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8th Grade Electives

Eighth grade students are given the opportunity to enroll in two elective courses per semester. Some of our electives are full-year courses and others are semester-long courses. Students who enroll in a full-year elective are committed to that elective for the duration of the school year.

Semester Courses

Art I
Art students will work on two-dimensional projects in drawing and painting using pencil, pastel, color pencil, pen and ink, tempera paints and more. Students will be evaluated according to effort and attitude.

Art II
Prerequisite: Art I
Students will use skills and techniques learned in Art I to create another level of artwork. Emphasis will be on content, composition, balance, and execution, with a focus on portrait drawing and mural painting. Students will explore different mediums including pencil, charcoal, prismacolor, pastel, acrylics and more.

Computer Graphics
It's art on the computer! Learn to paint, draw and animate using software that digital artists and graphic designers use. Students will use Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop to create their own works of art, make art mashups and edit photographs. Students will also have a unit of digital photography and will use their own photographs in class projects.

Computer Programming
Are you a whiz at computers or do you want to be? Computer science is a huge part of our society today and will continue to play a huge role in the future. In this class, students will learn the basics of computer science and about how these machines really work. Students will become versed in the fundamental principles of computer programming. Students will learn basic coding through simple game design. Students will work with partners as well as complete independent projects.

So you want to act.  Welcome to OIS Drama! This class is a highly-charged “human laboratory” in which you learn the basic elements of drama and how to use a range of acting tools, including voice, face and body expression, movement, and use of space. You will build confidence and stage presence with drama games, structured improvisation, and pantomime. You will study the art of theatrical combat and produce your own exciting scene using the techniques you learn. We will then put our acting and directing skills to use in scripted scenes that we perform in class. The course culminates in performance of student monologues. Course goals are to maximize creativity, develop confidence, and foster an appreciation of the dramatic arts.

Drama II
Prerequisite: Drama I
Unleash your imagination and build on the skills you developed in Drama I. Drama II will extend your range and technique by focusing more on scene work and character development. In Drama II, actors and directors alike will learn to analyze scenes and work with texts, which include both dramatic and comedic material.  We will also produce our very own Victorian melodramas, complete with villains, heroes and heroines, and awesome (low-budget) visual spectacles. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you will tape a short commercial and produce your own public service announcement. In between the bigger units, we will sharpen our skills with improvisation, short monologues, and character sketches. 

Leadership is an essential component of our school, with responsibilities ranging from organizing dances, spirit days and community service projects to representing the students of OIS and ensuring that decisions made support student growth. Students are required to submit an application of interest in the spring.

This hands-on class fosters innovative thinking by allowing students to tinker and to use their creativity to solve problems. Students engage in a variety of activities, sharing various materials, tools, and resources. Students seek solutions to problems that may arise in making their prototypes, collaborate to improve their plans, and work to complete their projects. 

Public Speaking & Debate
Public Speaking & Debate is an introductory course that develops speaking skills and provides better understanding of what it takes to communicate effectively in front of a group of your peers. You will learn techniques for handling nervousness, while building courage through a series of fun impromptu speeches. Focus groups will be conducted to understand audience attitude and knowledge so that messages can be adapted for different settings. You will learn to develop an effective thesis statement, and how to organize main/secondary points, construct arguments, and use evidence in support of that thesis. We will complete as many speaking formats as time permits from among the following: Impromptu; Interview & Introduction; Problem/Solution; Narrative; Expository; Creative Persuasive; and Argumentative. PSD also includes a brief introduction to Parliamentary Debate (format used by OIS Debate Team in competition). Debate—the art of civil argument—teaches you how to structure a case and refute opposing arguments. You will learn to set aside the emotionalism that sabotages discussion in so many areas of life. Participating in a spirited debate is one of the fastest ways to build confidence, as well as tolerance and empathy for other points of view.  


In this inquiry-based and hands-on course, students are introduced to the field of robotics using the Lego Mindstorms EV3 program which integrates computer science and engineering. Using skills learned in math, science, and through observation, students work in teams to build machines and to complete a variety of challenges. Students will also gain skills in project management, time management, resource sharing, teamwork, problem solving, systems analysis, and communication.


Students will explore clay techniques and art expression through a series of introductory clay hand-building projects. The class will also work with paper maché and be introduced to pottery. Students will be evaluated according to effort and attitude. Students may repeat this course and will receive new, advanced projects.

Video Production
This beginning video class explores today's vast media scene with an emphasis on doing. Students will learn camera and television operations. Post production will be introduced including computer editing. The students will work alone and in groups for scripting, performance, and criticism. Basic television acting will be introduced with awareness of the unique qualities of TV as a medium for drama. Access to a video camera is helpful.  Students will also work to produce KOIS broadcast. KOIS is Orinda Intermediate School's broadcast for school announcements. Students learn visual storytelling, nonfiction writing, public speaking, news gathering, and the basics of journalism.

Web Design
Web design elective class for the 7th and 8th graders is an immersion into the exciting world of computers. The students will learn how to effectively create websites. Each student will learn skills to assist in researching topics, writing, editing, and graphic design. A major emphasis will be placed on learning HTML, and special web design software that will culminate into creating two special interest web pages. Students will also learn some basic graphic drawing skills as well as digital photography to enhance their web pages.

Students will learn the basic principles of woodworking, including proper use and care of hand and power tools. Students will also learn shop math, measuring, and reading plans. Students will complete assigned projects designed to introduce various tools and processes. Emphasis is placed on safety, responsibility, and cooperation.

Full-Year Courses

Seventh and eighth grade chorus will focus on advancing choral singing, music theory, solo singing, and sight-reading skills. Students who have studied piano and various instruments may have the opportunity to accompany the choir. Advanced Chorus will perform a variety of repertoire at OIS concerts as well as at performances in the community. The Advanced Chorus will participate in the CMEA competition and Six Flags Music in the Park. The class will sing a variety of styles such as Pop, Broadway, Folk, Spirituals, and Concert Selections. Experience in choral singing is preferred.

Competitive Debate
The Competitive Debate elective makes you part of the OIS Debate Team. OIS has been an award-winning team since we formed the East Bay Debate League (EBDL) with other Bay Area schools, and became a member of the national Middle School Public Debate Program. As a member of the EBDL, our OIS team competes against other middle schools in a number of high-energy tournaments, using a parliamentary format developed by Claremont McKenna College. Topics this year have included Net Neutrality, Catalonia independence, police body cameras, state lotteries, voter ID laws, college internships, and more. Subjects range from simple to rigorous. The Debate Team requires commitment, just like any other competitive sport. As a member of the OIS Debate Team, you are expected to attend all of the tournaments, which take place on Saturdays at various schools. Parents are asked to support us, either by judging at tournaments, volunteering at the OIS-hosted tournament, or helping with team organization. Public Speaking is not a prerequisite, but confident speaking and strong reading skills are important because we move quickly into debate structure and strategy. Coursework includes argumentation, refutation, impacts, logical fallacy, debate flowing, research, and brief-writing. You will learn to set aside bias and emotionalism while you identify the merits of different positions. Debaters must be prepared to argue either side of an issue and weigh the relative importance of opposing arguments. 

Concert Band
The OIS Concert Band is an intermediate/advanced level band open to grades 7/8 that performs a wide variety of music at assemblies, concerts, and community events. Concert Band is best suited for students who have achieved proficiency in music reading, rhythmic, and ensemble skills. Band members are eligible to audition for the OIS Jazz Band which meets before school.

French 1B 
Prerequisite: French 1A
This course is a continuation of French 1A stressing speaking, writing and reading. The class is predominantly conducted in French. Increased vocabulary study and more complex speaking patterns and grammar are taught. Students are expected to write short compositions French, read short stories and perform dialogues with classmates. French students will continue to communicate with pen-pals on pre-assigned topics which correspond to the material covered in class.

Note: Eighth grade students who maintain a B- average or higher will be recommended for French 2 in high school.

Spanish 1B
Prerequisite: Spanish 1A
This course is a continuation of Spanish 1A, stressing speaking, writing and reading. The class is predominantly conducted in Spanish. Increased vocabulary study and more complex speaking patterns and grammar are taught. Students are expected to write short compositions in Spanish, read short stories and perform dialogues with classmates.

Note: Eighth grade students who maintain a B- average or higher will be recommended for Spanish 2 in high school.

The String Orchestra is open to violin, viola, cello, and bass students in grades 6/7/8. This course is best suited for students who have at least one year of study experience and can read music. This performance-oriented ensemble performs a wide variety of music at assemblies, concerts, community events. 

Students in this class will be responsible for producing the annual yearbook from start to finish. They will learn graphic design, photography, desktop publishing and will have the chance to sharpen their writing and organizational skills.

Note: Elective courses are offered based upon student interest and sign-ups.