MiddleWeb Quick Links

Here at MiddleWeb, we’re whizzing around the Internet like everybody else. And we’re always hunting for items of interest to middle grades educators, parents and friends. Many of our resource discoveries will find their way into a MiddleWeb Resource Roundup. Others we will share on the fly, here at our Quick Links home.

• Build perseverance into classroom experience with ideas from Andrew Miller’s ‘5 Steps to Foster Grit’ at Edutopia.

• School Library Journal reminds us that the Legacy Project’s 14th annual Listen to a Life Essay Contest gives  8 – 18 year olds an opportunity to interview a grandparent or grandfriend and write a 300 word paper to enter by March 28, 2014. Something your students would enjoy?

• Find everything you could possibly want to spark year-end reflection among students.  The NYT Learning Network not only includes links to its own content, but also provides a long list of other publications’ year-end stories. Plenty of suggestions for what to do: a look back from the future, an image collection, a eulogy, best of list, many more.

• Once the holiday rush is over, you can expand your tech toolkit with suggestions from Sarah Ludwig. Writing at School Library Journal’s DigitalShift, she shares gleanings from conference hashtags that work in libraries and classrooms.

• The nominations are in, and the voting has begun. Between now and Dec. 21 drop by the Nerdy Book Club to support the best of 2013’s books for children.

code• In this Huffington Post article, get teacher Jo-Ann Fox’s view of the Hour of Code happening the second week of December.  Why kids benefit. How to make it happen in your classroom. Can’t fit it in now? The resources will remain available. Sponsor Code.org has help here.   UPDATE: Almost 16 million student participants!

• Does your school set up Secret Santa exchanges? Heather Wolpert-Gawron encourages teachers and administrators to participate, even though she never has.  Read about her turn-around and see which of her suggested gifts might work for you.

• Researchers at the University of London’s  IOE Centre for Longitudinal Studies followed  6000 students at ages 5, 10, and 16 and found “that children who read for pleasure made [significantly] more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.”

1 thing about luck• Cynthia Kadohata wins National Book Award’s youth category with The Thing About Luck. Find other finalists here.

• Students can try their hand at answering “Why Aren’t More Girls Choosing to Pursue Careers in Math and Science?” with this NYT Learning Network post by Michael Gonchar. Don’t miss the toy ad with a message.

• In a recent post at her blog To Make a Prairie, Vicki Vinson relays student responses to this year’s “steady diet of close reading.” It isn’t pretty. Vinton compares what a purchased program can provide students to the value from teachers and their skills in observing students and relating to them.

 Scholastic is back with its overflowing cornucopia of Thanksgiving resources: a virtual field trip to Massachusetts for the first harvest celebration, a look at the relationships between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags, life on the Mayflower and more. For starters, you’ll find teacher’s guides, slide shows, videos, reader’s theatre suggestions, and vocabulary activities.

alien 125• View the CCSS as seen from afar, very afar, as Mark Phillips presents a translation of “a report submitted by Alkar, Educational Anthropologist, for review by the Planet-Wide Council of Educators on Rakosa V after his return from Sol III (locally known as Earth).” Alkar finds logic lacking.

• What makes a good introduction in writing? Probably not a question. Get ideas for what works in this NYT Learning Network post from Jonathan Olsen, Katherine Schulten and Shannon Doyne. Included: a link to a UNC Writing Center handout with both how-to and how-not-to suggestions. Don’t miss the comments.

• In a recent Edutopia post Rebecca Alber provides 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students: simple questions that get kids cogitating.  Alber includes suggestions for making the interchange effective.

Is Halloween the bane of teachers? Former classroom teacher Lily Jones thinks so. Perhaps you’ll shiver as you read her reflections in “Confessions of a Halloween Grinch” at the Teaching Channel. Or you prefer Edutopia’s huge collection of Halloween resource pinups at their Pinterest page. Did they miss our rather impressive compilation?? Boo.

edconnectr It’s been an amazing month for Connected Education, with all the goings-on at the Connected Educator platform. Wonderful webinars (archived), a fascinating new virtual community (EdConnectr) and participation by so many connected teachers, principals, system leaders and non-profit support groups. Check in here to find out about Connected Educator Month’s wrap-up festivities and learn how to stay (or become) involved with the vibrant professional movement growing up around connected teaching, leading and learning. And there’s a virtual Halloween party too!

 What makes homework effective? MindShift’s Holly Korbey provides current research and teachers’ experiences to suggest that the results, not the length or brevity, of assignments matter. Her sources: Annie Murphy Paul, Kathleen Cushman, Dan Bisaccio and student Luwayne Harris who weighs in on flipping.  

 At the NYT Learning Network Jonathan Olsen shows how images can lead to close reading when students sketch storyboards.

A big word floating around implementation of the Common Core standards is “metacognition” – the ability to take a mental step back and “know what you know.” Annie Paul Murphy looks at the research and shares proactive questions teachers can drop into the lesson on a “just-in-time” basis to help students increase metacognitive thinking.

 A dual book review from Columbia professor Andrew Delbanco takes on the two poles of ed policy — Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch vs. Radical: Fighting to Put Students First by Michelle Rhee. Reviewer Nancy Flanagan concentrates on Ravitch’s book, recommending it to people who are actually doing the work of teaching. Flanagan also links to other helpful reviews by practitioners.

9781118526507_cover.indd Ariel Sacks, an 8th grade English teacher in Brooklyn NY and popular blogger at On the Shoulders of Giants, is publishing her first solo-authored book, Whole Novels for the Whole Class: A Student-Centered Approach (Grades 5-12), this month (Jossey-Bass, October 2013). MiddleWeb will feature an excerpt soon. Meanwhile, download the galley proof of Chapter 1 for free (click on link at upper right).

 Writing in the WaPo “Answer Sheet” Marion Brady makes the case for history’s place in US culture, moving beyond bland history texts and testing demands. “Instead of making the past come alive, kids need to come alive. Moving to active learning using un-interpreted primary sources, and requiring real investigation and deep analytical thought is a key to developing that engagement. Focusing on historical principles that kids can use ‘right here, right now,’ is another.”

• Linda Darling-Hammond and Beverly Falk write at the Center for American Progress:  “Teacher involvement in the design, use, and scoring of performance assessments has the potential to powerfully link instruction, assessment, student learning, and teacher professional development.”  Much better than ‘drive-by’ PD, they conclude.  

spanish helmet• Most of National Hispanic Heritage Month lies ahead of us. If you need resources before the Oct. 15 finale, take a look at EDSITEment’s collection. Find Spanish language posts here

• Students 9 to 12 years old have until October 21 to submit questions to Alan Alda’s “Flame Challenge, an international contest that asks scientists to communicate complex science in ways that interest and inform an 11-year-old.”  Once classrooms, chosen by application, select the annual question from the 1000’s submitted, scientists will provide answers. Then kids will vote for the best answer.  There’s still time for teachers to request that their students be included in selecting the question.  This project of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook Univ. is supported by the AAAS and the American Chemical Society.   

• Teen Read Week™ is being celebrated October 13-19 this year with the theme “Seek the Unknown @ your library.”  Thanks to sponsors there are lots of freebies for classrooms as well as libraries this 15th year of TRW, the  national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

• It’s time to recognize less than nobel research again. The Annals of Improbable Research has just announced the 2013 Ig Nobel awards, MOST of which are on topics suitable for classroom rumination on the nature of scientific method. How likely are cows to stand or sit, how do you trap hijackers, how attractive are beer drinkers to themselves, and more. 

• Following the guidelines for a new activity posted at the NYT Learning Network, schools can invite students to think more deeply about the value of science and math — and ultimately STEM-designed lessons and units. Take a look at Students Have Their Say: Exploring Ideas to Improve Science Education.

 In his Edutopia blog, Maurice Elias makes the case for teaching emotional literacy. To those who say there’s no time, he responds, “I would say that you don’t have time to not do it.” One half hour per week, well executed, will help kids succeed academically (and improve classroom management). Find lots of examples of SEL in practice in a recent NYT article, Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught? by Jennifer Kahn. The comments point out some of the benefits and problems when implementing SEL programs.

CEM-dist-toolkit-150 October is Connected Educator Month, showcasing the powerful professional learning that occurs when educators take full advantage of social media tools and networks to collaborate and share successful teaching and leading strategies. This page at USDOE’s CEM website offers several kits (interactive PDFs) that can help teachers, schools and district offices join in!

 Explore close reading in the latest issue of The Big Fresh from Choice Literacy. What it is and what it isn’t, how educators are approaching it in the Common Core era, and more. With a free for all section and another for members of Choice Literacy

Want to get your students blogging? Tempered Radical Bill Ferriter has assembled the collection of resources you need, including how-to’s and which platforms to use.

Teacher-librarian Joyce Valenza goes way beyond Pinterest – and the library door – in her recent NeverEnding Search post, Fall decorating: a round-up of smart (and free) posters. Her lengthy list of sources can take you through the year whether you’re looking for digital literacy or content areas.

At Edutopia Web designer and author Jason Cranford Teague shares super tips for making your typography deliver for your students and whoever else reads your creations. And don’t miss his earlier post on font awareness.

 Michael Kline, who does “Illustration for children and their handlers,” shares tips for arranging desks in this article for Kids Discover Magazine.  Are you ready for his version of Chaos Theory?

pinterest-logo Like Pinterest? This collection (46 and growing) by Shelly Terrell was recently touted by eSchool News as one of the best in education including “items on storytelling, presentation, online games, graphic organizers and more.”

 As planning for summer trips turns to mapping out field trips, Ed Week blogger Clara Pak shares resources for bringing those trips into the classroom. Writing for Scholastic, Christy Crawford provides a check list for bringing your virtual trip alive.  So you can begin plotting out virtual field trips now!

 The August issue of ASCD Express is filled with classroom management ideas to get the school year off to a good start.

 Connected Educators Month, supported by the Dept. of Ed., returns for its second year in October. Get the latest from the Connected Educators Initiative newsletter: 2013 themes, PLP August Twitter chats and more.

 Just in time for a little late summer PD. Andrew Marcinek, writing for Edutopia, explains why “the best 1:1 device is a good teacher.” That’s an educator with the flexibility to adapt whatever useful devices come along to support students’ learning.  Marcinek includes do it yourself PD resources to use now, and later.

Douglass_young If you’re a history teacher who teaches about the Underground Railroad, you’ll be interested in this news story about a summer program for MS & HS teachers offered by the New Bedford (MA) Historical Society. Two week-long workshops bring to light little known facts about the role of sailing ships in bringing escaped slaves (including Frederick Douglass) to freedom. And be sure to visit the Society’s website where you’ll find a 62-page teacher’s guide and other materials on the topic.

Spotted in the NCLE SmartBrief:Making the Common Core Text Exemplars Accessible to Middle Graders.” A helpful article from NCTE’s Voices from the Middle magazine (Sept 2012) that “mentions multiple texts and discusses their specific value in the classroom.”

• MiddleWeb’s physical headquarters are in North Carolina, where public school teachers are more and more discouraged with the state’s declining support for quality K12 education. This recent blog post by (departing) high school teacher Lindsay Kosmala Furst is an open letter to the state legislature, expressing what is obviously a shared frustration (over 500 people have commented) about teacher pay (many teachers are on food stamps) and other issues. You can learn more about Furst and the issues here in NC from this related story in the Black Mountain News.


What can teachers learn from middle grades teacher Jessica Lahey’s new advice column for parents? Lahey (right) writes and talks about teaching and learning (and now parenting) for the Atlantic blog, the New York Times, the Today show and other outlets. Best of all, she brings classroom authenticity to her commentaries. Check out her blog Coming of Age in the Middle.

Can fanfiction fit into the classroom? What is its potential to bring in kids who don’t enjoy the usual class writing assignments? What are the challenges to watch for? In the first of three guest posts at Peter Gutierrez’s SLJ blog, Drew Emanuel Berkowitz outlines teachers’ perceptions of fanfiction and explains how bringing it into the classroom can affect students’ attitudes toward it.

The Commonwealth Club of California recently hosted Sir Ken Robinson. Hear his conversation to learn his current thoughts on creativity and his memories of childhood.

Teacher-librarian Joyce Valenza reports in SLJ that the nonprofit Common Sense Media has a winner in Graphite, now in beta, which provides evaluations and ratings of ed tech tools to help teachers make their way through the myriad options now available.

Ferriter-techvslearn Sixth grade teacher Bill Ferriter’s declaration that “technology doesn’t engage students” is getting lots of play in educational media here in mid-July. It’s apparently news to lots of folks, although not to teachers who use technology with students pervasively. See Ferriter’s chart at the right, which accompanied this post.

How to help self-directed learners thrive? Arthur L. Costa and Robert J. Garmston offer ‘five forms of feedback’ in an ASCD Express article.

Get suggestions for building a culture of meaningful assessment the first few weeks of school from Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan in their post at Stenhouse’s Summer Blogstitute. Already featured:  Debbie Miller on letting kids “dig in” and Erik Palmer on practicing speech, starting with rough drafts.

• Can you think of 13 reasons why your brain might crave the infographics method of delivering information? This infographic about the power of infographics includes bits of research from many sources to back up its argument that visuals increase a reader’s engagement with text.

ed leadership summer• Get a super introduction to ASCD’s Educational Leadership – if you are not already a subscriber – in its online summer edition, with all articles open to members and nonmembers alike.  The EL staff has assembled a collection of articles and other media from Carol Ann Tomlinson, Rick Wormeli, Robyn R. Jackson, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey and many more to help you “invent your own summer.” Lots here for brand new teachers!

• Looking for some good news about middle schools? Check out this report at the Learning First Alliance website, about a MS in Pennsylvania that’s “A Model of True Collaboration.”

Annie Murphy Paul, who writes about learning for MindShift and several other publications, adds science to the art of teaching in Eight Ways of Looking at Intelligence, noting that “the human mind is very adept at looping in our bodies, our tools, and even other people to use as instruments of our own thinking.”

A major effort has resulted in a major resource: Founders Online (in beta) from the National Archives. Search over 100,000 documents by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams (and family), Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. And those with whom they corresponded. Lots of options for searching.

engage-infographic These “27 Ways to Increase Student Engagement in Learning” are presented in infographic format at the TeachThought blog. Think of the 27 blocks, each with a title and crisp summary, as reminders of things you probably already know but sometimes forget to apply.

What would you do with some dollars to build your students’ learning? IncitEd, which launched its beta June 7, might be just the crowdfunding site to get you started. Started by two educators, the website invites learning related proposals to share with potential donors.

movie sign How can writing scripts and screenplays help build students’ ELA understanding and skills? In a MW guest article, media literacy consultant Frank Baker explains how separating dialog and action benefits young writers. He also suggests advertising scripts are good starting points for students and includes links to publications providing how-to’s and sample scripts.

Happy Blumesday! Right, Judy Blume. Two writers talk to NPR about their decision to launch Blumesday. Move over, James Joyce. June 17, 2013 reminds young readers and grownups of Blume’s books and the issues they introduced to adolescent lit over several decades.

At his iPadapps4school site, Richard Byrne offers 10 Great Apps for a Teacher’s New iPad. Have you tried Knowmia Teach and Skitch for iPad?

A high school teacher brings infographics to her students’ reading history. Find out how she did it in this Edutopia post. With a few changes (perhaps a more streamlined choice of infographic tools?), middle grades students could enjoy the experience as much as her older kids did.

Plan ahead for students’ storytelling with edSurge’s article, Blast from the Past: S’cool Tools for Storytelling. Try out the mostly free, web-based resources ranging from Kerpoof to Meograph and more.

Blogging at ASCD’s InService, Mike Anderson outlines techniques for educators to celebrate their accomplishments and set goals for next year.

search As Google and the Internet begin to push traditional sources of research (including print encyclopedias) out of the marketplace, the urgency to teach students how to find quality information online is reaching a fever pitch, says teacher Sara Shaw, quoted in this Education Week story.

Nine Strategies for Reaching All Learners in English Language Arts – Ideas from blogger Hassan Mansaray, a teacher at Edwards Middle, a diverse urban school in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

• Writing in an Edutopia post, Todd Finley points out that teachers as well as students are bullied at school, outlining the elements of colleague bullying and providing several stories of teachers who have suffered at the hands of other adults.  In a second post, Finley lists ineffective responses to bullies and then suggests some strategies that may help. The TES Connect article he references includes online resources, most of them in the UK, which may be useful.

upfront-cvr How do you fit current events into your classroom? Ariel Sacks suggests a couple of middle grades options to keep news current: CNN’s free daily 10-minute school cast and Upfront, a monthly print magazine from Scholastic and the New York Times. Her school orders one class set and passes it around. In her 5th grade Title 1 classroom, Monica Burns, blogging at Edutopia, has her students keep up with current events using their iPads and such apps as Watchup, SnagFilms and more.

We enjoyed this very May reflection by sixth grade teacher Jessica Cuthbertson on the rewards of opening your classroom door to fellow professionals who can help you sharpen aspects of your teaching. It begins… “It’s May. It’s spring in Colorado. My 6th graders are starting to sound, smell, and act like … 7th graders.” Who can resist?

• Science teachers need to learn students’ misconceptions of science as well as the facts for students to understand lessons.  Many kids are confused about why seasons change, for example.  Erik Robelen, writing for Education Week, reports on the middle school physical science research from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Rowling-snip• A flavorwire post features pages from famous writers’ notebooks. Now students can see how the writers planned ahead, scratched out and revised, and plotted their way to the end of books. (Students can also experience the challenges of reading cursive notes.) Some of the selections may not fit in a middle grades classroom, but J.K. Rowling (right) is a likely hit.

MiddleWeb co-editor John Norton is busy editing an upcoming book by middle school math and science teacher Marsha Ratzel and came across her high recommendation for Dr. James Tanton’s website Thinking Mathematics and also his YouTube video collection. Just the thing, Ratzel says, for MS teachers who want to beef up their content knowledge for teaching the new Common Core math standards.

• Have you tried these Teaching Secrets: Spend Less on School Supplies posted by Cynthia Henton at Ed Week? Don’t miss the comments.

New York Times Learning Network How does “rapidly toggling between (digital) tasks” affect our brains? Does dividing our concentration this way change how we learn? If so, what should we do about it? These are questions posed to students in a recent installment of the NYT Learning Network’s Reading Club, headlined “Digital Distractions.” Students are asked to read and reflect on two short articles detailing new research on the potential costs of this rapid toggling that most of us engage in every day.

• What Teachers Really Want: Thoughts beyond a smile and a handshake for Teacher Appreciation Week. From 5th and 6th grade teacher Susan Lucille Davis at Getting Smart.

• Choice Literacy contributors explain how and why they use several tech tools in literacy instruction. Included: Padlet, Today’s Meet, Shmoop, and Symbaloo.

• Geoff Pender, politics editor at the Clarion-Ledger in Mississippi, recently commented on misleadinglaws.com, the perfect place to go to see how lawmakers have used language to market legislation, even when the titles and subheads  distort the content of a law.     

Teaching Digital Literacy: Are your students finding images on the Web to use in their classroom blogs or other work that’s visible on the Internet? If so, you need to be sure they aren’t violating copyright law. This article by teacher Jen Carey has great suggestions for finding “legal” images – lots of links to sources.

Sixth grade math teacher Kimber Larson shares four “grading don’ts” that she says saved her classrrom and refocused students on the real purpose of hard work – learning (not grades). EdWeek Teacher.

Self-Driven-Lrng-cvrIn an Edutopia article adapted from his new book,  Self-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation Larry Ferlazzo provides Positive, Not Punitive, Classroom Management Tips that he’s found effective in his classroom. Ferlazzo has also updated his blog entry The Best Ideas On How To Finish The School Year Strong. He highlights our own Resource Roundup on the topic. Thanks, Larry!

The Digital Public Library of America beta officially went live April 18 after a slight delay caused the closing of its launch site, the Boston Public Library, an effect of the Boston bombing. Information Today provides a succinct look at the DPLA’s development and notes some of the content already available.

Persisting With Poetry in the Common-Core Era by Francesca Duffy explains how poetry and the CCSS can coexist. In this Education Week post, the author reports on a 5th grade teacher who highlights poetry every Friday, standards which mesh with poetry, and what’s missing in the CCSS that can impact students’ experience with poetry.  Accessible through registration.

Bring Earth Day into the ELA classroom with Read Write Think’s detailed lesson on persuasive writing capturing environmental issues.

Is it time to trade the “deficit model” brought on by high stakes testing with an “abundance model” that builds on students’ strengths? OK, it’s a rhetorical question. :-) Thoughts from Edutopia’s Rebecca Alber.

ngss_logo The Next Generation Science Standards as reported by a MS teacher who helped construct them: Marsha Ratzel. She describes the challenging process and the way the standards will work to strengthen science education. For more background on NGSS, see this MindShift article: “New Science Standards Aim to Relate Concepts to Students’ Lives.”

Celebrate the International Year of Statistics with fully developed lesson plans from STatistics Education Web (STEW). This online journal of K-12 statistics lesson plans provides K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 sections. The International Year webpage offers lots more links here.  Brought to you by the American Statistical Association.

You’re Constantly Revising Yourself“: The Dispositions of a Student-Centered Teacher presents six characteristics of student-centered teachers, all derived from conversations with teachers and students at six high schools as part of a research project by What Kids Can Do. Learn more details when WKCD publishes Anytime, Anywhere: Student Centered Learning for Schools and Teachers (Harvard Education Press, spring 2013).

imagination For National Poetry Month the National Academy of Poets (Poets.org) links to 30 ways to celebrate. Also at Poets.org: April 18’s Poem in Your Pocket Day along with teacher resources with plentiful poems and lessons   This year students can write letters to selected poets as part of the Dear Poet Project (lesson plan included). @POETSorg

“A new study finds that increasing enrollment in advanced math classes before high school hasn’t led to higher math performance for states, on the national assessment in the subject.” (Education Week) AND ALSO: (Middle School) Math Teachers Strive to Bring Core to At-Risk Students.

In this 2-minute Teaching Channel video, a 7th grade teacher discusses the importance of helping students understand the goals of the common standards in English/Language Arts. And manages to get a Twilight book cover on the IWB!

Students from NY to NC can help welcome this spring’s crop of 17 year cicadas to the surface by tracking ground temps in the next several weeks. WNYC is inviting folks to report the temps, watching for 64 degrees F when the current crop is set to emerge.  NPR’s Lizzy Duffy reports on the coming cicadapocalypse. Have your earplugs ready. April 4 2013 Update: The NYT Learning Network offers lessons and links to bring the cicadas into the classroom, more of less. With ear-straining sound effects.

foolWho’s the April Fool? How about your students? Edutopia’s Matt Davis says that April 1 is the perfect day for “pulling an unexpected fast one on your students.” He points to six fun resources to help you prank (and teach) the kiddos on April Fools Day (or anytime!)

Academic March Madness – another cool idea from middle grades educator Ian Byrd – considers the possibilities of determining the best of something, two things at a time. Spend some time at his idea-filled blog Byrdseed. Ever checked out the Differentiator?

We were touched by these pictures of children around the world and their most prized possessions. A poignant reminder of childhood in all its different manifestations.

Dr. Edmund W. Gordon

Dr. Edmund W. Gordon

The Gordon Commission on the future of educational testing offers a 10-year plan to revolutionize student assessment — something that won’t happen, members say, with the soon-to-be-launched Common Core tests. The Commission, reports Education Week, “argues that future educators should use systems of aligned assessments, which would inform instruction through a balance of fine-grained classroom diagnostic tests, challenging tasks and projects, and even analytic tools to sift through background data produced by students in the classroom or online.”

Teacher educator and AMLE author Jane Feber shares several clever teaching techniques that engaged students when she subbed in English and science classes. You’ll find more ideas in her book Student Engagement is FUNdamental.

What would you say to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan if you met him in an elevator? Fifth grade teacher Megan Allen lays out the 2-minute version of her plan to transform education in this animated video.

mid-lev-month-frnt March is Middle Level Education Month, and we’ve pulled together resources and activities from a variety of organizations that support the education of young adolescents. The beginning of spring is a great time to celebrate kids in the middle grades who (as the NASSP has noted) “can be misunderstood, misguided, and even maddening—but they can also be magnificent.”

WritingToExplore-cvr The Common Core standards set ambitious goals for student research and expository and informational writing. In a new MiddleWeb book review, 6th grade teacher Kevin Hodgson wonders if the 2010 book Writing to Explore (Stenhouse, Gr. 3-8) can help teachers engage students and meet standards by blending the traditional research paper with narrative writing about adventures. See all our reviews here!

• Education Week has a new partnership with The Teaching Channel, and they’re sharing some of the TC’s best professional development videos. Here’s a short video demonstrating a classroom routine that helps 8th grade math students clarify concepts and prep for new learning.

Middle school teacher Marsha Ratzel makes her case that student driven, inquiry rich learning can happen in the Common Core classroom. At the MindShift blog.

Thinking backwards works when it comes to technology integration. Teacher and consultant Kristen Swanson walks through the steps to putting learning outcomes first and tech tools second in this SmartBlog on Education post.

Larry Ferlazzo achieves something of an education blogging coup with his Dan Pink interview at Classroom Q&A. Pink applies some of the thinking that went into his new book To Sell Is Human to the teaching profession. One research-based observation: “…while teachers should work to understand their students are feeling, they should also work to understand what they’re thinking.”

A new report from the US Dept of Education considers ways to help students develop the Grit, Tenacity & Perseverance needed to thrive in the 21st century. Read about the report and related resources at the Getting Smart blog.

maker-space Thought about starting a Maker Space at your school? Not sure what that is? Learn more about the Maker movement and how schools are beginning to join in the fun at this Mind/Shift blog post (tips included).

The MacArthur Foundation finds a digital divide that’s not based in access to technology. Closing it will be a challenge.

Content mastery is important, says this international thinktank, but teachers need to go deeper using Seven Principles of Innovative Learning. “You may be proficient, but without adaptive expertise you can get stuck very quickly as the world shifts.” Thankfully there’s a practitioner’s guide. :)

AMLE is offering a free chapter (a good one!) from Rick Wormeli’s new book of Collected Writings. Topic – Homework: How We Assign It.

In her latest post at our STEM Imagineering blog, Anne Jolly riffs on several fascinating STEM-related jobs that don’t immediately come to mind during career counseling conversations. Legoland amusement park designer? Driver for Mars rover vehicles? Animatronic dinosaur maker? Globetrotting image-gatherer for a video game company? Cool!

doth-bang-homework Mashing up the Scottish play?! Who better than middle schoolers? This teacher-authored (8th grade) NY Times Sunday Review column is a great read, as we learn how a performance of Macbeth helped convince some students that they doth “bang homework.”

In an alternate view of Black History Month, journalist Deon Rabouin says the observance is a failure because it begins the story with Black people “in chains.”

ASCD’s reference librarian highlights a new blog from Richard Byrne: iPad Apps for School. David Snyder says “it’s an opportune time for such a blog” with iPad outselling Macs in the school marketplace about 2 to 1.

caring-hearts-and-critical-minds A new book from Stenhouse hits the middle grades sweet spot (5-9) and has an intriguing title: Caring Hearts & Critical Minds: Literature, Inquiry and Social Responsibility. All things we know ELA teachers are working hard to keep in their instruction. The entire book can be previewed at the Stenhouse site.

Good tips from Rick Wormeli about how to classroom discussions to life at Middle E-Connections. He begins with a memorable movie scene!

Grad students! JSTOR for free for everyone – enjoy up to three free articles every two weeks in JSTOR, the academic journal database. The Register & Read program will provide no-cost access to over 1.4 million journal articles.

Good short article in the latest Middle Level Insider from AMLE — sixth grade teacher Brian Cook describes how he uses writing instruction “to encourage students to express their true feelings and emotions about what is going on in the world around them and to treat those feelings with respect.” He calls it Life-on-Life.

In the new age of professional development, teachers can inspire teachers beyond the boundaries of time and space, says fifth grade teacher Susan L. Davis in this resource-rich post at the Getting Smart blog.

Science teachers, STEM teachers — geek out with your students: littleBits is an opensource library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets “for prototyping, learning, and fun.” Check out the demo video. Cited by MIT Media Lab as a techie learning trend for 2013. (Register to find out about the 15% educator discount.)

“Data” is more than just a four-letter words, says MiddleWeb blogger Elizabeth Stein in this new article at Education Week Teacher. Elizabeth offers six ideas to help teachers and teams use data “as a powerful tool in teaching and learning.”

You have until March 15 to apply for an Ezra Jack Keats Minigrant. The $500 grants encourage public school teachers and librarians to create “projects that foster creative expression, working together and interaction with a diverse community.”

McREL’s Kristen Miller writes about the intersection of arts education and the Common Core standards in this ASCD article. Find more arts integration posts in a recent issue of ASCD Express.

• Valerie Strauss has posted President Obama’s plans for making schools safer, presented in his January 16 speech on controlling gun violence throughout the United States. The plans are taken from a White House release.  Included: more funding for school resource officers along with support of programs to strengthen emergency response, improve school climate, and increase mental health resources.

More math! We overheard some folks praising this recent article at Ed Week Teacher — “The Talking Cure: Teaching Mathematical Discourse” — penned by long-time MiddleWeb friend Marsha Ratzel. Are you having significant conversations with your middle schoolers about mathematics?

Reality-based online games may be the key to unlocking girls’ interests in math and science. Nearly 50% of online gamers are girls, who “need to see the connection from the classroom out into the real world,” says an NSF-funded researcher.

From the earliest days of research on learning disabilities, writes Thomas Armstrong, “a multisensory strategy has been viewed as perhaps the best instructional intervention to use with students who have trouble reading and writing.” He highlights some Strength-Based Learning Strategies for Special Needs Students in this recent ASCD article.

Do you know the difference between project-based learning and project-oriented learning? Ed Week Teacher’s Teaching Now blog can help. Liana Heitin recaps a MindShift article that shares the perspective of Azul Terronez, 8th grade humanities teacher at High Tech Middle in San Diego. There’s also a helpful teacher-made video. (Hint: in PBL, the project is the driver, not just the capstone.)

Some fresh insight into student engagement, from blogger and Canadian teacher/ coach Shelley Wright, is gaining lots of favorable tweets this week. Here’s the post.

Is Rick Wormeli’s new collection of writings worth 9¢ a page? You bet! And if you’re a member of the Association for Middle Level Education, you’ll get 20% off. The book includes many articles from Rick’s long-running Middle Ground magazine column and lots of other “crazy good stuff” to inspire and improve your practice. Find out more here.

• New Year resolutions are old-hat. Join middle grades teacher/blogger Bill Ferriter in the One Word 365 project, a proposal that we all choose a single focusing word for 2013. Bill’s word? See for yourself!

Common Sense Media’s free Digital Passport resource provides online materials for kids and curriculum for teachers of grades 3-5 to help build students’ digital skills.

Math teacher alert: The Math Reasoning Inventory (MRI) “is an online formative assessment tool designed to make teachers’ classroom instruction more effective.” How? One tool is the MRI Interview, where students “explain their thinking (and) reveal the strategies and understandings they use to compute mentally and make estimates.” Check it out, including the video library.

In this Edutopia post, Terry Heick reflects on the challenges of web searches for everyone, including students. Teaching them how to search tops the list of priorities with giving them sites to search following behind.

Here’s a timely Common Core topic from the latest issue of ASCD Express: Characteristics of Literacy-Rich Content-Area Classrooms. Find out what literacy-friendly classes look like in math, science and social studies.

Two 6th graders are leading a national campaign to save the Chambered Nautilus, an endangered sea animal whose shell is prized by earring makers. Find out more about their effort to protect the 500-million year old creature at the Take Part website.

What Kids Can Do interviews middle schoolers on their views of social and emotional learning: how interactions with peers and teachers impact their ability to succeed in school.

In this five-minute video clip, reading expert Debbie Miller describes some of her new thinking, found in the 2nd edition of Reading with Meaningincluding gradual release of responsibility and using learning targets to empower student readers.

In this Middle Level iNSIDER article from AMLE, Jill Spencer outlines a process for setting norms for team teachers and explains how teachers can model these communications and learning techniques for  students.

Susan Thomsen shares the annual “Best Children’s Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards” post at her Chicken Spaghetti blog. If you haven’t enjoyed this contribution to children’s literature before, you may be amazed at its comprehensiveness!

Vicki Vinton, coauthor of What Readers Really Do, talks with Choice Literacy’s Franki Sibberson about leading students into deep reading, letting kids read without imposing established interpretations and avoiding strategies that distract from understanding. Vinton also raises warning flags about the impact of implementation of CCSS on reading.

Ever heard of “Lab Lit”? In a new lesson plan, the NYT Learning Network poses the questions: “What can you learn about science from fiction? What can you learn about the elements of fiction from stories about the work of real scientists?” English and Science – together at last. And aligned with the Common Core!

And speaking of the Common Core “wars” (see item below this one) here’s a thoughtful response from the front lines — written by 6th grade ELL teacher and author John T. Spencer — that lays out the pros and cons of Common Core implementation, from his perspective. At the WaPost Answer Sheet.

More Common Core: Educators from all over – about 400 of them – are responding to ‘Common core sparks war over words’ by Lyndsey Layton in the Dec. 2 issue of the Washington Post. English teachers and ed profs as well as David Coleman have their say on how the CCSS on fiction versus nonfiction are being understood across the country.

We were web-browsing recently when we came across a set of education-related “message” slides created by MiddleWeb friend Bill Ferriter, a sixth grade teacher in North Carolina who features some of these clever slides in his blog and PD talks. They’re posted in Flickr with a Creative Commons license, which means you’re free to use anything you like in your own presentations, with a nod to the Tempered Radical.

Larry Ferlazzo’s latest series at his Classroom Q&A blog looks at “using ed tech in the learning process.” Readers are invited to respond and share practices of their own.

It’s an odd thing that the laudable EduBlog Awards program (which showcases so many interesting blogs, wikis, apps and similar stuff we might otherwise overlook) doesn’t have a category for blogs and websites dedicated to “general” teaching and learning resources. That’s the best fit for MiddleWeb (for instance) and many other sites like Edutopia or the New York Times Learning Network or Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day, etc. Instead, sites like ours are slotted into a category called Best Blog on Educational Technology (or Best Ed Tech/Resources Blog, depending on where you look…note the slash). We were delighted to be a finalist in that category (or any category) just five months after the launch of our new site. But we can’t claim to be an ed-tech blog/site. Nor are we likely to be selected in such a category over the likes of Free Technology for Teachers! Maybe next year the wonderful EduBlogs folks will have time and opportunity to sort this out.

Commenting on the ‘smackdown’ between fiction and nonfiction reading as efforts to implement CCSS take hold,  Sara Mosle concludes,  ‘What schools really need isn’t more nonfiction but better nonfiction, especially that which provides good models for student writing.’ She offers reading suggestions in this NYT post.

Skype in the Classroom has grown since its 2011 launch to include 43,000 teachers and 2,400 suggested lesson plans that include the use of the free, Internet video-chatting program. Time Magazine Tech Blog via SmartBrief

Tweenteacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron reflects on what it might mean to be a “career teacher” in a world of accelerating change, when things are constantly being remade. How long can we last?

Over at MakerMom: a collection of top resources to help interest tweens in STEM and engineering topics — collected from the popular #stemchat discussions on Twitter.

Children’s author and writing teacher Ralph Fletcher shares some ideas about encouraging boys to write, in a new post at the Classroom Q&A blog. One tip: don’t view boys as “defective girls.” Barf.

Education Week finds that teacher educators are beginning to pay more attention to who they invite to be cooperating teachers and how they work with them.

We spotted this amazing resource while cruising some 2012 EduBlog Awards nominations: The Twitteraholic’s Ultimate Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter.

Did you read the Ed Week story about George Lucas and his plan to invest much of the $4 billion from the sale of Lucasfilms Ltd. into education causes? As the story notes, we can learn a lot about Lucas’ views about teaching and learning from his GLEF-sponsored website Edutopia.

We’re loving this clever and pointed video, The Insider’s Guide to the Teenage Brain, created by the What Kids Can Do organization. It’s all about how kids learn best, and how they LIKE to learn. Short enough to share with faculty!

If you’ve had some difficulty keeping up with all the national education news this year (we sure have), Larry Ferlazzo has a good round-up at the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. How did we miss that a teacher defeated a pro-voucher incumbent for state supt of public instruction in Indiana?!

The newly launched Powerful Learning Press is offering a free 132-pp book, The Connected Teacher: Powering Up, to celebrate. It includes short essays by an impressive group of middle grades educators, including Marsha Ratzel, Brian Crosby, Patti Grayson, Becky Bair, Jenny Luca, Renee Hawkins, Lyn Hilt and Chris Preston.

Edutopia is featuring this collection of authentic assessment tools and resources, developed by New York’s School of the Future. Included are some good examples of teachers’ Do Your Own (DYO) Assessments, Rubrics, Data, and Data Analysis.

Middle school girls are less likely than boys to see STEM occupations as options for them, according to a study by Simmons College and Girl Scouts of Eastern MA. A co-author concludes: “When parents tell their middle schoolers ‘do whatever makes you happy,’ this message is being heard through gendered stereotypes about careers.”

In her NYT Learning Network post, Suzie Boss finds project based learning options in understanding uneven food distribution that leaves many Americans with limited nutritional choices as the country celebrates Thanksgiving.

Education Week reports that advocates are squaring off on both sides of the Fiction vs. Non-fiction debate, as the Common Core standards roll into schools like the tsunami they surely are. But others wonder if it isn’t possible to find some high middle ground.

A recent MiddleWeb SmartBrief reported that Harvard’s Project Zero is partnering with the Oakland CA schools to investigate the theory that kids learn best when they’re actively engaged in designing and creating projects to explore concepts. The original story appears at the must-read Mind/Shift blog.

Rube Goldberg machines (complex systems to carry out a simple task) are fascinating to watch and fun to build. And there’s usually plenty of physical science to talk about! Check out Larry Ferlazzo’s collection of links and videos.

• The Stenhouse Publishers newsletter is highlighting a good Educational Leadership article by one of their authors, Anne Upczak-Garcia, describing her cross-discipline teaching approach with 4th and 5th grade English learners. She uses science as an example and provides lots of practical detail (that we know teachers love).

Here’s an informative post from teacher Mr. Lands, explaining where #STEM education came from and why the heck it’s important. We’re pretty sure our STEM Imagineering blogger Anne Jolly will agree. Also visit Mr. Lands’ math & science oriented blog, The Landscape of Learning. Clever.

At the Daily Show Jon Stewart focuses on an intermediate school’s highly successful chess program and the budget ax that felled it, reported in a documentary. Teacher evaluation enters the discussion.

Sixth grade teacher and popular blogger (The Tempered Radical) Bill Ferriter suggests six ways students can use digital tools to help change the world. At the SmartBlog on Education.

Get your Ed Hashtags here, infographically. Joyce Valenza shares an infographic from OnlineCollegeCourses.com. Not sure what an #edhashtag might be? On a macro-level, it’s the thing that transforms Twitter from silly chitchat to awe-inspiring professional development tool!

Rumor has it that this Ed Leadership article on student motivation by Larry Ferlazzo — Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say, and Do — has been a top read at the @ascd website for a couple of weeks.

Congratulations to our Two Teachers in the Room (authors of our new MW blog about co-teaching) for making the Top 5 Posts in CEC SmartBrief last week!

What makes group work work? Educator/speaker/writer Diana A. Laufenberg shares ideas at her blog, Living the Dream.

At Ed Week, educator Paul Barnwell lays out ‘Five Reasons Why Teaching Is Still Great.’

Middle grades math teachers will want to check out the Twitter hashtag group #msSunFun, aka Sunday Funday. Interested bloggers gather around their favorite tweet reader each Sunday to chat about a specific math-related topic they’ve recently blogged about. Here’s a recent sample of some resource content coming out of the group: iPad Apps and Other Technology in the Mathematics Classroom.

 American Libraries Magazine reports the online publication of Beyond Literacy, a thought experiment on what will replace reading and writing.

Lots of buzz building about this short film on The Future of Technology and Education, which features some leading thinkers about creativity and learning in the 21st century. Here’s the teaser: “We’re still teaching our kids using a 20th-century paradigm, but many visionaries–like the ones in this video–have plans to take our advances in computing and technology and use them to explode the idea of what education can be.”

What do plankton have to do with voting patterns? Give your students an opportunity to practice critical thinking with this post by Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich.

If you’re a principal or district leader thinking about iPad implementation in your school, you’ll likely find many of your questions — and a good many answers — in this Edutopia post and accompanying comments. And then there’s the iPad Mini.

• At his Edutopia blog, urban middle school teacher Jose Vilson recently offered five principles for assuring that all students can enter into math studies, and also for creating the conditions for math success.”

Angela Maiers’ list of 12 Things Kids Want from Their Teachers is enjoying a second life on Twitter this week. Here’s the February 2012 post.

Great interview at Ed Week Teacher with National Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki. We like her balanced view on the importance of developing career paths for teachers and the need for school leaders to put more energy and effort into helping teachers develop the knowledge and skills they need to implement the Common Core. Bill Gates? At least he took notes.

The computer-adaptive testing being developed in connection with Common Core standards has advantages for students at either end of the ability continuum, says this article from Ed Week’s Digital Directions, but presents challenges as well.

Do your students use ProCon.org, the great nonpartisan website that presents all sides of important issues, in a style conducive to debate preparation? They’re having a video contest (gr 6-12) and awarding a prize to the best 1-2 minute production describing “why you love ProCon.org.” Deadline extended to Dec. 16! Love up on this great site.

As part of a letter-writing campaign by public educators, aimed at the White House and the US Department of Education, a Vermont principal penned this plea, published in the Living in Dialogue blog at Education Week.

Be sure to check out our Common Core resource roundup, where we’ll be adding useful updates from time to time. Recent addition: Which CCSS national assessment will your state use?

One more from Mind/Shift: A journalist published in places like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, who also happens to be a high school senior in NY State, does a nice piece of reporting about Why Learning Should Be Messy.

The excellent Mind/Shift blog (“How We Will Learn”) has a good article about the emotional and social learning needs of preteens and teens. How Parents and Schools Can Help Build Kids’ Emotional Strength.

You are not alone. Teacher Roxanna Elden describes what (widely shared) teacher nightmares mean, from a non-scientific point of view.  Dream interpretation! Free for 3 months from Pi Lambda Theta’s Education Horizons Magazine. (posted 10 2012). Another fully available story in this issue: How to Reach & Teach Black Males.

The latest issue of AMLE’s Middle Ground magazine has a timely focus: The Common Core in the Middle Grades. You’ll need to be a member to read ALL of the articles, but the centerpiece story, by Susan Rakow, offers a good overview and is freely available.

Seven Ideas for Meaningful Parent-Teacher Conferences is another good read from the Teacher in a Strange Land. Nancy Flanagan’s insightful suggestions are a perfect complement to our Resource Roundup on parent conferences.

• GRIT the new rigor?  Valerie Strauss responds to Paul Tough’s new book, “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.”  In ‘Grit’ becoming new reform mantra — unfortunately’ she offers a post by Katie Osgood, a teacher of students in an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Next comes Alfie Kohn’s post,  ‘Do kids really learn from failure? Why conventional wisdom may be wrong.’

Have you introduced your students to ProCon.org? The nonpartisan nonprofit is hosting the ‘ProCon.org National Student Video Contest’ which offers cash and others prizes to students, including 6th – 8th graders, who create a 1 to 2 minute video telling why they love ProCon.  Deadline is Nov. 16. Students can learn about the contest here.

In Part 3 of the NYT’s Electoral Dysfunction series, Mo Rocca takes on the Electoral College in ‘print’ and in a video featuring professors and 3rd graders. Get a glimpse of its origins and some takes on reform.

You can use this interactive infographic from Archives.com to follow what Americans found worth recording through all 23 census questionnaires. Three clicks lead to comparisons of housing, education and employment in 1880 and 2000. Students who click on the Search option will be taken to a page to register for the Archive.com product.

On PBS Newshour 2012 TOY Rebecca Mieliwocki, Burbank, California 7th grade English teacher, comments on teacher development over time, the excitement of teaching middle grades kids, and the problems with standardized tests.

We hear lots of talk about “digital literacy,” writes PD consultant Mike Fisher, but we need to drill deeper to achieve the sixth capacity of College and Career Readiness: “Students use technology and digital media strategically and capably.” Fisher says Solution Fluency is really the goal.

• At the Langwitches blog, learn how teachers are using Twitter in their intermediate grades classrooms. You’ll also find links to resources for other grade levels.

Quality feedback is a critical element of good teaching. This special report from ASCD SmartBrief has plenty of resources to help teachers and school leaders sharpen their focus on “directed, positive, specific and tangible” feedback.

Writing consultant Vicki Vinton, who illustrates her post  ‘More Ways to Skin the Information Writing Cat’  in a most memorable way, offers three ideas for helping students “write engaging nonfiction pieces that explain and inform.” Vinton also suggests mentor texts “that students can study for structure and craft.”

If you love to talk about kids and books, check out the monthly hashtag chat #titletalk featuring Book Whisperer Donalyn Miller and guests. The next live chat (on Twitter) is set for Sunday, Sept 30 at 8 pm Eastern.

Why do leaves change color in the fall? Richard Byrne points to several good resources to help answer that question, including a video from the Maine Forest Service.

Jan Burkins, publisher of the website Literacyhead, shares insights about making connections across multiple literacies in a recent interview posted on the Stenhouse Blog.

See what you think of the NYT’s Learning Network’s teacher created tasks following the Common Core standards. The new weekly feature follows activities created by two 9th grade teachers.

Grade configuration has been a hot topic for our visitors since the earliest days of MiddleWeb. What’s better, K-6, K-8, 6-8, Jr. Hi? Here’s one of the latest papers we’ve seen on the subject — based only on data from Florida. Major conclusion: “Our findings clearly support ongoing efforts in urban school districts to convert standalone elementary and middle schools into schools with K-8 configurations.” Free download.

The Internet Scout recommends an exploration of Croak.It, a web tool that allows you to create and send out audio clips via any number of social media networks.

If you have science students who get excited about snakes and turtles and iguanas and such — (or just have an interest in conversation and endangered species), you’ll want to explore the Herpetological Conservation and Biology site — most especially the photo gallery!




MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

1 Response

  1. 08/24/2012

    [...] are many matters that concern all K12 educators and we do touch on some of those, especially in our Quick Links feature, where we feature (in short form) some of the most interesting things we come across each [...]