St. John Berchmans - Junior High

St John Berchmans' junior high is commited to keeping you informed about what is happening academically and beyond with our students. We will add new content weekly, so look around and see what is happening here.

- The junior high team.

Welcome to this years junior high blog. Every week one of the junior high teachers (Ms. Begley, Mr. Osselaer, Ms. Copre) will publish a short update about what is going on in the junior high (grades 6th, 7th, and 8th). This will include information about academics and advisory. There will also be pages with upcoming news and events and a photo gallery of pictures of all these wonderful things. Enjoy!

Week 9: October 17, 2018


  • Junior High STEM Day has been rescheduled to next Tuesday (October 23rd)
  • Holy Fire Field Trip is next week on Friday October 26th

Academic Highlights

In 6th Grade Science, the students are about to finish their unit on environmental science. Most recently, we talked about Earth's position in relationship to the sun and why we experience different seasons on earth. We played a fun review game on their study guide today called "treasure hunt" and the students seemed to get a kick out of it! Their test will be on Friday. Parents, ask your 6th grader if they can tell you all the steps to the Water Cycle.

In 7th Grade Science, the students have been learning on the parts (organelles) of cells and how they function. We have also been covering how cells are classified as either simple or complex and the differences between plant and animal cells. To finish the unit, we will be discussing the special types of cells within humans and how organs are powered by multiple cells. Parents, ask your 7th grader to explain why cells are considered the building blocks of life.

In 8th Grade Science, the students have finished learning about the theory of evolution and Charles Darwin's contributions to biology. The Students will be moving forward to discuss animal adaptations and eventually create their own animals! Parents, ask your 8th grader what survival of the fittest means to them.


This week in Advisory, the junior high has been working on forming team identities and discussing what attributes make up a successful team. We have discussed the importance of respectfully disagreeing with teammates, how to make compromises, and how to inspire those around you. Parents, ask you junior high team if they think it is better to have a team of people who always agree with one another, or to have a team challenge each others ideas.

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

-Vince Lombardi

Week 8: October 11, 2018


  • Our new lunch program does not allow the teachers to cancel lunches when we attend a field trip. That means, if you order lunches for your child, YOU will need to cancel his/her lunch order for Friday, October 26th when we attend the Holy Fire Retreat.

Academic Highlights

The 8th graders have begun reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. We are focusing on the development of the narrator and how he changes through each conflict. This is a popular book (many of you might remember reading it and loving it), and the students are enjoying it. Ask your child to explain what Ponyboy thinks about the sunsets. The 8th graders are studying verbs in language arts. Ask your student what type of verb is in the following sentence and why: "Mary and her sister became overjoyed during the concert."

The 7th graders completed a mock trial as the characters from a teleplay of The Twilight Zone, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." They examined who the "monsters" where in this story. Ask your student to tell you the story and answer who the monsters really were. The 7th graders are writing their first essay in language arts. It is a comparison essay comparing two animals. We have been working on the organization and structure of the essay. Each student should have completed his/her research and begun the drafting process. Ask your students to share his/her focus/thesis statement.

The 6th graders are continuing to focus on short story elements: plot, conflict, and character. This week we have been focusing on character qualities and how those qualities impact the resolution and conflict. We will soon be discussing character motivation and that impart of the narrative. In language arts the students are studying verb types. Ask your student to explain the difference between a transitive and intransitive verb.

This week has been a short week filled with Interim Aspire testing and high school information day for the 7th and 8th graders, so our advisory time has been lost to these activities

Week 7: October 4, 2018


  • This Wednesday, October 3 marked our first Mid-Trimester of the year. Progress Reports will be e-mailed today to families of students in grades 3 - 8. Please review your child’s grades so far this year, as well as any comments on successes and suggestions for improvement. Create a plan for your child in moving forward this year and finishing 1st Trimester on a strong note.
  • The Junior High will once again participate in the Holy Fire Retreat at the UIC Pavilion on Friday, October 26. We are excited to connect with the larger Church and realize our role within the faith community. Permission slips were sent home this week. Please read through the details, sign, and return to homeroom with your child.

Academic Highlights

The 6th graders in Math are wrapping up our latest chapter on number theory. They have mastered divisibility, which helps us more easily analyze what factors can divide larger numbers. Knowing divisibility will connect us to prime factors and fractions. Ask your child what the difference is between a factor tree and a factor stair. They each have a preference!

The students in 7th grade Math class has also reviewed prime factors and how they relate to fractions. Ask your child the difference between LCM and GCF. We will continue on with fractions and discuss how they relate to decimals. Fractions will play a large role in 7th grade Math, as we will cover converting between fractions, decimals, and percents. Fractions are also significant in helping us work with ratios and proportions.

In 8th grade Math class, we have built upon variables and expressions to move into solving equations and inequalities. Ask your child what the main goal is in solving these number sentences. Equations and inequalities can get tricky when they involve integers, or positive and negative numbers, but the 8th graders have gotten a handle on them. We will use these current concepts and transition into a key part of 8th grade Math: functions and graphing linear equations. These will take up an important part of our year in Math, as it will help our 8th graders prepare for entrance exams and their freshman year in high school.

A main theme in our 6th and 7th Grade Religion classes is Creation. 6th grade is exploring how to relate our faith to the facts that exist in Science. (You can believe in both!) The 7th graders are delving into how creation helps us know more about God and ourselves. In 8th Grade Religion, we are discussing what is involved in making a moral decision and how it affects human dignity and our conscience.


“It’s a very important thing to learn to talk with those you disagree with."

~ Pete Seeger

The focus in Advisory for Junior High continued with the ideas we explored during Dr. McEvoy’s workshops on kind behavior. This week, we discussed difficult situations and disagreements and how to resolve them. Sometimes, we can diffuse them with thoughtful discussion. Other times, we end up agreeing to disagree or finding a middle ground through compromise. In any case, it is important to listen to each other and maintain respect.

Week 6: September 27, 2018

Academic Highlights

In 6th Grade Social Studies, the students have been learning about the various societies and cultures of ancient Africa and the Middle East. Most notably, the students have been comparing and contrasting the development of Mesopotamia and Egypt and have discussed why societies develop near river systems. In addition, the students have been learning about the differences in religious practices between various societies. Parents, ask your 6th grader about the difference between Polytheistic and Monotheistic religions.

In 7th Grade Social Studies, the students just completed their projects on the battles of the American Revolutionary War. Leading up to the projects, we discussed the reasons why the colonists in New England felt that their liberty was under siege from England. We have also been studying the various diverse groups of people who had an impact on colonial life including African American slaves, Native Americans, and women. Parents, ask your 7th grader what is meant by the phrase: "No taxation without representation."

In 8th Grade Social Studies, the students have been going over the events leading up to the Civil War as well as some of the technological advancements that came about in the mid 19th century. In addition, the students completed a primary source analysis of the Gettysburg Address and discussed how President Lincoln has had a lasting impact on United States history. Parents, ask your 8th grader why they believe the Civil War was the bloodiest war in America's history.


This week in advisory, the students focused on the topic of making a sincere apology. Through role-playing and group discussions, the students came up with ideas on how to best give an apology. The lessons focused on four major components of an apology:

1. Take the blame and make no excuses when apologizing.

2. State what you did and how you believe it must have made the other person feel.

3. Describe what course of action you should have taken and what you will do in the future to correct the mistake.

4. Work towards rebuilding the relationship with other person.

In addition, the student also talked about how to accept an apology and foster the concept of repairing rel

Week 5: September 20,2018

Academic Highlights:

This week in reading, the 8th graders have been reading stories with unreliable narrators. We have discussed how the point of view of the narrator can shape a story. We also discussed why an author would want for his reader to disbelieve the narrator. The stories were a little dark, but the class loved reading and discussing them.

The 7th grade story unit is focusing on identifying conflict within the narrative. We are focusing on the two types of conflict (internal and external) and how the characters resolve those problems. The 7th grade is also working on how to develop an evidence based answer. Ask your 7th grader what the definition of "evidence" is when discussing literature.

Today the 6th graders took their first official reading "test." It covers one story and a short list of vocabulary. I have full confidence that their scores will reflect the effort each student has put into reading and discussing this story. The 6th graders are continuing to master the iPads, but many still need to be reminded of the true purpose of the device (their school work). Sit down with your 6th grader and discuss how they use their iPads and have them show you what they are using them for.

Parents, I have a grammar challenge for each of you.

Which sentence is correct? 1. Andrew invited Tom and me to the movies on Friday. 2. Andrew invited Tom and I to the movies on Friday.

Now ask your child to explain which is correct and why.


This week in advisory we have been discussing "mindsets." The students have were given the equation effort = success. We discussed that this equation is true but often has other factors that influence it like interest, perseverance, and even competition. Ask your child which factors they feel are the most important and which can be the most distracting.

Week Four: September 13, 2018


  • Thank you to all the families in attendance during last week’s Parent Workshop focusing on SJB’s behavior rubric. Junior High students also attended their own workshops last Thursday and Friday and now know of various ways to handle difficult situations respectfully and effectively.
  • We will be celebrating the Fall Fest this Saturday, September 15. Come join us for this annual tradition, as well as Family Mass the following day on Sunday, September 16.

Academic Highlights:

Junior High students in 6th grade Math have just about finished our first chapter on decimals. While some of the material is review from previous years, we discussed new lessons and tips to calculate operations more easily. We have also used different number properties to understand how and why we can manipulate numbers to help us solve problems.

7th grade Math has gotten into the swing of things, having covered decimals and integers in our first chapter. Especially when discussing how to perform operations with integers, the 7th graders realized they are capable of accomplishing much more than they may have thought! Also, ask your 7th grader about the metric conversion table and their sentence to help them remember it. They created quite a few clever mnemonic devices!

The 8th grade Math class has been on a roll in learning about variables and expressions. In addition, we have studied examples of how positive and negative signs affect how numbers interact with each other within the four operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It is not always what you may think! This is a precursor for the work we will be doing with linear equations and graphing in preparation for high school entrance exams.

Junior High Religion classes have begun the year exploring the Bible. After learning how to find a specific verse, we discussed how to break it down to find its core meaning. Ask your child about Matthew 5: 13-16 ~ “You are the salt of the earth.” Each student also created personal “salt cubes” that remind them of how each us “season” our families, friend groups, and Church.


"If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually, you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges." ~ Pat Riley

The Junior High used this week’s Advisory to focus on SMART goals. These are goals that are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Students targeted a personal goal they are challenging themselves to achieve in the next 3-4 weeks. In addition, everyone created a plan to help them reach this goal.

Week Three: September 6, 2018


  • We will be starting the student and parent workshops for our behavior rubric today. The students will be attending workshops today and tomorrow and the parent workshop is tonight at 6:00 PM.
  • The Fall Fest this year will be on Saturday September 15th with family mass following on Sunday September 16th.

Academic Highlights:

In 6th Grade Science, the students have completed their first unit on the Scientific Method and measurements under the international system of units. Most the information served as a review for the 6th grade, but it will serve in the long run in preparation for the Science Fair later in the fall as well as class in general. Parents, ask your 6th grader about the steps to the Scientific Method and why an experiment does not end after one test.

In 7th Grade Science, the students have just finished a unit on the rock cycle by completing a lab. The students learned about the three major rock types (Sedimentary, Igneous, and Metamorphic). In Social Studies, the students have been preparing for their map test next week and locating major areas around the globe. Parents, ask your 7th grader how rock types are formed into new ones.

In 8th Grade Science, the students have been learning about the Geologic Timescale and how the Earth's land masses were formed and changed over time. They just completed a lab creating their own timeline, and have discussed how scientist are able to date events in Earth's history. In Social Studies, the students are hard at work with their "Build Your Own Country Projects." Parents, ask your 8th grader to explain what the Law of Superposition is.


This week, in preparation for the behavior workshops, the Junior High students discussed the topic of empathy. We worked together to create a definition of the word using examples in the real world and brainstormed some ideas as to how we can incorporate the idea of empathy in our day to day actions. Parents, discuss with your student as to what ways sympathy and empathy are different from one another.

“Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.” - Brene Brown

Week One and Two: August 30, 2018

We have made it through the beginning of the year. I want to thank all of our parents for coming to the iPad meeting last night. It was a great success, and the students are excited to have their iPads. Have a conversation about how things are working and what their responsibility are.

Academic Highlights:

The 6th grade reading class is slowly getting underway. The students have all received a Storytown textbook and will be reading a series of short stories for the first few months of school. Most lessons will have a vocabulary component where the students focus on understanding the words in context. In language arts we are working on nouns and understanding how to use our iPads as digital notebooks for notes and homework.

The 7th grade spent the first week of reading and language arts looking at a set of four interwoven stories about the first day of school. Then they created an extension story about one of the characters in the text. They were outstanding. It was a wonderful start to the school year. Remind your child that that kind of work and effort is what will make an excellent scholar.

It is wonderful to have the 8th graders again. To watch their growth into leaders of the school is always a joy. While they will often try to distract me to talk about current events, weekend plans, or even watching old iMovies, we have started a short story unit in reading with a focus on conflict and character. This year much of what we read will relate to these ideas and how an author chooses to write his/her story.

All and all we are off to a great start in reading and langauge arts. Hopefully you'll see your students reading every night. I could be a news article, a novel, or a story, but reading makes all the difference.


Last week we spent our advisory time as a whole junior high building community and learned about each other. We came up with slogan's for what makes the junior high great as well as completing some team building activities.

This week we worked with our grade level teams and focused of respect. The students talked about what respect is, how we build respect, and why respect is important. Today in class we came up with same ananlogies about respect and here are a few that stuck out.

Respect is like a street because if you go the wrong way, you'll get hurt. Respect is like an onion because there are many layers. Ask your child what he/she came up with.