Ideas for creating digital student portfolios | Whole-child model is gaining favor over zero tolerance | Dog program helps students recover from trauma
March 19, 2015
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All About the Middle Grades

Teaching in the MiddleSponsored By
Ideas for creating digital student portfolios
Digital student portfolios offer a great form of authentic assessment and a tool to demonstrate student learning to parents, fourth-grade teacher Lindsey Petlak writes in this blog post. Petlak shares how she designs and uses portfolios in her class, and offers forms to help with organization and brief overviews of useful software and tablet applications. Teaching blog (3/18)
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Teach students to make connections across related texts
The new book, Using Paired Text to Meet the Common Core, shows how to combine and teach a range of picture books to promote engagement and boost reading comprehension and content learning. Practical lessons are provided across content areas, plus hundreds of text recommendations linked to Common Core standards. Read a sample chapter on text pairing.
Tweens & Young TeensSponsored By
Whole-child model is gaining favor over zero tolerance
A growing number of urban school districts are abandoning zero-tolerance policies in favor of a whole-child approach. This article showcases how several urban, high-poverty schools are making this approach work, as well as research that supports replacing policies that favor suspension. The Atlantic online (3/17)
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Dog program helps students recover from trauma
Close up of obedient dog looking up
(Andrew W)
The Comfort Dog Ministry, founded in 2008, has sent about 80 dogs to schools and universities in 23 states to help students recover from traumatic experiences, including shootings and natural disasters. "I was struck by how students and adults affected by the loss would just gravitate toward them," said Lynn Allen, assistant superintendent at Putnam/Northern Westchester Boards of Cooperative Educational Service. District Administration magazine online (3/18)
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Strengthen reading in grades 4 and up
The traditional window of "learning to read" often associated with grades K-3 is not the only time educators can make a positive impact on students' reading success. Learn more about supporting reading growth in students in grades 4 and up. Download the SmartFocus.
Classroom Innovation
Math comes to life as students create, run their own businesses
Sixth-grade students at one Montana school are learning real-world uses for math by planning and starting businesses. The program, Biz World, gives teams of students "biz bucks" to start their businesses and requires them to use strategies to compete against other teams to make their venture successful. KECI-TV/KCFW-TV/KTVM-TV (Montana) (3/16)
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Indoor farming project teaches Mich. students about food, math, science
High Angle View Of Basil Plants On Sunny Day
(Dave Hutchinson / EyeEm)
Students at a Michigan elementary school are learning about food, math and science by farming in their classrooms, plus sampling and selling their produce at a local farmer's market. The pilot program, called Farm on Wheels, provides indoor, self-sustaining mobile farming units in which students grow microgreens such as basil, argula and peas. (Michigan) (free registration) (3/18)
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Technology & Connected Learning
Project combines art, math to create video games
Sixth- and seventh-graders at a Michigan middle school are learning how math and language play a role in creating both traditional and computer-generated art. The program teaches students the fundamentals of art, and the role that graphic arts play in video games. The students then learn how to code and create their own games using their artistic creations. (Michigan) (free registration) (3/16)
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Middle Grades Leadership
Tips to help coaches communicate with teachers
Instructional coaches should communicate with teachers in ways that help build partnerships, educators Kenneth McKee and Emily Davis write in this blog post. They also suggest coaches learn how to ask the right questions and end the use of all-or-nothing statements. SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education (3/17)
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Other News
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How Expeditionary Learning's open curriculum supports inquiry
Expeditionary Learning's free, open-source curriculum is framed around four T's: Topics, Targets, Texts & Tasks. Project co-leader Cheryl Dobbertin shares insights gained during the crowd-sourced developmental phase and explains why she believes EL's "compelling" approach can help classrooms and schools integrate the Common Core as they shift to inquiry learning. Read more.
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Educator finds melding Bloom's, UDL sparks higher thinking
Students learn by connecting prior knowledge with new information. Elizabeth Stein urges teachers to meld the insights of Bloom's Taxonomy and the concepts of Universal Design for Learning "to create access to higher level thinking and actions in your classrooms." Stein points to several resources that can help. Read more.
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People won't have time for you if you are always angry or complaining."
-- Stephen Hawking,
theoretical physicist
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