Teaching middle school is not for the faint of heart. But if you're called to do it, you know there's nothing else quite like it. Join us in discussing what works - and what doesn't.

Differentiating in a Middle School Classroom

Heather Wolpert - Gawron Middle school teacher by day, educational author/blogger by night

So you're standing there in front of a group of typical middle schoolers, and by definition each one lays somewhere on the developmental line between elementary level and high school. You've got kids reading at 4th grade levels and ones reading at 12th grade levels all in the same room. You've got kids playing Operation and those playing Doctor.

So how do you differentiate for this wide range of students without creating 36 different lesson plans? How do you differentiate in a way that doesn't burn you out of middle school entirely?

Join the discussion!

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seventh Math, eighth Science

all this is new to me and

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all this is new to me and would appreciate any help you all can give me, Web sites and how to set up group work etc.
Thank you all :)

Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

In middle school, students

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In middle school, students begin making choices that affect the rest of their lives. Many will start selecting classes that will help them on the path to college. Some will deal with bullies for the first time, while others might find and nurture a talent.

chad, I like your idea. I

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chad,
I like your idea. I like to allow my students to engage in projects. However, I tend to feel strapped for time! How do you "fit" it in and elaborately cover all the state objectiives.What grade/ subject do you teach?

Marsha, I tend to do that,

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Marsha,
I tend to do that, too. I have always set high expectations in my class. However, for some reason, my middle to low level learners seem to do better on standardized test. Any suggestions??

8th Grade Language Arts Teacher, Colorado

"I give verbal feedback and

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"I give verbal feedback and have the student take notes. In the beginning of the year, I give a template that they fill out as we talk, but I slowly ween them off of the template. Also, and I know this is pretty controversial here, I encourage them to use texting language as a means to write shorthand. It's engaging and applicable to their lives."

Verbal feedback is a must and I love the idea of having students take notes on the feedback. I don't know why I have never thought of that! As for the texting language, what makes it any different than the office shorthand my mother learned back in the 50s? It isn't for audience consumption. It is for the student's consumption and as long as they understand it, that is what matters.

I too agree that students should be held to high standards and expectations, but in my classroom I have found it unrealistic to have my developing readers attempt to tackle the text that my high flyers are ready for. It leads to frustration, disengagement, a feeling of failure, and a dislike/hatred of reading. Even with significant scaffolding, it is difficult to take a 4th grade level reader to the level of comprehension necessary to understand text at the high end of 8th grade complexity. My approach is to analyze my essential question, teach mini-lessons to address the common standards and then differentiate the text that the reader engages with. I meet with small groups and conference frequently with individual readers, enabling me to teach the standards, but also meet students individual needs.

7th grade math and 8th grade language arts

I agree whole heartedly with

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I agree whole heartedly with you. I am the co-teacher in my classes, however, I am also qualified to teach Gifted students. Defining student potential based upon the labels they've been given is a mistake. I often find students that have been labeled as underachievers provide unique and resourceful perspectives to the classroom. Gifted students get bored if not challenged. The key for me has been to keep goals attainable and provide suitable, varied resources and supports that allow everyone to achieve to their maximum level. In essence, one lesson with different levels of classroom supports and assessments. Ask everyone the hard question(s) at the end of the class and see who has something to contribute.

7th grade math and 8th grade language arts

We use centers more

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We use centers more frequently in math than in language arts. Any recommendations for setting up or selecting topics for center work?

K-5 Instructional Technology Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi DC, If you're really

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Hi DC,
If you're really looking for great ELA center ideas, have you thought about consulting the elementary school teachers in your district? Most elementary school classrooms live and die by the center system, so they could probably give you a ton of ideas that your kids will already be familiar with because they experienced them a couple of years previously.

First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England

DC the Coteacher.....I setup

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DC the Coteacher.....I setup centers a couple of ways. Some centers I do class-wide and everyone spends time doing them. I always differentiate these for those students who have already mastered the topic but may be interested or able to go deeper in. I also do centers based on smaller groups of students for our RTI time. Often times I have a smaller group of students who need more practice with a particular skill or are interested in a particular topic. So I will set up centers that specific groups of students visit during RTI time when I am busy working one on one or in my own small focused group.

I tend to pick my ELA (or math) centers based on curriculum areas that need more focus because many students may understand the concept, but are not consistently displaying mastery. In other words they need more practice. I also tend to pick center topics based on what I can easily differentiate.

Some centers I create are best for students to attempt individually. I also create some that either require student collaboration or may work better with multiple students who are then available to help support those who have questions about their learning. My center activities range from being based on technology, game, manipulative, pencil and paper or a variety of other activity methods.

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