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Great Sites for Middle-School Educators

Major sites, and smaller teacher-created sites too ... they're all here -- sites that every middle-level educator should explore! These sites represent some of the best resources the Web has to offer, a virtual survival kit for middle-level educators.

The Web is home to dozens of sites devoted to the interests of middle-level educators and students. Education World has selected some of the best of those sites to create a sort of middle-school survival kit for you. Our list is different from many others in that it doesn't concentrate on the big sites; we highlight a handful of smaller sites too, including some great resources created by middle-school teachers.

We don't ignore the big middle-school sites; where one of those sites is mentioned, we focus on a single valuable feature offered there.

Read more below about each of the sites.

A GREAT TEACHER-CREATED SITE

Kim's Korner for Teacher Talk
Find teacher-created materials for teaching writing, literature and reading.

SPECIAL PAGES FROM THE 'BIGGIES'

ERIC Digests Web page
Do a quick search for expert reports on middle-school issues.

Middle School Survival Guide
This downloadable guide is for parents of middle-school youngsters.

Middle School Diaries
Eavesdrop on the exploits of two middle-school principals and a teacher.

National Middle School Association Resource Center
Research summaries, position papers and much more on hot middle-school topics.

MiddleSchool.Net
Bunches of resources "from teachers, by teachers."

Midlink Magazine
Articles of interest to middle-level educators.

ONE MORE 'MUST'

Middle-L Listserv
Sign up to join this virtual teachers room. 

 

Now, here's the scoop on most of the sites (and a listserv) listed above.

THE MIDDLE SCHOOL SURVIVAL GUIDE

Every middle-school educator has faced it -- exasperated parents who turn to you for advice. They can't control their child ... they can't understand him ... they can't deal with her ... they've tried everything, and now they're throwing they're hands up, ready to throw in the towel.

This one's for the parents. But there's lots of good advice here for teachers, too. School principals might also adapt some of the information for use in the "tips" sections of newsletters that the school sends home to parents.

The Survival Guide is a .pdf file that requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in. The file is large; it might take a few minutes to download.

Created by the Middle School Coalition of the Jefferson County (Kentucky) Public Schools, the Middle School Survival Guide was created to help parents (and students) through those "warm and wonderful, bewildering, sometimes scary, silly and exciting" middle-school years. It's a guide to trying to understand, to setting rules and guidelines, and to dealing with the turmoil that can be part of life with a middle school-age youngster. It's all here, a veritable ABC of advice to parents about young adolescence -- tips for dealing with everything from basic etiquette to piercing and tattooing, from building self-esteem to dealing with emerging sexuality.

The chapter heads say it all. Among the topics addressed are these:

  • Changing Relationships -- This chapter is broken down by typical changes exhibited by 5th-6th graders and 7th-8th graders.
  • Discipline -- Read basic rules from successful parents.
  • Establishing Party Rules
  • Gangs -- Learn about what parents can do.
  • Eating Disorders -- Use this handy Q&A.

    Special pages for kids introduce issues related to alcohol use and "Eight Habits for Successful Middle School Students." A special page for parents offers tips for supporting their kids in school.

    COME TO KIM'S KORNER

    Kim's Korner for Teacher Talk is another teacher-developed site that's brimming with valuable materials for creating classroom lessons. Developed by eighth-grade language arts teacher Kim Steele, the site is a gold mine of ideas for teaching writing, literature, and reading. A section packed with ideas for managing the classroom is a bonus!

    "I began Kim's Korner after I searched and searched for information on the Six Trait Analytic Writing Model and found very little," Steele told Education World. "I thought I would share a few of my ideas with others who were also searching. With each page I created, new ideas for other pages crept into my mind.

    "I learned more about creating Web pages, and soon I couldn't stop myself!" added Steele.

    Middle school teachers should be thankful that Steele "couldn't stop herself," because Kim's Korner is a bounty of practical ideas and resources.

  • If writing is your focus, you'll find ideas in Kim's Korner for teaching modes of writing, the writing process, writing organization, voice, word choice, and more. Each section offers hands-on materials and rubrics that will make clear to students what is expected of them.
     
  • Ideas for teaching reading and literature include original materials -- including spelling contracts, ideas for teaching Accelerated Reader, and suggestions for building and maintaining a classroom library. Links to lessons on other sites that provide ideas for using graphic organizers, alternative book report ideas, and more are also included.
     
  • The Classroom Management section includes links to organizational tips; ideas for bulletin boards, review games, and student rewards; suggestions for making new staff members feel welcome in your school; and more.

    Take a few minutes to explore the nooks and crannies of Kim's Korner.

    EAVESDROP ON LIFE IN A MIDDLE SCHOOL

    "I spent the two weeks before the beginning [of school] at break-neck speed, trying to finish getting staff in place for the upcoming year. It's almost hard to describe the pressure I feel to get the 'best staff' for our students. Teachers are becoming very transient, and they may choose to change schools as late as early August ... but to find a superb teacher without a job in early August is almost impossible. ... Summer is the time of year when I most feel like I am in a business. It is a dog-eat-dog world, and middle school teachers are certified to teach fifth and sixth grades at our elementaries and ninth grade at our high school, so sometimes we compete against ourselves within our district."

    Those are the reflections of Michelle Pedigo, principal of Barren County (Kentucky) Middle School (selected as a "School to Watch" by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform). Pedigo is one of two principals and one teacher who will be sharing the ups and downs of life in their respective middle schools in this year's installments of Middle School Diaries, one part of the award-winning MiddleWeb Web site.

    "As MiddleWeb begins a second year of school-diary publication, we once again invite you to indulge your curiosity and look over the shoulders of our diarists as they reflect on their daily experiences and ponder the mysteries of successful schools," said MiddleWeb's editor, John Norton. Each of the three diarists will post weekly entries in their on-line diaries.

    This year, teacher Deborah Bambino continues to share her diary entries about life in a Philadelphia middle school. Last year's entries are now available in book form. See Education World's review of Bambino's Teaching Out Loud: A Middle Grades Diary this week on our BOOKS IN EDUCATION page.

    The diaries are just one feature of MiddleWeb, a site that every middle school teacher and principal should bookmark! In another popular feature, Newswatch, MiddleWeb posts links to news stories of interest to middle level educators. Educators who wish to keep abreast of the latest news about middle level schools from newspapers around the United States can sign up to receive a weekly e-mail that will include links to the latest stories.

    Take a look at MiddleWeb -- and sneak a peek at those diaries!

    MOTIVATION AND MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS

    "Few educators would argue with the premise that student motivation is an important influence on learning. Motivation is of particular importance for those who work with young adolescents. Considerable research has shown a decline in motivation and performance for many children as they move from elementary school into middle school. Often it has been assumed that this decline is largely caused by physiological and psychological changes associated with puberty and, therefore, is somewhat inevitable. This assumption has been challenged, however, by research that demonstrates that the nature of motivational change on entry to middle school ..."

    So begins the abstract to ERIC Digest 421821, Motivation and Middle School Students. The Digest goes on to outline suggestions for middle school teachers and administrators who wish to enhance student motivation.

    "Motivation and Middle School Students" is one of hundreds of articles that can be accessed on the ERIC Digests Web page. ERIC Digests are funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) of the U.S. Department of Education. Each Digest is a short report (1,000 to 1,500 words) on a topic of prime current interest in education. The reports, reviewed by experts in the field, are designed to provide an overview of information on a given topic plus references to items providing more detailed information.

    If you're working on a research project for a college class, if you're on a committee charged with exploring a current issue in your school, or if you just have an interest in furthering your own knowledge about the kids you teach, ERIC Digests offer a great starting point. Using the ERIC Digests search engine, I was able to find 175 Digests that deal with the issue of motivation! You can also search the Digests by the date they were added to the library. A search of the most recent additions revealed a wide variety of Digests that deal with issues of interest to middle level educators. Following are just a handful of the titles:

  • Integrated Curriculum in the Middle School
  • Model Programs for Middle School Teacher Preparation
  • Parent Participation in Middle School Language Arts
  • Grouping Students for Instruction in Middle Schools
  • The Transition to Middle School
  • Student-Led Conferences at the Middle Level
  • Middle Level Education in Rural America
  • Gifted Learners and the Middle School: Problem or Promise?

    Looking for materials on inclusion, parent involvement, discipline, looping, or multi-grade classrooms? Just plug those key words into the ERIC Digest search engine and off you go!

    NMSA'S 'RESOURCE CENTER'

    If you're an educator who is doing research on a hot topic related to middle-level education, the National Middle School Association Resource Center is a great place to start. In the Resource Center catalog, you'll find links to best-sellers, curriculum case studies, parent resources, and much more.

    Many of the resources found in the NMSA Resource Center are available for purchase. But the Web page also includes many freebies! Among the free resources you'll find are research summaries on issues of exemplary middle schools, young adolescents' developmental needs, heterogeneous grouping, evaluating the effectiveness of programs, the effects of inclusion, and more. Position papers are available too -- including papers on the middle level curriculum and student teaching at the middle level.

    Go right to the source -- go to the National Middle School Association for great resources.

    AND A LISTSERV TOOL

    Here's another fine resource from the people who produce ERIC Digests -- it's the Middle-L listserv.

    Every middle-level educator should sign up for the Middle-L Listserv. It's one of the most active listservs around; currently, about 900 educators are members. Members receive all the posts that are addressed to the list and are free to respond to list members' comments on issues of a wide variety. Any topic of discussion is fair game on Middle-L.

    Like any teachers' room, many topics are being discussed at once in Middle-L, and all kinds of personalities are involved. Flare-ups happen from time to time, feelings are hurt, and laughs and tears are shared. Middle-L is not for the faint of heart.

    Join the list and sit back and watch and listen for a few weeks before joining in any discussion. You'll get a sense for the list, how it works, and some of the people involved. You'll also get a sense about whether you can handle the flow of mail. As I said, this is an active list. You'll receive 30 or more messages a day. (You'll become a pro at using the delete button on your keyboard to delete messages on topics that don't interest you!)

    Another option is to sign up for the Digest version. You'll receive one message each day with the collected messages for the last 24 hours.

    All middle level educators should join Middle-L -- to see whether it's for them. It's professional development on the fly. You can't help but learn something new each time you open your mailbox!

     

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World® Editor-in-Chief
    Copyright © Education World

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    Links last updated 2/29/2012