NELMS NEWS Node 2017

An annotated list of current events & issues related to the middle level
(updated 9/19/17)

Be sure to check back each week for a new article of interest.
This week's featured article is:

Why Teachers Need Their Freedom

My co-teacher and I met in the parking lot before school and stared into my car trunk at the costumes and props we had gathered over the weekend. We were giddy with excitement and nervous because neither of us had tried anything like this before. We also taught in the kind of school where one wrong move in the classroom could lead to disastrous results because of our students’ intense behavioral and learning needs.

The Atlantic Online 9/10/17

Welcoming Students on the First Day Of School

Theeeeeeeey’re back — those first day of school jitters. The ones where you are consumed with such thoughts as: What kind of class am I going to have? Will I connect with teachers in my new school? How will I greet my students? And of course, the most important: Where can I find the copier??
Everyone has first-day nerves, from brand new teachers to the most experienced educators. My jitters peak during those first few moments of anticipation before students arrive. I look around my classroom making sure that everything is in place and, of course, I notice that there’s one more thing that I could have done. But once I see the sea of students in the hallways heading towards my classroom, I take a deep breath and the year begins.

Scholastic 9/1/17


Don't slam the desk on the way out. If fewer teachers quit, the shortage would end

Teachers in America are dropping out, leaving the profession at twice the rate of teachers in high-achieving school systems like those in Finland and Ontario, Canada. And they’re departing in large part because their principals do not support them, according to a report released Tuesday.
But if schools could convince half of those who leave to stay, the teacher shortage that puts thousands of under-qualified emergency replacements in classrooms each year “could be virtually eliminated,” according to the report from the Learning Policy Institute, a Palo Alto research group.

EdSource 8/15/17


Getting students excited about STEM

Many school districts struggle with how to expand students’ interest, excitement, and achievement in STEM. Without the right approach, however, the result is often random acts of STEM that do little to show students how fascinating or relevant these subjects really are.
Unlike the science and math classes of yesteryear, STEM is not about reading from textbooks or memorizing facts and formulas. STEM is about doing. It’s about helping students to develop a deep understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and giving them ample opportunities to apply that learning. Creativity, communication, and innovation are essential pillars of this journey.

Smart Brief 8/9/17


Policy, meet practice

One aspect of our roles that needs our attention more so today than ever before is around advocating for education-friendly policy and legislation. It is clear that we have a federal administration that has a very different educational point-of-view than we’ve experienced over the last eight years, and one might even go so far as to say that the current administration is woefully uneducated about the education profession.

MiddleWeb Smart Brief 7/31/17


The Last Readers

A close reading adventure your students will find riveting. Designed for grades 5–8. “It is not enough to ‘comprehend’ a text or to be able to summarize it or answer basic questions about it. A close reader will understand how the author has powerfully communicated the ideas and where that power emanates from.”

Amplify Close Reading 7/31/17


Middle School Scholar Leaders Honored,514164

A number of area middle school students were recognized last month by the Vermont Association for Middle Level Education and the New England League of Middle Schools, at their 20th annual Scholar Leader Awards Banquet at Norwich University in Northfield.

Manchester Journal (VT) 7/12/17


Social-Emotional Learning Has Long-Lasting Positive Effects on Students, Study Says…

Programs that teach students how to recognize their emotions, solve problems, and form healthy relationships may continue to show positive benefits for students months, or even years, after they complete them, a new meta-analysis finds.
Students who completed social-emotional learning interventions fared better than their peers who didn't participate on a variety of indicators—including academic performance, social skills, and avoiding negative behaviors like drug use, finds the analysis, which examined follow-up data from dozens of published studies on specific interventions.

Education Week 7/12/17


Informal STEM Learning Has Big Positive Impact

As an elementary-age child, I was fascinated and excited by a collection of fossils and minerals that a local geologist kept in his home. When I visited (as frequently as I could) he showed me fluorescent rocks that shone like multicolored fireworks in the dark.
He took me back in time to treks with dinosaurs and Woolly Mammoths as I viewed their remains and listened to his stories about them. My time spent in this out-of-school setting sparked my lifelong fascination with science and STEM.

MiddleWeb 6/25/17


BMU Middle School Students Honored

Blue Mountain Union School eighth-grade students Nadia Fraser and Andrew Hoang were recently honored as Middle Level Scholar Leaders at the 19th annual Vermont Scholar Leader Awards Banquet on June 7 at the Norwich University in Northfield, Vt. Approximately 275 students, educators, and parents attended, along with members of the Vermont Association for Middle Level Education (VAMLE) and New England League of Middle Schools (NELMS) boards. Nadia and Andrew were presented with an award whose criteria included demonstrating academic initiative and scholarship, providing service to classmates and school, exemplifying positive attitudes and demonstrating leadership in the classroom and school activities.

Caladonian Record 6/26/17


Steps toward a solution:
Peace Walk program trains student mediators to help classmates learn to resolve disputes among themselves

There are two sides to any disagreement, but understanding how the other person is feeling can be hard for adults to grasp, let alone elementary-age students.
With the help of funding from the local Kiwanis Club and United Way of Dickinson County, fourth-graders from North Elementary School of the Arts this year learned how to help mediate conflicts among their peers.
Peace Walks teach young children how to have fair arguments,” said Barb Reisner, director of Great Start. Reisner has been using this training model in Peace Walk mediation for the past 25 years. She started the program her first year as a school counselor in West Allis, Wis.

Iron Mountain Daily News 6/19/17


Can they unplug? A principal will pay students to forgo screen time this summer.…

With the school year over, countless students will binge on movies, television and video games during their summer break. Many will also have open access to cellphones that would be off-limits if they were in class.
One educator in the nation’s capital wants to lessen the tech deluge.
Diana Smith, principal at Washington Latin Public Charter School, has pledged to pay her students $100 each out of her own pocket if they forgo electronic and video screens each Tuesday, starting this week, until school resumes at the end of August.


Washington Post 6/12/17

Why Effective Practice Is Just As Important As the Hours of Practice

Practice is an important part of becoming skilled at anything, which may be why there are so many axiom’s like “practice makes perfect” floating around common parlance. But what’s happening in the brain when we practice?
Researchers believe that practice helps build up the protective layer of myelin, the fatty substance that protects axons in the brain. Axons move electrical signals from the brain to our muscles and when they are better protected by thick myelin they move more efficiently, creating an “information superhighway” between the brain and muscles.

KQED News 5/19/17


Two Longmont middle schools help Boulder County monitor wildlife cameras

Students at Longmont's Altona and Longs Peak middle schools are monitoring two of the Boulder County Parks and Open Space wildlife cameras, tracking data, identifying animals and making observations.
The students, who work on the projects before or after school, gave a recent presentation to open space staff members.
"I'm very excited about this partnership," said Deborah Price, education liaison with Boulder County Parks and Open Space. "These are our future leaders and scientists. I love how engaged they are. They ask questions and wonder about things and see things differently than adults."

Daily Camera 5/12/17

Bullied in 5th Grade, Prone to Drug Abuse by High School

A child bullied in fifth grade is more likely to show signs of depression in seventh grade, and abuse substances like alcohol, marijuana or tobacco in 10th grade, researchers say.
Their study of more than 4,000 kids in Los Angeles, Houston and Birmingham, Ala., suggests a dangerous trajectory between not-uncommon childhood abuse and worrisome behavior in high school.
"Our study suggests that it's important to take peer victimization seriously," said study co-author Valerie Earnshaw. She's an assistant professor in human development and family studies at the University of Delaware.

Health Day 5/8/17


Mad about civics: Johnstown eighth-graders compete to choose most influential American…

Greater Johnstown Middle School civics teacher Christian Wrabley has found a way to engage his students. For the fourth consecutive year, Wrabley had his eighth-grade civics students participate in a project he calls JMS Civics Madness. “I try to piggyback off the excitement of the March Madness tourney,” Wrabley said.

“Each year we set out to answer a large research question: Who is the most influential U.S. president of all time? Who is the greatest military president in U.S. history? Who is the most influential member of the U.S. government in history? And this year: Who is the most influential American of all time?”

Jonestown, PA Tribune-Democrat 5/1/17


Nation's Report Card Finds Mixed Grades For U.S. Students In Visual Arts, Music

For only the third time ever, the government released today a national report card examining the knowledge, understanding and abilities of U.S. eighth-graders in visual arts and music.
And in many ways, the numbers aren't great, with little progress shown in most categories since the last time the assessment was given in 2008. One bright spot: The achievement gap between Hispanic students and their white peers has narrowed. But Hispanics and African-Americans still lag far behind white and Asian eighth-graders.


Deb Silver on 4 Tips for Teaching Students SEL Skills

Unless you teach on a remote island somewhere with no access to the internet or the outside world (so you are probably not reading this!), you are familiar with the renewed interest of researchers and educators in social-emotional learning and how it affects our students.
Several factors have contributed to the significant attention SEL is getting – including advancements in neuro and cognitive science, recent ESSA regulations, and a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Child Development that showed an 11 percentile gain in academic achievement for students who participated in well-implemented SEL programs versus students who didn’t.


Involving Holyoke students in computer coding, robotics instills confidence

Computer coding is the name for how humans get computers to do what they want them to do, and more Holyoke public school students this year are keying into the ciphers.
"The seventh-grade students showed such engagement and ownership of their learning last year that we had to find a way to continue and expand this program," said Tonya Claiborne, Holyoke public schools STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) director.

MassLive 4/10/17


Inclusion: Be the Ripple Effect in Your School

Do you feel it? There’s a growing connectedness between dedicated educators and stakeholders who want to create equitable, meaningful learning experiences in inclusive settings.
I’m seeing hopefulness, courage, tenacity, and empowering ideas that lead to valuable action steps happening in so many schools nationwide. Do you notice this in your school?

The MiddleWeb Blog 3/28/17


'Wonder' project helps Highland sixth-graders learn value of kindness…

Highland Middle School sixth-graders Bekah Bale, 11, and Robby James, 12, decorated brown paper bags with colored markers then filled them with a pencil, candy and eraser or pencil sharpener as about 25 of their classmates did the same.
The project in in Mary Ann Wildman’s high ability language arts class was in preparation for a random act of kindness when the students each select a schoolmate to whom to give the bag.
“If you are having a bad day, even the smallest thing can cheer you up,” Robby said.


The (Anderson, IN) Herald Bulletin 3/12/17

How do you teach kids to care about something? Here’s how one teacher does it.…

Much of the media attention in education today is being given to President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and their plans for education. Here, for a change, is a post about something completely different, taking us back into a classroom and what students and teachers are doing.
How do you teach children to do good — and to really learn something authentic from the experience?
Carol Gannon, a fifth-grade general studies teacher at Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor, Mich., has been doing it for years. She’s employed project-based learning with a service component for nearly two decades, working to inspire her students to reach out to those in need.

The Washington Post 3/3/17


Do we all have some grading bias?

Gulp, someone said it. As much as we take for granted that students are graded solely on their work alone, we know in our hearts that our personal biases towards each student can play a factor in how we assess them. If you’re an automaton who’s unaffected by your students’ behaviors and thus immune from human emotional trappings, please feel free to stop reading.

Smart Brief 2/13/17


Debate: How Can Students Become Prepared to Spot Fake News?

A recent study tested over 7,800 teenagers on their ability to differentiate fake from real news and sponsored ads from news articles. The results showed that 80-90 percent of high school students had a difficult time judging the credibility of news. This skill is necessary to make choices about what to believe and what to share. Listen to this story to hear more about this study and what can be done to educate people about fake news and then debate with your students, how can students become prepared to spot fake news?



Elementary school students create dual-language newspaper

What started out as West View Elementary School classmates drawing comic strips has evolved into something more — the school’s own monthly newspaper, with a twist.
Because West View is a dual-language school, the newspaper — the Bobcat Gazette — is printed in both English and Spanish.
“So people who are learning English could read the Spanish side,” said Iliana Lopez, one of the sixth-graders behind the paper’s founding. “I like sharing stories with people and I thought it would be even cooler to share with the school.”



Video chats boost connection, learning

Teachers are checking Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Skype in the middle of class - not to goof off, but to connect students to learning opportunities across the nation.
Video chat services are gaining popularity in classrooms for a number of reasons, partly because it's free, but primarily because students cement in concepts quickly through experiences.
"The more voices I can bring to our experience in the classroom, the better quality of ideas we'll have," said Paul Carver, fifth-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in McPherson. "We can be so much more global and so much more aware of what's past the surface level understanding of a thing. We can actually experience it through talking to these other people."

McPherson Sentinel 1/6/17


For teachers, it's not just what you say, it's how you say it

Denisia Wash, a kindergarten teacher in Berkeley, didn’t want to use a sugary voice when she talked to her 5-year-old students – they weren’t babies and that voice wasn’t actually effective, she said. But she didn’t want to use a sharp-edged voice either, the impatient tone that can come out when she’s tired or under pressure. “I call that teacher voice my ‘stress voice,’” she said.

Last year, she conducted an experiment as part of her evaluation at Berkeley Unified. If she changed her tone of voice, would her students feel more involved in what they were learning?

Ed Source 1/4/17