8th Grade

Language Arts

“All words are pages to hang ideas on.” – Henry Ward Beecher


Eighth graders utilize Wordly Wise 3000, a curriculum that strengthens students’ knowledge on the context, structure, and forms of words. Emphasis is placed on using multiple meanings and vocabulary in context. The curriculum also focuses on affixes in root words, synonyms, antonyms, similes, metaphors, idioms, pronunciations, syllabication, and the use of a variety of reference aids including dictionaries, thesauri, and glossaries. Throughout the year, students will acquire and use new vocabulary in relevant context.

Words derived from Greek and Latin roots account for approximately 60 percent of the English language. For this reason, our eighth grade vocabulary curriculum focuses on meanings derived from Latin and Greek roots. By learning the most common roots and frequently used affixes, students can unlock the meanings of thousands of words. Practicing vocabulary use from Classical Roots also helps students use roots and prefixes to encode words they will encounter in daily life.

Students also explore vocabulary through Barron’s 504 Absolutely Essential Words, a collection of words that features word-building lessons and activities to help build their progress as they learn.

Writing & Grammar

Our eighth grade writing program utilizes Prentice Hall Writing and Grammar: Communication in Action,a resource that assists developing effective writers through comprehensive, step-by-step instructions. It provides extensive practice opportunities and strategies for all stages of the writing process. This curriculum is divided into the following three sections:

Writing This section guides students through each step of the writing process with an emphasis on revision. Focusing on: 6-trait writing, structure and style, autobiographical writing, short stories, descriptive writing, persuasive writing, expository writing, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, research writing, response to literature, writing for assessment.

Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics This section provides more grammar practice with hands on grammar activities. Focusing on: subjects, predicates, conjunctions, prepositions, interjections, nouns, verbs, tenses, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, sentence types, fragments and run-ons, noun/verb agreement, clauses and phrases, homophones, modifiers, punctuation, capitalization.

Academic and Workplace Skills This section focuses on practical, real-world skills for today’s student. Focusing on: speaking, listening, viewing skills, reading skills, study and test taking skills.


Eighth grade literature selections center around characters who are going through very challenging experiences and are forced to clarify their values and identify what is most important to them. Through these common literature experiences, as well as our individual book choices, poetry selections and writing explorations, eighth grade students analyze the theme of values exploration and clarification.

Each student will read the following literature selections: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Shakespeare’sRomeo and Juliet, Night by Elie Wiesel, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevensen, andFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Additionally, each student will set a personal goal for the number of additional books to read throughout the year.

Students complete activities and projects, with the primary goal of becoming skilled, passionate, habitual, and critical readers. The class will also have daily poetry experiences, as well as mini lessons on reading, comprehension, and other specific skills related to heightening qualities of excellent readers.

Students also complete letter essays about books, book recommendation cards, and reading responses related to our reading.


At Summit, seventh graders are either placed in Pre-Algebra or Algebra; pre-algebraic skills lay the foundation for algebra as well as geometry. Summit’s eighth graders are tested and placed either in Algebra or Geometry. Algebra and Geometry are high school-level classes, accredited by the Tempe Union High School District; Summit student achievements earn the same prerequisite consideration as students from Kyrene middle schools.

Each year, the Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics (AATM) sponsors a state-wide Algebra math competition. Summit students distinguish themselves by scoring 1st, 3rd and 4th in the state, or by scoring in the top 10% in the state.

  • 2015: A Summit student earns the highest math score in the state! A classmate earns the 4th place win, with two other students scoring in the top 10%.
  • 2013: A Summit student tied for the 3rd highest score in the state, and another tied for the 4th highest state score. Six additional students scored in the top 10% in the state.
  • 2012: Twelve Summit School of Ahwatukee students scored in the top 10% in the state.
  • 2011: Four students scored in the top ten percent statewide, with two students earning an additional distinction by being among the top 10 highest scores in state.

Algebra and Geometry classes use the McDougal Littell text book by Larson, Boswell, Kanold, & Stiff


Pre-algebra provides the mathematical background, skills, and thinking processes necessary for the successful completion of Algebra. Topics include: whole numbers, integers, rationals, decimals and their applications, number theory, ratios, proportions, percents, equations, graphing, square roots, and appropriate geometric concepts. The instructional program of this course provides students with an understanding and use of these concepts as well as the application through appropriate problem-solving situations.


Algebra I is organized around families of functions, with special emphasis on linear and quadratic functions. As students are introduced to each family of functions, they will learn to represent them in multiple ways using verbal descriptions, equations, tables, and graphs. This class will also help students model real-world situations using these functions in order to solve problems arising from a variety of practical scenarios.


In Geometry, students will develop reasoning and problem-solving skills as they study topics such as congruence and similarity, and apply properties of lines, triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles. Students will also develop problem-solving skills by using length, perimeter, area, circumference, surface area, and volume to solve real-world problems.


The Summit School of Ahwatukee science program is interactive, with the majority of learning through experimentation. The middle school science laboratory is state of art, with science stations, microscopes and all necessary tools to make science engaging and fun. The eighth grade science curriculum includes: Force and Motion, Electricity and Energy, States of Matter, Chemistry, Sound, Light, Scientists. Eighth graders explore scientific concepts four times a week and also serve as mentors for younger students’ science projects.

Summit School of Ahwatukee’s scores on Arizona’s AIMS testing, “Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards” are consistently among the top in the state.

In Science, 99% of Summit students meet or exceed the state standards on AIMS, with 84% of students exceeding the standard! See why.

Social Studies

The social studies curriculum at Summit uses the History Alive program, which is experiential in nature. It is designed to connect with students on many levels and to teach to their multiple intelligences while also teaching children the necessary skills for cooperative group-work. Students will participate in whole group discussions and lectures, small group activities and group projects, and also individual research and note taking sessions. There is a large public speaking and presentation requirement with the History Alive program which strongly supports Summit School’s focus on this area. The focus in 8th grade is American History Themes explored include:

Colonization and Revolution – Geography of North America – The Native Americans – European Exploration and Settlement – The English Colonies in America – Life in the Colonies – Toward Independence – The Declaration of Independence – The American Revolution – Creating the Constitution – The Constitution: A More Perfect Union – The Bill of Rights

Westward Expansion and the Civil War – Political Developments in the Early Republic – Foreign Affairs in the Young Nation – The Worlds of North and South – Andrew Jackson and the Growth of American Democracy – Manifest Destiny and the Growing Nation – Life in the West – Mexicano Contributions to the Southwest – An Era of Reformation – African Americans at Mid-Century – A Dividing Nation – The Civil War – The Reconstruction Era

Industrial Revolution, Great Depression, War and Civil Rights – Tensions in the West – The Rise of Industry – The Great Wave of Immigration – The Progressive Era – America Becomes a World Power – The Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression – World War II – The Cold War – The Civil Rights Movement – Contemporary American Society


Eighth graders take Spanish four times each week in a classroom where they develop listening and speaking skills within the context of different real life scenarios. Students are encouraged to ask and answer real-life questions individually, in pairs, and through whole-class discussions. They act out situations and stories using TPR (Total Physical Response) and TPRS (Total Physical Response Storytelling).

The following is a list of student objectives:

-Discuss similarities and differences between cultures

-Work with others to practice new words, sounds, and sentence structures

-Play educational games on the curriculum web site

-Complete written and oral activities using audio files

-Listen to and discuss videos (DVDs) using Realidades DVD Program and En Español DVD Program

-Use technology and internet resources to take virtual tours, connect with other Spanish speaking students in the world, practice vocabulary, listen to audio, and take online tests in the computer lab

-Take a placement test in preparation for High School Spanish II or honors classes (4 out of 5 students were placed in High School Spanish II this year)

-Attend field trips to use Spanish beyond the school setting and practice the language

Middle School Electives

Summit School of Ahwatukee electives add further dimension and depth to an advanced middle school curriculum. The electives are designed to broaden and enrich each students understanding of the possibilities and directions their lives can lead.

Life Skills Class

Life Skills class meets once per week. The goal is to provide seventh and eighth grade students with practical information that will help them prepare for high school and beyond.

Topics include: goal setting, leadership, substance abuse, and time management.

Students also utilize a book entitled “Success for Teens – Real Teens Talk about Using the Slight Edge.” Lessons focus on how attitude, actions, planning, and taking advantage of opportunities can better prepare them for high school and beyond.

Only an effort grade is given in this class, based on class participation and homework completion.

Rite of Passage Experiences ~ R.O.P.E.S.

Rite of Passage Experiences (ROPES): A unique 8th grade program at Summit School of Ahwatukee

At Summit, students take a giant step closer to graduation and preparation for high school by participating in ROPES, a unique second semester project that includes multiple skills: reading, writing, thinking, decision making, researching, summarizing, demonstrating, performing, public speaking, and most importantly taking risks!

Students’ first find and contact a professional in the community to be their mentor in a new life experience. In the last years, just some of the areas students explored include symphony conducting, journalism, cooking, cartooning, surgery, firefighting, and creating guitars and cabinetry.

Research papers and 20 minute presentations, with demonstrations to an audience of over 100 people and three judges, mark the culminating event for each student. Students deliver presentations that are unique, engaging, enthusiastic, confident, knowledgeable, sincere, heartfelt, and thoughtful. The experience not only prepares students for the future, but also gives them a life changing opportunity.

Elements of R.O.P.E. Choosing an activity: This should be something the student is very interested in learning how to do. Through a brainstorming process and a final choice made with parent’s permission and approval of teacher, each student will determine something that is of personal interest and passion.

Learning and doing: The activity should take 10-15 hours to learn the basis and observe and interview an expert in the activity.

Interviewing: Students will conduct a fifteen minute interview with an expert in the field and write a summary of the interview.

Documenting: Each student will document the experience and the interview through still photographs, video, audio recording, etc.

Writing: Each student will write a 3-5 page research paper about the activity.

Presenting: Each student will make a 10 minute presentation that includes information from the research paper, a summary of the interview, photos of the actual experience and a live demonstration of the skill or something which was produced.

SERVE: Summit Excellence Reflected in Volunteer Experience: A unique middle school experience

SERVE: Summit Excellence Reflected in Volunteer Experience

Community service is an important aspect of Summit’s excelling middle school program. SERVE teaches students the importance and value of sharing their time and talent with their community.

Positive effects occur both academically and socially when students participate in community service.  Teachers and parents have witnessed the impact on our students global awareness and the kindness of their actions, as they gain understanding that their service for others, both within Summit and the outside community matters.  Our middle school students also grow as strong role models and inspiring leaders to preschool and elementary children.

SERVE Program

8th grade: To graduate, all eighth grade students are required to attend three school sponsored service events and donate an additional 20 hours of their time volunteering at organizations of their choice. Often students do far more than required.

Summit teachers help students find ways to bring value to their school by coordinating activities such reading with children in preschool during after school care, tutoring younger children. Students gain insights into the needs of others, fostering a pride in their efforts and a realization of how they can benefit the world around them.

The experiences culminate with a celebratory SERVE recognition breakfast and reflection held in May for parents and students.

7th grade:  Attends the three school sponsored community service events. Additionally students are asked to complete a minimum of five community service hours, either within the Summit community or an outside organization, and write a reflection based on the benefits and effects of community service as a progression into 8th grade.

6th grade: Attends three school sponsored middle school community service events, one in the fall, winter and spring.

Curriculum, Character, Compassion, coupled with a phenomenal, full liberal arts Curriculum. Summit School of Ahwatukee students are joyful, respectful, and insightful. We are so very proud of our students and our strong partnerships between inspiring teachers and involved parents. Together we are educating confident and caring future leaders.

Technology Enhances Learning

Summit sixth, seventh and eighth grade students each bring a personal computer, iPad or tablet to school each day. Why?  We feel it is important to prepare our students as technology-empowered, lifelong learners with the knowledge, tools, and skills to succeed in high school, college and a global society.

Summit’s success with technology enhanced learning
In the spring of 2010, the iPad emerged as one of the leading new tools in education.  In 2012, after thoughtful consideration and investigation, we selected the iPad as the best instrument to give our middle school students access to the technology they will need in their 21st century education.  At that point our research included the possible use of laptops, netbooks, Android devices, Chromebooks, and we elected to go with iPads.  We studied how other schools had implemented similar programs and what challenges they presented.  We also committed to strengthening our wireless network in order to accommodate new devices.  We were excited about all of the possibilities for learning, productivity, creativity, and strengthening many important skills that would benefit them in the future!

Over the past three years Summit’s 1:1 iPad program has proven very successful.  We have seen amazing 21st Century learning as students used their devices to create, collaborate, communicate and enhance their critical thinking skills.  But at the same time we have seen the technology available change rapidly.  Now tablets of all kinds are available, and families often own tablets or personal computers of differing operating systems.  Students will need to have technological skills that can translate to any platform.  Therefore, our technology model needed to shift to meet this need. Summit now has a “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program for middle school students.

How teachers empower students by using the latest technology learning tools in a classroom setting

• Gives students instant access to research and information
• Provides multimedia resources to enhance learning
• Personalizes class management and access to curriculum, homework, testing dates, project information and due dates, grades and more.
• Can be used in every subject area and class
• Provide easy communication between students and teachers
• Enable them to create and collaborate together
• Help develop problem solving and critical thinking skills Examples of successful iPads use in classroom learning at Summit School of Ahwatukee Literature/Language Arts
• Students use Notability to mark up articles and short text with annotations, notes, and highlights.
• Students use Notability or mind mapping apps to brainstorm ideas during the writing process.
• Students use Pages to compose a wide variety of documents. Using Dropbox, students can send a copy to the teacher for reference during conferences and can receive written feedback in this same way.
• Students research a wide variety of topics via the Internet, Grolier Encyclopedia, and the Arizona State Library – all accessed via the iPad.
• Students use iMovie to create movies that explain or reinforce concepts learned in class.
• Students use Photogene to create photo collages of work or items related to a concept.
• Students use Schoology to keep track of deadlines, note assignments, and communicate with the teacher.
• Vocabulary notebook – This contains notes, vocabulary and definitions, drawings, and review problems.
• We also will occasionally use the calculator apps, play various math games, and watch math videos.
• Math Homework Sheets (Study Links)
• Create mini math lessons to share with classmates using Educreations • Weekly Problem Solving
• Learnzillion.com mini lessons
• Khan academy research Music
• We use Garage Band to learn, develop, and arrange song structures (chord progressions, bass lines, and drum grooves).
• We also use the iPad as a virtual music binder, with digital sheet music stored on Schoology.
• Video record music performances, demonstrations, and reflections. Science & Social Studies
• The students have their science notebooks on the iPad, so they take notes, complete labs, creating graphs, and annotating pdfs.
• They also have downloaded some interactive magazines with scientific content that we have used in our units.
• Use apps such as Solar Walk.
• Social studies textbook and notebook are online.
• We use the iPad for research, creating movies, creating slideshows, producing visual projects, looking up images.
• Some students have also used animation apps to complete projects.
• Complete online vocabulary exercises using several online websites, uSpeak, Haiku Deck and other educational apps.
• Practice verb conjugation with an online Conjugator known as “Conjuguemos.”
• Create online flash-cards and reviewing activities using Quizlet.
• Film real-life scenarios / record themselves while completing dialogues, etc. Art
• Research and design development ideas
• Portfolio development
• Close reading and Art Criticism
• Art writing and critical writing
• Workshop Documentation – Raku
• Design with Photography
• Fabricated Photography
• Photographic Assemblage
• As a tool to explore urban design and housing concepts
• Animation
• Drawing Technology
• Video projects
• Schoology
• Computer programming lessons
• Students perform their self-assessments on the iPad after class.
• Students access rules of games and watch pertinent videos about game play on the sport/activity that we are working on.
• Students who assume the role of “publicist” take pictures and write short paragraphs like a sports journalist and/or photographer about the teams participating.

Get to Know - 8th Grade Faculty

Melissa France

Student Council Advisor
Life Skills, Seventh & Eighth Grade
Social Studies, Eighth Grade

Melissa France earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education in 1998, with a minor in Psychology from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She is a member of NCTM, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

 Mrs. France brought her mathematic and leadership skills to Summit in 2001. She also serves a leadership role in Summit’s math curriculum; supporting teachers in the use of research based best practices, differentiating instruction and challenging students.

 In addition to teaching, Mrs. France serves as Summit’s Student Council Advisor, guiding students in leadership roles for school wide community service projects and spirit building activities. As a result of her service and leadership, she was named Educational Mentor of the Year for 2013-2014 by the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce.

In 2006 Mrs. France was a recipient of a “Golden Gator, Excellence in Teaching Award” from Xavier College Preparatory High School. This award recognizes junior high teachers who have been inspirational to Xavier’s freshmen students.

Andrea Gonzalez-Cantwell

Spanish, Fifth through Eighth Grade

Andrea Gonzalez-Cantwell is a graduate of New Mexico State University, where she earned a Masters Degree in Spanish with a concentration in Linguistics, Curriculum and Instruction. A native of Mexico, she has taught in public and private schools, beginning in 2005, with age levels ranging from elementary students, to university pre-service teachers and professionals. She is a member of the Arizona Language Association (AZLA) and the The American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) She is a bilingual and bicultural individual who enjoys challenging students to gain proficiency in a second language.

Sra. Gonzalez-Cantwell firmly believes that students who achieve fluency in a second language are better equipped to contribute to today’s diverse society, and that 21st century teachers have to be experts in both their subject area, and in the integration of technology into the curriculum. Señora enjoys learning and learns every day with her students, and expands her knowledge through conferences for professional development and online courses. Señora’s latest professional development conference was Creating Engaging Learning Experiences for the 21st Century World Language Learner and Nexus Now Express YoUrSelf at ASU School of International Letters and Cultures. Summit happily welcomed her to the staff in 2011.

Amy Lecky

Middle School Coordinator
Language Arts and Literature, Eighth Grade

Amy Lecky was born and raised in Kentucky, a place dear to her heart. After receiving a BA degree in Education from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, she ventured to Arizona. She loves the desert and all its beauty. She has been teaching for over 20 years, starting with Summit in 2002. Throughout her years of teaching, she truly believes that laughter, enthusiasm, and fostering a positive attitude are just a few of the key components of a classroom and the enjoyment of learning. Mrs. Lecky enjoys teaching and supporting Middle School Students at Summit.

Mrs. Lecky is a three time recipient of a “Golden Gator, Excellence in Teaching Award” from Xavier College Preparatory High School. This award recognizes junior high teachers who have been inspirational to Xavier’s freshmen students. She currently teaches seventh grade literature and seventh and eighth grade language arts and literature. Mrs. Lecky also spearheads two important programs designed for Summit eighth grade students, “ROPES” and “SERVE”, which teach leadership, confidence and community service. She also serves as Middle School Coordinator and is a member of the National Middle School Association.

Christy Menard

Algebra and Geometry, Eighth Grade

Christy Menard teaches Pre-Algebra, Algebra and Geometry to Summit’s seventh and eighth students.  Her career as a middle school math teacher began in 2000, joining Summit in 2009.

Mrs. Menard is a graduate of the University of Texas of Austin (UT), with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Business. While there, she pitched for UT’s Division I softball program.  Prior to transferring to UT, she attended Chapman University in California for two years where she initially demonstrated her love for math through the in-school tutoring program.  A two-time first team All-American, she still holds the record for the most strikeouts in a championship 7 inning game with 20.

Although Mrs. Menard has a Texas past, she is a former Arizona resident. She attended Pueblo Junior High and was part of the first graduating class of Mountain Pointe High School. Her hobbies include softball, running, tennis, and snow skiing.

Andrea Yocum

Science, Sixth through Eighth Grade

Andrea Yocum is an Arizona native, born in Lake Havasu City. She graduated from college at Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education and psychology. Mrs. Yocum started her teaching career as a fifth/sixth grade classroom teacher, and then taught science and math units in the Mesa School District before coming to Summit. She began sharing her talents with Summit students in 2002.

Mrs. Yocum enjoys participating in outside training in both teaching and science related professional development. She was selected as one of 272 teachers from 19 countries across the globe, to participate in the Honeywell Space Academy for Educators at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. She is currently taking courses through the National Math and Science Initiative, and was selected to be a member of the University of Arizona Water Education Cohort. Recently, she helped as a science educational consultant for an exhibit at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 2009, 2012 and 2014 she was a recipient of a “Golden Gator, Excellence in Teaching Award” from Xavier College Preparatory High School. This award recognizes junior high teachers who have been inspirational to Xavier’s freshmen students. Teaching middle school science, including chemistry and physics, using predominately lab experiments, and her obvious love of teaching enthralls her students.