High school students often have a lot more choices about which classes to take than they did in middle school. They also sometimes get to choose the order in which they take classes. For example, some students opt to take Algebra II right after Algebra I. Others hold off so they can sandwich geometry in between.
This kind of flexibility helps explain why the Common Core State Standards—which have been adopted in recent years by over 40 states—don’t break down by grade level what kids are expected to learn in high school.
To help prepare for ninth grade and beyond, eighth graders spend a lot of time learning to analyze and interpret information—to think beyond what’s on the page. Here are some highlights of what skills kids are expected to have by the beginning of ninth grade, according to Common Core State Standards.
Skills to Get Ready for High School: English Language Arts and Literacy
In preparation for high school, eighth graders read fiction and nonfiction from many time periods and cultures. These might include an autobiography such as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, by Frederick Douglass (1845) and a novel about slavery, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor (1976).
By the time students begin ninth grade, they’re expected to know how to be critical readers and decide whether the information makes sense or seems correct. In eighth grade, kids learn to do activities like these to strengthen language skills:
- Identify the exact meaning of something read and what’s implied by the word choice, tone and use of language.
- Decide whether a writer’s argument has enough good evidence and reasoning to back it up.
- Connect ideas and information in writing in a natural and effective way.
- Analyze why information is presented in one media format over another (interactive maps vs. videos, for example).
- Develop a vocabulary of academic words and phrases to use in writing and discussion.
- Make sense of figures of speech (such as puns or idioms) based on the context in which they are used.
Skills to Get Ready for High School: Mathematics
Eighth graders use all the math concepts and skills they’ve learned in sixth and seventh grade to start learning algebra. They start using many variables to work with expressions and learn about numbers known as “irrational numbers”—ones you can’t write as numerals, decimals or fractions. The following math activities strengthen math skills to help kids get ready for high school:
- Learn that rational numbers can be written as a decimal (such as 3/4 = .75) or a fraction (2 = 2/1), but that the same isn’t true for irrational numbers (such as the square root of 2).
- Figure out the square roots of perfect squares (such as the square root of 64 = 8).
- Solve and graph equations; figure out the ratio of two numbers by looking at a line on a graph.
- Learn the meaning of a function—a rule that gives a variable a value based on its relationship to another variable (such as 2x = y).
- Determine when shapes are of equal size and shape (congruent) and when they are the same shape but of different sizes (similar).
- Use the Pythagorean theorem (a2 + b2 = c2) to find the lengths of the sides of a right triangle.
- Find the volume of cylinders, cones and spheres.
The skills needed for high school go beyond memorization. Understanding real-world relevance is key. At home, there are skills you can practice to help your child get ready for high school. Prepare her for high school reading and writing by practicing how to understand puns and “figures of speech.” Finding ways to use decimals and fractions in daily activities (such as calculating tips or tax) can help her get ready for high school math classes.
Remember that kids learn at different rates. If your child has mastered most of these skills by the end of eighth grade, that’s good news. If, however, your child is struggling to learn a number of these skills, it’s a good idea to speak with the teacher. Together you can come up with a plan for addressing your child’s challenges.
Learn more steps you can take to create a smooth transition to high school.