How to Start Teaching Computer Skills in Middle School

Middle school computer teachers are some of the most in-demand instructors throughout the United States.

But they’re not always available for every school who needs a trained computer instructor.

As a result, many schools throughout the country are turning to other teachers and asking them to fill that role.

At Applied Educational Systems, we know that many teachers jump at the opportunity to try out a new area of instruction.

The problem is that they don’t know where to start.

So if you’re new to teaching computer classes to middle school students, here’s how you can ensure success during the marking period.

1. Research Your State’s Standards

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First, it’s essential that you research your state’s standards for computer education.

These standards often form the core of any computer class in your state. If you don’t follow them, you’ll run into some serious trouble with your supervisor, administration, or even the department of education.

On the flip side, your state may not have any standards at all. That means you can lay out your computer classroom curriculum however you’d like — although it doesn’t give you a great starting point for your classroom!

If you don’t have standards to start you off, you can look into third-party computer certifications to start thinking about your computer classroom’s goals.

Third-Party Certifications

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Third-party certifications are ways in which your students can prove their knowledge in a certain area of computer applications.

Some states require middle school students to earn certain certifications to pass the class. Others are more lenient, and some states may not require a certification at all.

The most popular third-party computer certification right now is Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS).

This certification shows that students have a basic understanding and practice of the Microsoft Office suite of programs.

That includes certification exams for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook.

Students can then take this certification with them throughout their education and even into the workplace.

In effect, this proves that your students are prepared for the everyday duties of an office job.

That could mean interoffice communications, spreadsheet creation, data management, presentations, and even a little bit of graphic design.

Because your students are so young, earning this certification means they’ve established proficiency in most areas they’ll need to succeed in their careers, like typing and organization.

Even if they don’t use Microsoft products in their future jobs, they’ll still have the baseline understanding to figure out other programs (like Google Docs).  

Once you’ve worked out your standards and certifications, you can start filling in the gaps in your classroom workload.

2. Learn What Other Teachers Are Doing

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There are thousands of middle school computer teachers in the United States, and many of them have faced the same challenges of getting their classroom together.

That’s why it’s so important to look at what other teachers are doing in their computer classes.

If you can, learn from other computer teachers in your state before you look anywhere else. These teachers will have the most similar experience to you, which means you can easily pull parts of their curriculum into yours.

If you have to go outside your state, you’ll probably have to rework some lessons to make them fit your needs. 

But even with so many teachers out there, it’s still a challenge to find good resources.

So where can you start?

Teachers Pay Teachers

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Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) is a website where instructors can take their lessons, price them, and offer them to other instructors.

(TpT works on a case-by-case basis where you sometimes have to pay for resources and other times you don’t.)

Because it’s online, TpT has a lot of computer applications lessons for middle school students.

Price varies depending on different factors. But in a nutshell, higher price correlates to more complex lessons and activities.

The price you pay is often worth the time you save, no matter how much you have to spend.

Plus, you can always see if your administrator will foot the bill so you don’t lose cash from your classroom budget (or your personal bank account).

No matter which resource you choose, TpT’s lessons and activities can fit almost any computer classroom, and the prices are reasonable.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about blowing your budget.

Once you buy a lesson, all you have to do is use it!

Using Pre-Made Lesson Plans

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Pre-made lesson plans are helpful, especially for new teachers.

You can get pre-made lessons of your own by jumping back to Step 2 and going to Teachers Pay Teachers.

Then, search for the lessons you want for your classroom.

Once you (or your admin) pay, you’re ready to go!

The only catch is that these lessons work best when you tweak them for your classroom.

So if one of them is close to being perfect, take some time to add or remove something to make it a better fit.

Otherwise, your curriculum will go too many places and attempt too many things to work for your students.

If you find yourself with more curriculum than you need, you’re in luck!

Now, you can lay out a strong outline for what you want your computer class to cover.

3. Get Bonus Material

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Every class has students that work at different paces. Some may sprint ahead of your syllabus, and others may fall behind. 

That’s why it’s so important to accommodate that spread in student aptitude.

When your fast students finish your curriculum, you don’t want them spending time on social media or playing pointless games.

After all, you run a computer class – not a study hall.

Kinds of Bonus Materials

This end-of-class scenario is where bonus materials come in handy.

These materials are designed to keep students engaged indefinitely so they can make gradual progress to a single goal.

Three ways to include bonus material are games, “prestige lessons,” and classroom help.

Games

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Games have a bad reputation in the computer classroom.

When schools started teaching computer applications, teachers didn’t view games as an asset – they were a distraction.

That’s because most computer classes were taught in the traditional way. Teachers lectured and then gave students assignments from books.

In many schools, this is still how it’s done today!

But now, computer education has caught up with the times.

Many programmers create online or free games that students can play to learn different areas of computer education.

The best example of this is typing.

Once a student finishes your in-class work, they can start playing typing games to increase their speed, accuracy, and posture on the keyboard.

You can find these bonus materials almost anywhere online.

The key is picking the ones that are appropriate for your classroom.

You can find legitimate typing games all over the Internet.

We say “legitimate” here because of the old connotation that games can’t be educational.

But many of today’s typing games are actually made with students in mind. They’re designed from the ground up to teach, challenge, and reinforce typing skills.

If you want to start with typing games, you can check out our roundup of the three best typing applications online.  

“Prestige” Lessons

“Prestige” lessons are another option for continuing your students’ education after they’ve finished the primary class materials.

These lessons are often found in highly-specific computer classes with quantifiable goals, like earning MOS certifications.

After a student gets their certification, what should they do next?

It’s usually best to choose lessons that are tangentially related to the primary class material.

So if you want students to learn Microsoft Word, their “prestige” lessons could include learning Microsoft Excel.

That way, students never get bored when they’re in your class. Plus, if they love learning computer applications, they’ll enjoy the added challenge of learning another program!

Classroom Help

Finally, you can reward the most intrepid students with opportunities to help their peers.

This is a great way to incorporate peer-to-peer learning in your classroom, giving students the ability to help one another.

This is especially helpful when you’re already tied up with helping other students who need backup.

Then, your classroom helper can assist students with simpler questions.

Some students may not embrace this opportunity. After all, not everyone has the personality or desire to help in the classroom.

But for your social go-getters, this is an excellent reward and bonus activity.

4. Get a Digital Curriculum

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A traditional, textbook-based curriculum takes a lot of time, effort, refinement, and manual work.

By contrast, a digital curriculum is set up to save you time, minimize effort, simplify refinement, and automatically grade your students’ work.

Better yet, it’s all located online so you can access it with your computer — anytime, anywhere.

That’s what makes digital curriculum such a perfect match for a computer applications class.

You’re teaching students about computers – you may as well use one yourself!

This is exactly why we offer a digital curriculum called Business&ITCenter21.

It contains dozens of computer applications teaching modules complete with digital activities, lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, and activities that students love.

That’s because you get more than just a hodge-podge of lessons and activities when you choose Business&ITCenter21.

You also get a full-fledged learning management system (LMS) that automatically grades students on work, assessments, and activities.

Better yet, you can fully customize the details of Business&ITCenter21 to make it fit the needs of your computer classroom.

There are even computer-oriented lessons within Business&ITCenter21. That means you can contain all of your lessons in one convenient platform so students don’t have to click to a new website every time a lesson starts.

That also means there’s a better chance of keeping your students engaged since Business&ITCenter21 is specifically designed for middle school students.

At the end of the day, a digital curriculum just makes sense for a middle school computer class.

Still, all of these resources may not give you a class that’s 100% up to your expectations.

In that event, you can go the extra mile and finish off your syllabus with some hand-crafted lesson plans.

Business&ITCenter21: The Smart Computer Curriculum for Middle School

Are you ready to tackle your middle school computer class?

We have the digital curriculum that’s perfect for you!

Check out what our customers have said about using Business&ITCenter21 in their computer classrooms!

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