So, when I was an instructional coach several years ago, one of my responsibilities was gathering and analyzing data for the 1-8 Montessori building I worked in. It was eye-opening. I had always suspected that there was a wide range of reading levels in a given class, but I had never seen the actual numbers. For instance, one 8th grade class had reading levels from about 2nd grade to above 11th!
When I got back into a middle school social studies classroom, I found myself constantly helping students struggle to read and comprehend our very out of date textbooks or supplemental readings provided by my district. As a result, my students greatest struggle was comprehension of the words, not the social studies content. I needed a solution.
Differentiated readings were it! At first, I spent a lot of time trying to find articles of similar length and identical content at the reading levels I needed. Believe me, that is a very narrow slice of the Venn Diagram for most topics! So, I started writing them for my students at our middle grade level and also ones of identical content and similar length at an upper elementary grade level for all of my curriculum's units.
If these sound like they might be just what you are looking for to help your struggling readers understand social studies content while your stronger readers work at their grade level, click here or the picture below for some free differentiated reading passages about Early Humans and check it out.
Has anyone noticed that middle schoolers' attention spans have been getting longer and longer lately? That their ability to stay focused through simple things like taking notes has gotten better?
So, a big theme in my development as a teacher has been to develop strategies and activities that are as interactive and fun as possible while still delivering content.
Interactive notes are a great way to present new information with opportunities for students to examine pictures, talk about what they are learning and sometimes even draw in an organized, student-friendly way. They are way better than my middle school teachers' sloppy handwriting on chalk boards, or the equally sloppy writing of my college professors on transparency films with hot and loud overhead projectors!
15 years of teaching has taught me that no matter how organized I make notes, when middle schoolers copy them, they become a hot mess (Why don't you indent, Mason? Why do you use a different color for each word, Meghan?). So, I also created student note taking sheets. If this seems like something you'd like to try, click the picture below for a free Google Slide interactive note presentation with a student note taking sheet and directions on how to use them below.
I'm an 18 year veteran teacher that loves teaching, coaching, writing, and my family.