I attended a professional training called High Ability Bootcamp held by my district last week. Here are a few tidbits that I gleaned that could be relevant in any content area or any level, as many of these could be beneficial to all students.
Motivation vs. Discipline– As middle school teachers we often struggle with students that just aren’t doing the work. It can be tough to differentiate between a student that is being a discipline problem and one that struggles with motivation as they often look the same in our eyes. Here are a few descriptors that were shared from Diane Heacox to help you determine which case you are dealing with and what to do to help–
- Disrupts learning of others
- Disrupts the flow of the lesson
- Damages property
- Poses a physical or emotional threat to others
- Low self-confidence (general or academic)
- Low expectations of success
- Lack of interest
- Fear of failure or success
If you are dealing with a student having trouble with discipline be sure to work with your counselors, administrators, parents, and any other stakeholders to create plans to ensure that this student is having his/her needs met and for their academic success. I have loads of information on working with students from trauma that might be helpful– just ask if you’re interested.
If the student is struggling with motivation, which can often be seen in high ability students, here are a few areas to address–
- Autonomy– Choice and time flexibility are sometimes the key for an unmotivated student. Think about utilizing tools like learning menus that allow students to choose their “path” of learning and when they complete activities.
- Mastery– Some students are reluctant to start if they don’t feel that they will receive a “perfect” score. Think about chunking or working with small successes before moving up to the larger assignment.
- Purpose– For some students the “why” is essential. Take a look at this clip Michael Jr: Know Your Why.
- Belonging– It can be difficult to make connections with students that aren’t doing their work but can really pay off in the end. Talk with them about what interests them. Ask their opinion. Ask for their assistance. Compliment them on something other than academics.
Carolyn Chapman has a number of strategies and resources for working with unmotivated students that are also worth taking a look at.
KWL-H– Many of us have used KWL charts in the past. Students begin a lesson by filling the “K” column with words, phrases, opinions, etc. that they already have or know about the given topic. They also fill the “W” with any wonders or want to knows. Ultimately they would then fill the “L” with new knowledge learned during the unit. This tip is to add an “H” column to this organizer indicating how students plan to learn the information or skill that is the focus of the unit. Think about preparing a list of possible activities at the beginning of the year but then allowing students to create their own once routines and expectation have been established. Choices that you could include on a learning menu would be great to list here– online research, books, sketchnotes, organizers, create a video, use a textbook, make a mind map, etc.
Social/Emotional Curriculum– One characteristic of high ability students, and middle school students as a whole, is emotional sensitivity. Think about incorporating some of those “life lessons” that we often learn the hard way into your lesson planning. Check out this feature from Pottermore.com— How Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Tackled Bullying (you thought you were going to get a post without mention of HP!). Also think about having students journal or draw about how they feel as bellwork or a wrap-up for the lesson. Maybe have a discussion about the emotions that were prevalent in a story, historical event or time period, artwork, photograph, etc. that is tied to your lesson/content.