Curriculum

The Seventh and Eighth grade Humanities curriculum is taught as an integrated, spiraled course over the duration of two years. Skills taught in Seventh Grade provide a foundation for further development in Eighth Grade. Curriculum in both Seventh and Eighth Grade Humanities is driven by Common Core Literacy Standards and the National Council for the Social Studies College, Career, and Civics (C3) Standards. In keeping with the mission of Villa Academy to educate the whole child as a member of a global community, there is an intentional focus on becoming stewards of empathy and compassion. Students will leave Eighth Grade with the necessary tools to analyze and assess complex texts and ideas, and the skills essential to communicate authentically in a wide variety of ways, to a wide variety of audiences in the 21st Century.

 

SEVENTH

Seventh Grade Humanities is taught as an interdisciplinary study of literature, writing, and world geography.  Specific components of Seventh Grade Humanities include World Fair, Current Events, Literature, Creative Writing, and communication skills for the 21st Century.

 

World Fair

Students engage in student-based, active learning in World Geography by designing their own courses of study and demonstrations of learning for each continent-based unit. Students begin the year by reviewing the Five Themes of Geography as the framework geographers use to investigate new places. Then, within each unit, students learn, and then refine, the individual steps of the research process centered around a current or historical conflict set in that continent. This research process includes writing research questions, note-taking, evaluating sources and determining bias, organizing and outlining research, drafting and revising a formal essay, and accurately citing sources. Student choices have ranged from ethnic conflicts, comparative religions, food insecurity, endangered species and deforestation, to ancient cultures, colonialism, and modern labor issues. Discrete writing lessons are taught to individual students through both formal and unstructured conferences with teachers as well as file-sharing on Google Drive. The year-long study of geography culminates in the “Villa Academy World Fair,” during which student projects are displayed for the entire school community.

 

Current Events

As a parallel investigation of global conflict in the World Fair, students also investigate current global conflicts. This unit of study asks students to identify issues from a collection of Pulitzer-Prize recognized journalism focused on current global conflict, and to summarize the current and historical status of the issue. They then apply their understanding of the Five Themes of Geography to the unit so as to understand more fully the context of the issue. Finally, they use mapping skills to visually map the story of the conflict through relevant geographic and cultural landmarks, government and political centers, population zones, and trade routes for the exchange of goods and ideas. Each student formally presents one of these current events to the class to reinforce effective presentation and public speaking skills.

 

Literature

Seventh Grade students read novels that support global learning and investigate the author’s craft, while exploring global conflict. Each unit of global study is complemented by a selection of literature set in or written by an author from the focused continent. Throughout the year, some literature offerings are read as a whole class, while other units are comprised of literature circle groups of students reading a common text. During literature circle units, independent choice is also an available option for students.

 

Within literature circles students investigate and experience a variety of writing styles, learn how authors incorporate realistic and fact-based research into fictional stories, and discuss different elements of the author’s craft. These elements include authentic dialogue, plot structure, effective use of language, characterization, and setting as a means of teaching about history and culture. This holistic study of the author’s craft provides a firm foundation for their own narrative writing.

Creative Writing

Because of the intentional instruction of writing for information in the World Fair process, Creative Writing has become a central theme of Seventh Grade English. Throughout the year students analyze the author’s craft in various novels and short stories, and then, through writing practice, work to find their own voice as an author. Investigation of the author’s craft includes characterization, setting, theme, figurative language, dialogue, and plot structure. Each month, students engage in a variety of discrete lessons to refine their own writing focused on one of these specific elements of literature. Understanding and application of the elements is assessed throughout the year with more substantial writing assignments. Students implement these skills as they complete the culminating task of Seventh Grade Humanities: a fusion of research and creative writing in a realistic fiction novella based on one of the conflicts of study in a World Fair project.

 

EIGHTH

Eighth Grade Humanities is a more conventional model of English and History. While components of each are complementary and integrated, the pedagogical approach is traditional. In this way, students learn to be confident writers and enthusiastic historians while preparing for the rigor of a demanding high school program.

 

Culminating Project

The Culminating Project at Villa is a collaborative project that investigates a single Theme through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching in Religion, the social context of the issue according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Bill of Rights in Social Studies, and individualized, directed scientific connections in Science. The English curriculum focuses on writing for a variety of purposes (aligned with the Common Core State Standards) all surrounding various aspects of the students’ chosen Culminating Project Theme. The research process and writing skills are directed, but there is flexibility in content within the scope of the chosen Theme. Written assessments include a combination of expository essays, compare/contrast essays, nonfiction literature analyses, annotated bibliographies, and persuasive formal letters.

 

Literature

Literature selections for Eighth Grade center around themes of social justice issues, as the books offered provide a window into another person’s world, rather than a mirror of our own experience. This complements the theme of Leadership throughout Eighth Grade by encouraging students to find common ground with, and develop empathy and compassion for, others. Some of the literature selections are offered as whole-class readings, while some are comprised of literature circles surrounding a common small-group text, and others are offered as independent reading. Selections include 20th Century classics, poetry, nonfiction texts, and contemporary novels. The discussions and assignments within literature units are built upon the works of Brene Brown and Rosetta Lee, through which students learn to be empathetic citizens with compassionate hearts and confident minds.

 

U.S. History

Eighth grade Social Studies provides a well-rounded approach to understanding American history, government structure, and culture. Students read The U.S. History content serves as the vehicle for continued development of critical skills, including risk-taking, public speaking, reading complex texts, researching, summarizing, writing, and problem solving. Students will investigate a variety of sources, including textbooks, maps, photographs, political cartoons, journals, films, and newspapers.

 

Mock Trial

One major component of Eighth grade United States History is Mock Trial. To apply the study of the United States Constitution in a real-world context, students engage in a mini-trial, during which they learn essential skills and information to successfully participate in due process from investigation to trial. This includes collaboration with community resources, as they learn from legal experts how to conduct legal examinations, criminal investigation and forensics from the Seattle Police Department, and conducting forensic investigations of trial evidence in Science class.

 

Later, after studying Westward Expansion, students charge President Andrew Jackson with Crimes Against Humanity for his role in the Cherokee Removal Act and the Trail of Tears. Each class section works together to prosecute or defend President Jackson, building their cases from a collection of primary source materials including speeches, letters, art, Congressional acts, military orders, and narratives. They think critically as they analyze both sides of the issue, write witness testimony, and develop complex legal strategies. Students then enact the trial as prosecutors, defenders, and witnesses in front of a federal judge and volunteer jury at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Seattle. The amount of work that goes into this process, without the foresight of a known outcome, is what makes this such a rich and authentic learning experience.

 

Communication Skills

In both Seventh and Eighth Grade Humanities, writing instruction is individualized according to students’ strengths, weaknesses, and topic focuses through conferences and Google Drive interactions. More general building blocks are provided through Wordly Wise, Rules of the Game, and directed tasks aimed at refining sentence, paragraph, and essay structure.