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

    Ceramics is a semester-long course that introduces students to the beauty of ceramics. Students will explore the composition of clay and glazes as a fine art medium. Forming techniques, surface development, glazing, kiln firing practices are introduced. Students will be able to independently innovate works of art beginning with a sketched idea and culminating to a finished work of art. Students will examine the history of ceramics and make connections to a myriad of cultures, contemporary artists, and current events, while gaining understanding of the artist’ ideas and intentions. Generally, laboratory in nature, ceramics examines and give experience in a multiplicity of formats and integrates art history, design principles and aesthetic criticism and response. 
    Textiles/Fiber Arts  
    This semester-long course will give students an introduction of fiber work using natural and manufactured materials. Areas of surface design and weaving techniques will be explored using techniques such as stitchery and appliqué. Emphasis will be placed on creative design concepts, craftsmanship, skillful, and imaginative use materials. Fiber and textile processes may include weaving, paper-making, mixed media, and fabric painting. Cultural, historic, and aesthetic aspects of these processes will be incorporated, as well as experiences in art analysis. 

    This semester-long course introduces students to printmaking through a variety of printing processes. Social trends as well as the student’s personal artistic voice will be explored in the production of quality printed works of art. The development of personal drawings that use the art elements and principals of design will be part of the exploration in examining traditional printmaking. The investigation of developing story design and technical skills are emphasized. 
    Assemblage, Relief, Kinetic! are just a few sculptural techniques that students will explore in sculpture class. Projects will allow students to examine, investigate, and create abstract, geometric, and organic forms using a wide variety of materials and sculptural techniques. Students will learn how to create art that will help them develop their own individual creative style and identity. 
    Digital Art  
    In the wonderful world of digital art, students will learn how to use the computer to visually communicate their ideas through their artwork. In this class, students will learn to understand the importance of visual composition to improve their overall creative thinking skills. Students will explore digital art, photo manipulation, graphic design, and introductory animation. Students will use Adobe software including but not limited to Photoshop, Illustrator etc. 
    Drawing and Painting  
    Create a variety of unique artworks that demonstrate foundational and intermediate drawing and painting techniques. Students will experiment with a variety of 2-dimensional media including, but not limited to, pencil, charcoal, pastels, acrylics, watercolors, etc. Students will also learn color theory and the art of mixing colors. 
  • 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

    Introduction to Theatre Arts  

    Explore the world of theatre through history, improv, play analysis, and design. This projects-based theatre course introduces you to the main components of theatre. You will build a replica and Shakespeare's theatre, do an escape room with your own theatre terminology, create your own costume and make up design for your favorite play or musical, build a 3D model theatre set and much more! 
    Musical Theatre and Performance 
    Raise your voice in the fun, dance, music, and drama filled class. Musical Theatre performance will focus on the form, history, and performance of musical theatre. Projects include adapting a pop song into a musical theatre scene, presentation on your new favorite musical, and mock auditions! You will also get to see two musicals throughout semesters plus hundreds of clips, interviews, and more with your favorite Broadway performers! 

    Introduction to Acting and Improv 
    Through self and collaborative exploration, students will develop skills in all aspects of acting. During this course students will investigate stagecraft, voice, movement, text, improvisation, and performance within focused units of study. Students will develop vocal, memory, and physical skills necessary for an actor. Students will learn audition techniques and experience a live or mock audition. Students will develop confidence in being in front of people. Students will expand their knowledge of theatrical works.  
  • 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.

  • 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 5 members.

  • Photo of Stephen Crisp

    Stephen Crisp 

    Middle School Drama Teacher and Advisor
    Minnesota State University - BFA
    Shenandoah Conservatory - MM
  • Photo of Kelly Dickinson

    Kelly Dickinson 

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

    Karen Harvey 

    Middle School Art Teacher and Advisor
    Frostburg State University - B.F.A
    Indiana State University - M.F.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 and Summit
  • History Research Paper
  • Persuasive Speech Writing and Delivery
  • Sludge Project
  • Intersession
  • Geography and Spelling Bees
  • Buddy Pillow Project
  • Class Charity
  • Fall Play
  • Spring Musical
  • New York City Trip
  • Class Day Speeches and 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.