Best Practices: MS 250 Middle School (Manhattan)

May 26, 2011
Audrey Stokes Associate Product Manager, Education
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES In the Classroom

Sixth grade teachers Emily Koch and Theresa Hall from Manhattan’s MS 250 middle school have done an excellent job building upon Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship curriculum to further meet their students’ learning needs. Recognizing that students might get bogged down with discussion-heavy lessons, Theresa and Emily engineered some inventive curriculum-based activity strategies to keep their students engaged. Read on to view some of their ideas for generating classroom activities.

  1. Let students be researchers: Theresa and Emily asked students to look up lesson-specific information on several websites and record their findings. This gave students a chance to work with and explore lesson content on their own and reinforce key learning points.
  2. Make it visual: Encourage applying information from the lesson to a visual organizer, like a chart or graph. Students get to process what they’ve learned and represent the information from a new perspective.
  3. Give students a chance to reflect: Hand out discussion questions and give everyone a moment to think and write answers. This often leads to discussions with more depth and well-constructed comments.
  4. Take an opportunity to form real-life connections: Emily and Theresa asked students to apply information from the curriculum toward designing pamphlets and booklets. Students get to see how what they’ve learned can become an informational aid to share with others. In this way, the lesson material feels less like something everyone is required to learn and more like shareable, real-life information.
  5. Dedicate a day to focus groups: Let students briefly revisit lesson material before organizing students into small discussion groups. Creating a smaller group setting for discussions ensures more students get the chance to share their thoughts and receive feedback.
  6. Learn it, repeat it: Theresa and Emily noticed that their class struggled to retain key vocabulary words from the curriculum. Make a point to integrate lesson vocabulary into conversation as much as possible after the lesson has been taught so students learn to build new words into their everyday vocabulary.


What about you? Do you have any innovative classroom strategies you’d like to share? Please leave us a comment and let us know how you keep kids engaged with curriculum in your classroom.