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Core Class Offerings at DSMS

Desert Shadows Middle School (DSMS) is devoted to providing our students with a foundation of excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Each day, DSMS students will spend time in these core academic areas.

We work to engage students with a compelling approach to the curriculum. We challenge students cognitively with the goal of inspiring world-class thinkers who are prepared for high school and beyond.

Below is a brief description of our core level class offerings. Regular and honors level classes are offered at each core level. More detailed information on these classes is found on teacher websites. See our staff directory page.

English/Language Arts (2 Class Period Block)

In seventh grade English, we begin the transition from elementary school to secondary school. Students learn Greek and Latin vocabulary stems through a variety of activities and games. They are introduced to the RACE (restate, answer, cite, explain) model of written response. Several opportunities for collaboration and project-based learning occur throughout the year, from group essays to author study presentations. Students analyze theme across diverse media, from text to music to poetry and even film. Novels cover a variety of genres, including titles such as The Giver, Hero, Jurassic Park, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Independent reading is an integral part of the program, and student success is acknowledged through a quarterly celebration.

Eighth grade English focuses on preparing students for the transition to high school. Students write for various purposes as they work through the writing process. Scholars construct organized expository texts that convey complex ideas and develop effective arguments using balanced reasoning and credible evidence. They practice literary analysis of both fiction and informational text. Numerous opportunities to write, debate, and participate in Socratic seminars strengthen their communication skills. Our students use technology extensively to access relevant information, build mixed-media presentations, and engage with the digital textbook. The eighth grade novels encourage awareness of civil rights, ethics, the Hero’s Journey, and cultural literacy from Shakespeare through contemporary literature. Highlights of the year include attending a live professional performance of a Shakespeare play, experiencing the Arizona Renaissance Festival, and participating in Decades Day, a cross-curricular experiential celebration of the influential time period of the 1950s to 1980s.  


Seventh Grade Math begins by building on students’ foundation of all operations involving rational numbers (including integers, fractions, and decimals). After this solid foundation, students will apply problem solving skills while working with algebraic expressions and solving linear equations. In the second semester, our focus starts with proportional relationships. Students will use their understanding of ratios and proportionality to solve a wide variety of percent problems, including those involving discounts, interest, taxes, tips, and percent increase or decrease. Next, we dive into a geometry unit solving problems involving scale drawings, and working with 2-D and 3-D shapes to solve problems involving area, surface area, and volume. We end the year with a fun probability unit.

Eighth Grade Math prepares for our students for High School Algebra. We begin by building on students’ solid foundation of all operations with integers and start the year with a unit solving multi-step linear equations. Next, we spend a considerable amount of time graphing linear equations and solving systems of equations. Students understand that the slope of a line is rate of change and we do a variety of activities in class to reinforce and master this new concept. In order to analyze and truly understand linear equations and slope, students complete a fun Bungee Barbie activity later in the year, when students analyze data to build and test a bungee cord here at school. The second semester focuses on grasping the concept of a function and using functions to describe quantitative relationships. Next, we start our Geometry unit analyzing 2-D and 3-D figures using distance, angle, similarity, and congruence, and understanding and applying the Pythagorean Theorem. We conclude with a unit on “Real Life Math,” simulating living on their own paying bills and maintaining a budget.


Seventh Grade Science is an exciting journey that combines the scientific method, scientific history, and new technology, applying them to the fields of Earth Science and Ecology. Seventh grade science encompasses the “big ideas” of how science is constantly changing. Cells and Life Body System, the Water Cycle, a Changing Dynamic Earth, Weathering and Climate, and Forces and Motion are just some of the topics studied.

Eighth Grade Science combines the scientific method, scientific history, and technology, applying them to the fields of Physical Science, Environmental, and Life Science.

Energy and Matter, Properties of Matter and Changes, Earth and Human Activity, Genetics, and Animal Adaptations are just some of the topics studied. It is our purpose to connect these concepts to the living things in an ecosystem and to phenomena in the universe.

Social Studies

Seventh Grade Social Studies will focus on Integrated Global Studies beginning with the scientific revolution and enlightenment through the present. Students will learn study skills through social studies curriculum. Seventh grade students will understand the relationships and interactions between societies and cultures in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.  United States history will be taught as it intersects with global issues. Students will get to experience a cultural fair, depicting the various backgrounds DSMS students represent. Seventh graders will study units including: Revolutions around the world, global imperialism, the impact of industrialization and organized labor, government and economic systems, Global depressions, World War I, and World War II. Students will have the opportunity to dress up and attend our 1940s White House dinner reenactment. Proper dinner attire will be adorn and students will dance and eat the school day away.

Eighth Grade Social Studies will focus on Citizenship and Civic Engagement in today’s society. Students will learn study skills through social studies curriculum beginning with information and media age. Next, students will study how the government was formed and the constitution. This unit includes formal institutions such as Congress, the courts, and the presidency, historical and current legislation and landmark Supreme Court cases, and amendments to the Constitution and ends with a fun Amendment Rap Battle between the 8th grade classes.  Students will spend several weeks understanding civics in the United States government to prepare for the Arizona Civics Test, which is taken by all 8th graders in November. Eighth grade students have the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. in March to see their government at work and visit places and documents studied in the classroom. Second semester eighth graders will study units including civil rights, immigration, social movements, human rights, environmental issues, and terrorism.