The Struggle is Real
Do you ever begin a lesson and realize your kids have no idea what you’re talking about? Even though they should have background knowledge from previous school years? Yeah, me too. The biggest problem we have had at my middle school lately is the serious lack of grammar knowledge. I mean, when you mention prepositions, predicates, or abstract nouns, they act like you’re speaking Chinese. Just blank stares. Seriously?
Because of this, I started doing some research. I dug into our student expectations for grammar from kindergarten through the 8th grade. This document is a vertical alignment that our state provides. I became good friends with it.
I took this and started writing down the skills that the students should have learned in each grade. Notice I said “should have learned”. It was clear to us that, even if they had seen these skills, they hadn’t learned them. Doing this was a real eye-opener, and I made sure to share it with the other ELA teachers as soon as I was finished.
Down to Business
Then the real work began. We don’t have time to go back and teach these kids what a noun is, but maybe if we made sure they had access to all that information, they could use that resource to fill in any gaps when working on assignments for the current year. I already used materials throughout the year to create an English Reference Folder, but what if we gave the kids everything they needed at the beginning of the year?
That’s where the idea for the Middle School ELA Student Handbook was born. I compiled all the punctuation, sentence structure, and literary elements notes I had, and started filling in the blanks with materials that needed to be created. Luckily I had already created a full set of Middle School Grammar Notes, so I only had to go back and add the more elementary grammar skills to the document. When I was finished, I had 48 pages of information that we could give the students at the beginning of the year. Here are the topics covered in the handbook:
Getting Ready for Next Year
We used ELA department money to go ahead and buy a folder for every student for next year. Each student will receive a handbook at the beginning of the school year free of charge. If they lose it, they have to pay $5 to replace it. Each section of the handbook will be printed on a different color of copy paper so that it is easier to maneuver through the information.
When I delivered the mock ups to the other teachers, they heard angels singing. 🙂
I can’t wait to use this next year. I’m hoping it’s a real game changer, for us as well as the students.
For more information, visit my blog about creating middle school grammar assignments and reworking literature circles for the secondary English classroom.