Grade 8

Grade 8 Curriculum


Eighth grade is a critical and pivotal year in a student’s social, emotional and cognitive growth. At Cambridge Friends School, we provide strong support for students as they prepare to transition toward greater independence. We seek to create a safe community that allows students a chance to explore their own identities and take academic risks.


Our goals are to:


  • Affirm students’ identities, diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and racial identities
  • Affirm students’ self-awareness
  • Build effective communication skills with teachers through presentations, conferencing and student-led conferences
  • Continue to foster a love and joy of learning
  • Refine students’ critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Refine students’ ability to look at things from multiple perspectives & make more nuanced decisions
  • Build empathy and community
  • Build a sense of civic responsibility and inspire change-makers
  • Ground students in an understanding of the larger social, economic and political landscape of the United States, currently and historically


Eighth-graders at Cambridge Friends School are essential members and leaders within our community. As student leaders, they help set the tone for our Middle School culture and act as role models for their Pre-K-K buddies, as well as for the rest of the School. In addition, the social emotional curriculum is designed to support students as they transition from Middle School to their chosen Secondary School. 


As a Middle School, we begin the year with the creation of our Guiding Principles, and students engage this work alongside teachers and their peers. The Guiding Principles are an integral part of our Middle School culture and students work to envision what it means to be good stewards in the classroom, and provide input into how we as a community should model positive class behavior and interactions. As issues arise, Advisors will have class meetings to address conflict and to celebrate our successes.


During the secondary school placement process, the class focuses on how to effectively manage stress. The Director of Secondary School Placement and the Eight-Grade Advisor provides concrete tips and strategies, including mindfulness, ethics, and Quaker Principles as a way to stay centered throughout the secondary school process.


Eighth grade at Cambridge Friends School:


  • Prepares our students for the required organizational and study skills they will need for a variety of secondary learning institutions
  •  Prepares our students for the academic, social, and emotional challenges of high school
  • Prepares students to make decisions in the manner of Friends; to think ethically and equitably about their social and moral contributions to the greater world in which we live
  • Prepares students to believe that the best solutions to problems are solved with a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and racial identities
  • Develops students’ use of empathy and their abilities to promote peaceful communication and conflict resolution
  • Teaches students to problem-solve using a deep sense of self-awareness
  • Cultivates a growth mindset and seeing various perspectives so that students are open to growth and improvement


Over the course of the year, our eighth-grade social-emotional curriculum will focus on:


  • Exploring our identities (chatroom)
  • Responsible social/online sharing
  • Media literacy
  • Responsible decision-making around peer pressure, healthy decision making and friend choices, gossiping, exclusion, drugs and building healthy relationships
  • Building healthy and supportive friendships
  • Learning when to self-advocate
  • Managing stress and anxiety


Key Components of the eighth-grade social-emotional curriculum:


  • Advisory and Morning Meeting
  • Guiding principles creation
  • Team building activities
  • S.P.A.R.K
  • Community lunches
  • Conflict resolution
  • Mindfulness
  • Meeting for Worship and visits to the Cambridge Meeting


  • A spring class trip to Puerto Rico to provide a capstone experience in students’ study of Spanish, study the El Yunque National Forest, explore the cultural history of the island, and do community service 
  • Choice-based Mini-mester Program
  • Interest-based cross grade level and interdisciplinary Co-Labs
  • Intense investigation of a social justice themed District Court case and trip to the MA District Court House



Through the Columbia University-style reading and writing workshop model, Cambridge Friends School students examine the following concepts: the role of audience, purpose and voice of underrepresented groups, how specific elements control genres; the intentional use of language, and how authors convey specific ideas and messages. Using the reading workshop model, students study various forms of literary and informational texts to accurately comprehend and interpret texts, effectively use new vocabulary, analyze and evaluate texts to form conclusions, and use texts to support assertions. In writing, students continue to expand the quality and depth of their written expression in order to organize, develop and support ideas with clarity. This is achieved through effective voice and word choice, write sophisticated paragraphs and sentences that flow effectively.     


Using a Reading Workshop format, CFS students learn to pay attention to small moments in a piece of writing – it might be something a character says, the way a place is described, the appearance of an object, or a shift in tone, rhythm, or voice – and to connect them to larger features like theme, plot structure, or character development. Students are challenged to classify and compare their readings and begin to view their reading experiences as they build upon a literary archive. They are also challenged to determine connect thematic comparisons to various texts. 


Using a Writing Workshop format, students learn to support their evidence with reasoning and to confidently make claims about literature and important topics related to our history and social studies work. They learn the parts of an argument and the purpose of persuasive writing. Students write for various audiences, and with specific intent. With teacher guidance, learners examine mentor texts for style, perspective, and then try their hands at the author’s craft. Teachers model and then ask students to practice a variety of revision techniques. Students revise their own work and that of their peers by sharing work aloud and in print.


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


  • Use metacognitive strategies and track their reading, pausing appropriately to digest and then question what lies ahead. They can discern how effectively writing speaks to them. They have sophisticated personalized note-taking methods and reading habits
  • Write with accuracy and precision, demonstrating a complex vocabulary fluency, and meticulous grammar. Their thorough research and analysis skills allow the essence of their analytical and creative thoughts to form clear ideas on the page
  • Be attentive to small details in a piece of writing and connect them to larger features like theme, plot structure, or character development
  • Classify and compare their readings as they build their own literary archive. They understand that literature and non-literary writing can be written for a particular purpose or inspired by a specific object or event and know that authors write in different contexts—political, social, historical, and aesthetic 
  • Read enthusiastically and engage with their texts in meaningful ways


Cambridge Friends School’s eighth-grade math follows a standard Algebra 1 curriculum with appropriate differentiation to meet the needs of individual learners. The year begins with studying real numbers, and a review of integer operations. Considerable time is devoted to studying linear equations, including solving algebraically and graphically. We then move on to solving inequalities and absolute value equations. All of this is combined when we study systems of equations and inequalities. Second semester work includes exponential equations, quadratic functions, polynomials and factoring, and rational expressions and equations. In this course, students will have the opportunity to uncover key mathematical ideas and skills, while applying them to real-world situations. CFS graduates are thoroughly prepared for high school Geometry or Algebra II in 9th grade.


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


  • Know properties of real numbers and how to calculate absolute value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of real numbers
  • Able to solve and graph linear equations, including finding ratios, rates, and percentages
  • Write linear equations in slope-intercept form, point-slope form, and standard form
  • Solve and graph linear inequalities and compound linear inequalities as well as to solve and graph systems of linear equations and systems of linear inequalities
  • Know properties of exponents and are able to set up, solve, and graph exponential functions, including scientific notation and exponential growth and decay
  • Solve quadratic equations through factoring, by finding square roots, and by using the quadratic formula. They can graph quadratic functions and quadratic inequalities
  • Add and subtract polynomials, set up proportions, and set up and solve direct and inverse variation equations
  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, to reason abstractly and quantitatively, to model with mathematics, to use appropriate tools strategically, to attend to precision, and to look for and express patterns


In eighth-grade science, Cambridge Friends School students will explore real world phenomena and discover the most effective ways to make a scientific claim, present evidence and form logical explanations or compelling arguments based on the results of an investigation. Students will also make connections from their explorations in the classroom to current events taking place both locally and globally.


We spend the year expanding upon basic chemistry, physical science, life science concepts, scientific inquiry, and problem-solving skills that the students have learned over the last two years. We start with fluid dynamics and boat physics as a means to investigate the physical properties of various types of matter. An introduction to the elements, periodic table, and atomic physics is followed by laboratory exploration of chemical reactions and chemical changes in matter. The year ends with an exploration into Forces and Interactions; Energy; and, Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation. A CFS Graduate is methodically prepared to be successful in grades 9-12 sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth sciences).


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


    • Able to build on previous knowledge and skills when engaging in scientific work
    • Learn to make scientific claims that are supported with evidence and logical reasoning.
    • Define problems more precisely and conduct a more thorough process of choosing the best solution and to optimize the final design.
    • Able to connect their lived experiences to science, are  knowledgeable of current events, and have the skills and tools to take action
    • Have a balance of wonder, curiosity, reverence, and deep understanding of natural processes
    • Lifelong science learners with a deep connection to the natural world, are educated consumers and citizens with a profound understanding of sustainability. They connect scientific learning to social justice through political action regarding climate change, environmental racism, and pollution
    • Utilize critical thinking (observations and inferences) to determine if evidence supports a theory or hypothesis and can design, carry out, and report on a related scientific experiment
    • Able to work to make change or apply their learning in a problem-solving capacity in environments outside their classroom, understanding how to work collaboratively and cooperatively to improve the depth and breadth of scientific work


The structure of the studio program for eighth grade students is built around the in-depth study of materials and personal choice. During in-depth studies, students explore a material, practice and refine skills, and use the material to create a major project. Each in-depth project is a multi-step design problem. An important goal of in-depth projects is for students to practice working both independently and collaboratively. Often, major projects are collaborations between visual art and another discipline.


Personal choice occurs between major projects and gives students the opportunity to learn from the art studio. Personal choice is not an unstructured time. During personal choice, each student chooses to work on a number of design challenges, or experiment with a material, or propose an independent project.


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


  • Communicate knowledge, emotion, and understanding using a range of visual art mediums and materials
  • Experience with experimenting and exploring a broad variety of art studio materials and tools
  • Able to work cooperatively and collaboratively on visual arts projects and displays
  • Able to work independently as well as seek and offer help when needed – they are persistent artists
  • Secure with the studio process on major projects: brainstorming, rough drafts, editing, and final drafts
  • Able to reflect on personal history and completed work in developing an understanding of their personal artistic process and growth
  • Comfortable giving and receiving critiques

Physical Education

Middle School Physical Education aims to develop basic skills, concepts, and dispositions needed to lead a physically active lifestyle. Students transition through a variety of movements, and skill-based units including individual, partner, small-sided, and large group activities; all of which aim to promote activity, movement, and increase a student’s sense of self-confidence. Units and activities are tiered from grade to grade increasing challenges throughout the middle school Physical Education experience. 


Major units that are taught include team building activities and problem solving, fitness, soccer, and team handball in the fall. The winter classes provide opportunities for group games, basketball, floor hockey, volleyball, yoga, badminton, and student choice. Spring units include post fitness activities, soccer, lacrosse, flag rugby, kickball, and ultimate frisbee. Popular group games of ultimate capture the flag, medic-medic, frisbee golf, and kickball are included intermittently throughout the school year.


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


  • Make independent choices to create personalized exercises during warm-ups
  • Further refine skill development and increase confidence during large group games
  • Engage in competitive and non-competitive team games including soccer, floor hockey, basketball, volleyball, team handball, badminton, and ultimate frisbee
  • Play a large variety of multicultural games, further developing decision-making, calculated risk-taking, self-confidence, trust, and leadership skills


Cambridge Friends School eighth-graders participate in a unique program entitled “Page to Stage,” which focuses on exploring and understanding classic texts, including pieces from Arthur Miller and William Shakespeare. Utilizing class discussion and seminar, potential guest artists, and new media, students develop a broader understanding of language and the way in which plays are constructed. 


The first step in our eighth-grade drama curriculum is oral presentation and interviewing skills, done in conjunction with Jack Hill, Head of Middle School and Assistant Head for External Affairs, and designed to increase the confidence of our students as they embark on interviewing for next schools, whether public or private. Mock interviews are conducted in order for students to fully engage in this process, from understanding how to emphasize themselves in dress, to showcase themselves in a memorable way. Students then move into the reading, reflection, and discussion of several plays. We take a deep look at text analysis using worksheets that outline this process, movie clips, and various other media. 


The final step in this year-long curriculum is the preparation and performance of a major theatrical production in April. Students incorporate what they have learned through “Page to Stage” into their work in this production. 


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


  • Deeper understanding of how a play is constructed 

  • Conduct in-depth discussions on plotline and text analysis 

  • Continue to learn how to accurately develop a historical context for characters 

  • Delve deeper into the development of a production from start to finish 

Spanish Language and Latinx Studies

Spanish in eighth grade is a total immersion course in which all communication takes place in Spanish. Students and teachers use Spanish as the primary language in the classroom. The class is designed to augment the students’ oral/listening proficiency, reading comprehension, and written expression. The students explore themes related to the environment, human rights and Hispanic history. Students are tasked to utilize authentic resources, applying project based learning. The students conduct their research and present in Spanish. In eighth-grade Spanish, which is collaborative and highly communicative, students are expected to work both individually and in small groups. In this course, the following grammar points are covered: commands, telling time, simple present, preterit, simple future, introduction to imperfect and conditional tenses, adjectives, differences between “ser” and “estar,” reviewing, and building upon what was taught in the previous three years. Students also make comparisons and connections, communicating only in Spanish regarding cultures and communities of the Hispanic speaking countries and the rest of the world as the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework requires. CFS graduates are prepared to enter Honors Spanish II in independent and public high schools.


The Latinx Studies middle-school program is an interdisciplinary course of studies in humanities, art, culture, social justice, and society. Each grade-level focuses on an integrated unit ranging from early Latin American civilizations, ancient civilizations, Spanish colonization, immigration, US colonization, imperialism and social/solidarity movements in the United States. In eighth grade, students focus on resistance and solidarity movements.


By the end of the school year, these are some of the skills that we expect CFS eighth-grade students will have developed:


Spanish Language

  • Read, speak, write, and understand Spanish using the simple present tense, as well as simple past (preterit) and future tenses
  • Identify the imperfect and the conditional tenses of the indicative
  • Use the present progressive and are able to communicate in Spanish facts about different cultures around the world by making connections and comparisons among Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities
  • Respond to and formulate questions in Spanish using more complex interrogatives such as “who?” “when?” “where?” and “why?”
  • Have an introductory understanding of the imperfect and conditional tenses in the indicative form
  • Make comparisons using comparative and superlative words
  • Begin understanding of the present subjunctive as well as present progressive


Latinx Studies

  • Understand the violence manifested toward indigenous populations after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and how violence manifested 500 years ago compared to current  transgressions committed against the Latino community
  • Recognize the ways in which we come to understand African American/Black, Puerto Rican and Latinx voices, stories and histories and what these voices, stories and histories reveal about the foundation of colonialism and imperialism in the United States
  • Explain the impact of U.S. colonization of Puerto Rico from the Spanish-American War and how it has evolved to income and land inequality, hunger, and unemployment
  • Discus what shapes the identities of individuals and communities, including how the Latino and Puerto Rican identity has evolved over time – further able to question if there is a single “Latino identity” or story or if there is a Latino “race”
  • Establish how African American/Black, Puerto Rican/ Latino(s) fought for freedom and justice throughout history and today, and in what ways their struggles been in solidarity with other BIPOC populations 
  • List ways that Puerto Rican/Latino people demonstrated agency in developing solidarity movements, and/or organized strategies to address racial or social inequity in their communities