Middle school - what is the most effective curriculum model and how do we measure value adding?

Thinking about Middle school education - a time when the brain is developing and the adolescent’s world is expanding beyond the egocentric. How do we design a Middle school pedagogy and curriculum that really adds value to the individual learner? In a utopian world how could we structure the leadership and pedagogical model to enhance engagement and learning?

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My son is going to start middle school this year so I am very interested in this topic.
I teach at a school that uses teaming. There are 5 teachers on a team: Reading (that's me!), Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Math. We share about 100 students and they travel together to their classes throughout the day. So they same students are in their class for all core subjects and they go to a separate elective class. This allows us to discuss the difficulties that particular students are having at our weekly team meetings. We also have a rotating block schedule. Students attend 3 out of their 5 classes each day. It allows teachers to have longer blocks of time to to cooperative or project based tasks and the time can be adjusted by the team if, for example, the science teacher needs extra time for a lab.
Hi Marie, team teaching is very engaging for both teachers and students within the middle years. Do students stay in the same teams for specialist/elective subjects as well or do they break into different groupings? Within you 100 students do you differentiate to accomodate learning styles and abilities or do you group them in mixed groups?
I am curious about you mentioning that students attend 3 out of 5 classes a day. Do you mean they attend 3 CORE classes out of a possible 5 classes per day leaving 2 electives/specialist?
I agree with you in terms of the improtance of teams of teachers - this really accomodates socratic discussion for planning and effective curriculum as well as discussing relational learning issues.
I would love to find out more about how your sytems work - which school do you teach at?
I am in an almost identical situation, but I will be doing language arts that has reading, English, spelling, and writing.....ideas and suggestions welcome! (four teachers, about 90 students....)
Tie all of the components of Language arts around a theme of study. Example: My 8th graders are required to read Animal Farm. A broad theme from the novel is having your voice silenced. I tie in the activities we do to the theme by reading, writing, and discussing related texts that connect to that theme.
Their elective classes are grouped differently. The students are grouped by Reading and Math standardized test scores for their core classes. Students scoring high, medium, and low are in classes with students of the same ability. Within the groups there is still a range of student differences that are taken into consideration by using differentiated instruction.

The schedule is a little confusing, but the teachers and students catch on quickly. Here is my schedule.
Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Elective (students go to mixed group electives everyday)
2 hrs 90 min 50 min 1 hr
Monday: Group E, Group A, Group D
Tuesday: Group B, Group C, Group A
Wednesday: Group D, Group E, Croup C
Thursday: Group A, Group B, Group E
Friday: Group C, Group D, Group B

I teach in Florida
I teach in a middle school of about 450 students with small teams. We have teams of either 2 or 3 people. Obviously this is more difficult because of licensure issues but I think having a smaller team is very important at this age. I believe it allows teachers to get closer to their students.
Hi Eric,
what is your average class size?
I teach MS kids...IT...once a week for 45 minutes. I have found that they love making their own websites both for fun things as well as projects for their academic subjects. With youtube being a free video storage, I encourage them to make a TV news show or game show to show off their knowledge of something they've learned. We are a Jewish day school. Annually our seventh graders study Kashrut (Kosher). Some of them have made hilarious and wonderful Julia Child cooking shows for youtube and then linked them on their websites. Not only fun, but truly shows how they have internalized the material learned. Here is one of the Kosher videos

This is just one small sample of the kind of fun approach I take. We do blogging with some kids in Israel based on a Jewish photographer's work...they write in English and Hebrew to each other...Google is now Hebrew friendly.

I think the more fun it is, the more they engage.
We normally have between 21 and 24 students in a class- around 45 kids on a two person team and 70 on a three person team. Obviously we would love to have numbers closer to 15 kids in a class but I don't know how realistic that would be (I can wish though!!:)
Your reality is the wish of many of us.... I would LOVE to have 21 kids in a single class!
Eric, I ache for your numbers. We have 120 kids on teams with 4 cores, meaning anywhere from 26-34 kids in my LA class. I believe we are lagging in use & teaching of technology tools because our lab and media center have only 30 machines and our laptop carts are in sets of 15 (the school has 4). Ironically, we are near Research Triangle Park, NC home of IBM, Cisco, Ericcson.... However, blogging was something I tried last year team-wide, as most kids have computers at home and those who don't could come before or after school (whether they did or not was a problem, tho). I am finally getting back to Classroom 2.0 after a long time away. yay!

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