Category Archives: Classroom Management

Hormones, Egos, Attitudes, and Middle Schoolers

I have been a middle school teacher for almost 20 years. I have worked with some great people, and and have had some wonderful students over that time span. I love being a middle school teacher who teaches gifted children. I was called to this awesome career.

middle-school

What I love about gifted middle schoolers are their hormones, egos, and attitudes. Sometimes as a middle school teacher you have to wade through all sorts of stuff. My gifted students are all unique, but they all have to deal those three things. Traversing these issues is a something that middle school teachers face everyday.

Gifted children are very smart. They have the need and desire to have and be friends, but going through the maturation process can be rough. As gifted children get older they begin to separate from their peers emotionally and socially. This can be a complicated process. So I try to hard to allow my students time to form friendships. The culture of my classroom is that it is a safe place to be yourself. Hormonal changes are natural, and they can’t be stopped, but we as teachers can help guide them through it. Gifted students may not know why they feel the way they do, but as long as you are open to talking to them you can help make a difference for them.

Middle School gifted children can have egos. I know for some this may seem like new news, but it is true. Gifted children get used to being one of the smartest people in their class. When gifted children realize this, they can start to get an ego. Having an ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is how this ego is developed. Gifted children don’t always like to compromise, because they often feel that their ideas are the best. Gifted students need to learn art of compromising when working with a small group. In our classroom, I try place a lot of emphasis on compromising since we do a lot of group/team projects. I try to model to them that being smart is great, but leading and showing others they can effectively contribute with the group is better. Keeping a middle schooler’s ego in check isn’t easy. It takes time, but in the end they will see the value in what they can do when they work together.

Along the same lines as egos are attitudes. Middle schoolers in general can go through different emotions that can change their attitudes on a multitude of things in just a short amount of time. This is actually one of the aspects that draws me to be a middle school teacher. Gifted children have attitudes that can rival average learning students. They are quick to see the injustice of the world; they are quick to judge the decisions they deem unfair; and they also want to change the world with their ideas and viewpoints. I have seen my students rally behind a classmate who is struggling with some personal aspects. I have seen my students stand up for one another when they feel one of their classmates is treating them unfairly. I have seen the fire of debates between students, and the realization in their eyes when they realize they can impact the world around them. If you are going to be a middle school teacher you are going to deal with student attitudes good or bad.

Middle School is just that…middle school. They aren’t in elementary school, and they don’t see themselves as little kids. They aren’t in high school, but they can see themselves there. They are stuck in the middle. When you realize this group of students is awesome, it is then you realize you are middle school teacher.

What do you like about middle school?

 

 

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Fostering Creativity in a Gifted Ed Classroom

Last Sunday #ohiogtchat  had a chat centered around fostering creativity in a gifted education classroom. You can read the transcript here.

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After thinking more about fostering creativity, I was wondering what I do in my classroom that fosters creativity for my middle schoolers in my gifted program. I realized I did a few different aspects of fostering creativity, but I may not be doing enough.

What I do:
incorporate creativity as a central theme in all of the projects and units that I do with my gifted students.  I feel that in every project students should be solving, designing, or creating something. I feel that creativity is a skill that should be developed every possible way.
I get students to talk more about the steps of their design process or how they came to a solution to an issue or problem. I feel like students need to talk about why they are creating / solving something a certain way. I feel like it promotes good communication skills, but also opens up dialogue with others students as to why they may done something differently.
I support my students by giving meaningful feedback, and allowing students to collaborate with each other. Peer to peer feedback I feel is important in the learning process.
What I need to do more of:
I feel like I need to give my students more projects that promote divergent thinking. I want my students to feel like they have solved an issue or a real life problem that could have multiple answers.
I like Project Based Learning, and I feel like I need to do more that would relate real world issues or problems to the classroom. Students need to see that what they learn in the classroom should be used in the real world.
Gifted children need to be challenged, and intellectually stimulated. They need to have an outlet to put their passion into practice. I hope that I can instill that in them. I hope that as they continue to grow intellectually as well as older they will come to appreciate the skills they have developed or honed in on through the projects we did in class.
What do you do to foster creativity in the classroom?

Purposes of Grouping Gifted Students

cori_middle_school_readingOver the past weekend I read a position paper on grouping from the National Association for Gifted Children.  I thought that I would discuss some of the high points of this position paper.

Grouping gifted students is one of the foundation practices of gifted education. There are many different types of grouping strategies that can be done that can produce positive results. The optics of groups is what can be interpreted as “elitist” or creates the illusion that this group of gifted children may think too highly of themselves, or it may be perceived that grouping gifted children harms the struggling students. None of this is shown in recent research.

There are four purposes for grouping:

to ease the delivery of appropriately differentiated curriculum to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate the use of appropriately differentiated instructional strategies to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate addressing the differential affective needs of these children in the most conductive manner;

to allow for learners of similar abilities or performance levels to learn from each other.

The overall aching affect of the strategy of grouping is to create the least restrictive environment possible for learning to take place. This also allows schools to channel challenging course work to these students.

Grouping Practices

There are two types of grouping: full time and part time, and they each have strategies that can fall into performance based or abilities based groups. Performance based group option is based on grouping students with similar achievement levels. Ability based group option is based on grouping students based on intelligence, ability, or aptitude tests.

Full Time Ability group options:

  • Full time gifted program
  • Self-contained gifted classroom
  • Special / Magnet school for the gifted
  • Cluster grouping: (top 5-8 gifted students at a grade level are placed in a mixed ability classroom as a small group, and are provided with appropriate differentiated instruction.

Research shows that using full time ability grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/3 years to 2 years growth. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Part time Ability Group options

  • Pull out/send out/withdrawal/resource room enrichment groups: gifted students are removed from their regular classroom for specific time each week to work on differentiated activities such as critical thinking, problem solving, and extensions of the general curriculum.
  • Like-ability cooperative groups within classrooms: when a teacher decided to use cooperative learning groups in a mixed ability groups with usually the 3-4 highest ability students being grouped together.  They are given appropriately differentiated expectations and assessments.

Research shows that using part time ability grouping strategies  could yield students growth levels of growth of more than a year in creativity, and critical thinking skills in subjects that are focused on during the pull out. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Performance groupings that meet daily (subject specific)

  • Cluster performance grouping: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject like math or language arts are placed in a mixed ability classroom and are provided with differentiated instruction in that core subject.
  • Regrouping for specific instruction: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject are placed in a high performance classroom and provided with accelerated and enriched content and skills from that core subject.

Research shows that using performance based grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 years to 1 3/4 years growth depending on the content that is .

Performance grouping options that do not meet daily:

  • Within-class / flexible grouping: a teacher of a mixed ability class divides the class into groups according to their “readiness” for the curriculum to be taught.
  • Like-performing cooperative learning groups: when a teacher decides to use cooperative learning groups places the highest 3-4 performing students in their own group receiving differentiated instruction and assessments.
  • Performance based pull out/ send out/ withdrawal/ resource room enrichment classes: the top performing students in a core subject are removed from the regular classroom to work on more challenging and complex content and skills based on the core subject.

Research shows that using part time performance grouping strategies for specific subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years growth depending on the subject.

Schools should have many grouping options available to students from pre-school to high school. How schools decide to group will be based on what is the culture of the school. The options chosen by schools and teachers will have to fit the culture of the school. What ever option that is chosen is ensure that gifted students achieve at their highest potential.

Grouping students together is a way to allow gifted students access to learning at the level and complexity that is needed. It allows gifted students to make social connections with same aged peers who think and learn like them.

Book Review: Differentiating Instruction with Menus: Science

51ngmwuarelScience….is hands-on and can be as fun as you can make it. Science teachers work real hard to teach complicated ideas in science to you children. This book is a great resource that many of those teachers need to get. Differentiating Instruction with Menus (Science) covers Physical, Biological, and Earth Science. Laurie took some of the most important topics of each and created some great menus for them.

These menus will help to deepen student engagement, and interest in science. Everyone of us have had students who has a desire to learn everything, and wants to learn it now. Well, this book and the series, will help you with those students. By creating a choice board, a menu or tic-tac-toe board you allow students the freedom to learn multiple topics over a selective period of time. Students love the fact they can pick and choose what they will learn, and what products they will do to share their learning.

I would encourage all teachers and home school parents to check this book out along with the whole series. These books contain so much information to help you not only use the menu, but you can use the information to make your own menus.

Introverts and School Life

This morning I read an interesting article about introverts and college life at Ohio State University. Introversion is a topic that I wrote about a few months ago, and I think this is a topic that we will see more and more in the news as it draws more attention.

In the article it mentions that a student, Alexandra Grese, who is an introvert created a Facebook page called “Introverts of OSU”, with the tag line “A social club for the not-so-social.” College isn’t set up for introverts. There is a lot of forced socialization by living in dorms, and all of the clubs that are readily available to join.

After reading this article, I began to think about myself. I at times can be an introvert, but in college I feel like I began to come out of my shell.  Looking back college made me come out of my shell. I didn’t want to be alone in college. I wanted to have friends.

I started to think about my school and classroom. What do we do to help introverts be more comfortable? What in our school would interest an introvert? What opportunities do we give students who are introverts? What do I do in my classroom to make introverts welcome, and comfortable? Do my projects I assign give students who are introverts to be introverted? I don’t think I do enough to allow them to be introverts.

I applaud Alexandra Grese, for stepping out and taking a chance. I am sure it isn’t easy to get introverts together. I want to take her lead, and do something here in my school as well. I am not sure what it may be, but I will keep you posted.

I am interested in hearing what you do in your school, or classroom to make introverts feel more comfortable.

 

Being an Impactful Teacher Means Building Relationships

As the end of the school year is approaching, I am saying good-bye to some great 8th grade students. This group of students I have seen then grow up since they were in the 3rd grade, and now they are about to embark in a journey through high school. I will truly miss them.

I was thinking over the weekend, that every year around this time of the year is tough for me, because I built a relationship with my students. I tried very hard to get to know each of my students even though I only see them one day a week, I build in time to talk and build relationships with them in my class.

Being an impactful teacher is all about building relationships. Students respond better to teachers they know want to know them. I think the work that I put in building these relationships helps in the long run.

Here are some ideas that you can do to help build impactful relationships with your students:

  • Have a Class Meeting: By having a class meeting at least once or twice a month you are letting your students share some concerns, problems, or some good things that are going on in their life or in the classroom.
  • Tell stories about yourself: I often tell stories about myself. I let them know of the things I did when I was their age so they know I am human. I want to them to know me, and where I come from so they have an idea of what kind of teacher I tend to be.
  • Have a safe environment to learn: For students and teachers to work together the classroom has to be a safe place. My students know that I shut down any negative talk towards a student, or situation. I want my students to feel that my classroom is safe place they can express themselves without the worry of criticisms of their ideas, or beliefs.
  • Have one-on-one conversations: What I like to do is have one-on-one conversations with my students. Sometimes I sit with a student or a small group of students and just talk. I ask questions about their projects, what they know about the project before they started, and what they did to gain that prior knowledge. Generally that last part leads to them talking about their home life, or some vacation they went on.
  • Eat lunch together: Sometimes I invite my students to eat lunch in my classroom to just chat. We generally talk about music, books, sports, movies, computer games, phone apps, and future plans. I like these times. During football or baseball seasons some of my students are avid fans so we talk about our favorite sport teams. We generally have a really good time.
  • Attend school events: I try to go to some of my students’ school functions when I can. My students know I have a large family and its hard to get to everything my own kids are in all the time. But if I can’t make it I invite them to tell me about it. I try hard to show an interest in their hard work.
  • Share social media: I know teachers and students talking over social media can be looked badly upon. I keep a class Facebook for my students to participate on. I also have a twitter they can contact me or share things with me. I place limits on things like their parents must know we are being friends on social media, and I do not accept any private messages from students. Some school districts don’t let teachers and students talk over social media, so I would suggest you make sure you know what your district rules are.

Overall, most teachers are probably doing everything that I suggested above. Teachers know that education is all about relationships. I hope that you are building relationships with your students. I know for me it is easy to do. My students have  a desire to talk to people they think are on their same level based on their intelligence. Gifted students like to talk to adults. So we talk….a lot.

What are you doing to build relationships with your students?

Great Way to End the Year

Today is the last day of school. Teachers are ready to check out and begin the summer break. To end the day, our principal brought in David Miller, an educational consultant from Baltimore, MD. I will have to tell you he was very good. He kept us engaged, and I learned a lot. Here is a few things that I learned.

1. Kids are not Disposable

We can’t count out our students when they are young. Even though some students may be difficult, rude, or combative you can’t count them out. You have to allow students to be children. Their frontal lobes are not fully developed. So they don’t see the whole picture of their actions. At some point we will and some have run into those tough students and talk to them. Many become successful, others don’t. For those former students who do, remember you made an impact on them even though you didn’t see it years ago.

2. Relationships with students is important

It is important to have authentic relationships with your students. Students don’t have to know everything about you, but you can share some things with them so they know you have experienced some tough times and good times. Reversely, students need to know you care about them and like them. It will make it easier for you to reach and teach them. If students know you like them, you can teach them.

3. You have to trust the people you work with

Co-Workers are important. Particularly in schools where we have seen some of the worst incidents. Knowing that others have your back in the small issues, will insure they will be there for the big issues. Know your co-workers. Talk and socialize with them when you can in school and out of school. Back you co-workers up when they need it when dealing with parents, students, or administration.

4. Shared Leadership

To change the climate at our school for the better, you must have shared leadership. The principals can change everything. There are more teachers than administrators. Teachers need to step up, and take charge of some the change they want to see in their building. Real change comes from the bottom up.

These are just a few things that I heard today from our speaker. It was a great time. I learned a lot. I hope your next Professional Development Day is as good as mine was.