Maker Friday (math in motion)

maker friday 1Middle school students sometimes come to math class with dread. They think of it as endless worksheets, seat time, and assessments. For many students, the work is hard. They don’t see themselves as math people. One way to reverse this trend is to infuse math learning with inspiration and innovation, with a healthy dose of growth mindset. 

While teachers and districts have specific goals of math instruction and these are important, so is engaging, hands on, applied mathematics that can turn around negative math thinking and provide developmentally appropriate learning environments for early adolescents.

One way to do this is Maker Fridays.

Continue reading

3 books that fight bullying and build empathy

revelersWe know the long term effects bullying can have on kids are not good.  Kids who experience bullying  can have increased anxiety, sleep problems, changes in eating patterns, and symptoms of depression. Many adults and students have become more aware of this topic– however changing behaviors takes more than just a conversation or two. Building empathy, taking someone else’s perspective, and becoming a community of upstanders is process that requires focused attention, effort, conversation, and modeling.

One way teachers can begin to create deliberate communities that support each other is through literature. Reading about bullying can provide students with a way to talk about the topic without having to talk about themselves. Here are 3 great books for reading aloud in an upper elementary or middle school classroom. These can be stand alone read alouds, or done as a unit on standing up for each other. Or, they can be used in response to a class that has had a difficult time with bullying in the past.

1. The Revealers by Doug WIlhelm. 

In this book Russel is faced with a classic bully, Richie. He seeks out Elliot, who is always picked on, for advice. They are joined by Catalina, a recent immigrant who is also suffering from bullying. Together, they devise a way to help the students of their middle school to have a voice and share their stories. Issues of bystanding, upstanding, peer pressure and understanding why people bully are all in this suspenseful text. Continue reading

Blackout Poetry and NaNoWriMo

IMG_6029They opened the library doors for us– our secret society of writers. We headed to the basement, which felt just right.

I sat in the Aldrich Library in Barre, Vermont with an excited and diverse group of writers. Among us were teenage sci-fi writers, a woman who writes about puppies, a 70 + year old man, and a nine year old girl. All gathered to learn about how to participate in the ridiculous National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge– to write 50,000 words in one month.

We talked about plot ideas, best times to write, no editing! and programs that help. We laughed nervous laughs and ate chocolate. Then we started a writing activity, because, well, that is what we do. This one is a fabulous one to do with students, I did it the next day with mine. Continue reading