This week's Take5 is all about a topic that we spend a lot of time focusing on as middle school educators: TEENS. We talk screen time, cell phones, overall struggles that teens experience and ways schools can help. Then we end with an uplifting story about students who set out to build something real -- a sailboat -- and summer reading list for middle schoolers (and students of all ages).
Last week, I found myself questioning my middle school classroom management practices. Let me set the scene for you. It was 8th period and school was going to be out for the summer in a week. So to say the kids are hyped up is an understatement. My Honors students were working on a PBL (project based learning) in the library (my school home away from home) that we had been chipping away at for weeks. The students were designing a museum exhibit -- complete with a summary of a historic event of their choice, photos, works cited, a paragraph connecting the event to a historic theme and an "about the historian" section with biographical information. Now were in the final push to create exhibits. Some students were frantically typing, others with gluing different items onto their tri-folds. Construction paper was strewn across the library. The librarians and I were fielding questions (Do you like this font? How do I print? Is my thesis statement okay? Do I need more pictures? Can you proofread this?), while at the same time unjamming printers and helping cut paper with the paper cutter. It was chaos, but most of them were learning and in fact some of them were doing the best work and deep thinking that I had seen them do all year. But that's where the key stumbling block comes in - most were deeply engaged -- but twenty percent were not.
These twenty percent were doing the work in fits and starts. They were more interested in socializing than surrendering completely to doing the work. They seemed unfazed by the looming deadline - and actually I knew that focused or not -- they would come through, completing it at home if they did not complete it in class. But they were loud, and every time I got them back on track another would be off track. It was like a giant game of whack-a-mole and to make matters worse I was in a fishtank. Teachers in their off period were coming in to make copies and I just knew that they were focused on the 20 percent (who wouldn't be -- eyes are attracted to moving, loud objects -- rather than the quiet kid deep in thought). I cringed inside at how the whole thing looked. Of course, I wanted every last one of them on task, but it wasn't happening. And I couldn't decide if it was my fault, if it was their fault, or if it even mattered? If I had them sitting quietly in the classroom, I would look like I was in control - I would be in control. Control feels comfortable; control can look very good to outsiders. But control isn't always how or where learning happens. I pondered these questions (talked with a few colleagues) and then after hours of mulling things over I walked away with some more clearly defined thoughts about classroom management.
This week we've got all sorts of things on our mind. We've been focused on equity in our school district this year so a piece on cultural proficiency sparked my interest. I also discovered a new podcast for kids, learned about the impact of drawing on learning, and considered the teen brain a bit as well.
So, take5 and share with us what you think about these stories and more! We'd love to hear from you.
Several weeks ago, in honor of National Poetry Month, we hosted classes in the library to celebrate. Our objective was to make poetry interesting, engaging, and fun for our middle school students, while also offering them voice and choice in how they worked through the lesson. We ended up with a range of poetry-related activities that provided our students with a great day of learning!
This week's post is all over the place (much like we are this time of year in the land of education). We've got math on the brain with a dive into teaching that uses literacy to improve math instruction and a TED Talk that every educator should see (regardless of the subject they teach). Plus, a look at the newest addition to the SAT, how teachers can bounce back from classroom "fails,"and the systemic problem of deepening school segregation in America. So take 5 and explore all the things we've been thinking about.
This week we are wrapping up our unit on the Holocaust and I thought that I would share the ways in which I guide my students through this difficult topic in the hopes of giving fellow history teachers, especially novice teachers, some ideas. It can be extremely challenging to teach middle school students about the Holocaust for a number of reasons. First, the subject matter is hard (and despite what people may think many of my students have not learned about it before) and can hit home for some students based on personal history. Second, this topic requires students to be their most mature selves (which can require a great deal of teacher guidance and modeling in the middle years). That said, if it is done right, these lessons of one of humanity's greatest tragedies can stick with them for life. I, like so many teachers, teach history not only because I love the subject but also because I feel like the lessons of our history -- if instilled in our young people -- can guide the world toward good. So here are some of the resources and ways that I teach the Holocaust. I hope that they might help you in your teaching journey.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to our BubbleUp Classroom Community. Whether you are a teacher or a parent, we have five, little creative ways to help kids celebrate the educators in their lives. With our desire to promote equity among our students, these ideas require no money from students or their parents (and just a small amount from the school or the PTA). Instead, they just take a caring, kind adult to gather supplies and give kids that spark. These activities are a win-win -- they model for kids the practice of thanking people and also give teachers a boost. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good gift card; but all students should have the chance to say they care no matter what their financial situation. That’s what this post is all about.
One of the elective classes we offer at our school is called Strategies for Success. It's designed to help students with organizational and study skills. Carla, one of our Strategies teachers, asked my co-librarian and I to develop a lesson on note taking to teach different note taking techniques -- we ended up with an activity that could be applied across content areas or used independently by students who want to explore different ways to take notes.
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