Middle School Matters #39 – Book Talk, Hacking, & Transformation

News & Events

1.  Start planning for October’s Month of the Young Adolescent!
2.  Ohio Middle School Association’s Annual Conference, February 19-20, 2009 in Sandusky, OH. 
3.  Institute for Middle Level Leadership.  July 13-16 & 20-23
4.  Best Practices for Student Success.  July 28 & August 6 
5.  NMSA Annual Conference, October 30 – November 1 (Video sample
6.  Summer Teacher-to-Teacher professional development program registration is open. (free)
7.  Canadian National Middle Years Conference, November 5, 6, & 7 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

Shout outs:

  1. Folks in Rock Hill, SC and Black Diamond, WA:  Thanks for listening! 
  2. Ron for the email.


Text Message ruling could affect school policies. Seems as though work issued cell phones could be exempt from search unless a warrant or employee permission is given.

Teens face felony charges of computer break-ins

How do we transform our schools? Use technologies that compete against nothing … Education Next journal
In order to create change, do we have to blow everything up and start from new? Highlights here

From Literacy to Digiracy
“So, no surprise that when we incarcerate teenagers of today in traditional classroom settings, they react with predictable disinterest and flunk their literacy tests. They are skilled in making sense not of a body of known content, but of contexts that are continually changing.”

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Mailbag Followup:

Hey guys,

Just to follow-up on some of your questions from the podcast…our schedule is six 50-minute classes.  We are a team of four with 115-120 kids with an “advanced” class for each core subject (makes scheduling tricky).  As far as the flex class, all the details have yet to be flushed out.  Here is what we have been told.  We will have a three week focus (the first being LA/Math) made up of our unintentional non-learners.  We talked about offering “other activities” for those are do not need to extra time.  Some ideas we came up with include club activities (chess, gaming, etc.) as well as simple SSR time, open gym, etc.  Our building uses the Honor Level Discipline System and the move to this flex schedule nullifies a daily reward (a 10-minute break between second & third periods).  I suggested (I also teach leadership) a bi-weekly assembly that is fun for kids (mock-olympic style games, game shows, skits, etc.) to replace this daily reward since our honor level system required students to be compliant for 7-10 days before they get their privileges back.  Anyway, students would have a choice of activities to participate in (including some on different halls with their friends they don’t typically get to spend much time with during the day) if they are….???….caught up on homework, not failing any classes, ???  We really haven’t figured that part out yet.

Did I miss anything?



  1. The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference 500 service learning projects that you could implement with kids.

  2. There’s one school in Ohio (and if I can remember their name I’ll post it) that had their teachers take their personal interests create a class centered around it and then they tied it in with their state standards and went to the board with it as a curriculum.  The kids thought it was just fun time when they were learning skills.  I thought it was a creative way to tie in standards and student interests.  Students could sign up for the classes and then take them for the 3-4 weeks the class ran and then they would let kids sign up for another round of classes.  The teachers wouldn’t have to redo the class every time since there are probably a number of kids who want the class, but can’t get in every class they want in each rotation. 

  3. Academic assemblies:  Hold Olympic style events for academic subjects:  use Keynote/Powerpoint to create content questions team classrooms can answer as a challenge, do a “Password” style game where pairs of students sit opposite of each other and the teacher flashes a term from the unit on the screen where only one of the pair can see it (Dave Wilkie’s idea), create multiple choice style questions and give the students A-B-C-D-E answer cards they hold up.  Kids can create a drama series based on current content. 

  4. Mass Study Hall: Actually this becomes a “self-select”. Teachers are available for additional support. Kids who are not in need of “catch-up” report to a large common area. See DuFour’s Research.

Add your ideas to the Comments!
Summer Reading lists


  1. Education Next (Summer ’08)
  2. Regina Silsby’s Phantom Militia by Thomas J. Brodeur
  3. “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning!” by Marc Prensky
  4. Not Quite Burned Out but Crispy Around the Edges by Sharon M. Draper
  5. Web Literacy for Educators by Alan November (Opening lines:  “Long, long ago, there was a magical invention called paper . . . “)
  6. Lighting Fires by Joseph Tsujimoto
  7. Embattled Courage by Linderman (a re-read)
  8. Middle Grades Education: A Reference Handbook by Dr. Pat Williams-Boyd (re-reading sections)
  9. Service Learning in the Middle School: Building a Culture of Service by Fertman, White and White
  10. Energizers – Calisthenics for the Mind by Carl Olson
  11. Promoting a Successful Transition to Middle School by Akos, Queen, and Lineberry
  12. Scoring Rubrics in the Classroom: Using Performance Criteria for Assessing and Improving Student Performance by Arter and McTighe
  13. History Makers by Myra Zarnowski 

Troy’s List:

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
  2. Getting Things  Done by David Allen( a re-read)
  3. Getting to Got It! by Betty K. Garner
  4. “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning!“by Marc Prensky
  5. Transformative Assessment by W. James Popham
  6. The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nick Carr
  7. Fair is not always equal by Rick Wormeli
  8. What Works in the Classroom by Marzano
  9. Classroom Assessment & Grading That Works by Marzano
  10. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink