Mance Park Middle School

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At Mance Park Middle School, our theme is "What is Your Super Power?"  My hope is that you will discover that your super power is thinking like a historian.  This year, we will explore Texas history from the earliest inhabitants to the most recent, a history filled with heroic, larger-than-life characters and tall, tall tales. With a one-to-one ratio of student-to-Chromebook, and an engaged learning model, you and your classmates will experience learning in a whole new way.  Expect to be excited to come to school each day and meet the challenges of becoming a life-long learner.  

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This week, we begin our second unit.  We will investigate the Spanish Conquistadors and the many priests who left everything familiar to traverse an ocean to explore and colonize a distant land at great risk to their lives and no guarantee of ever returning home again.  We will analyze what motivated them to take on such a task at such a huge cost.  Then we will compare that decision with the one that faces the world today.  Many are considering the voyage across space to spend the rest of their lives in an attempt to colonize Mars.  What drives that decision?  How does it compare?
We are still looking for an authentic audience for this unit.  We have reached out to Space X and will follow up with a request to NASA.  If neither of these pan out, we will look closer to home, perhaps to SHSU.
I think the students will enjoy this unit and learn much along the way.  We also plan to make our way through this unit in half the time of the last, now that we have mapped out some of the pitfalls.  We'll keep you posted.

Coming Up

Today is Monday and my classroom, again, is empty.  This time it's because the students are on holiday and I am meeting with parents for a Teacher/Parent Conference Day.  It's all good!
For the students, this week, we will be wrapping up the Research/Work portion of our first unit and moving into Create/Critique, where they actually put together their projects, applying all the information they've taken in thus far.  We will also take our first assessment.  It will be a formative assessment, meaning I will be taking their pulse and seeing what they've learned as they've researched.  I hope to show them the importance of bringing their learning back to their team and sharing it, as well as the importance of hearing that shared information and taking responsibility for it.  The end result should be a better idea of what they need to know for their summative, which I will give them on Tuesday of next week.
In the midst of all of this, we've gone digital, so expect an invitation soon to join Google Classroom and Kidblog.  I'd also like to have you on Remind.  If you have any questions or need anything from me, don't hesitate to get in touch.
Have a great week!
Michael Huff
Coaching Learners
7th Grade Texas History
MPMS 212
All students thrive as lifelong learners and global citizens prepared for the futures they create — HISD Vision Statement

Week Four is History

It's Friday as I am typing this.  Seventh period.  No kids.  The weekend lies ahead and week four of the 2016-2017 school year is now history.  This week our students were issued their Chromebooks, something they will be wed to until they graduate from Huntsville High School.  Already, students have come to school with uncharged computers, or without computers, altogether.  Without a doubt, these 7th Graders are going to need your help developing the habit of charging their computers each night as they go to bed and remembering to pack them up and bring them to school each day.
I can't speak for other classed, but this class is going fully digital as of Tuesday.  Everything from Bellringers to HELM projects will be online.  When a student forgets her or his computer at home, or fails to bring it fully charged, they will miss out on much.  So anything you can do to help them to remember will be to their advantage.
Today, in Pre-AP Texas History, we signed everyone up for Google Classroom and Kidblog.  Next week we will make sure everyone is on Remind and has downloaded the textbook, just in case students are unable to access the Internet. Soon, you will be receiving invitations to sign up on Google Classroom, Kidblog and Remind, as well.  Some of you have already signed up to Remind, but not all have.  Doing so will help you help your student to as well as possible and allow you to follow along with our classroom activities.
Students are also just about to wrap up their research and begin designing their final product, a recommendation to the Emergency Management Coordinator, here in Huntsville, regarding what Huntsville might do to prepare for certain disasters based on what we've learned of the survival/adaptability of Native Americans in Texas before European colonization began.  I'm excited at hearing their bright ideas.  I hope you are, too.
Have a great weekend.  If you have not had an opportunity to sign up for a conference on Monday, feel free to email me at and request a time.  I'll do what I can to work you in.
Michael Huff
Coaching Learners
7th Grade Texas History
MPMS 212
All students thrive as lifelong learners and global citizens prepared for the futures they create — HISD Vision Statement

Third Week Update

It's past time I should be giving you all an update on what's happening in Mr. Huff's Texas History classes, so here it is.  The first week of school was spent, as it was in most classes, going over classroom expectations, school rules and procedures.  Then I introduced the Huntsville Engaged Learning Model.  I think I am the first HELM teacher out of the chute, at least here at Mance Park Middle School, making me a pioneer.  All the HELM teacher who follow me will either benefit from my instruction, or find themselves fixing the damage.  Time will tell.
HELM is a dichotomy in that it is both an extremely structured system of stages and protocols and also, at the same time, very chaotic in that it is both project based and student driven.  It's that point in a child's learning when you slide over and hand them the keys—it's a bit scary!
To begin, students have to learn the steps and procedures, the protocols, of HELM.  Each of those are multi-layered and must be practiced.  Students have to do a lot of higher level/critical thinking.  For some, that's easy as pie.  For others, not so much.  Needless to say, the first HELM unit, out of all of the HELM teachers, is the most difficult and will take the most time since everything is new to everyone.  For me, it is my first time in the role of facilitator, so I'm learning, too.  For the students, it can all be a bit overwhelming.  Even the teachers experienced that this last summer.
Expect this to take time.  Here in the third week of school, we are only in the second of five stages, the Plan stage.  Next is the Research/Work stage, which is purported to take the longest.  That is followed by the Create/Critique stage and then the final stage, the Share stage.
Grades are generated during HELM from Bellringers/Warm-ups, DIYs (Do-It-Yourself Worsheets) and formative and summative assessments.  Since most of what we've done so far is learn the HELM model and we are only just about to begin the Research/Work stage where learning happens, the grades I have been able to take thus far are Bellringers/Warm-ups, when I assess whether or not a student is grasping the learning we've been doing.  None of it, to date, is academic.  That will begin next week, when they begin handling the TEKS.
I just thought you all might want to know.  But also know this, though it may be a slow train coming at first, the learning will be deeper and more lasting than anything they have experienced before.  Of that, I am confident.

Week One

Just to touch base with everyone, I have had the first opening week, so far, than I have ever experienced.  Starting with Meet & Greet, last week, when I saw 92 families in one evening, to the past three days, when I enjoyed getting to know your child better.  They are all excited and engaged, even though we haven't really done much.  For the last two day, we've spent the first three days of school getting to know one another, setting expectations and reviewing procedures.  Beginning Thursday, August 24, we will introduce ELM utilizing Unit One: Natural Texas and Its People.  Students will be learning about the regions of Texas, with their varied climate and land forms, as well as the Native American peoples that occupied them prior to European colonization.  Simultaneously, they will be learning the protocols of ELM and practicing them for the first time.  This should take us through next week and into the next.
Up until know, I've played the role of student in the ELM model, sitting where your child is sitting and working my way through the protocols.  This will be my first time as the coach, rallying the players to exert themselves and try a little harder.  It should be great fun and hard work for all.  I'm excited!
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Engaged Learning Model

Over the summer, I attended the Huntsville Engaged Learning Model (ELM) training together with other educators from HISD on all grade levels, including many from Mance Park.  This approach to learning/teaching is being rolled out incrementally and I am part of the first wave.  In concert with the district's belief that:
  1. All students can learn.
  2. All students deserve opportunities to take ownership of their learning.
  3. Diversity is essential to dynamic learning environments.
  4. Real world applications connect all students to content and skills.
  5. All students are best served in schools by building positive relationships and connections inside and outside of school to help prepare them for the real world.
  6. All teachers are facilitators guiding students to deeper, profound learning through differentiated, meaningful lessons.
  7. Teamwork, resources, and communication are essential at all levels.
we learned an approach to education that engages students in meaningful, real world learning where students take the center stage and teachers serve as facilitators (and designers of the engaged learning experience).  While not all of my lessons this year will be using this particular approach, most will, and those that do not will adhere to the aim of fully engaging students.
As part of the larger 21st Century Learning, ELM uses many digital tools, chief among them being the Chromebook your child will be receiving this year from HISD.  It is critical then that your child brings her or his Chromebook to school everyday, fully charged.  Without it, class will be difficult to navigate.
If you would like to know more about ELM, here are a couple of places you can read more about it.  These links currently point to Navasota ISD.  Once we have something here at HISD I can point you to, I will do so.  If you have any questions regarding this approach, if these links don't point to what you expected to see or anything else concerning Texas History in my classroom, feel free to contact me at