Category Archives: Middle School

Rozlyn Linder on Lee Heffernan’s new Back and Forth

 

The following is Rozlyn Linder's foreword from Lee Heffernan's new book, Back and Forth: Using an Editor's Mindset to Improve Student Writing


 

Guilty as charged. I can recall numerous times when I asked a student, “Are you ready to publish your writing?” I swiftly sent them off to rewrite, type, or illustrate their work. That writing was then retired to a class bulletin board, or even worse— my desk. Done. That was the end of that piece. It now belonged to me. Lee Heffernan has shown me the error of my ways.

Lee’s book speaks to the idea of student empowerment, accountability, meaningful writing, revision, and publishing. Her work essentially shows us how to move students from fake writing (writing that is just for the teacher) to writing that has purpose and passion. Lee manages to marry process and product in a way that will inevitably set a new standard for writing instruction for teachers everywhere. Her work breaks ground with tenets that shift our writing instructional norms and inspires students.

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Writing Engaging Characters for Nonfiction

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Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision: A Professional Writer Shares Strategies, Tips, and Lessons by Sneed B. Collard and Vicki Spandel


Have you ever watched a film that you enjoyed, but afterward had trouble describing— or, worse yet, never thought about again? Unfortunately, many Hollywood movies fall into this category.

They seem well-constructed and crackle with gee-whiz action, yet leave the audience empty and disappointed. Most often, the problem boils down to one issue: there’s no person or thing in the movie that we actually care about. Instead of being character driven, these movies are plot-driven. They are defined by events instead of characters that we actually identify with.

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The Four Essential Elements of Engaging Science Stories

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The Following is adapted from The Stories of Science: Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening into Science Instruction, 6-12

In The Stories of Science, authors Janet MacNeil, Mark Goldberg, and Melissa London describe how many of the elements of good science stories are meant to grab and hold the attention of the audience. (After all, what value is a story with no audience?) As they put it "In the movie The Never Ending Story, a boy reads a magical book and finds himself falling into the fantasy world described by the author. This is exactly what we want the audience to do when they read, hear, or see science stories."

In the book, the authors point to several strategies are used to lure readers into a story (and keep them there). Here are the four essential elements of engaging science stories:

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9 Types of Reading Conferences: A Jumping Off Point

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Adapted from Reading Projects Reimagined: Student-Driven Conferences to Deepen Critical Thinking by Dan Feigelson

Yetta Goodman (2002) reminds us that there are no substitutes for careful kid-watching and good listening. Nonetheless, a reading teacher can become more confident and able to adapt to students by having umbrella categories, or types of conferences, at his or her fingertips. Carving out time in the day for conference-based reading projects provides teachers with important opportunities to listen and assign readers work that is personalized and rigorous. The fundamental tenet of a conference-based reading project is that the direction should come from the student. Developing conference-based reading projects involves listening carefully to what students say about a text, and then helping them name an idea worth following.

The following nine umbrella categories are intended as a work in progress and is by no means definitive. The best use of this list would be as a jumping off point for educators to add to, revise, and refine.  It’s important, always, to remember that the specifics of a good conference should come from what the individual student says and does. With that disclaimer in mind, here we go.

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Fostering Belongingness to Support Student Participation

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Adapted from Motivated: Designing Math Classrooms Where Students want to Join In by Ilana Seidel Horn.

Many students enter mathematics classrooms with a sense of trepidation. For some, their discomfort reflects a larger sense of detachment from school. They may not feel welcomed because of the gaps they experience navigating between their home language or culture and the expectations at school. The social milieu of school may make them feel like an outcast, as they see peers who seamlessly “fit in” while they remain on the outside. Unlike the sports field, their community center, or the stage, academic settings may make them feel untalented and incompetent. For other students, school itself is fine, but there is a distinct dread upon entering math class. Math has never made sense—or it made sense when it involved whole numbers, but as soon as the variables showed up, all hope was lost. A standardized test score that deemed them “below grade level” may have demoralized them. They may get messages at home that “we’re not good at math,” setting up any potential success as familial disloyalty. For some students, they love the subject, but must contend with others who do not see them as fitting their ideas of “a math person.” They have to combat stereotypes constantly to be seen as a legitimate participant in the classroom, as they defy expectations.

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When World, Community, or School News is Upsetting

rhendi-rukmana-193672Excerpted from The Curious Classroom by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels

When you live with thirty other human beings for 180 days in a row, sad things and bad things can happen. Individual children or the whole group will encounter struggles, worries, losses, changes, or emergencies. It’s not whether, but when.

Many of these happenings are predictable and expectable. A class pet dies. Then someone breaks a bone. Someone moves away. Someone has a sick parent or grandparent. Someone’s family is in a car crash. There’s a bullying incident on the playground. A big storm rages through town. There’s scary news on TV and adults are agitated about it.

Here are some ways to support students when dealing with these crises in your classroom:

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