New to middle school - need ELA advice

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by bookmad, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. bookmad

    bookmad New Member

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    Jul 1, 2015

    Hello! I am just starting my first job as a teacher. I will be teaching ELA for grades 6-8 in a small school (class sizes about 15-20 students). I am looking for advice on what to teach, as I have very few guidelines. What texts are good or interesting to the students? What resources do you use? Anything you can share would be greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. platypusok

    platypusok Companion

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    Jul 1, 2015

    Is your class just writing/grammar or is it everything. I teach everything in one class period although some lucky schools near me have a literature class and a separate writing/grammar class.

    1st semester we work on short stories. We have the Holt textbook. I really like them for high school. I'm not crazy about the 7th or 8th grade book.

    I introduce a concept: characterization, conflict, etc (I'm going to do interactive notebooks this year so my 8th graders will be my guinea pigs). Then we read a short story.

    Short stories that my kids have responded well to are
    Flowers for Algernon
    The Landlady
    The Monkey's Paw
    The Third Wish
    The Tell-Tale Heart
    There Will Come Soft Rains
    Cremation of Sam McGee (poem).

    As you can see, they enjoyed the ones that were a bit more morbid.

    I'm looking for a few new ones to throw in this year.

    We read, we discuss, we write, we write, we write. Sometimes, formal essays but more often we just write nicely developed paragraphs like they have to answer the following-How does Poe characterize the main character in the Tell-Tale Heart? Explain. (not a great prompt, I would clean that up).

    Sometimes, we write creative stories. A couple of my students had one character they wrote about all year long.

    Test prep. Last year, I decided to do test prep every other week and I decided to do it they same way I do with my AP Lit students. They get a passage with questions and they read and answer on their own. Then they get into groups and the group has to come up with one answer-everyone in the group has to agree to the answer. And then there is a competition among the groups. I ask the question, each group has cards with letters on them, each group holds up their answer, the group with the most correct wins.

    This works well because 1-it's a competition and they all want to win. And all they win (aside from knowledge) is a candy bar or bonus points. And 2-while they are in their groups, they really do discuss their reasonings-I think it's b because it says this in the story.

    I let kids pick their own groups and the first time I did this, a group of lower performing boys wanted to be in a group. And they ended up winning. This group had the most discussion over their answers.
     
  4. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Jul 1, 2015

    Does Washington have any kind of state assessment for ELA in the middle school years? If so, make sure you know those standards inside and out, and make sure you are covering all of them as frequently as possible! Also check if your district/school does any kind of benchmark testing, the dates for those assessments, and see if there is a blueprint for them.

    (Our middle school ELA departments run reading/writing workshops for their curriculum.)
     
  5. bookmad

    bookmad New Member

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    Jul 2, 2015

    platypusok,

    My class is an everything class. We do not have class textbooks.

    There is a really great episode of The Simpsons for The Monkey's Paw, and also for The Tell-Tale Heart. I also have found that students enjoy the morbid things, especially in poetry.

    Thank you for the suggestions! You might try The Aparation of Mrs. Veal, and The Bleeding Nun. I have a book from a class I took in college with a bunch of stories in it that were both short and good. If I can find it I will post the titles, but I remember those two.

    I like your idea of weekly test prep.
     
  6. OUOhYeah

    OUOhYeah Comrade

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    Jul 3, 2015

    For my 5th-6th grade class, we will be reading the story, "The Neverending Story" and talking about plot. I will then have the students be working on a Journal called "The Neverending Story", where they will write their own stories down. The concept is for them to realize that we all have stories to tell, and they are all different. They will present these to me and the class (just a few of them) and be allowed to decorate this notebook with symbols. We will take a test at the end of the book. Then, we will watch the movie and do a compare/contrast with the book and the movie.
     
  7. Maryhf

    Maryhf Connoisseur

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    Jul 5, 2015

    In my school, the ELA teachers in 7th and 8th grades integrate American history with many assignments. I know one of the readings is The Diary of Anne Frank. It might be interesting to some cross curricular readings.
     
  8. ajmteach

    ajmteach Rookie

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    Jul 11, 2015

    Your situation sounds very similar to mine: I'm the only ELA teacher for grades 7 & 8 in my school. This will be my second year teaching there.
    Collaborating with the Social Studies teacher and aligning your texts to their curriculum is a great idea, and gives the texts deeper meaning for the students.
    One thing I noticed last year that was so funny to me: the 7th graders LOVE to read plays aloud. The 8th graders would rather not. They are only one mere year apart, yet the differences are profound. The 7th graders read two plays out loud in class (one in the textbook, a short play called "Wrong Number" which was very interesting to discuss because it mentioned rotary phones and operators. Lots of fun discussions!) Then we read "The Miracle Worker" about Helen Keller. They LOVED it! Again, so much to discuss culturally, historically, socially. Even the shy students wanted a part. It was a wonderful way to get those students who don't participate as readily to be a part of the class.
    My 7th graders also read "The Giver" which they enjoyed immensely. That unit was culminated with a choice of one of 14 projects: very hands-on stuff like creating a board game or a movie poster. They knocked it out of the park.

    I read The Outsiders with the 8th graders this year. They ate it up. There was a lot of journaling and discussing. We culminated with a polished essay on one of 14 questions. Then they did a research paper on The Dangers of.... (I chose ten vices found in The Outsiders and let them choose one). It was a great way to send them off to high school (stay safe, kids! Don't join a gang or smoke!)
    Have fun!
     
  9. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Jul 11, 2015

    Things I've done that junior high kids liked:
    The Outsiders
    Hunger Games
    Diary of Anne Frank
    Boy in the Striped Pajamas
    Mississippi Trial, 1955
    Warriors Don't Cry
     
  10. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jul 11, 2015

    I love The Giver and The Outsiders for middle school. I like To Kill a Mockingbird, also. I work 1 on 1 with students with online curricula so I get to see quite a variety of assignments. One 7th grader had to read Holes and Surviving the Applewhites then compare the main characters and their evolutions. All my middle schoolers read the Diary of Anne Frank. One read various horror/suspense stories (Poe, Stephen King, Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and then wrote an original suspense story. Another student had to write a sequel to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and a prequel to something else. One read a script for a stage play and then had to write her own.

    I would say that you should get your students writing from the first day of class and every day thereafter. All forms of writing. Sometimes students had lots of writing in social studies and English, so you might want to see if that happens at your school and maybe coordinate.
     
  11. bookmad

    bookmad New Member

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    Jul 28, 2015

    Try these short stories:
    Daniel Defoe (The Apparation of Mrs. Veal)
    Mary Shelly (On Ghosts)
    M. Lewis (The Bleeding Nun) from the monk
    Dickens (No. 1 Branch Line, The Signalman)
    Elizabeth Bowen (The Demon Lover & The cat jumps)


     
  12. bookmad

    bookmad New Member

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    Jul 28, 2015

    By the way, thanks everyone for the advice!
     

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