An annotated list of current events & issues related to the middle level
Be sure to check back each week for a new article of interest.
This week's featured article is:
When terror strikes, here’s what you should tell children
Judith A. Myers-Walls, a professor emerita at Purdue University, has studied the impact of political violence on children and offers these tips for both parents and educators in how to handle the Paris attacks:
Assume that elementary school children have heard something about the attacks. If they haven’t mentioned it on their own, a parent or a teacher might bring it up. First, find out what they know. For the youngest kids, maybe ask them to draw pictures of what they think happened, or have them make up a story or a play. If they seem less aware or less interested, you might not want to go into depth.
Washington Post 11/16
Some Smart Ways to Simplify PBL Lessons
My passion for Project Based Learning began when I was a student. After all, the units that I remember as a kid are those that, in hindsight, were charged with PBL energy.
There was the 8th grade record producer unit that culminated in the design of an LP sleeve based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” We did more than merely create a project. We role-played while studying the book, analyzing it through the lens of a music industry professional.
As de Blasio aims for algebra in every middle school, can he avoid these common pitfalls?
When Mayor Bill de Blasio recently unveiled his plan to give all eighth-grade students access to algebra, he dove into an issue that has stumped policymakers in the past.
He and others are convinced middle-school algebra classes can catapult students toward high-level math in high school and college. But other districts have faced dilemmas that de Blasio is hoping to avoid — either they reach too few students, often excluding low-income and minority students from critical coursework, or they reach too many, setting up unprepared students for failure.
This ‘Fantasy Reading League’ Trades Footballs For Books
BLACKSTONE, Mass. — The cafeteria at Frederick W. Hartnett Middle School buzzes as the entire student body of sixth- to eighth-graders comes clamoring in. It’s draft time at the school, and everyone is beyond excited to see who will get signed to which team this year.
“So everybody should have two things with them,” principal Justin Cameron tells the students when they’ve taken their seats. “They should have their independent reading book, and they should have their draft card.”
Many of these kids love sports, but they’re not here for a football draft. Rather, Cameron explains to the school’s roughly 450 students that it’s a draft for something different: Hartnett’s fantasy reading league..
A Field Study of Sixth Graders in the Wild
Come with us as our team of fake researchers venture into the wilds of a sixth grade classroom. The stage is set. It’s six weeks into a new school year. The so-called “honeymoon period” is over, which means the native adolescent creatures, referred to as Sixth Graders, are situated comfortably in their new habitat.
They’ve spent a few weeks testing the waters and are now coming into their own. You can see it in their eyes, in their behavior. The Sixth Grader is a specimen to behold.
Teaching Ethics Should Be a STEM Essential
“We’ve been screaming about this since February  and people, they’ve just blocked us out,” exclaimed an exasperated Melissa Mays, a resident of Flint, Michigan.
Mays was referencing a dangerous water pollution crisis in Flint, Michigan where some children are experiencing elevated levels of lead in their blood and the lead levels in some drinking water samples are so high they are defined as hazardous waste. The lead-laced water appeared after city officials decided to end a water supply contract with Detroit as a cost-saving measure and take water from the Flint River instead.
Parent-Teacher Conferences ... or Collaborative Conversations?
Parent-teacher conferences are one of the few opportunities for families to converse with teachers about their children's progress and needs. Lines of people wait their turn for these 15- to 20-minute interactions. One result is a conversation that establishes a relationship and delivers essential information about a student's progress.
Kindness Matters: Transforming Your Classroom and Creating a Bully-Free School
"Kindness matters." What a joyful mantra to use! There's plenty of evidence that science backs up the positive effects of kindness, so let's take a look at five joyful ways that you can transform your classroom.
Welcome to TeenTribune, TweenTribune,TTEspañol and TTJunior
Welcome to TeenTribune, TweenTribune,TTEspañol and TTJunior – the daily news sites for kids, tweens and teens – where you'll find the most compelling, relevant and interesting news for 55 million kids in K-12 and their 3.5 million teachers.
Stories are selected by professional journalists working closely with teens, tweens and teachers. Teens and tweens can post comments, with all comments moderated by their teachers before they are published
We allow teens and tweens to produce 99 percent of our content as a means of engaging them. More than 100,000 teachers have registered so far.
We're encouraging kids, teens and tweens to seek out news on a daily basis because our democracy depends upon a well-informed public, so we believe it is important to foster a daily news-reading habit as soon as kids begin to read.
Tween Tribune (from Smithsonian) 9/17
Tennessee teacher and ‘digital innovator’ on ed tech and why schools might not be ready for online tests
Last spring, Haywood County reading teacher Sharon Clark joined 99 other educators from across the country as a PBS LearningMedia “lead digital innovator.” The program gives tech-savvy educators dedicated to using digital media and technology in their lessons a year of training. Clark, 46, was one of 30 teachers in the program who also attended a national conference about digital innovation and education in June.
Chalkbeat Tennessee 9/9
Educators can spot emotional baggage
In recent years, educators have become more aware that some students are carrying emotional baggage that can interfere with their ability to learn.
They may be dealing with trauma from exposure to street violence, domestic violence, drug addiction, sexual abuse, poverty and homelessness, or grief over a parent’s death or illness or unsettled feelings over their parents’ divorce.
Empty Plate: Kids Are Being Bullied to Skip Lunch at School
Anti-bullying curriculum has created a generation of kids who are much more aware of overt, classic bullying. However, bullying and peer pressure take many forms, and at times can be very difficult to spot. One alarming trend happening in some school cafeterias is kids facing pressure to not eat lunch, or to eat much less than they actually want.
Yahoo News 8/24
Report: 30 percent of districts lack anti-bullying policy
Despite national campaigns to combat bullying, 3 in 10 districts still do not have policies that protect students from harassment. And many of these school systems are in states that require such rules by law, according to a July report from the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, also known as GLSEN.
Reaching Every Student
This month, SmartBlog on Education is exploring classroom design and management — just in time for the new school year. In this blog post, educator Cheryl Mizerny shares strategies used by master teachers to help engage and motivate students.
William Glasser said, “Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is.” I tend to agree with him. How else can we explain the sheer volume of books, websites, blogs, courses and consulting firms expressly devoted to the art and science of teaching? In fact, one of the things I am most proud of about my chosen profession is that teachers, as a whole, are already doing a pretty great job, yet most of us explore how to do even better.
Smart Blogs 8/3/15
Seven Tips on "Training" for the School-Year Marathon
After my first year of Common Core implementation and Smarter Balanced assessments last year, I began to reflect on the tremendous amount of change in our math education system and the stresses associated with those changes.
Trying to come up with an analogy, I realized that the most appropriate is a marathon. Changes in standards and shifts in what successful math instruction looks like has required perseverance, time, and patience. Added to these changes is the fact that many cash-strapped schools are trying to find the resources for instructional specialists. The result is a situation where teachers are sometimes making lonely journeys with a shaken sense of confidence and direction.
The Teaching Channel 7/24/15
5 Reader Activities to Invite Higher Thinking
You’ve taught students to read closely, to annotate, to discuss—now what? How can we get kids to interact with texts in creative ways that require an even higher level of understanding? Here, I’ll share five of my favorite post-reading reader-response activities.
Middle Web blog 7/12/15
21 of MiddleWeb's Best New Teacher Resources
MiddleWeb is brimming with resources and helpful ideas that new teachers will find valuable. We've selected 21 articles that might be MOST helpful before newbies greet their students at the classroom door for the first time. We've also included MiddleWeb reviews of five exceptionally "novice-friendly" books. When you've read everything here (smile), search our site for "new teacher" and you'll find more!
Middle Web blog 6/24/15
I've done this now for 24 years. I'd love to tell you I've gotten better at each year. Sadly, I haven't. This is just as big a challenge for me now as it was after my first year.
I'm talking about downshifting: transitioning from the pell-mell pace of the school year into the easier, more relaxed pace of summer. Some years have been really, really hard. The year my son was two was especially rough. I was used to constant activity and decision-making from the 5:00 AM alarm to my own bedtime at 10:00 PM. The first six hours of summer break showed me clearly that my own go-go-go pace didn't match his two-year-old pace. It took me weeks to become comfortable with the slower speed.
Center for Teaching Quality 6/25/15
Prepare for NGSS: Immerse Yourself in Authentic Science Research
A frequent question I often hear is how are we going to implement the Next Generation Science Standards? One specific area of concern is how to address Dimension 1: Practices.
Practices, according to NGSS, describe behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world, and the key set of engineering practices used to design and build models and systems.
Maine students study GMOs in cross-curricular unit
Plant A stood tall at the front of the room, nearly twice the height of Plant B, but Plant B looked possibly healthier, its hues of greens brighter, fresher. King Middle School science teacher Catherine Bursk stood back and asked her seventh-grade science class to cast their votes: Which of the two did they think was grown from genetically modified corn seed?
Portland Press Herald 6/14/15
How Concussions Can Lead to Poor Grades
Head injuries can have long lasting effects, not just on the field but in the classroom too
When it comes to concussions, the biggest question, especially on the minds of parents of student-athletes, is whether and when their child should get back in the game. But researchers at the Children's National Health System say that there's potentially bigger question that parents and educators aren't asking: how concussions affect children's performance in the classroom.
Despite Challenges, Most K-12 Teachers Would Recommend the Profession
Why do K-12 teachers stay in the profession despite its many challenges and notoriously limited financial rewards? According to a recent survey of just over a thousand elementary, middle, and high school teachers around the country, the answer is: job satisfaction.
"We all know what a challenging profession teaching can be," said Pamela Roggeman, Ed.D., academic dean for the University of Phoenix College of Education. "Our goal with this survey is to understand what it is that keeps them coming back to it, year after year." Need proof?
The Journal 5/4/15
Are Our Schools Safe Places for Kids who are Different?
… what I'm wrestling with this morning is whether or not we have worked hard enough to make our schools safe places for students who are different. To put it more simply, do the gay and lesbian and transgender students in our schools -- who deserve the love and support of the important adults in their lives -- feel like they belong in our buildings, too? Or are they forced to live a lie, pretending to fit in because they are afraid of the consequences of standing out? It's impossible to underestimate the consequences of living that lie, y'all. Need proof?
Center for Teaching Quality 4/25/15
STEM Meets NGSS: Matchstick Rocket Engineering
My teaching these days is heavily influenced by the Next Generation Science Standards. Thinking about how to apply Newton's Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects (MS PS2-1) piqued my interest in better understanding how I could incorporate engineering design practices into the instruction.
Middle Web 4/12/15
Study: 50% of secondary students engage in social media abuse
Armed with cell phones and a dizzying array of social media choices, one-half of middle- and high school students in a recent study admit to social media abuse — from bullying schoolmates to spreading rumors to pressuring others to send sexual texts or pictures.
They also admitted to stalking their partners.
Detroit Free Press 4/14/15
Free School Breakfasts Appear to Boost Kids' Grades
Free school breakfasts may help low-income students do better in the classroom, a new study suggests.
Students at elementary schools that offered free breakfast had 25 percent better math grades, and similarly higher reading and science grades, than students at schools without free breakfast.
However, although the researchers found a link between schools that provide free morning meals and higher school performance, the study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
U.S. writing teacher wins $1M 'Nobel Prize of Teaching'
An American writing teacher whose private demonstration school in Maine has attracted thousands of teachers over the past 25 years has won a $1 million award dubbed "the Nobel Prize for Teaching."
Nancie Atwell, who began teaching in 1973, is the author of nine books on writing. She learned of her award Sunday at a ceremony held by the Varkey Foundation in Dubai. The foundation's mission is to improve the standards of education worldwide.
USA Today 3/15/15
Students want to take cookie business to next level
Thirteen-year-old Kelby Self dreams of owning restaurants in Rome, Paris and New York some day.
While being a chef has always been her dream, Self never grasped the possibilities of running her own business until she started Michelle Burgess' career exploration class at Leslie Middle School last fall.
The seventh-grader has since learned not only how to bake cookies from scratch, but also business basics, including accounting, inventory, managing a team and marketing.
Her favorite part of the class, she said, is that she and her peers run it.
The Statesmen's Journal 3/9/15
In this classroom, it's personal
The fifth grade classrooms at Mayville Middle School do not look like traditional classrooms.
Students are sitting on the floor, in bean bag chairs and under desks. Some are in small groups; some are sitting in desks working on laptops. Some teachers are working one-on-one with students, some are working in small groups, and some are sitting with students on the floor facilitating discussions.
Wis Daily Citizen 2/28/15
If Your Teacher Likes You, You Might Get A Better Grade
Were you ever the teacher's pet? Or did you just sit behind the teacher's pet and roll your eyes from time to time?
A newly published paper suggests that personality similarity affects teachers' estimation of student achievement. That is, how much you are like your teacher contributes to his or her feelings about you — and your abilities.
8 great ways to jumpstart your Google+/Twitter PLN
Twitter and Google+ may not have been designed for educators, but every day thousands of teachers, school leaders, and learners of all sizes take to social media to connect, grow, and share in ways that would seem almost impossible a few short years ago. With all the noise, though, it can be tough to know where to begin.
eSchool News 2/2/15
How Elementary School Teachers' Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science
We know that women are underrepresented in math and science jobs. What we don't know is why it happens.
There are various theories, and many of them focus on childhood. Parents and toy-makers discourage girls from studying math and science. So do their teachers. Girls lack role models in those fields, and grow up believing they wouldn't do well in them.
New York Times 2/6/15
Access to after-school programs is growing more unequal, and that's pushing disadvantaged kids further behind.
Imagine two young adults who, despite living in the same city, come from very different worlds.
The Atlantic 1/30/15
Winter Math and Science Can Be "SNOW" Much Fun!
I'm not going to lie. Winter can get LONG and gruesome here in the upper Midwest. When kids are cooped up in a school building all day, with no recess, and dreary weather conditions, we all start to go a little kkkoo-kkkoo (that's me shivering)! So I say, embrace the cold weather and make the best of it in order to beat those bothersome winter blues.
A healthy thought: Dryden students learn about wellness
Instead of sitting through math or social studies Monday morning, Dryden Middle School students strapped on snowshoes, sampled healthy snacks and played basketball.
The school hosted its first Health and Wellness Day, where students from sixth to eighth grade learned about nutrition and general health during a shortened school day.
Ithaca Journal 1/12/15
Celebrating Dr. King's Life: Do Something
During my educational career of almost 30 years, I have found that when you get to the middle school classroom, the "cuteness" factor takes a nosedive. I am not talking about appearances or personalities, but rather those cute holiday activities or crafts that seem to live on in elementary school.
When you teach in middle school, you have to dig deeper to find creative ways to celebrate special occasions other than writing essays or entering a reading/writing contest…
Push is on to start school days later
Sophomore Bailey Kelly has trouble staying awake during her first period American studies class.
The same goes for fellow sophomore Brittany Bloom, who, during choir class at Portsmouth High School, with a start time of 7:30 a.m., can barely wake up — let alone sing at the level she'd like to achieve.
"You're not awake, you're not ready for it," Bloom said. "All you think about is wanting to go back to bed."
Erin Bakkom, an eighth-grade history teacher at Portsmouth Middle School, has seen the same tired eyes in her first period classes. At a Portsmouth School Board meeting in December, Bakkom spoke to the board about the importance of changing the start times for the middle and high schools. Toward the end of the meeting, the board held an hourlong workshop to discuss where to start with a change as all-encompassing as the time school begins each day.
Seacoast Online 1/4/15
What trends are in store for education in 2015?
Outlook on instruction: Class around the clock
Some exciting advancements are on the horizon for classrooms in 2015. While they sound technical, the biggest changes aren't going to be driven by an app, a computer program or a new kind of tablet—they will come from new theories about how to engage both students and teachers in the classroom.