Middle School—an ocean of Bath and Body Works lotion and flare pens. The day begins at 8:00 a.m., when the bell trills and hallways show the remnants of homework scattered on the ground and a few slightly cracked lockers with binders on the verge of falling out.
Megan Hunt has been teaching at Collegiate for six years, and I happened to be in the first class that she taught, language strategies, when I was seventh grader. That class worked on study skills and how to improve them. Hunt always brought light to the classroom with her jokes and smile. Now she is an advisor and fifth grade girls English reading teacher.
When walking into Hunt’s room, it is difficult to not notice the yoga balls everywhere. Hunt gives the students the option of bringing their own yoga balls from home to sit on, instead of chairs. This is because a few years ago, a student requested to bring a ball for sitting, and it helped her focus. Many students take advantage of the privilege and bring in colorful yoga balls. The yoga balls make the classroom stand out, and it is one of the reasons why her students love to be in her classroom.
Each Monday, the students spend time in Hunt’s classroom from 8:00 a.m. until 10:20 a.m. as the Middle School schedule gives them two classes back to back. On Monday, Oct. 23, Hunt split the girls into stations, which divides them into small groups. Small groups allow Hunt to “be more effective and individualized” as a teacher. When the whole class is together, only a few people might participate, and it is difficult to see each person’s work. In smaller groups, “everyone gets to be heard.” She tries to do the least amount of lecturing possible during these long blocks, because that will not keep students as intrigued.
The groups are split based on skills that need to be worked on. During my visit, they worked on three different skills: spelling, reader’s response, and a book club.
The spelling group spent their time sitting on the floor and playing a partner game with flashcards, then completing a worksheet. In the next station, reader’s response, the girls worked silently on individual journal entries. They choose and read books on their own. Lastly, the book club seemed to be the most exciting for the girls. They elaborated on seed ideas, which are thoughts that get expanded into more writing. This teaches them to start with a small concept and have the ability to let it grow. They could then link the seed to other thoughts in the passage, which helped with comprehension.
Following their collaborative time, they read individually. The different books they were reading include Beyond the Bright Sea, Short, Rules, Out of My Mind, Ruby on the Outside,and Out of My Mind. Along with these books, they also have read-aloud and read-along books throughout the year. This gives the students time to read together. The students in the book club group appeared eager to respond each time. The small group setting gave Hunt the ability to see the progress of each girl.
Hunt’s advisory group followed A and B periods. They had planned to talk about the Student of the Week; however, the girls in all three advisories met outside and had a lesson with legendary Middle School history teacher and coach Weldon Bradshaw. In this lesson, they would learn about the history of Collegiate and walk around to different buildings. The girls seemed excited about the opportunity.
Hunt explained that, usually, “each week, a new girl becomes the Student of the Week” The chosen student spends the first advisory talking about herself and fun facts. The student puts up photos of herself in the front of the classroom that remain there the whole week. They also play a game where the special student leaves the room, and when she enters again, the other girls have a sheet of questions that they guess her correct answers to. These might include favorite candy, song, etc. They also are assigned a buddy who decorates their locker and leaves them prizes, and the buddy is revealed at the end of the week.
Not only is there a Student of the Week, but there is a Song of the Week, which is recommended by the students but chosen by Hunt. Hunt loves to keep her students excited about learning and coming to class. She lets them choose a group name at the beginning of the year, and this year’s class is named “the Legit Llamas.”
Stepping back and watching Hunt’s teaching style brought me back to Middle School. As a young student, I did not realize how often I would be using the skills that were learned in her class, but I use them almost every day.
Photos by Vlastik Svab.