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Grade 8 - Humanities

Humanities in 8th Grade


The Sixth through Eighth Grade Social Studies Curriculum is subsumed within a truly interdisciplinary Humanities model, which incorporates Social Studies, English Literature, and English Language Arts to prepare students for the rigorous demands of high school and life beyond Westerly. Middle School students delve into historical content vis-á-vis California Social Studies Curriculum Standards, with an intentionally broadened geopolitical context. Through a social justice framework, students learn about the human experience while investigating the role of power and privilege in determining who rules, who owns, and what people believe throughout history. Literature and student-driven research are integrated to give students an individualized experience of depth and academic rigor. This program is founded on three major tenets: critical thinking, effective communication, and ethical action, as well as the new PREP interdisciplinary capstone (beginning with the Class of 2021), which will celebrate and demonstrate the culmination of students’ academic journey at Westerly.

Power and Change in the Modern Era

Course Overview: The Humanities 8 course is the final course in the Humanities scope and sequence at Westerly School. The course has been carefully designed (and the novels have been intentionally selected) to enhance students’ learning and prepare them for the demands of honors and AP-level courses in the high schools to which they will matriculate after graduation. The course builds on skills and concepts introduced or mastered in the Humanities 7 course to support students in cultivating essential 21st century skills. In this course, students investigate the central essential question: “To what extent are humans essentially good?”

Course Content: The Humanities 8 course uses a systems approach to help students explore the conflict, change, and movement that created the world we live in today. At its outset, this course deemphasizes the United States in geopolitical isolation by intentionally studying the Enlightenment and Atlantic Revolutions through a more global lens. As students learn about the foundations of the United States, they also interact with a variety of carefully curated narratives that represent the scope of opinions and experiences of Americans-- from the powerful to the systematically disenfranchised. Historical narrative and survivor testimony are powerful elements of the course, particularly in the later units on Abolition and Human Rights, which helps students understand the world they live in through a counter-hegemonic lens. Students have the opportunity to give dimension and depth to their learning through a wide selection of texts with honors-level rigor. In Humanities 8, students will read: The Lord of the Flies, a collection of short stories, important primary documents, the autobiography of their choice, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Night.

  • Demonstrate how to use color and marginalia to annotate effectively and dialectically within a text
  • Seamlessly integrate strategies for encountering new vocabulary within a text
  • Understand how historical time and geography impact content and meaning within a text
  • Decode texts from various time periods and dialects 
  • Identify positionality of an author
  • Make inferences while reading
  • Identify and track lingering questions while interacting with a text
  • Research answers to lingering questions
  • Craft researchable questions through research and situated inquiry
  • Help classmates research their topics or ideas
  • Demonstrate breadth of research to increase scope of information and minimize bias
  • Read a multitude of resources in order to become knowledgeable on a topic
  • Keep track of lintering questions and use questions to further research
  • Know how much research is enough
  • Write a cohesive research paper with a clear throughline
  • Demonstrate comfort with a variety of presentation skills
  • Dialogue effectively with and give feedback to peers
  • Participate in research circles to help further one’s own research, as well as research of classmates
  • Talk about bias and acknowledge positionality
  • Argue effectively and respectfully
  • Ask hard questions of self and others
  • Demonstrate Grade-level Common Core Standards for academic writing