Welcome, middle school science teachers! As you embark on a new school year filled with excitement and possibilities, one essential tool that can greatly contribute to your success is a well-designed syllabus. And what’s better than a free syllabus template to get you started?
A course syllabus serves as a roadmap, outlining course policies, course expectations, and course requirements while providing students and parents with useful information and a clear understanding of what to expect throughout the year.
In this blog post, we will delve into the importance of a thoughtfully crafted syllabus for middle school science classes and explore the key components that make it effective. This post also includes a link to a free download in the form of an editable syllabus template tailored specifically for middle school science teachers.
Whether you’re a seasoned educator looking to revamp your syllabus or a new teacher eager to create an impactful first impression, this blog post will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips.
So, let’s dive in and discover how a well-designed syllabus can set the stage for a successful and engaging year of learning in your middle school science classroom.
What is a syllabus?
Simply stated, a syllabus is an outline of course information. As college students, we all received a syllabus for each of our courses at the start of a new semester. While the content and formats were slightly different, most of our college course syllabi outlined specific information about the course.
This detailed information contained in the syllabus often included the course name, course objectives, course content (topics of study), required textbooks, and the professor’s contact information (such as email address and phone number).
It typically also included additional information, such as the course calendar, university policies surrounding attendance, plagiarism, etc.
Do Middle Schoolers Get a Syllabus?
Although creating and distributing syllabi are typically required of college professors, middle and high school students can benefit from receiving a syllabus as well. As I taught in Title I schools, I liked giving my students a syllabus at the beginning of the year, as I didn’t want college to be the first time they saw or interacted with one.
In addition to this, a syllabus sends a strong message that students are expected to be active participants and accountable in their learning.
Therefore, while most middle school administrators may not require teachers to create and give their students a syllabus, there are many benefits of using a syllabus in your middle school science classroom.
The Benefits of a Syllabus
A syllabus has a number of benefits for students, teachers, and parents.
1. Organization and Planning: A syllabus serves as a valuable organizational tool for teachers. It can provide structure and organization to your instructional materials, plan lessons, and align assessments with the learning objectives. By having a well-organized syllabus, teachers can effectively manage their time, while helping to facilitate a smooth flow of instruction throughout the year.
2. Clear Communication: A syllabus allows you to effectively communicate your expectations and instructional strategies to students and their guardians. It eliminates any ambiguity by providing a detailed overview of the course, grading criteria, and parameters for communication. Clear communication through a written document such as a syllabus helps establish a positive teacher-student relationship and encourages active engagement in the learning process.
3. Documentation and Accountability: The syllabus serves as a documented record of the course’s content, objectives, and policies. It provides evidence of the instructional plan and can be referred to when addressing student concerns or conflicts. It also promotes teacher accountability, as it outlines the learning outcomes that need to be achieved and the criteria by which students will be assessed.
1. Understanding Course Expectations: A syllabus enables students to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in terms of academic performance, behavior, and participation. It outlines the learning goals, assignments, and assessments, helping students align their efforts with the course requirements and meet academic standards.
2. Time Management and Planning: A well-designed syllabus provides students with a timeline of the topics, assignments, and assessments throughout the year. This aids them in developing effective time management skills. Students can prioritize their tasks, allocate time for preparation, and meet deadlines consistently.
3. Promoting Responsibility and Ownership: A syllabus empowers students to take ownership of their learning journey. This is one of the main justifications for introducing a syllabus at the middle school level. It provides students with a roadmap and fosters a sense of responsibility for their academic progress.
For Parents and/or Guardians:
1. Insight into Curriculum: The syllabus provides parents with valuable insights into the curriculum their child will be studying throughout the school year. It outlines the topics, concepts, and skills that will be covered, allowing guardians to have a comprehensive understanding of what their child will be learning in middle school science.
2. Clear Expectations: A syllabus clearly communicates the expectations for student performance, behavior, and participation. Parents can refer to the syllabus to understand the academic standards their child is expected to meet and the criteria by which their child will be assessed. This clarity enables parents to support their child’s learning and provide appropriate guidance and encouragement.
3. Communication Channels: The syllabus often includes information about communication channels between teachers and parents, such as email addresses, online platforms, or scheduled parent-teacher conferences. This allows guardians to easily connect with the teacher to discuss their child’s progress, ask questions, or address any concerns they may have.
4. Parental Involvement: The syllabus encourages parental involvement in their child’s education. By understanding the goals and expectations of the course, guardians can actively engage in their child’s learning journey and have informed conversations about their child’s progress.
5. Transparency and Accountability: The syllabus promotes transparency and accountability between teachers, students, and parents. It ensures that all parties have a shared understanding of the course structure, policies, and expectations. If any questions or concerns arise, parents can refer to the syllabus as a point of reference for addressing issues or seeking clarification.
What makes a good middle school syllabus?
There is no one right a wrong way to create a syllabus. However, at the middle school level, it’s important that the syllabus is written using student-friendly language and keeps the specific needs of the students, teacher, and parents in mind.
When it comes to creating a syllabus for the middle school level, I prefer to keep it short and sweet. The following sections can be included in a middle school syllabus.
- Course description and objectives: A short snippet about the class and topics that will be covered. While listing out every single NGSS or state standards is not necessary, I like to mention that the course is standards-aligned as well as the major disciplinary skills that students will encounter and develop.
- Classroom policies and procedures: In the first week of school, I like to co-create class rules with the students. Once I’ve completed that activity, I typically add those to the syllabus before reviewing it with students. I also include important procedures (for example, a simple note about how many times a week we may complete a lab, field trips, etc.)
- Grading and assessment criteria: This is one of the most important parts of a middle school syllabus. By listing out my grading policy and percentages, I keep both myself and my students accountable. It’s also very helpful for parents to understand how students will be graded before report card time rolls around. Be sure to confirm with your principal or other instructional lead as you may need to include the school-wide grading policy in your syllabus.
- Homework and expectations: This is crucial at the middle school level. Clearly explaining your expectations surrounding homework keeps both you and the students accountable, it provides clear parameters for parents and/or guardians as they will be the ones supervising homework.
- Required materials and online resources: For a successful school year, parents will need to know the materials students need and are required as well as what online resources they will need to access. This section is especially important in science as there are inevitably times throughout the school year when we may require students to bring in reusable items or items typically found in most households for labs, projects, and other activities.
- Communication channels: What are your parameters for how students and guardians can reach you? Do you prefer email, text, or phone calls? Do you mind if parents reach out to you on your personal cell phone? Or is it school phone and email only? Whatever the case (and don’t forget to check in with your school about their specific policies) it should be clearly stated on your syllabus.
How do I create a middle school science syllabus?
One of the easiest ways to create a middle school science syllabus is to start with a template. There are a number of free templates available online. Most will contain some of the components listed above.
Using a template is beneficial, as it prevents what I call, “blank page syndrome.” No matter your experience with creating syllabi, it’s helpful to start with a template.
The first step is to choose the overall style of template you’re interested in. Is a creative, fun, syllabus template more your style? Or would you prefer to keep it simple with a more traditional format such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs?
Once you’ve decided on and downloaded your template, you can begin to tailor it to the unique needs of your classes and students.
An Example of a Free Syllabus Template
Lit Science’s FREE editable syllabus is simple, editable, and therefore fully customizable. Because it is tailored to middle school, I did not include as many descriptions or details as I would in a syllabus for older students. Keeping the template simple allows you to customize it in the way that makes the most sense for you and your classes.
The first page contains:
- A heading for students to complete
- A simple class description
- A summary of expectations
- A breakdown of the grading
- A bulleted list of required supplies
- Units of study covered throughout the course
The second page is reserved for student and parent signatures. I require both student and guardian signatures to ensure everyone has read the syllabus. I assign this page as my first homework assignment. It is an easy way to communicate the importance of parent involvement and gives kids the opportunity to start the year off strong with an easy grade.
How to Customize Syllabus Templates
Regardless of the template you choose, it’s the customization that’s important. This syllabus is for you, your students, and their guardians.
Therefore, the first step in customizing a class syllabus template is to think about what information is most important to you. What do you want to highlight? What do you wish to communicate to your students and their parents? What would you like to include that will help keep all parties accountable throughout the school year?
Next, don’t forget to check in with your principal about school policies that may be required to be included. To ensure the content of my syllabus wasn’t in direct opposition to the school’s policy, I’d have my admin review it before printing, making copies, and giving it to the students.
Best Practices for Using Your Own Syllabus
Once you’ve found a template that best suits your needs and personality, customized it for your classes, and had it reviewed by your administration, it’s time to give it to students.
I personally never just handed it out to students to review on their own. Because the content of the syllabus was important to me, I typically reserved half a class period (15-20 minutes) to review its contents, answer students’ questions, and assign the homework (2nd-page signatures).
I also did my best to revisit and review the syllabus throughout the year. I did this to remind students, parents, and/or guardians what we discussed and agreed upon at the beginning of the year, and to communicate any major changes as the year progressed.
One of the best practices for using your own syllabus is DON’T OVERTHINK IT. A syllabus is a tool that should help, not hinder, your instruction. Save your time and energy by downloading Lit Science’s FREE EDITABLE science class syllabus.
In conclusion, having a well-designed syllabus is a vital tool for middle school science teachers to create an engaging and organized learning environment. An effective syllabus fosters accountability, enhances parent involvement, and promotes a collaborative learning experience.
The purpose of a syllabus in the context of middle school science classes is to define expectations, outline curriculum, and facilitate effective communication.
By utilizing a free syllabus template tailored specifically for middle school science teachers, educators can save time and effort while providing a roadmap for success.
Take advantage of the free editable syllabus template provided and set the stage for a productive and impactful year of teaching middle school science.