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Changing the Conversation: Inspiring Istation Usage in Middle School

by Lindsey Joyce on February 16, 2016

brinlee-116966-edited.jpgWhen Julia Brinlee became the Study Skills teacher at Cobb Middle School in Texas, she knew Istation worked: she’d used the program at the elementary level for years. The middle school was just implementing Istation, however, and was less certain about its quality. Both the faculty and the students were reluctant to use the program, so Ms. Brinlee proposed a plan.

“Let me test the whole building. I’ll put all the students that test into Tier 2 and Tier 3 into intervention groups once a week. If students use the program for just half an hour every week, I'll deal with the data,”she offered.

And so, Ms. Brinlee became Cobb Middle School’s Istation liaison. She has implemented Istation use in the classroom, teaches a reading lab for Tier 2 and 3 students, and manages all building-level Istation interventions for grades 6-8.

Ms. Brinlee said, “There’s validity in this: them being exposed to all this vocabulary in a fun way. It just helps.”

Ms. Brinlee admits that convincing the preteens to stick with a program they’ve been using since elementary school can be hard, but the results speak for themselves.

“The students are still interacting with characters in middle school that they interacted with in elementary school. It can put them off at first,” she said. “They’ve taken a big step up in maturity, and they want to see that reflected in the program. They also don’t see what I see: that Istation meets all the ILA TEKS while presenting science and social studies concepts. So I realized I needed to adjust my tactics. I needed to deal with the students maturely and show them how Istation was still benefitting them in both the short and long term.”

For one student in particular, this was a real challenge. The student was a high achiever with good behavior, a model student, but he was convinced Istation had nothing to offer him. “I had to tell him that Istation was a requirement,” Ms. Brinlee recalled. “And when I said to him, ‘You’ve got to do it for me,’ he did.”

Neither of them imagined what an impact Istation would have until he was offered a chance to take the SAT as a 6th grader. When he returned to Ms. Brinlee’s classroom after the test, she said she remembers seeing his “wry smile.” Soon, she was smiling too. “I asked him what was up, and he said, ‘Istation helped me on the SAT!’” she recalled, laughing. “I said, ‘Really? How?’” The student explained that being exposed to new vocabulary made a big difference for him. “Having the knowledge helped me on the test,” he told his teacher.

Reflecting on her experience with this student, Ms. Brinlee remarked, “I believed in the program, and I knew it could make a difference in the lives of middle school students and educators. We just need to remember to meet students where they are and address both their curriculum needs and the personal aspirations; for middle school students that makes a huge difference.”

Julia Brinlee will be joining us at the Istation Educator Conference this month. We look forward to learning more about her experience! 


Topics: Middle School, Intervention