. The QUEST teacher at each middle school facilitates programmatic and personalized approach to student learning.