Seventh Grade

The beginning of seventh grade marks a special milestone for Norwood students. As they move on to the 7/8 hallway, they meet the teaching team they’ll work with until they graduate. Seventh graders participate in numerous community service experiences all over the DC-metro area with their advisory groups. In history, students embark on a two-year journey through the 20th century, examining it chronologically, thematically, and culturally. Early in the year they take an overnight trip to Philadelphia, visiting several American history sites as they prepare to examine the role of the United States in world history. Immigration, migration, the impact of scientific and technological advances, the motivations and strategies of war, daring initiatives for peace, the spread of democracy, and economic challenges are among the issues examined on a scale that ranges from global to individual. Students’ history studies are often linked to literature they explore in their English classes, with an emphasis on diverse authors of the 20th century. They compose analytical, expository, and creative responses to their reading on a frequent basis in addition to engaging in a wide range of other writing experiences. In science, seventh graders integrate elements of geology, chemistry, and biology into an intensive first-semester study of water and explore the relationship between motion and forces during a second-semester physics unit, all while engaging in experiments and considering current issues affecting their lives. In math, they study a course of either pre-algebra or algebra. Seventh graders choose from elective courses in visual and performing arts and technology, including digital design and courses in coding. While participation in the wonderful fall play and spring musical is optional, all students continue to practice and perform in an instrumental or choral ensemble. In physical education, they participate in the interscholastic athletic program, an outdoor education program called Summit, and strength and conditioning.

List of 11 items.

  • English

    In seventh grade English class, students approach their study of literature through a thematic perspective, asking questions like, “How do individuals preserve their cultural identity and find their voices in society?” Students read texts closely and critically and produce analytical, expository, and creative responses to those texts. Among other texts, students take a deep dive into To Kill a Mockingbird, engaging in a close, detailed reading of the book. With small class sizes, teachers lead students in Socratic-style discussions of themes and issues. Using a diverse and wide selection of texts, students demonstrate their learning through a variety of projects and assessments, including literary analysis, scriptwriting, filmmaking, poetry, and letter writing. 
  • Math

    In seventh grade, most students enroll in pre-algebra. The course is taught in two levels, regular and honors. The course is a rich exploration of topics in pre-algebra and builds on the foundations developed in prior courses. The main differences between the two levels are the pace of curriculum progression, depth of topic discovery, and independence in problem solving expected from students.
  • History

    Seventh graders continue to study history in the United States with a focus on multiple perspectives and primary resources. They begin with the early Republic, moving through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and conclude with the end of the 19th century. Along the way, they study the individuals and events that helped to shape the United States. Through research projects, discussions, class trips, and debates, students explore the issues that continue to impact us today: labor unions and corporate interests, progressivism, immigration, populism, segregation and integration, and imperialism and the emergence of the US as a global power. Students learn how to unpack complex problems and conflicting viewpoints and desires to develop deep understanding that shapes their own beginning worldview.
  • Science

    Seventh grade students work primarily in a lab setting. Lessons continue to be grouped in units, but students do the bulk of their work with lab partners as they explore the content of the lesson. Completing 2-3 small labs per week, they practice gathering data, analyzing it, and drawing conclusions. In addition to these weekly experiments, students complete larger, longer term experiments such as: Dr. Snow’s Broad Street Outbreak Simulation, the Silver Oaks point-source contamination simulation, and the material/physical science Eggsalent Car Crash Challenge. Through all of these, problem-based and inquiry learning drive the curriculum and challenge students to apply their knowledge to solve problems. 
  • 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. In seventh grade, students participate in a field trip to a cultural institution such as the Organization of American States or the Mexican Cultural Institute. 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.

    Beginning in seventh grade, students have the option to switch their world language course to Latin. During the next two years, they 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 with 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 P.E. classes, each sport and/or team focuses on sport-specific skillsets 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 Seventh Grader

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


List of 6 members.

  • Photo of Joseph Cunliffe

    Joe Cunliffe 

    Middle School Band Teacher and Advisor
    Catholic University of America - B.M.
  • Photo of Alexandra Gichner

    Sandra Gichner 

    Middle School Latin Teacher and Advisor
    Connecticut College - B.A.
  • Photo of Sandra Gobar

    Sandra Gobar 

    Middle School Art Teacher and Advisor
    Norfolk State University - B.S.
  • Photo of Janet McDermott

    Janet McDermott 

    Middle School English Teacher and Advisor
    University of New Hampshire - B.A.
    Trinity University - M.A.T.
  • Photo of Risa Seidman

    Risa Seidman 

    Middle School History Teacher and Advisor
    Ohio University - B.S.
    University of Michigan - M.A.
  • Photo of Billy Vargas

    Billy Vargas 

    Director of Diversity, Equity, and Community
    University of Maryland - B.A.
    The George Washington University - M.A.


  • Expanded Service Learning
  • Shared Hallway with 8th Grade
  • Athletics and Summit
  • Option to take Latin or Mandarin
  • WWI Simulation
  • Decades Project
  • Intersession
  • United Nations Water Challenge
  • Geography and Spelling Bees
  • Fall Play
  • Spring Musical
  • Overnight Trip to Philadelphia
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.