Recently, we followed the seventh grade for a day to discover a typical day in middle school at BASIS Independent Fremont. Ms. Villanueva, a Subject Expert Teacher who teaches Creative Writing as a seventh grade elective this year, decided to repeat the experiment and see for herself what her students experience each day at school. Below are her notes from her day of middle school!
8:00 AM: Chemistry
The day begins with science, a subject that was not my expertise as a middle school student. Then, I found the content to be overwhelming and although I enjoyed lab experiments, I struggled with understanding the complex formulas. But after sitting in Dr. Araci’s classroom, I could see the difference in her teaching compared to teachers I had at my former private schools. Dr. Araci is a patient teacher who thoroughly explains methods to her students and checks for understanding throughout the entire lesson.
Tanvi is the first student to approach the whiteboard to show how she configured the “Ar” electron with what she calls the “order of filling” method. Dr. Araci uses Tanvi’s written work to explain how students can use this longer method, but also demonstrates a shorter alternative with breaking up the periodic table into four sections. Louis and Aaryan also go up to the whiteboard and the Do Now assignment, a short introduction lesson at the start of each class, ends at 8:20AM.
Dr. Araci asks students to use their guided notes and fill in charts with the information that is projected on the whiteboard. She asks students to study how the transition metals form cations with various charges. Dr. Araci also gives a brief vocabulary lesson on how polyatomic ions of the halogens require prefixes. Afterwards, students practice writing molecular formulas using the listed atoms on the projector. One of the students approaches the whiteboard to attempt a practice problem but makes a mistake. Dr. Araci reassures her and says, “This is how we learn. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.” The remainder of class resumes with more practice problems of naming compounds for listed formulas and vice versa (writing the correct formula for the named compound).
8:55 AM: Algebra I
When I reflect on learning Algebra in middle school, I still feel the anxiety I once had about getting all the wrong answers. I struggled with this subject more than anything, and wish I had teachers who modeled a growth mindset like we do for our students at BASIS Independent Fremont. I was happy to see Ms. Rangoli helping students who were struggling like I used to, and I learned a lot from sitting in her class.
Ms. Rangoli begins class with a review lesson projected on the whiteboard. This lesson focuses on even and odd integers. Students seem to find this concept challenging, but Ms. Rangoli remains patient and breaks down an example equation step by step. “I love learning in math class, because there is always something fun to wait for before going in, and Ms. Rangoli is very understanding.” says Raagini. To check for understanding, Ms. Rangoli calls up Sneha to the whiteboard to attempt a second equation.
Twenty minutes later, students move on to practicing fraction and decimal word problems. Then, students moved on to a second lesson with system equations with subscripted variables. The lesson from the book is projected on the whiteboard, so students cannot see the answers right away. The remainder of class is spent on more practice problems, reviewing test corrections, and beginning homework.
9:50 AM: Biology
Students have the entire class period to prepare for group presentations. “I appreciate teachers who give time in class to work on projects or homework because it saves us a lot of time,” says Ajay. Students have a worksheet to complete to make a creature with descriptions that includes advantages and disadvantages of different methods. These methods include food processing, respiration, reproduction, stimuli and response, and movement. Students also have to draw a model of what their creature would look like. Shirley says her group completed everything in one class period. I see her using Biology related vocabulary words in her writing and like how she labeled her model. Since Shirley’s group are early finishers, they spend class time practicing for their presentation. Dr. Sharma walks around the classroom to monitor student progress and takes notes on which phylum each group contributes for their presentation. I am a teacher who enjoys incorporating creative hands-on projects in my classroom, and could see how enthusiastic students were to have this project opportunity.
11:00 AM: U.S History
Class begins with Dr. Monkman playing music from her laptop and a question on the whiteboard that asks, “How might music convince people to support a war?” Kyle responds with, “If the song had lyrics, then you would unconsciously agree with the words that are being spoken.” Aaryan adds on saying “The music sounds patriotic and positive.”
The Gilded Age and the Spanish-American War are the focus of today’s lesson. Dr. Monkman has highlighted notes on the projector that students are expected to take notes on in their History binders. I appreciate how Dr. Monkman highlights a minority group with mentioning the Philippine War while lecturing on Spanish colonies. I enjoy seeing students ask so many questions that are welcomed by Dr. Monkman during her presentation. The use of political cartoons in the presentation seem to help the students connect to the content.
There is a “turn and talk” break at the 25-minute mark of class. Dr. Monkman asks students, “If you were against America’s expanding empire, what argument would you make? What about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?” Students respond positively to this lecture break by having on topic conversations until the time ends. This transitions to the last assignment of the day, with students analyzing a political cartoon that illustrates Uncle Sam and children from the Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. This is an effective way for Dr. Monkman to see what information students gathered from today’s lecture.
12:55 PM: Physics
Dr. Dixit was absent today and missed by her students. “I love how Ms. Sanhita brings out her meter stick in class. I will never forget Physics when I am older,” says Sneha. Students take a quiz that usually occurs on a biweekly basis. Early finishers are allowed to read a book or work on homework for another class after turning in their quiz. The opportunity to have some time like this is a welcome break for the students, where they can choose their priorities on how they spend their time.
1:50 PM: Art
Mr. Harter begins class with his chime bell and asks students for three minutes of their attention. This class has an ample amount of independent work time and freedom to collaborate with peers. Students are continuing a project using carving tools and wooden blocks to carve thumbnail illustrations on top of linoleum. Some students carved drawings of the Black Panther, while others go for a more abstract approach with various symbols.
In addition, students are introduced to a new project of making Snapchat filter self-portraits with oil pastels. “I like art because it allows me to be creative and let my ideas flow free and now we are using social media for our next project,” says Claire. The only requirement that Mr. Harter asks is for students to include a border and utilize the supplies that are provided in the classroom. Students actively move around the room to get the art supplies they need as Mr. Harter navigates through the room to advise students on their projects. He offers suggestions and reassures students that they are doing a great job when they doubt themselves. Everyone is working at a variety of paces and do not seem to feel rushed knowing that these projects are not due immediately.
2:45 PM: English
Yesterday students completed peer editing and today students make edits to their To Kill a Mockingbird essay with the goal of having a completed final draft by Friday before the upcoming break. Having Writer’s Workshop days are essential for large essay assignments so students can take advantage of consulting with Mr. Betcher instead of trying to write everything at home. Mr. Betcher focuses his attention on starting with a writer who struggles with organizing her ideas in her body paragraphs. He prompts her with questions, suggestions, and points out text evidence to support her arguments. It was a pleasant surprise to see how quiet and diligent students were working on their writing during this independent work time. “Mr. Betcher is a good teacher because he helps me with my essays,” says Kyle.
Spending a day as a seventh grader was a rewarding experience. I have a better understanding and appreciation of my students now that I have spent a day in their shoes.
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