We asked some middle and high school teachers to reflect back on the past school year and talk about their goals for the upcoming year. What was a home run? What could use a little fine-tuning? Here are their insightful responses:

In the ELA Classroom…

Sentence Combining Bell Ringers for Secondary English {Volume 1}“I cannot emphasize how important it is to have a routine in a secondary classroom,” says The Daring English Teacher. “One thing I do that works exceptionally well in my high school English classroom is start every single class with a bell ringer. My students know that when they walk through the door, they need to get out their notebooks, look on the overhead, and begin writing. To keep track of the bell ringers, I use this bell ringer activity log, which is a freebie in my store. I particularly like using Sentence Combining Bell Ringers for Secondary English {Volume 1} because it forces my students to really focus on syntax.”

Literary Sherri says, “Starting every class with a 10-minute Quick Write works beautifully for my students! I provide them with a choice of two writing prompts specific to the season or the date and give them a few minutes to craft a response to one or both prompts. This gives them time to get settled and be productive while I take care of housekeeping items, such as taking attendance, looking at notes from home, checking homework, etc. It also prompts students to think critically and be prepared to participate in the day’s activities. Here’s an example of one of my writing prompts.”

In the Math Classroom…

Fraction Operation Solve & Draw BUNDLE - All Operations“I’ve learned to not take anything personally and go with what is interesting to my students,” explains Mrs M’s Learning Resources. “Last year, my crew was all about anything zombie-related. This year, I had to switch gears because no one was interested in some of my most successful zombie lessons from last year. However, I have a ton of artists this year, ranging from doodlers to serious artists. Some liked the color-by-number options for our math reviews but for many, it didn’t allow enough creativity. So, they inspired my Solve & Draw line, particularly the Fractions activities and Decimals activities. These were created for struggling mathematicians in middle school.”

In the Science Classroom…

3-D Frog Anatomy Interactive Science Notebook Model for DissectionFrom Getting Nerdy With Mel and Gerdy: “As middle school teachers, we’re usually the first to introduce dissection to students. While many are eager to begin this adventure into exploring vertebrate and invertebrate anatomy, there are many who have lifestyles and varying religious beliefs that do not support the exploration of preserved specimen. To address this, we created virtual dissections in the form of 3-D paper models — we call them ‘Scienstructables’ — that allow all students to prepare for dissections in a new manner. Our Scienstructables mimic real dissections in almost every way, and for those students who are squeamish or just can’t dissect, the models fulfill a valuable ‘can’t-be-missed’ learning opportunity. Here’s our Scienstructables for two of the most commonly dissected specimen in Middle School: the earthworm and the frog.

Science Stuff says, “I started using a modified form of interactive notebooks this past year (modified meaning that no cutting, gluing or folding is required). In the first 5-10 minutes of class, I had my students do a warm up/interactive notebook page and required that they keep a complete and up-to-date notebook of each day’s activities. The first few minutes of class can be a little chaotic as students are entering, talking, etc. Requiring that students have these pages finished in about 10 minutes completely changed the tone of the first part of my class.  Students now enter and get immediately to work. I found that the interactive notebook pages were perfect for review and reinforcement, and that retention of the content material vastly increased. The notebook ended up being absolutely perfect for studying for the semester exam. I will absolutely continue this next year. Here are a couple blog posts that have some pictures of the notebooks: Biology Interactive Notebooks and Biology Warm Ups and Bell Ringers: Great Classroom Management Tool.

In the Social Studies Classroom…

Obama, Clinton and BushFrom Social Studies Success: “I love to keep things moving and shaking in Social Studies! One strategy I used this year with great success was recreating museum exhibits for the kids to visit. Basically, I recreated the Holocaust Museum and the Presidential Libraries in my classroom. I used primary source images, quotes, and informational text to bring each of my exhibits to life. Students then had the opportunity to create gift shop souvenirs that represented what they learned. Everyone enjoyed learning the content in a different way. My recent blog post can be found here.

History in Focus says, “History Mystery Challenges have been a big hit with my middle schoolers. In addition to providing a motivational platform for independent research, many parents have shared that it’s provided great dinner table discussions between students, parents, and grandparents. This freebie in my store is one of the examples: History Mystery – Jackie Robinson. Other topics include people from the arts, science, space history, and the entertainment world.”

In the World Language Classroom…

Spanish Music Appreciation Station Activities“Exposing students to the culture is an important and fun part of the secondary foreign language classroom,” says Spanish Sundries. “It’s no secret that teenagers LOVE music, so I created these Spanish Music Appreciation Stations around my classroom.  Each station has the name of a song in Spanish and a QR code that students scan to listen to the song. They then complete one of several activities that focused on their opinions and perceptions of the song in Spanish. These were a lifesaver as I could use them when there was a sub, as a station activity, or for fast finishers. The activities are also differentiated so they worked with the varying fluency levels of my students. It was great to hear the kids chattering about the songs they heard and how excited they were. I definitely thought to myself, ‘Why didn’t I think of this before?'”

In the Life Skills Classroom…

Career Readiness - Cover Letter, Résumé, Job Application, and Mock Interview“We modified and amped up our Mock Interview product as part of our high school Life Skills class,” explains Apples and Bananas. “The students love this assignment — we always hear about how valuable it is and how they feel like they will ‘actually’ use what they’ve learned in the future. To prep for their interview, they create a cover letter and resume, and they fill out an application. In addition, they research the company and practice interview questions. On the day of the interview, they always seem surprised when we pretend to have never met them before and really get into character as interviewers. After the interview, we debrief on everything (handshake, eye contact, preparedness, documentation, etc.). Two weeks after our mock interview, one of our students landed her first job at a sandwich shop! It’s a project that we know they’ll remember well into the future. Here’s the complete resource: Career Readiness – Cover Letter, Résumé, Job Application, and Mock Interview.”

And a few fabulous responses from Facebook…

“I started letting my students work in partners for almost every activity. At first there was a lot of off-topic conversation, but as we all got the hang of it and I learned how to give better directions, they learned my expectations, etc. It’s really helped them grow as mathematicians. They’re really doing a great job of helping each other understand the topic more deeply, which I am THRILLED about!” – The Math Factory

“I showed Beauty and the Beast to my high school students and created homework questions and a teacher-led class discussion on bullying, gender roles, stereotyping etc. It was great!” – Vickie Stutzman

Instead of just letting the usual kids answer all the discussion questions while others sit back and disengage, I tried something new. Now, every time I ask a thinking question, I have students do a ‘turn and talk.’ They express their ideas to each other before the full class discussion. That way, everyone must participate and think!” – Room 213

“Using this TpT resource (it’s not mine!), I encouraged my kids to only speak French in class and proved to them that they could do it!” – Teaching FSL

“Instead of having students write down answers in their notebooks, I’ve been having them use small whiteboards. Students can then put up their whiteboards to show me their answer. A quick feedback head nod can do wonders in situations like these.” – Advanced Instruction Resources

“Book Talks. Small groups of students sharing what they read and engaging in conversation… ABOUT BOOKS! Will definitely start this earlier next year.” – Carolyn Wahl 

Gallery walk! Can’t believe I’ve never tried this before. I made up seven simple but open-ended questions about our novel, posted them on giant sticky notes around my room, grouped my kids, and rotated them to a new question every few minutes. They came up with great thoughtful responses and only got a little off-topic. I will definitely do this again.” – Rachel McLaughlin

“Giving students feedback and grading everything they turn in can be tiring. I learned ‘praise, question, and polish’ where the students give feedback to each other (one thing they did well, one thing that is unclear, and one thing they should fix). It has saved me lots of time!” – Becca Hales Fanucci

“My students made movie trailers on their iPads about the Boston Tea Party or the Boston Massacre. We then had the ‘Oscars’ where students dressed up, walked the red carpet, and then voted on their favorites (who received mini ‘Oscar’ trophies). It was really cool!” – Sheila Howard

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