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5 Learning Tools for Middle Schoolers to Make Your Life Easier as a Teacher

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Learn about five of my favorite tools middle school teachers can use to make their lesson planning easier and get students engaged during those challenging tween years.

Effortlessly Enrich Your Middle School Classroom

Teaching is hard. Teaching middle schoolers who are dealing with new social issues, changing bodies, raging hormones, and more complex coursework is a perfect storm for anxiety - for you. The good news is there are some exciting tools available for your modern classroom to help reduce some of that stress. Use them to help you connect your group with the resources they need to get the most out of the lessons you teach.

JiveSpin

John Mitchell|, a history teacher in Hertfordshire, UK, offers a wonderful blog chock full of information and resources for middle-grade classrooms. His specialty is in world history, but his resources can be modified for use in a variety of topics, including literature.

At JiveSpin, John offers printable sheets, topics for discussion, learning grids, posters, tips, and so much more. Each post on his blog contains live links to resources like PowerPoint presentations, videos, and reading materials. He also offers related links that can lead teachers to more information for future lessons.

History

Using his tips, tools, and topics could shave hours off your prep time and give you a new way to approach any lesson. Your middle-grade classroom may even find project ideas for future history units. Recent posts, such as those on refugees, are particularly useful for teachers who involve current events in the classroom.

Get the Math

Free resources are the best - especially when they help students to learn a complex subject like algebra. Get the Math incorporates videos, challenges, and games to help students understand complex algebraic principles. The site provides teachers with Common Core-aligned lesson plans designed to show students how math relates to their everyday lives focusing on fields like sports, music, video games, film making, fashion, and even cooking.

The award-winning lessons and videos are engaging, interesting and, proven to improve performance over time. Classes can get involved as a unit, or students can explore the concepts on their own if they need extra study time. There are even downloadable music and videos that help to bring the learning home. This portability is perfect for students who like to take their music on the road with them.

Khan Academy

One of the most comprehensive free resources on the web, Khan Academy has modules on everything from math to art and even test prep. Students can create a personalized learning dashboard that helps them keep track of the lessons they've taken, items of interest, and potential areas for future study. This information is great for independent study students because it can help encourage them to discover new topics. And, because it is coming to them from a website, rather than parents or teachers, they might actually heed the suggestions.

ComputerFun

Thanks to partnerships with companies like Pixar, The Walt Disney Company, Google, NASA, MIT, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Khan Academy offers students a new way of reviewing challenging information and pursuing areas of interest. Their state-of-the-art software identifies areas of student strength, as well as gaps in learning to help teachers strengthen their lesson plans and, with fun games and diversions, lessons become more entertaining as well.

EduCreations

For teachers who choose a flipped classroom model, EduCreations makes offsite lessons easy. This free whiteboard tool lets teachers deliver lessons to students wherever they are with the click of a mouse. Instructors can include videos, tutorials, notes, and more, freeing in-class time for hands-on lessons, in-depth discussions, or pre-planned activities. Students can even respond privately to the teacher, submitting work and their own recorded explanation of the lesson. This extra interaction allows them to show their understanding of the topic without the fear of peer ridicule.

Teachers can choose to use the free whiteboard app or subscribe to a pro account for a single class of up to 40 students. Districts can select a school-wide account capable of syncing across many classrooms.

Google

The tech giant offers a host of free stuff through Google for Education that makes teaching in the 21st-century classroom easy. Teachers can take advantage of free programs like Google Docs to share information with their students. Google Arts and Culture allows classes to explore stories from cultures far and wide. Students can see the world with Google maps, keep up on current events, learn about research and advertising and much more. Teachers can use prepared lesson plans and activities geared towards helping students develop important critical thinking skills they will use for a lifetime.

MacBookGoogle

And, because most Google services come at no charge, there is no barrier to classrooms in economically depressed areas.

And Much More

With the rise of the internet, thousands of teachers, schools, and companies have developed content to help students and teachers thrive. From sites like Study.com, which provides teachers with resources to plan exciting lessons, to MiddleWeb, whose focus on teaching the middle grades helps teachers find and plan quality content for their classroom, the possibilities are endless. The sources above are only the beginning. With a little research and creativity, you'll be able to make lesson planning more fun for you and give your class the best year ever - guaranteed.

By Patricia Willis
March 2017
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