Learning and Middle Schoolers: A Reflection

Well, it’s here. Post planning is ending tomorrow, and I’m reflecting on the year. Although, I’m busting with ideas for instruction next year, I promised myself to take June off with the exception of the grant I’m writing and some instructional strategies I want to research. All the extras (Twitter for #edu, Blogging) must end for at least one month.

The following are a few things I want to remind myself of as I plan for next year:

The Realities of Teaching Middle Schoolers

  1. Every group of students is different, and the thought of strategically planning out every moment of instruction during the summer is a farce. Get real and understand this–kids and then curriculum. You can’t reach kids you don’t know no matter how amazing you think your instruction is–focus on team building activities, learning surveys–read and respond to them within the first week, and research each child before they step a foot into your classroom (know their strengths and weaknesses, background, preferred name).
  2. Think in Levels. In other words, differentiate. My goal for the upcoming year is two fold– engagement and growth. I never want to beat learning into kids. However, the climate, expectations, and goals must be top notch–to the sky–why settle for less? Middle school learners need different approaches depending on their learning styles and needs.
    1. (Level 1) For the strugglers, I’m thinking a heavy focus on writing/grammar/spelling/vocabulary, but also close reading with current events, as well as personal reading goals. Focus on making it more of a newsy class–keep it snazzy, but focused on the essentials (non-fiction texts) and remediation to create the growth needed.
    2. (Level 2/3) Focus heavily on writing/grammar/vocabulary, but add in a variety of back-up projects that enrich to support those who have shown mastery, so there is never the question of what happens next?  Find ways to move those level 3’s to 4’s. Differentiate the novel choices and products for the novels. Create student led goals that students must be accountable for weekly.
    3. (Level 3/4) Focus heavily on writing/vocabulary/challenging texts. Novel choices are differentiated. Add in projects with current events that equate to real world experiences through writing, podcasting, blogging. List out all writing contests and have students enter at least two a year.

These are just a few ideas. One size will never fit all for maximum growth and potential for every student. Choice must be offered, but help and remediation must be given as well. There is always that balance of science and art that equates to achievement, and a teacher willing to offer it.

 

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