Core Class Offerings

Desert Shadows Middle School 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.

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-1980s.  


7th 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 and 3-D shapes to solve problems involving area, surface area, and volume.  We end the year with a fun probability unit.

8th 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 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.

Social Studies

7th Grade Social Studies encompasses three main subjects. The year starts out with the civil war. Students will explore this topic in various ways, including our week long hands on demonstrations of working cannons, medical technology and other civil war subjects. We will move from the civil war and jump into world war one. Students will get to experience our cultural fair, depicting the various backgrounds our students represent. The last months of 7th grade our students will discuss the beginnings of world war 2.  Students will have the opportunity to dress up and attend our 1940's white house dinner reenactment. Proper dinner attire will be adorn and students will dance and eat the school day away.

8th Grade Social Studies begins with the American Revolution which leads us directly into the forming of our new government and the Constitution. This unit includes a fun rap battle between the 8th grade classes.  We spend several weeks understanding civics in the United States 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 DC in March to see their government at work and visit places and documents studied in the classroom. Eighth graders then move through US history chronologically beginning with World War II and ending with the 1980 decade.  Highlights of our chronological study includes the cold war, civil rights, Korea, and Vietnam.


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. Volcanoes, earthquakes, rocks, fossils, layers of the earth, and plate tectonics, are just some of the topics studied.

Eighth Grade Science combines the scientific method, scientific history, and technology, applying them to the fields of Physics, Chemistry and Life Science.  Motion and Forces, Chemical Interactions, and Cells and Heredity 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.