If you have the opportunity to work with incoming middle school students during a daily study hall of 45 minutes, how would you structure it?
Students would expect to be able to work on homework, but what else can you do? Here are three not-so-typical suggestions
First you can start each day with the appropriate daily song, to help them making small talk about expressing their feelings about the days of the week.
Second, you can hone in on the three most important skills for students to master as they transition from having one student in elementary to multiple teachers in middle school.
a. Open you book bags and take three minutes to put all of the papers handed out by teachers in their appropriate binder/folder. Frequently students are missing the social cues of class ending and so they shove their papers in their book bags. Everyone open up and put loose papers where they belong. If you could have a good three ring hole punch in the class, that could help a lot!
b. What is your school’s system for recording homework? Should they be writing it down in their agendas? Are your students not able to write it down as quickly as their peers and really don’t know what to do?
c. Can your students check online to see if they are missing any papers that were supposed to be handed in? Sometimes they miss the cue to hand in their papers and their teachers will be more understanding if they are handed in the same day. They have the papers, just didn’t catch the signal to hand them in.
Third, your students need to understand what their teachers are saying in English. We teachers don’t realize some of our mannerisms block good communication. When my Brazilian husband was in an advanced physics class at UNC-CH he thought that the native-Mandarin professor was talking about manufacturing. I sat in on the class and realized my husband could not process “as a matter of fact” with the thick Mandarin accent and so it interfered with learning. Is there anyway a volunteer could sit in on a teacher’s class and catch all of the little side lines that are used? It could even be one of the better students making a list, or the teacher agreeing to be recorded so that your students could listen to snips of class and see it written out and explained. I am not talking about the big concepts, rather the other utterances. Most likely teachers have a handful of pet phrases they use frequently but are not understood by your students. If you could help them to master this, their filters would lower, and I believe they would learn more.
After 5 minutes of skills and fifteen minutes of understanding their actual teachers, they start their homework. While step three isn’t typical, I believe it will pay be dividends for your students.
For more about the songs click here.