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.

Tween Talking: Should We Be Tapping Into Their Social Tendencies?

Heather Wolpert-Gawron Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Middle Schoolers are all about their social life. After all, they're just learning their own voice and striving to find their own identities. Socializing just seems to be a part of their tween and teen DNA.

So is this tendency to socialize something we should be tapping into in our own classrooms?

Should we be developing lessons that embrace discussion and communication, and if so, which lessons have the most bang-for-their-buck?

How do we teach rigorous discussion and socialization that is standards-based?

How does this change our classroom management strategies?

Please share those lessons that tap into their socializing nature. We're all looking for ways to reach out to those middle children in education. Join in the discussion!

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Language Arts & Drama

Heck, yeah!!!

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Hehe. I'm a wee bit passionate about this topic.

My students use blogs to help one another with their drafts. It's opened up a conversation about what makes for helpful feedback with regard to our writing. Some comments are simple affirmations, while others are very specific about where it is meaning breaks down or what they liked most about it.

It's one thing to create real-world scenarios with real audiences so that students are vested in the quality of their work beyond whatever grade the teacher may assign them, but it's another thing, entirely, when their own peers provide feedback using a social networking tool as the platform.

It works and it generates its own excitement!

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Share please!

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Syd,
I too have passion about this topic, but I think teachers get bogged down with the logistics of what it takes to use these strategies.

Could you share the blogging program you use and any tips or tricks to making it easy on a new teacher just entering into the blogging fray?

Thanks for commenting and sharing your expertise!
-Heather WG

Language Arts & Drama

Resources...

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I used to use EduBlogs.org, but I just found a blog site that's more suited to the middle school set and much more practical in terms of teacher-management. Kidblogs.org is free and incredibly easy for teachers and students to use. It saves each writer's drafts so I can see the history of their revisions.

I can even click on a student's comment history to see the quality of his or her feedback when reading the blogs of others and it allows me to monitor their comments, too.

The students LOVE it. They can't wait to get into the lab to be able to input their written drafts.

As for tips on introducing students to blogging, Larry Ferlazzo has a great education blog which indexes those types of resources.

Everything I've learned, I've found it on his site.

One thing I do, however, that keeps the momentum going is to consistently write posts myself about things going on in the classroom and highlights of some of the students' writing. For instance, we learned how to debate formally and I posted a blog about how excited everyone was to do it and I included pictures from our first go-round.

Also, I noticed students were making comments on other students' blogs during off-hours when I hadn't even required it (there's a time-stamp on comments), so I posted a blog about the "Night Crew". I listed all the names of the "Night Crew" and I thanked them for providing additional feedback to their fellow writers. I put a cool picture with it so naturally, more kids wanted to be part of the Night Crew and they'd email me to be sure I noticed they had read and commented on blogs outside the classroom. :o)

This is what blogging does. It taps into their curiosity about one another and they write about things they generally care about (with a little help, of course).

We began with memoir-writing, then we went into writing summaries, and imaginative pieces. Now we're posting the first drafts of some academic writing (essays and such). It's not just journaling, as some believe. I use the blogs specifically so that students may store their drafts and get feedback on them before their published to our online literary magazine.

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Brief Note About Larry Ferlazzo

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...he's an educational resource god.

Thanks for the reminder and thanks for sharing your other resources. I love your "Night Crew."

-Heather WG

sixth grade sciene and ELA teacher from Bangor, Maine

I have wanted to get my

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I have wanted to get my students involved in blogging. I think it is so important for them to dialogue about their learning. Thanks for the blog site suggestion.

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