Showing posts from January, 2015

Increasing Student Engagement

Today's @TeachThought #reflectiveteacher post asks teachers to share creative and innovative ideas to increase student engagement. 
I have found the following ideas to be helpful and effective, the reader will decide how creative and innovative these methods are. :)
My 8th Grade History students seem to enjoy group projects that vary in length and complexity. I like to give them time to work with others because I realize that they are actually very busy young people and truly get less time to socialize with friends than we think they do. Working in groups with close monitoring by me, the "Guide on the Side", allows for task completion and a chance to develop communication skills (something that this generation tends to lack due to their dependence on technology). 
Recently, one of the best group activities I've asked students to complete was a Generate, Sort, Connect, and Elaborate concept map about the Bill of Rights. 
GSCE is a Visible Thinking routine that requires st…

Powerful Student Lessons

Tomorrow's @TeachThought #ReflectiveTeacher post asks teachers to reflect on a lesson learned from one or more of my students.

I have learned many lessons over the years from the students I work with but one of the most powerful reminders occurred recently. This reminder centers on our need to never forget that the students in our care are people and to always, always remember to be kinder than necessary, for we never know the extent of the difficulties in their lives. 
I will remember to teach the whole child and to be mindful to do everything I can to teach them to believe in themselves and their ability to have strength and courage when facing problems.

Making Time for Meaningful Student Conversations

Tomorrow's @TeachThought #reflectiveteacher post centers on teacher/student conversations. 
What do you intentionally do to make sure you don't let too much time pass without having a caring conversation with all of your students?
I have had two "aha" moments regarding making time for meaningful student conversations in the past few years. The first one is the realization that the five minute walk I take each week with my Effective Teens to the Elementary School we volunteer in is a prime opportunity for me to have conversations with these students. (It is very similar to the meaningful "car talks" parents have while driving with their children)--it's a quiet time for me to ask students how things are going and what their plans are for the weekend. 
The second moment came last year when I made a commitment to change my classroom seating to student tables. These tables transformed my classroom into five "mini-classrooms". I was blown away by this …

An Important Martin Luther King Jr. Michigan Link

Students in my History classes will be analyzing excerpts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech next week after viewing the speech. I was just made aware of an important link "I Have a Dream" has to Michigan civil rights history--it was given in Detroit two months before the March on Washington.
This activity will touch upon several of my goals for my students--primary source analysis, 20th Century History analysis, and Michigan History analysis.  The link below contains opportunities for examining and comparing King's written words and spoken words related to the March on Washington:

If a young person told me they wanted to become a teacher I would...

encourage them to follow their dreams. 
This is the same advice I give to any young person sharing their life vision with me. We need young educators that have drive and determination in our schools. I do not want to deter anyone that wants to make learning better for our children. Teaching is exciting, rewarding, and perfect for those that love learning and growing. It feeds my curiosity and my need to serve and help others. I have written in this blog how much I wished I had a better middle school experience--it's my mission to make those years better for the students in my care than it was for me.
I think back to the reactions I received when I told people I was going to be a teacher with a History major and a German minor. Some would wholeheartedly support my German degree and tell me I'd easily find a teaching job. They would then explain that History teachers were a dime a dozen and to find another major. Quickly. Perhaps not surprisingly I had approximately equal numbe…

Advice for New Teachers

The TeachThought site has a new #reflectiveteacher blog challenge for January and its theme is to reflect and renew in the new year. The question for tomorrow's post centers on advice for new teachers. I feel a priority or focus for new teacher energy should be centered on developing, modeling, and managing classroom procedures and routines.
I have taught middle school for close to twenty years (that really makes me sound old!) and feel that the heart of my classroom environment centers on procedures. I am certainly not an expert and have some areas that I still need to work on (handing back student work comes to mind) but procedures and routines bring structure to an classroom, give students comfort and stability, and effectively establishes the teacher as the authority figure (one that is still definitely kind, approachable, and fun). 
I've searched for a few examples and feel these will benefit new and veteran teachers alike:…