8th Grade American History Syllabus

An overview for my young HISTORIANS

"When I want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, I look back." Oliver W. Holmes Jr.

8th grade American History is a survey course that covers the history of the United States from the end of the American Revolution until the present day. While some major events in history will be given more focus, the primary goal of the course is to give students a very broad foundation of our nation’s past. Common themes and topics will be discussed throughout the course, including the development and growth of the federal government, the expansion of the United States, the changing foreign policy of the country since its inception, the evolution of a multicultural population, and the changing American economy. As the year progresses, students will gain insight into the importance of perspective in both the past and current society.

Students will develop a variety of skills during the course of the year. Reading comprehension and writing skills will be refined through the use of the Creating America textbook and multiple other supplemental reading sources. Students will also analyze primary source documents, art, and political cartoons for many of the major events discussed in class. Different methods of note taking will be utilized, and student’s notes are evaluated after each unit. Critical thinking and problem solving are stressed in both individual and cooperative activities in the classroom. Students will develop research skills in preparation for class activities and outside assignments. Students are expected to contribute to all class activities and discussions, making nightly preparation essential to the course.

The format of history class will change from day to day. Interactive discussions and lectures are used for important content information. Students will develop important critical thinking skills through problem solving and social studies skill builders. Experiential exercises and simulations allow students to feel the drama of the past and utilize their knowledge and creativity in a historical setting. Students will use writing in class in order to tap analyze historical events or to synthesize a large body of information. Many activities revolve around cooperative learning, as students work in small groups to meet their learning goals.

Technology will play a key role throughout the year. Multimedia presentations are used in the classroom by the instructor on a frequent basis. I maintain a class website and class blog containing important information concerning the current unit of study, student assignments and deadlines, and outside resources of information to further student learning. Students will be using computers for communication, word processing, creation of multimedia presentations, research, and Internet publication.

Assessment in 8th grade American History is based on a variety of factors. Tests and quizzes are given throughout the course. Students will have their homework evaluated and returned, with corrections expected. Students will also keep an interactive student notebook, containing their notes, textbook and reflective assignments, and individual outside assignments assigned for each unit. Both the student and myself will evaluate the notebook for each unit. Students will have a major project associated with history class in place of a semester exam. Several smaller outside assignments will also be expected, including reading a historical fiction book.


Why is it necessary for us to study the history of the United States?

What role has the Constitution played in the development of the United States?

How has the struggle between states’ rights and federal power played out over time?

How has geography influenced the course of American history?

How have differing political factions influenced the development of the United States?

What are the causes and effects of American expansion since the 18th century?

How has the cultural identity of America changed over time?

How has the United States viewed its role in the world since independence?

What is the government’s involvement with the American economy?

Has America always provided for and protected all Americans?


Class Information and Expectations (IMPORTANT STUFF!)

Classroom Conduct - Our class will have a few principles (not rules) that will guide our behavior for the school year. The principles are simple, straightforward, and sensible.

Everyone will be treated with respect.

No one will be allowed to disrupt the learning process of anyone else.

Everyone will listen to and follow directions the first time they are given.

Everyone will come to class on time with all necessary materials and prepared to learn.


Materials - All students are expected to have the following materials:

In-class - 1" 3 ring binder, pens (that work) or pencils, paper, any class materials due or necessary, an open mind

In locker - a small 1" 3 ring binder (for the next unit notebook), National History Day materials, colored pencils or markers, more paper

Textbook Creating America. Garcia, Jesus, et. al. Evanston, Illinois, McDougal Littell, 2001.

Notebook - Each student must have a separate notebook for History class. Specific instructions for keeping notebooks will be given at the beginning of the school year, but your notebooks will be checked often and will count as a large portion of your grade. Notebooks must be brought to class every day.

Homework - Homework will be given on most nights. Usually, the assignments will deal with work from the textbook, reactive work from the day's class, or preparation for a future activity. The purpose and objective of each assignment will be addressed. Homework will usually be checked. It is very important to keep up with all assigned materials and readings, as well as any other preparation necessary for a successful class.

Absences - Students are responsible for all work that is missed due to absences. Students should be able to keep up with class by using the American history website. Grace periods will be given depending on the length of absences. The USM handbook will be followed in regards to absences around vacations. Students are expected to make up all missed work, including notes, assignments, watching videos, and tests.

Late Work - Late work and assignments will be accepted, with penalty, only during the unit for which they were assigned. It is the student's responsibility to show me late assignments. I will ask for assignments once - once!

Grades - Although I hope that all students are focused on learning, and not grades, grades still will be earned. Student grades will be based on a point system, with tests, quizzes, notebooks, and projects counting as the bulk of the grade. A subjective participation and effort grade may be added at the end of each grading period. Letter grades will be assigned using the grading policy developed by University School.

Extra Credit - Students will have a variety of possibilities to earn extra credit, and a detailed extra credit page is available on the student website. No extra credit can be earned if a student has a zero in the grade book and/or if a student has decided to cheat on an assignment, quiz, or test.

Projects - Students will be assigned a major project during the school year. Each project will have a detailed explanation. The major project of the year will be participation in the National History Day competition. This project will be detailed in class near the beginning of the school year. Students will also be given other larger assignments that are expected to be completed outside of class.

If you ever have any questions or need extra help, please do not hesitate to see me. I am here to help you become a successful student, and that's why I love my job. Really, I do love my job.