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How to Teach Tweens & Young Teens

The first few weeks in the middle grades classroom can be all too real — even a little surreal at times. That's especially true for new teachers and those just beginning to teach at the middle level. 
Need a little aid or comfort? Try these resources.
If some reassuring words are in order, you can start to feel at home with Cindi Rigsbee’s Welcome to Teaching essay, written just for new folks coming into the profession. Rigsbee, a middle grades educator and finalist for National Teacher of the Year, looks back to her own beginnings, recognizes the huge shifts now under way, and welcomes you into the great community of teachers.

Whether you’ve hit every learning objective so far – or find yourself already revising well laid plans – now is probably a good time to visit our New Teacher 911 Resource Roundup. You'll find veteran educators sharing ideas for bringing your classroom community together, working with parents, and conquering the curriculum.

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"A treasure for any new middle school teacher, be they novice or level-jumping veteran"
(Teacher Leaders Network). In Day One and Beyond, Rick Wormeli gives you the lowdown on what to do on the first day and first week, discipline, classroom layout, grouping, teaming, parents, homework, grading, substitute-teacher plans, and more. Click here to preview Chapter 1!

In a new MiddleWeb article, TweenTeacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron lays out what works for her and her students as they learn about each other and how their new community will function.

And don’t miss the archived recording of our free 90-minute webinar for new teachers featuring Wolpert-Gawron and two other middle grades teaching experts, Elizabeth Stein and Rick Wormeli. Read some background about the webinar then launch into the session via Blackboard Collaborate.  
Our MiddleWeb classic, Newbies: A Week with Rick (Wormeli), presents the transcript of a lively five-day listserv conversation among Wormeli, veteran middle school educators and novice teachers. The advice (from 2003) is still fresh, friendly and applicable in 2013.

More first-year help
How do we help middle grades students feel part of an engaging learning community? Teacher educator Amanda Wall looks at the challenges adolescent kids face being part of their group, and she shares some ideas about creating a sense of belonging. 
In The Power of Teachers’ Words, teacher-author Debbie Silver (Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight) explains why some comments blunt students’ learning while other feedback  can build students’ sense of  agency.
In the Wrong Side of the Tracks, veteran teacher and Ed Week blogger Nancy Flanagan recalls how students who were written off came together and succeeded in class when they were provided some of the same pedagogy often reserved for gifted students.
Part of building community in classrooms is working with challenging students. In Who Are You to Tell Me What to Do, middle grades coach Elena Aguilar tells what happened when she returned to a lead teaching role for a week. She describes her step-by-step attempts to develop a relationship with Jefferson, a disruptive student, in the midst of a packed classroom that reminds her of how hard the work of teaching can be.
In offering Three Steps to Improved Behavior, Rich Allen and Jenn Currie draw on brain studies to suggest strategies that may seem counter intuitive at first. Read on to see how changing your expectations can lead to successful learning in your classroom. 
Ideas to improve your craft
MiddleWeb’s collection of book reviews can introduce you to insightful ideas about classroom management, student empowerment and content-specific pedagogy. This in-depth review of a comprehensive first-year teacher survival guide is a good example.
For a quick infusion of helpful ideas and good humor, read Kevin Hodgson’s upbeat appraisal of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, written by Florida educator Roxanna Elden, known for her plain talk about the real life of teachers.
Another inspirational book to browse now and keep nearby is Teaching Matters (2nd Edition): How to Keep Your Passion and Thrive in Today’s Classroom by Todd Whitaker and Beth Whitaker. You can read Linda Biondi’s review here.
Finally, we recommend this review at the TLN Teacher Voices site, where teacher Elizabeth Stein describes how two Rick Wormeli books – Meet Me in the Middle and Day One and Beyond – helped her several years ago as she made the move from elementary to middle school and found a need for his "real-world perspective and friendly writing style."
Have a great year! And write us at to let us know how we can help.
Susan Curtis & John Norton
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