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December 11, 2012
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All About the Middle Grades

  Teaching in the Middle 
  • Is algebra appropriate to teach in eighth grade?
    It might take time for efforts to push algebra into lower grades to yield results, author Jay Mathews writes. Mathews notes similar questions about acceleration and achievement expectations were asked in 1991 when Maryland's Prince George's County experimented with making Algebra I required in ninth grade. It has taken two decades, but the passing grades in algebra classes in the district have risen from 56% in 1991 to 74% in 1997, with 52% of students passing the state algebra test. The Washington Post (12/9) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Why parents should view letter grades as classroom feedback
    What grades middle-schoolers earn on their report cards is less important than whether they have mastered key skills, concepts and work behaviors, sixth-grade teacher Bill Ferriter writes in this blog post. Ferriter suggests parents set an expectation that lower grades will mean their child will have extra, nongraded work to do at home to learn the material. "Instead of being angry about a score that doesn't meet your expectations, use that score as a starting point for conversations with your child," Ferriter writes. Teacher Leaders Network/Tempered Radical blog (12/7) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
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  Tweens & Young Teens 
  • Club helps middle-school girls help each other
    At several middle schools and other locations in the Denver area, weekly meetings of Smart-Girl activity clubs are designed to help teenage girls gain confidence and learn how to handle conflicts and resist peer pressures in a "safe" space. Activities are run by "near peers" -- high-school or college women trained by professional counselors. "It's all about helping girls help one another, about noticing when one of them needs support," Smart-Girl Executive Director Karen Silverman said. The Denver Post (12/9) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Stability balls replace chairs in Maine classrooms
    Data from a fifth-grade classroom in Maine where stability balls were used instead of traditional chairs will be analyzed to determine what effect they had on students. Teacher Robin Norsworthy said her students loved using the stability balls, which sport legs to prevent rolling and are intended to improve students' handwriting, posture and core strength, among other things. Depending on the data from the 13 test classrooms, officials said they could expand the use of stability balls to additional classes. Bangor Daily News (Maine) (free registration) (12/8) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Other News

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  Classroom Innovation 
  • "Lab lit" genre mixes English and science classes
    Lessons in English and science can go hand in hand through the genre of "lab lit," offer the writers of this blog post. In one suggested exercise, students would discuss recent science topics and determine how they might be used as the basis for a novel or movie. In another exercise, students examine the novel "Frankenstein," which is cited in an accompanying article as probably one of the earliest examples of "lab lit," and the authors also suggest studying scientists' blogs. The New York Times (tiered subscription model)/The Learning Network blog (12/5) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  Technology & Connected Learning 
  • Readers offer ideas on education technology
    Some readers who responded to a recent SmartBrief on Education blog post on education technology agreed with Nicholas Provenzano's opinion that technology does not have to be a part of every classroom lesson and that teachers should consider the lesson first and then the tool that would add to it. Others questioned him, saying that is not always the case. "I agree that many great lessons do not need technology. ... However, it needs to be recognized that technology makes some great lessons possible that were unthinkable before," one commenter wrote. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education (12/7) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Other News
  Middle Grades Leadership 
  • Why teacher collaboration is key to common core
    Teachers need more time to collaborate to implement Common Core State Standards in their classroom, Vicki Phillips of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Robert L. Hughes, president of New Visions for Public Schools, write in this commentary. They describe how two projects use educator teams to develop instructional materials. "Some say working with the collaboratives has been the best professional-development experience of their careers. Teachers tell us that they are covering fewer topics more deeply, and that their students gain a greater understanding of the content," they write. Education Week (premium article access compliments of (12/5) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  MiddleWeb Recommends 
  • A "treasure trove" for teaching informational text
    As his flowchart graphic indicates, sixth-grade teacher Kevin Hodgson was impressed by "Get It Done: Writing and Analyzing Informational Texts to Make Things Happen" -- part of a three-book series about deepening student understanding of informational, narrative and argumentative texts. "All three are nicely connected to the thrust of the Common Core," he writes. Get It Done, in particular, offers helpful strategies to assist students in reading and interpreting informational texts and also "making them meaningful and useful." Read more. LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Is your STEM class a starfish or spider?
    MiddleWeb blogger Anne Jolly has been reading "The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations" and sees some parallels in the organization of classrooms for STEM teaching and learning. She describes three classroom scenarios, analyzes each and invites readers to choose the model "that would be most likely to produce the type of citizens and workers we need." Read on. LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
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--Baltasar Gracián,
Spanish writer

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