Posts Tagged ‘Lessons for middle school’

4 Low-cost Engaging Lessons for Middle Schoolers – Susan Lee

Doc Meek thanks Susan Lee for her helpful guest article here!

4 Inexpensive, Engaging Lessons for

Middle Schoolers

Middle school teachers spend a great deal of time designing lessons that are engaging, yet easy on their wallets. As states cut education funding and schools struggle to provide supplies and materials other than the most basic essentials, teachers are left to find inexpensive activities for their classrooms. To make the process a little easier, here are three inexpensive, engaging lessons for middle schoolers that are sure to make both the students and the teachers happy.

PHOTO CREDIT: Image via Pixabay by wilhei

  1. Going to Great Lengths – Middle School Math Lesson 

Measurement and estimation are two important concepts in middle school math. To make it more engaging than having students measure using worksheets, or even measuring predetermined objects, send students on a scavenger hunt around the classroom or school.

To begin, group students evenly int0o teams. Place three objects of varying length in the front of the classroom and ask each team to estimate the length of each object. Don’t give them the unit of measurement, so that you can formatively assess their ability to use correct measurement units. (*Hint: Choose objects that would require different units, such as inches, feet, and yards.) Then, ask for volunteers to come up front and measure the objects to s0ee which team’s estimate was closest to being accurate. (*Hint: If you don’t have enough rulers or yard sticks for each team, cut string to the length of a ruler and yard stick and use a marker to mark off the inches/feet.)

Then, instruct the teams to leave their measuring tools at their seats while they scour the classroom or designated school areas for items that correspond to your measurement specifications. Teams will have to estimate the lengths of the objects when choosing them, and then return to their tables to measure the objects’ actual length. The team with the objects that are closest to your requested measurements wins.

  1. Vocabulary Hot Potato – Middle School Language Arts or Social Studies Lesson

Whether you are teaching academic vocabulary or vocabulary specific to a text or spelling lesson, you can teach it and have students practice it in a more engaging way with Hot Potato Vocabulary. This inexpensive, engaging vocabulary lesson requires a small foam ball or tennis ball, a source of music (radio, iPod, CD player, etc.), your students, and a list of the vocabulary terms. By the way, you may be a little leery of playing a physical game in your classroom, but don’t fret: there are strategies for classroom management during gameplay that are very effective.

Instruct students to stand in a circle. They should have their vocabulary lists on the floor at their feet, or you can direct them to a large poster of the vocabulary lists hanging on the wall near them somewhere. You will begin playing the music at a minimal volume, and you will toss the ball to a student while the music plays. Students continue to toss the ball to one another until you stop the music, a la musical chairs.

When you stop the music, give a definition or example of one of the vocabulary words to the student who was caught holding the ball when the music stopped. If the student answers correctly, he remains in the game. If he answers incorrectly, he returns to his seat and completes a vocabulary activity that you have prepared ahead of time. The game continues until you run out of vocabulary words, or until there is only one student left in the game.

  1. Pirates – Middle School History Unit

Middle schoolers respond best to lessons that are fun and engaging, and few historical topics meet those requirements better than the study of pirates. To kick off your unit on pirates, you might surprise the kids by showing up in a pirate costume. It’s a great way to get the lesson off to a fun start and it’s sure to get their attention right off the bat.

Then, get rolling with a few of the activities offered by the New England Pirate Museum. For example, have your students research a well-known pirate and then write a few entries in that pirate’s diary. You could also have students research and sketch the different types of ships that were used by pirates. Another great option is to have students research pirate vocabulary and choose the provided definition that would have been most applicable to a pirate’s way of life. Finally, you might end the unit with a scavenger hunt using pirate-fact inspired clues.

  1. Levitating Orbs – Middle School Science Lesson

Static electricity is one of the most fun concepts to teach to middle schoolers, especially because many of them have had personal experience with being zapped by it at some point. For this inexpensive, engaging lesson on Levitating Orbs, you will need PVC pipe, about one inch wide by 24 inches long. If you don’t have any pipe, a regular balloon will work as well. You also will need mylar tinsel [not metallic tinsel] left over from Christmas, but make sure that you find the thinnest and narrowest possible. There’s a good chance you will be able to find some in a clearance bin at a discount store or craft store, no matter the time of year you look. You’ll also need one head of clean, dry hair and scissors.

Photo from: www.ScienceBob.com

Tie six strands of tinsel together at one end, and then tie another knot about six inches from the first knot. Cut off the loose strands. Charge the pipe (or balloon) by rubbing it back and forth on your head for about 10 seconds. Then, hold the mylar orb by the knot above the pipe (or balloon) and let it drop to touch the charged object. The orb should repel and begin to float. (*Note, you should try this before doing it with the class, because if the mylar sticks it is more than likely too thick and not going to work.)

Students should then experiment by making orbs with more or fewer strands of tinsel, trying to create static electricity with other materials, such as their clothes, especially if some are wearing wool sweaters or furry boots, and timing to see how long the charge lasts. Can they do anything to make the charge last longer? Give students time to conduct their own investigations and experiments and then report their results.

Nearly any lesson can become an inexpensive, engaging activity when you share your enthusiasm and love of learning with students. Don’t be afraid to substitute materials to save money, or to approach local businesses for donations or discounts when you show your teacher ID.

Susan Lee may be a former teacher, but she is a lifetime educator. As a mother to three college-age children, she knows how difficult paying for college can be. And that’s why she finds her work with OutsideScholarships.org so rewarding. As a writer and researcher, she loves being able to connect students in need with the scholarships that help make achieving their dreams possible. In her spare time, she loves camping with her husband and volunteering at a local animal shelter.

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