Friday, February 17, 2012

Motivating Middle School Students

Students must see school as relevant.  Interdisciplinary projects can be one way to increase relevance.  When students see what they learn being used in all of their classrooms, they begin to see it as more relevant.  Math knowledge is not isolated just in the 45 minute period that they sit in Math class.

Teaming can provide an outstanding way to develop relationships.  It creates a small school inside of a bigger school.  For us at Arlington, we already have a small school.  When we created the Middle School Team, it allowed our teachers the ability to discuss student issues.  Additionally, students all had the same teachers.  The schedule became simplified.  All of the students were together at the same time.  This then allows flexibility so that you can experiment with the schedule.  At one point this year, for about a month, the 8th graders were tracked by gender.  This allowed the teachers to develop a different relationship with the students.

Making School an Experience
Fridays are activity days.  Our Middle School splits into 4 different teams based on their homeroom class. Students participate in competitions and activities for a 20 minute period.  This is a break from the normal routine and has students looking forward to Friday activities

Our teachers also develop interdisciplinary projects.  When we kick off the project, the teachers make a kickoff video.  The students all come together to watch the video.  During one kick off, the students then got to eat food from the time period they were studying in Social Studies.  They also do other hands on activities on these days.

Here are some links to videos that our Middle School Team created for the unit kickoffs:

Egypt Unit: Mummy Part I:

Egypt Unit: Mummy Part II:

Ancient Rome Unit

Recognizing Effort
Additionally, our state tests are called NeSA tests.  Our tradition has been to set goals with our students.  This year, if we are 95% proficient on the writing test, we will go to the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo.  On our other tests, it is not based on results as much as preparation.  If the students exhibit the behaviors that make you a successful test taker, we will have half a day at the local softball field where students will get to play, have lunch, and just have a fun day.  Celebrate success and effort together as a school and this increases student motivation.

Recognizing that they should not spend their entire life going to school and then going home for a second shift of school through excessive homework is also critical.  Nothing kills motivation faster than constant homework and the lack of recognizing what students enjoy. Celebrate successes and successful effort.  Once the school establishes systems promoting relevance, relationships, making school an experience, and recognizing effort, then students become more motivated.
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