Small-group middle school instruction

Discussion in 'Behavior Management' started by MuggleBug, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. MuggleBug

    MuggleBug Companion

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    Oct 23, 2008

    I'm working as a reading tutor for a local middle school. I am doing a scripted reading program geared towards improving test scores (of course). Every lesson is written out word-for-word and I have to do 1/day. I can't deviate from the book. For the most part, though it gets terribly repetitious and mundane, my groups are fine. I have one group of seven 8th-graders though that give me a hard time every day. They are my first period group and by the time they leave, I'm totally drained and cranky for most of the rest of the morning (even though my 2 groups after them are the sweetest). I'm elementary and this is my first experience working with 7th and 8th graders so it's all new to me. Every morning this group comes in (mainly just three boys) and tells me how stupid the class is, that I treat them like babies (or the choice "R" word they love to throw around so much), that they feel stupid being in the class, etc. I can understand that the program IS babyish and I don't blame them for feeling that way. However, I, the reading specialist, and guidance have all explained to them numerous times WHY they're in the class but honestly, every morning it's like I just push play on a recording because the same comments come out of their mouth and don't stop for the whole period. I do give out rewards for good behavior but that has lost its effectiveness. On top of it, the whole chemistry of the group is awful. The kids don't get along with each other and we can't switch any of the kids with kids from the other class because there's always some sort of issue going on with this one or that one. My other 8th grade group is on a lower level than these kids so we can't even switch periods for some of them.

    I'm really at my wit's end with these kids. I feel like I've done everything I can, as far as going to guidance and administration and using the positive reinforcement. I feel like my hands are tied because I can't deviate from the scripted lessons. These kids DO need this reading. They wouldn't have been placed in the class if their test scores and screenings didn't reflect a need for improvement. But I've woken up every morning this week with a stress headache just thinking about dealing with this group. :(

    I need some advice from anyone who is willing to offer some!
     
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  3. Canadian Gal

    Canadian Gal Habitué

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    Oct 23, 2008

    While you can't deviate from the prepared lesson is there anyway that you can do some kind of engaging warm up activity? Something that would draw them in? Maybe start with a low level high interest novel that you read TO them at the start of class, and then get on with the lesson.

    It might also help if they know that you understand their feelings and that they have every right to feel that way, however, you guys are stuck with each other for the duration of the year, and its in everyone's best interests to make the best of it.

    I might try to give them a group goal for an upcoming exam, such as a average of ___%, and if they achieve it they will get a reward of some kind (larger then your regular awards).

    I don't know if you can do any of these things, but I wish you the best!
     
  4. MuggleBug

    MuggleBug Companion

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    Oct 24, 2008

    Yeah, I'm trying to find out if I can do some sort of reward - maybe a game day where they play Scrabble or other games like that. I don't even know if that will appeal to them. They're at the point where they're pretty apathetic about everything except who's dating who and their cell phones (seriously, WHY do 13-year-olds need cell phones?)
     
  5. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Oct 24, 2008

    Have you ever looked at Power Teaching? Some of the techniques in the Teaching Challenging Teenagers download might be useful. You might not be able to get them to go along with class/yes, but a scoreboard might work for you.
     
  6. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Oct 24, 2008

    We do a scripted program, but only once a week. Our reading periods are 2 hours and 15 minutes, so we have a lot of time. The lesson is supposed to take 45 minutes but usually takes an hour and a half because I teach special ed. When they get finished (more like if) we play a board game with either reading or thinking skills. They have to figure out the directions on their own- helps comprehension.

    Another thing you can try is behavior points. Make a maximum number of points they can get in a day. When they get X number of points, they get Y. Some ways kids can get points are bringing all their materials, staying positive, raising hand to speak, etc. If they break the rule even once they don't get the point.
     
  7. cmw

    cmw Groupie

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    Oct 24, 2008

    I agree with using the scoreboard game from Power Teaching. The class earns points for gametime at the end of each class.

    I would go nuts in your situation. If the students hate the program than will it really do its job? I have a lot of freedom with my lessons. If something doesn't work I change it or scrap it. SOme classe need different things. Students are not cookie cutters...it is not one fix fits all with them. (There are Gardner's 7!) I'm guessing there is no wa you can go to admin. with suggestions on improving it? Is there any way the students could take responsibility and write letters to the admin about the program being babyish. Could they respecyfully & thoughtfully give them feedback or suggestions? If the students are willing you are at least showing that you care about their opinion and are trying to help them. Good luck! :hugs:
     
  8. MuggleBug

    MuggleBug Companion

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    Oct 25, 2008

    Yeah...it's already built in to the program that they earn points for every lesson and then we provide a reward after every 5 lessons. We're going to try to see if we can do a game day reward or something but honestly, I don't even know if that will reel them in. I only have them for 50 minutes a day so sometimes it's difficult to get more in than what we're supposed to do.

    I asked the guidance counselor yesterday if she would come in one morning and just have a group talk or something with them. There's a lot of bad blood in the group because one of the girls made a nasty comment about another girl (who we switched into the other class to separate them) but now girl #2's friends are constantly badgering her about it. At first, girl #1 ignored them, which helped because then I could just deal with them, but now that girl #2 is out of the class, girl #1 is feeling a lot bolder and starting to say things back. It's getting a little out of control. I pinpointed 3 problem students for the guidance counselor, she picked the lesser of the evils and said "Oh, I'll have AP talk to him and straighten him out, if he gets into shape, the others will follow." But that's just not the case. He's BEEN spoken to about 5 times. It's like she thinks the others are hopeless and SHE'S tired of dealing with them, too. I just think a group counseling session would be beneficial. At this point they're all disgusted with me because I make them do this "baby reading." If she was there to moderate, it would help.

    Sorry to vent...I'm just very frustrated. There are underlying issues that need to be dealt with and I can't do it on my own. Giving these kids detentions and ISS like they seem to love to do are not effective in any way so I wish they would help me try another approach.
     
  9. smilingteacher

    smilingteacher Rookie

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    Oct 26, 2008

    8th grade is one of the most challenging grade levels to teach. I would suggest talking more with these 8th graders outside of class going to their school activites. I would ignore their comments about the material being for babies. If they find they get attention of any kind for saying something; they will say it, positivie or negative. I would also have no down time with these students where they dont have a chance to talk about the material. Can you seperate the students into different areas of the room? I have not been in your exact shoes, I know this is tough. You can do it! Be positive about everything. Do say it quietly to them. "Thanks for working." "Great job Jimmy on getting those problems done." "Thank you for listening to me, James." Ect. Even if there seated and quiet I would praise that. Can you call any of there parents? I hope these work.
     
  10. PowerTeacher

    PowerTeacher Comrade

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    Oct 26, 2008

    I think the class-yes from Power Teaching will work for you if you explain it to the kids.

    Are you doing the SRA program? The built in scoreboard game there is similar to that of Power Teaching though not so flexible.
     
  11. MuggleBug

    MuggleBug Companion

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    Oct 26, 2008

    Yes, that's the program we use. I do the student/teacher scoreboard but it hasn't been effective. I think it's tough with this particular group of kids because they think they're just too cool for everything and they play off of each other. Maybe this week I'll try putting them in teams, separating the fresh ones and see if they do better competing against each other.

    I'm beginning to think I don't have the patience to be a teacher, lol.
     

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