Help for New & Novice Middle Grades Teachers

Updated each year before
the beginning of school!

Is your first classroom – brimming over with middle grades students – just weeks away? Teachers writing at MiddleWeb have ideas to help you launch your new career!

In a hurry? Check out 25 of MiddleWeb’s Best New Teacher Resources. And here are more quick ideas worth sharing from across the Internet: 

✻ Not a newbie yourself but down the hall from one? Amber Chandler‘s Supporting New Teachers at ShareMyLesson gives mentors and everyone else helpful suggestions.

✻  Jason DeHart, a veteran middle school teacher turned teacher educator, offered these insights in a Summer 2021 Edutopia article — No One Starts Out Awesome: Advice for New Teachers.

✻  Another Edutopia article from Summer 2021 brings a pandemic perspective to first-year teaching — New Teachers: How to Start Your First Year with Confidence.

✻  Sara Ketcham, writing at NEA Today, explains how In First Year of Teaching, Acting More, Reacting Less, Can Reduce Anxiety.

✻  So You Wish It Had Been Different: Three First-Year Struggles is a Teaching Channel post by former National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling. Save to read next June or read now for a heads-up on making your first year closer to what you hope for.

✻ Job hunting and need tips on demonstration lessons? Check out this concise summary by a teacher educator.

What makes middle graders special?

The developmental needs of tweens and young teens are unique, says popular professional development consultant and former teacher Rick Wormeli, and flourishing as a middle grades teacher requires special skills. In this MiddleWeb post he starts by offering five strategies tailored to young adolescent learners. (Find lots more from Rick – from handling homework to whether to befriend students – here at MiddleWeb.)

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Middle school students, in particular, are a unique breed, says teacher and consultant Jennifer Gonzalez, and they need teachers who are tuned in to the intense dichotomies of adolescent life and learning. She offers teachers new to the middle level helpful tips in 8 Things I Know for Sure about Middle School Kids.

After 20+ years of teaching, Cheryl Mizerny knows middle school is where she’s meant to be. In her MiddleWeb blog, It’s Not Easy Being Tween, Cheryl shares six aspects of young adolescents that make middle-level teaching the toughest job she’s ever loved. (Also see her article “How to Become a Tween-Centered Teacher.”

In a MiddleWeb interview, Tween Teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron notes that while many teachers avoid the middle grades, others like herself are captivated by the energy and emotion of young adolescents. She suggests strategies for building a classroom community to suit the young adolescent mind and body. And in a more recent post, Heather uses her own national survey data to argue that every teacher, new or veteran, should “Bring Your Personality and Humor on Day One.”

Find more of our favorite MiddleWeb posts highlighting the remarkable qualities of young adolescent students and the ways we adults can best support them as they grow in this collection of our most popular posts for novice teachers.

What’s ahead in the classroom

We asked teaching consultant Annette Breaux to write about three of the most pressing questions new teachers have in the weeks before they open their classroom doors to students for the first time. Here’s her advice on discipline, classroom management, and daily procedures. Annette teams with Todd Whitaker in one of our most popular articles, What an Effective Teacher’s Classroom Looks Like – not physical layout but classroom culture.

Teaching expert Regie Routman has written a delicious article for MiddleWeb readers, blending two of her greatest passions: teaching and cooking. Her Optimal Learning Model will have new teachers looking for a solid foundation as they launch their careers. If you teach writing, you’ll also want to see her advice on removing roadblocks.



Whether his soon-to-be teachers are spending an hour or all day with students, the question teacher educator Curtis Chandler most often hears from them is this: “How can I better support my students who are English language learners?” Read about his techniques to prepare new teachers better here. Find lots more ways to support multilingual learners in a second post by Curtis.

To get the latest news from MiddleWeb, drop by the website for our weekly additions and subscribe to the MiddleWeb SmartBrief for free, thrice weekly emails for grades 4-8 educators.

Content area prescriptions

Several MiddleWeb bloggers share ideas gleaned from their subject area practice. Here are their suggestions for new teachers.

As school begins this year, quite a few educators will face a new and potentially daunting assignment: Teach STEM – Science + Technology + Engineering + Math. In her STEM by Design blog curriculum expert Anne Jolly offers help – six essential tips that can help “sudden” STEM educators survive a challenging start and achieve success. The article links to Anne’s post, Every STEM Teacher Is ‘”NEW” in 2022.

LearnNC-SSprojectsOur three original Future of History bloggers – Jody Passanisi, Shara Peters, and Aaron Brock – got together to brainstorm what they wished they had known during their first year of teaching social studies. They tackle curriculum, classroom setup, teachers toolkit, and more.

Current Future of History blogger Lauren Brown shares Refreshing Advice for New History Teachers including building classroom communities and responding to challenging topics.

After considering his early years as an English teacher, looking at research and talking with teachers and administrators, in 4 Ideas Help New ELA Teachers Start Strong teacher educator Sean Ruday shares four recommendations to help new ELA teachers’ first years in the classroom be as successful as possible.

Too often co-teaching teams, no matter the content area, simply take turns as they focus on general student needs, rather than blending their strengths to serve all the learners in the room. Co-teaching coach Elizabeth Stein, our Two Teachers in the Room blogger, shares ideas and resources to build strong partnerships.

In a MiddleWeb guest article, Vermont science coordinator Kathy Renfrew shares her vision of how middle grades teachers and coaches can be NGSS Superheroes: leaders in developing science classrooms that are student-driven and focused on teaching scientific subjects in ways that relate to the real world. (Also see Kathy’s science blog. Her first post shares ideas about blending science and children’s literature.)

Books for newbies, reviewed here

MiddleWeb’s book review collection is a gateway to the knowledge and know-how of expert educators. One to read right now is the review of Julia G. Thompson’s The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide: Ready-to-Use Strategies, Tools & Activities for Meeting the Challenges of Each School Day 4th ed. (Julia’s MiddleWeb posts are here.) Find lots more timely suggestions in the review of another classic, What Every Middle School Teacher Should Know, 3rd ed. by Dave F. Brown and Trudy Knowles.

In 2021’s The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges: Curated Advice from Award-Winning Teachers  Anna M. Quinzio-Zafran and Elizabeth A. Wilkins bring together up-to-the-minute advice from award-winning educators to guide new and veteran teachers alike as they navigate the school system, form relationships with colleagues, and connect with students and families.

Discover The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Every Day in Bryan Goodwin and Elizabeth Ross Hubbell’s book. And find a guide to your first year in 2016’s Your First Year: How to Survive and Thrive as a New Teacher by Todd Whitaker, Madeline Whitaker and Katherine Whitaker.

In A Helpful Field Guide for Beginning Teachers Tina H. Boogren takes beginning teachers in their first years through the phases they can expect: anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, and reflection.

You Can Do This: Hope and Help for New Teachers features Robyn R. Jackson looking back at her experiences as a novice teacher, considering school/life balance, relationships with parents, and more. For a look at using technology to help build relationships, read the review of Standing in the Gap: Empowering New Teachers Through Connected Resources by Lisa Dabbs and Nicol R. Howard.

If teaching reading is part of your assignment, be sure to check out a pair of lesson-rich books from consultants Gravity Goldberg and Renee Houser, both former staff developers at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop. Reviewer Pam Hamilton says the What Do I Teach Readers Tomorrow set (fiction & nonfiction) will be a life saver for new teachers.

Beyond MiddleWeb

Speaking of Lisa Dabbs, although her weekly #ntchat (New Teacher Chat) on Twitter retired in 2017 after seven years, lots of helpful educators still use the hashtag to share tips and advice. You’ll be amazed, in fact! You can also get Lisa’s great ideas on Twitter @itslisadabbs and at her website, Teaching with Soul

ander tchr stress 7425When your first year of teaching turns really stressful, remember to connect with Roxanna Elden. The teacher and author of See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers recalls her challenges as a first year teacher and has developed a series on free emails to help newbies. Launched in 2015, the New Teacher Disillusionment Power Pack will appear every few days for a month.

You can also sign up for Roxanna’s The School Year Starter Kit (Or, Everything You Should Have Learned at New Teacher Orientation), “a free, three-day email series meant to help rookies cut through information overload and focus on the few, basic things that will most help them prepare for the first day of teaching.”

Roxanna tackles a necessary if less frequently addressed topic in Is the first-year teacher in your life crying in the car? Here are five things you should know (Hechinger Report, December 2015). Something to share with family and friends. Find Roxanna’s MiddleWeb posts here.

Larry Ferlazzo, teacher, author, and tireless curator of his Websites of the Day, offers What Educators Wish They Knew When They Began Teaching at his Education Week Teacher blog, Classroom Q&A. The three-part series featuring comments by education leaders joins earlier posts Advice to New Teachers From Veterans and his classroom management collection. In a June 2016 post, Ferlazzo shares the views of four veteran educators in Classroom Rules – Ways to Create, Introduce & Enforce Them. Limited access to EdWeek Teacher is free with guest registration.

Discover a treasure trove of video advice about managing those first critical classroom weeks (and beyond) at the Teaching Channel. The free site is packed with videos featuring teachers in action, including a series, The New Teacher Survival Guide, that’s well worth viewing. You can search the website by the guide title or age or subject area. Also at the Teaching Channel is Back-to-School Countdown: How to Build Classroom Culture, a vlog series from Sarah Brown Wessling.

1st-day-smile-squareGet a taste of ASCD’s Educational Leadership journal with What I Wish My Professors Had Told Me by Jennifer Collins. Find more locked and unlocked articles here. At ASCD’s 2022 page for new teachers, you can access free articles and see what books they have in stock for new teachers. The page also provides a link to sign up for the bi-weekly ASCD Express (!) as well as ASCD’s SmartBriefs.

Selecting from their vast collection of freely accessible blog posts, videos, discussions and more, Edutopia offers a one-stop page for new teachers.

Tune in to BAM! Internet Radio to catch helpful discussions from educators, for educators. Conversations include New Teachers: Three Things They Didn’t Teach You in Education SchoolWhat Savvy Teachers Know About Managing Disruptive Student Behavior, and Rethinking  Boundaries Between Teachers and Students: Tough Teacher, Trusted Friend Or…

And, finally, have you added ‘teacher voice’ to your list of concerns? Find an explanation of why teachers can face severe hoarseness and how to avoid it in Teacher Voice Problems Are an Occupational Hazard. Here’s How to Reduce the Risk by Cindy Long in NEA Today.

Do you have favorite free or low-cost new teacher resources? Please share them in a comment, below.