Middle school can be tough. Socially, emotionally, and academically, there can be lots of challenges for students in the early teen years. My students are learning English and adapting to a new culture while navigating these difficult years, and this creates an extra layer of challenge.
My English Language Learner students are resilient, resourceful, and caring young teens.
Many of my students this year recently arrived refugees from Africa and the Middle East. These students have been through a great deal beyond their control in their short lives, but they use multiple talents and strengths to overcome current obstacles. We share hands-on experiences as a springboard for launching into a new language. Investigating science topics in our language arts classroom allows my older new readers to develop key reading and writing skills with age-appropriate materials.
Insects are remarkable, and exploring them in depth has become a tradition in our classroom. Every spring, we hatch a few praying mantis egg cases and marvel at the tiny predators which emerge in countless numbers, ready to hunt down even tinier insect prey within minutes of leaving the egg case. From the very first day of school, my students are looking forward to our springtime live insects projects.
The world is full of incredible insects like the Bombardier Beetle which sprays a boiling hot chemical mixture to protect itself and the farming Leafcutter Ants which gather and chew up plant matter to feed the organisms they cultivate as food inside their colonies.
I want to add a new twist to our insect activities. We will continue to learn about these striking insects from far-off places, but this year I want my students to participate in an Amazing Insect Challenge a little closer to home.
Using the plastic collection containers, students will look for the biggest, the brightest, the fastest and the most remarkable insects around their homes and then bring them in to school to share. We'll use field guides to identify our specimens and then create posters advertising the most spectacular qualities of the insects we find. The printer ink will allow us to create posters in full color. The praying mantis egg cases, ladybugs, and books about insects will be used to help students build background knowledge and vocabulary so that they can speak and write confidently about the insects they find using correct terminology.
Once our poster collection is complete (and our live specimens are returned to their homes), students will present their insects. The class will propose an award for each insect based on individual characteristics and will vote on Best in Show!
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