6-12 Teacher Talk February 2020

Teacher Tip: Craft your calling.

Chase Mielke, author of "A Letter to New Teachers", reminds teachers to go with your strengths and find ways to shore up your weaknesses– for example, he enlisted a student to help straighten out his own disorganized desk. Spend more time with the people who build you up and make teaching worthwhile and minimize unhelpful interactions. Be explicit about your teaching philosophy – the why of your work. And pursue passion projects; Mielke says that among the most important things that have kept him from burning out are volunteering to run after-school fitness and music clubs at his high school, building a positive psychology program, and leading PD workshops in the summer.
With a refreshed mind and a sharp pencil, we can do anything.

5 Ways Teachers Bring Out the Best in Middle School Students

  1. Shadow a student for a day- Observe a student you don't know very well, interview them about their highs and lows, log detailed notes about their day, and then apply what you learned to your teaching practices.
  2. Communicate that you're ready to be an emotional support- Consider using mental health check-ins, mood notes to communicate distress in secret ways, or take a mental health first aid course. Teach students coping strategies- taking deep breaths, tossing and catching a ball, doing wall push-ups, getting a drink of water.
  3. Make reflection a part of the learning process- To help students learn to collaborate, have students self-assess their work throughout a group project. You might ask, "Is the workload distributed fairly? If it's uneven, what can be done to even it out? What strengths did I bring? What would I do differently next time?
  4. Be intentional about embracing differences- Be intentional about fostering a healthy self-identity. The main goal being acceptance. You don't have to befriend everyone, but move them from a place of awkwardness to one of understanding.
  5. Give students a voice- Talk to students above their age and maturity and involve them in rule generation. Make it clear that you welcome their ideas and feedback. Give them a sense of control, which will increase their willingness to comply and contribute to their community.

Check out more tips in Middle School Matters by Phyllis Fagell.

Upcoming Professional development opportunities

Extend Your Learning with Online Courses

The Learning Technology Center of Illinois is offering FREE online, self-paced trainings to learn more about Google's GSuite. They are currently offering 6 trainings now through May 4, 2020. Choose from the following: Google Form Essentials, Maximizing the Power of Google Classroom, Organized Google Drive, Transforming Instruction with Google Tools, Google Slides: More than Presenting Content, or Understanding the Power of Google Docs.

Strategies for teen readers

  1. Coding- One of the most efficient ways to comprehend expository text is to mark it with codes (?__O!X). Google "text coding" or click here for more information. This is also good practice with narrative text.
  2. Highlighting repeated words- Students should underline important words that appear repeatedly. This practice provides students with a purpose, helps them zero in on details that add up to main ideas, improves their recollection of important facts, and helps them draw conclusions on the basis of textual evidence.
  3. Summarizing- After reading a paragraph or section of text, students should stop and write in the margin a short summary of what they have read. If they have been coding text and underlining repeated words, this should be easy.

For more information on reading strategies for teens, visit this ASCD article.

Illinois science assessment

FROM the ISBE Assessment Office: In alignment with the Illinois Learning Standards for Science, the 2020 ISA extended response items will lean heavily on students' abilities to explain science phenomena utilizing the claim, evidence, and reasoning process. Here are several resources with more information on claim, evidence, and reasoning.

Be the Best Educator You Set Out to Be (Part Four)...Be a continuously learning educator. Teaching is an art. We only get better with time. Seek out ways to hone and improve your craft. ~Steven W. Anderson www.web20classroom.org

additional information and resources

  • Want to engage with every student, every day? PearDeck is a Google Slides add-on that makes any powerpoint or slides presentation interactive. It increases engagement, gives immediate feedback to the teacher, and takes participation to an all time high. Check out these ELA slides for FREE!
  • New Meridian Released Items- this site was shared earlier this year but has recently been updated with items from the 2019 assessments for grades 3-12.
  • Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board to provide SAT practice for students. Consider sharing this site with your students to review as SAT prep. Students receive a personalized practice plan, interactive questions, and constant feedback while having access to 8 full length tests. This SAT Student Guide might also be of interest to students as it explains what to expect, example questions, tips for each section, and how to prepare for SAT testing.
  • 24 Books for Teaching the Holocaust- Did you know that since 2005 Illinois has mandated a unit of instruction on the Holocaust in both public elementary and high school across the state of Illinois? Here are some grade level appropriate resources.
  • Learn more about the SAT Essay here.
  • In 2016, Illinois mandated a civics course for all high school students. Beginning in 2020, civics is now mandatory in all Illinois middle schools. These courses must include content related to government institutions, current and societal issues, service learning, and the democratic process.
  • Grades 6-8: The IAR testing manual has information on preparing the testing environment as well as testing procedures. View the manual here. View the IAR ELA Evidence Tables which explain exactly what students must perform to demonstrate mastery of each standard. Math evidence tables are also available by grade level- 6th Grade Math, 7th Grade Math, 8th Grade Math.
  • Looking for a fun, educational Valentine's Day activity? Check out these BreakoutEDU games.


Created with images by Laura Ockel - "My fiancee got these for me one February when I had the flu. I wanted them as a photo prop, hoping I’d get better in time to shoot it for Valentine’s Day, but… at least they looked just as pretty the next year. What you see is the contents of 9 little boxes. I was surprised that so many were needed, but fewer just didn’t have the right look." • Frank Vessia - "untitled image" • Thought Catalog - "Woman reads a book on a wooden desk" • Kristine Tanne - "Green spruce branch on blurred background"