So… next year, I am making a big move! I will be moving from 6th grade to 7th grade. This is a pretty big deal because it means that I have to switch buildings. In our district, the 6th grades are housed in our elementary schools (our district has four elementary schools), and the 7th and 8th grades are in the middle school.
As I mentioned before, I’m really feeling all the feels about this move! I was hired by the building that I’m leaving. It was my first “real job,” right out of college. I’m comfortable there. My friends are there. It’s my “home.”
But, I am a HUGE believer that change is good in education. And I know this to be especially true for me. I like change. It shakes me up, wakes me up, invigorates me in a way that nothing else can! Ultimately, I know that for me, changing things up and trying on new challenges is what keeps me going, so while I am sad to be leaving the building and family that has meant “home” for these last ten years, I am excited beyond words!!
Next year, I will be teaching just ELA. This is going to be a big adjustment for me, as I’ve always taught both ELA and math. There are parts of teaching math that I will miss, but I cannot say that I am sad about going from two preps per day to one prep per day! And, as I’ve mentioned before, teaching ELA is my heart and soul. I am so excited to be able to fully dedicate all my time to it! (Though I will keep my math “stuff” up on the blog… I’ve acquired quite a few great tricks and tips for teaching math over the years and it would be silly not to share them!)
Another exciting part of my move is that I will have the privilege of teaching the URSA program next year. URSA, which stands for United Responsible Students Achieving, is an elective program offered to selected students for 7th-12th grades. Modeled after the AVID program, URSA targets students who, if they graduate college, may be the first in their families to do so. The program attempts to close the achievement gap by providing the supports and resources that are already afforded to affluent students. For our students this means: going on college tours and to college fairs, receiving extra tutoring/homework help after school, getting assistance with achieving a well-rounded resume, etc. The program is THE BOMB! I am so stoked to be a part of it!
My role is that of URSA mentor/ELA teacher for the 7th grade group. These students will be on the “advanced” ELA track, so we have a lot of work cut out for us! And that is one of the reasons why participation in our summer learning program is a requirement.
We are just about through our 2nd week of summer learning. So far, we have spent a LOT of time getting to know each other and learning to work as a team. Our URSA group will pretty much become a family over the next year. They will be together for most of the day next year and then again in 8th grade, so instilling that sense of “community” has been much of the goal for the last several days.
It’s a struggle to come up with ice breakers or team-building activities that get my middle schoolers excited! For the longest time, the activities I picked were met with eye-rolls, bemoaning my cheesy attempt to get everyone interacting. But, over the years, I can say that I’ve finally developed a arsenal of ideas that are sure to get almost everyone excited. One of my favorite activities is the Cup Challenge. For this activity, students need to move a stack of cups from one location to another without touching the cups with their hands. Rather, I provide them with a few “tools” and they have to construct a device to do the moving for them.
It really gets the kids working together and they have a blast at the same time!!
This was just one of the several ice-breaker/team-building activities we did to kick-start the URSA program. I’ve compiled a sampling of my FAVORITE activities for upper elementary/middle school and many of the ones we did, including the Cup Challenge, can be found in here.
Do you have any favorite ice breakers or team-building exercises that work for well for older kids? I’d love to hear from you!!