Grade Eight

The eighth grade is the culmination of the Middle School experience and the year that prepares students for the Upper School. At this point, students are encountering new and deeper academic challenges. As an example, Harkness Math is introduced, as well as advanced analytical reading and writing skills, the addition of Latin, optional elective courses, and much more. Eighth graders take on more responsibility and leadership roles as they practice the skills and exercise the confidence they have developed throughout Middle School that will prepare them to thrive in the Upper School.


In eighth grade, students begin to use the textbooks created by the Philips Exeter Academy, starting with Math 1. Using Math 1 and the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator, students discover typical Algebra 1 topics such as proportional reasoning, linear modeling, inequalities, absolute value, exponent rules, quadratic equations, and many others, by working through rich problems and discussing their various solutions and strategies. The concepts presented spiral through the text with increasing complexity. By encouraging students to solve real problems in authentic contexts, we strive to foster independence, creativity, flexibility and self- confidence in our students and in their approach to solving mathematical problems. Pre-Algebra is also offered as an option when appropriate.


Our science program is an integrated program for a whole year. We use themes to create a framework for understanding the connections between science disciplines. In this way, students learn that seemingly different processes, structures, or systems can be shown to have underlying similarities. Students are asked to learn science by engaging their hands and their minds. By doing science activities and analyzing their results, students learn the whys and the hows, not just the whats and whens. Ultimately they learn to see science as a system for making sense of the world. At all times, concepts and skill development are emphasized over memorization of facts. 

  • Human Body Systems
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Engineering: Maglev Trains
  • STEM


The eighth grade curriculum is designed to foster a student’s growth and confidence with her reading, writing and critical thinking skills. Using fiction and non-fiction as well as classic and modern literature, students work on reading comprehension, saliency determination and inferencing skills. Students discuss and write about their insights to hone expressive language abilities, both creatively and analytically. As students explore the relationship between societal expectations and personal responsibility, each student is encouraged to express her individual voice. Vocabulary words are derived from class readings, which helps to increase comprehension. Grammar instruction is an integral part of the year with a focus on sentence structure so that students can write correct and varied sentences.

Ancient World History

In the eighth grade students explore history from the emergence of the earliest river valley civilizations in Sumer and Egypt to the flowering of cultures in Greece, Rome and China. Topics of close examination include the evolution and nature of government; the development of major world religions; the relationship between empires and the conquered; and the literary, philosophical, and scientific contributions of diverse cultures. The content provides a useful grounding for the students’ work in eighth grade English, where classical mythology and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar are explored, and eighth grade Latin, where Roman culture is studied. Critical thinking, note-taking, research, and writing skills are all emphasized. In addition to short essays, group projects, and oral presentations, students will complete a research paper on a topic in Greek history.

World Languages

The study of foreign language is a key component of the Middle School curriculum. Four languages are offered to Middle School students: French, Spanish, Chinese, and Latin. All students can continue studying their chosen foreign language or begin a new language. In addition, all eighth grade students undertake a year of Latin while continuing their study of Spanish, French or Chinese. New students entering RPCS during Middle School are placed in foreign language according to their experience, ability and interest. For students new to RPCS without prior experience studying a modern language, preparation may take the form of summer study or work with a tutor followed by a placement test.

French, Grades 6 – 8:
For students who began the study of French prior to entering Middle School, French 1B (sixth grade), 2A (seventh grade), and 2B (eighth grade) continue the presentation of the fundamentals of the French language in a highly structured program. French vocabulary and idioms are presented with emphasis on developing conversational skills. The goal is to for students to be able to function comfortably in a French- speaking environment. Students will also learn how to write strong, grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs. These courses also seek to broaden the students’ cultural awareness of French-speaking nations around the world by using multiple forms of technology. Upon successful completion of this Middle School sequence, students may advance to French III at the start of ninth grade.

Spanish, Grades 6 – 8: 
For students who began the study of Spanish prior to entering Middle School, Spanish 1 (sixth grade), 2A (seventh grade), and 2B (eighth grade) continue the fundamentals of the Spanish language in a highly structured program. Spanish vocabulary and idioms are presented with an emphasis on developing conversational skills. The goal is for students to develop the skills to function comfortably in a Spanish-speaking environment. Students will learn how to write strong, grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs. These courses also seek to broaden students’ cultural awareness of various Spanish-speaking countries around the world. The texts are supplemented with technology to introduce students to the various Hispanic cultures. Students are also expected to research and create multimedia projects reflecting different aspects of learning another language and culture. Upon successful completion of this sequence, students may advance to Spanish III at the start of ninth grade.

Chinese, Grades 6 – 8: 
For students who began their study of Chinese prior to entering Middle School, Chinese 1B (sixth grade), Chinese 2A (seventh grade) and Chinese 2B (eighth grade) continue the fundamentals of the Chinese language in a highly structured program. Students will learn the structures and vocabulary necessary to communicate in Mandarin Chinese about aspects of daily life. Students will also study the customs, life and historical geography of China. It is possible for new students entering in 6th grade without previous study of Chinese to join the Chinese program at the 1B level with some summer work required. Students who successfully complete three years of Chinese in the Middle School may be eligible to enter Chinese III in the Upper School.

Latin, Grade 8: 
Latin 1 presents the fundamentals of grammar and vocabulary in the Latin language. While Latin 1 focuses on the development of reading skills, there is also an emphasis on Latin roots in English words as well as the connections to Spanish and French. Investigations of ancient culture, history, and mythology support the study of the Latin language and complement the English and history curricula in eighth grade. Latin 1 is a one-year course designed for eighth grade students; for most students, it is taken in conjunction with their continuing study of Spanish, French, or Chinese. Latin 2-5 are offered as electives in the Upper School and are taken at the Gilman School.