“The Nature of Life is to Grow” (11) GMS 8th Grade

Today we visited 8th grade classrooms to see what GMS 8th graders are studying, and how much difference there might be between the 7th graders that we saw last week and the 8th graders today. First we visited Mrs. Terry Hussey and Mrs. Brandi Sapp’s combination class called Math/Lit. (English).

When we got to the classroom, Mrs. Hussey was working with the students on the math Warm-up. She was using words like table, slope, function, and rate of change.

She asked the class “Function or equation, which one do you want to start with?” And then after some work, “Which one is proportional? Point your finger in the direction of the one that is proportional. Everybody pick one. Okay, raise your hands instead…Alright, finish this for homework tonight. If you don’t understand a problem, circle it. I want to make sure you understand things; if you don’t, I need to know.”


Then Mrs. Hussey moved on to another section, and shared the objective for this day and for the next day. “Today we are looking at parallel lines, tomorrow we will look at at perpendicular lines.”

Mrs. Hussey began a working a problem and leading a discussion on lines and slopes. She asked the students “What is the slope, positive or negative?” When she called on a student and he didn’t know the answer, she stopped and said “You don’t know? Okay, let’s go back over it. We don’t want to move on until you know it.”

While the students were working on a problem, Mrs. Hussey explained to us that this particular class is called Integrative Math, which is a combination of Geometry and Algebra. “When the students are done with the class, they can take the exams for both Geometry and Algebra and can earn high school credit for both classes. They don’t have to take the Geometry exam, but they do have to take the Algebra exam.”

She also noted that even though the class is a class for 8th graders, there are currently two 7th grade students taking the class as well.The 7th graders in the class are pictured below.

While she was working problems and explaining concepts, Mrs. Hussey was also moving around the room, checking to make sure that all students were taking notes, working the problems, and staying engaged in the discussion. She encouraged them to “put those words down on your papers. Those papers are for you. I’m telling you, this chapter is going to get difficult, you need to take notes and be prepared.” At one point, she added “I already did this math alone in school. I’m not going to do it now. Let’s do it together….We’re in Geometry class, we can prove everything! Don’t believe me? It’s okay, I can show you.”

As the students worked on graphing, Mrs. Hussey asked them, “Who else loves graphing?!! I love to graph.”

As they continued to work on their problems and take notes, Mrs. Hussey reminded them that “this is Math/Lit. so please write your observations in complete sentences!”

Mrs. Hussey asked them to work on two problems at the end of class, saying “I want you to do these two problems before you leave, and then I will collect them and look at your work tonight. I want to check your graphing and make sure you are doing it correctly.” Throughout her class period, Mrs. Hussey encouraged participation in the discussion, even if some of the students were not completely sure of their answers. The math curriculum seemed quite rigorous, but with Mrs. Hussey’s examples, teaching, encouragement, and persistence, the students appeared to be taking it in and grasping the concepts.

We stopped at Bryan Kauffman’s classroom next, to see what the 8th graders are doing in U.S. History. As you can tell from the pictures below, Bryan’s room has a number of posters that will let students know for sure that they are in a U.S. History classroom!


Another item that was front and center in Mr. Kauffman’s classroom was a picture from last year’s 8th grade trip to Washington D.C., and information about the upcoming trip in the spring of 2019. The trip is somewhat of a tradition at GMS, and is packed with plenty of sightseeing and learning.

The class started by working on an entrance ticket, and then looking at “Journal Entry 1”, before they began to talk about moving on to Journal Entry 2. Mr. Kauffman said “How you did on your first journal entry will influence your work on the second entry.” He encouraged the students to look at his feedback on Journal Entry 1 before they started the next Journal Entry, and told them that they would have the full period to work on the second entry.

The objective for the day was: You can understand the critical events of time period number 2, and reflect on the events through the viewpoint of your character as evidenced by completion of Journal Entry #2.

(The students were all given characters in history, and were then given the assignment to write about specific historic events from the perspective of their character. The characters they were assigned included The King, a patriot, French fur traders, British citizens, loyalists, Native Americans, and free black colonists.)

Mr. Kauffman reminded students to use their rubric when working on their Journal Entries, and asked them “Do you remember what all was in your rubric?” After some thought and discussion, the students came up with all of the parts: The entry must be five paragraphs, you need to tell what happened, you need to tell why it matters or why it was important, and you need to illustrate what led up to the event.

As students began to work, one of them asked if they could listen to their music. Mr. Kauffman said  “You can listen to music as long as you are being productive.” And honestly, the students were quiet and very focused on their work throughout the class period.

Through the use of their technology, the students could choose to sign up for a mini workshop with Mr. Kauffman to get additional help with some of the ideas they had been working on in class. One such idea was the use of repetition, or repetitive phrases, in writing.

In the small group workshop, Mr. Kauffman asked the students “Why do we use repetitive writing?” Following discussion among the teacher and students, they came up with this reason: The use of repetitive phrases plants the idea firmly into the listeners’ brains. It makes the idea stick.

Mr. Kauffman noted that when the students go to the GCS elementary schools to share their stories with 5th graders, the use of repetitive phrases will help the 5th graders remember more about their stories.

Then all of the students worked on their writing assignments, with occasional reminders or remarks from their teacher such as “Make sure you are embedding history into your story.” and “Some of you have the model right next to your writing, what a great way for you to work!”

While the students worked, Mr. Kauffman strolled around the classroom, providing counsel to those who had questions or who just wanted to bounce ideas off of their teacher.

Mr. Kauffman told us that what he likes about these kind of writing assignments is that he can give the students direct feedback. For example, “I tell them, here is what you did in your writing assignment, and here is the next step to take in your writing…I don’t know when I first got this type of feedback or instruction in learning how to write, not this early, but we really want to develop strong writers here, so this is important stuff.”

Again during this visit to GMS, we noticed that the students continue to grow and take enormous steps (perhaps leaps?!!!) along their educational journey. Their teachers challenge them with rigorous curriculum, but they also provide enough support and encouragement to keep them moving forward and learning more.

Thank you to Mrs. Hussey and Mr. Kauffman, for letting us observe in your classrooms. There are definitely exciting things happening in your classrooms, and your students will be well-prepared for high school. And to the students, thank you for allowing us to watch as you worked, and questioned, and answered, and thought in deeper ways than you might have thought were possible. You are well on your way to educational success!