Monthly Archives: July 2012

I’m Proud to be a Canadian…Teacher Blogger!

Five months ago if you’d asked me what a “Linky Party” was, I probably would have said, “When we throw Lincoln (my son) a birthday party, silly!”

canadian teacher blogger, lessons from the middle

Ohhhh Caaaanadaaaaa!


Now, I both know what a linky party is AND I have come to love them. I just a found a great linky for Canadian bloggers. It’s hosted by Patti of Madly Learning. It’s so nice to be able to collaborate with teachers on the web. It’s even nicer when some of those teachers are from your own country. This linky is a collection of fantastic Canadian bloggers. It’s about time, eh?






If you have a few minutes, hop over and visit Madly Learning. There are a variety of blogs of different grade levels and subject areas, that are already linked up. I’m sure that you’ll find some great blogs to follow and steal some ideas from, too! I’m having fun making my way through, checking out where everyone is from! Thanks Patti!

FYI, I’m going to link this blog post to my “Blogs” page, so you can find it easily later on down the road!



TLC dollar days, Lessons From The Middle

The Lesson Cloud: Dollar Days

On an unrelated note, have you been to The Lesson Cloud today? Don’t miss out on Dollar Days, plus the HUGE giveaway that they’re having! Oh, and I’m having a sale in my TPT Store too (July 29th-30th) as many of the Lesson Cloud authors are.



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

Don’t miss “Dollar Days” with The Lesson Cloud – oh AND they’re having a giveaway too!

If you have not visited The Lesson Cloud yet, well, you should be ashamed! Just kidding, of course! But seriously, The Lesson Cloud is an awesome collaborative blog (I happen to be a contributor) for all grade levels and subject areas. It is a virtual “cloud” if you will, of lesson ideas and activities that are created by teachers for teachers. Some are both freebies and priced resources. Regardless, whatever you are looking for (as far as lessons go) you’ll find it there!

TLC dollar days, Lessons From The Middle

The Lesson Cloud: Dollar Days!

So, with Back-to-School just around the corner, it’s “Dollar Days” over at The Lesson Cloud. Many teacher-bloggers have linked up their favorite $1 and $2 resources and lots of others are also having sales to celebrate the event! I have linked up some of my faves and other items in my store are on sale!


There’s also a  HUGE giveaway on too – a $75 gift certificate to Really Good Stuff will be awarded to a lucky teacher!


Be sure to head over, stock up on goodies for your classroom and enter the giveaway! The event runs July 29th -30th. Don’t miss out!

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

Incorporating Guided Math Into My Classroom

Guided Math, by Laney Sammons, was the second professional resource that I added to my reading list for this summer. It was quite a quick read and I’m ready to share with you what I have taken from the book.  I’m not going to completely review the book and give away all of the good stuff inside, as I don’t believe that the author would appreciate that. However, I’ll share with you my three “take-aways” that I’ll hopefully be able to incorporate into my room this year.

1) Use more small group instruction for math.

This one is VERY important to me, but I’m already overwhelmed with how much work this is going to be. Of course, there are heaps of research supporting using small groups for instruction and I am looking forward to trying to modify my main teaching style, which is definitely heavier on the whole class instruction side. The book did a great job of explaining how different small groupings may work and I related a lot to the idea of feeling like I’m failing by not being able to challenge everyone at their level, neglecting those at the top and those just floating by, while trying to get the whole curriculum “covered”.  It’s overwhelming to think about how I may possibly get to everyone more effectively, because their levels vary so much. That being said, I know that I am ready to try to spend more time working in small groups with my students. I know that it’ll be a learning experience, because of the class management systems that must be in place to not be interrupted and so on – but I know it’ll be worth it!


2) Start the day with a Math activity.

Well, the last literacy book I read suggested starting the day off with independent reading! I can’t do both…or can I? I’ve decided to flip-flop independent reading and morning math activities. Three days of the cycle they’ll start the day with reading and the other three days, I’ll have a quick math activity for them to do. Actually, I’m QUITE excited about this! Every year, I get students who still struggle with basic facts (I teach grade 7). It’s hard to find time to practice math facts, since the expectation is that they have their facts by now. You  know what? They don’t. Some of them just haven’t gotten them yet – for whatever reason, and this makes learning the grade seven concepts more of a struggle. Providing morning math activities that target basic skills and problem solving two or three times a week, will be super-helpful and might just give students the boost that they need!


3) Give choice.

In Math? This one, really got me! I give lots of different options in Language Arts and Social Studies for projects, topics, book reports, posters – whenever I can. But Math? I have NOT been giving choice in Math. I’ve given projects, played math games and created stations. However, I have NOT said – you can complete this activity OR this activity. Why? Not really sure, to be honest. However, this totally fits in with my goal (from a previous post) of using Bloom’s taxonomy more effectively AND working menus into my classes. I’d like to try to use menus for math – giving choice to my students and building in differentiation. It can be done. I’m sure of it! Even though I’ll inevitably fall on my face, trying to get it all done – I’m excited to try!


Guided Math is a great resource – especially for elementary grades. I focused in on just three things, so as to not be totally overwhelmed by all of the ideas that it offered. I think that I’m going to start with the morning math activities and then the math menus. Finally, I’m going to try to do more small group instruction, but I think that this one is something that I’ll be working toward all year – and not just in math! I’d like to spend more time with small groups in the other subjects that I teach as well.


There was a book study on Guided Math this summer, that I’d mentioned in a past post. If this book sounds like something you may be interested in, you may want to check out some of the conversations and comments that teachers made with this book study. Here’s the original post for the Guided Math Book Study.



So, over to you: Those of you who are already using small group instruction or guided math effectively…. How are you doing it? Class management issues? How time intensive do you find it, preparing the different tasks for the different groups, versus one activity that you modify for the class? What tips for time management could you offer?

Please share your thoughts and questions!!!



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

I got new school stuff!!!

Picture it. You’re at Staples (just fill in your favorite teacher store here). You can smell the Crayola…and you know that you’re home! Alright, I know that you all get excited about colorful post-its, new Sharpies and fancy bulletin board borders too.

Well, I decided to share about some treasures that I purchased on my yearly trek to Scholar’s Choice – the closest “Teacher Store” to me. It’s not even close, really. Out of province, actually;) But every year, for the last number of years, when my hubby and I take a trip across the Confederation Bridge, leaving little ole’ Prince Edward Island behind, I have to add “The Teacher Store” as I call it, to our itinerary (even though, ironically – we’re usually there when school has just ended).

I got some great “school stuff” this year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you so that my poor husband doesn’t have to pretend that he cares what I bought for the new school year;)

organizing, back to school, lessons from the middle


One thing that I would really like to improve this year in my classroom, is my organization. I look into other teachers’ classrooms and they are like well-oiled machines. I don’t feel like I’m there, yet. I’m still figuring out what I like, what helps me and my students and what maybe I thought was going to work, but didn’t. Right now, all of my math manipulatives are in labelled, blue totes. I’ve decided that it annoys me, though, to not be able to see what’s in the totes! So, I bought these clear bins at Costco –  nothing special about them – just regular storage bins. But they’re clear. Okay, so this is where Hubby would start to tune out;)

Also in this picture is one of my faves to help organize my students – plastic page protectors. For some reason, even my more careless students could hang on to things that were in page protectors. It’s almost as if they think, “Well if this piece of paper is important enough for her to pass out protectors to everyone – I better not lose it!” Works for me! I give them out for the REALLY important papers or to store their work in that may be in progress (post cards, posters) things that aren’t in a scribbler and that shouldn’t be hole punched. It may sound silly, but for certain students – they’ve been a lifesaver. Even if they don’t go and put them into the binder, at least the paper is less likely to get lost in the protector.

Finally, I got 3 new pocket charts to help me organize some of my paper work. I am someone who always has stacks on my table up front and it drives me crazy! I’ve realized it’s only because I haven’t come up with a better plan for myself than the filing cabinet. I need an in-between filing place until the papers get where they need to be. Rather than taking up more table space, I’ve decided to use the wall space for filing. So, I plan to use these hanging pocket charts on my bulletin board up front for referral forms, lunch forms, tracking sheets, bus notes, parent notes to me, school newsletters, extra hand outs. I bought three, because I may also use them for math centers and games. I’m very excited at the prospect of having a tidier work area at the front of my room. I’m no different from my students. I need the tools to be organized and then I’ll be able to do a better job!

longitude and latitude, lessons from the middle, math activity

Desk-top World Map


I love this desk-top map that I found, as well. Our first unit in Math is Coordinate Geometry and so I have big plans for this little map to use in a center on plotting points. (In hindsight, I should have gotten more than one…) It’ll also be perfect for Social Studies activities/centers that I may do throughout the year.

Also for Social Studies, I found EXCELLENT posters on Canadian Government which are aligned with my curriculum. Of course they’re not just posters  – they also have activities on the back for students and short pieces to read, as well. Again – stations!!!

Finally, for Social Studies, I found History of Canada glossy magazine-type resources that have just the MOST important information, with lots of color and pictures and then questions on the back of the resource. I got two of these, because I’ll always have modified students, or those on IEPs who will really benefit from the way this information is laid out. I also have the option to incorporate these resources into centers, but I see using them with students who can’t handle all of the information from the regular textbook and who are on their own plan.

Canadian Government Posters and Activities, lessons from the middle

Canadian Government Posters and Activities

Social Studies Activities, lessons from the middle

Social Studies Activities


Just For Fun!, Lessons From The Middle

Sharpies and Borders and Birthdays, oh my!

And finally, to add a little color and fun, check out my CUTE bulletin board borders and value pack of sharpies and pens! Why do I get excited over office supplies? I don’t know – but I don’t think I’m alone!

This year I got Birthday certificates to use in my class and they also come with tear off bookmarks – which I thought was a fun little extra. I also purchased my first “cootie catchers” for elements of a narrative – fun, include the main points that I need to cover, colorful… all in all a good buy!

Okay, I’m done sharing for now. I got some other great stuff too, that I’ll share another day.

So tell me, what’s your guilty pleasure when you go back to school shopping for your classroom? What do you get super excited about? Please share, so that I don’t feel lonely surrounded by my markers, posters and other goodies;)

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

Middle School Freebies Linky

The Internet is such a wonderful thing! I put a call out to teachers to post their favorite “Middle School” freebies. Of course they did not let me down.

So, this collection is for you – in the hopes of saving you some time. Thanks to all of the awesome teachers who’ve submitted their freebies already (and also to those who will add in the future).

Just click on the Inlinkz tool,  click on the links that you would like and then download! Easy! If you have a freebie that you think would be suitable for the collection – by all means, please add it! I’ll be refreshing this collection every month or so. I’ll also add the collection to my “Freebies Tab” so make sure to check back from time to time to score new freebies!  

Thanks everybody!

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

Flash Giveaway Winner!

Thanks so much to all of you for your thoughtful comments on yesterday’s blog post. It seems like many of us feel the same way about differentiation. We are doing it, we would like to do it more – because it really is the only way to teach, but it’s the time necessary to plan for the differentiated instruction that’s the challenge. It’s a HUGE challenge – especially when you throw in a couple of discipline issues, report cards being due, PLC meetings, soccer practice, a new course, family obligations and then actually teaching, of course!

Thanks to all of you for the titles you mentioned, links shared and participation!

Now, on to the business at hand!

The winner of the flash giveaway from yesterday is…

lessons from the middle, giveaway

lessons from the middle, giveaway

Congratulations Sue! You have your choice of these two prizes:

lessons from the middle, differentiation and giveaway

lessons from the middle, differentiation and giveaway

Turn Back to School into PD for Students

Thanks for participating everyone! I look forward to reading your future comments in the “Must Reads” tab of Lessons From The Middle!

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

Finished of my first summer read! Plus a flash giveaway!

Okay, I’m doing a 2 Part Blog Post today…
Part 1: Finished my First Summer Read
Don’t you just love it when you devote your time to something and it pays off? Me too!
I just finished my first summer read  “Differentiated Instruction in the Whole-Group Setting”  about  a week ago. It was a quick read and had LOTS of great ideas that I really do hope to incorporate into my room in some way next year. Of course, I can’t simply give you everything from the book. The author, Betty Hollas, would probably not be too happy with me. That being said, I’d like to share with you my THREE “take-aways” from this book.

Lot of great ideas in this book!

When I read a professional book, I use lots of post-its (if I don’t own the book) and I try to narrow the information down to just 3 things that I could try to incorporate into my teaching – whether that be points of reflection, specific ideas or teaching strategies. From those three, I choose ONE to start with. The way I figure it, it’s like a cook book. Even if I just get one good recipe out of it – I’m happy. If I get one idea that I actually use, that works well for my students and that makes my classroom a better place to be – well then it was worth it! Then, I can move on to number two on my list.
This book would be excellent for a teacher who’s just starting out. There were lots of ideas in there that I already use in my room (which was sort of a pat on the back, actually) and many others that I’ve heard of, but that I just haven’t gotten around to incorporating. Some of my favorites (that I already use) from the book are: Anticipation Guides, “I Have, Who Has” and Exit Slips. Betty has included descriptions and reproducibles to go with these, and so many other strategies in the book.
So, what am I going to focus on from this book, you ask? What were my Ah-ha! moments? It was hard to narrow it down to three – but here we go!
1) I have recognized that I am still not using Bloom’s Taxonomy the way I would like. I use it. I try to use it properly and encourage higher level thinking. I need to try a bit harder! So, my first goal is to really focus on getting my students up to those higher levels of thinking, and try to spend less time in the Knowledge/Comprehension arena.
2) I plan to use more menus and cubing to help me with differentiation. I know that menus, especially, have been around for a while. Again – I do use them. I’d like to use them more! Actually, I hope to cheat a little and combine my #1 and #2 goals by creating menus using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a  guide of sorts, where possible. Cubing – same thing! Whatever questions or tasks I put on the cubes, I plan to make sure that there is a good selection of higher level options. 
3) Finally, this is not so much of a goal as a mantra for me. I’ve realized that small shifts in my room can have a huge impact on the lives and learning of my students. It won’t be possible to differentiate everything all of the time. But, if I keep doing what I’m doing now and add in some more of the “good stuff” that I’ve found in this resource, my classroom will begin to evolve into what I what I truly want it to be. That is, a place where I am able to reach all learners, build on their strengths and address their weaknesses in a way that they learn most effectively. Some day. I’m only a few years into my career, really. I’m figuring out that everything doesn’t just “come” overnight. Knowing how to differentiate and actually being able to find the time to do it, are two different things. That’s why my “take-away” for #3 focuses on the idea of “baby steps”.
Once the year is underway, I’ll fill you in from time to time on my successes and struggles with differentiating for my students and I’ll be asking for your tricks too, of course! I’m excited to have put some goals down in writing and also to have shared them with all of you. I plan to put these goals in writing on my desk as a reminder, too. I know that all of this together, will really help me to be more focused next year!
Part 2: Flash Giveaway
I’m in the mood for trying new things and one of you will really benefit from this! This is my first Flash Giveaway! All you have to do is make a comment on this post and fill out your name and email in the Lessons From The Middle Flash Giveaway form. You can comment about some aspect of differentiation, anything that I mentioned in this post, your own goals, your summer reading, your own struggles or successes in the classroom, a strategy that you use that you’d like to share, a question that maybe I, or someone else may be able to answer or comment on. I’ll use a random number generator to choose one winner tomorrow. The winner will have a choice of either my best seller: “Turn the First Days of School into PD For Students”  OR my newest math resource “Rounding and Place Value Activities“.
lessons from the middle, differentiation and giveaway

Rounding and Place Value Activities


lessons from the middle, differentiation and giveaway

Turn the First Days of School into PD for Students

 Good luck and I look forward to reading your comments!!! Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons


Celebrating Students’ Achievements

Yes, school is at an end for most of us – just around the corner again for some. Regardless, at the end of my school year, I made a mental list of some things that I’d like to tackle and do a better job of next year. I’m getting lots of tips and ideas from my summer reading to implement in the fall – which is great. Something else, though, that I’ve done a better job of in years past, is to celebrate students’ learning and achievements. It’s one of those things that I kept “meaning to get around to” this year. Now here we are. July, and I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t follow through on what I meant to do.

I know how important it is to truly step back with students, parents, family members and staff and really applaud all of the hard work that students have done. Two years ago (when I was VERY pregnant, actually) I had a publishing party to celebrate the writing of my grade sevens. Many had gotten published that year in one of two anthologies. We decorated the room, I took in treats and we sent out invitations. All students had someone come in to support them that year. It was wonderful. Students read their pieces aloud to the group and I cried (only partly due to the pregnancy hormones). It was a beautiful thing and one of my proudest “teacher moments”.

  I know in my heart that there are reasons as to why things didn’t go quite according to plan this year. This was a challenging year. My most challenging yet. I won’t get into the details and I’m not about to rant – although I could;) Oh boy, could I! We’ll just say that taking on one more task, such as inviting parents in to celebrate students’ work and planning such an event, was not at the top of my to-do list.

Anyhow, next year will be better! I know that, because at the end of this school year our grade 5 teachers got it right. They had been doing a book club with their students entitled, “Have You Seen Art?”. The students were very engaged during this unit and the way that the unit was finally wrapped up was through an art gallery of the students’ work. Parents, family members and staff and students were invited to the art show. It was just awesome! The students had worked with various mediums and got to choose which pieces of artwork were to be formally assessed. Students were on hand to explain the exhibits in the gallery and they did a wonderful job. They were so engaged and so proud. And rightly so! To see all of their work displayed around the classroom was proof positive that we (I) need to make sure not to neglect that ever-important final step of sharing work – whether that be artwork, Science Fair projects or writing. It’s not enough to just share with the class – which is what I did this year. We need to really make it authentic and invite in family and other guests so that students feel as important as they are!

lessons from the middle, celebrating students

Invited Guests Enjoying the Artwork


lessons from the middle, celebrating students

Art Display


So, thank you to Mrs. MacIsaac and Mrs. Deagle for getting it right this year and giving me the visual reminder that I needed to make sure that I get it right next year.


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




A GREAT art site to use in the classroom (thanks for that too, Mrs.MacIsaac)!

National Gallery of Art for Kids

Amazing Giveaway by Kleinspiration!

I love to share when I find great giveaways and I’ve found an amazing one!

Kleinspiration has an incredible giveaway on the go RIGHT NOW! The items that she has rounded up are too numerous for me to even list here. She has LOTS of TeachersPayTeachers items from various teacher-authors, autographed books and even software packages. Many teachers have helped Erin out with this giveaway (myself included) and YOU could be one of her lucky winners.

Go on over to Kleinspiration now, check out her blog and enter this fantastic giveaway. Good luck:)


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