Grade 7... Uhoh. Help!

Let me me begin by saying that my teacher education and teaching practicum prepared me for grade 9-12 teaching (or so it claimed).  I had very little classroom time dedicated to the younger kids in college or even in my practicums. My first teaching job involved teaching 9-12.  My second and third years of teaching involved teaching 9-12. My fourth year of teaching (this year) was a stretch because I was also given a class of grade 8 students to teach.

Next year, apparently because I do so well with the junior high mindset (I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not), I was assigned grade 7-9 classes. Um. I’ve always maintained that grade 7 students are too young for me, both mentally and skill-wise, but in this economy, I have to be thankful that I have a job at all, even if it puts me teaching junior high rather than high school.

But Tumblr teachers who are reading this, I now need help. Please, please, I need your help.  Can any of you give me suggestions, resources, or the names of other places to help me figure out the best way to teach Language Arts to these little guys? Management strategies, activities that have worked, advice, or even just some encouragement?

I am actually quite scared.

Tumblr Teachers - Language Arts and Planning Units

Hey amazing Tumblr Teachers –

Here’s my embarrassing, dirty Language Arts teacher secret:

I’m in my fifth year of teaching and I still don’t understand how to plan units of study.  I can understand how to plan the units in Social Studies, Science, Math, etc.  They’re fairly straightforward with their curriculum.  The Alberta English Language Arts curriculum for Junior High (7, 8, 9) is… well, to put it politely, it’s almost non-existent. Here are a few winning examples:

  • Students will revise understanding and expression of ideas by connecting new and prior knowledge and experiences.
  • Pursue personal interest in specific genres by particular writers, artists, storytellers, and filmmakers.
  • Listen and respond constructively to alternative ideas or opinions.
  • Use previous reading experiences, personal experiences, and prior knowledge as a basis for reflecting on and interpreting ideas encountered in texts.
  • Use a thesaurus.
  • Experience oral, print, and other media texts from a variety of cultural traditions.

And so on.  There is nothing that I can see in the curriculum to help me structure my year and my units.

So, my question for you is: what do you do? The only thing I know I don’t want to do is to say, “this month we learn about short stories; this month poetry; this month non-fiction, etc."  I think there’s got to be a better way to do it.

I’d like to continue with reading and writing workshops as well as tons of projects that utilize technology… but beyond that I’m stuck. I just don’t know what I’m missing that I can’t visualize these units.

Help? Please? Anything at all? :)