Posted tagged ‘Middle School’

HOMEWORK: Show What You Know

July 25, 2016

I like a teacher who gives something to take home to think about besides homework.human-face-with-flower

Lily Tomlin

If you have looked at the research about homework, it generally does not support a connection between time spent on homework and grades (Kohn, 2012). The challenge for teachers is the expectation of homework from both families and students, but not all homework is created equal. Homework is appropriate for preparing, checking for understanding, practicing, rehearsing, and/or processing including analyzing, evaluating, and/or reflecting (Vatterott, 2009).

Meaningful homework assignments should:

  • allow for student choice and personalization;
  • provide opportunities for students to share things about themselves;
  • tap into emotions, feeling, and/or opinions; and
  • be aesthetically pleasing (Vatterott, 2007).

Meaningful homework assignments should engage students and be fun to do. We have compiled various homework assignments that can be easily adapted to a variety of subjects for intermediate and upper level grades. And, there is a list of alternative homework assignment ideas. Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Homework: Show What You Know includes:

  • Name Lists
  • Rounding Up: Adjectives
  • Rounding Up: Adverbs
  • Survey. Note. Conclude! Homework Assignment
  • Using Graphic Organizers to Show What You Know
  • 8 Alternatives to Traditional Homework Assignments with Mini-Activity Slips
  • Teacher Bookmarks with Homework Quotes (Something to share with colleagues and start a conversation about homework.

References

Kohn, A. (November 25, 2012). Homework:  New research suggests it may be an unnecessary evil. Huffpost.

Vatterott, C. (2007). Becoming a middle level teacher:  Student-focused teaching of early adolescents.  New York:  McGraw-Hill.

Vatterott, C. (2009). Rethinking homework:  Best practice that support diverse needs. Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.

Spread a Little Kindness and Avoid Teacher Burnout

April 6, 2015

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According to Ben Johnson, author of 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout, making someone’s day by extending a small kindness is another step to avoiding teacher burnout. His suggestions include calling a parent or guardian to share something good about a student; complement a struggling student on something he or she is doing well; or just show gratitude to a staff member with a note, hug, or even a small gift. Here are 11 more ways to spread kindness for you and your students:

  1. Set up an appreciation day for custodians, school secretaries, bus drivers, or administrators.  Ask your students to write a thank you statement.  For example, thank you Mrs. Smith for keeping our classroom clean; thank you Mr. Brown for getting us to and from school safely; thank you Miss Thomas for saying hello to us when we come to school, etc.  Place all the thank-you statements in a large envelope and deliver them.
  2. Bring treats in for the staff on a Monday morning.
  3. Buy a dozen roses from the grocery store and give 12 staff members each a rose.
  4. Send a note to someone on your staff that has shown you kindness or has helped you.
  5. Surprise your students with a fun activity.
  6. Explore the resources listed below and commit to doing some of the acts of kindness with your students.
  7. Smile at your students and your colleagues.
  8. Organize your professional books and materials and give a new teacher books or materials you no longer need, but still have professional value.
  9. Leave a generous tip the next time you dine out.
  10. Call someone who has been in your thoughts.
  11. Watch the movie, Pay It Forward.

Below are some excellent resources and ideas for you and your students to consider when choosing kind. Wonder is a great novel that deals, among other things, with the power of kindness. Consider it for a read-aloud for your students. Check out our unit and read-aloud guide on Teachers Pay Teachers.wonder book bites

Resources for Spreading Kindness

15 Random Acts of Kindness

The Great Kindness Challenge

Conspiracy of Kindness

134 Random Acts of Kindness

Acts of Kindness Student ActivitiesSurviving to Thriving TPT

50 Random Acts of Kindness

Avoid Teacher Burnout: Learn Something New

March 23, 2015

You can learn new things at any time in your life if you’re willing to be a beginner. If you actually learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.  Barbara Sher

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There is something about doing or learning something new that is invigorating. Sharing that experience with your students is another way to avoid teacher burnout according to Ben Johnson, in his article: 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout. Johnson suggests sharing a new book you are reading with your students or learning about how the brain learns and sharing that. Here are five things to consider connected to doing and/or learning something new.

  1. Go to a large bookstore and browse through their magazines. Choose a magazine you probably would never even look at, let alone buy. Buy it and page through it; look for connections to your own life and/or work.
  2. Read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink—lots of ideas and suggestions about looking at life differently.
  3. Choose a genre of music with which you have little or no experience. Share some of this music with your students and get their opinions about it.
  4. Try a new recipe every weekend and report back to your students what you tried and whether or not you liked it.
  5. Learn to do magic tricks. Share your magical ability with your students—but no disappearance acts for you or them.

One of the things I did when I was working on a master’s degree in literacy is to share new things I learned about literacy and new learning strategies with my high school students. I would tell my students that I am trying out this new learning strategy with them and after we use it, I want their opinions about how well it worked for them. This was stumbling into magic—students took the new strategy very seriously and then shared their critiques. It was awesome!

I also discovered that students love to learn about their brains and how they learn. There are so many reliable resources online connected to the brain and learning. Recently I pinned an infographic on Movement and Learning that summarizes the benefits of movement in the classroom. As for adding more movement to your classroom, again there are many resources available including brain breaks that are fun and still serve the purpose.

As my colleagues and I create teacher materials for Teachers Pay Teachers, we always include activities that get students up and moving. Check out our store, Surviving to Thriving LjL on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here’s a list of the novels for which we have developed curriculum materials.

Movement and Learning Infographic

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Son by Lois Lowry

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

References

Johnson, Ben. (April 22, 2014).  10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout. Edutopia.

Avoid Teacher Burnout: 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Health

March 15, 2015

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To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise

we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. Buddha

 

How many of you made New Year’s resolutions connected to taking better care of your health? Eat healthier, exercise often, and sleep more! And, yet somehow those resolutions haven’t morphed into new habits. It may be that that we need to strengthen our willpower and it may not be as hard as we think. According to Dr. Kelly McGonigal, “Being mindful of the present moment improves a wide range of skills, including attention, stress management, impulse control, and yes, being self-aware of feelings and urges. Not only does it change how the brain functions, it physically impacts the structure of the brain to support self-control” (Migliore, 2015, p. 33). Being mindful is often associated with meditation and deep breathing exercises, which seem an easy way to increase our resolve, our willpower, to do those things that keep us healthy.

Teacher burnout is caused by many internal and external forces, one of those forces is physical health, which we have some control over. Taking care of your health is Step 2 in avoiding teacher burnout, as suggested in Ben Johnson’s article: 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout.

Here are 6 suggestions to consider regarding taking care of your health:

  1. Meditate and practice deep breathing for 15 minutes a day.
  2. Do one thing to improve your diet: eat breakfast, drink more water, eliminate one unhealthy food, etc.
  3. Take a 20-minute walk daily.
  4. Take a 15 minute power nap (preferably not during class).
  5. Improve your bedtime ritual and commit to sleeping a healthy number of hours.
  6. Add a physical activity to your weekly schedule that you really enjoy: hiking, biking, dancing, aerobics, karate, yoga, bowling, tennis, golf, walking the dog…(power reading doesn’t count).

One way to find the time to take care of your health is to have on hand some units you love teaching and students love learning. I always think you should save one of your best units for the end of the spring semester. If you are newer to teaching, you might not have that unit developed yet or if you have been teaching for a while, you might have already taught that unit. Give yourself a break and look at some of the wonderful curriculum materials available online. My colleagues and I work hard to create teacher materials that are easy for teachers to implement and engage students. Check out our store Surviving to Thriving LjL on Teachers Pay Teachers. Here’s a list of the novels for which we have developed curriculum materials. Now go take a nap or a walk!

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenSurviving to Thriving TPT

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Son by Lois Lowry

References

Johnson, Ben. (April 22, 2014). 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout. Edutopia.

Migliore, L. (Spring 2015). The science of strengthening willpower and summoning self-control. Brain World. Issue 3, Volume 6, pp. 30-32.

Resources

Set Up For Sleep

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/linden-schaffer/set-up-for-sleep_b_5605957.html

Sleeping Tips: 7 Ways To Get To Bed Earlier Tonight

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/02/sleeping-tips-earlier-bedtime_n_3359469.html

Avoid Burnout: 10 Ways to Add Fun to Your Teaching

March 9, 2015

tagedo kids want teachers to be

Find a place inside where there’s joy,

and the joy will burn out the pain. Joseph Campbell

Often, this is the time of the year where both teachers and students begin to get restless, tired of winter, and in need of a change. In January I came across an article, 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout by Ben Johnson. The first step was to have fun with your students.

In a study I did with my two colleagues, we surveyed middle school kids to see what they had to say about good teaching. And, one thing they wanted was fun (Fontanini, Neiman, & Carpenter, 2014). I think this is a great place to start to avoid burnout, but how do you do it? Here are 10 ways to add a little fun to your teaching.

  1. Play music as students are coming into your classroom. Ask students how that music or song is connected to the content or topic. You might be surprised at what your students might say.
  2. Show a video clip to start off your lesson. Youtube is an easy place to find a video clip on practically any topic.
  3. Do a read-aloud. Pick a picture book, poem, short story, or novel you love and start reading it aloud to your students before your lesson starts or use it as a closing activity.
  4. Do a community/team building activity, one you have used in the past or a new one.
  5. Stand at the door and greet each student formally.
  6. Rearrange your classroom into a new pattern.
  7. Play a game that connects to your topic.
  8. Tell a joke or funny story.
  9. Start class with a brain-teaser or trivia question connected to the topic.
  10. Come dressed as a character, scientist, historical figure, or just something a bit outrageous. (When I was team teaching with a social studies teacher, he had a rental tuxedo that wasn’t due back until Tuesday—he wore it all day on Monday. Definitely got students’ attention!)

Not only will your students appreciate the change in pace, you will too! Novelty catches attention, teachers and students. As my colleagues and I create teacher materials for Teachers Pay Teachers, we remember that students want learning to be fun. Fun to students equates to engaging. We think, and many of our buyers agree, that our products are engaging to students and easy to implement for teachers. Check out our store on TPT: Surviving to Thriving LjL. Let us know what you do to add a little fun to your classroom.

References

Fontanini, J.J., Neiman, L.V., & Carpenter, L.L. (April 2014). Ask the Real Experts About Good Teaching. AMLE Magazine, 1(8), pp. 24-26.

Johnson, Ben. (April 22, 2014). 10 Steps for Avoiding Teacher Burnout. Edutopia.

Surviving to Thriving TPT

Organizing for Conferences

February 15, 2013

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It’s not too early to get organized for conferences, like spring, they will be here before we know it.  When I was serving as a learning specialist with the task of converting a junior high to a middle school, I encountered student-led conferences.  Like we all do when we encounter something new and appealing, we learn everything we can about it, which is just what I did.  After the principal had given me the assignment to implement student-led conferences for the midterm of the fall semester, I knew I had to develop a plan to help teachers, students, and parents get ready for something new.  Before I even read the teacher evaluations, I knew that we had accomplished something worthwhile and almost magical for students and their families.  The response from teachers, parents, and students was overwhelmingly positive.

“Student-led conferences represent a highly effective way to communicate directly and authentically with parents.  When students direct the reporting process, information is communicated in a form everyone can understand and use.  Reviewing the portfolio during the conference becomes a learning experience for everyone involved.  As such, student-led conferences are an especially important part of the comprehensive reporting system” (Guskey & Bailey, 2001, pp. 190-199).48624870947801276_nttUHrJd_b

If you’re ready to try something new for conferences, we highly recommend student-led conferences and with that thought in mind, we have created two guides to implementing student-led conferences for middle school (grades 6, 7, and 8) and intermediate schools (grades 4, 5, and 6). The key word in this product is COMPLETE, it truly is a Complete Guide to Planning and Implementing Student-Led Conferences in Your Middle School or Elementary School and it is really just three steps:  Plan, Practice, Perform.  There are over 20 reproducible pages to facilitate the implementation of Student-Led Conferences in the fall and spring semesters.  The forms that are included are easily adapted to your school.  There are student ice-breaker activities designed for conference night as well as portfolio checklists, content specific reflections and follow-up evaluation forms for teachers, students, and parents.   If your school is not ready to move to Student-Led Conferences, the information included in this packet can be used by a grade level team or individual teacher.  It’s a system that was successfully implemented in a large middle school in an urban area with awesome results.  And, the bottom line is that Student-Led Conferences are good for students!

Guskey, T. R. & Bailey, J. M. (2001). Developing grading and reporting systems for student learning.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

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Uma Krishnaswami

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