How I Started Out The Year As A Middle School Teacher

Teaching middle school students can be tricky and I found out that getting off on the right foot the first day of school was paramount!  I discovered early on that if the students knew I was in charge from the first moment they walked into my class I was going to have a great year.  Here is how I started out the year in each of my middle school classes.

I found in teaching language arts that students worked better if they had their own desks rather than tables.  That is just a preference of mine, I know many successful teachers that love using table and groups. 

First, I made a seating chart for each class using the following criteria:

  1. I took the alphabetized class list and re-alphabetized it so it was boy, girl, boy, girl
  2. I made sure no ethnic names were together

Then when the students entered my class for the first time I had the students stand around the back of the room and I asked them to sit down one by one according to my new seating chart.

Next, I explained that this was where they would be sitting throughout the year. I also made it clear I was not inclined to move students around unless I decided it was necessary, so to please not ask if they could change seats.

Finally, I know this sounds harsh, but I would wait for one student to mess up and I would quickly call that student out.  I would explain that that kind of behavior was not tolerated in my class, that I did not my degree in babysitting, and I did not expect to spend any of my time disciplining students that did not know how to behave.  Then I would end by lightening it up and saying, “You now know that you do not want to open a can of Darling!” The students would laugh, but they  knew where I stood on discipline and what my classroom behavioral expectations were.

I’m not saying it would work for everyone, all I’m saying is that it worked very successfully for me and I’m sharing in case anyone needs a new way to start out their year.

 

DAZZLE’S FAVORITE NIGHTIME WRITING LESSON

Teachers, here is another writing lesson from Dazzle.  It is an observational lesson through the senses that can be used anywhere and often.  This lesson is for a nighttime observation that  you could do for one night, a week, or a month of nights.  You can incorporate as many or as few extras into it as you like such as write a poem, a song, or draw a picture or a map.  Students love having options and will surprise you with the extra things they came up with themselves and they love to share out loud what they write. You will be surprised and happy with the outcome.  If you don’t want to assign the lesson now, save it for a warmer time or when something special is occurring like fazes of the moon, an eclipse, or a holiday.   Here is Dazzle’s lesson for you to share with your students. 

Dazzle has a funtastic  nighttime writing lesson that can be done anytime of the year, but since it’s winter lets give it a try now.  Imagine stepping outside your house on a winter night and opening up your senses to everything that is going on around you.  This assignment is ALL about your senses here’s what you do.

  1. Put on your coat, grab paper and pencil, and head outside.  If you live in the city are close to a park then ask your parents if they mind if you go there or if they will go with you to the park, otherwise just go outside wherever you live.
  2. Find a place to stand or sit that is kind of off by yourself, take out paper and pencil, and start describing everything that is going on around you.  Note the:
    1. Sounds your hear – Example: an owl hooting, a big truck going by, someone laughing, the sound of the wind, a dog barking, the crunch of someone walking in the snow etc
    2. Things you see – The clouds partially covering the moon, how dark it is outside, the shadow of the trees, the blur of a car passing by, etc.
    3. What you feel – The sting of snow as the wind blows it into your face, the sweat rolling down your back because you have on a very warm coat, cold hands, nervous because you hear a wolf howl, etc.
    4.  What you smell – Dinner cooking, exhaust, clean air, the neighbors barbecue cooking on the grill, etc.
    5. What you taste – the cold snow as it hits your tongue, the taste of the chocolate cake you had for dinner, the lollipop you are sucking on while you make your observations, etc.

Once you have finished your observations go inside, look at your notes, and start writing your story in your composition book.  Now here is where it should be fun! instead of just writing the facts, elaborate and make it interesting and try NOT to say the words I saw, I felt, I smelled, I tasted, I heard, but find more descriptive words to describe the scene and the senses.   Example:  As I looked up into the dark cold sky, a veil of wispy clouds shrouded the silvery moon.  That sounds much better than saying I saw the moon and clouds.  

As you write you can add illustrations to go with what your are describing.  You could also add a poem or song if you felt inspired to do so.  Have fun with your writing!

Dazzle was brought to me by RZ Alexander. Check out all RZ’s wonderful clip art here.

Check out this totally student-directed interactive writing notebook that includes lessons on narrative, compare/contrast, cause/effect, and argumentative essays as well as a poetry unit with guidelines and rubrics for each step each lesson. Students use provided rubrics to grade each assignment and essay before turning them all in for instructor evaluation.

Interactive Writing Notebook If you are interested in more student directed and assessed language arts and writing curriculum click here. 

Dazzle’s Note Writing Time Filler Activity

 

MEET DAZZLE

MEET DAZZLE

Meet Dazzle, the amazing language arts wonder dog!  Dazzle was brought to me by RZ Alexander.  Drop by RZ’s TpT store and see the amazing clip art offered there.

Dazzle is chalk full 😉 of helpful teaching ideas, hints, thoughts, and lessons that will make teaching and learning language arts and writing so much more fun and less stressful. In fact, here’s one now.    

Writing notes is something all students want to do so why not let them. With a few quick rules, you will be on your way to a fun time filler activity that keeps students writing and quiet for those times when you run out of things to do and still have some time left before class ends. Use this activity sparingly, usually a few times a month, and your students will be begged to do it.Slide2

Students should NOT make any noise as they write their notes and tiptoe around the room delivering them.  SO PLAY SOFT MUSIC IN THE BACKGROUND, SIT BACK, AND ENJOY THE QUIET TIME.  THE STUDENTS WILL LOVE IT AND SO WILL YOU.

PS:  If a student writes a note that is not nice, reiterate what the word NICE means to the class, then refrain from letting the class write notes for a few weeks. They will get the message and be good when you let them resume note writing.  

And speaking of writing…here is another fun writing lesson from my TpT store that can be used on Monday morning to get your writing students’ juices flowing and loosen up their writing fingers.  It increases fluency and is fun.  What could be better?

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What to say? What to say? Speaking my mind on student directed learning.

Me staring at my empty screen trying to think of what to put on my blog.

Me staring at my empty screen trying to think of what to put on my blog.

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I love to write curriculum and seem to never run out of ideas, but when it comes to blogging I am often at a  loss.  Today I have decided to just let if flow.

Anyone familiar with me, or uses my curriculum, knows that I believe in student directed interactive language arts materials because I found that students that are involved in all aspects of their learning are much more successful.  I discovered this the first time I passed out my newly developed scoring guide for my students to use to evaluate their weekly creative writing assignment.  They were very receptive and even excited at the idea of grading their own writing.  As I was collecting the finished assignment, my students were commenting on how much more they enjoyed the lesson when they got to grade their own papers.

One student stopped in after class and said, “Mrs. Darling, I never really understood how teachers graded my papers until today, plus I knew exactly what you expected me to do. I get it now and feel like I wrote a much better paper!”

That was all it took to convince me that I was on the right track, and I have not looked back since.

Today’s blog is just me rambling and sipping my coffee.  I hope you all have a great day!

Judith

 

Special Elf, Jewels, Had To Be Combed!!!!

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Jewels after she finished combing for lice.

Our granddaughter Lucy’s class had a little problem with lice, so her mother had to do a comb for the little buggers.  When Lucy woke up this morning she discovered that Jewel’s had gone through the process too.

Our daughter stated, “One can’t be too careful when it comes to guarding against lice!”

 

Lucy said, “Jewels is smart and funny!”

 

 

WHY I LOVED TEACHING MIDDLE SCHOOL

Judith Darling, President of Razzle Dazzle Learning CompanyI have often been asked, “Why did you become a middle school teacher?”  I would reply that as a middle school teacher I appreciated that age student for their honesty, humor, and desire to learn how to be more grown up.  It is a painful time for children because they are learning how to become responsible and independent adults with proper manners, a good sense of humor, and a sense of individuality that will carry them through life, which seemed to be something I could relate to.  I just knew I wanted to be a part of that teaching community.

Middle school aged children require educators that have a special kind of personality which is impervious to harsh comments about their hair, appearance and lifestyle in general.  Teachers and parents must have a quirky sense of humor that carries them through the constant critique of “all knowing” middle schoolers who ban together in their search for an identity and independence.  They must be able to guide students toward developing their own sense of style, toward becoming independent learners, toward understanding  differences in beliefs and views; and toward becoming ready to successfully move on to high school, college, and adulthood.  It is a daunting task for sure, but one I loved considering the nature of the little beasts!

I discovered that middle school children need tons of guidance and strict boundaries, but want to feel like they are making decisions themselves.  This is a tricky tightrope to walk for teachers and parents.  I learned there were times when I needed to take the heat so a student could save face, and other times when a student would surprise me and show a real sense of maturity by stepping up and owning the problem or difficulty.

During all the years I taught middle school I can honestly say that I looked forward to almost every day in the classroom.  Life was not dull, I got honest feedback, students were always surprising me, I got to laugh often every day and I knew it was a place that was good for me.

Check out my TpT store to find ways to make teaching writing so much easier and fun for students and teachers.

See you there!

Judith

FREE Holiday Creative Writing Lesson

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Click on the picture to go to my TpT store and download my Free Holiday Lesson.

Here is a FREE HOLIDAY WRITING LESSON. In this lesson students think of something they really want, then write a story about why they want it, what they have to do to get it, and what they will do with it once they have it. It is interactive because they brainstorm, write in paragraphs, edit, and grade their own paper before turning it in. The lesson includes:

1. Instructions on how to use the lesson plan
2. The writing process steps for teaching the plan
3. An Idea Organizer that taps into the students personal bank of knowledge
4. A paragraph organizer that guides the student’s through writing the introduction, body, and conclusion
5. Two scoring guides (one includes the six traits of writing) so students know what the expectations are, how they will be evaluated, and allows them to grade their own papers before turning it in for the final teacher evaluation.
6. An art/drawing worksheet to go along with the lesson

TEACHING WRITING – Why use a grading rubric?

Teaching writing is subjective!  So much so that almost every teacher grades essays and students writing different from anyone else, and how they do it can vary from assignment to assignment. What is needed is a scoring rubric that is student and teacher friendly and evens the playing field for all students.  It needs to be shown to the students before any writing is done, so the students know exactly what the expectations are and how they will be evaluated.  Students should also edit and grade their own assignments before turning them in for teacher evaluation.  This allows the student to actually choose the grade they which to make on any given writing assignment.  The rubric should allow students to be held accountable, but not be so stringent that it overwhelms them.

I have said many times and will say it many more.  The only way children learn to write is by writing all the time.  The more they write the better they become.  Taking the stress off of writing by providing a usable scoring rubric, allows students to succeed and feel empowered.  Their success and empowerment translates into the desire to write more.

An added bonus is that it significantly cuts down on grading time for the teacher. 

My writing curriculum does just that.  It makes teaching writing stress free and joyful for students and teachers.  If you are interested in making your teaching life easier, drop by my TpT store and take a look.  All of my products are student directed, and I offer free lessons so you can see if they will work for you.

The picture is of my granddaughters doing their writing homework.  They LOVE it that their grandmother writes fun and interesting writing and language arts lessons that they can grade themselves.

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