Monthly Archives: April 2012

An End of the Year Challenge…for the Teacher

I want you to take a moment and think about how many times your students were judged and evaluated this year. How many tests did they take? Projects, assignments and oral presentations completed? Contests entered? Sports games or music concerts played? How many times were they asked to read aloud? Share their writing with others? Offer an answer in class?

Students take a lot of risks in the run of a year, although many of us may not really consider these things “risks”. Asking a student to share her writing with a partner (especially in the middle grades) is actually quite a significant risk to be taking. What if the other person makes fun of her? What if they didn’t write a story that was quite as long, will they think she’s a keener? What if they just don’t think the story’s funny and then they tell everybody how stupid it is? It’s risky and we ask them to do things like this every day.

We don’t ask students to take these risks for no reason, of course. We don’t assess and evaluate because it’s just so darned fun (well at least I don’t).  We want our students to do better – to improve. We want them to be successful – that’s why we expect so much from them – time and time again. So, what’s your challenge, you may be wondering? Or perhaps you’ve figured it out.

Your challenge: Have your students assess your teaching for this year.

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Think of it as your end of the year report card. Now, you could have (perhaps should have) gotten your students to assess your practices on a consistent basis this year – as we send a report card home each term or quarter. There’s always next year. But, for THIS year, what I want you to try is quite simple. Give your students some time to assess your teaching for this year. Have them reflect back on all of the projects that you completed, things you’ve done and said.

Let’s even save on photocopying, simply give your instructions on the board:

Write THREE things that I have done well this year and ONE (only ONE please) thing that I could try to improve on/do differently. Add as many specifics and details as possible and any advice that you think would be helpful.

Don’t forget..the “I” is you this time…not the students. Don’t have them do it for themselves as well – this assessment is for the teacher!

You want to know what you did a good job of this year so that you can try to do the same next year AND you’d really like to improve on some things as well. You need to know what to work on. They’re completing this assessment to help you, not hurt you! Make sure that you discuss what information would be helpful and what they could write that would just hurt your feelings. Any feedback you have given this year, was never meant to hurt their feelings and you expect them to be as professional with their comments.  With that said, they ARE children and you must prepare yourself for what they could say. However, if 20/20 students say that the one thing you should work on, is not yelling so much, maybe they’re trying to send you a legitimate message – not just trying to be difficult. If you decide to accept this challenge – it is a challenge. Meaning, it’s not necessarily going to be easy. You’re putting yourself out there – so be ready.

Have students do this evaluation completely independently. You can give them some examples of what would be helpful and what wouldn’t, to get them started. You can’t stop giving tests, for example, but maybe you could give a review sheet before the test. Also, you want to know what projects they enjoyed, but you want to know WHAT it was that they enjoyed about the project.

When you read their comments – be prepared for your students to be honest. Think of all of the things that you’ve said or written on papers…think of all of the grades that they’ve seen on the tops of their pages. Think about every test or assignment that you’ve given back…some students sit on the edge of their seats waiting and others cringe. If you decide to complete this challenge, you are allowing yourself to be judged. You’re asking them what you could improve on – so take those things seriously. What they say in both categories may or may not surprise you. But wouldn’t you like to do better next year? What would your students say about you? I challenge you to find out!

*Warning: You take this challenge at your own risk! If you have a group of nasty, mean students who try to hurt your feelings and give no helpful information at all – I apologize. However, I commend you for taking the risk in the first place. You know your kids. You know may what they’re capable of  – the good, the bad and the ugly. Good for you for taking the risk, to try to improve your teaching.*

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Lessons From The Middle

Behavior Management Strategy for Middle School

If you are a middle school teacher, perhaps you have noticed that your students occasionally enjoy testing the boundaries (and your patience). Maybe I’m the only one – but I’m thinking not! With the end of the school year quickly approaching, students just want summer to be here (teachers too) and patience sometimes get thin.

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It’s at these times, when I’m not at my wit’s end – but I’m close, that I usually revert to one of my tried and tested behavior management strategies. You don’t need any formal training, no forms are necessary, and it’s completely within YOUR control: Have a sense of humor.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times that I may want to scream – and would be perfectly within my rights to do so, based on their questionable behavior and poor decisions. My buttons have been pushed and my professionalism challenged. I’m sure I’m no different from any one of you. However, one of the behavior management strategies that has helped me to keep my sanity with some of my most challenging students, is to find something in the situation to laugh at.

Just to be clear – cursing -not funny. Fighting – definitely not funny. There are lots of other things, though, that my lovely middle-schoolers do and say that would drive me crazy if I let them. I’ve come to recognize these situations, and when I feel annoyed or challenged, sometimes I just laugh or make a joke to lighten the mood and defuse the situation before moving on with my lesson.

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There have been times when students have complained, sulked, sooked or been rude that I felt like screaming, “Who do you think you are?” Of course, I can’t do that. And even if I did, who wants to spend their days yelling? Not me.  It’s exhausting though, to constantly be nagging about behaviors, rules, poor decisions and what’s acceptable and what’s not – especially when you have particularly argumentative students who are looking for a battle to win.

Let me give you a “for instance”. Not too long ago, there was a student who very rudely demanded to know why I had shut the window. He’d just come from Phys. Ed. and he was hot! I felt like yelling, “What did you just say to me?” Instead I said, (with a smile on my face – which is very important) “You’re not saying that I’m not allowed to close a window in my own classroom, when I’m cold, are you?”… He didn’t know what to say. He just looked at me, rudeness gone, and replied, “No?” The other kids started to laugh. I quickly exclaimed,”Didn’t think so!” and I patted him on the shoulder with a laugh, and moved on with my lesson.

Another example….the Grade 4 and 5 students got to go on a trip out of province. I knew when the tour bus was in the parking lot that morning to load the students, what I’d be met with in my classroom. Can you hear it? Any guesses?…. “Why do the Grade 4 and 5’s get to go? We never get to do anything fun!” I was ready for the poor attitude and general “sulkiness” and responded (with my arms crossed and a slight foot stomp for good measure) “I know! I don’t get to go either! It’s so unfair! I have to stay here and teach! They didn’t even ask me – I don’t get to do anything fun.” Perhaps a little sarcastic – but you do what you’ve got to do, to survive (and thrive) with the hand you’ve been dealt. The kids couldn’t argue with me, because I’d sided with them and basically repeated what they’d just said, although making light out of the situation. They had nothing to say, so I finished with…”Oh well, I guess we’ll ALL just have to get over it!” and I went on about the morning routine.

If I’d outright addressed the blatant rudeness and disrespect in either of these situations, I would have been met with a fight. I don’t need to argue with twelve-year olds, thank you very much. I just don’t have the time, nor the desire.

I think you catch my drift, with the whole – laugh it off tactic. It depends on the day, the student, the situation and my mood. I’ve simply decided, that I’d rather laugh than cry (or scream) when at all possible. Wouldn’t you?

So, the next time your students are frustrating the heck out of you, try to find a tiny bit of humor in the situation and laugh or make a joke. Especially in the beginning, it often stops them cold, because it’s unexpected. The situation is defused, and you’re able to move on and teach (until the next time, that is).

On that note, I’d like to share a sign that was posted by “Fabulous Classroom” on Facebook. So funny ( and true)! lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, classroom management strategies for middle school, behavior management strategies

What behavior management strategy do you find most useful in your classroom?

This blog post was written in response to the 5 Star Blog Challenge at  The Organized Classroom Blog. Check out her link-up to find more 5 Star Blogs!

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Lessons From The Middle

Positive Connections Between Home and School: Our Spring Carnival

We all know how important is it to have strong links between home and school. There are many ways that you can go about this. Consistent communication, inviting parents in to participate in celebrations (publishing parties etc.) math game night… are just a few ideas. There was an event at my school last week, that I just have to brag up, though. We had a spring carnival!

First of all, it was the parents who organized this spring carnival and it never would have happened without the strong, motivated and caring group of parents that we have. The goal of the carnival was to break down some of the barriers that often exist between home and school. Some parents actually become physically ill at the thought of having to enter the school, because of their own issues that they had in school as students. In addition to trying to promote the positive connections between parents, teachers and students –  the carnival was a fund-raiser for the school.

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Spring Carnival Fundraiser: Toilet Paper Toss

There were carnival games in the gym that were run by the older students: Toilet paper toss, bean bag toss, a fish pond, basketball free throws…We even had a radar gun to see how fast students could shoot a puck or toss a ringette ring. Everyone who played got a small prize.

There was a cake walk every half hour and the 6 donated cakes were AMAZING! If you’ve never done a cake walk, there’s a grid of about 25 – 30 numbers on the floor (however many participants you want). Participants pay to play ($1.00 for us) and stand on a number. Then, the numbers are drawn out one at a time. The last person standing wins a cake of their choice! Our event was 6:00-9:00 in the evening and so there was a cake walk held every half an hour.

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Spring Carnival Fundraiser: Cake Walk

We had face painting, a sundae bar – even a teddy bear clinic! The local EMTs came in with all of their gear, ambulances sitting in the parking lot – lights flashing, and helped to “fix” the sick teddy bears that our students brought in. That was a big hit with the younger kids!

We had a silent auction with hundreds of dollars worth of items that our Home and School got donated. Finally, each class in the school was responsible to bring in an item for a “basket”. Grade 7 had the “Kitchen Basket”. This meant that every student had to bring in one small item to go into our basket. Tickets would be sold for these baskets – again proceeds going to the school. There was a candy basket, a movie night, summer fun baskets, scrapbooking, writers’ basket and more.

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Spring Carnival ~Gift Basket

I LOVE how they organized the gift basket giveaway. If you need a simple fund-raiser, you may want to think about this one!

If you wanted tickets for the gift baskets, you could buy an envelope of tickets for $2.00 (or three envelopes for $5.00). Each envelope had 20 tickets inside with the same number on them (the numbers and names were recorded as they were sold). So, if you bought envelope #73, all of your tickets had 73 on them and your name was recorded on our list as having bought envelope 73.

There were bins in front of each basket, and since the envelopes had 20 tickets inside – people could put a ticket in to each bin and have a chance to win every basket OR they could put all of their tickets into the bin of the basket that they wanted the most. It worked beautifully! One ticket was drawn at the end of the night, from each bin, and those lucky winners got the lovely gift baskets!

I have two young children and so after helping to set up the carnival after school, I went back up to the school with my own kids. We had a blast! The best part was seeing how laid back everyone was – just having a good time. It is, hands down, the most positively I have seen parents, teachers and students connect in this community where “school” is concerned. We all just got to have FUN! The carnival was huge success all around and we exceeded the original goals set. That one night brought in over $6 000. Our school is K-7 with just over 350 students, in a community of about 1 200. It was amazing!

I’d love to hear about how your school works to connect with parents. Also, what has your school’s most successful fund-raiser been?

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Lessons From The Middle

Middle School Math Freebies! I’m having a linky party!

Well, I’ve been a part of linky parties before, but this is the first one I’ve hosted! FUN! I hope to create a great collection of middle school math freebies for all of you (and for me too, of course).

One of my popular math freebies is a Divisibility Game, Poster, and Printable Pack. It’s easy to play and a great way to review divisibility rules that students sometimes neglect due to over-use of calculators! It includes divisibility rules for 2,3,4,5,6,8,9 and 10. There are two levels of “difficulty” so that even students on IEPs should be able to play the game with the class. All you need to play, is dice for each group. You can easily increase the level of difficulty by adding more dice to the game.

Click on the link to download my Free Divisibility Game, Poster and Printable.

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Free Divisibility Game

If you have a free middle school math resource to share, please add the link and keep the party going!!! FREEBIES ONLY this time around please! I’m starting things off by adding a few of my own:)

For anyone who would like to grab the code for their blog…

Lessons From The Middle
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My linky party is part of The Ultimate Linky Party on Teaching Blog Addict. If you’re in the mood to party – head over to TBA to check out some great links!

Bullying at School: What if it was your child?

I want you to consider for a moment, all of the wonderful and amazing accomplishments of the human race –  on Planet Earth. We put a man on the moon…and beyond. Technology is advancing on a daily basis, beyond the imaginations of bullying in the classroom teacher blogs bullying prevention bully prevention books lessons from the middle krystal millsthe generations that came before. Diseases that used to wipe out entire communities can now be treated with a simple inoculation. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. So, I ask myself: Why can’t we stop kids from being cruel to one another?

It happens in everyone’s classroom and school. If you think that it doesn’t happen in your room, I would ask you to consider all of the time that you are out of your students’ sight and earshot: between classes, in the washroom, out on the playground. It happens. Bullying. If it doesn’t happen at your school – PLEASE tell the rest of us your secret.

We know that bullying is not just pushing and shoving anymore. It’s hurtful text messages and trashing people online. Of course, the physical side is part of the picture – it always will be. But there are many facets to bullying now, with that advanced technology that I mentioned earlier. One other thing – boys and girls bully differently – so keep that in mind when you’re taking an inventory of your class’s interactions.

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time, I believe. Unfortunately, I don’t see it getting a WHOLE lot better any time soon. Yes, there are amazing initiatives and programs coming out and those are wonderful. We need more of that! But, at the end of the day, I keep thinking about who, from my classroom – in my school is going home upset about something that happened at school. Something that I didn’t see or wasn’t around for. Something, that I don’t even know about. How many? I’d love to say none, and I hope that that’s true. I’m a realist, though, and if you know me at all – you know that I love math. The odds are against me. Chances are, that someone (or many someones) were bullied in some form. Being that I’m in Canada, I found some recent stats for bullying in this country. I looked at the US as well though, and the picture is much the same. Being that I teach grade 7, my eyes are drawn to the “middle grades”.

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Percentage of Students in each Grade Who Have Been Bullied in the Last 2 Months

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Percentage of Students in each Grade Who Have Bullied in the Last 2 Months

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Percentage of Students in each Grade Who Have Been Bullied and Bullied Others in the Last 2 Months

These stats are provided by an organization called PREVnet, trying to end bullying. 

The numbers may be startling to you, or no surprise at all. Whatever the case, bullying is a problem. If you are a teacher, it’s your problem. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you need to “find the cure” so to speak. However, be aware that it does happen to over half of kids – boys and girls. Junior high, in particular, is a rough time on the best of days – without bullying being an issue as well. Keep your eyes and ears open and try not to ignore. We can all just do what we can do. I came across the video below, as I was searching online. It’s only a few minutes long. Please take the time to watch it. I do not know this family, but my heart goes out to them. No one thinks that this will happen to them, in their town and their lives, until it does.

This is Kristina’s story.

PLEASE check with your administrator first, if you’re thinking about showing this video to students.

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Kristina's Story

Please, keep Kristina’s story in mind when you’re dealing with bullying in your classroom and in your school. It happens. It happens when we don’t or can’t see it. It happens to “good kids” and “straight A” students. It happens to too many of our kids.

So, what can we do about it? How can we prevent or even abolish bullying? What is the cure? I don’t have the answers – lots of questions, but no answers. Being a teacher, of course I turn for answers in books. I have come across three that look promising – I haven’t ordered them yet, though.  Are any of you familiar with these titles? Do you have any book title recommendations for the rest of us? Please share!

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Love Blogs? Want to Start Writing One Yourself?

I’ve only been blogging for a couple of months, now. I originally didn’t think I’d find enough time to blog. What I’ve realized, though, is that when you find something that you really enjoy – you need to find the time to do it. Time constraints aside, this blog post is for anyone out there who is thinking about blogging OR who is currently blogging, but not really sure how to go about it.

I consider myself lucky to have found Charity Preston’s “Teaching Blog Traffic School” so early in my blogging career. TBTS is an AMAZING membership site that teaches you how to drive traffic to your site, how to set up a Facebook Fan Page to go with your blog, how to get started with Twitter, Pinterest, how to sell your materials online and in print…and SO much more! There are 30 main videos in the series, plus bonus videos, chat rooms and forums that are targeted to specific grade levels. I’m really just barely scratching the surface.

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Become a Better Blogger

The Teaching Blog Traffic School videos are organized in such a way, that you can set small, attainable goals and reach them. It has helped me to build so much confidence and my blog is coming along very well in a short period of time. So, if you are trying to build your blog or are interested in getting started, I highly suggest that you first check out Teaching Blog Traffic School.

Thanks for everything Charity!

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Awesome Giveaway From Teaching Blog Addict

I know you folks love a good giveaway!

Check out TBA’s fabulous giveaway, to celebrate their first birthday!

Only one day left to enter though – so don’t waste any time. Tons fo great teacher resources to be won and those much coveted  Amazon gift cards. To enter just click: Teaching Blog Addict. Mention that Lessons From The Middle sent you:)

 

Good luck everyone!

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An Emergency Sub Plan: You don’t have one? Get one!

Well, time’s just flying past for me this year! It’s already April! Today, I walked into the school – not as a teacher, but as a parent. It was my oldest son’s Kindergarten Assessment this morning. Sniff…sniff…tear. Oh my, where have the last four years gone? Anyhow, of course I brought him to his assessment and so I had a guest teacher in my classroom. As I was writing up my sub plan yesterday, I was reminded of how much time I save each time I have a substitute or guest teacher in, because of the “Emergency Sub Plan Binder” that I put together at the beginning of the year. Most teachers at my school have one of these. If you don’t – you may want to think about it. If, not for this year – for next. They’re such a time-saver!

Your binder can include whatever you deem important for your sub to know. Of course, you must include the basics:

-Classlist

-Seating Arrangement

-Time Table

-Basic Class Rules

-Routines

-Reward systems

-Special considerations for certain students

-Duty schedule and expectations

The list goes on and on…

Just think, if you create a binder that has documents that incorporate how things are run in your room, you won’t have to include all of that info EVERY time you write a sub plan. Write it ONCE at the beginning of the year/term and then just leave your lesson plan with the binder of info. Easy!

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Now, for those of you who are NEVER sick and have sick days banked up from 15 years ago, accidents happen – as does the unexpected. You just never know! It’s best to be prepared!

On top of the basic info in your binder, it’s also a wonderful idea to have material that a guest teacher could cover with your students if you had to leave the school unexpectedly – about three days worth. Things happen and maybe you can predict the future – but I can’t. Therefore, I think of this bank of extra material in my emergency binder as “insurance”. I hope that I never have to use it – but it’s there just in case. This extra material could be basic skills sheets or activities for math, questions that could go with any piece of reading, writing tasks, etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be easy for a substitute to carry out, if you can not make it to school for some reason. The reason that I have three days worth, is if for example, the stomach flu hits. The last thing I’ll want to do, is plan for my class. Plus, there’s no way of knowing how long you’ll be sick for. Three days worth, at least gives you some time to recover or make other arrangements to plan properly.

 With all that said, if you woke up tomorrow violently ill, how prepared are you?

The results are in! Are you one of my lucky winners?

WOW! What a week! You guys have been awesome. Thanks so much for helping me to more than DOUBLE my goal of 50 followers. I now have 109 followers of my new blog Lessons From The Middle!

With that being said – let’s get right to it. I had 341 entries for my Spectacular Spring Giveaway. I used www.random.org to select my winners. Again, it’s luck of the draw. If you’ve won something that you can’t use at this point in time, please pass it on to a fellow teacher at your school! Think of it as a random act of kindness.

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Congratulations to all of my WINNERS:

$10 TPT Gift Card ~ Dawn (Livnlaughalot)

Package of resources valued at over $40:

Alissa Miller

Michelle Lundy

Amanda Collier

Elaine Covert

$40 of resources PLUS $25.00 Amazon gift card ~ Andie Mitchell

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Shopping Spree Winners:

The Winner of each Shopping Spree, followed by the store link and amount:

Jana Wilson   ~    http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Krystal-Mills ~$25.00

Lacy Best    ~     http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Valerie-Young ~ $25.00

Mike Millard ~ http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tchrbrowne  ~ $25.00

Kelly Brown  ~ http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tools-For-Teachers-By-Laurah-J  ~ $20.00

Maureen Smith ~ http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Stacy-Mickelson ~$20.00

Stephanie Hulbert ~ http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Katie-Hoss ~ $50.00

Denise Goshert ~ http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Science-Stuff ~ $25.00

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Again, thank you everyone for all of your follows, tweets, pins, likes, comments and enthusiasm!

Shopping spree winners: Your email addresses have been passed on the appropriate store owners and they will be contacting you shortly to see what files you would like from their stores. Please click on the link above to take you to the TPT store of your shopping spree and select your prizes so that you’re ready when the owner contacts you! All other winners, you can expect your winnings to arrive in your inboxes soon!

Anyone who missed out on this giveaway, and who doesn’t want to miss out on the next one – feel free to add your name and email to my list and I’ll be sure to include you in the loop next time around! The next giveaway promises to be even bigger and better! If you answered “yes” to the email question on the giveaway form – I’ve got you already! I may also send out some great freebies, activities, and ideas periodically. To add your email to my ever growing list click the link: Please Keep Me Informed of the Next Giveaway From Lessons From The Middle.

If you have a Teacher Store and would like to particpate in my next giveaway by donating resources or a shopping spree in your store, I would LOVE to have you! I know that the teachers this time around got lots of traffic to their blogs, and followers. If you are interested, just fill out this form: I’d love to be a participant in your next big giveaway by donating from my store!

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