Student Survival: The Importance of Pleasure Reading for a Kid

Recently, I was looking for a  pleasure reading book to purchase for my upcoming trip over seas. I was having a difficult time finding one.


Some people are selective about the genres they read.  I usually gravitate toward books with quirky characters in ordinary appearing plots. I say “ordinary appearing” because it is always intriguing to find the characters going somewhere else than you expected.

However, I am known to cheat and read the last chapter of a book if a. the story is moving too slowly for me or b. I’m dying to know what happens. When I was a child, my mother would scold me for doing so–still haven’t kicked the habit.  Sorry, Mom.

I worry about kids’ reading preferences. It seems many writers write for whatever trend is popular the time. A few years ago, it was zombies and time travelers. Not every child wants to read fantasy or graphic novels.  That’s why I penned Bumbling Bea.  If you haven’t picked up my book, you might want to try it.  I promise you, it isn’t your run of the mill plot! Check it out here:

I ran on to an article concerning this concern and I thought you’d be interested, too.

Indie Book

Promoting the Pleasures of Reading: Why It Matters to Kids and to Country

June 10, 2017Advocacy, Inquiry, Literacy, Reading, Teachingpleasure readingLu Ann McNabb

This post is written by member Jeffrey Wilhelm.

Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them was this past year’s winner of the NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in English Education.

The research findings that we report in Reading Unbound have profound implications for us as teachers, for our students, and for democracy.

In our book, we argue that pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Why? Because fine-grained longitudinal studies (e.g., the British Cohort study: Sullivan & Brown, 2013; and John Guthrie’s analysis of PISA data, 2004, among many others) demonstrate that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor in both cognitive progress and social mobility over time.

pleasure reading

Pleasure reading is more powerful than parents’ educational attainment or socioeconomic status.

This means that pleasure reading is THE way to address social inequalities in terms of actualizing our students’ full potential and overcoming barriers to satisfying and successful lives.

We think that our data explain why pleasure reading leads to cognitive growth and social mobility.

The major takeaway for teachers is to focus on pleasure in our teaching. Pleasure has many forms: play pleasure/immersive pleasure, when you get lost in a book—this is a prerequisite pleasure and we can foster it in various ways, such as teaching with an inquiry approach, using drama and visualization strategies, etc.; work pleasure, where you get a functional and immediately applicable tool for doing something in your life; inner work pleasure, where you imaginatively rehearse for your life and consider what kind of person you want to be; intellectual pleasure, where you figure out what things mean and how texts were constructed to convey meanings and effects; and social pleasure, in which you relate to authors, characters, other readers, and yourself by staking your own identity.

Kids (like all other human beings!) do what they find pleasurable. You get good at what you do and then outgrow yourself by developing new related interests and capacities.


Play pleasure develops the capacity to engage and immerse oneself, to visualize meanings and relate to characters. It is the desire to love and be loved. Work pleasure is the love of getting something functional done. Work pleasure is about the love of application and visible signs of accomplishment. Readers engaging in this pleasure cultivate transfer of strategies and insights to life.

Inner work pleasure involves imaginatively rehearsing what kind of person one wants to be. As our informant Helen asserted: “It’s not really learning about yourself, it’s learning about what you could be . . . .” and “Characters are ways of thinking really . . . They are ways of being you can try on.”

Inner work is the love of transformation—of connecting to something greater, of striving to become something more. When our informants engaged in this pleasure, they expressed and developed a growth mindset and a sense of personal and social possibility.

 pleasure reading

Intellectual pleasure is pursued for the joy of figuring things out; it develops the capacity to see connections and solve problems. Our informants developed resilience, grit, and proactivity through the exercise of this pleasure. Erik Erikson argued that staking one’s identity is the primary task of early to late adolescence and that this is achieved through evolving interests and competence.

Social pleasure involves this human developmental project because it involves relating to authors, characters, other readers, and the self in ways that stake identity. Social pleasure is the love of connection—to the self, others, community, and to doing significant work together.

This pleasure develops social imagination: the capacity to experience the world from other perspectives; to learn from and appreciate others distant from us in time, space, and experience; and the willingness to relate, reciprocate, attend to, and help others different from ourselves.

In other words, it promotes cognitive progress, wisdom, wholeness, and the democratic project. In fact, all of the pleasures were found to do this.

Our data clearly establish that students gravitate to the kinds of books they need to navigate their current life challenges, and that many ancillary benefits accrue in the realms of cognition, psychology, emotional development, and socialness. So much so that we developed the mantra: Kids read what they need!

This finding led us to be more trusting of kids’ choices and to ask them about why they chose to read what they did, and eventually to championing these choices. We likewise found that each of the marginalized genres we studied (romance, horror, vampire, fantasy, and dystopia) provided specific benefits and helped students navigate different individual developmental challenges.

Our data also establish that young people are doing sophisticated intellectual work in their pleasure reading, much of it just the kind of work that the Common Core and other next generation standards call for. So making pleasure more central to our practice is not in conflict with working to achieve standards.

Standards and all the other significant goals described here can be achieved if teachers value interpretive complexity as much as they do textual complexity, if they create inquiry contexts that reward entering a story world and doing psychological and social work in addition to more traditional academic goals, and if they provide opportunities for choice and meaningful conversation.

Given the benefits of each pleasure, we are convinced that pleasure reading is not only a civil right, it is a social necessity of democracy.

That is why we urge you to promote pleasure reading in your classroom and school, and it is why our book is filled with practical ideas for how to do so while promoting each of the five pleasures. It is monumental work—and it is work we must undertake with the greatest urgency—particularly at this moment in history.


What are some of your favorite genres to read? Perhaps you have a child who might enjoy reading my book, Bumbling Bea simply for the fun of it.  I think they’ll enjoy it!

Check it out here:

I’d love to hear from you.

Contact me at or

A Resource to Help Your Student Become a Better Reader

A Resource to Help Your Student Become a Better Reader

Today’s post is about an amazing resource to help your student become a better reader. You probably haven’t heard of yet, but you will love me once you’ve read about it– 

When I was a kid we didn’t have many of the modern day conveniences. Of course, cell phones, tablets, microwaves or even auto control on our cars were created later.  I remember the day our color television arrived.  My brother and I watched cartoons for hours.

 We didn’t have electric pencil sharpeners–just the grey metal ones that were screwed to the classroom wall.  Then mechnical pencils came along  which made pencil sharpeners pretty much obsolete.  Not for me.

A Resource to Help Your Student Become a Better Reader

Call me crazy, but I think Ticonderoga pencils are the best made pencils to this day.  Yes, I need a pencil sharpener for a Ticonderoga and I prefer the old metal ones.

I’m sorry, I’m not going to change.

A Resource to Help Your Student Become a Better Reader

We didn’t have the internet either–just the good old library with the card catalog system.  If you don’t even know what a card catalog system is, you have no idea how laborious a process it was to do research for a paper much less find a good book to read.

Thankfully, not anymore…..

I remember reading groups and book reports. Oh my. Sometimes the books were unbelievably boring, but I loved the activities I would do after reading the book.  One time I recall a friend scolding me because I drew a picture of one of the book’s scenes when I hadn’t even read the book yet.  Oops.

A Resource for Your Student to Become a Better Reader

From about fifth grade on, book reports were a tiresome activity.  Generally, we would have to stand in front of the class and explain our reasons for liking or disliking the book we read. Remember?

I bet there isn’t a person in this country who hasn’t experienced the perils of reporting on a book. Ugh.

A Resource for Your Student to Become a Better Reader

I always felt uncomfortable giving my opinion about a particular book.  My worries surrounded my self esteem–what if I was wrong about the book and everyone else knew so and disagreed with me? (I imagine this anxiety spawned from my less than stellar comprehension of a plot.)

I had no mentor to guide me in critiqueing a book. Our teachers left it all up to us. We were given a slew of questions from which to write our report, but none of those evaluators stuck with me.

I don’t have much patience for certain genre of books. That’s probably the reason I leapt over the reading of certain books and went straight to the enrichment activities.  To this day, I am known (on occasion) to throw a book (paper back) across the room if it’s not keeping my attention.

Specific experiences from one’s schooling stay with us all our lives.  One of mine is book reports. If today someone asks me to review her book, I still have a difficult time doing so.


You young whipper snappers are saved from the perils of  book reporting.

A Resource for Your Student to Become a Better Reader

You have You lucky ducks! is an international website for preteens through college to read and review books. Becoming a member is free and that’s only the beginning.

There are several ways you, your child or student will benefit from

  • read FREE books of his choice from a large selection

  • learn to critique and compose a review with an adult mentor

  • strengthen reading, critical thinking and comprehension skills

  • publish the review and use a scoring system

  • receive several perks by continuing to review for Litpick (how cool!)

  • given the opportunity to be paid for their reviews

Like the old Ronco t.v. commercials—That’s not all

An educator can create a book club for his students through Litpick, too. There is no limit to the number of readers in a book club.  Check out the website for more details.

What a wonderful tool for your reader.

I discovered because I am an indie author. Since then, I have been featured on the Litpick Facebook page and written several blog posts for the monthly newsletter.   I’m always on the hunt seeking reviewers for my award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea. and I are a great fit!

Authors have several options for receiving book reviews–free, medium pace or the fast track.  This is a terrific service which gives the author choices in how quickly they require a review.

For a low cost,  one’s book is displayed on the landing page, in the monthly newsletter, through Facebook and other social media. The review is posted to all major book stores–Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads. If an author wants more than one review this is possible, too.

Bumbling Bea

I’m about to ask for another review of Bumbling Bea.  Since it’s first printing in 2014, I’d made several edits to the story.  I’d like an honest review from a student reader. is the best place to receive one.

I had no idea how valuable was when I first submitted Bumbling Bea three years ago.  Boy, I do now.

Litpick has been recognized by the American Association of Librarians, Moms Choice Award Honoring Excellence and the Best Website for Independent Authors. Not too shabby, do you think?

Whether you are an indie author, a parent, a student or a teacher you owe it to yourself to check out

You won’t be disappointed.




money in suitcase

If I Won the Lottery

Did you hear about the seventeen year old who won the lottery and it supposedly ruined her life?  So, now she is suing her state’s lottery commission because she thinks no one her age should be allowed to buy a lottery ticket?  Give me a break.

True confession:  I’ve never purchased a lottery ticket in my life. A few times they’ve been given to me as presents, but even then I had a difficult time knowing quite what to do with it.  I know… think I’m weird.


I HATE to waste money, especially on chance.  I probably waste enough money as it is–have you ever seen my refrigerator’s vegetable bin?  Talk about a waste of money!

However, if I won the lottery I do have a few idea of the ways in which I’d spend it. I would take care of the usual things you’d expect– Pay off all debts we have left.  Set aside monies for our children and future grandchildren.

  I’m hoping we’ll get our act together in the US and make state colleges and universities tuition free.  In case that doesn’t occur, I’d gift money to our children to take care of any expenses incurred during their college life.

I’d donate to worthy causes such as not for profit organizations that are fighting unending challenges.  I think clean water and air, safe food to eat, inexpensive medications, secure neighborhoods and cities, properly equipped hospitals, police and fire departments and public libraries are essential.


Here’s the biggie, though…..

After that, I would build small community theaters across the country. I’m serious, here.  As you know, I’m keenly interested in sustaining the arts at any cost.  I think every part of the country needs one.

Think of the good a theatre can bring to a community…not only for entertainment’s sake, but a place to explore social issues through the written word. Many our current problems could be discussed through a stage play.  Maybe we would get something ironed out and resolved.

Of course, these theaters would need equipment such as sound, lights, props, set pieces, costumes, box office and publicity.  I’d give each theatre an endowment so they could learn how to budget the money in a wise manner. Occasionally, I’d review the company and award money as I saw fit.

Children dancing

The youth theatre programs would need some help (for scholarships and materials). I’d love to see throngs of kids involved in a youth theatre program after school rather than walking around town bored.

I promise you, if a kids gets involved in a theatre program, they’ll love it and never be bored. They’ll find their place within its walls.  Not everyone wants to be a performer.  Maybe a student would become interested in lighting design? Maybe the kids who participate in an after school theatre program visit children in hospitals?


Let’s not forget programs for our seniors (transportation to the performances), too.  Many senior citizens are looking for experiences and hobbies to occupy their time.  A community theatre with a strong program for seniors would be such help to them.

Creativity and imagination don’t atrophy or age.  I know of a group of “vintage players” who travel to area care centers and perform for the residents.  I think the performers get just as much of a thrill out of performing as the residents do of the performance.  It’s a win-win.


Yes, if I won the lottery I’d save the world through theatre.  What a kick in the pants it would be?

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Contact me at or visit my website at



first rehearsal

Top Seven Reasons Drama Education is Important to Your Student, Part 2

The top seven reasons draa education is important to your student. This is a two part series.  Click here for part one:

Teaches creative problem solving—In the best-selling book A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink writes,”In short, we have progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again—to a society of creators and empathizers, or pattern recognizers and meaning makers.”directing-oklahoma

Oklahoma! First read thru–Presser Performing Arts Center  July 2009





When a group of students tackle any problem and solve it together using their imaginations to project an outcome and then produce it, they are incredibly valuable. I have the honor to work with some of my students for nearly six years.

They are very adept at creative problem solving. Recently, my co-teacher and I charged our musical theatre students with the task of creating of the wall, dying trees and flowers with their bodies in our production of the musical, Secret Garden.

Without discussing it very much, the students twisted and contorted themselves to make the atmosphere we intended.  We complimented them and they beamed with pride.

Through creative problem solving, we stretch the boundaries of what can’t be done to what can be. Voila!  Besides, creative problem solving makes one happy.

Lastly, drama is just plain fun!  Teachers know that humor helps students learn more efficiently.  We are joyful when we are relaxed.  When we are relaxed, we are more likely to learn. Through studying drama and performing, we laugh, poke fun at ourselves and develop a kind of camaraderie with one another that is rarely experienced anywhere else.

We create a strong bond that isn’t easily splintered.  Some of my best friends have come from working on a production together.  My play production experiences are the some of the greatest memories I have of my life.

Several years ago, a professional actor and director-friend of mine remarked that, “Theatre is history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, music, dance, art all wrapped into one.”  He’s right.   It makes us more human by “playing” at being a human. Where else can you find that?


Check out part one here:

Contact me at or

I’d love to hear from you!

girl holding crystal ball

The Unofficial Fortune Teller’s Guide to Becoming a Fantastic Teacher in 12 Steps


fortune teller's guide

Here it is—the unofficial fortune teller’s guide to becoing a fantastic teacher in 12 steps. Although, I speak specifically about teaching drama, this post will relate to any teacher.

People don’t ask me for the guide to becoming a fantastic drama teacher.

They never directly ask me. They ask around the question.  I think they are afraid of what I might say.  Teehee….I’m known for being honest.

So they say, “I was thinking I would like to do something in life that uses my love for theatre.” Or “I don’t think I would make it on Broadway, but I’d still like to be involved in theatre and make a living from it.”

They look at me with a smile hopeful for the answer they desire.

No pressure there….

I’m not a fortune teller, although one time for a radio commercial,  I portrayed the fortune teller, Madame Zula, a  wacky woman who extolled important facts about crop fertilizer. (My producer won a regional award for it, BTW.)

You’re laughing, I know.

fortune teller's guide

Although I might think you have the talent to succeed on Broadway, that isn’t something I can promise or even prophesy. Nor can I project whether you’ll be successful as a teacher.

There are many factors which create your success in the field of professional theatre, many of which you and I have no control. Any worthwhile pursuit has the same challenges.

If you listen to many successful performers, they will tell you that some of it is a.being at the right place at the right time b. fortitude in the face of many rejections c. a willingness to do anything and everything to make it happen and maybe d. talent.

Technical theatre artists will share the same experiences with you.  They worked at it.  They created a resume.  They worked for little pay and so on.

Here’s a secret:  If someone tells you it was easy to become wildly successful in a certain profession, (doctor, lawyer, counselor, nurse, banker, actor or teacher) they are lying. 

fortune teller's guide

As your unofficial fortune teller, here is a guide with twelve steps which will help you become a successful drama teacher over time:

1. Attend a college or university with a strong theatre AND education program and enroll for classes in both.  If you desire to teach in a traditional school setting, you’ll need your state teachers license.  Just like many other professions, teachers must study certain pedagogy from basic theory of education classes to student teaching.

The same will be expected of you if you want to receive a theatre degree.  Study as many facets of theatre as you can then you are an easy hire for someone.  If you only focus on technical theatre or performing, you are less likely to be hired in a school or maybe a theatre company.  You want to be versatile.

2. Participate in professional organizations in theatre, drama education and general education.  You need to be versed in the latest trends in all areas.

3. Participate in your school’s productions.  This is such a duh.  Some schools require backstage hours for their performing majors.  My college did, Stephens college, and I am forever grateful to them for this.  I learned heaps.  Some thirty-eight years later, I still use the lessons I learned in my college classes when I teach or direct.

An employer wants to hire someone who is very knowledgeable, not someone who spent all his or her time socializing rather than broadening their horizons.

fortune teller's guide

4. Get involved in a community theatre.  They will welcome you with open arms, because they need volunteers to support their productions– running lights, designing costumes, acting or serving on staff as a stage manager or even a director. Accept the job even if you are not offered a stipend.  Think of the work like interning.

Build your resume with various experiences.

5.  Volunteer your time to a school mentoring students through an after school program or an organization such as Scouts or 4H.  This gives you insight about how best to work with students.  It also helps you become accustomed to their latest social behaviors and slang.  This is invaluable experience.  I can’t stress this enough.

If you can, volunteer for different organizations with a diverse community.  Our classrooms are multicultural.  There is an art to teaching students simultaneously from all walks of life.  If you have never helped a disadvantaged student or an immigrant, you’ll have a  bigger learning curve to overcome.  Their lives are very different from yours and it’s your job to figure out how to support them.

6.  The best teachers are passionate about their subject matter and sincerely interested in bettering the world through teaching young people. So be that!  Please do not become a teacher because you didn’t know what else to do with your degree (or you thought you’d have your summers off-hahahaha!).  There is nothing worse than a bitter teacher. You know the kind who mumble how she wishes she had been a professional actor and are stupidly arrogant? Yeah, we won’t need that kind of person in our classrooms.

Trust me, teaching is difficult enough on its own.  Compounding your classroom challenges with apathy is a crime in my book.

7.  Teaching is rigorous work.  It is very tiring and all consuming.  Unless you’ve had previous experience teaching twenty bursts of energy and emotion all at once, you’ll never understand it. You gotta get in there and try it–at least for three years.     Like those professional actors that you can’t tell are acting, good teachers make it seem easy to do.  It. is. not.

fortune teller's guide

8.  Once employed, although you may think your career has finally begun your education has not ended.  Now, you’ll learn about the inner workings of your school, bureaucracy, policies, regulations, etc.  You’ll  practice becoming more organized, keep yourself healthy,  juggle your professional and personal time, become a shoulder for others to cry on, learn to listen to your superiors and to a student who has lamented continuously for several months to you about their life.  That’s okay.  It’s part of the deal.

9.  You want to be good at teaching?  Buy clothes in your school colors.  Wear them. Buy the school spirit wear.  If your cast buys cast tee shirts, you do so, too.

10.  Attend other school sponsored activities–football games, fundraisers, band concerts and TGIF’s for staff.

11.  Help other teachers and staff members.  Take their lunch shift if you observe a teacher who needs a break.  Take out your own trash for your janitor once in a while and THANK THEM for their work to keep your room tidy.  Get to know your school head secretary.  They can make or break you.  Trust me, if there is anyone who knows the school’s scuttle butt, it’s the head secretary.

12.  Finally, be the teacher you wanted when you were a student.  I liked my teachers who were organized, funny, clever, innovative, challenging, held high expectations and sincere.  Guess what?  I’ve become that teacher, too.

If you look at your life as a journey, you’ll appreciate and accept that any journey takes a long time to prepare, depart, travel and arrive at your destination. Teaching is much the same way.

fortune teller's guide

I promise you, it can be a wonderful journey.

Bon voyage!

Contact me at or my website

Following me on Twitter at

on Facebook at BumblingBea



Bumbling Bea fan

Author Blog Spot: Another Author Interview of Me

I’m very flattered.  A great blog, Author Blog Spot asked to interview me about independent publishing and my book, Bumbling Bea.  Here it is:

Hello everyone!  Today I am speaking with Debbie Baldwin.  Hi Deborah.  Thank you for being here.

 Can you tell us what made you decide to become a writer?

I have wanted to be a writer since I was a very little girl.  I penned my first story about a pig when I was around five years old.

That’s interesting and so young.


My father was a radiologist and he would bring home to me the recycled orange colored papers that divided the x-ray films.  I LOVED them and wrote many a story on them.  I didn’t take my writing seriously until about five years ago, however.

How long did it take to get published the first time and how did it happen?

I published my book independently.  I am a self-starter.  I didn’t want to wait around for a publisher who may or may not look at my book.  My story is somewhat unique in subject and although it is a good story, I knew it wasn’t mainstream.

Mainstream.  That’s the catch, isn’t it?  Would you do anything differently the next time?

Next time, I’d like to pay someone to edit for me.  Several qualified people edited it for me but I think it would be useful and more beneficial to have someone who’s an editing professional focus upon it.

Yes, and finding the right one is hard.  What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Read, read, read.  There are many free resources now that will help you with your writing.  Keep your first draft to yourself.  If you expect your family to support your aspirations, you need to disengage from that hope.  Look for unbiased people to read your manuscript when you are ready.  Everyone’s opinion should be heard, but not acted upon.  Trust your instinct.  It won’t fail you if you are truly honest with yourself.

Lastly, a man whose opinion I wholeheartedly trust told me if I wait until my book is perfect, I’ll never publish it.  He reminded me that software is updated all the time, because if a company waits until it is completely perfect, they will never get the product out there.  Finish the project.  Just that action puts you way ahead of most people who only talk about their dreams, but never even take one step toward them.


That’s good advice.  Thank you.  What or who influences your writing?

Because of my background in theatre, in particular, acting and directing, I appreciate stories with solid characterization.  In my thirty-nine years of directing, I have guided thousands of actors to create characters.  I am also a newly retired teacher having taught drama classes to students of all ages for as many years as directing.  Consequently, I am a good judge of one’s character.

I like many authors, but in particular, most recently, I have enjoyed Fredrick Backman’s books.  He weaves an unusual story with interesting characters.  My favorite novel is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” because again, it is an unusual story.  Jodi Picoult comes to mind because she writes about modern day issues from an unusual slant.

What are your latest releases?

Bumbling Bea is my debut novel. I am pleased to share that I am doing a second printing of my book, with a new cover and back and a few tweaks to the story which give it a punch!Bumbling Bea book









Tell me, Debbie, how long have you been writing professionally?  And do you write full-time or part-time?

I write part-time.  I keep up a blog, in  I am about to publish an audio CD of drama class lesson plans.  There will be a series of them beginning with a storytelling unit.  They will be helpful to any teacher.

Oh, yes!  Making lesson plans is hard enough.  So, what do you do for fun when you aren’t writing, Debbie?

I love to see a good movie and try to see one each week.  I read quite a bit, enjoy the outdoors and traveling with my husband.

And where do you reside?

We moved to Lawrence, Kansas about three months ago to retire near our family and FIRST grandchild. It’s wonderful to be with our daughters, their husband and our wonderfully precious granddaughter.

I know exactly what you mean.  Do you have any appearances or book signings scheduled?

My book signings are very sporadic, as are book talks, but I do announce them on the various social  sites.  I am willing to travel to surrounding states for book talks.

That’s great!  Thank you so much for spending time with me.  Debbie’s website is: and her blog is:  You can “friend her” on Facebook at  Or follow her on Twitter at BumblingBea@dhcbaldwin

To purchase Bumbling Bea, go to:

Middle grades drama class

How to Make Your Drama Class More Successful –Lessons Learned from 38 Years of Teaching-Middle School

This is a three part series.  This is part two of it.

Click here for part one and part three:

presser-kidsTwo of these kids are in middle school and two are in high school.  Can you tell the difference?

Novice drama teachers ask me what is my secret to success in the classroom. How do I make my drama classes so successful? Heck, I don’t know really.  I’m intense, have high expectations of all my students, energetic and enthusiastic about the subject matter.

Secondary level students, especially middle grade kids are a whole different bird than elementary.  It isn’t only their maturity level that sets them apart.  Obviously, their physical stature comes into play.

Every body part is changing rapidly.  In ninth grade, our daughter went through a different size of jeans every three months–one time this size, the next time a smaller size, the third time back up a size and needing a longer length. Around and around we’d go.

And boys?  It’s a little easier to spot their changing than the girls.  I’ve known many a young man who was a scrawny seventh grader grow to become a muscled ninth grader.  Prior to the maturing, the poor boy appears frantic that he won’t grow.   Then, whoosh! He turns the bend, grows four inches and carries a look of relief while developing his personal swagger.  I don’t blame him.  I would, too!

It’s the emotional quotient which divides them from the younger students. Think about when you were in seventh grade.  Oh gosh.

I was all over the place-confused, weepy, , silly, snotty and arrogant.  Remember my mother was quite ill by the time I was ten years old and I hid any negative feelings I felt because I didn’t want to exacerbate her health issues with the stress of raising me.

So what do we do in theatre classes?  We plop these smelly, sweaty emotional bursts of energy on a stage and ask them to show their feelings.  Yikes!  As if identifying their own emotions wasn’t difficult enough, we expect them to demonstrate someone else’s.


Here are a few pieces of advice when teaching middle grade students:

  1. Give every one an opportunity for success every day.  Generally, this can be achieved through a warm up exercise that has no apparent “winner”.

  2. Help those students who are the loner type.  Assign them to a group of students who are welcoming and kind.

  3. Do you know the “smile and nod” technique?  It is difficult for someone to say no to you, when you are smiling and nodding. Middle school students can be very disagreeable. Try to smile and nod with your request.

  4. Give plenty of time for homework assignments.  Students this age have a difficult time making priorities. Ample reminders and extra time that you have built in to the assignment (they don’t need to know this) should help.

  5. Be sincere with them.

  6. Be very organized and prepared for class.

  7. Be trustworthy.  They don’t like to be tricked and can tell when they are being manipulated.

  8. Play fairly.  If you say, “Everyone will have a speaking part in our play” you better come through on that promise.  They will hold you to it.

  9. Provide many hands-on learning experiences.  They need to get up and move around at this age.

  10. Establish class expectations right from day one which includes boundaries as middle school kids will test your limits.

  11. Teach respect through positive criticism.

  12. At the same time, be careful not to over praise them.  Over praising doesn’t help anyone to grow.  Research has found the opposite. Always have high expectations. They will raise to them if you first believe in them doing so.

  13. Use side coaching when directing or instructing.  Like a sport coach, the students will more readily accept your corrections of them if you phrase your correction in threes–a compliment, then the correction and end with another compliment.

  14. If you have a reluctant learner, note the smallest positive attribute you see.  By merely noting it, over time the student should open up to you and trust you.

  15. Fear and humiliation play huge roles at this age.  My advice: make a fool of yourself and laugh at yourself A LOT.  Teach your students how to do the same with themselves.

  16. Kids of this age are very sensitive about their clothing and hair.  Never comment first on either.  Let the student first mention it to you then you can say something.

  17.  At the beginning of each class allow a few minutes for sharing.  Some students always have something exciting they want to share with the class. It could be something as simple as a girl went shopping at the mall with her bestie. That means everything to her. Other students who don’t share might divulge something if you can ask the right questions of them.  Rather than, “How was your weekend?” try “Tell me about something exciting or unusual that occurred over your weekend?” Many students never have an adult listen to them.  You can be their listener.

  18. Be on your game. Students of this age are melodramatic, hyper focus on themselves and can change on you in a moment’s notice.

  19. You have a very lasting effect and influence on middle grade students.  Not only are they learning from you, they are observing you in the classroom and around the school.  They love with their whole heart, so take good care of it for them.

  20. In any situation whenever possible,  temper your true feelings and always think of the middle grade student first.

If you haven’t noticed all ready, I didn’t discuss the actual teaching of the classroom on this post.  Generally, everything I suggested with the elementary students will work with middle grade students.  But the biggest challenge will be their emotional growth at this moment in their lives.  If you can master how to ” ride the tidal wave” with them, you will most surely succeed.


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I’d love to talk with you.


author and fan of Bumbling Bea

The Top 20 “Must Haves” for Your Drama Classroom


I’m feeling in the mood for giving.

Beginning Teaching

So, the top 20 things “must haves”  for your drama classroom–There are so many things to think about when you are a beginning teacher.  I remember my first year as an English teacher (which was a minor of mine in college.) Since I never student taught in English, I knew very little of what I needed for my classroom.  Teachers weren’t as team oriented as they are now and I was on my own to figure out everything.

Now new teachers have a mentor at their school who shows them the ropes of teaching in their school.  The first three years of a teacher’s career are the most pivotal.  If you “stick” in the job, you’ll probably continue teaching for many years.

But you see, I’m stubborn.

Even though I was completely on my own I wouldn’t give up.  Truthfully, it really did take until the third year for me to find my groove.  It was a tough experience for me, but I gained so much knowledge from those years.  I learned about teaching, but I also learned about myself.  (Oh, and my first husband walked out on me two days before my first day of school that first year.  Did I mention that?)

So, what does this all have to do with the “must haves “of a drama classroom?

Lots! I’m here to help you.  I’m going to make your life easier

Just Download my list of
“The Top 20 Must Haves for a Drama Classroom” and you’ll be set to go.


I’m always here for you.  You aren’t alone on your journey.

Contact me at or

I’m happy to help and advise you.


A Super Review of Bumbling Bea


STORY LINE BUMBLING BEA:In Bumbling Bea, author Deborah Baldwin creates an enjoyable look into growing up. Beatrice has one more chance to play the lead in the school play before she leaves middle school. After all, playing the lead will ensure she will be in with popular girls. She has planned all year towards this goal, she and her alter ego Bumbling Bea. However, things do not go as planned. A new girl has enrolled from Japan. Michiko talented, opinionated, and pretty, gets the lead roll. Beatrice and alter ego Bea refuse to be denied and devise plans to get rid of Michiko. Let the games begin.

Hilarity, missteps, and bungling follow as Bea and Michiko come to terms. My children’s contemporary novel review follows.


To begin with, I must tell you how much I enjoyed this book. Although classified as a children/preteen book, I found as a mature senior I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Filled with laughter, missteps, and trials of the young trying to grow up, I laughed out loud at Bea’s antics. As I read, I found myself remembering my preteen years and the emotions that ran riot. Author Deborah Baldwin captured the pain and confusion of transitioning from a child to preteen and the situations the immature mind can create.

Baldwin’s pacing of the story was inline with the length of the story. The pace did not lag or bog down, but was steady and smooth. Furthermore, I found the plotting skillful as Ms. Baldwin brought all the threads together to create a solid book.

Lastly, in concluding my contemporary children’s novel review, I found the book well written with well-developed main characters and secondary characters which added to the tension and story-line.


In addition, I gave Bumbling Bea 4 well-deserved stars. Subsequently, I found Bumbling Bea suitable for children and preteens as well as adults. As a senior I enjoyed this funny look back at the preteen years.

To purchase a copy of Bumbling  Bea, go to Amazon at