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The Woods Academy

Where curiosity and confidence thrive.

Grade 8 Curriculum

Discover Grade 8

From the Gettysburg overnight trip to To Kill a Mockingbird, algebra, Confirmation, and physical science labs, discover what is uniquely Grade 8 at The Woods Academy.

English Language Arts

The Grade 8 English Course uses Holt Language Arts (Third Course) and Holt Literature (Second Course) Resources for Teaching Advanced Students as core materials. Additional readings are taken from a variety of anthologies, novels, and nonfiction sources.

Literary selections are taught by both genre and theme. Frequent use of newspaper and magazine articles is included to build background knowledge and vocabulary. Students participate in whole class, small group, and individual literature study. Grade 8 selections may include, but are not limited to: To Kill a Mockingbird and A Christmas Carol, poetry, short story collections, and essays.

Increasingly difficult oral and written literary analysis examining the elements of plot, character, setting, theme, and point of view through close readings is expected, with a focus on the examination of style and theme. The study of literature is frequently integrated with the students’ study of religion. Outside recreational reading is required of all students. An in-depth analysis of the hero and archetypes in literature includes the examination and analysis of selected motion pictures and contemporary and classical literature. A poetic version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and an introduction to Shakespeare are part of this unit, as are the movies, Star Wars and The Natural. To develop the students’ comfort level with analyzing literature, they read How to Read Literature Like a Professor for Kids.

Through writing, students polish their style, as well as their mechanics, grammar, and spelling. While the emphasis in Grade 8 is on expository writing, creative writing is part of Reader/Writer Workshops. The 6 + 1 Traits of Writing are taught, providing students with an organized system to self-check written work before submitting. A multi-sensory approach to vocabulary development includes an online program which provides differentiated instruction based on the skill level of each child, study of SAT words in preparation for the SSAT, and words taken from readings. Word structure and etymology is taught as an aid to vocabulary and spelling through Words Their Way, a developmental spelling program that encourages word study beyond memorization - using word structure to develop accurate spelling, pronunciation, and meaning. To encourage independent learning, study skills and metacognitive strategies including organization, note taking, time management, and graphic organizer use, are taught and practiced.


Algebra A

Grade 8 students investigate all the topics included in a first year algebra course: solving and graphing linear, exponential and quadratic equations; solving and graphing linear inequalities and systems of equations; evaluating integer powers of real numbers; writing and computing with polynomials; and analyzing, and classifying and evaluating functions. Students learn to describe the world around them using algebraic expressions, equations, graphs and statistics. Graphics calculator use is required. Spreadsheets and computer algebra systems are used to develop patterns and develop and practice skills. Geometry, probability and statistics are integrated to motivate, justify, extend, and enhance the important algebraic concepts.

Algebra B

Grade 8 students investigate some of the topics included in a first year algebra course: solving and graphing linear and exponential equations; solving and graphing linear inequalities; evaluating integer powers of real numbers. Students learn to describe the world around them using algebraic expressions, equations, graphs and statistics. Basic skills with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and integers are reinforced. Graphics calculator use is required. Spreadsheets and computer algebra systems are used to develop patterns and develop and practice skills. Geometry, probability and statistics are integrated to motivate, justify, extend, and enhance the important algebraic concepts.


The Upper School religion curriculum prepares our students to lead lives of “significance.” We encourage our students to draw closer to God through the study of the faith as proclaimed by Jesus Christ in the Gospels and by the Roman Catholic Church. We welcome students from all faith traditions and honor and respect those traditions as we study the Catholic faith. We encourage and expect our students to leap into the mystery of their faith. We hope our examination of faith compels us to positive action in our world.

In Grade 8, students focus on a number of content areas. These areas include:

  1. The life of the Church after the death of Jesus of Nazareth,
  2. Students prepare to make their Catholic confirmation, using the same text most area parishes use -- Confirmed in the Spirit from Loyola Press,
  3. The Church’s teachings on social justice which focuses on our obligation as Catholic Christians “to love the least of our people.” (based on reading The Street Lawyer by John Grisham),
  4. read books geared toward broadening student interest in the world and the role God calls them to play – Lives of the Saints by Father James Martin, S.J., Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle, The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore, and Simple Faith by Margaret Silf,
  5. critically view films with spiritual content (Finding God in the Dark), and
  6. prepare students for their “Capstone” project in which they will focus on how they plan on leading lives of significance after leaving The Woods

In their four years in the Upper School, students:

1) Students will be asked to do a 3 – 4 hour project of their own choosing outside of school. Called “A Smorgasbord of Significance and Spirituality,” students have several options: Watching a film or reading a book with spiritual content; doing service work; visit to a religious site; dedicating time to individual prayer; attending a lecture on character, virtue, or spirituality; interviewing a person of “significance” in the student’s life.

2) Critically view excerpts of films with spiritual content including Race, Mother Teresa, Amazing Grace, Evan Almighty, Les Miserables, The Ten Commandments, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, Seabiscuit, Groundhog Day, Pleasantville, Son of God, Pope John Paul II, The Blind Side, Miracle, Noah, Heaven Is For Real, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Invictus.

3) Memorize prayers of major figures in Church history including Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

4) Attend Monday morning chapels where the Upper Schoolers reflect on issues of faith, morals, and virtue.

5) Participate in service opportunities. Each Upper School grade has a charity partner and supports this partner through work, financial support, and/or drives for goods or clothes.

6) Offer petitions during the first few minutes of each religion class and participate in the examen prayer promulgated by Saint Ignatius of Loyola. In this structured form of meditation created by the founder of the Jesuit order of priests, students sit quietly and allow God into their lives to affirm the students’ deep goodness and allow students to give thanks for God’s gift of their lives and talents.


The Grade 8 curriculum is focused mainly on the physical sciences. Students will recognize the important organization of elements and the discovery of many other elements. Grade 8 students will investigate physical and chemical reactions.

Students will be able to:

  1. Describe the importance of the study of chemistry,
  2. Classify substances as matter or not matter,
  3. Understand that matter exists in several different phases,
  4. Identify physical and chemical properties of matter,
  5. Determine whether a physical or chemical change has occurred,
  6. Understand that matter is made of smaller particles called atoms,
  7. Understand that atoms are made of smaller particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons,
  8. Understand how to read the periodic table of elements,
  9. Classify elements as metals, nonmetals or metalloids using a periodic table and understand their similarities and differences,
  10. Understand the differences between compounds and mixtures,
  11. Determine the type of chemical reaction, and
  12. Understand that everything in the environment is made of chemicals.

Students progress by refining their understanding of mixtures, compounds, elements, and subatomic particles. Throughout the year, Grade 8 students improve their ability to analyze data, draw conclusions, and expand inferences to real world phenomena.

Social Studies

In Grade 8 social studies, students complete their study of United States history. Continuing from the Age of Andrew Jackson, students study the expansion of the United States in the 19th century, the antebellum years, the Civil War, Reconstruction, immigration and the conflicts that shaped America in the 20th century at home and abroad. To enhance their study of the Civil War, students take a four day trip to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, National Civil War Medicine Museum (Frederick, MD), Antietam National Battlefield Park, and Gettysburg National Battlefield Park. While gaining an understanding of the people, places and events during this extensive time in American history, students continue to build an appreciation for and background knowledge of multiple cultures and geography; in analyzing these facets, students continue to build their expertise as historians, archaeologists, economists, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists. Utilizing Discovery Education's Techbook, students continue to learn, develop, and practice essential study, test taking, and note taking skills; critical thinking skills; and, more importantly, how to analyze the impact of conflict in history and relate it to their own lives.


Grade 7 and 8 students explore the food science lab. Students learn about different growing techniques such as hydroponics. They build and program electronic sensors to take readings about the growing environment. Students also learn how to design objects for the 3D printer. They combine these designs with their electronics.

Scenes from Upper School