15 of Our Most-Read Articles During 2021


By John Norton & Susan Curtis
MiddleWeb Co-Editors

This year’s edition of our most-read articles has a slight twist. We looked at our post from last January, MiddleWeb’s 15 Most-Read Articles During 2020, and decided not to duplicate any article we shared then. We think this approach better accounts for the pandemic ebb and flow of content since early 2020.

We highly recommend checking out last year’s list where you’ll find some of MiddleWeb’s “super perennials” (posts that get thousands of reads year after year) including favorites like 10 Ways to Sabotage Your Classroom Management (Jenn Gonzalez) and 8 Strategies to Quickly Assess Prior Knowledge (Barbara Blackburn).

Now on to 2021’s Top 15 – articles that were new this year or rediscovered during educator searches and shared widely during another “weirdest year ever” – for reasons you’ll likely detect.

12 Ways to Get Students Speaking & Listening

Teacher, school leader and author Sarah Tantillo is back with 12 techniques that middle grades teachers across the content areas can use to help their students develop the habits of speaking and listening that most contribute to learning. One idea: “Treat students as sleuths out to solve a mystery.”

5 Aids to Help Students Set Learning Goals

Setting goals with students is necessary but not sufficient, writes co-teaching coach Elizabeth Stein. Co-teachers must then focus their attention on helping students develop actionable steps to achieve the goal, with teacher guidance all along the way.

Shining the Light of Truth: Teaching Black History All Year Long

The Chicago district where Lauren Brown teaches has wrestled with issues of equity centering around race with new urgency in recent years. Amid the pandemic and the rising Anti-Racist Movement, she believes part of the answer is deepening curriculum and teaching Black history throughout the year.

Offering Constructive Feedback to Teachers

For Ron Williamson and Barbara Blackburn the most important work principals can do is practice instructional leadership. Principals who invest time and attention on improving teaching can significantly impact student learning. See their 7 keys to constructive feedback.

Interactive Word Walls Enliven Vocabulary Learning

To create classrooms where vocabulary learning thrives, Valentina Gonzalez recommends an interactive word wall – a large graphic organizer displaying critical vocabulary with related ideas and visuals added by students. Great across subjects, for EL/MLs and everyone else!

Math: Three Fun Activities for Teaching Statistics

Michelle Russell loves teaching statistics and her students enjoy it too. But it took her a few years to find activities that really engage them and that also reinforce the statistics standards they need to learn. Here are three ideas she recommends for the middle grades.

Getting Your Students to Ask More Questions

Student-generated questions put kids in the driver’s seat, advancing learning and engagement, writes expert Jackie Walsh. To encourage students to ask more questions, teachers need to grow a classroom culture where questioning is valued. Walsh shares five strategies that can help. (See more Walsh articles about questioning here.)

Back in My Classroom, Jamming with Jamboard

When Kathie Palmieri came back to her physical but socially distanced classroom, collaboration was one of her biggest concerns. Drawing on her ‘emergency’ teaching experiences and her new confidence about ed tech, she searched out Google Jamboard “and felt a sense of relief.”

6 Issues Students Face in Remote Learning

Issues students wrestle with in the traditional classroom may be magnified during online learning. To address them, we need to adapt our regular classroom strategies to help students succeed. Teaching expert Barbara Blackburn looks at six common issues.

10 Techniques to Teach Whole Class Novels

Each school year Cheryl Mizerny’s 6th graders explore three whole novels as a class. In this post, she shares the 10 techniques she’s developed to maximize the experience, including “reading like writers” and applying fiction’s life lessons to their own world.



Real World STEM Problems for Students

Providing STEM students with real-world problems fuels their curiosity & investigative interests. But where do teachers find problems worthy of investigation? This article by author and STEM curriculum writer Anne Jolly is one of our most popular ever. We’ve updated it regularly and included links to other posts Jolly has written on ideas for real world STEM projects.

17 Ideas to Help Combat Learned Helplessness

Some teaching practices help strengthen students’ self-efficacy, motivation and confidence, while others create learned helplessness. Author-consultant Sarah Tantillo identifies 17 common teaching actions that lead to student inertia and offers better alternatives.

Effective 5- to 7-Minute Reading Conferences

To ensure all your students benefit from frequent reading conferences, it’s important to keep them short, focused and effective. Author and literacy consultant Jen Serravallo shares 7 tips for being efficient with your time without sacrificing impact or feeling rushed. (See all of our reading articles here.)

Fair Isn’t Always Equal: 3 Grading Malpractices

If we expect students to achieve mastery, teaching consultant Rick Wormeli says, we must provide helpful feedback, document progress, and inform our instructional decisions with pertinent performance data. Yet many conventional grading practices render our performance data useless. By the author of Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessment in the Differentiated Classroom (2nd Ed.)

Effective School Leaders Are Guided by Values

To be the education leaders our society needs, operational expertise and pedagogical know-how are necessary but not enough, says author and mentor principal Toni Faddis. It’s by walking our ethical line and adhering to core values that we’ll achieve our school missions. A powerful message written just before the pandemic began and still pertinent today. (See all our leadership articles here.)

That’s our 2021 Top 15. Remember that you can keep up with all our weekly content (and other middle grades news) during 2022 by subscribing to MiddleWeb SmartBrief. Your willingness to subscribe (even in these email-ridden times) helps keep MiddleWeb on the internet. And it’s a great piece of mail!


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