Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ten Great Sites Every Middle Educator Should Know!

Major sites, and smaller teacher-created sites too ... they're all here -- ten sites that every middle level educator should know about and explore! These sites represent some of the best resources the Web has to offer, a virtual survival kit for middle level educators. (Are there others we should know about? This week, Education World offers a special message board so teachers can share sites that might not appear on our list.) Join us as we briefly explore ten great sites. (From Education

Click Here to Read the Entire Article:

Click Here to Find More Useful Sites:

What other sites should
Middle School Educators Know About?
Please share them in the comment section.

Are You Helping or Hurting Your Teen?

Well-meaning parents bent on improving their child's social life can unwittingly sabotage it instead. Take this quiz to see if you recognize when you are -- and when you are not -- acting in your child's best interests. If you are less helpful than you should be, you'll learn how to become more of an asset.

Click Here to Take the Quiz Parent Soup

What do you think of this quiz?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Communication, Communication, Communication!

In real estate, there are three words that really matter...location, location, location! In school leadership, the three important words are communication, communication and COMMUNICATION!

Here are some Communication maxims that highlight some of the rules of the game:

  • People techniques (relationships) beat paper just about every time.
  • Healthy, respected relationships are critical to communication.
  • Perception is reality. (The objective is to make them the same.)
  • First graders like surprises; your superintendent doesn't.
  • An invitation to everyone is an invitation to no one.
  • The best way to eat crow is fast.
  • People support what they help create.
  • It is more important to reach the people who count than to count the people you reach.
  • If you believe your comments are being taken out of context, maybe you are failing to provide one.
  • If behavior gets us into trouble, words are not going to get us out of it.
  • You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can never fool the kids.
  • When you create a communication void, your critics will surely fill it and flaunt it.
  • Rumors spread like a prairie fire and they have an annoying capacity to be seen as credible when bona-fide leadership communication is missing. Don't create those voids.

Principals are the main creators of a culture of communication in their schools. Good, two-way communication becomes the standard when principals serve as role models, provide resources and training, and hold staff members accountable for their communication efforts and results.

- Excerpt from NSPRA's Making Parent Communication Effective and Easy

Are there any that should be added? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2000 and Looking for a South American & Antarctica Connection

Dear Readers,

I am thrilled to be approaching the milestone of "2000 hits" on my first blog. When I started my adventure in blogging this past summer, I wasn't sure if anyone would actually find this site and whether or not I would actually have enough content to write about. I am happy to report that I have received more hits than I had ever imagined and the ideas for entries keep coming to me. I want to thank everyone who is a regular reader of my blog and especially to the people who have left comments and signed my guest book. It is very exciting to receive messages from my readers. I have to say, this has been a great learning experience for me and I am committed to continuing to improve this blog in the future.

A simple request...

As I analyze my current "hits" to Lessons Learned in the Middle I am very happy to report that I have had people view my blog from 5 out of the 7 continents here on Earth. This fact blows my mind. I even have one hit from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (I am hoping this person was either in a jet or boat! ; )). However, despite the various visits to my blog from around the world, I have not had a "hit" from South America or Antarctica. Consequently, I am requesting that if anyone out there has a connection to someone in South America or Antarctica would you PLEASE send them my URL and ask them connect to my blog. I am looking forward to the day when I can proclaim that I have made it around the world...or at least my blog has!

The red dots indicate where my blog has been accessed. The larger the red dot the
more hits from that area.

Once again, thanks for reading Lessons Learned in the Middle...your comments, thoughts and advice are always appreciated.


Quotes for the day...

“Education is

the transmission

of civilization.”

Ariel & Will Durant

“Who dares

to teach must never cease

to learn.”

John Cotton Dana

“That is what learning is.

You suddenly understand

something you’ve understood

all your life, but in a new way.”

Doris Lessing

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Are the Reading Skills Middle Schoolers Should Be Mastering?

Enhancing Comprehension: Reading Skills in Middle School
Look for these signs of progress in your ever more sophisticated and independent reader.

By Marie Faust Evitt

Middle school is the time your child develops the sophisticated reading skills that allow him to analyze literature and master the content of the entire curriculum — social studies, science, math, health, and foreign languages. Reading becomes a powerful tool to find information, make sense of complex material, and find enjoyment in literature and popular media.

"Reading instruction is heavily frontloaded in the early years," says North Carolina State University reading professor Barbara Fox. "By middle school, all the hard work pays off and children should have the skills in place to be able to use reading for study and pleasure."

Middle-school instruction therefore focuses on refining and strengthening existing skills. Key components are:

Strategic reading




Writing skills

Strategic reading: Your child needs to learn how and when to skim and when to study thoroughly. She doesn't have to read an entire book about space exploration if she only wants to find the date of the first lunar landing.

Likewise, she has to develop different reading strategies for mastering the content in her U.S. history textbook, analyzing Lord of the Flies, or breezing through Sports Illustrated. And she needs to know which words are the most important for understanding the meaning of what she's reading.

Reading milestones:
* Reading with a purpose, knowing when it's important to understand every detail and when she can read quickly for pure enjoyment
* Reading selectively, scanning chapter headings and introductory sentences to find necessary information
* Skimming a chapter in a textbook to form an overall impression — what is the topic? Is it familiar?
* Checking the table of contents and index to determine if a book is relevant to a topic
* Determining when it is important to stop and figure out the meaning of a word she doesn't know, and when it's okay to keep reading

Comprehension: Grappling with the deeper meaning of a text will strengthen understanding. Good readers are continually questioning themselves.

Reading milestones:
* Getting below the surface of facts on the page and evaluate critically
* Drawing conclusions about why certain things happened
* Considering cause and effect
* Connecting new information to other knowledge and personal experience
* Understanding point of view
* Reading actively, asking himself, "What do I already know about this topic?" "What do I need to learn?"

Vocabulary: One of the key differences between a good reader and a poor reader is vocabulary, says reading expert Louisa C. Moats, co-author of Straight Talk About Reading. Poor readers often have "heard of" a word but lack depth, breadth or specificity in word knowledge. For example, Moats says, one student defined "designated" as "sober" from the association with the term "designated driver."

Effective vocabulary study involves more than memorizing definitions. Claire Koukoutsakis was impressed when her son Nicholas's teacher assigned his eighth-grade class to use spelling and vocabulary words in group skits. "I thought it was a cool way to really learn those words and make them stick," she says. And the kids enjoyed it, too.

Reading milestones:
* Using new words correctly in her writing
* Using knowledge of prefixes, suffixes, and base words to expand her vocabulary
* Mastering the vocabulary of different content areas

Speed: Poor readers are usually slow even after they become accurate. To build speed, your child needs to read a lot of text at a level that is easy for him to comprehend.

Reading milestones:
* Reading for pleasure
* Getting hooked on books by the same author
* Reading fast enough to do homework in a reasonable amount of time

Writing skills: Written responses to reading can greatly enhance comprehension. Writing improves when your child practices answering specific questions and researching new topics.

* Linking sentences into organized paragraphs
* Writing clear, coherent, and focused essays including formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions

Monday, April 13, 2009

Paper Airplane...A lesson for flying OUTSIDE the Box!

A thought for the day...

Too many people
what they are not

what they are.

Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990)
publisher of Forbes magazine

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Act As IF...


March 21, 2009



On March 14, 1998, I sat in a dark hotel room with both hands over my mouth to prevent my yelps from waking my teammate in the next bed.

A 6-foot-4 sophomore center at North Carolina, I was transfixed by the N.C.A.A. tournament game lighting up before me, a game that would persuade me to give up my full scholarship, million-dollar locker room, teammates who could dunk and fancy Nike luggage.

Sixteenth-seeded Harvard, a bunch of basketball nobodies, was battling top-ranked Stanford at raucous Maples Pavilion -- and winning.

A veritable banner-making machine, Stanford had produced more N.C.A.A. championships in women’s sports than any other college. It was a surreal and sanguine affair: the Crimson versus the Cardinal. David versus Goliath. Revenge of the Nerds.

No Ivy League women’s team had ever won a game in an N.C.A.A. tournament, and Stanford, though missing two key players to injury, was one of the strongest programs of the decade, having won the national title twice and owning a 59-game home winning streak dating to the 1993-94 season. In her spare time, Stanford’s coach, Tara VanDerveer, had led the 1996 United States team to an Olympic gold medal. She couldn’t have expected much competition from a college known for its SATs, not M.V.P.’s.

“Welcome to real basketball,” an event worker coolly offered the Cambridge women as they stepped onto the court after their cross-country flight. Meanwhile, the news media talked about them like smart little hors d’oeuvres: pigs in a blanket to the slaughter, brainiac bruschetta to whet Stanford’s appetite for the meal to come.

Yet, the Harvard women summoned the performance of their lives, including a 35-point exhibition by the all-American Allison Feaster. Miraculously leading by a point with 1 minute 32 seconds to play, they secured the win with a 3-pointer from a lanky, unassuming future E.R. physician named Suzie Miller, who wore her hair in double braids.

Stanford looked too shocked to be ashamed. With my television muted, the court erupted in silent pandemonium as I jumped up and down on the bed, waking my roommate after all.

The mastermind behind this astonishing victory -- the only time a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed in the men’s or women’s N.C.A.A. tournament -- was a scrappy blue-collar Boston kid turned coaching icon named Kathy Delaney-Smith.

Wanting to learn from someone who could pull off this kind of magic, I transferred to play for her the next year, and she told me her secret. Any decent athlete, salesman or Starbucks barista can put on a good game face. But her philosophy, “act as if,” goes much deeper than mere swagger or theatrics. It’s a method -- a learned skill for convincing your mind that you already are what you want to become. The body follows where the mind leads.

“Act as if you’re a great shooter,” she would instruct. “Act as if you love the drill. Act as if when you hit the deck it doesn’t hurt.” Negativity, even in the form of body language, was not tolerated.

What the overly analytical Harvard players might have lacked in comparative speed or vertical jumping ability against Stanford, they made up with their power of belief.

Humor, second only to athleticism, is Kathy’s social currency. She tells recruits with a touch of local sarcasm and a devilish laugh, “What, you need a hard sell? -- it’s Hahvahd!”

In 1969 she picked up the whistle as a favor to a friend. A former synchronized swimmer who hadn’t had the opportunity to play competitive basketball, she was clueless but determined to do a good job faking it. She figured out drills as she ran them, read every sports psychology book available, and went undefeated in her first six years as a high school coach.

“I started out fooling a lot of people,” she said. But the farce became the truth -- she won more games than any other women’s basketball coach in the Ivy League and emerged as one of the longest-tenured coaches in the country. Positive thinking is hardly a revolutionary notion in sports, but her brand has been so compelling because of the authentic and irreverent way she lives it.

Along with scouting reports, wind sprints and endless shooting drills, Kathy methodically conditioned our heads. The regimen included regular meditation sessions in the locker room where we visualized bigger, stronger players in hostile arenas.

My senior year didn’t go how either of us planned. Kathy was fighting breast cancer and I had blown out my knee. We both had surgery. Feeling like a failure, I captained the team from the bench, far from the star player I was supposed to have been.

But I watched Kathy show up exhausted for practice every day, in pain and in a wig, bravely embodying her own mantra like never before. Pretending to be fearless. So I just tried to be like her. We didn’t win the league that year; there was no shot at the tournament. But we both got better.

Eleven years after Stanford, I asked Kathy what happened after the buzzer sounded. She was approached for a postgame interview. Before the camera started rolling, she whispered to the commentator Ann Meyers and asked her not to let her say anything stupid. “I’d never been on national TV,” she confided. “I was desperately acting as if.”

Melissa Johnson is an online director for BBC Worldwide America and an independent filmmaker. Her short documentary “Act as If” will be playing next month in the Boston International Film Festival.

Thanks Dr. Gilbert for the story!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Motivational Speaker Touches a Nerve!

This past Friday, Howard High School invited ELMS 8th graders to come to their auditorium to see John Morello, a motivational speaker, who has created a one-man theatrical production to heighten students awareness of the drug problem facing our country.

According to Morello, "This is a rather serious one man show I wrote in response to things that have occured in my life. Not fully stand-up. Not fully drama. Not really an assembly. Not really a motivational speaker. But a little bit of all those things. A strange hybrid and fusion that works for all ages."

During the assembly on Friday, Morello took all of the assembly participants on a journey following the lives of various people impacted by the main character's drug addiction. The talent of Morello was evident as he skillfully played various characters on stage. He touched a nerve in each audience member as he revealed their inner voices and feelings. By the end of the show, John shares that all of the characters were based on people in his own life and that he, too had been impacted by a person who had become addicted to drugs. His own brother died of a drug overdose.

I want to thank Howard High School for providing this powerful educational experience for our 8th graders. I especially want to thank Ms. Massella, the Principal of Howard High and Mr. Levy, the Assistant Principal of Howard High for working with us to make this happen.

If you are interested in finding out more about John Morello and his show, click on the link below.