Learning Guide: Eighth Grade
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Learning Guide: Eighth Grade

These students may be preoccupied with their social life but all that energy can be funneled into masterful schoolwork.

Portrait of an Eighth Grader

Inside the body of an adult, you'll find the mind of a child. Don't be surprised if your 13-year-old appears confused about who he is and who he wants to be. For many students, appearance takes precedence over all else, and their tastes seem to change by the hour. As kids are fighting for attention from friends, they sometimes opt for crude behavior. You may now have an aggressive adventurer who is pushing the boundaries: "I can do it; don't bother me." This is a breakthrough year between child- and adulthood: The self-confident kids suddenly become so independent you see a real adult there. Children who have some yet-to-be resolved inner issues can be obnoxious and really push the limits. They are interested in experimenting (X-rated movies and books; sex, drugs, and alcohol) but may not possess the maturity to handle by themselves. They are extremely vulnerable to whims of peers. Mentally, they are moving into an analytical framework.

What your child will learn

Eighth graders are the big shots; they are usually the oldest in their school and like to show it. There is a lot of detention this year; guidance counselors are often called in to resolve disputes, usually about something innocuous: One student remarks that a hat looks funny; kids start pushing and all of a sudden, it's a full-blown fight. Girls perform their own stunts; more than a few wear one outfit when they leave home, then change the instant they arrive at school. Others redo hair or makeup. Boy/girl fascinations build, especially by the spring months. Kids who aren't directly involved in a relationship walk on the periphery as go-betweens. But all this social energy can be funneled into masterful schoolwork. Eighth graders begin to segment their academic interests (most notably science or math) and have an opportunity to excel in an area -- take algebra courses, advanced science labs, accelerated English. Major decisions about career paths (college prep, vocational or general course in high school) are usually made. And kids this age love to craft vivid stories and poems.

In the Classroom

Teachers will show students how to...

  • Analyze a sentence for key grammatical parts; maintain subject/verb agreement in writing and speaking; follow increasingly complicated conventions of spelling, punctuation and capitalization; develop more mature vocabulary.
  • Analyze complex fiction and nonfiction pieces; distinguish between stated and implied information.
  • Use the library and all its reference sources with ease.
  • Study a variety of poetic forms and literary genres; write increasingly sophisticated pieces.
  • Master algebra or pre-algebra or general math course.
  • Study earth science, observing changes in the weather and astronomical objects; examine star, geological and weather maps; perform experiments to test hypotheses.

5 Ways You Can Help

  1. Build structured private time with your child; take a walk or have a quiet meal together. It's extremely important that your child knows you are there for him.
  2. Give him responsibility. Put him in charge of the pantry: He can help plan meals, keep a grocery list, check the papers for sales, do much of the shopping.
  3. Communicate with your child as often as you can. If he doesn't particularly feel like talking at the moment, leave notes for him.
  4. Stay involved in his school and at least stay in touch with his teachers via notes or phone calls.
  5. Give him breathing space; it's not necessary or appropriate to be involved in every aspect of his life. He needs independence.

What the Experts Say

"This is a difficult year, but one parent strategy that works is simply to be available. Park yourself somewhere in the vicinity of your teenager and be there. The wildlife will approach." Nancy Roser, professor of language and literacy, University of Texas

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