George Lucas Educational Foundation

Switch to Middle School?

Switch to Middle School?

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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Hello! I recently joined your group because I am interested in moving from elementary (2nd grade) up to middle school because I think it will be a bit more challenging and interesting. Based on what I have read from your posts - about differentiation, project-based learning, dynamic interactions with students - it looks like I'm on the right track! My question to you is this - can you please give me some advice on what you do for classroom management? Creating a sense of community is very important to me as a teacher, and I am pretty proficient at doing so in a self-contained elementary classroom, but I'm wondering how to achieve it when I only have a group of 35 - 40 students for 50 to 90 minutes at a time. Please send me your thoughts, and convince me that it's a good idea to switch!! Thank you! Kim :)

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Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Hey Kim! I wish I could help you with your specific challenge on classroom management. I co-teach with classroom teachers for Literacy and Math so I'm not the primary one dealing with classroom management. When I did have my own classroom as a special education teacher, I had a small class for both Reading and Math blocks so I was with them a lot and could really establish my rules, expectations, routines, etc.

What I will say is by all means, switch! I LOVE teaching middle school students. My school is a K-8 school so we're not a traditional middle school. Students do rotate for the major subjects (Math, Literacy, Social Studies, Science), and the specialty classes.

I would say that, in general, making sure you have your expectations and routines established early and often. Also, I find that really engaging students solves many of the classroom management issues. Check out the info in the Project Learning section - it could give you some really good ideas.

In the end, I think that middle school is the ultimate age group! It can be challenging - hormones, hygine, drama, best friends one minute - enemies the next. But I find it so worth it. They are just starting to come into their own. They really do want to learn and will work hard with people who show that they care ... really care and want them to be all that they can be.

I hope that helps a little bit! As I've told many a student teacher: Come on over to the dark side!

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

I used to teacher elementary. I taught high school. But there's nothing like middle school. Check out our section on Why it's unique to teach middle schoolers. You'll get a lot of input.

Here's some advice:

1. Keep in mind that they are going through a metamorphosis in their bodies and their identities that sometimes is in control of them, so what you're teaching them is as much about who they are and how to relate (character) as it is about content.

2. Everything works with middle school. What I mean is, when things aren't working go back to any other age group for inspiration. They respond to being treated like high schoolers and you shouldn't forget those strategies. But they also respond to being treated with elementary strategies and you should forget those either. Your tool box is actually fuller teaching middle schoolers, but on the other hand, there is more of a range of students to reach.

3. Building community is, as you already know, key. Make your classroom the place to be (but not by putting down other classes, of course.) Make your classroom the safe zone for critiquing, praise, laughter, and sharing.

4. Author's chair whenever possible.

5. Fluid grouping to allow for students to work with different groups all the time so that the classroom becomes smaller because they all know each other.

6. Socratic dialogue. Tap into their need to socialize and not only help build that identity, but your community as well.

7. Give them sentence stems to scaffold how to agree and disagree. That's how they'll learn to do it more organically even outside the community you've built.

Good luck with your decision, hope to see you more on the middle school boards!

-Heather WG

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