Monthly Archives: February 2012

Organization in Writing – Use Photo Prompts

I don’t know about you, but I find that my students have some really superb ideas when it comes to writing. The place where some of them fall (and fall hard) is taking those fabulous ideas and writing them in a way that I can actually understand! Sometimes they end where they should begin, they don’t group similar ideas together, or they just write as they think and pass in the unrevised version to me. The biggest issue I have found, is that the students just don’t know what organizational strategy would make sense in a particular situation.

Currently, we’re working on recognizing and using 4 strategies:

1) Sequence

2) Cause/Effect

3) Problem/Solution

4) Compare/Contrast

I got to thinking – I love photo prompts. However, I don’t use them enough! So, I created a brief lesson where students choose a photo that has a particular strategy linked to it and create a story for the photo. It’s a really simple idea – you can use whatever photos you think would suit and apply one of the strategies to them. Have a peek at your personal photos or search online. Link an organizational strategy to the photo (or make the student choose) and you’ve got yourself a lesson!

These are a couple of the photos that I used – that’s my Dad just below their house and the swing used to be in their front yard. An ice storm actually destroyed that tree a couple of weeks ago, which is another story for another day.


Giant Leap Day Sale!

Raise your hand if you love a sale! Me too:)


Teachers Pay Teachers ( a wonderful site where I post some of my resources, is having a HUGE Leap Day Sale. This means up to 28% off of many items on the site.  All of the items in my TpT store will be 20%, plus the 10% that the site is offering on all items (…it works out to 28% off in total…)


If you’ve never heard of TeachersPayTeachers, you should really head over on February 29th – Leap Day and have a peek at our sales! It’s going to be fabulous:) See you there!!!





It’s the little things that matter

Well, it was a typical day today – busy, busy! We were in the computer lab all morning working on our Heritage Fair projects. We started a new topic in Math – just a regular day.

So, by lunchtime I was on to my 3rd cup of coffee for the day (my boys were up with a cough again last night…ughhhh) when I saw it peeking out of my mailbox. I knew who it was from before I even opened it up. I celebrated my 30th birthday last week and inside my mailbox was a beautiful belated birthday card (there’s some alliteration for ya) and a little craft from a fellow teacher-friend. The kind words written inside the card were just what I needed to give me the energy to get me through the rest of my busy day. I know that  it wasn’t a big deal to her and just took a few minutes of her time to get that card into my mailbox. However, the feeling of acknowledgement and knowing that someone was thinking of me, was like a great big bear hug in the middle of my day – so nice!

Sometimes in the middle school grades students’ birthdays aren’t celebrated as much as in the younger grades, which really is a shame. I’ve been trying to get a birthday card and a little treat to each of my students this year to spread that feeling of acknowledgement and “specialness” that I felt today when I received that card. It doesn’t have to cost a lot or take loads of time. At the beginning of the school year on your “Student Survey” just add a blank for them to fill in their birthdays. Fill them in to your calendar all at once – then you’re ready to go. Even easier, pass the calendar around the room in the first week of school and have them add their birthday themselves to the proper day. Again, it doesn’t take a lot and it doesn’t have to be expensive. However, you never know how a few kind words from a teacher could affect a student when she needs it the most.

Can you solve this math riddle?

This is one of my favorite math riddles (Brain Busters  I call them) that I always like to share with my class. I like to post it and give a prize to the first student who solves it. Click on the poster to download a copy for yourself.

Oh…and don’t worry. The answer is included in the download!


A Little Inspiration

I just love this quote so I made up this printable poster to go with it.

Just click on the poster to download this freebie.

Celebrating Literacy

We celebrated Family Literacy Day not too long ago at our school. Our Literacy Committee did a great job of preparing some activities for the special day.

One of the activities that the students across the grades enjoyed was a “Book Quote” contest. Our school spans K-7 and so the book quotes were quotes that students of various ages could recognize. The quotes were announced using the PA system throughout the day and students wrote their names and guesses on ballots. Ballots were drawn and the winners were awarded prizes. It was a really simple and fun idea.

I was thinking, though. Why not celebrate literacy more than once a year? Why not have a similar contest the last Friday of every month? Perhaps winning students could get a free book from the book order.

Taking it one step further, as I often do, I was thinking you could also carry this contest idea into your individual classroom, rather than being school-wide. This way, the book quotes could be geared directly toward your grade level. You could even select books only from your classroom library and make it almost like a year-long scavenger hunt! Quotes could be given out once a week and students could have a recording sheet to keep track of their guesses. You could decide to give a little prize at the end of the month, term, or even the year for the most correct quotes. What a great way to encourage literacy in your classroom!

Dynomite Dioramas

Well, we just finished the novel, “Holes” by Louis Sachar. The kids loved it as they always do. One of the activities that I had them do was a diorama of the setting “Camp Green Lake” from the novel. They did a great job and so I’m sharing a few photos of their work. Of course these will make more sense to those of you familiar with the novel!

They did have the option of illustrating the setting, but many chose the hands-on option. The lesson here – always give an option with assessment when you can, but tailor it so that the assessment tool that you use is the same for both choices. That way, it does not equal more work for you! For this one, we came up with a checklist of what to include as important elements of the setting, from the notes that the student had taken. This way, I was able to use the same checklist to assess both the illustrations and the dioramas.

Setting Project: Camp Green Lake

Setting Project: Camp Green Lake

Setting Project: Camp Green Lake

Setting Project: Camp Green Lake

Let’s Face it – The Best Stuff’s Always in the Middle

Whether it’s the peanut butter in a sandwich or the Oreo cream in the cookie – the best stuff’s always in the middle.

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for some time. And now, I’m finally ready! This blog is specifically for you amazing middle school teachers (although I hope that there’ll be lots of ideas applicable across the grade levels too!)

I teach Grade 7 and I plan to share teaching tips, ideas, strategies, lessons, freebies, helpful web sites and anything else I come across that I think will save you time.

I have 2 young boys and I know how precious time is. The evenings seem to disappear so quickly! If a lesson that I have, a site or freebie that I’ve found will save you a few minutes – I want to share it! I may also throw in some parenting-type tips upon occasion. I know you don’t all have children, so feel free to “file” these ideas however you see fit;)


What this blog is not…

This blog is not an online  journal, or a place to rant about my job. If that’s what you’re looking for – keep looking.  I understand why those blogs exist – it’s just not my style, nor the intention of this blog. Negativity breeds negativity and positivity breeds positivity. Enough said.

On that note, let this blogging adventure begin, as I attempt to share with you some “Lessons From the Middle”.