Quality advisory programs consist "of much more than a period of time filled with activities," says veteran middle grades educator Theresa Hinkle in this recent article for NASSP's Middle Level Leader newsletter. As more middle schools abandon dedicated periods for "affective education," it's important for principal and teacher leaders to consider ways they can "incorporate the attitude of advisory" throughout the school day. Hinkle writes: "(W)e must look to establish a culture that supports young adolescents in
their development as well-rounded young adults. In order to do this, we
must be aware that truly listening to the voices of our students is
The Spring 2010 issue of Professional Development Sourcebook is devoted to stories and resources about the Response to Intervention (RTI) model, which integrates assessment and intervention to maximize student achievement and reduce behavior problems. Among our favorite resources in this info-packed issue is the interview with middle grades teacher Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, and her Texas principal, describing how their school has implemented RTI. A good reference for general and special ed teachers alike.
This research report, first published by the Teachers College Record, uncovers several qualities of after-school programs that help them not only attract urban youth but keep them coming back. These qualities, the authors say, are critical factors in positive adolescent development: supportive relationships with adults and peers; safety, and opportunities to learn.
In this collection of writing and media from middle school Latino/a students in Austin, Los Angeles, and Oakland, the concepts of "place, identity, and culture rule." Brought together by What Kids Can Do and the National Council of La Raza as part of a service-learning project, the young authors fight stereotypes, share what makes them who they are, explore their communities, and imagine some facets of the world they want to help create. "From start to finish," says WKCD director Barbara Cervone, "students talked about the key concerns they want to address as leaders. Safe families in caring communities. Respect and equity for their ethnic groups. High expectations. Healthy food options. A passionate desire to contribute in positive ways." An excellent launching pad for your own school or classroom projects.
Just published! Get organized with SURVIVING AND THRIVING, a practical 32-page flipchart for classroom management, with tips you can use tomorrow on routines, time & planning, space & materials, grouping, transitions, refocusing, encouraging discussion, reporting out, record-keeping, and more. Just $12.
Thanks to Stenhouse Publishers for their support of MiddleWeb and
middle grades educators.
California teacher Larry Ferlazzo's popular teaching resources blog began with a strong focus on teaching English Language Learners -- then exploded into one of the best general resources for teachers across the K-12 spectrum. An ELL teacher himself, Larry distills his key ideas for helping non-native English speakers succeed in school in this recent article for Teacher Magazine, on the eve of the publication of his new book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work. He proposes that the best way to empower ELL students as they master English is to abandon the "deficit model" common in many schools and develop their self-efficacy and leadership skills.
We've highlighted the Middle School Archive Project in Dallas TX several times since it launched in 2005. It's a "stay in school" strategy that's the brainchild of Bill Betzen, a tech teacher at Quintanilla Middle School. The idea is simple: eighth graders write letters to themselves to be opened 10 years in the future, which include imagined achievements in their lives. At a 10th-year class reunion students will revisit their archived letters and reflect on the course they've taken. Although the project is only in its sixth year, Betzen has data to suggest it's already influencing graduation rates. During a visit to Dallas, National TOY Tony Mullen wrote about the Quintanilla project, which he called "an archive that stores hope." Mullen's evocative writing style is always a pleasure to read. And here's a direct link to the Archive project site.
"Public schools have long offered their students the same basic academic program," writes New York Times reporter Winnie Hu, "with little real choice aside from foreign languages or an occasional elective in what was a one-size-fits-all approach that drove many families to seek private and charter schools." That's changing at New Jersey's Linwood Middle School this year, where all 428 sixth graders "are charting their own academic path with personalized student learning plans - electronic portfolios containing information about their learning styles, interests, skills, career goals and extracurricular activities."
Not long ago I got an "I need help" note from Jacque, a parent & community resource person in a sizeable midwestern school district. She wrote that "The numbers drastically drop of families attending conferences in middle school — at a time which such conferences might be needed even more than in elementary." It's a common problem across middle-school America. Some of the smartest advice I've heard comes in an interview I did recently with teacher Larry Ferlazzo, the author of a new book (and blog) on parent engagement. Larry's approach matches up well with my other favorite book on the subject, Beyond the Bake Sale by Anne Henderson. Both Larry and Anne argue that middle school leaders who really want parents engaged have to make them equal partners. Many educators don't seem willing to go that far. Here's a link to the Henderson book — note all the free resources in the right margin. And visit our MiddleWeb Blog tag "parents & families" to see dozens of resources we've shared in the past.
Drug Scene Investigators, an online science/heath game for grades 7-10, engages students in solving mysteries "caused by unknown illegal drugs as they search the library, take notes, link discovered information with facts, and reason from the evidence to form conclusions." The game, developed with a grant from the National Institutes of Heath, not only educates students about drugs but promotes critical thinking and inquiry skills, the authors say. DSI is currently undergoing a national evaluation and the designers are looking for teachers to take part. Eligible teachers receive $50 for their first participating class and $25 for each additional class. Visit the link above to find out more and try out a demo of the game.
The amount of time children 8-18 spent with media increased by an hour and seventeen minutes a day over the past five years, from 6:21 in 2004 to 7:38 today. And because of media multitasking, the total amount of media content consumed during that period has effectively increased from 8:33 in 2004 to 10:45 hours today. These data are among the many interesting (and potentially disturbing) facts found in the new report from the Kaiser Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds. After you read the report (or while you're reading it, smile), a good companion is the PBS Frontline Digital Nation site, where you can view a recent documentary on the impact of multi-tasking, read commentary about the Kaiser report, and contribute to a dialog about what learning is becoming on the digital frontier.
There's a good no-cost video series at Teacher TV featuring Sue Cowley, a former teacher turned behavior management expert. Cowley is British and the series is filmed in British schools, so it feels a bit like The Nanny reality show. But that's a good thing -- and as you'll quickly see, kids act pretty much the same everywhere. "The enemy is not the kids but anything that gets in the way of them learning," Cowley believes. Among the topics: Starting the school day right; keeping a cool head in class; creating a good set of rules; managing group work; and establishing routines. Each clip is about 15 minutes long, and you'll see a mix of age groups, K-8. Also check out Teaching with [John] Bayley, who works with teachers in the upper grades. See "Too Much Talk," for example.
Educator Mike Muir has written extensively about the most effective ways to engage middle grades students in learning. In a recent essay for NASSP's Middle Level Leader e-newsletter, Muir writes of his own journey "to better understand how we truly could meet the learning needs of more students." His research "helped me transition from the rhetoric in my head that said, 'students should learn more, it's their job,' and 'let's hold students accountable,' to the realization that a much more productive rhetoric was 'why would they want to?'" An excellent and provocative question which Muir sets out to answer. ALSO SEE: Nashville's plan to engage MS'ers.
We were surprised and fascinated by this article in the February issue of Edutopia, subtitled "How to work with well-meaning but demanding moms and dads." The proposition is that parents born in the Generation X period (roughly 1965 to 1979) have unique behavioral characters -- shaped by the social tides of the period when they grew up — that need to be understood by teachers who are now educating their children. While some readers found the author a bit aggressive, there are quite a few comments from teachers in the Baby Boomer, X and Y generations indicating "aha" moments while reading it. Can't hurt!
Quoting CDC statistics, teacher and newspaper columnist Tammy Sjoberg reports that only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools and 2.1 percent of high schools offer daily physical education. Sjoberg, who teaches health and P.E. at St Joseph Middle School in Appleton WI, notes that while phys ed is mandated in most states, there are no repercussions for schools that don't comply. “One of the main reasons why physical education has been left to die is due to the No Child Left Behind Act,” Sjoberg contends. “Because this law focused on core subjects such as reading and math and threw dollars that way based on standardized test results, it left physical education (as well as classes that focus on the arts) vulnerable.” But we wonder – are there schools that refuse to let go of PE? Comment! (image info)
Kelsi Bryant is a 10th grader at award-winning Marvin Ridge High School in Union County, NC. After reading an archived new-teacher discussion at our MiddleWeb site, Kelsi was moved to prepare some notes for new middle school teachers, from a student point of view. Kelsi says she has grown up in a family of teachers and "I am aware of many different teaching styles. I am no teacher, it is true. But in my 10 and a half years of being a student I have had lots of good teachers; and lots of bad teachers too. I want to to share some things that my good teachers did." Click above to see what Kelsi had to say.
That's the theme of Educational Leadership's February 2010 issue. Rather than select an article for you, here's a link to the table of contents, where you'll find several publicly available offerings. One of our favorites is "Start Where Your Students Are." Teachers often value good grades and a quiet classroom, says author Robyn Jackson, but what if students come to class looking for something else? Jackson explores the idea of "student currencies," which she defines as "Any behavior that students use to acquire the knowledge and skills important to your class." Jackson, who authored the ASCD book Never Work Harder Than Your Students, also shares some of her solutions to problems of student engagement.
Kelsi Bryant is a 10th grader at award-winning Marvin Ridge High School in Union County, North Carolina. After reading some archived new-teacher discussion at our MiddleWeb website, Kelsi was moved to prepare some notes for new teachers from a student point of view.
“I have been to schools on both sides of the county,” she writes, “and, with a family of teachers, I am aware of many different teaching styles. I am no teacher, it is true. But in my 10 and a half years of being a student I have had lots of good teachers; and lots of bad teachers too. I want to to share some things that my good teachers did.”
It’s good to hear from thoughtful “consumers” in our public schools. Here’s what Kelsi had to say.
[In the discussion] a lot of teachers mentioned that they would yell at their students to try and get their attention. This is my opinion on the subject:
This is not going to work. I am going to tell you now. Maybe the first or second time, but after that it is a useless tactic. As a student, you are looking at your teachers for direction whether we know it or not. Jean Piaget's theory of development suggests that children imitate those around them. If you as a teacher lose your cool in a classroom, students will be more likely to respond to you "violently." If you do find yourself upset or stressed, do not continue on with your lesson. Take a moment and calm down. When your heart rate reaches a certain level, it becomes harder to make rational decisions. Take a deep breath. It will be worth it. Other teachers mentioned that many of their students could not or would not do their homework:
This is probably because the students have lost their respect for you or they never had any. That is a very large problem. I am going to be more likely to work for a teacher that I respect than I am for a teacher that doesn't know what they are doing, yet pretends they do, or one that doesn't care about their students.
You are a new teacher. Accept it. Admit that to your students. If you bring yourself to their level, they will understand much better. You will have issues in your classroom. Not all of your classes will be amazing. That does NOT mean you should ever stop trying your best to teach them. Students can sense when their teachers care about their learning and when they do not. The more effort a teacher puts into planning a lesson and grading papers and thinking about their students, the more their students will give in return. I can almost guarantee it. "Wherever you are, be all there." - Alan Hlavka
If a teacher is having problems with students that do not follow rules:
It is probably because the students do not see these rules as relevant or are testing their boundaries. Middle School students have brains and therefore can think. They want to know why they have to do something. They are not little windup soldiers all in a row.
Explain to them the bigger picture. “Yes, it is just one page of homework. But I am giving you this homework to reinforce the things you learned in class today. That way when it comes up on a test, you will be more likely to remember it.” On average, people need to see something seven times to remember it. Homework is one of those seven times, so tell them that. If something you’re about to give out for students to do is irrelevant, do not give it out. We hate busywork.
The other reason may be that students are testing their boundaries. Students want to know that you care about them. If they don't follow a rule, and you call them on it, you are telling them that you care enough to stop them from doing something they shouldn't be doing. One teacher mentioned keeping extra uniforms for students who forget theirs. This is perfect -- never let an excuse stay there. Work something out.
And new teachers!! Don't give up on teaching because it is hard now. Those amazing teachers you look up to had to start somewhere! "Never be afraid to try something new. Remember amateurs built the Ark; professionals built the Titanic."
The February issue of Edutopia Magazine has several stories about teacher-supported homework hotlines that engage students with teachers using web interfaces. This link leads to a description of a model program underway at the NYC Public Library. There are links in the story to other articles about various homework helplines around the U.S. If you're looking for an idea that might be pitched to a local business or industry for support, this could be a good one.