Welcome to MiddleWeb's weekly e-newsletter, featuring web-based resources of interest to middle grades educators and others who support the success of young adolescents. Visit MiddleWeb.
Of Particular Interest
Black History in America:
Challenges and Triumphs 
With the start of African American History Month just days away, the Smithsonian provides a wide-ranging collection of resources to help your students understand the challenges faced by African Americans over several hundred years. Also go to the History & Culture section of Encyclopedia Smithsonian and select African American history under Topics (left margin). Clicking the search button returns 57 links to exhibitions on cultural and political history, including a site on Brown v. Board titled ‘Separate But Not Equal’. Elsewhere, a National Park Service interactive map reveals significant civil rights locations. At the Library of Congress Civil Rights Voices exhibit, students will find photos of civil rights advocates and read their words. The Census Bureau marks Black History Month with a current statistical profile of African Americans, including the fact that receipts from Black-owned U.S. businesses more than doubled between 2002 and 2007, to $135.7 billion.

from Stenhouse Publishers

Can the language teachers use change their students' lives? In Opening Minds Peter Johnston (author of the groundbreaking Choice Words) shows how words can shape students' learning, their sense of self, and their social, emotional, and moral development. Preview the entire book.


Raise Your Hands, Please
Recent research finds that middle class students as young as third grade are more successful in getting questions answered than working class students. Perhaps not a surprise. This Chicago Tribune article goes beyond the findings to suggest how kids can develop skills to get the help they need. For more on a related topic, read about Six Steps to Help Students Ask Better Questions. "When students know how to ask their own questions, they take greater ownership of their learning."

Reviving Independent Reading 
By late December, students grumbled that they couldn't find any books for independent reading. So Scholastic blogger Alycia Zimmerman re-launched Readers Workshop in her upper elementary classes to recapture the September excitement. She's reorganized her classroom library with student help (and in the process learned more about what they like to read). A last-chance basket & student-led book talks have helped spur interest. To increase choices on a tight budget, Alycia suggests swapping books with another teacher.

A New View of Dark Matter 
Researchers have released the biggest images yet detailing dark matter, the mysterious substance that some scientists theorize makes up 85% of the Universe's mass. The sheer awesomeness of seeing ten million galaxies will likely catch students’ attention (try this National Geographic page if you'd like some help putting galaxies in perspective). A related BBC story offers links to background information and its own videos. For an astronomer’s dark matter Q&A session with students, visit this NOVA site.

Build Support for PD
Learning Forward outlines best practices for building community support for PD as budgets face ongoing cuts. Helping business and community leaders understand the link between teachers’ skills and students’ learning can grow allies in your district. The Ed Week post links to a detailed guide by Hayes Mizell. ALSO: You can maximize the PD time you have by promoting effective collaboration among teachers. You'll find a decade's worth of ideas about revving up adult learning in these columns and articles by Robert J. Garmston (at the Learning Forward website). 

Research w/o Wikipedia
Looks like most of us survived last week’s Day without Wikipedia. Whether you view the site as the fount of knowledge or the well of constant errors (or both), you can share other options with your students. Edutopia blogger Mary Beth Hertz tell how she guides her 3rd through 7th graders along the research learning curveShe also recommends several other resources, including Sweet Search, a free search engine designed especially for students that limits itself to 35,000 credible sites vetted by educators (there's also a fee-based research tutorial).   PLUS: For upper middle grades research, from using books to accessing websites, peruse the Sayre School guide.


Pose a (Math) Problem, Get an Answer  

WebMath may be just what your math students need for help with homework or computer enhanced classwork. With topics arranged under general math and K-8 math as well as other levels, this Discovery Education site gives real-time solutions to problems typed in by students. And not just answers, but also explanations.

Lights! Camera! Learn!
You can take a detailed look at film thanks to media literacy educator and NCTE consultant Frank Baker's new website. ‘The Language of Film' is designed to introduce the teacher and student to the tools and techniques filmmakers use in their work. Though many of the helpfully arranged resources target high schoolers, you’ll find lessons plans on popular films, entertaining activities with special effects, and more for younger students ..


Quick Links

Didn't find quite what you need? Here's a quick look at some other resources of interest.

The legacy of children’s author/illustrator Ezra Jack Keats continues through his foundation’s minigrant program. Apply by March 15. 

Get ready for Presidents Day. Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library for easy-to-use articles and quotations.

Are you and your students holding tablets & smartphones in healthy ways? Find out from Lifehacker.

Everything you could want to know about 2011’s most overused words (and some underused ones) is here, thanks to Internet Scout.

Education Week offers an overview of new findings on the essential skills of principals.

ASCD blogger Brad Kuntz suggests ways to increase kids’ self-esteem by building personal relationships with students.

Check out last time's newsletter here

January 27, 2012 (440)

Welcome to MiddleWeb's Middle Level Resources

If you find our Grades 4-8 resources useful, we hope you'll share this newsletter with interested friends & colleagues. And email us with suggestions for content you'd like to see!

Your Editors
Susan B. Curtis
John C. Norton

In this issue:

Black History in America: Challenges & Triumphs

Stenhouse: Opening Student Minds

Raise Your Hands, Please

Reviving Independent Reading

A New View of Dark Matter

Build Support for PD

Research w/o Wikipedia

Pose a (Math) Problem, Get an Answer 

Lights! Camera! Learn! 

Quick Links: A few words about some great resources

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