Managing a classroom of middle school students can be challenging. Even with the best intentions, highly engaging lesson plans, and all the enthusiasm anyone over 22 can muster, it is impossible to get all students to focus on education. Too many students are more than happy to answer the siren calls of friends, cell phones, or whatever-made-that-noise-outside-the-door.
As a 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher, I realized many of my students simply didn’t realize that they weren’t focused. They never slowed down long enough to reflect on their own behavior, and were truly taken aback when presented with the facts of their misconduct. It occurred to me that if the students were asked to stop and reflect on their behavior, with a teacher-provided reality check, they might start to notice their own distraction.
My team and I tried this Level Up chart on our students last year, and we all agreed that it was a success. The students were surprisingly honest with themselves. In only a few cases did I have to chat with a student who couldn’t see themselves realistically. I did this with humor and the student acknowledged that I was right. I also only had one student who graded herself too harshly. I suggested she adjust her score upwards before she turned it in, and gave her a bit of a pep talk, as well.
Over time, some of my hardest cases made significant improvement, which greatly improved the learning environment in my classroom. I knew that the unit made a huge impact on my students when I one boy say, “Yeah, I guess this is why I keep getting in trouble.” Bingo! He had made the connection.
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