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When I Call Your Name … Encouraging Students to Do Their Homework

The element of surprise can go a long way in the classroom. “We had homework?” I cringed every time I heard that question as students entered my classroom that first year. Even today, I view homework as a somewhat controversial topic: Is it beneficial? Do students understand the purpose of homework? Is there value in

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Understanding Assessment Changes Everything

A commitment to understanding assessment for learning changed this school’s culture. Much of today’s conversations around assessment include discussions about standards-based grading. Missing from this dialogue have been anecdotes about schools that have successfully made the transition from “traditional” grading to something different. Rock Quarry Middle School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, did just that. Last year,

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Transporting Historical Figures from Past to Present

Perspective-writing activities bring “a bunch of dead guys” to life. To young adolescents, historical figures are a bunch of dead guys. Many students believe the issues, values, and perspectives of the people from the past hold no relevance to their lives in the 21st century. However, perspective-writing activities in the middle school social studies classroom

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PG-13 and Then Some!

How are middle grades educators supposed to act outside school? As a middle level educator (since prehistoric times), I am sometimes immune to the many behaviors, antics, and attitudes of early adolescents—those behaviors often interpreted by others as inappropriate, disrespectful, and unsuitable for public consumption. Imagine that! So after a recent outing to the local

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What do we need to hear from our teachers right now? A conversation with the National Teacher of the Year Finalists

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) recently announced the four exemplary educators from across the country named finalists for the 2022 National Teacher of the Year. Among them are: Autumn Rivera, the 2022 Colorado Teacher of the Year, is a sixth-grade science teacher who encourages students to make a difference now, rather than

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Post-Pandemic Preparation: Reimagining Middle School Partnerships

COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges but also served as a catalyst to rethink important aspects of our schools. One area where I see a big opportunity is to reimage middle school culture. AMLE’s landmark position paper The Successful Middle School: This We Believe highlights the importance of engaging families as valued partners and collaborating with community

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