two different worlds

If anyone has ever spent time teaching in a middle school and high school, they know that they are two different worlds. It still amazes me how much changes between those years and what a teacher needs to do differently in order to be successful in each world.

I was chatting with Ben Slavic the other day and this year he has made the switch from one world to the other, from middle school to high school. As we were chatting he asked me the question, Are 8th graders still more creative than ninth graders? It made me smile because I knew exactly what he was talking about. The jump between 8th grade and 9th grade is huge! I responded:

8th graders are very creative, but so are are the 9th graders. It just happens in a different way. They don’t explode with ideas like the 8th graders. They still have the creative ideas, but it needs to be drawn out of them more with questions. They like being more clever and sneaky. I am learning more and more that your success with tprs in high school is dependent on how well you play the game at the high school level. In middle school, they will do anything for you. In 7th and 8th grade almost every story is a home run. In high school I have to work for it a little more and relationships take more time to establish, but it’s still there if I get them to play the game.

It’s funny, at the high school I am way more crazy. At the middle school, I don’t need to be crazy because they have so much energy. Here’s a good analogy. At the high school I spray them with water for fun and it makes the classroom alive, although they pretend not to like it. The look in their eyes and the smile on their face can’t hide their enjoyment. I can’t do this every day because it would lose it’s novelty. In the middle school, they ask me if I have my water sprayer every day. Kids run up to me and open their mouth because they want to be sprayed. I have to put the water away so that they are always wanting more. It’s a different world and there are different rules to playing the game in each world.

If we can learn the game rules for the world in which we teach, our students will acquire vast amounts of the target language, tprs will become much more easy, and we will make meaningful connections with our students. I have begun my study on how to play the game in previous blogs and there is more coming. As I learn more, I will continue to post.



Filed under Storytelling tips, Teaching Discoveries

4 responses to “two different worlds

  1. Michele

    I find the same thing about MS energy! I love teaching them–it’s almost effortless, because about the time they hit 9th grade, they are wanting to be cool and you have to be sneaky (but that reverts to MS when you start teaching adults). The other thing I have learned is that in MS, you almost have to personalize less, because they’re still like elementary kids, focusing more on themselves than on the story. (One of my MS kids tells us every day about her horse in a totally unconnected way.) Carol Gaab taught us last year at NTPRS that at the elementary level, it’s better to have a chart (for food preferences, for example) than to ask about interests out loud in class, because everyone starts to talk about their favorite animals. I have an 8th-grade boy who is on a run currently about eating children’s heads…the other thing about MS is that they don’t always want things to be about relationships between people. Jason Fritze said that in MS, if every story involves animals and candy, you’re going to hit a home run every time. It’s a little more complex at the HS level. Anyway, it’s really interesting to try to tease these differences apart. I feel as though I could teach MS every day without ever worrying whether it would “work.” HS is a whole different story. But maybe I’m just lucky in my particular kids.

    • thomasyoung


      I totally agree! Animals and Candy, that cracked me up because it is so true.

      • Bryce told me that in his high school world it is more about love relationships. But how many stories can we do about that one topic? Are there other themes that work well at the h.s. level?

        P.S. Thomas I love your blog and you write so well. Keep ’em coming.

      • thomasyoung

        Thanks for the encouragement. I wish I had more time to write! I have not been able to make love relationships work really well. Maybe it is my classroom persona, but love relationships actually work better for me in the middle school. Maybe that will change over time. Other themes that work well for me are: stuff getting stolen, having to go to bathroom, wanting something and the journey to getting it, friendships, but I will say that there is a lot of gold in relationships that I have yet to mine.

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