Middle School Language Arts

EdA2Z2016 – Empathy 

I remember what it was like in my adolescence to go to school with a heavy mind and heart. Anticipating the mysteries of adulthood – desiring freedom.  

As a teacher, if I am worth anything, I must have EMPATHY for my students.  On some level, I must be mindful and identify with my student’s feelings, thoughts, and attitudes.

All it takes is a bit of inquiry.  It’s worth it.

Photo Credit: EKG Technician Salary

EdA2Z2016 – Desire to…

As a teacher, I wish I could walk in the classroom and impart knowledge and students get it right away! I wish I could see their reading Lexile scores go above and beyond grade level with nominal effort on my part.  I wish that when I asked questions, there would be a sea of hands waving in the air – anxiously desiring to answer my questions.

I simply wish that a higher percentage of my students possessed the DESIRE to learn.

The reality is so much deeper.  What do they have to look forward to? What inspires them to desire education? Who are their role models? Why would reading literacy out trump their basic need for nurturing and safety?

As a teacher, I must move away from wishing and deal with reality.  It’s tough…

EdA2Z2016 – Comprehension

As a teacher, there is nothing more exciting than when your students “get it!”  When you see their eyes light up because they have finally grasped the concepts you are so desparately trying to teach.  It’s one thing to realize that the students are getting it and following along with you during whole group instruction, but what about when they are reading to themselves?

When they read aloud, you can kind of tell when they do not comprehend what they are reading.  It’s their body language, pace, pitch, and what they do with their eyes.  Sometimes they come to a word they do not understand and just – STOP reading.  While they are uttering the words, they are lost in the meaning of those words.  

My biggest win in the classroom comes when I can help my reading students improve their comprehension skills.  There is so much involved in that process that it is tough to communicate in one post.  It is, in my opinion, the foundation of reading literacy (comprehension really matters).

As I seek to help my students improve their literary comprehension skills, I will also grow in my ability to comprehend the needs of my students. 

#A to Z Challenge

Photo credit: Pinterest 

EdA2Z2016 – books, books, books…

I remember a time when given the option, I would choose to read a book over playing with a doll.  I was a little girl that recognized that books were an escape to a world that I could not yet physically visit.  Books provided information that allowed me to have great conversations with others as I grew and matured.  

My first bible was a set of several books like an encyclopedia.  The pictures and stories came alive for me.  My Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries, Archie Comic Strips, and first antique Webster’s dictionary (a gift), The Thornbirds, Flowers in the Attic, and Gone with the Wind – take me back to a time when I was devouring books on a regular basis.

I love reading.  In fact, it was always a dream of mine to have an in-home library.  There is something about seeing books on a shelf that makes me feel comforted.  Perhaps it is the wisdom contained on the pages that are within my reach that makes me feel good.

Once the Amazon Kindle came along, my dream library started to fade away.  I adjusted to the fact that now I can conveniently carry 100 plus books in my purse without breaking a sweat.  I have a much more intimate relationship with my mobile library.  I can touch the screen and stroke the pages that take me where I want to go as I read.  

I am seriously considering donating all of my hard/soft-back books to the “Friends of the Public Library” cause – all except collectibles or those autographed.  I love my books and it will be difficult to part from them, but I want to embrace the new era of eBooks.  This is a part of my effort to de-clutter my home.  Stay tuned…

EdA2Z2016 – AFFECT

I bet the English language is one of the most difficult to learn.  When it comes to reading literacy, decoding words has to be a number one priority.  Words like AFFECT make it difficult to figure out at times.  This one always stumps me!

Affect versus Effect – that is the question!

According to Dictionary.com, affect is defined as: to act on; produce an effect or change in something.  Effect is defined as: something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence of something.

To simplify it, I say affect=change and effect=results.

That’s it!  Memorizing this will effectively affect me!

Reading Literacy from A to Z

As a kid, I loved to read.  Every opportunity I could get to read aloud in the classroom while coming up was golden to me.  I believe it was because I knew I was good at it.  My self-confidence was extremely high in the academic realm because I was such a great reader.

When the teacher asked me to read, I always hoped to be able to read pages at a time.  I use to ask to read the entire story even though my classmates deserved a turn at reading.  Now, as a teacher, I see the students in my class that are the same way.  Although I want to hear from everyone, I love to feed the ego of those who love to read!  I know the doors that will open in the future for that student because he/she is not afraid to communicate.  That’s right – great reading leads to great communication skills!  That’s my opinion and I am sticking with it!

img 1946

img 1946

So, in addition to the A to Z Challenge I am doing on my personal blog, I am going to take the challenge on my education blog this month and blog daily (except Sundays) on reading literacy.

This is going to be fun!

EDU270 – Lesson 4: …to be relational as a teacher?

One of my favorite movies is “To Sir with Love”.  In this movie, Engineer Mark Thackeray arrives to teach a totally undisciplined class at an East End school…He starts implementing his own brand of classroom discipline: forcing the pupils to treat each other with respect. Inevitably he begins getting involved in the students’ personal lives, and must avoid the advances of an amorous student while winning over the class.


I cry every time I see this movie because I love the relationships he develops as their teacher.  When I decided to teach, this movie came to mind several times.  I could see myself coming into a tough school situation and winning the hearts and minds of the students with a goal of improving their lives – not just academically, but all around.  It’s a tall order – but one of the most important jobs you could have.

It means the world to me to be relational with my students.  I work to have their trust and confidence while fostering their growth and development.  Yes, it is entirely possible to do this and still hold them accountable to stay on task and do what it takes to learn.  Not only do they need relationship, they need structure and guidance too.

While I’m no Sir…I love it when my students say, “Ms. Lyons…?”

Photo Credit:  IMDB “To Sir with Love” 1967


EDU270 – Lesson 3: Attention, Emotions, & Learning

“Please pay attention…get on task…focus!  Do you hear me?”

As a mother of a teenager who struggled with attention deficit disorder (a label he hates even now), I thought I had the best information and tools in my arsenal.  I read many of the books and even became certified to coach parents of attention deficit disorder or hyperactive disorder ADD/ADHD children.

What I did not realize is the real root cause of inattentiveness; nor how to positively impact my son’s environment enough to support him in developing attention skills.  I also needed to view some of his behaviors as normal because his brain was doing something that would prove invaluable later on in his life.

The parent coaching certification program I completed never addressed infant or child brain development or research – it was simply so long ago.  Back then, the focus was on mainly behavior outcomes and educational reform advocacy.

Today, I know so much more!  Some of the behaviors infants and toddlers display is actually necessary for orientating, maintaining, and controlling or regulating their attention skills.  Patience and understanding is what is needed during the so-called terrible twos.  Although it looks like an unnecessary tantrum, the brain is busy at work in reconstructing that child’s neural patterns.  This is when the child is developing their patience, controlling emotions, and directing their focus.

As a middle school teacher with this understanding, I am grateful for the opportunity to positively impact my student’s environment by:

  • providing opportunities to make the best of their attention skills with curriculum and activities that consider their specific needs
  • passing on my knowledge and encouraging parents to reinforce healthier nutrition and  regular bedtimes (proper sleep is vital to brain cell development)
  • providing a safe environment in my classroom – free of the big 5 (fear, hunger, abuse, neglect, or depression)
This mean social/emotional learning is taking place in addition to academics.  In my opinion, this is the real ‘no child left behind’ initiative – because they all matter.  Not an easy undertaking but a necessary one.  I am responsible for teaching in a manner that raises the bar for them socially, emotionally, and intellectually.
As for my son who is now 18 years old, it isn’t too late to positively impact his growth and development.  All it takes is to continue to provide a structured nurturing environment, and encourage consistent open communication.  So far, it’s going well.

Photo Credit:  Quinn Dombrowski

EDU270 – Lesson 2: Vision and Hearing

Identifying vision and hearing problems as early as possible is one of the main objectives when it comes to our youth.  When a child has difficulty hearing or seeing it can have lifelong implications if not dealt with soon as possible (at the earliest age).

As a parent I was always concerned with my son not hearing or seeing something inappropriate.  It never occurred to me that he could have genetic issues or problems resulting from the environment he was in.  For instance, he has been an avid video gamer his whole young life.  Until this lesson, I did not realize that constant, loud and repetitive sounds were not good for his hearing.  So that race car going around and around the track making a lot of noise was not a good way for him to spend his time as a preschool or elementary school student.  It may have impacted him academically.

After viewing videos on both vision and hearing on the Changing Brains: Effects of Experience on Human Bran Development website, I have a new found respect for our fragile youth.

“In the first few years of life, hearing is a critical part of kids’ social, emotional, and cognitive development. Even a mild or partial hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to speak and understand language (kidshealth.org).”  hearing-99016_960_720

As a teacher I am not just concerned with one student, but I must observe all of them for any hint of hearing or vision defects.  Although by the time they reach middle school there should have been early detection, the truth is our youth remain fragile for many years.  Especially those in under-served/impoverished  communities.  They remain at-risk due to environmental issues such as poor nutrition, exposure to alcohol and drugs, and often a lack of routine pediatric visits.  The school nurse becomes the primary medical source for those kids.

“Children should be examined by an eye doctor during infancy, preschool, and school years to detect potential vision defects. Did you know that a child can pass the 20/20 test and still have significant vision problems which will interfere in school, sports and/or social life (children-special-needs.org)?” index

The ears and eyes are connected to the command center (a.k.a. BRAIN).  Early detection and remedy of any issues concerning sight and sound could make the difference in the life of a young person who aspires to be a healthy, happy adult one day.




EDU270 -Lesson 1: Brain Architecture, Plasticity, and the Impact of Environment on a Child

After watching the videos: Brain Plasticity and Imaging/Development on the website: Changing Brains: Effects of Experience on Human Brain Development, I realized there is a lot more to teaching than standing in the front of the room and sharing lesson plans.  How am I impacted by this information as a teacher?

Our youth are fragile human beings that require a lot more than most realize.  Specifically, they require individualized attention in a collective world.  Because the child’s brain is continually developing and as a teacher I have a great deal to do with the sensitive periods during that development, I must be both deliberate and considerate in my teaching method.

I want to see each of my students grow and mature to a healthy adult life and way of being.  My greatest contribution as a teacher can only take place during the minutes I have them in my classroom.  For me, those moments are precious.  The deliberate actions taken must be positive and reinforce building a healthy brain.  The activities we do in the classroom, the conversations we hold, and what I expose them to all play an important role in building a strong foundation for their future growth and development.


%d bloggers like this: