8th Grade Soundings Integrated Program
Format: A fully integrated Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science program that meets for three (3) of the four (4) Core/Team periods. Students also take Math and two Encore courses.
Description: Soundings challenges eighth (8th) graders to create a democratic learning community in which to explore student-selected themes that merge their adolescent concerns with State learning objectives and global issues. Following a process of asking, analyzing, and grouping hundreds of questions, the class works together to decide which questions they most want to study. These then become the themes for the year. For each theme selected, students learn to set goals and objectives, develop and implement plans to achieve those aims, present their results, and assess their performance. As they experience this process, with its emphasis on both quality performance and higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and assessment, students master essential skills and concepts from all academic disciplines and apply them to real-world issues.
Soundings replaces the conventional language arts, social studies, and science classes while meeting the Pennsylvania State Standards for those subjects. As a research-based program, Soundings relies on Internet and primary source materials in lieu of textbooks. Materials pertinent to particular themes are presented, and students have opportunities to work with these at many different levels of academic sophistication and representing multiple media formats. Thus, technology plays an important role in Soundings as the class works toward an increasingly paperless learning environment that addresses the individualized, differentiated needs of each student.
In addition to the resources described above, Soundings students also read and analyze at least two (2) novels selected by the teachers from the eighth (8th) grade Language Arts list. Novels vary yearly according to specific content themes developed by the students. It is important to note that Soundings does not use grades. Ongoing formative assessment is rubric-driven and reported in narrative format on a regular and continuous basis. Furthermore, Soundings is not a “leveled” course. Instead, the teachers differentiate instruction on reading, writing, and thinking tasks, as appropriate, to meet the individual needs of the students.