Nov
07

Tutoring Teaches Me Some Lessons - Part 2

I have had the pleasure of tutoring a young man in mathematics for the past 4 years which I’ll call “George.” George is in the 7th grade and we have been working together since he started having trouble with math in the 3rd grade.  

We have had many challenges over the last four years. One of our first challenges was communication with his math teachers. We have had teachers respond very quickly, and we have had teachers not respond at all. Some teachers posted assignments and due dates online, and others did not. The lesson I learned about communication is it is a key element in helping students succeed. It was extremely difficult for me to assist George in succeeding without communication. 

puzzle pieces










The next challenge we faced was my own challenge of having preconceived notions of how math facts should be learned. I, like many other teachers, believed using your fingers to count should be avoided. George struggled mightily, and I could see him practically hiding his fingers under the table so he could use them! This opened my eyes, and I changed my course of action. As well as I also remembered I had used my fingers for years to learn my multiplication factors of 9. The lesson I learned about pre-conceived notions is to throw them out, each student will learn in their own way!

finger method for 9s multiplication facts











We were also faced with the challenge of when to use a calculator. George had so much homework not just in math, but in all subjects, so we decided that using a calculator would be highly beneficial. His math homework was exceptionally repetitive and there were so many problems to complete. I would have George complete the first few without a calculator to make sure he understood how to complete the problems. Then I would allow him to use the calculator to save valuable time. This also taught him calculator skills which he did not have. In addition, to we talked about the importance of being able to solve problems without a calculator, but also discussed how using a calculator could help him focus on problem-solving. I explained to him these skills would be highly valued when he entered the workplace where using a calculator isn’t considered cheating. The lesson I learned about calculators is the use of a calculator is a skill and we need to teach this skill.

This year we were faced with another big challenge. George has ADHD and takes medicine to help control his symptoms. He takes his medicine in the morning and by the afternoon it is much less effective. Unfortunately, his math class is the last period of the day. This makes it immensely difficult for him to concentrate in the class where he struggles the most; this is not a good combination. This is the only math class available so there were no alternatives. Most days I would have to re-teach the lesson as well as having to help him complete his homework. The lesson I learned about class schedules is sometimes they are not flexible, and you just have to come up with solutions!


snippet of definition of success










It has been wonderful to see George succeed in math although the road has been long and filled with challenges. He has taught me as many lessons as I have taught him.

Part 2

I have again started tutoring a wonderful, young man who is a 7th grader. This time I’ll call him “Alex.” Alex is similar to George in that he is struggling with math, but unlike George who had a strong, stable home life, Alex until recently has been in a very unstable home environment.  

Again, I face some of the same challenges as before. I am not only assisting Alex with math, but we work together on every subject. So, again communication with his teachers is one of the key factors in helping Alex succeed. Alex and George go to school in the same district, so grades and assignments are posted online, but as was the case with George, many of Alex’s teachers do not keep this up to date. I cannot stress how important it is for us to have this information updated. Alex is working very hard to become better organized and to use his agenda book to write down assignments, due dates, etc. He is getting better at this task. I have been working with him on the importance of these skills, but it is new for him. He was never taught these skills and the importance of being organized so we work very hard on these skills. Nevertheless, every once in awhile assignments do not get written down, and I depend on the teacher to post the assignment. If they are not posted, it usually results in an assignment being missed or late.

I would encourage all teachers to find tools that give whoever is working with their students, and in many cases, this is not the parents, a way to communicate with caregivers what the daily assignment is and when quizzes and tests are scheduled. It would be so beneficial to be able to go onto their website or to get a message. There are services such as Remind that can be used to quickly send out a message at one time. Many schools already have systems in place, but I cannot stress how important it is that they are being used and updated.

Just like George, Alex struggles with multiplication facts, so I am very grateful for the previous learning experience with George. My prior experience has been so beneficial in working with George, and he has picked up his multiplication facts so quickly.  

One of the most important factors in working with Alex has been in building his self-esteem. His self-confidence had been battered, and he did not believe that he was smart, but he is incredibly smart. His grades were mostly F’s when I started working with him, and this semester he made the B honor roll. I think about this often and wonder how many more students like Alex are failing and are being left behind and falling through the cracks. Nothing changed at school, the item that changed was the support that he is now receiving outside of school, so what can be done? I don’t have many answers just many questions; I know that teachers are working as hard as they can. I just know that there are so many smart students like Alex that do not have the tools or support that they need to succeed.

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Nov
01

Just Before A2E: Farewell to Glenda

Later this month the PATINS Project will host the A2E Conference at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Indianapolis. This will be the 9th State Conference, as we used to call them, in which I’ve participated. All PATINS/ICAM is looking forward to this, and the excitement is building.

No one is ever sorry that they’ve attended one of our conferences. Again, this year’s event is packed with relevant, enlightening breakout sessions that feature national and local speakers who are considered experts in their fields. Continental breakfast and lunch are provided on-site, which of course means the networking need not stop!  There will be 4 Keynote Speakers this year—please view the keynote addresses topics and conference schedule here.

This will be my 1st conference that has not been prepared, organized and executed mainly by Glenda Thompson. I remember my first conference; all day long people were asking “Where’s Glenda?” “Have you seen Glenda?” “Did you ask Glenda?” And throughout the days I would see her blonde hair and friendly face making the rounds, taking care of things effortlessly, efficiently. I’ve seen this at every state conference, Tech Expo, staff meeting, or any other occasion we are together, that requires materials, food, planning and oversight. This organizing and implementing is her element, ONE of them, and when she is in ONE, she is a force. A presence. A capable, strong and comforting support who knows how to keep things evened out and moving forward.

I know everyone at PATINS/ICAM would agree that Glenda kept day to day operations of the Project running, with a good heart and a generous spirit. Oh, the times she has let me in after the deadline passed! The times she said sweetly, “No worries. I’ll fix it” after I’d submitted a form incorrectly…Again. Her text messages asking if I’d gotten home alright after an event; Glenda knows I have a long drive home and a poor sense of direction. We are all so blessed to have had Glenda show us by example how to be professional and personal, busy and calm, efficient and tolerant, even welcoming of interruption.

I’ll bet she will be thinking of us for those 2 days in November. Is all the technology set up and working correctly? Is the signage in place? Name tags ready, breakfast set up? Do our speakers need assistance with any little or big thing? For lunch, does the kitchen have special meals prepared and labelled? Are over-flow chairs needed in any of the rooms? When Glenda awakens on November 20, I’ll bet she gets a familiar flutter of nervous energy before she remembers.

And Glenda, we will be thinking of you too. Don’t worry. A2E may experience some glitches without your skilled hands in charge. Still, it will come to pass positively and many people will go back to their schools armed with new strategies, techniques and technology for their classrooms.  You left us with a model of how these days should go and in this way, you will be our guide and help. Thank you for that, and years of unsurpassed commitment and service to this project.

I miss you, my friend. Talk soon!
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Sandy Stabenfeldt
I also look forward to the excitement of the A2E conference, but I also pause to take a back look. I have so many wonderful memor... Read More
Sunday, 03 November 2019 22:16
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Oct
24

Growing Up in Mainstream Public School: Things I Wish I Knew Back Then

This week we have the privilege of reading advice for those growing up deaf/hard of hearing from the very talented guest blogger, Sara Miller, M.S. Ed. Enjoy! 


It was the late 1980’s when I was diagnosed with severe-profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and received my first pair of hearing aids. I was almost three and I’m told that I loved my hearing aids so much that I never wanted to take them off! 

Young Sara with hearing aids on.
It was during the 1990s and early 2000’s when I attended public elementary/middle/high schools in small rural towns in Northwest Ohio. I was the only deaf student in my grade to be mainstreamed full time. During these years, there were a lot of trials and triumphs. 


Looking back, there are a few things I wish I had known to help guide myself through the process of being the only deaf kid in my mainstream class. If I could, I would go back in time and share a few things with my younger self:


Number 1: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are many other deaf and hard of hearing kids out there who are also born into hearing families. In fact, 90% of deaf and hard of hearing kids are born to hearing families. 75% of those kids attend public school, just like you do. While you may be the only kid to be mainstreamed full time in your school, there are many others just like you out there in the world who are going through the same experiences you are. You will meet them later on in life and establish wonderful relationships. 


Number 2: DO NOT READ INTO HEARING PEOPLE’S FACIAL EXPRESSIONS TOO MUCH. Understand that we deaf people tend to naturally rely on visual cues much more than our hearing peers. If a person doesn’t smile, frowns, or has a neutral look on their face, it does not mean they don’t like you or are mad at you. They simply could just be having a rough day caused by something that has absolutely nothing to do with you. Acknowledge and understand this fact in order to save yourself from unnecessary hurt feelings over misreading someone’s emotions. 


Number 3: PEOPLE ARE NOT STARING AT YOU WHEN YOU SIGN BECAUSE YOU’RE WEIRD OR DIFFERENT, THEY STARE BECAUSE THEY ARE FASCINATED WITH SIGN LANGUAGE. I know... This is so hard to fully believe or understand. When you know you are different, you feel as if everyone is always staring at you. Staring at your Phonic Ear box strapped to your chest. Staring at the long cords from that box that lead up to your ears. Staring at your hearing aids. Staring at your hands when you choose to communicate using sign language. That’s when the staring seems to be the worst. But what you don’t know is that those people stare because they wish they knew how to sign too. Reach out to those individuals and ask if they’d like to learn. Teach them the joy of signing.


Number 4: ADVOCATE FOR ACCESS. Hold your teachers accountable for making content accessible. Request captions for all videos and movies. No exceptions. Utilize note-takers in all subject areas. Let your teachers know not to talk towards the chalkboard and to face you when instructing. Ask your peers to repeat themselves when you didn’t quite catch everything they said in class discussions. And yes, even consider having an interpreter for your core content classes. You deserve the right to have access to ALL that is going on around you. Things you don’t even know you’re missing can be filled by having an interpreter present. Learning these advocacy skills early on will benefit you later in life. 


Number 5: YOU WILL FALL IN LOVE AND GET MARRIED. In your high school years, you will often cry yourself to sleep wondering if you’ll ever find love and get married. You’ll question how someone would ever want a wife who cannot hear. Why would they choose to love someone who is deaf when they could have someone who can hear perfectly like all of your peers. Those nights of self-doubt and the tears you cry will be for nothing. You will meet your soulmate in the spring of your senior year of high school and get married that very summer just before entering college. In fact, you’ll be the first in your class to marry and he will even surprise you by signing a portion of his vows to you at your wedding. Your husband is the kindest and most loving soul who will accept and adore every part of you, especially your deafness.


Number 6: ENCOURAGE YOUR FAMILY TO LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN SPEAK. You are the only deaf individual in your entire family (Extended family included). Your parents will bombard you with language and read to you on a daily basis. You’ll fall in love with reading. They’ll have high expectations for you to soak up any and all language learning opportunities around you and you will exceed those expectations. You will acquire and utilize spoken language with relative ease. Therefore, English will be your first language. In your first few years of school, you’ll learn Signed Exact English, but the only person who you’ll teach sign language to at home is your older sister. (She will later become an educational interpreter.) 


However, you really need to teach your parents (and family and friends) to sign as well. They are not against it. If they knew how much it would help you in social situations, they’d learn in a heartbeat. (Looking back, they wished they had). Since you speak so well, it’s easy to fool yourself and everyone else around you into thinking that everything is being understood. But deep down, you know you are not understanding everything around you. That sickening pit in your stomach that you get when you’re about to enter a challenging environment: basketball games, dark restaurants, the mall, birthday parties, movie theater, etc., that’s a direct result of the anxiety you subconsciously have knowing how hard you’re going to have to work just to keep up with a small amount of what is going on. This is where sign language can benefit you. It can bring to life what you would normally miss. It can give you complete access to your surroundings. It can reduce your anxiety and allow you to enjoy your surroundings.  So, please teach those closest to you how to sign. You’ll thank yourself in the future.


7: EMBRACE YOUR DEAFNESS. You will go through a phase in your middle/high school years where you will reject anything and everything to do with deafness. You’ll stop signing and refuse to carry your FM equipment with you to class. You’ll hide your Phonic Ear box and cords under your clothes to try to blend in with your peers as much as possible. You’ll hate being different. You’ll spend a LOT of energy and emotion simply trying to become “hearing” like everyone else is in your class. 


STOP! 


Embrace who you are. Love yourself for who you are. Stop trying so hard to become something that you were never meant to be: “hearing.” Embracing your deafness will save you a lot of heartaches and emotional energy. Know that there are strength and beauty in being Deaf. That there is an entire community of individuals in this world who are just like you. Who knows exactly what it’s like to be deaf. Who will welcome you with open arms? Sadly, you live in a small rural town with no Deaf community or Deaf adult role models. You won’t even meet a Deaf adult until you attend college and are already a deaf adult yourself. However, as soon as you are able, seek out those who are like you. They will fill your heart in a way that the hearing community cannot. In a way that even your closest friends and family cannot. Only when you make these connections will you feel complete and fully able to truly embrace every part of who you are.


Sara Miller, M.S.Ed

she/her

🤟🏻Deaf adult bringing awareness to deafness & Deaf culture

👩🏻‍🏫Teacher of the D/HH


Look for more from Sara on her social media accounts: @adventuresindeafed and @languagepriority

Sara Miller signing I Love You in American Sign Language.
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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Thank you, Sara, for sharing this with our readers. I hope it finds its way to students who would really benefit from your great ... Read More
Thursday, 24 October 2019 13:19
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Oct
18

Can You Whistle and Yawn at the Same Time?

Can You Whistle and Yawn at the Same Time?
Engaging students has always been a challenge, and in this day and age, it is more than ever. As educators, we are competing against a digital age in which students are growing up with social media and Internet algorithms that keep them clicking and offer immediate gratification with chemical shots of dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with our reward-motivated behavior) when their Instagram post gets another like. 

Online gaming feeds into the need for immediate gratification and visual engagement and has become a worldwide obsession with eSports offering young winning gamers the opportunity to take home millions of dollars. Other streaming services like Netflix and YouTube also play into our students’ immediate gratification. We’ve got to face it, long-term goal planning as an executive function just isn’t what it used to be with on-demand Internet gratification at our fingertips. To be honest, we as educators fall victim to this need for instant gratification as well.

So, wouldn’t you agree that the task of student engagement is almost as difficult as it is to whistle and yawn at the same time?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend some professional development (PD) on engagement and its impact on behavior. I was reminded that in nearly all cases, desired behaviors including academic outcomes are directly tied to your students’ levels of engagement in the classroom.

Yet, engaging students is no walk in the park. In fact, genuine student engagement is layered, making it more complex than finding the perfect “hook” for your new lesson topic.

The essential first layer and building block requires a genuine relationship with each of your students. They need to know that you care about them as people in and out of the classroom. I find it staggering that according to the PD session led by Susan Hentz, 56% of learners don’t believe that their teachers care about them as people. While upsetting, we should let this motivate us as educators to do better using the following exercise. 



First, let’s zero in on our relationships with our students and get real with ourselves, possibly pushing us beyond our comfort zones. Think about your students who are easy to get along with and easy to like. Next, picture the students who often push you to your limits. Can you name students that exist in the gray area in between, too? They are the ones that may have actually fallen off your radar because they quietly comply with requests and are getting decent grades. Finally, let’s map these thoughts on paper. 

Start as an individual, with your colleagues, or with your entire school’s staff. Put up pictures or names of all of your students on the wall and identify the students that you have positive relationships with using paper clips, stickers, or something of the like. Next, look closely at the students that don’t have any markers. Warning, this may be shocking. 

Now take some time to discuss and record the positives and strengths of these students on the wall. With your team (or by yourself if working alone) devise a plan to reach out and create a positive relationship with each of those students. Learn more about how to create meaningful, positive relationships with your students in this article from EdWeek.

Positive relationships with students can be supported in countless ways. Consider these strategies on your next school day:
  • greet your students at the door
  • ask them to share something they like about themselves
  • give them the time to talk, while you genuinely listen
  • attend their after school drama, sporting, extra-curricular events 
  • share good news about your students with their parents/guardians
  • set your students up for success and give them the credit
  • be genuine and avoid sarcasm when prompting on-task behavior
Once positive relationships are established or being built, you can focus on the second layer of engagement - ways to hook your students into the curriculum content:
  • Designing a year-long bulletin board that only requires changing the topic, and allowing students to share anonymously on Post-Its what they know or what they want to learn about the topic
  • Asking students to make and share predictions on a Padlet wall (or another backchannel) about what they will learn or what will happen when 
  • Connecting your content to use in their daily lives (i.e. - connect ratios & proportions to cooking)
  • Creating lessons that solve real community problems in or out of the school while tackling multiple standards at once; students want to make a difference!
  • Offering your students opportunities to respond approximately every 5 minutes. Think:
    • Thumbs up/down/sideways
    • Individual whiteboard responses
    • Head nods/shakes
    • Stand up/sit down
    • Think/pair/share 
  • Getting students moving and incorporating music into your lessons
  • Taking virtual field trips with Google Cardboard
While genuinely engaging students takes intentional design, effort, and creativity, it is worth it. Engaged students are more likely to have a positive perspective of their classroom experience and to feel like they belong because they know their educators care and are listening. They are more likely to persist, participate, and achieve. You, too, will experience the benefits in and out of your classroom.

Read more about the positive impact of student relationships from the American Psychological Association.

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Oct
10

The Intersection of Literacy and Joy

IMG_071_Smiling girl showing her book on her iPad written for her
book cover for Where the Red Fern Grows with boy and his two hunting dogs running through a field

“I cried when I read Where the Red Fern Grows in 4th grade.”

“My first grade teacher was stern, but when she read aloud she used funny voices.”

“Non fiction is my favorite. I’m still all about the facts.”

“I followed the hymnal at church while listening to my mom sing.” 

“I loved Dr. Suess. . . comic books. . . Harry Potter . . . mysteries . . . .

I’ve had the joyful privilege of working with Indiana teachers in trainings about making and engaging with books and literacy this summer and fall. An introductory activity that I did with groups was to ask them to place 3-4 influential books on a timeline of their life, and these were comments I heard during share time. For most of the presentations, I had to interrupt lively heartfelt discussions because the participants didn’t want to stop talking about books.

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.” – J.K. Rowling

Something magical was also happening during those discussion times. Folks were connecting over shared experiences and writing down titles for books they had yet to discover. It reminded me that any learning task is made more meaningful with emotional engagement. Our brains get primed for the what and the how if we are taken through the door of the why.

door opening with a bright light behind it
We spent the remainder of the trainings looking for sources for books in electronic format, and making both electronic and tactile format books to take back to all students, no matter what access they may need to engage with a book. 

I’ve received even more joy via photos and stories of students with the books their teachers found or created for them. 

smiling boy reading a book on his iPad with headphones

I’d love to see your face light up at the mention of a good book. I’d also love to hear the particular challenges you face when providing opportunities for improving literacy for students in any setting. Give me or another PATINS specialist a shout if you’d like to bring a training on engaging literacy to your district or educational team!

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin


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Jennifer Conti
Not a dry eye in my 8th grade classroom when we got to the end of "Where the Red Fern Grows". What a memory.
Thursday, 10 October 2019 13:51
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Oct
03

Changes

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes

This fall I will experience some personal and professional changes. I am moving away for a moment from my traditional blog themes of my family.

Personally, I will be turning the golden age in a month and I have been reminded constantly with ever-persistent phone calls and mailings of my opportunity for health care.

I do look forward to reaping the rewards offered by many establishments with my new age which qualifies me for discounts. In doing some research I found that I have been eligible for some time now, so I’ll start pulling that card out ASAP.

I don’t see age as a number as much as I see it as an attitude. You know, “You are as young as you feel”. I agree until I see Facebook posts that say, “If you remember this… you’re old”. Ouch, I remember all of them too well.

Professionally, I have been with PATINS for 21 years. I have seen and been part of many changes over that time. Moving from a staff of 7 to a staff now of 17 is an indication of the project’s success and worth.

I have experienced 3 fiscal agency changes and I had made many friends within each agency. As is the case when you leave one to go to another there is always the “keep in touch” said as we move away.

Keeping in touch seems like an easy thing to do, but in reality, it is difficult. We don’t see one another on a regular basis anymore. To do that would require an effort outside of the workplace.

We move apart as time goes on and develop other relations as we have before. We are in constant change.

I am looking forward to our new fiscal agent and new people I will meet along the way, again continued changes.

I often think about change when I hear the song Changes by David Bowie. He talks about how quick and seemingly spontaneous change is. It is the lyric “Ch, ch, ch, changes” that grabs my attention.

There are thousands of philosophical and inspirational quotes and hundreds of songs about change but for me change just is.
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Sep
27

Power in Listening

Recently, I found myself trapped in a hallway with a coworker who likes to talk.

He launched into a long story about his kids, his weekend plans, his new project, his car trouble, and his recent injury. I felt as if it would never end. I was smiling and nodding, but I wasn’t really listening. I was thinking about all the work I had to get done. 

Later that day, I felt terribly guilty for not having listened attentively. I ended up talking to him again after work, and I was stunned when he thanked me for being such a good sounding board. I didn’t feel that I was at all.

Since then, I’ve been trying my best to actively listen to others in my circles. 

It seems our world is fighting to be heard. But there is power in listening. In fact, we may say MORE by listening. Listening tells people that they matter and worthy of your time and attention. When we listen, we have the opportunity to hint at our confident identity and willingness to put others first. Listening is foreign to the world at large. Maybe that’s why it’s so effective.

While working in a First-Grade classroom this week, I heard the teacher ask the class, “Do you have your listening ears on?" Maybe that’s a question we should ask ourselves at the start of each day.

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Sep
12

Would You Rather? - Educator Edition

Would You Rather? Educator Edition
Let’s have a little fun and play the age-old classic, “Would You Rather”. The rules are simple. Pick either the first option or the second option. Then, explain the reason for your choice. You cannot change or combine the options. This is always a popular game with students. You can easily target turn taking, perspective taking, reasoning, and listening skills during the game. There are tons of pre-generated “Would You Rather” questions online for students. I made this Educator Edition just for you. Play this by yourself, with colleagues at lunch, or as an icebreaker at a staff meeting.


So, would you rather:
  1. Use brand new colored pens or a smart pen (like the LiveScribe 3) to take notes?
  2. Have a former student send you a heartfelt email or have a current student grasp a tricky concept?
  3. Start the school day at 5 AM and end early or start at 10 AM and end later in the evening?
  4. Get educational tips from PATINS TV Youtube Channel or PATINS Pages eNewsletter?
  5. Connect with other Indiana educators on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram?
  6. Participate in a webinar or an in-person session?
  7. Wear jeans every day of the year or… (Actually, nothing compares to that luxury, am I right?).
  8. Attend Access to Education or the Tech Expo?

Speaking of Access to Education, the 2019 conference is right around the corner! The session grid is posted and wow! I am excited for all the innovative, amazing speakers coming this year. What I love most about the conference is that we all have the chance to speak one-on-one with leaders in the educational field. It’s an opportunity unlike any other to pick their brains for even more ideas for specific students. Please take a moment to register yourself and a co-worker or two. 

I hope you enjoyed this quick game. I'd love to know what your top picks are in the comments below!
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Sep
05

Middle Schoolers Need the Most Support

Screen-Shot-2019-09-05-at-5.40.04-PM Middle Schoolers jumping with blog title on bottom.
Is it just me or do other middle-level educators feel left out? The search for age-appropriate, engaging materials for teens on Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest is like a scene from Indiana Jones.

I think the dearth of resources stems from a perception that middle school is a short layover standing in the way of the exciting trip that is high school. I’m here to dispel this myth and shout from the rooftops: Don’t forget about middle school!

Middle schoolers look older physically, have grown emotionally, and/or have overcome some deficits in elementary school, but that doesn’t mean they need less support or less engaging work. As the complexity of curriculum content increases, our students’ weaknesses become more apparent to both themselves and to their peers. In an attempt to cover their struggles, they may not directly ask for support. Not knowing how/when to ask for help, peer pressure, or a combination of both may cause this. They may show they need support only through their behaviors (i.e. long bathroom breaks, acting poorly to be sent out of class, attempts to cheat, etc). Don’t dismiss these signs as merely “bad” behavior. Middle school is the last push to gain skills before classes begin to count as credits toward graduation. The students know it and need you to help them now. 

Where other resources have let you down, I’m here for your 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teachers! These are my favorite no-cost and low cost tools for working on reading and writing skills with this age level:
  • Expanding Expression Tool (EET) - This is very popular with elementary students since the main teaching tool is a cute caterpillar named EETCHY. For your mature middle schoolers, leave EETCHY in the box and dig up the note card sized outlines for writing pieces such as biographies and summaries. Indiana public school educators can borrow the whole EET set from the Assistive Technology Lending Library.
  • SMMRY - An online summarizing tool that can be used to scaffold the skill of pulling out important information or to save your time while conducting research. Great for students learning a second language or students overwhelmed when a ton of information is presented at once.
  • TweenTribune - Fascinating articles on current popular topics that get students talking! Each one is about a page or two long. These are a total win for middle school teachers since they are sorted by grade and lexile level.
  • UDL Lesson Plan Creator - We all know tweens and teens crave freedom. While designing with UDL (Universal Design for Learning) in mind has a host of benefits, this tool is particularly helpful in developing lesson plans which give students the ability to direct and control their own learning.
We appreciate you middle school teachers and the ingenious ways you keep learning fun! I hope you find these resources helpful. I’d love to hear what your favorite resources or lessons are. Drop a line in the comments below.


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Aug
29

Winning the year!


Does/Did your family take a picture of you and your siblings as you left for the first day of school each day? Some do, mine didn’t. When I started looking I found Makenzie.
Here are her 12 years of school. They talked about how old she was what she was looking forward to. All of her answers were about friends and Junior year being able to sleep in! It was poignant watching her age forward and then backward.

We have seen numerous videos of servicemen and women surprising their children at school, which makes me cry every single time!

#GerryBrooks tells us all how to navigate all kinds of school situations from creating fake “how to avoid students and parents apps” to how to handle the first week of school stress. Lampooning the amusing side of school behind the scenes.

One school I saw had big “athletic like” pictures of students just being themselves on the walls. No trophies were won. Just day to day interaction caught and immortalized.

Cheer sign with many cartoon figures celebratingWhat I have noticed is that there aren't many videos of teachers and students doing their favorite activities. I get that you need permission for the pictures, but how great would it be to have a YouTube site, podcasts or blog where we see you and students engaged and working together. This year, be the cheerleader you and your students deserve and show us all how it is done! 

If you do take this suggestion, let us know!
We will cheer with you!
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