Hi everyone! I am new to the site, and while I am not new to teaching, I am new to 6th grade. I have previously taught 4th for one year and 1st for one year in a different state. I moved back to my home state a year ago and subbed for a year, and was just hired to teach sixth grade at the school I grew up in! I know you are all probably so happy that school is going to be or is out, but if you have any great advice, I would love to hear it!
on your new position! Two new teachers were just hired to join our 6th grade team and they have already asked me many questions. Here is some of the advice I gave them...
Be prepared--discipline problems will arise if you're not.
Be stern--this does not mean you cannot be nice, but students will catch on very quickly to whether or not you are a pushover.
Be fair and respectful--even if they are not respectful to you, always show respect for them.
The new teachers also asked about decorating the classroom for 6th graders. They wanted to know if some things are too baby-ish. My response: 6th graders are like overgrown 1st graders--they like just about anything!
I don't know if this is what you consider "great" advice, but I hope it will help you. Good luck!!
I've read this board for years, but this is the first time I've posted. I, too, will be teaching 6th grade for the first time. I have taught one year of 8th and am now being moved to 6th. The eighth graders were a handful- but very enjoyable after we all started to understand each other. I am anticipating that the 6th graders will seem much younger to me- I hope I don't talk "over their heads." I am also open to any advice about Language Arts- I will be teaching 3 sections. It consists of Reading and English- so much in such a short time. I'm trying to figure out how to creatively combine all of it. We have resources GALORE- almost too much! When I go to plan, it is overwhelming and I keep changing my mind. I'm torn between making time for Grammar when I know that our 8th graders are NOt really applying it to their writing. Do I emphasize an aesthetic love of reading and literature, or practical writing/life skills? These issues have no cut and dry answers but it does help to vent/post. Thanks
Consider teaching all reading skills within the literature circle--literary devices, reading strategies, all those things that we teach in reading--can be done easily and effectively within what you're already doing--reading great books! Everything you want to teach concerning reading comes up naturally in the course of good, appropriate books. This makes some teachers uncomfortable, because we don't "work on character development" this week. Different reading groups talk about character development at different times, depending upon when the best moments to address it come up in their particular groups' books. Everything really DOES come up, and by the time we've finished our first reading groups, everyone, regardless of their reading level (all kids should be in reading groups at their level) has studied:
Literary devices (simile, personfication)
Word meaning from context
In writing, again, everything really does come up naturally, in the course of the writer's workshop, while you conference with kids. Teach kids who need help with sentence fluency THAT SKILL--not something they've mastered. Give spelling generalizations in context to the kid who demonstrates a need for THAT SKILL RIGHT NOW. Again, this is weird for some teachers, because we're not doing capitalization this week, or subject/verb agreement this week. Yet everyone learns all the skills. This approach gives everyone what they need, and doesn't waste their time with what they've already mastered. The trouble with whole class skills instruction, whether in reading or writing, is that one size, one pace, one lesson, one focus does not fit all your kids, and it never will.
In my opinion, throw out all the DOL transparencies, throw out all the basal readers, throw out all the worksheets, and actually teach. Remember that we are biologically programmed to read and write, and nothing in the world could be more natural. We don't need lots of schtick to do that.
Thanks everyone...so far, this is all great advice. Maryteach, I love your lit circle suggestion, something that I did with my fourth graders two years ago. I already have some literature in mind...do you have any more suggestions...what were some books that you've used in the past that really stand out? And how many groups did you have?? How do you group students by level and by what they are interested in without having 20 different groups? My previous school was whole language all the way...this new school that I am in is NOT. I will be required to teach spelling separately from a book. I plan to make it my "morning work" so it takes up the least amount of time in my day possible. I agree with you that students should be taught individually on an as-needed basis...why waste their time (and yours) teaching something to the group that 95% of them already know?
I am coming from a year of teaching first grade and I am afraid that I am going to baby these kids too much. I subbed in the school I'll be teaching in and I actually have had this group of students in the past and I love them which makes me really excited.
Again...thanks everyone, for your advice. I really appreciate it!!
I go crazy buying those lit. circle sets in Scholastic. Your mailbox will be stuffed with the appropriate catalogs when you get there this fall. I want to have lots of current titles that kids likely haven't read. I can pull some sets out of our closet at school, like:
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Bud, Not Buddy
and those are great, but the trouble is, they've all read (or their fifth grade teacher read to them) the stuff in the closet. So I turned to Scholastic, and now I do, for grade level readers:
Freak, the Mighty
for low readers:
The Tiger Rising
Because of Winn-Dixie
Honus & Me
for high readers:
Absolutely Normal Chaos
Walk Two Moons
Al Capone Does My Shirts
for very low readers:
Trumpet of the Swan
There are more, but you get the idea. I use points from Scholastic so that I'm not actually buying these--it would be expensive to do that. One thing I do with my high kids is after they go through a novel with me, by participating in a lit. circle, put them in reader's workshop. This is super easy to manage and frees you up to form another group, if you like, for grade level or lower kids. I have known teachers who have done reader's workshop with their entire core--100+ kids. I'm not that cool yet, but I'm working on it. I think RW is really where it's at. And talk about choice.
We don't have scores for the state test for all our kids at the beginning of the year. Ours is a somewhat transient population. We do a district reading test (NWEA) that does an okay job of leveling kids. I've seen it really miss some kids, but for the most part, it does an okay job. I would love to have only three levels, but every year, I have four distinct levels. My kids always range from third grade (occasionally second) to ninth grade in their reading levels. It's crazy.
Anyway, with four groups of kids, it's pretty hard to let every group choose. I usually let two groups choose between two or three and let the other two groups have the choice the next time. If I get more than six groups going (and remember, I have four lang. arts classes--do you also?) it starts to get too hard to get to all the groups on a timely basis.
You'll be surprised at what babies these kids really still are. It's been my experience that sixth grade boys still cry--in front of their friends!!! I really don't remember that when I was in sixth grade, but I see it every single day. It really never ceases to surprise me. Also, they show up all cool, in their baggy pants and their arm bands but they still come back from lunch with lunch on their face! And on their clothes! They're such a funny mix of maturing and NOT.
You came from a whole language school? That sounds like my idea of paradise. At least my school doesn't mandate a basal curriculum and a writing program, so while they don't exactly foster whole language, they don't discourage it either. I teach in a middle school, so things aren't too prescriptive--yet. But to teach in a school in which the announced focus is whole language--wow, what an opportunity. I would just love that. And what a wonderful environment for kids to learn to love reading and writing. Amazing.
Yes, Maryteach, I was extremely fortunate to come from a whole language school. It was a ton of work, but I really felt that I was fostering a tremendous love of reading and writing with my kids. It was really wonderful, and I know that I will never have that kind of opportunity to teach in a school like that ever again. We actually studied Regie Routman's books/approaches/ideas a lot while I was there and I plan to bring much of that with me to my new school. I will be teaching only one class of L.A. Our students move for science, s.s., health, and math, but they will stay with me for L.A. I will also more than likely have no more than 20 students. It is a very small school district.
I already have an account with Scholastic and have accumulated points, but I will have to change from receiving primary level to receiving intermediate. Oh, my school is set up with K-6 in one building...then 7-12 is in the Middle/High School which is one building. I don't know if I mentioned that this is also the school I grew up in. The 6th graders in my school are the "seniors". Thanks for the section you wrote about them still being "babies". As I have said, I think this is my biggest concern....going from 1st to 6th I may treat them like babies. I am very excited to not have to teach how to stand in a line, how to open/close a glue bottle, etc. That will be nice. I am really looking forward to the year.
I practice routines with them at the beginning of the year. My first year teaching sixth, I thought I finally had kids who could walk down the hall to the library like big kids..WRONG!!!!!! After that first class, I rehearse line walking with every one of my classes.
A school in which the entire staff studies Regie Routmann instead of ordering stupid workbooks and worksheets from any number of equally stupid programs.........I want to teach there!
Sounds like you and I have very similar styles of teaching. I also threw out all of the worksheets, etc. and I've challenged my students to THINK about what they're learning. After the transition, my students were begging me to just read the basal story and answer the questions at the end. I agree that it is totally amazing to see what the kids can do when you actually teach them!