Seventh grade is a grade I managed to avoid in my 17 years of teaching. Believe it or not, I have taught every single grade except 7th grade.
When I first started teaching, I thought I only wanted to teach the little ones. I taught ABC’s and counting for a few years.
Then a move back to my hometown forced me to take a job at the middle school level and I found I liked that maybe a little more than the elementary.
For 17 years, I bounced around from elementary to middle to elementary to middle to high school and back to middle school.
I thought I found my place when I was involuntarily moved to the high school. It was the most challenging and the most rewarding job I’ve probably ever had.
Then, because I clearly like change, I moved to 8th grade and thought I could easily stay there forever. I spent 5 years in 8th grade, my longest stint in teaching.
How silly was I to think that!?
I was moved to 7th grade this year and I wanted to cry, “But I don’t like 7th graders!!”
For some reason, I had developed this unfair but very real fear/dislike for these awkward, hormonal preteens. I was always one to boast I had never taught 7th grade.
Well, let me say here, on the last day of my first year in 7th grade, I was wrong.
I love 7th graders.
Want to know why 7th grade trumps 8th grade?
I have seven reasons.
1. 7th graders still think you are funny. Hilarious even. 8th graders think you are lame.
2. 7th graders want to be the Teacher’s Pet and want to help you with everything. 8th graders want to be cool. (Teacher’s Pet = NOT cool)
3. 7th graders want you to like them. 8th graders couldn’t care less if you do.
4. 7th graders say “Hi” and acknowledge you in public, and then they talk about it the next day. 8th graders act like you are invisible.
5. 7th graders never forget funny moments. It could be months later and they keep an inside joke going and going and going…. “Zach Frost” was a joke that started in early winter. Even though it hasn’t snowed in months, it still comes up at least once a week.
6. 7th graders ask, “Can we have you again next year?” 8th graders rarely even say good-bye.
7. Whether it’s “officially changing your name to Fa-Delmo”, doing an Irish jig in study hall, or happily and willingly playing board games with the teacher for three periods on the last day of school, 7th graders just make me smile.
Finishing a book I am going to read with my class next year and wiping a tear from my eye, I say out loud (and wake the dog), “Ah, they are going to love this!”
Getting to the most exciting part of our novel and watching their faces light up when they realize the truth about the protagonist, I say to myself (so they don’t realize they’ve been fooled into learning), “Ah, this is why I love teaching.”
Looking at the calendar and realizing there’s only seven more days of school and one more Monday, I say to myself (because I need all the encouragement I can get), “Ah, I can do this.”
Making a Summer “To Do” list and purposely including things like read, relax, lay out, ride my bike, walk the dog, I say to the dog (who is, of course, begging to go on a walk), “Ah, Summer….”
Letting my boy be semi-responsible for his diabetes-care and sending him a friend’s house for five hours on a Friday night, I say to his sister (as we shop, eat, and talk in peace) “Ah, this is nice.”
Checking my boy’s blood sugar at 5 a.m. and getting a decent number, I say to myself (so I do not wake him), “Ah, I can sleep a few more hours.”
Waking up late on a Saturday morning to bright sunlight and stretching a good stretch, I say out loud (coming up with no other way to describe my sleep), “Ah, I slept hard.”
Waiting for the Keurig to finish, pouring in my Friendly Farms Vanilla Caramel creamer from Aldi’s’, and taking that first sip of coffee, I say out loud (to no one), “Ah, that’s good stuff.”
Looking at the sink full of dirty dishes and walking away to grab my laptop, I said “Ah, it can wait. I haven’t blogged in a while.”
As I looked in my mailbox at lunch today, I saw what appeared to be a “Please call Mrs. So-and-So” memo from the secretary.
My heart sank.
What now? Who did I give detention to? What did I forget? Whose grades are not where they should be?
The year is ending in 11 days and my sights are already set on next year: Year 2 in 7th grade. I just need a fresh start. A do-over, if you will.
This year was not a stellar year for me. New grade level, new content, new co-teachers, new administration….I just never felt like I was on top of things in a fabulous ‘Super Teacher’ sort of way.
However, the conversation turned out a little differently than I expected.
“I just wanted to thank you for working with R. this year and being so patient with him and so understanding about his needs. It’s no secret he hates school, but he told me last week that he doesn’t want this year to end.”
(Hmmmmm….What 7th grade boy says that??)
His mom continued, “I asked him why and he said, ‘Because Ms. K won’t be my teacher anymore.'”
I think I may have said something like, “Awwww…..I just love him!” I told his mom that I knew he’d do great next year in 8th grade and that he’d be in good hands. Truly, he gained a lot of confidence this year and really matured. I couldn’t be happier with his new and improved attitude and effort.
That was ALL she wanted to tell me.
I hung up with a smile on my face and a warm, happy heart.
And I skipped out of the office to face the rest of the day.
This whole year I felt like I hadn’t done enough.
Was I giving enough, teaching enough, learning enough, helping my kids grow enough??????
Right at a time when I really needed to hear it, when eleven days feels like ten too many, one simple phone call was exactly that – enough.
Teacher Appreciation Week has passed. End of the year gifts are nice and all. But trust me, in times like these, such a simple gesture means a lot.
I play board games all the time with my kids at home. We have at least two dozen board games in our downstairs closet alone. I always buy card games for their stockings. My step-mom who is a retired speech therapist buys my kids games every Christmas and on birthdays. To be honest, we did not own a video game system until this past Christmas when I finally broke down and bought a Wii.
I remember playing Uno with my Grandma P., Yahtzee with my Grandma R., and croquet with Grandpa R. (Ok, so it’s not a board game but it’s old school and he deserves credit). We always played games at my dad’s on Friday nights. (Kerplunk, Clue, and Pig Mania a.k.a. Pass the Pigs were a few favorites). I guess games continue to be a tradition in our family.
Right now, at home, my kids’ favorite game is Boggle. What teacher doesn’t love that?? When my 9-year-old son comes up with words like “value” and “peace” I am quite impressed. Just last night he asked if we would count “homophones.”
There isn’t much time for such fun at school, but today was our last full day of school. With no homework and all our assignments wrapped up, what could I do with my 1st period study hall? Seems like the perfect time for a board game!
I love to see how kids (8th graders) handle themselves in these situations.
Do they read the directions?
Can they take turns?
Do they use strategy?
Are they sore losers?
Many of my students don’t play board games at home with their families. In an age of video games and hectic schedules, this should not surprise me. And it really doesn’t. It just makes me a little sad.
Today we played Pictureka! Six of us gathered around a table and right away, based on a little apprehension and a few grumbles, I knew that they had never played this game before. By the end of the first round, we were laughing and having a great time. Everyone was bummed when the period ended.
Do I need to justify that this game can be educational? I don’t think anyone would actually question my choice on the last day of school in a study hall with with six 8th graders and all our work turned in. (At least I wasn’t showing a video or letting them run wild in the halls!?)
But just in case:
- This game is great for visual processing as it requires students to scan for objects and match pictures.
- It also requires students to find items which fit into particular categories. (Ex. Stinky Things, Things in Space, Things in a Game, etc.)
- And like all board games, reading and following directions, social skills, and strategy all apply.
The last few days of school and the natives are restless. Today in my Resource Language Arts class we did a fun culminating activity.
To begin, we looked at a worksheet about evaluating a piece of writing. We discussed what it means to evaluate, completed the worksheet, and then the students became the evaluators.
Students lined up along the back of the room with small dry erase boards. Their job was to rate/evaluate each piece of literature that we read this year. I started at the beginning of the year and went sequentially. Students would write a number 1-10 (1 being the lowest) and then arrange themselves in a number line from lowest to highest.
As we went through our stories, I showed them the title pages or covers of each selection. This helped spark their memory. (Note to self: Next year, put these on the SMART Board rather than awkwardly flip through the text book.)
To keep the activity educational, I did the following things at random:
I asked individual students to provide a reason for their rating. What made you rate this selection so low? What made this a perfect 10 for you?
I quizzed them over the plot, characters, and some of the literary terms we used when we read that piece of literature. What was the setting of The Tell-Tale Heart? Which character was the protagonist in The Outsiders? What was Leo’s internal conflict in Stargirl?
I helped students find and explain the patterns of their ratings. Some things we noticed: The boys preferred science fiction and horror stories. Those who hate to read out loud rated the plays lower than the other types of literature. Overall, students rated our novels (The Outsiders, Stargirl, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) higher than our short stories out of our literature book.
Allowing the students to stand and move was a great way to direct their energy at this crazy time of year. I know some people use a number line already posted in their room, but the use of dry erase boards made everyone accountable and honestly, what student doesn’t love dry erase boards?
This activity was beneficial to me as well, as it served as a kind of formative assessment. What did they learn? What do they remember? What did they enjoy? What did they dislike? This will help me in my planning and instruction next year.
Do you do any end of the year surveys or review games?
How would you change this activity to fit your class?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how was your year?
Finally…it’s May and the end of the year. State testing is over. Field trips and special activities break up the school week. How do you keep students busy, have a little fun, and keep things educational?
My pick? Poetry!!
I use poetry to review grammar, parts of speech, capitalization, and punctuation. I cover creative writing, imagery, and theme. All of this is done on the computer so I can review word processing skills and use of the internet.
Some of you (or your students) might not be poetry people. Well, check out Instant Poetry Forms. I like the website because it provides interactive templates of some traditional poetry (like the cinquain and limerick). The site also has dozens of unique poetry forms.
I like to start with “I Can’t Write a Poem.” I simply use my students’ complaints and grumbles when I enthusiastically announce, “Today we are starting poetry!!” (Insert sighs, groans, and moans here).
As they spout off the reasons why they hate poetry, I type their responses into the template (without letting them know what I am doing). I then hit the button that says “Create My Instant “I Can’t Write a Poem” Poem Now” and show them the finished product on the SMARTBoard.
They usually get a good a laugh and and my biggest haters are tickled to see their own excuses on the board.
Here are the 11 poem forms I have chosen for this year and the skills I will try to cover:
- All About Me – Good start to the unit, everyone likes to talk about themselves
- Color My World – This form requires a lot of brainstorming and imagery
- William Carlos Williams – Students review parts of speech is this Copy Change poem
- I’m in Charge of the World – Using supporting details
- I Used To…. – Compare and contrast their younger selves with their current self
- Diamond – Another review of parts of speech
- Limerick – Classic poetry form, story telling, and rhyme
- Lantern – Descriptive and synonyms
- Tanka – Descriptive and theme
- Nature Personified – Personification
- If (Emotion) Were a…. More review of imagery
To prepare for this unit, I use the Screen Capture Toolbar on SMARTNotebook and take pictures of the blank templates. I pass out copies for students to use for the rough draft.
I then introduce each poem, do some brainstorming as a group, and circulate while students work on their rough drafts.
Next, we go to the computer lab to access the website. Students fill in the template and create their poem. The program does the layout for them automatically.
To work on word processing skills, I have students copy and past their poem into Microsoft Word, change the font, size, color of text, and add clip art. I make different requirements for each poem but I leave some room for creativity.
At the end of the unit, I compile some of their best poems and make a book for everyone. This is one of my favorite projects of the year. For the most part, the students love it too. In fact, most students choose additional templates and do extra poems. The templates, the unique topics and forms, and the computer time make it easy and modern…even for the anti-poets.
Do you do a poetry unit in your classroom?
Do you have any helpful websites or apps?
Are you counting down to the last day yet?
(19 for me!)