Sixth graders are very needy. While seventh graders are the babies who are part grown, sixth graders are simply the babies of middle school. They need and want adults to tell them what to do and how to do everything, including how to sit in a chair during class and when to sharpen their pencils. That was new for me.
This year in addition to respecting self, teachers, peers and environment in sixth grade ELA, students will do the following:
students will talk only with permission. While productive chatter doesn't bother me, I learned sixth graders cannot handle talking in class. Productive chatter quickly and easily turns to ridiculously silly chaos. I was able to allow my self-contained students to talk quietly, partly because I had to also choose my battles and thankfully they were able to quiet down when necessary. However there are no battles in comparison in my current teaching situation, so talking out of turn will not be tolerated.
students will stay in their seat. While I notice just about everything, a student getting up without permission was never cause for me to reprimand or really call attention to. However, that has changed. In a class of 30 sixth graders, or really any middle school grade for that matter, it is necessary for students to keep their seats in order to maintain just that: order.
students will not chew, eat food candy or drink anything but water. While I didn't encourage gum chewing in my past classes, it wasn't a battle I chose to combat. Sixth graders, on the other hand, will put gum everywhere even if its not allowed. I may just hold a basket at the door this year.
Consistency with all students regardless of grade is key. It's how students learn what is expected and tolerated. I live for new beginnings. The beginning of a school year is the perfect chance to think through and visualize every aspect of my classroom and create routines and procedures to make them happen.
This year will be better than the last, and hopefully will include less sixth grade tantrums. The tears, the hiding, the sitting on the floor, all of the tantrum-type behavior was new for me last year. Nonetheless, I love teaching sixth grade, and the second year doing so in my eighth year of teaching must be a charm.