Eighth Grade

Eighth grade at Norwood is a time of increasing independence and self-awareness. One example of this is community service. Instead of participating with their advisory groups, each eighth grader chooses one organization to serve throughout the year, based on their own preferences. Eighth graders also continue to choose their arts and technology electives, their athletic teams, and their theatre commitments. In all of these areas and in the school in general, eighth graders are the leaders. As Norwood’s “senior class,” eighth graders set the tone for their younger peers and help to nurture the inclusive, caring, and creative community that has benefited them. It’s a responsibility they carry proudly. The eighth grade history course picks up where seventh grade left off in the middle of the 20th century and brings students all the way through present day. Along the way, they wrestle with many current day issues, their origins in the past, and implications in the present day. The year ends with a high school level term paper that allows students to hone important research and writing skills while becoming immersed in topics of particular personal interest. Eighth grade English classes include literature from diverse authors of the 20th century, as well as classics like Shakespeare, and also continue experiences in a variety of writing genres. In science, students experience an intensive lab-based chemistry class, culminating in the famous “Sludge Project,” which requires students to carefully separate a mixture and test the properties of the individual components. Eighth graders finish their middle school math studies in algebra or geometry. In all their subjects, they leave well-prepared for success in high school and with the skills and habits they need to consider new ideas, tackle unfamiliar problems, collaborate with others, articulate their thoughts, and advocate for themselves. Their year-end experiences include a long overnight trip to New York City, a special Class Day celebration filled with performances and speeches, and their commencement ceremony.

List of 11 items.

  • English

    Similar to seventh grade, eighth grade English approaches the study of literature thematically. Reading many of the great and diverse voices of the 20th century, students read works in major genres: novels, essays, plays, short stories, nonfiction, and poetry. Students read texts like The House on Mango Street, using the book as a vehicle to develop close reading and discussion skills. The writing program continues to develop grammatical precision in conjunction with narrative voice. Through the Writing Workshop model, students reflect on the strengths and structure of mentor texts, and apply those observations to their own works. Students collaborate as peer editors, and continue to revise and edit works through one-on-one conferencing with their teacher.
  • Math

    In eighth grade, most students enroll in algebra. Like seventh grade, the course is taught in two levels in order to best challenge students. Those eighth grade students who have already completed algebra enroll in honors geometry. Students in the geometry course investigate geometric situations, develop conjectures from them, and ultimately progress through the full range of proofs. Topics covered during the geometry class include, among others: reasoning (logic, inductive, deductive), constructions, polygons, transformations/ symmetry, and trigonometry. Students completing this track will have credit in both algebra and geometry.
  • History

    The eighth grade history class addresses 20th century world history through the lens of the Unites States. Starting with the early 20th century, students explore the growth of the Unites States as a global superpower. Because of the period of study is so recent, students take full advantage of first-person accounts through recorded interviews and guest speakers. Building on skills developed throughout middle school, they also continue to make good use of primary resources and original documents. During the year, students complete a high-school level research paper that requires them to utilize the online databases. One of the goals of the paper is to expose students to the rigors and demands of this kind of paper, preparing them for the work they will have in high school. Throughout eighth grade, students connect what they are learning in history to current events.
  • Science

    The eighth grade science curriculum centers on very big questions like, “How do we know what we know?” Addressing fundamental questions in science, students apply the lesson, knowledge, and skills that they have built over their careers at Norwood to tackle a series of experiments. While the content is based in physical science, students practice the finer skills of lab science such as measuring volume and mass, progressing from mixtures to compounds to elements. In the process, students learn about some of the characteristic properties, both physical and chemical, by which substances are recognized and separated. The emphasis in the course is on accurate observation and recording as well as completing the experiments themselves. The Sludge Project, where students must identify the substances given to them in a container, is a highlight of the year and a capstone to a Norwood student’s science career.
  • World Languages

    The seventh and eighth grade Spanish program includes the study of history and events from Spanish speaking cultures and has the goal of expanding the students’ abilities to express themselves accurately in oral and written Spanish. Students are exposed to authentic sources of Spanish via online recordings, songs, videos, full length films, and news sources. They read a wide variety of materials written for native speakers and for language learners. The students conduct research, write compositions, sing traditional and pop songs, act in skits, and do oral presentations in the target language. Both seventh and eighth grade Spanish students take the National Spanish Exam.

    Seventh and eighth grade levels provide opportunities to develop communication skills in the language, at an emerging level, while deepening the understanding of the people and culture of China. The target language is used almost exclusively in the classroom to work toward proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Topics include: foods, clothes, body parts, sports, animals, transportation, shopping, languages, weather, and making comparisons. Class activities include short essay writing, research projects, implementation of language-related web activities, use of Kuaiban (“bamboo talk), discussion of current events, use of a variety of authentic Chinese materials, and visits to Chinese cultural centers.

    The seventh and eighth grade French curricula focus on theme-based units that cover more complex grammar concepts as well as new conjugation tenses (perfect tense, future, and conditional.) Students read at an intermediate level getting a taste of genuine French literature such as La Tulipe Noire by Alexandre Dumas, 20,000 Lieues sous les Mers by Jules Verne. In seventh grade, students research important places in France through Le Tour de France Culturel.

    In seventh and eighth grade, students learn Latin through the study of language structure, vocabulary acquisition, and translation. They are encouraged to make comparisons to the grammar structure of English which gives them great insight into their own language. Through vocabulary, students learn that many English words are derived from Latin words, and they learn to decode more complex English words by looking for the Latin roots. Students study Roman culture to put the Latin language into the context in which it was originally used. The culture studied is incorporated into the translations and story lines to make the passages more authentic. Language and culture are integrated from the outset by using as much authentic Roman subject matter as possible.
  • Art

    In the seventh and eighth grades, students expand their knowledge of the elements and principles of art and continue to explore art as a visual language. Students chose two courses in art each year and each course concentrates on one medium. The students work with various materials and learn techniques within that medium. They work both from observation and from visual memory. The art courses draw on a wide variety of ideas, artists, and art to inspire the students and help them understand and appreciate the diversity of artistic expression. Exploration, problem solving, artistic expression and self-discovery form the frame work that guides our art projects. We strive to educate an artistically competent, adventuresome and confident student, who is generally comfortable thinking outside the box in all areas of study.

    Digital Art and Yearbook Design
    Students learn computer illustration techniques, image manipulation, digital camera use, and how to apply the principles and elements of art in a digital composition. Through the creation of posters, logos, digital paintings, and graphic designs, students become familiarized with the tools, layers, and filters in the programs Adobe Photoshop and ArtRage. Students use their graphic and artistic skills to design and produce the yearbook using an online publishing program.

    In drawing class, students explore the use of various drawing materials from charcoal to pencil to pastel and ballpoint pen. Each material has its strengths. They explore texture, tone, pattern and color. They learn to manipulate space creating a deep landscape space or a flat abstracted space. Students learn to express emotions and express their own feelings. They learn the power of composition and what changes in scale can do to the impact of an image, as well as develop comfort with drawing.

    The painting class places a strong emphasis on color, mixing colors from a limited palette, understanding how to use complementary colors to create shadows and creating color combinations that enhance each other. Understanding of composition and structure are also emphasized. The class paints landscapes, still lives, portraits and abstract pieces.

    The printmaking course is designed to teach fundamental relief-printmaking techniques. Students produce prints using a variety of techniques and materials and they learn to prepare blocks, use carving tools and print by hand and on the press using water-based inks. Also covered are methods for creating reduction prints and alternative techniques, such as collage and hand-colored prints. Students learn to number and sign editions of prints and develop vocabulary of printmaking terms and techniques. The conscious use of elements and principles of art is encouraged in designing prints. Drawing and color-mixing techniques are an integral part of the course.

    The sculpture class is materials based. Students are introduced to the basic tenants of sculpture, structure, composition, movement, color, pattern and design. Each project involves working with a different material and discovering its qualities and what type of sculpture it can become. Some of the materials that the students work with are wood, wire, tin, found objects, things found in nature and soap stone.

    3D Art and Textile Design
    Students explore materials such as canvas, yarn, wire, clay, wood, found objects, cardboard, and paper to produce 3-D mixed-media works of art. Students explore the representational and abstract qualities of form to produce free-standing or high-relief works of art. Students also have the freedom to choose from various materials to produce mixed-media weaving projects and fabric painting. Drawing and color mixing techniques are an integral part of the course.
  • Music

    In seventh and eighth grade, students my choose to continue their study of orchestra, choir, and band or may choose to play the handbells. Building on the general skills students learned in lower school classes, these tracks apply students’ musical understanding to specific musical areas. While some students have prior experience with instruments, no experience is required and students are encouraged to stretch their musical abilities. Each group participates in seasonal concerts throughout the year, including a winter and spring concert.
    Orchestra members begin their study with proper techniques particular to their instruments, note and sight reading, learning to play as an ensemble, as well as basic music theory. Throughout their time in the orchestra, students’ build their skills year-to-year as they play musical selections from a diverse set of musical styles, from a range of cultures and religions. Importantly, as an ensemble, students learn to work collaboratively as a musical unit.
    Curriculum for the course extends the skills and concepts introduced in general music classes in the lower school. Playing a diverse range of music, students begin with fundamental lessons in particular instruments; as they develop competency with those, they are encouraged to branch out to work with other band instruments. As with the orchestra, skills build year-to-year and students participate in seasonal concert opportunities.
    Middle school choir builds habits that lead to successful performance. Students continue to develop a healthy vocal range and an aural image of good singing, while working on musicianship skills by solidifying their understanding of basic musical notation. Students continue to actively perform diverse musical selections that push them to develop a broad range repertoire of abilities. The selection of those pieces comes in part through student input. As the class learns about and discusses music from different cultures, eras, religions, and composers, they, in collaboration with the instructor, select performance pieces.
    Beginning in seventh grade, students have the choice to participate in the bells ensemble, the Norwood Ringers. Building on the musical skills they have learned in earlier classes, students apply them to an entirely new instrument; they learn healthy ringing techniques, practice reading musical notation through daily sight reading, and learning the context of the era of their music selections. As with the other ensembles, students learn to collaborate as musicians to bring out the best in one another as performers. 
  • Drama

    Improvisation class is another trimester course. Students use the body, voice, and imagination to create original characters and scenes in a collaborative and supportive environment. They learn how to properly warm up the body and focus the mind for acting. Emphasis is placed on playing drama games that encourage spontaneity, creativity, ensemble acting and characterization.  Students also learn basic acting skills through the study of pantomime and original scene building. 

    Scenes on Stage
    In Scenes on Stage, students explore how to use the body and voice expressively through scripted work. Students participate in warm-up activities and drama games that encourage relaxation, physical control, and concentration. Emphasis is placed on building a trusting environment where students can collaborate and take risks in their acting. Students learn about character objective and motivation, and they search for the clues in a script that help them make choices for their characters. Students also practice rehearsal skills and perform short scenes and a monologue for the class.

    Filmmaking is a highly collaborative class in which students watch, discuss, review, and create films. Students are introduced to filmmaking terms and techniques using an online visual glossary and interactive learning tool. Each day students learn new filmmaking techniques and experiment with these techniques through a series of quick small projects which highlight different aspects of filmmaking: image, sound, story, character, setting, structure, mood, theme, and point-of-view. Students work together in small groups as a production team on two main projects: a silent film and a three-minute original short. They write scripts, draw story boards, direct, produce, and edit their projects using the filmmaking software, Power Director.   
  • Physical Education & Athletics

    Athletics and alternative offerings provide Norwood students the ability to be involved in a combination of activities ranging from traditional sports such as soccer and basketball to more exploratory choices such as strength and conditioning and Summit, our signature outdoor education program. All of these experiences provide students with leadership opportunities, personal goal setting, and life-long fitness skills. Building on the lessons from the lower and middle school classes, each sport and/or team focuses on sport specific skill sets along with social development, personal improvement, teamwork and sportsmanship. The program includes approximately 25 teams throughout three seasons. Each team practices four days a week for roughly one hour per day not counting games, field trips, special contests, and tournaments.
  • Library & Technology

    In seventh and eighth grades, students refine and build upon the skills and knowledge they’ve covered in earlier grades. The location of the Middle School Library on the seventh and eighth grade hallway makes it a hub of their school experience; as many of their assignments and projects require original research as well as peer-to-peer collaboration, the library supports many aspects of students’ academic work. Technology instruction continues in support of and is woven into the curriculum of other classes. Furthering students’ knowledge of computer science, a class on coding is offered as an elective. Students are welcome in the library before school, during lunch, recess, and study halls. Seventh and eighth graders also enjoy organizing and leading pizza lunch book clubs throughout the year.

    Coding Workshop
    Coding Workshop is a trimester course and elective for seventh and eighth graders that explores elements of computer programming and develops the skills necessary to be a successful “coder.” Students develop computational thinking skills to address problems, develop their own sense of time management and organization to create a working program, and build persistence as they learn beginning languages. They use programs such as code.org, SCRATCH, and codecademy to build their understanding of coding.
  • Life Skills

    As part of our commitment to the whole child, Norwood School’s Life Skills Program introduces students to age-appropriate information about personal and community health and well-being that will help them lead happy, healthy lives and make positive contributions to their community from early childhood through adolescence and beyond. Topics include:

    • Personal and Interpersonal Skills
    • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
    • Human Growth and Development
    • Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention
    • Safety
    • Media and Technology
    • Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Social Justice
    Specific topics for middle school students include nutrition and fitness, personal safety, hygiene, puberty, the reproductive system and reproduction, decision-making, stress management, interpersonal skills, social media, peer pressure, peer relationships, substance abuse prevention, identity, stereotypes, bias, discrimination, and positive action. Depending on the grade and topic, coordinated instruction occurs in homeroom, advisory, science, physical education, and/or dedicated life skills classes. At all ages, the program establishes skills and strategies for lifelong well-being and promotes caring for the well-being of others. Throughout the program, teachers emphasize the important role students’ own family members play in guiding goal-setting, problem-solving, and decision-making.
A Week in the Life of a Norwood Eighth Grader

Each morning starts with a community gathering to focus on the value of the month and to prepare for the day ahead. Eighth graders then enjoy a balanced schedule combining history, world languages (Spanish, Chinese, French, Latin), Coding Workshop, English, math, science, Life Skills, music (strings, band, chorus, handbells), art, and study hall.


List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Kelly Dickinson

    Kelly Dickinson 

    Media Resource Specialist and Advisor
    Randolph College - B.A.
    University of Pittsburgh - MLIS
  • Photo of Alexandra Gichner

    Sandra Gichner 

    Middle School Latin Teacher and Advisor
    Connecticut College - B.A.
  • Photo of Craig Hollander

    Craig Hollander 

    Middle School History Teacher and Advisor
    Harvard University - A.B.
    University of Virginia - M.Ed.
  • Photo of Susan O'Connell

    Susan O'Connell 

    Middle School English Teacher and Advisor
    Gettysburg College - B.A.
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute - M.A.Ed.


  • School Leaders
  • Kindergarten Buddies
  • Athletics & Summit
  • History Research Paper
  • Sludge Project
  • Intersession
  • Geography and Spelling Bees
  • Quaker Workcamps
  • Fall Play
  • Spring Musical
  • New York City Overnight
  • Class Day Speeches & Performances
Located in Bethesda, MD, Norwood School develops students in grades PK-8 into confident lifelong learners who have the academic, character, and leadership skills to succeed in high school and beyond. Recognizing that children are multi-faceted, Norwood provides many opportunities for safe risk-taking, exploration, discovery, and growth in a nurturing, supportive, and inclusive school community.