New to 8th grade

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by mclaugcr, May 22, 2012.

  1. mclaugcr

    mclaugcr Companion

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    May 22, 2012

    I just found out a couple of weeks ago that with all of the changes our district is going through, I will be switched to 8th grade Language Arts. I am rather nervous about this, as I have only ever taught elementary grades (4th for the last 5 years). :eek: Can you give me some advice about what to do with students of this age? I think I'll be okay with the curriculum and I've met with one of the other teachers I'll be working with already. I'm more nervous about how to handle the students. Thanks!
     
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  3. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    May 22, 2012

    Welcome to the roller coaster ride that is 8th grade. What can you expect? Hormones, cliques, lots of silly behavior, etc. But you also get to experience students as they become abstract thinkers who are capable of fantastic things. Just like with other ages, each day of teaching is different. The end of the year can definitely be stressful. I am usually ready for time off in June, but I am just as ready to go back in September. Just remember that, even with this age group, it is important to make a connection and to build community.
     
  4. Ross

    Ross Comrade

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    May 23, 2012

    Add to that students who will challenge your authority, not participating in class because they do not want other students to know they are interested in learning, and weak study skills.

    You will have the opportunity to be a great influence in modifying the above issues. Be firm, be fun, and be interesting. Insist that all students participate in their education. Most important - set your standards the very first days of class and do not accept any deviation from them. This will set the tone for your classroom for the rest of the year.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    May 23, 2012

    It'a an amazing age.

    Earn their loyalty and you have it forever. But it doesn't come cheap. You've got to know your stuff, you've got to be consistent, and you've got to maintain their interest. "Fair" is one of the most important words in their vocabulary. They'll work their tails off for a teacher they consider to be "good" -- but they'll do nothing at all for teacher they consider to be "bad."
     
  6. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    May 23, 2012

    It's really not as scary as most make it out to be. I agree, fairness is big. So is listening and providing choices.
     
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    May 23, 2012

    I would like to re-emphasize the importance of fairness. No whole-class punishments. If students think you are unfair, they will see you as an enemy and refuse to learn from you. In some cases you may have a whole class rebellion.

    Be confident. They can smell weakness and they will prey upon it.

    Be engaging. As others have said, they will not want to learn for the sake of learning, but if you sneak fun in there, they'll be doing the work and learning the material without even realizing it.

    Maintain firm control on your classroom procedures. Be clear about what types of interruptions you'll allow during your instruction, or else they'll be raising their hands to go to the bathroom every twenty minutes, to wash their hands, to throw something away, to ask a million questions that you're just about to answer. (I tell them to write down their question and save it until the end.) Figure out if you want them getting up or not without your permission, and be consistent in your procedures. It's difficult for me to only accept the answers from those who raise their hands, because a lot of kids simply like to yell it out, and I'm very tempted to just take it as the answer and move on.
     
  8. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    May 26, 2012

    Ditto everything said above.

    They need to move - group activities (both assigned and self-chosen groups) work well, just be sure expectations for group work are clearly set out at the beginning.

    Consistency is key - something I have to be very aware of myself every day.

    It is a great grade to work with - they still like stamps and stickers but also are ready for more grown-up challenges and discussions.

    Humor...
     
  9. cranevermont

    cranevermont New Member

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    May 29, 2012

    I agree with everything that has been said. I have been teaching 8th graders for the last 8 years. Remember that all children operate best within defined boundaries.

    I always try to remember that 8th graders have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood. They need to be given some freedoms but only within a structured and safe learning environment. Good luck and enjoy them!
     
  10. mclaugcr

    mclaugcr Companion

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    Jun 9, 2012

    First, I want to say thank you to everyone who responded. I think I'm getting my brain wrapped around the fact that I won't be in elementary next year.

    Since that is the case, I have a couple more questions to ask you. How would you decorate a classroom for 8th grade language arts? I have a lot of cute ideas, but I'm afraid the kids would think it's too babyish. Also, what are some procedures that I absolutely MUST HAVE in place on the first day?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  11. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    Jun 22, 2012

  12. roxstar

    roxstar Companion

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    Jun 27, 2012

    So so true. I made a similar leap last year and even 6th graders have an acute awareness about the fairness and balance of your treatment. I think it is always good to discipline as privately as possible. If you embarrass them, you've lost them.

    They can definitely try and test your authority so know what you expect and....well...actually expect if from them. Sounds silly but just make sure to stick to your rules, procedures, expectations etc. I enjoy middle school so much more. I also agree with Mopar, not at all as scary as everyone says it is, and I work with some kids than are considered pretty difficult. Good luck and congrats!
     
  13. NUMB3RSFAN

    NUMB3RSFAN Rookie

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    Jul 6, 2012

    I student taught 8th grade, got a job teaching 6th and have recently moved back to 8th grade. I love this grade! They can be such neat people! I agree with everything the previous posters have said about working with this age group.

    As for decorating, I go for function over a classroom "theme". I have several subject related posters and procedures on the wall and then the following bulletin boards:

    News and Notes - I include school information, lunch calendar, athletic events, bullying hotline information, tutoring information.

    In Your Agenda - our kids are required to keep an agenda so I have a place to write the homework for each class period.

    Extra Credit - Our math department has a weekly extra credit word problem so I have a small bulletin board for that.

    Hope that helps! Good Luck!
     
  14. linswin23

    linswin23 Cohort

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    Jul 7, 2012

    Oh how I love middle school. It is such a fun age--it is definitely a different beast than elementary or high school. Being consistent and firm but with a sprinkle of love is the best. :)
     
  15. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Jul 7, 2012

    My eighth grade language arts class was decorated in bright colors. I found a bright polka dot bulletin border and used black paper on the board to offset the colors. I got multi-colored baskets from the Dollar Store for them to keep their work binder and novel in. I also bought multi-colored paper lanterns from a party store and hung them from the ceiling with paper clips. My students' favorite part of the room were the "comfy chairs". At the end of the summer (near the end of the back-to-college sale), Target had these soft butterfly chairs on sale. I got one in turquoise and one in a berry color, and kids loved to come in and just plop down there. I had one that would sit there until class started, and then would go to his seat....every day. Even kids that weren't in my class loved to sit down and talk. They were the opening to some great conversations!

    I love that eighth graders are so independent and are able to express their feelings, wishes and dreams. You can really talk to them more as a mentor than as an authority figure or "mommy" figure.
     
  16. Avalon

    Avalon Rookie

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    Jul 8, 2012

    I'm another fan of middle school teaching. Eighth graders are awesome to work wiith! They are edgy, smart, and fun, and will love you if you respect them and take the time to get to know them and win their hearts.

    Procedures are key. Spend the first week helping them learn how things are done in your room - lining up, sharpening pencils, bathroom visits. If they come in noisily, have them go outside and line up again. Don't be angry, have a little fun with it, but make them do it right.

    They have an intense need to socialize. Cooperative group learning helps them do this within a structured alignment, and also makes them stretch cognitively if you give them an assignment that is too hard to complete individually. Just make sure your group activities have 1) distinct roles for each student within overall cooperation; 2) a well-defined, measurable learning product (poster, speech, etc.), and 3) a specified time limit. Be very careful that shy or "unpopular" kids are never left behind. And circulate constantly to keep them focused.

    Keeping them busy eliminates potential problems. Reading for the first (or last) few minutes every day is huge, building up to half an hour if your time permits. In my room, every student must bring a personal choice reading book every day or borrow from the classroom library. I have kids who are far below grade level, keep Nate the Great as well as Steinbeck and Tolstoy handy. Some of my students have never read a book before, and where I teach, they may not get them at home. They still love teacher read-alouds at this age, or try an audiobook, preferably with class copies so they can follow. Choose wisely; once they realize books are interesting, you will have hooked them.

    Above all, design an interesting, relevant lesson every day, connect it to their lives outside the classroom, and make it fun. When we talk about product advertising, I use iPod, ProActiv, Jansen backpacks, and Nike athletic shoe advertising for examples. When we talk about genres, I use the La Llorona legend and La Cenicienta fairy tale, as my students are mostly of Hispanic culture. They love games, have one side of the classroom ask questions, the other side answer, keep score on the board. Stacks of busywork worksheets will alienate them instantly and forever.
     
  17. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jul 8, 2012

    I agree with everything everyone else said so far.
    Authority: You must establish your authority on the first day and work very hard, to keep it. This means clearly setting up expectations, consequences, rewards and routines, and then consistently enforcing them 100 % of the time. This is key. If you stick to this, a lot of potential problems will be eliminated.

    To establish your authority, you must be strong. Kids, especially at this age will size you up under a minute and decide if you are weak or strong. If you're weak, they'll walk all over you, won't respect you, you'll have a hard time. If you are strong, they will respect you. If you are strong and they like you, they'll respect you and will do anything for you.

    Weak:
    - too nice
    - gives second or third chances
    - unsure of self
    - not consistent with following through, inconsistent with praise / punishment. Does not always keep promises.
    - Lets go of small issues in fear of retaliation, makes deals with kids (pleads, 2nd chance, etc).
    - Can lose control of the kids easily.
    - Wants to be liked, acts more like an equal or a friend.

    Strong:
    - does not focus on being nice, establishes and enforces authority
    - does not give chances, means what he/she says and says what he/she means
    -walks and talks with confidence, speaks with intent, makes and can hold eye contact.
    - Follows through everything, even if they're small issues. (i.e. no talking means absolutely no talking, etc). Keeps promises. Always fair.
    - Never lets the classroom go out of control
    - the focus is not to be liked, acts as an authority, as a teacher, and always makes sure the kids don't see him / her as a friend or ally.

    Now the kids can like a weak person and dislike a strong person. If they like the weak one, it's because they can goof around and feel that they're in control. It doesn't mean they they'll listen, or that they will learn as well as they could.
    They may not like a strong person, but will respect him/her, and will learn. It won't be their favorite class, but the work will get done and they will learn.
    To be a strong teacher and to be liked takes a few more characteristics, but in my opinion that can depend on the actual teacher. Making lessons exciting, interesting and relevant always helps of course. But as far as personality goes, it depends on you. You might have a good sense of humor, and can incorporate that and the kids will love it. Especially a woman can become a mother figure, a nurturer, but still keep the teacher persona, and the kids will love that. A man can develop a father figure (again, still keep the teacher status) and a lot of the kids will love him. He might be the only stable figure or role model in some of the kids' lives.
     
  18. Avalon

    Avalon Rookie

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    Jul 9, 2012

    I used a rock star theme last year, they liked it, but honestly, they mostly care that you have taken the time to decorate for them, anything colorful will do. I had a word wall, data wall, lots of anchor charts & posters, and space for every student to post their favorite work (grades on back) - great for morale & parents really checked them out on back to school night.

    Procedures I couldn't live without:

    Enter quietly and get to work immediately. Bellwork is on the board or on your desk.

    Backpack/purse - get out pencil, pen, reading book, journal, HW, etc. then CLOSE it and it must stay UNDER your desk till you are dismissed.

    Bathroom - ask me, sign out, leave hand sanitizer on your desk, take the hall pass, sign back in, use the sanitizer, pay the time back at lunch (double time after 2nd BR visit per semester). Do not go if pass is gone (only 1 pass, NOT boys & girls, you don't want a couple out together . . . ).

    Pencils - bring two sharpened pencils every day & extra lead or a handheld sharpener. No asking others for a loan. No pencil = use crappy golf pencil from the cup (detention if this becomes a habit - if they really need a pencil (hardship, non-supportive parents, etc.) give them one privately). I also have two loaner pens, no one leaves until they are returned every period.

    Everyone participates. No disrespect (self/others/teacher/property) & no insults.

    No Sharpies, rubber bands, cell phones/iPods, hoodies, food or drink. Water in recloseable plastic container ok.
     

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