Monday, September 28, 2015

Middle School Rules

Most times people find out I'm a middle school teacher, I'm almost always given both a surprised and sympathetic look. Most people think that teaching middle school takes a very special kind of person. To tell you the truth, they're probably right.  

I never, ever thought I'd be a middle school teacher. I started at the elementary level.  That was my comfort zone. Older kids? Never! Until I had my own kids.  I learned that middle schoolers are people, too. When it was my daughter's turn to go to 6th grade, an opportunity opened up at the school she'd be attending. They were becoming an ESOL center and were hiring a Teacher/Department Chair to launch the new program. So, with much fear and trembling I applied, interviewed and was hired.  

On my very first hall duty experience, a fight broke out between two eighth grade boys right in front of me. One of my biggest fears of transitioning to middle school was the likelihood of finding myself in a situation that might be dangerous or overwhelming.

 To my relief, reinforcements were at my side within seconds and de-escalated the situation. Fourteen years later, I'm still in middle school. I was surprised to find out more than anyone else that I actually was one of those special kind of people.

Sometimes I get the thought, "Would you consider going back to elementary?" Other times, "How about trying high-school?"  Maybe one day at some point I may consider one or the other, but today I'm happy in middle school.  

I've always thought that each grade level requires a certain personality type.  I think this is true for middle school, as well.  If you're the nuturing type then 6th grade is your nitch.  If you're a life skills coach-like person, then seventh grade might be for you.  And, if you're a person who prefers more  independent students, most likely to lead themselves, then 8th grade is where you might want to be.  There's something for everyone in middle school.  For me, I teach all three levels.  I get to be nuturer, a life coach and prepare leaders.  

I think middle school rules are the same rules for any grade level. Teaching is both rewarding and challenging regardless of the students' ages. There are kids who meet all the specs for their grade level, those who don't and those who exceed on every level.  The most important rule for any level, grade, subject area, or school is that we must be certain that we are called to be teachers.  How will we know?  Regardless of the challenges we face each and every year, we still enjoy our jobs.  When that is fully known and secured within ourselves then we can overcome any obstacle or struggle that may come our way. 

Therefore, to all teachers, and especially middle school teachers, you are a special kind of breed in an amazing way.  You are appreciated.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Settling Down

 School is in full swing.  Kids and families are back into their routine and so are our classrooms.  For me, the beginning of school is challenging at best.  My beginning ELL's cannot speak the language. They're trying to figure things out and I'm trying to help them understand what they can only learn through routine and practice, and through making mistakes.  Falling, unfortunately, and time, are powerful learning strategies.

My intermediates get frustrated with the beginners.  They want to move forward, but training the beginners in our classroom /school routines and policies is vital for their success.  My advanced students, are mainsteamed, they've moved on.  Those that remain become disappointed and wonder why they're still in the program, are they not smart enough?  The varying emotions that come with each level, coupled with the anxieties of the families dropping their kids off in an American school, not to mention the details, all the details, that must be addressed at the beginning all add to sheer exhaustion.  The silver lining is, things do settle down.  And, we are finally settling.  

One of the highlights of the new school year is seeing how much progress the kids actually did make the year before.  Although many of them still remain in our program, they have come a long way and are working towards that goal, to be mainstreamed!  My beginners from last year are speaking to me in English!  WooHoo!  They are writing their journals in English!  And, they are professionals in my classroom.  They work all the online learning programs better than I do.  In small group, we are moving forward much quicker than our slow pace last year.  I'm stoked!  I love, love, love to see my kids grow and learn and speak English and become bilingual.  There is no greater feeling.  

I found this great website 

I'm working on sight vocabulary with my beginners, the first 300 High Frequency Word List.  This site has examples of sentences using high frequency words.  The best part, they are also recorded.  My kids love it.  They read it, play it, and repeat it.  This is great speaking and reading practice, and a great homework assignment.  

I also found a fun oral activity on  Pinterest
"I have . . . Who has . . .?"

I used it to practice vocabulary recognition and pronunciation. It also helps ELL's practice using "has" and "have" which is not as easy as it sounds.

For the first few days, we just added the words.

We decide what the first word will be and begin.  Each student reads his or her two sentences.  Each day we'd scramble the cards so students received a different word each day.

The next week we added the definition.  This was more difficult and still is for some.  But, it gets the students speaking English which is our goal.  With repeated practice we'll get there.

This card ends the activity.  This card says "needing", but yours obviously will have different word.

Students stay engaged because they do not know when their word is coming up next.
The game sort of takes on a rhythm and no one wants to be the one to break it.  It lots of fun and quick.  I would recommend two cards for the intermediate students and one for the beginners. I use it as a whole group activity right before we rotate to our group rotations a few times a week.

Help yourself to my blank templates.  Click here.
Pictures were taken in Worth Avenue,
Palm Beach, Florida.  I hope you enjoyed them.

It was great chatting with you today.  

Wishing you a restful and fun weekend.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September's Currently 2016

I know I'm late this month,
but I enjoy participating in  

Monthly Currently Linky Parties.
So, as they say, better late than never.

Wishing every one a lovely September.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pick 3 ~ This Month's Top Pinterest Picks Linky Party

Theme: Items to Use in the Classroom During the Month of September.

Middle schools usually don't hold a Meet the Teacher event before school begins.  However, we do have an Open House.  For us it usually falls the first or second week of September.

One fabulous Pinterest find was from 
a parent questionnaire.

Not only does this give parents and guardians something to do while waiting for the room to fill,
but the information will be very useful.

A Letter to the Student from the Parent by Second Grade Style

Although this picture obviously is geared towards second grade, I think it would work just as well with middle schoolers.  This second grade teacher asks her parents to write a letter to their child during Open House and she has them sitting on their desks when they arrive in the morning.  I have mailboxes for my students.  I'd probably put the letters in their mailboxes with a little gift.  Along with the sign-sheet, this will help me know immediately who came and who didn't.

Meet the Teacher Newsletter by Kristi DeRoche

Another useful and great idea.  Sharing a little of yourself is a great way to connect with families right at the beginning.  Love this idea.

Now it's your turn.  Why not join the fun?  
Link up and share with us your fabulous pins for September.