Category Archives: Middle School

Helping Struggling Learners to Show Understanding

Supporting Struggling Learners book cover

Allowing students to show understanding in multiple forms plays off of one of three universal design for learning principles — incorporating multiple means of expression. For a variety of reasons, expressing understanding is hard for many struggling learners. Sometimes, a learner has trouble putting thoughts to words and is unclear of what he or she wants to say. Other times, the learner knows what he or she wants to say but has trouble expressing it clearly and succinctly. And in other cases, a learner is taking time to process input and just needs time to express understanding. Regardless, we serve all our learners well when we provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate understanding. 

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Tom Newkirk on The Emotional Complexities of Teaching

Tom Newkirk Embarrassment book cover

"I'll go first", says Thomas Newkirk in his new book, Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning. Through sharing his own stories of frustration and the performative anxieties of teaching, Newkirk sheds light on his emotional journey as an educator. He opens a discussion about the emotional realities of teaching by delving into a newfound discussion space. 

Here, Newkirk discusses how teachers can create this new space with students by giving them time, and how allowing time to listen invites the opportunity to discuss and solve problems more slowly in order to overcome roadblocks within their own work.

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Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

The following is adapted from Poems are Teachers: How Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater


Many texts grow from idea-and-belief-soil. Writers write about what they believe is important, what they believe is wrong, what they long to preserve. Editorial writers, reviewers, and cartoonists lay their beliefs bare on newsprint, greeting sleepy morning readers with coffee and opinion: Where is the hottest new restaurant in town? For whom should I vote? What’s up with concussions in youth sports?

National Public Radio featured a show titled This I Believe for many years, and at the website thisibelieve.org, you will find hundreds of belief essays by people of all ages and walks of life, essays about everything from attending funerals to being kind to the pizza dude.

In her book Writing to Change the World (2007), Mary Pipher asserts, “Writers can inspire a kinder, fairer, more beautiful world, or incite selfishness, stereotyping, and violence. Writers can unite people or divide them”

When we write, we nudge change, and it is our responsibility to think about what kind of writing change agents we wish to be. Which beliefs do we hold dear enough to share?

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Heinemann Fellow Kate Flowers on Battling the Blahs

Battling the Blahs "Like a Boss"

Photo Credit: Brooke Lark


I know why so many teachers leave the profession in their first five years.

The Blahs.

For me, the Blahs come in October.

Unlike August, with her shiny new face, back-to-school clothes, and pristine notebooks, or September with his lenient Labor Day break and PTSA luncheons, October is a bit of a jerk.

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How to Plan for Book Clubs in Middle School

historical fiction book club option

The following is an excerpt from pages 74-75 of A Guide to the Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries, Grades 6–8
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

What is a book club?

Simply put, a book club is a group of readers, usually three or four, who read books roughly in sync with each other. Usually clubs read the same book, but sometimes clubs may read books by the same author, or read a series of books together that share a common genre—mystery, historical fiction, fantasy—or they may read a collection of disparate books with a common lens—thinking about interpretation, learning about shared social issues across the book.

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Mindset and Understanding How The Brain Does What it Does

Mindset_3H6A0024s

In A Mindset for Learning, authors Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz show teachers how, through explicit instruction, they can their turn classroom thinking from that of a fixed mindset to one of a growth mindset, and how together students and teachers can create classrooms of risk and resilience. In the following excerpt, the authors talk about the power that our brain's established neural pathways have over our interpretation of information, and how we have the power to change. 

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