Middle School "Dos and Don'ts"
Editor's Note: Some of these pointers are taken from the notebook of a 7th and 8th grade teacher, and are reprinted here with her permission. TeachersFirst staff members have added additional ideas.
• Do treat the students like responsible young adults. 99% of them will rise to the occasion.
• Do let them have some input whenever you can, and let them think they are giving input when you can't.
• Do listen to them. They usually have insights and viewpoints on people that you'd be surprised about.
• Do tell them about yourself.
• Do be consistent with your expectations and consequences.
• Do have fun with them.
• Do not give them your home (or cellular) phone number, but make sure the parents have it. I usually tell the students that I have caller ID and will know if they are calling up to tease and will give consequences as needed.
• Do not make exceptions to the school's rules, even if you don't agree with them. (ie. No soda in classrooms, yet you allow it with your permission on an individual basis.) This causes the students to play the teachers against each other.
• Do not reprimand a student in front of the class; a quiet word in their ear or just quietly calling their name is okay. Establish quickly that your room is a safe place and can be fun, but that disrespect to learning, others, or property will not be allowed, and there won't be any more warnings.
• Do not begin teaching until everyone is meeting your expectations. It sends the wrong message to them. I even go so far as to look at the clock until they are following directions. They are worried that I will keep them after class without giving them a pass to their next class. I've actually only had to do that once and it was just 30 seconds after the bell.
• Do not be concerned about talking with your colleagues and the administration for advice. Take what sounds good. They are there to help you. If things run smoothly in your room, it makes everyone else's life much easier.
• Do not think that because it is an 8th grade reading/LA class that all of your students can read at that level. You will probably get 2nd through 12th grade readers in your room. Have a variety of reading level materials in your room. Looking for a variety of leveled, curriculum-related reading materials (and a variety of subjects)? See TeachersFirst’s CurriConnects.
• I make it a point to give my students an informal reading inventory as soon as possible, so that I am sure of where I need to focus my teaching and who might need adapted texts.
Try to find some FUN and ENGAGING learning experiences for students to complete in small groups, or even as a whole class activity, on your interactive whiteboard or projector. Check out TeachersFirst’s Brain Twisters. Another great idea connecting history to what they already know is TeachersFirst’s Dates that Matter.
• I usually start my year off with a study of the Bill of Rights so the students can be sure of their rights and what their responsibilities are. The beginning of the year is also a great time to share TeachersFirst’s Study Skills Page. Consider featuring a study tool every couple of weeks and having students report back on how it helped them on tests. If you have a class wiki, create a Study Tool page for students to report on which tools they like.
• Make graffiti a thinking activity. Create a large paper or interactive whiteboard graffiti space where students can add their own “What if?” questions related to curriculum or even draw cartoons and doodles showing terms or concepts you are studying. For more middle school ideas for your interactive whiteboard, see Hands off, Vanna! Giving Students Control of Interactive Whiteboard Learning.