Monthly Archives: June 2012

Upper Elementary Summer Book Study

Today was officially my first day of summer vacation…wait for it…wait for it….YAY!!! Bring on summer! Okay – just had to get that out of my system;)


You know by now how I feel about doing some kind of professional, summer reading. So, I just had to share!

I just came across an awesome book study group for middle school/upper elementary. They are reading The Daily Five, and then The Cafe Book this summer. All are welcome to join in!

It begins tomorrow! Lots of notice, I know;) But I know some of you already have read those books, so it would be nice to be able to discuss how you used them with others who have not implemented them in their classrooms yet. Whether you’ve read the books or not, you can check out the posts that develop from the book study to see if these resources are something that might interest you for the summer or the next school year. All of the info including the blog posting schedule is on a wonderful new blog: We Read, We Blog, We Teach. The two resources for the book study group are below for you to check out, as well. As I said, they are starting with The Daily Five and will move into The Cafe Book in a couple of weeks. Check it out and join the conversations! Happy reading!

The Daily Five

The Cafe Book

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Facebook Posting Party This Evening

A number of teacher-bloggers have set up a “Facebook Posting Party” for this evening (9-11pm EST). It’s a great opportunity to check out some new blogs, like some new FB pages, make some connections with teachers from around the world and maybe even get some freebies along the way. Check it out by coming over to my FB page later this evening or even tomorrow to find some new blogs and FB pages to like. I joined the party late, so I hope that I still have some peeps coming over to my FB page to post their info!! We’ll see:)

facebook posting party, lessons from the middle

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Professional Books for Summer Reading


I admit it.

I have committment issues.

Well, not exactly. My husband and I have been together since we were 17. It’s not that type of committment that I’m talking about;)

I can’t commit to just ONE book at a time. There. I said it. I read a bit, put it down, pick up another, put it down – read a chapter of this here and a chapter of that there. I know it’s not necessarily the best way to do things – but it’s my way. So, rather than choosing just one professional resource to flip through this summer, I’ll have four on the go!

I posted in May, encouraging teachers to choose a professional resource to read this summer, to enhance their teaching and hopefully, to find new and even better ways of doing things. Following this post, I got lots of comments about books that some of you were reading. I also went to my own school’s “professional library” to check things out. Just in case you haven’t decided on a book for yourself yet AND, to have as a resource for the future, I’ve added links to all of the titles that I have found and that were suggested to me. I have not read all of these books – yet. So, just to be clear, I can’t yet make comments on their usefulness…etc… However, they were recommended to me by other teachers. Since teachers have no time to read useless material – I figure that they’re all worth a look! So, without further adieu, here are my summer reading picks.

The four books that I’ve chosen all have to do with differentiation. I’ll be posting periodically about them, as I find interesting and helpful tidbits for you, so stay tuned! If you want to know more about any of the books below, I’ve linked them all from Amazon for you to peruse.

The first three focus mostly on differentiation, and teaching to the variety of students in your classroom. I found all three in my own school’s professional library! Before you buy anything, I suggest you start with your school or local library.

I’ve started reading the third one, “Differentiating Instruction in a Whole Group Setting”. The author, Betty Hollas, spoke at our annual convention a few years back. She was excellent! This book is for grades 3-8. So far, it’s a super-quick read, and also has lots of reproducibles in the back which is a huge plus!

My fourth summer pick, the book I’ve purchased, is about “Guided Math”. There’s actually an online study group  blogging about this book – so it would be a great one if you wanted to join in discussions. Click here for the kick off post for the Guided Math Book Study. It’s a book that applicable from primary up into junior high and beyond. I can’t wait until my copy arrives…I just ordered this one..


So, that’s my summer reading list and you’ll hear lots about it over the next two months, as I’m sure I’ll have tons to share as I make my way through!

Here are some other book recommendations for you, coming from Lessons From The Middle readers:)



Common Core would be a great place to start – just choose the right book for your grade level.



To sharpen your discipline skills…



For teaching reading in the content areas…



A pick for 21st Century Learning…



Practical strategies to help manage students, irritating adults and making the best of an imperfect environment…



For when you have parents whose child can do no wrong…


That should be plenty to get started!

So, once you’ve taken some time for yourself this summer,  find a book that excites you and meets your current professional goals and interests.

If you read any of the books above – please share your thoughts about them! Tips you’ve found useful (or not so useful). Also, let me know if you’re reading a book that you think I should add to this list. I’d love to do so! Once I’ve gotten some feedback (and made my way through my own summer picks) I’ll add worthy books to the “Must Reads” tab for you to refer to easily.

I look forward to some comments (good or bad) and some discussion about the books above and any others that you’re reading or want to read.  One last thing, if you know of a great book on “content literacy strategies”  (grade 5/6 level) a Lessons From The Middle reader, Shannon, would love for you to share!

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer so far! I’m looking forward to mine…(We’re still in school here until June 29th.)

Happy reading everyone!

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Flash Sale today!

I haven’t done this before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. I’m having a FLASH SALE today, June 16th, until this time tomorrow. Everything in my TPT Store is 20% off. I know many people have finished for the year and next year is the furthest thing from their minds. However, school schedules vary depending on where in the world you are. I still have a couple of weeks left, and I know I’m starting to reflect on what my plans may include for next year. Perhaps you’re the same!


As I’ve mentioned before, most of my resources are for grades 6-9 Math, Language Arts, Classroom Management, Back to School…etc…  Come on over to my TPT Store today to grab some items in my first ever flash sale!





lessons from the middle, flash sale

Math Project



lessons from the middle, flash sale

lessons from the middle, flash sale

Transformational Geometry Math Centers

lessons from the middle, flash sale








lessons from the middle, flash sale

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Teacher Suspended for Giving Zeros…What do you think?

A teacher here in Canada has recently been suspended for giving zeros for unsubmitted work, which is against the school’s policy. I know people have strong opinions on topics like these and so I’d like to open things up. Here’s the link to the full article: Teacher Suspended for Giving Zeros.

calgary teacher suspended, lessons from the middle

Alberta Teacher Suspended

I think we’ve all been frustrated when we seem to care more about a student’s learning and grades than they do. When we’ve catered to their learning needs, extended deadlines and then extended them again. When we’ve turned tests into “take home” assignments with the hopes that some work will get completed and submitted…when we’ve done all of this… at what point are we actually setting our children up for failure, when they realize that the real world doesn’t work like this? The real world has deadlines and we don’t get to choose those deadlines. In the real world, if I don’t write lesson plans, or sub plans, or tests – for that matter, I’ll get reprimanded. My behavior will be met with a consequence. I’ll be in big professional trouble!

I know that giving a zero doesn’t truly give me a picture of what the student has or has not learned. I have every student’s best interest at heart and I try my very best to make sure that all of my students have success – as I’m sure most of you do. However, I just can’t help but wonder what sort of citizens and work force we are creating, with the “no zero” type of mentality – if there is no other policy in place, such as “incompletes”. I am conflicted by the story of this teacher, because I can see both sides. What are the policies in your schools? What do you think about this whole thing?

A Freebie for You: Organizing Social Studies Projects For Any Content

It’s been sooo busy the last few days! We are still in school until the 29th of June, here on PEI.  I teach Grade 7 who “graduate” this year and will be heading to the high school (grades 8-12) next year. Lots of “end of the year” and “grad” activities on the go these days!

That being said, I’ve got just a quick post today to let you know about my latest freebie.

I had posted a little while ago about a way to differentiate in the classroom, specifically through projects. (You can check out the original post for all of the info.) I know that a few of you were interested in the rubrics that I used for the projects and more info on how I set things up. So…here’s a copy of what I used this year in my classroom: Organizing Social Studies Projects for Any Content.

Have a look – you may want to tuck it away for next year.

The most recent projects that my students completed had to do with the beginnings of Canada. I’ve shared a few photos below.  They did a great job! Other projects that aren’t pictured…one student wrote a letter from the perspective of a settler, two groups created games, and one group created a video presentation.

Social Studies Projects, lessons from the middle

The Metis and the Buffalo Hunt (Drawing/Collage)

Social Studies Projects, lessons from the middle

Confederation (Drawing A Map)

Social Studies Projects, lessons from the middle

Confederation and PEI (Drawing and Oral Presentation)

Social Studies Projects, lessons from the middle

Buffalo Hunt (Drawing and Game)

Social Studies Projects, lessons from the middle

Confederation (Summary and Drawing)

My students really enjoyed these projects this year. I’ll be looking into doing more of these next year for sure! Now…to add more technology into the mix…

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Guest Blog: Change a Student’s Life With One Quick Email

I’m so excited to have another guest blogger join in at Lessons From The Middle! I asked Catherine, today’s guest blogger, to tell me a bit about herself. She runs a nonprofit called Deep, which offers free after-school creative writing workshops to 400 public school students every year. She’s been teaching writing to middle school students for four years with Deep, and she also blogs about it at That Writing Lady. She also studied English at Yale, and finally, she told me that she does a great giraffe impersonation. Catherine obviously has a great sense of humor as well! Thanks again Catherine for insightful blog post.



We all know that students love to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work. We teachers do this every day through good grades, pats on the back, and gold stars. But what if I told you there was a way to recognize your students that would not only thrill them, but also give them a lasting source of pride that they and their families will remember for the rest of their lives (and impress the pants off your principal in the process)?

Well, here it is:

Get your kids on TV.

Think about it: have you ever been on TV? If you have (and you aren’t a celebrity), then you know that you will remember those fifteen minutes of fame for the rest of your life. Imagine how much more of an impression it makes on children. (I still have a vivid recollection of being on a local children’s show when I was in middle school—I’ve never felt cooler or more proud of myself.)

Sound difficult? It isn’t. Local news stations are usually starved for human interest stories, and your adorable students are just the thing they need to perk up their broadcasts. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Look up your local TV station’s website. Find emails for the local morning show hosts and evening news producers; they’re usually prominently displayed. If not, just call the station and they’ll tell you who to contact.
  2. Draft a quick email along the lines of, “Hi, my name is _______ and I teach _____ at ______. My students are just about to finish [a community garden project, a book publication project, huge musical production] and I think that it would be a great story for your program. I’m available by email or by phone at _______, and I would love to set up a time for you to send a crew here, or for me to send a student to your station for an interview.” If you’re feeling ambitious, you can attach a picture of an especially photogenic child doing said project.
  3. Send it.

That’s it.

My nonprofit, Deep, just did this for two of our students, and I can’t tell you how much the students (and their parents!) were bursting with pride when they walked into the TV station for an interview. Check out their interview here: Television Interview with Students Discussing “Deep”.

If you try it for yourself, I’d love to hear how it goes! Make a comment here or shoot me an email at



Such a great idea Catherine and congrats on the interview! You and your students did an amazing job!

We all love to be recognized for a job well done. Why not take Catherine’s advice? If it’s too late to do so this school year, hang on to the idea for next school year. Your students will never forget it.


Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons