Back to School SCOOT >>> Engage Students & Get to Know Them

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As we’re gearing up for another year, I’ve been thinking about how I can change my lessons in the first week of school to be more engaging for students, while still reinforcing management and practicing procedures for my classroom.

isDuring the first week of school, I aim to develop classroom community, get to know my students, present my policies/ procedures, practice procedures, reinforce the behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate in my classroom, introduce myself to students, and invest students in reading/writing. These are no small tasks; they require deliberate planning and seamless execution. Perhaps this is why I spend more time planning my first few weeks of school that most other lessons I teach throughout the year.

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5 Golden Rules for Investing Middle School Students in Reading

Reading is frustrating when it isn't an innate skill for students.
Reading is frustrating when it isn’t an innate skill for students.

Jake doesn’t like reading. He doesn’t enjoy reading non-fiction, which is what we read because it makes up most of the Common Core aligned assessments. He is in 7th grade, but struggles to decode words and comprehend the key points of a text. He also struggles with written communication; he has trouble stringing together coherent thoughts, most of his words are spelled incorrectly, and he rarely uses punctuation. 

As a teacher, which of these challenges would you work with Jake on? And how would you help him with 30 other students in the room?

What of these reading weaknesses was the greatest challenge Jake faced? What if he had an emotional and physical meltdown whenever he felt frustrated? What if his background included numerous foster homes and he didn’t know how to handle challenge without shutting down?

Jake (name changed) was a student I invested the most support in. There was more content that needed to be remediated than I could’ve done in a year with one-on-one teaching. Yet, I also knew that he wouldn’t be receptive in learning anything until he knew I cared about him and truly believed that becoming an effective reader was crucial to his success.

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Motivating Students in Middle School Classrooms

Strategies for Motivating Students

Dan Pink says that motivation comes from three distinct facets of human need: mastery, autonomy, and purpose. In thinking about how to motivate students in a middle school classroom, there is also the interplay of social and cognitive development that can severely hamper student desire to expend effort or to pursue mastery in a content area. Carol Dweck and Dan Pink are the eminent scholars who have studied the constructs of motivation. Below is an overview of the theory around motivation and how to implement in a classroom. For more detailed information, this is a PPT (with audio narration on each slide) about student motivation and a paper with detailed research and pragmatic solutions.

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Check out this page for a download of a PPT (with audio) and a straight-forward paper highlighting research about student motivation and easy to implement solutions in your classroom.