Resources for Middle and High School Teachers

What’s Here

There are thousands of middle school (and quite a few high school) teachers who utilize ideas from The Cornerstone! This page will help you find resources on-site and off that are relevant for older students.

Does The Cornerstone Work for Middle and High School?


I’m frequently asked whether there’s a secondary school version of my website out there somewhere.  Unfortunately, if there is, I haven’t found it yet. I’d estimate that 75% on online resources for teachers are geared toward the elementary grades.

However, pre-teens and teenagers still need clear expectations modeled, practiced, and reinforced. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out the Routines and Procedures section of the website. Your students won’t need you to go into as much detail as you explain your procedures and they’ll catch on in half the time, but the general guidelines for creating and teaching expectations still apply. You can’t assume that secondary students will enter your classroom knowing how you expect them to behave, so don’t make the mistake of thinking ‘they know what to do’ and allow them to create their own class norms!

Middle and high school teachers usually tell me that the Organization section of the website and book are most relevant to them, so definitely check that out. They’ve also shared that the Planning and Assessment web section/book chapters were very useful, since those focus on creating long-term goals, keeping daily lesson plans, and surviving standardized testing.

Many of the ideas featured on other pages can easily be adapted for junior high and high school classes.  For example, on the Math Journals page, I explain how journaling can be used up through 12th grade, and share examples of math journaling tasks I’ve done with the upper grades as a math coach. Also, as I add more pages to the Math and Literacy sections of the site, I’ll be including a variety of links and activities for grades K-8.  So, take a look around and explore–there are lots of possibilities!

Recommended Upper Grades Resources

As an instructional coach, I work with PreK-8 teachers on literacy and PreK-6 teachers on math. Below are some resources I recommend to the middle school teachers I coach.

Middle and High School Teacher Blogs

I read a number of blogs from secondary teachers. The following are some of my favorite, because they provide not only excellent resources and ideas, but honest reflections on what’s working and what’s not.

Confessions From the Couch by Miss Teacha, an urban history teacher (check out this blog post which share the best classroom activities she used in 09-10).

The Jose Vilson is a middle school math teacher, coach, and data analyst in NYC. His blog is deep and tackles not only educational topics, but reflections on race, gender, current events, and other important issues that affect the lives of teachers and students.

John Spencer’s blog is one of THE BEST out there. He is a Christian middle school teacher who writes almost daily about a wide variety of educational topics from a really refreshing point of view that is somehow philosophical and deep and simultaneously practical and grounded. I think this post on how to stop kids from cheating is especially useful for secondary teachers. John has also written two books (which you can find out more about on his blog) called “Teaching Unmasked” and “Sages and Lunatics”.

Web Resources for Secondary Teachers

The Teacher’s Desk has loads of free lesson plans, printables, and activities for reading, writing, spelling, English, and more. It’s designed for grades 5-6, but a 7th/8th grade teacher I’ve coached uses these resources with great success all the time. They’re very adaptable for secondary classrooms.

Ten Great Sites Every Middle School Teacher Should Know from Education World. Very detailed descriptions.

The Teachers.Net Chatboards are a great place to go if you have a question you’d like answered by other secondary teachers. There are dozens of separate boards for each grade level and subject area. Most of the message forums are highly trafficked, so you can get input right away.

Classroom Management Resources for Middle and High School

Kim’s Korner has not been updated for a few years, but there are a tremendous amount of quality resources there. Kim taught middle school Language Arts for 16 years and most resources are geared toward that, but are adaptable, of course. She has one of the very few sites on classroom management and organization for middle school teachers. Here’s her site map.

Mrs. D. (‘The Language Arts Expert’) shares a number of middle school classroom management techniques she’s used, and addresses critical but rarely-mentioned routines and procedures like your bathroom policy, late policy, etc. Mrs. D’s conversational and practical tone shows you she’s been there, and knows how to help you succeed, too.

More to come…

Books for Middle and High School Teachers

The slideshow below shows some of the latest and best-selling books for secondary teachers. The books I selected are primarily related to classroom management, but there are some other great resources there, as well.

What’s Missing Here?

If you’re a secondary teacher and know other places to find high-quality free printables, activities, and lessons for middle and high school on the web, please share in the comments!

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Check out the free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Natasha Brown August 1, 2010 at 1:55 am

Math-drills.com (basic math worksheets), kutasoftware.com (pre-algebra and algebra worksheets), and starfall.com are regular staples in my room.

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2 Anne Kilbourn July 16, 2011 at 10:00 am

“Probably because upper grade teachers are focused more on their content area than on behavior management, organization, room arrangement, and parent communication. ”
Wow! I was having a wonderful time looking through your site which is very very well done and then I saw this. Talk about a kick in the teeth. The book your site recommends, “Why Good Teachers Quit” should include a section on how the lack of professional respect from our peers can contribute to this exodus.
Having taught high school and middle school sciences for over 11 years thus far- I left the military and entered teaching at 48; I was shocked to see your statement above. We are VERY focused on all of the above AND content and all the other areas of teaching and standardized tests; not the focus of our choosing either. The entire professional community of secondary educators has been working on improving behavior, room arrangements, organization etc. I am not engaging in a who works harder debate, because I do not think that is the heart of this. However I think if you do some research on this one area in which you have serious lack of information, your guidance offered on your site will be the better for it. The comment is so off putting and insulting that it negates all the great resources on your site for those of us who are secondary teachers.
We also get into legal issues that have not spread to the elementary grades yet. We are not encouraged to blog while still teaching unless we leave out any humor, venting, frustrations or opinions. Most of us have small classroom stuffed with supplies and equipment. Pictures of our rooms drawn comments of our lack of neatness must be a sign of poor teaching. Science supplies for one lab with 33 kids requires an enormous amount of space. I was amazed at how large the elementary rooms were and how small our middle and high school rooms are. Some of us do blog but we get into trouble so easily with blogs; your pictures here of student photos you would like to send would quite honestly get us fired. Pictures of little kids misbehaving are seen as cute. Pictures of big kids misbehaving are seen as lawsuit material. Teachers with Facebook pages are actively discouraged from having them and the use of them puts a teacher at risk of kids hacking into it or taking info from it to attack a teacher’s professionalism. Parents, administrators and supervisors come from all extremes of personality and some seem to spend their time looking for a reason to complain. Some parents comb our school websites looking for anything that seems to suggest a teacher is “Bad”. Even posting about the normal frustrations in our days is a no-no since parents can accuse us of complaining about their child, even if we never mention names.
Our students have cell phones. Go on YouTube and search for “Teachers”; look at all the videos the kids in secondary grades have taken in a classroom and posted. Many who do not understand will say, “Well, that teacher has bad classroom management if a student can film all that and not get caught!” As LOL cats say, “Sersly?!” This age group spends a great deal of mental energy figuring out how to “Get” adults. It is the age, and then we have 30-40 students per class, and they love nothing better than playing jokes on the teacher. For a tween or teen that is what project based learning means. I am amazed sometimes at the planning and cooperation they put into removing all the mouse balls from my computers, switching the tops of all my white board markers or covering the tops of my many trash cans with Saran wrap so they can watch my face as the crumpled paper encounters a force field and bounces off onto the floor! Imagine all the times during your teaching career you made a mistake or said something wrong, had a button undo on your shirt or got into a “not covered in Harry Wong” moment. Now imagine if one of your students filmed it, put it on YouTube and shared your moment to his or her parents. Totally out of context. Totally unframed or explained. For all the world and your entire community to see. So now prove that is a rare exception or a simple misunderstanding. That is what keeps secondary teachers busy. We write up minor and major discipline infractions and often have multiples of these daily. Most of us spend the first 2 weeks of class teaching and the reinforcing over and over and over our class and school rules. Preteens, tweens and teens all act out in a variety of ways and hormones rage for these kids. Our kids show the effects of parental abuse and neglect by dropping out and running away. We have to do everything we can to get them back. Imagine if elementary students just walked out and drove off when they get frustrated like our high school kids do sometimes? Imagine if a temper tantrum involved not throwing a pencil but a desk? All this takes TIME to deal with because no matter if the child is 6 or 16 teachers are still responsible for them from 7:30 – 3:00pm. We deal with the conflicts that occur with kids who score more points on the athletic field then in the classroom. They still play even as they fail, but we have to keep them engaged and somehow motivate them to succeed. Teens ALL think they they are good enough to play college level sports and somehow science, English, social studies and math are just not as important as practice, physical conditioning and cruising the mall wearing their letter jacket. Some are that good; but if you can’t pass high school you can’t get into college. Kids and their parents don’t seem to understand that sometimes.
Most of us call parents daily; in middle school we may have 160-180 students and will make contact for good or concerns with every single one of them within the first two weeks of school to introduce ourselves. Then many of them we need to call on a weekly basis, not just because we have to, but because it is the best practice for helping our students. Expression opinions, even humor, about parents, students or central office will get us a written notice in our file or at the least called to the principal’s office. Most parents are great, many more are benign, they will help if asked but not on their own. Some are threatening and their kids mimic this; many are much larger in size and emotional volatility then elementary and can be a serious threat if you confront them even with the best behavior control techniques.
You sound like a wonderful teacher and person, please look into what I have shared and see if perhaps you can find evidence to help you understand why secondary teachers are so silent on the web. It really is so totally untrue that we only focus on content. Our world is much more restrictive, legally complex and professionally constrained perhaps? Our jobs now include the impact of student scores on our employment. I love to teach; I also need to pay my bills and that requires employment. I hope what I have shared is heard in the from the heart manner I intended it. I know the situations elementary teachers confront is as rewarding, taxing, funny and frustrating as those daily challenges and joys faced by secondary educators. Teaching at any level requires us, I think, to have “An one for all and all for one” relationship even with teachers we have yet to meet. Thank you for listening.

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3 Angela Watson July 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Hi, Anne, thanks for taking the time to leave your comment and express your opinion. You have some very, very valid points and you explain perfectly what it’s like to be a secondary teacher in 2011. Your comment is an eye-opening read for anyone who doesn’t understand what pressures upper grades teachers face daily. Though I have never taught middle or high school myself, I do instructional coaching for many middle school teachers, and I know the teachers in those schools would be nodding along with every word you wrote.

My apologies if the way I worded things was offensive. To fully understand the intention behind what I wrote, I’m going to copy the entire quote in context:

“I’d estimate that 75% on online resources for teachers are geared toward the elementary grades. Why? Probably because upper grade teachers are focused more on their content area than on behavior management, organization, room arrangement, and parent communication. There’s an unspoken assumption that these elements of classroom management don’t matter once students are more independent. Since you’ve searched out this website, you probably agree with me that this is the wrong approach. Pre-teens and teenagers still need clear expectations modeled, practiced, and reinforced.”

What I was trying to say–and apparently didn’t do well at communicating–was that classroom management is typically not the main focus in books and web resources for secondary teachers. Therefore, many new secondary teachers get the idea that routines and procedures are things that only young students need to be taught. There are very few resources that explain explicitly how to deal with the type of issues you mentioned in your comment, and that sends the message that content area knowledge is all that’s needed to be successful with older students. The reality is that those type of resources are very much needed, especially for the secondary teachers that don’t have degrees in education or a background in pedagogy; they are content area specialists and school systems hire and place them in the classroom with far too little support for the practical issues they’ll face daily. That’s the main message I was trying to get across.

I was also speaking to the fact much of my website is devoted to classroom decoration and organization, and that elementary teachers are typically the ones obsessed with things like colorful bins, coordinated/themed school supplies, bulletin boards, cutesy displays, and classroom decoration. Younger grade teachers often adore these things and post about them regularly. However, it’s less common to see a secondary teacher get excited over this stuff. Younger grade teachers also post frequently on message boards about ways to create different themed behavior management systems they’re using (baseball, frogs, etc.) and cute parent communication ideas (BEE Books, etc.) which secondary teachers do not request nearly as frequently. I have found that secondary teachers often use the systems and methods their school has in place (usually for accountability purposes, due to the lawsuit-type factors you mentioned) rather than creating something from scratch, and therefore don’t search the web for things like class reward systems and parent communication notebooks.

If this is offensive–or if the way I’ve phrased it is offensive, and I can see how it could be–I definitely want to take it down. I’ll rephrase what I’ve written and leave out the entire speculation about why there aren’t enough classroom management resources for secondary teachers:

“I’d estimate that 75% on online resources for teachers are geared toward the elementary grades. However, pre-teens and teenagers still need clear expectations modeled, practiced, and reinforced.”

By the way, Anne, if you have any good print or web resources that address the problems you brought up, please share them with us!

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4 Anne Kilbourn July 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Angela,
I appreciate your response to my comments. I am working on a list for your site. It includes a great deal for math and science, however most can be used anywhere. I will post it here for you and your readers as soon as I get a few more sites listed. Seems like each time I think I am ready to send it I think of one more great site!

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5 Helen Donahoe August 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

Anne and Angela,

I, too, am a high school teacher of sciences (in Massachusetts) and completely agree with the problems spoken of by Anne. I would love to have access to any websites and resources, however many you have done now, and would continue to look for more postings later…post, post, post!!! We can always add more on later!
Helen D.

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6 Angela Watson August 16, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hi, Helen! I hope to receive Anne’s suggestions soon. If you have anything to add, let me know! Looking forward to seeing how this page grows! :-)

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