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Curriculum guide - Grade 8

Farnsworth Middle School successfully brings students from the elementary school to the high school by meeting the unique intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs of 10-14 year olds. The program is designed to develop a student’s love of learning, strong habits of the mind and body, a commitment to high academic standards, an appreciation of the arts, an understanding of democratic principles, respect for self and others and responsibility for actions.

This web page outlines the major skills and content areas taught at the eighth grade level. All curricula are aligned with the New York State Learning Standards.

All students engage in learning that requires them to use their minds well, think critically and creatively, make informed and reasoned judgments, produce and invent, critique and analyze, develop personal responsibility and concern for others, and move towards greater independence as learners.

While students will study at least the topics indicated here, there are also opportunities for other areas of study based on their individual interests and needs. Parents can support their child’s school learning by:
        • Continuing to demonstrate the value of learning.
        • Talking with your child about what they are learning.
        • Using the vocabulary and discussing the concepts being presented.
        • Sharing reading, current events, field trips and other learning experiences with your child.
        • Communicating with school staff.

Please click on any link below to learn more about that topic:

Language Arts
Social Studies
World Languages and Cultures

Family and Consumer Sciences
General Music
Choral Music
Instrumental Music
Physical Education
Library Media
Enrichment/Gifted Programming
Technology Education


Language Arts

Eighth grade students will adhere to the K-12 Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and read from a variety of increasingly complex texts, both fiction and nonfiction. Some titles, like Out of the Dust, Left for Dead, and A World Without Fish, connect with content study in social studies or science. Others, like The Schwa Was Here, relate to general themes or genre study. In addition to the books studied in class, students are expected to read 25 books, or the equivalent, independently. They respond to their reading in writing and keep records of books read on individual book record sheets.

Literature discussions in class are based on the study of novels, short stories, poems, plays and nonfiction selections. Students analyze text, draw connections between two or more different readings, support their interpretations with evidence from the text, and react to the content and language of the text through writing and discussion.

Reading also supports the writing students do. Eighth graders read and are taught to write poems, short stories, process essays, character studies based upon a work of literature and oral presentations. In addition, they select and practice other forms of expressive, narrative, expository and persuasive writing. Most students will complete ten pieces of writing this year. They will do most of their work on the computer.

To expand their understanding of language structures and possibilities, students learn how to write more complex and sophisticated sentences by experimenting with different kinds of clauses. They learn about the issues of agreement and modification. They study commonly misused pairs of words so they can avoid those errors. They become more skilled and independent editors of their own work. Final writing pieces reflect their concern for correctness and their knowledge of mechanics, spelling, vocabulary and usage.

Students gather information from a variety of sophisticated print and nonprint sources. They analyze and evaluate their sources in order to select information that is relevant and dependable. They draw from a variety of organization and presentation strategies, questioning techniques and format options.

The New York State English Language Arts assessment is administered in April.

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The middle school math program is closely aligned with the New York State Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics. Our goal is to provide students with the knowledge and understanding of mathematics necessary to function in a world dependent upon the application of mathematics. 

The Common Core Learning Standards include six instructional shifts to facilitate student proficiency in mathematics. These practice standards include:
1. Focus
2. Coherence
3. Fluency
4. Deep Understanding
5. Application
6. Dual Intensity

Focus in the curriculum is meant to give students an opportunity to understand concepts and practice them in order to reach a deep and fluent understanding. Coherence in the curriculum means progressions that span grade levels to build students’ understanding of more sophisticated mathematical concepts and applications. Fluency, deep understanding, application, and dual intensity are all part of cognitive rigor. Rigor is achieved through a combination of fluency exercises, chains of reasoning, abstract activities, and contextual activities throughout each module.

The New York State Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics include Standards for Mathematical Practice which are incorporated in all instruction. They describe important “processes and proficiencies” in mathematics which students should develop. The practice standards are:

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
4. Model with mathematics.
5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
6. Attend to precision.
7. Look for and make use of structure.
8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

In Grade 8, instructional time will focus on four critical areas:
Formulating and reasoning about expressions and equations
Solving linear equations and systems of linear equations
Modeling linear functions including an association in bivariate data
Analyzing two-dimensional figures using distance, angle, similarity, and congruence
Strengthening understanding of the real number system and evaluating expressions
Understanding and applying the Pythagorean Theorem
Analyzing three-dimensional solids and calculating their volume

For additional information regarding the Common Core learning Standards for grade 8, please visit:

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The middle school science program has several specific objectives, including to develop in each student the knowledge, skills and attitude to:

Perform basic laboratory skills such as metric measurement, use of triple beam balance, microscope, graduated cylinder, rule, Bunsen burner, thermometer.
Use concepts that are foundational to modern science.
Engage in scientific inquiry.
Understand the sequential nature of the development of science.
Understand the relationships among disciplines of science.
Understand the nature of science.
Apply a knowledge of science to other areas of endeavor.
Recognize and make connections among science, technology and society.
Use scientific knowledge for decision making.
Internalize the values, attitudes, and traits necessary for successful endeavor in science.

The 8th grade program focus is primarily life science. In addition, students engage in a year-long research project.
I.      Scientific Method - Intro to Science
II.     Microscope
III.    Cell structure and Function
IV.    Biochemistry/Nutrition/Digestion
V.     Reproduction
VI.    Genetics
VII.   Dynamic Equilibrium/ Maintaining Homeostasis
VIII.  Evolution
IX.   Ecology
X.    Skills

A. In addition to demonstrating the performance indicators relating to scientific inquiry described in Standard 1, biology students need to develop proficiency in certain laboratory or technical skills in order to successfully conduct investigations in biological science. During the school year, teachers should ensure that students develop the capacity to successfully perform each of the laboratory skills listed below. Proficiency in performing these laboratory skills may also be evaluated by items found on certain parts of the State’s Living Environment assessment.
• Follows safety rules in the laboratory
• Selects and uses correct instruments
• Uses graduated cylinders to measure volume
• Uses metric ruler to measure length
• Uses thermometer to measure temperature
• Uses triple-beam or electronic balance to measure mass
• Uses a compound microscope/stereoscope effectively to see specimens clearly, using different magnifications
• Identifies and compares parts of a variety of cells
• Compares relative sizes of cells and organelles
• Prepares wet-mount slides and uses appropriate staining techniques
• Designs and uses dichotomous keys to identify specimens
• Makes observations of biological processes
• Dissects plant and/or animal specimens to expose and identify internal structures
• Follows directions to correctly use and interpret chemical indicators
• Uses chromatography and/or electrophoresis to separate molecules
• Designs and carries out a controlled, scientific experiment based on biological processes
• States an appropriate hypothesis
• Differentiates between independent and dependent variables
• Identifies the control group and/or controlled variables
• Collects, organizes, and analyzes data, using a computer and/or other laboratory equipment
• Organizes data through the use of data tables and graphs
• Analyzes results from observations/expressed data
• Formulates an appropriate conclusion or generalization from the results of an experiment
• Recognizes assumptions and limitations of the experiment


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Social Studies

The grade 8 program continues the study of United States and New York State history begun in seventh grade. This part of the course begins with the maturing of an industrial society in the second half of the 19th century and continues through the present. Concepts and themes studied include: Government, Economic Systems, Factors of Production, Urbanization, Power, Environment and Society, Change, Interdependence, Identity, Decision Making, Movement of People and Goods, Culture, Places and Regions, Diversity, Scarcity, Citizenship, Human Systems, Needs and Wants, Civic Values, Nationalism, Imperialism, Choice, Urbanization, Justice.

Current events are an important part of the eighth grade program, too. Discussion of the days’ stories takes place during social studies class to help foster a better understanding of the world and the U.S.

Social studies skills are taught in context as students gather, organize, use and present information. Students learn to:
Gathering, using, and interpreting data
Chronological reasoning and causation
Comparison and contextualization
Geographic reasoning
Economics and economic systems
Civic participation

The NYS social studies assessment is administered in June. 

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This ten week course meets every other day for an 80-minute block of time. Throughout the 10 weeks, students are engaged in multiple lessons that coincide with the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts. The eighth grade art curriculum engages students in 21st century learning through the use of inquiry, problem-solving approaches, and higher order thinking skills. Students use a variety of media including drawing materials, tempera paint, and clay while studying such genres as observational drawing, non-representational abstract sculpture, and painting. A brief summary of art courses, options, and requirements in the High School is presented to help students plan for their future.

At the eighth-grade level, qualified students are eligible to take the Accelerated Studio in Art course. Successful completion of this high school foundational course earns the student one high school credit and will satisfy the student’s high school graduation requirement for Fine Arts. Students entering ninth grade will then be afforded the opportunity to move directly into advanced level art classes.

The Accelerated Studio in Art course is for students who demonstrate they have exceeded the abilities of those typically exercised in the middle school art rotation, a willingness to challenge themselves beyond expectations, utilized constructive criticism to improve their work and overall academic achievement in Grade 6 and Grade 7 art.

In the spring of the student’s seventh grade year, students are identified and recommended to participate and sit for a performance assessment that includes an observational drawing and written statement on their experiences.

The Accelerated Studio in Art course meets for 50 minutes four days/week prior to the start of the school day. Students eligible for this course must also complete their mandated grade 8 ten-week art rotation.

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World Languages and Cultures

Students in the middle school world languages and cultures program learn to use a language other than English for communication, and as they acquire that language they develop cross-cultural skills and understandings. They begin their study of French, German, Spanish or Italian in grade 6. They continue in grades 7 and 8 and have the ability to earn 1 (one) high school credit towards graduation. The acquisition of basic skills takes place through exposure and interaction in activities surrounding the modalities of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The cultural implications of the language they are using help each individual to comprehend how language affects their ability to communicate with different people around the world. They also begin to develop ways to display their understanding of different cultures.

The primary purpose of world language study in the middle school program is the negotiation of meaning, exposure to culture, and to develop ways in which they can problem solve in another language. Students are given opportunities to simulate real life situations and to use language that will accomplish communicative interactions.

For example:
Socializing (daily life, what you like to do, what you love to do, and want to do), and greetings (hello & goodbye)
Providing and obtaining information about facts, feelings and needs
Expressing personal feelings and opinions
Attempting to help others (persuasion) to adopt a course of action by requests and suggestions

While students learn the structure and syntax of the language, the primary daily focus of instruction centers on the ability for students to communicate in the target language. Additionally, they work to demonstrate practical use of the target language.

The eighth grade language program includes the following topics:
Technology Vocabulary
Food & Drink
Body & Health
Daily Routine

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Health is a condition of well-being that is required for the development of each individual and for society as a whole. Health results from interactions among physical factors, mental and emotional reactions and social context. It is influenced by the understandings, values, attitudes, beliefs, skills, culture and behaviors of the individual, his or her family, the community and the world. Health instruction at Farnsworth Middle School works to promote the health and well-being of our students. The health education program works in partnership with the home, school and the community. To support this partnership with the family, prior to instruction on each topic, a letter is sent home with students so that families can discuss the topics. Additionally, a list of videos that may be used with a short description of the curricular connection is provided for parent information at the beginning of the year.

The eighth grade health program is taught by a certified health teacher for a total of ten weeks. Instruction builds on prior learning and is integrated with other content areas. The instructional focus is on providing accurate, age-appropriate information to support students’ abilities to make informed decisions, to solve problems, to be safe and to achieve a high level of wellness.

Provide students with the understandings and skills required to set goals, make informed decisions and solve health problems
Develop awareness of the role of health in the lives of individuals, families and the community
Nurture the development of attitudes that place a high value on optimal health
Foster the development of self-awareness and self-esteem
Enable students to deal effectively with change and take increasing responsibility for health

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Family and Consumer Sciences

Students follow a curriculum that is aligned with the New York State Learning Standards in Family and Consumer Science (FACS). The FACS curriculum focuses on life skills and offers students unique and active learning activities to develop and prepare for family life, work life, and their future careers.

Family and Consumer Science classes afford students the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed for:
Strengthening the well-being of individuals and families
Becoming responsible citizens and leaders in family, community, and work settings
Managing resources to meet the material needs of individuals and families
Balancing personal, home, family, and work lives
Using critical and creative thinking skills to address problems in diverse family, community, and work environments
Successful life management, employment, and career development
Functioning effectively as providers and consumers of goods and services
Appreciating human worth and accepting responsibility for one’s actions and successes in family and work life
Setting goals, making informed decisions and solving health problems
Developing awareness of the role of health in the lives of individuals, families and the community
Promoting optimal nutrition and wellness and understanding the responsibility for healthy choices
Fostering the development of self-awareness and self-esteem

The eighth grade FACS program is offered in a block schedule for 80 minutes on alternate days for a ten-week period. Units of study include:
Individualized Career Research (including a career interest survey)
Job Shadow Experience
Money Management (including budgeting, general banking and cash, debit and credit transactions)
Consumerism (including media literacy, advertising practices and brand marketing)

New York State Learning Standards
Standard 1: Personal Health and Fitness
Students will have the necessary knowledge and skills to establish and maintain physical fitness, participate in physical activity, and maintain personal health.

Standard 2: A Safe and Healthy Environment
Students will acquire the knowledge and ability necessary to create and maintain a safe and healthy environment.

Standard 3: Resource Management
Students will understand and be able to manage their personal and community resources.

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General Music

The aim of the general music program is to inspire creative, innovative thinkers through a comprehensive music education. Educational research indicates that music understanding comes through a sequential learning experience that parallels the development of language. It is this sequence that we follow in our teaching.

Eighth grade music continues to develop vocal executive skills as well as continued practice of tonal and rhythmic patterns. Through the study of American Musical Theater, students will compose and create their own songs, in a cooperative group setting. Students will use music technology to notate and record their compositions.

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Choral Music

Choral music is an extension of the music literacy acquired in general music. Historical events, cultures and eras are taught through a variety of choral literature. Emphasis is placed on proper vocal executive skills, intonation and rhythm. Chorus is dependent on cooperative learning since this is the only way to achieve balance and blend which enables students to sing in harmony.

Many of the choruses participate in NYSSMA Majors, which is a formal New York State Assessment of the students’ performance. Choruses also participate in several public performances throughout the year. Students have the opportunity to audition for Select Choir in addition to their participation in chorus.

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Instrumental Music

Learning to play an instrument is an excellent way for a student to gain a wide range and rich variety of musical experiences that can last a lifetime. Students who have a strong interest in music and are self-disciplined are encouraged to participate.

The band program provides activities for interested students to develop their musical skills and knowledge through learning to play a wind or percussion instrument. Students gain experience in performing as soloists and as part of a large ensemble. Band also teaches the self-discipline necessary to work in a large group situation. Developmentally appropriate literature is selected exposing students to a wide variety of styles and genres. Students continue to expand their tonal, rhythmic, and executive skills on the road to mastery and musical independence.

The band meets as an ensemble on alternating days as a graded class during the school day. As begun in the elementary school, all students receive a weekly small group lesson on a rotational schedule. It is in this group lesson setting that students receive instruction on developing executive skills specific to their instrument. Students are required to develop a regular home practice routine to stimulate their progress and preparation of ensemble parts. Cooperative behavior is promoted at all times in the rehearsals. All students in band participate in at least two concerts during the school year. Other performance opportunities arise for students in recitals, festivals, field trips, NYSSMA and extra-curricular ensembles.

The orchestra program consists of a string orchestra for each grade level. The string orchestras composed of violins, violas, cellos, and basses, meet every other day for a 40-minute rehearsal. Rehearsals explore various styles and genres of string literature expanding students’ technical music skills. All string students perform in a minimum of two concerts throughout the year. Other performance opportunities arise for students in recitals, festivals, field trips and extra-curricular ensembles.

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Physical Education

In today’s society, physical education may well play a more crucial role than ever before in our history. Young people need to learn to be physically active in their daily lives, establishing a foundation in their early years that can influence a lifetime of health and physically active behavior. The primary goal of our physical education program is to develop the physically educated person through a program of developmentally appropriate activities, concepts, and skills through the K-12 school experience.

National Standards for Physical Education describe a physically educated person as one who:
Demonstrates competency in many movement forms and proficiency in a few.
Applies movement concepts and principles to the learning and development of motor skills.
Exhibits a physically active lifestyle.
Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
Demonstrates responsible personal social behavior in physical activity settings.
Demonstrates understanding and respect for differences among people in physical activity settings.
Understands that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction.

New York State Learning Standards in Physical Education require that students:
Have the necessary knowledge and skills to establish and maintain physical fitness, participate in physical activity, and maintain personal health.
Acquire the knowledge and ability necessary to create and maintain a safe and healthy environment.
Understand and be able to manage their personal and community resources.

Students at Farnsworth Middle School meet every other day for physical education for the entire school year. Assessments are made three times during the school year in the area of fitness.

In the eighth grade year students are exposed to a fully elective program. Emphasis is placed on students making appropriate, but guided, decisions. A great number of lifetime sports and activities are introduced with the intent of allowing students to experience many types of activities that might be available to them throughout their lifetime. Increased responsibilities are placed on students for self-refereeing and group organization.

Curriculum activities in the eighth grade year include:
Golf or Razzle Dazzle Football or Adventure V
Frisbee Golf or Hiking or Soccer
Archery or Yoga or Basketball
Hoop It Up or Gymnastics or Bowling
Cross Country Skiing or Volleyball or Lacrosse
Volleyball or Paddle Sports or Playground Games
Fitness Training or Floor Hockey or Fencing
Track and Field
Badminton or Softball or Adventure VI or Pickleball

All eighth graders are provided the opportunity to participate in intramural sport activities, to try out for 7th/8th grade interscholastic athletic teams, and to try out for selected high school interscholastic athletic teams through the selection classification process.

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Library Media

The Library Media Program plays a vital role throughout all aspects of the curriculum to engage students in the process of research. A unified research model across all grades and teams emphasizes learning to:
Question deeply
Investigate using a variety of resources (books, databases, multimedia, and the Internet)
Manipulate databases for optimal search results
Evaluate the validity and relevancy of resources for a specific need
Collect and analyze data
Collaborate with others
Construct new knowledge
Cite sources
Share the knowledge through presentation options including digital technology
Evaluate the process and product

In addition to instructing learners through the research model, the school librarians train students and staff in emerging technologies. They develop and manage book collections, databases, and web pages for diverse needs. They foster inquiry-based learning and literature appreciation which is crucial preparation for the information-rich world students encounter. 

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Enrichment/Gifted Programming

Enrichment programming offers a wide variety of opportunities for challenging activities. These activities take place before and after school and Humanities Enrichment and Math/Science Enrichment are semester-long classes scheduled weekly during access time. School wide competitions like the Spelling Bee and Geography Bee, occur throughout the year. Occasionally, day-long workshops or field trips may be scheduled.

Some of the enrichment opportunities offered before or after school include the following:
Future City (7/8),
Future Engineers/Architects (6/7),
History Club (6/7/8),
Math Olympiad (6),
Math Counts (7/8)
Newspaper Club (6/7/8),
Debate and Law (6/7/8),
Vocabulary Challenge (7),
WSWHE BOCES STEM Academy (6/7/8),
Chess Club (6/7/8),
American Math Competition (7/8)
History (6/7/8)

The primary goals for these enrichment offerings are:
Finding and nurturing talent in students by providing and supporting opportunities for them to pursue their interests at an appropriate pace and level of complexity.
Improving students’ competence and confidence in various areas of further study.
Nurturing student enthusiasm for learning.
Broadening their learning experiences to include “real world” applications and studies of/in their field of interest.
Maximize the number of learners given the opportunity to work with rich and demanding curriculum beyond the classroom with appropriate coaching, support, and mentoring.
Establishing community partnerships as resources for intellectual expertise and professional experiences.

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Technology Education

Technology Education at the middle school level is an introductory course that examines a multitude of technologies that exist in our world. New York State requires one full year of technology education by the end of the 8th grade year. At FMS we now offer three, half-year courses at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels.

Introduction to Technology - Part III
Students in 8th grade technology at FMS will participate in two of the modules found below while in the modular labs.
Audio communications
Computer graphics
Computer numeric control
Digital music
Energy & power
Flight technology
Laser technology
Materials processing
Video production

While engaged in the modules, students will work independently and in small groups, pace themselves throughout the learning experience, and apply skills and concepts learned in the module by completing hands-on and supporting writing activities.

Each student will utilize the AutoDesk Inventor CAD software. They will use these skills to design and develop engineered blueprints for a project built in the production lab. The software used in 7th and 8th grade is also taught by our high school and widely used in industrial applications.

Students in 8th grade also work on a production unit where they will create project based activities. Utilizing their CAD designs, students begin processing materials and following their plans and technical directions. Safe use of tools and machines is also emphasized throughout this unit. Students complete the design process by testing, monitoring, and applying feedback to make their project ideas become reality. The problem solving process is an essential theme of this unit.

This 8th grade unit of study builds upon the problem solving skills acquired in 6th and 7th grade. Problem based learning through open ended tasks is the essential theme in our 8th grade technology program.

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