New book releases for Middle School

Cosmic Commandos
by Christopher Eliopoulos
Christopher Eliopoulos, a comic book creator who’s well-known for illustrating the books in Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series, is the talented artist and author behind this fun graphic novel for middle grade readers. Jam-packed with extraordinary hijinks, Cosmic Commandos stars a pair of identical twins who stumble upon a magic ring that allows them to live out a favorite video game in real life. It’s an adventure story that will hook tweens from beginning to end.
(On Sale: 7/4/17)

Lights, Camera, Middle School!
by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm
Middle school is all about fitting in, but Babymouse was born to stand out! What better way to do that than to join film club? With a script in hand, Babymouse sets out to direct their first film … and quickly finds that being a director isn’t as easy as she imagined. Can Babymouse pull it off? With a seamless blend of graphics and prose, this first in a new series promises kids who have grown up loving Babymouse many more hilarious adventures with the lovable character.
(On Sale: 7/4/17)

Walking with Miss Millie
by Tamara Bundy
Alice isn’t at all happy about moving from Columbus, Ohio to boring old Rainbow, Georgia. To make matters worse, she’s been tasked with walking her elderly neighbor’s dog, Clarence, who stubbornly won’t go anywhere without his owner, Miss Millie. Set against the backdrop of the late ’60s, a friendship forms as Alice learns about Miss Millie’s life, including the tragedy and loss she has suffered at the hands of racism. As Miss Millie unravels her story, she shares the ways in which she has overcome pain and anger; sets an example of kindness, generosity, and positive spirit; and inspires Alice to address her own feelings of loss along the way.
(On Sale: 7/4/17)

It All Comes Down to This
by Karen English
This middle grade novel, set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1965 and inspired by real-life events, is already earning a host of starred reviews from the likes of Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Twelve-year-old Sophie’s life changes when she and her family become the first African Americans to move into their new neighborhood. When riots erupt in nearby Watts, Sophie is forced to think about her place in the world in a whole new way. Balancing humor and a host of relatable issues, English has written a thoughtful and moving coming-of-age tale for tweens.
(On Sale: 7/11/17)

The Land of Stories: Worlds Collide
by Chris Colfer
See how it all wraps up in the final tale in author Chris Colfer’s bestselling Land of Stories series. Things are chaotic — all of the Land of Stories fairy tale characters are no longer confined to their world. Connor and Alex will have to try to win their biggest battle yet and restore order. Expect laughs, plenty of action, and a little sadness that this is the end.
(On Sale: 7/11/17)

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win
by Rachel Ignotofsky
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Women in Science comes an awesome new anthology featuring fearless females. This time the focus is pioneering female athletes. Ignotofsky highlights the stories of 50 women from the 1800s through today who soared to great heights and broke new ground. Tweens can read about all kinds of athletes — from the well-known gymnastics star Simone Biles to the lesser-known skateboarding pioneer Patti McGee. A great addition to any tween’s bookshelf.
(On Sale: 7/18/17)

Spirit Hunters
by Ellen Oh
Ellen Oh, the author of the YA Prophecy series and cofounder of We Need Diverse Books, launches a new mystery series for middle grade readers with this riveting first installment. Harper Raine’s family just moved into a new house that she’s starting to think is haunted. When her younger brother begins behaving oddly, she knows she has to step in and figure out what ghosts might be hiding in their home.
(On Sale: 7/25/17)

Source: http://www.readbrightly.com/best-childrens-ya-books-july-2017/?sid=302&mcg=4D232B47C9758D8FE0534FD66B0AD50A&ref=PRH0563577803&aid=randohouseinc13256-20&linkid=PRH0563577803&cdi=3799D21575922120E0534FD66B0AEEBE

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7 Keys to a Positive Classroom Culture in Middle School

By Darlene Anne
http://blog.teacherspayteachers.com/7-keys-positive-classroom-culture-middle-school/

This post originally appeared on the blog ELA Buffet by Darlene Anne.

My first year teaching middle school was challenging. In my infinite new teacher wisdom, I decided that the best way to prevent another difficult year would be to start off by being tough and putting on my “meaner than a junk-yard dog” face.

Thankfully, I came to my senses. Because I know better. We ALL know better. Kids are not going to learn if they don’t feel safe, if they don’t feel respected, and if they don’t like the teacher.
Fostering a favorable classroom environment and a positive relationship with my students is the most important task I assign myself every year. The recipe for a classroom culture that promotes learning requires only a dash of time and energy. It does require a hefty dose of mindfulness.
How to establish a classroom environment that promotes learning:
1) Show Genuine Interest
Greet students with a smile and enthusiasm every day. Make eye contact with them and ask them questions about their life.
Each student will come into the room hearing, “You are important, and I’m glad to see you.”

This positive message will influence students’ behavior, their desire to learn, and the tone of the entire period. Sometimes we’re busy cleaning up from the previous period or setting up for the next one. When that happens, I have the kids wait outside until I’m ready for them to enter. It is much more important for me to make a connection with them than it is to start right on the dot.
2) Use Students’ Names — Often
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie states that there is “magic contained in a name…” and “a request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual.”
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie states that there is “magic contained in a name…” and “a request we are making takes on a special importance when we approach the situation with the name of the individual.”

Use students’ names throughout the period, at every opportunity. Subconsciously, they will be much more likely to listen and comply. Don’t abbreviate a name unless you know for sure that the student approves of the nickname.

3) Use Task-Oriented Language
The next time you speak with your students, count the number of times you use statements like “I think” or “you should.” If the count is high, it might be time to reconsider the language you use.

Which would you be more likely to agree with?
You have to do your reading homework.
OR
In order to participate in tomorrow’s debate, it’s important to understand the issue by reading this article.
How about this?

I think you should all spend time studying for the test.
OR
What would be an effective plan to prepare for the test?

Task-oriented language invites agreement and cooperation by focusing on the step-by-step tasks that lead to the goal and NOT the people involved. It’s not about you, and it’s not about your students. It’s about reaching the goal of learning.

4) Give Students Choices and Input
Studies show that when we give students choices, their motivation soars. This blog post will explain how to give choices that enhance achievement and progress.
Studies show that when we give students choices, their motivation soars.

We really don’t need a study to substantiate that, do we? All we have to do is ask our kids. Mine have told me that when they have some say in decorating the room or choosing books and projects, they feel more engaged and focused. They also feel validated.

However, there is a catch. We should only give kids a limited number of choices, especially when they’re in middle school. An experiment done by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper confirmed that more isn’t always better. The researchers assigned college students various extra credit essay assignment choices. Surprisingly, students given fewer choices were more likely to complete the assignment. They even did a better job writing it.

I can’t say I’m really surprised about this. After all, who can go into a paint store and immediately choose a color from the thousands of shades offered? Most of us will take a few paint chips home and begin the daunting process of narrowing down the chips. Some of us even assign someone else the responsibility of choosing because there are just “too many choices.”

Give middle school students two or three choices. When taking notes on new content, I give my students the choice of using folding interactive notes or Cornell notes. They are both guided and include the same information, but the choice gives students the freedom to use what works best for them, creating immediate “buy-in.” (You can see what this looks like here.)

5) Use Humor
I have a teacher friend who always says we put on six “shows” a day. While it’s not our job to write jokes on cocktail napkins, a little laughter can go a long way toward improving the class. One of the best teachers I know is a master of self-deprecating humor. He can redirect his students’ attention with one dry statement like, “It’s a shame that I’m so boring because I was just about to bestow upon you the single-most important secret to… (says something unintelligible).”

Humor can be a powerful communication tool. Just be sure not to confuse it with teasing or sarcasm, which can be seen as patronizing.
6) Normalize Failure
Taking the sting away from failure is essential to a student’s comfort and ability to learn. Our classroom is their safe place to fall. I feel strongly about creating this aspect of our classroom environment, and I wrote about how I do that here.
7) Ask Students for Assistance
People inherently want to be helpful. We also have a need to feel close to others. When we ask someone to do us a favor, the person being asked feels trusted and useful. The favor draws the two people together. This technique is called the Ben Franklin effect, because in his autobiography Franklin wrote about using it to win over a rival.

Asking for a favor works especially well with difficult students, whether it be an entire class or an individual. Ask them to give you a hand with technology or to explain something. Use the word “help.”

Every so often, I use this technique and I ask a class to help me by giving me a little advice. I might say, “Period 5 class, I knew you’d be the best group to give me advice about the due date for the essay assignment.”

There’s not a doubt in my mind that asking an entire class for a little help works wonders to improve the environment of the class. How am I so sure? On the last day of school, when I tell the kids that I’m going to miss them, the kids from 1st period tell me that they’ve known all along that they were my favorite class. Then 2nd period comes in and tells me that I’m going to miss them the most because they are my favorite class.

You see where this is going, right?
And they are ALL absolutely correct.
***

Darlene AnneDarlene Anne is a middle school ELA teacher. She knows that teachers work hard to bring meaningful and engaging content to their students, and she is determined to help them do it. Now that her own children are in college, she can’t meddle as much, so she dedicates her time to creating teaching resources that teachers can be proud to use. You can find these resources in her TpT store, Darlene Anne.

7 Keys to a Positive Classroom Culture in Middle School