Monthly Archives: August 2012

Using “Factory Girl” by Barbara Greenwood As A Middle School Read Aloud

Okay, so I bit the bullet and have tried my very first VIDEO post. I told myself I never would (the whole being in front of the camera thing) but – here we are. I know how much I enjoy others’ video posts on all sorts of topics – and so I thought I’d try one for a change on pace.


Below you’ll find my video blog post on “Factory Girl” by Barbara Greenwood. Enjoy!


Man…I should have straightened my hair…oh well…don’t make too much fun;)





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

And the winners are…


back to school, giveaway, lessons from the middleTo everyone who was a part of this event – thank you! It’s been a great success. To all of you who took on the blog hop challenge – congratulations to you all. Your freebies will be emailed out later today. Double check your junk mail if you haven’t found the 2 messages in your inbox by this evening.


So, are you one of our THREE lucky winners? Again, each of these winners will be receiving a package of products and shopping sprees donated by all of our participating teacher-bloggers. You three can expect an email notifying you of your win, shortly.

And the winners are:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Thanks again to all who entered!

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


“The Ultimate Middle Years Giveaway and Blog Hop” has Arrived!

By Innovative Connections and Lessons from the Middle!I am SO excited to announce “The Ultimate Middle Years Giveaway and Blog Hop”. This event has been designed with you amazing middle school teachers in mind, by myself and partner in crime Ann Marie Smith author of Innovative Connections. If you haven’t visited Ann Marie’s blog, go, visit, follow! Her writing style is very accessible and a pleasure to read.You’ll want to check out her “Freebies” page, as well as the “Innovative” teachers that she so graciously spotlights. She’s also got TONS of resources for you to browse, in her TPT Store


We’ve worked really hard to create an awesome giveaway and blog hop aimed just at middle school teachers, so you’re in luck. Of course we couldn’t have done it alone! We have 30 fantastic teacher-bloggers helping us with this event. They’ve donated products and shopping sprees in their stores, and have come together to create our blog hop challenge. All for you! So let’s get right to it.


The Giveaway


We have $300 worth of prizes to be won thanks to the generosity of everyone involved in this event. That’s simply amazing to me. These products and shopping sprees have been split into three prize packages for three lucky winners. One of these three winners will receive the “grand prize” which contains about $125 worth of resources and shopping sprees. Someone has to win. Why not you? Check out the list below of all the prizes that have been donated. You’ll find the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway. Lots of different ways to enter and more entries mean more chances to win! 

This giveaway and blog hop event runs August 25th-27th, ending at 12:00 am EST.




The Blog Hop Challenge 


We could have just given you the chance to win prizes – that alone would be pretty fantastic. However, because middle school teachers are so special – we’ve decided to do just a little bit more for you.


There are 24 bloggers involved (plus Ann Marie and I) in this blog hop challenge. Each blogger is highlighting another in the hop. For each blog, there is one question to answer on the form below. Answer the questions on the form correctly (might as well follow the blogs while you’re there) and you’ll be rewarded – big time! 
Our oh-so-generous teacher-bloggers have donated a truck-load of goodies to go to EVERYONE who successfully completes the blog hop! A great way to start off the new school year, wouldn’t you say? I’m not going to list everything that’s included in the package – but let’s just say that there’s something for everyone. Perhaps even better than these resources, is the collection of blogs that you’ll create for yourself, at your grade level, to refer to and benefit from all year long!
At the bottom of this post, you’ll find the collection of the blogs that are participating in the blog hop, as well as the entry form.
Prize List and Donors



$15 to Spend in Addie’s TpT Store!


EVERY PRICED item in Elizabeth’s  Fun in Room 4B TpT Store



$5 Spree in Heidi’s TpT Store

Secondary Solutions Blog


Kristen Bowers’ 101 Writing Prompts for Fall!


$10 Shopping Spree in Madame Aiello’s TpT Store!

Scipi's Specials



Homophones: Lessons, Homework, Tests, Writing



Shopping Spree in Andrea’s TPT Store for $10


HoJo's Teaching Adventures

$15 Shopping Spree in Hojo’s TPT Store

Liz's Lessons


$10 shopping spree to TPT store Liz’s Lessons


$20 shopping spree in Tracee’s TPT Store

The Tutor House


Adrianne’s Integer Elevator Game




$10 Shopping Spree in Michelle’s Making It Teacher’s TPT Store



Teaching Rocks!


“Your Essential Teacher Binder” from Loriana, Elita and Lisa Classroom Organization Kit (of choice)


Michelle’s Dear Mr. Henshaw Comprehension Question Packet



Polkadots and Pencils
Lacie’s Data & Probability Scoot Game



Jennifer’s Survival of the Fittest Bear Hunt Game



Joy of Teaching
1 Item of Choice from Joy’s TpT store!



ELL blog
Any 3 Items from Lori’s TPT store!

$15  Shopping Spree in Amy’s TpT Store!




Your Choice: 1 Item from Science Penguin’s Store!






E-Motive Teaching! Winner’s Choice: 1 of Deborah’s Free 

TED Talks Viewing Guides!




Kristine’s Classroom Procedures to Teach!

Teacher´s Clip Art

25 Frames Clipart from Oxana’s Store!! 


Confessions of a Teaching Junkie
 $10 Worth of Products from Teresa’s TpT Store!



Life in Middle School

$15 Shopping Spree in Lauren’s TN Store!



Pre-Teen School Friends Clip Art Set by The 3AM Teacher




$25 Shopping Spree to Innovative Connections’ TpT Store!



Lessons From The Middle


$25 Shopping Spree to Lessons from the Middle’s TpT Store!



Thanks to all of the awesome teacher-bloggers who are a part of this event. We couldn’t have done this without all of you!
A special thank you to Ann Marie – it’s been great to collaborate with you – you rock!


Enter Giveaway Below

a Rafflecopter giveaway
  Let’s start this blog hop now!


On Liz’s Lessons, written by Liz Bucrek, you will find secondary French and Spanish teaching resources, and teaching tips. She also does monthly instructional resource updates that include links to great websites for teaching with technology in any subject area!  She posts freebies on her blog on a regular basis as well. If you are looking for activities that use Web 2.0 tools, or holiday activities you will find them there as well.  


Young Teacher Love is a 5th Grade blog that offers ideas, tips, strategies and best teaching practices to its readers.  The author, Kristine Nannini, has a deep passion for educating and spending time with children as well as sharing ideas with other amazing teachers. She loves creating lessons that make learning new concepts fun for all of her students, and she loves to create room decor that makes their learning environment a cozy place to go everyday.


That should give you a great start on the blog hop!  




Enter the Blog Hop Challenge HERE

My Poem for Teachers…Plus a special announcement

~To all of the teachers beginning a new school year ~


For all of the lessons that you plan,

All of the prep that you do,

Always doing whatever you can,

Willing to try something new.


Doing your very best each day,

To reach your students – every last one,

Not wanting to end the year asking,

Is there something else I could have done?


Teachers are a special breed,

This is nothing new,

Desiring success for your students,

It’s who you are – not just what you do.

lessons from the middle , giveaway

Rose Clipart:

But, when you’re frustrated and you’re tired,

Not sure if you’ll make it to the end,

Remember the students you’ve inspired,

Those you helped when they needed a friend.


With the beginning of another school year,

You’re busy and will feel some stress,

So hold on to the passion you feel right now,

Take a deep breath and just do your best.




From my classroom to yours, thank you for all that you do and will do this year. Don’t ever let there be a doubt in your mind – your hard work IS appreciated, and so are you. I hope you all have an awesome year with all of your “little lovelies”.


back to school, giveaway, lessons from the middleAs a special thank you for all that you do, I also have an announcement. Tomorrow, Ann Marie Smith (Innovative Connections) and I will be launching an event that we’ve been planning for the last month! It’s called “The Ultimate Middle Years Giveaway and Blog Hop”. We have $300 worth of prizes up for grabs, and a fun blog hop that will earn you LOADS of freebies, if you choose to take part. Make sure you come back tomorrow to enter the giveaway, discover LOTS of middle school blogs to follow and maybe even grab some freebies (if you’re up for our blog hop challenge). We have planned all of this just for you guys – so I hope you take part and enjoy!

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





Establishing Class Rules

There are lots of philosophies on creating class rules. Some teachers try to keep their list to five, and have it posted on the wall to go over with students on that first day of school. Other teachers rather create a list of class rules with their students so that they have more ownership in the rules and hopefully, will be more likely to follow them.

Personally, I don’t really do either. I have a class discussion about what they think our class rules should be and why it would make sense to have those rules in place. Sometimes I’ll record their ideas on chart paper, other times we keep it to a discussion. When we get to the end, I tell them that they have great ideas (they always do) but I think we only need to have ONE  rule in our class – can they guess what it is? Someone always names my ONE rule: RESPECT.

lessons from the middle, respect, establishing class rules

Everything else, all of the other rules, fall under the umbrella of respect and so I keep it to that. We talk about examples of what respectful behavior looks like and what it does not look like. They’re in grade 7 – they know! Our “Respect” rule is in place for all of us – them and me. I tell them that I will always show them respect and I need for them to show that respect back to me, their classmates and the school. If we can follow our one rule – we won’t have too many problems!

I always look forward to this class discussion, because it’s effective in setting the expectations and tone for the class, for the rest of the year!Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons


How do you go about establishing rules in your class?


The Student Agenda – If you have one, why don’t you use it?

Do your students use the agendas that they’re so excited to buy that first week back to school? I’m lucky – many of my students do buy an agenda. Using it, however? That’s another story.

I’ve actually realized that I’ve been part of the problem.

I teach grade 7. I have been using the fact that I teach junior high, as an excuse of sorts. “They’re old enough to know what they need to do. If they don’t do it – that’s really their problem. I’m trying to teach them to be self-sufficient and independent here!”

Well, I’m thirty. I KNOW that I need to exercise. Do I always do it? Sometimes, I get lazy – plain and simple. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a cheerleader helping me along? Wouldn’t I be more apt to go for a run? Well, I’m going to be more of a cheerleader to my students this year (probably in more ways than one). They know what they need to do (just like I do) but they’re going to need my help to get and stay on track.


Here are some things that I plan to share with my students to help them get on the right track with using their agendas.

agenda tips, lessons from the middle


Need-Do-Due Poster: Help your students use their agendas

Need-Do-Due Poster: Help your students use their agendas


Here are a few things that I’m also going to try this year, in regards to agendas.

1) Give students more time and REQUIRE that they use their agendas. I wasn’t forceful enough in the last few years with getting students to use their agendas – the result? They didn’t use them. I don’t plan on using my brute force or anything, but I do plan on setting my expectations MUCH higher!

2) Spend MORE time talking about the agendas at Meet the Teacher night – how I plan to use them, what parents can do to help etc. I plan to really talk them up!

3) We always send home monthly reports about student behaviors, homework etc. I’m thinking about switching to weekly reports and then having students staple the reports in to their agendas. Then, parents will know to ask to see the agenda each week to check out their child’s report.


I’m excited about the changes I plan to make with the use of agendas in my class this year. If you would like a copy of the tips and poster above, head over to my TeachersPayTeachers Store to grab a free copy. I hope that my raising of expectations and putting more responsibility on the students will increase their overall success!


What are your thoughts on student agendas?


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




Most Fascinating Blog – Voting runs August 18th-25th

UPDATE: Thank you so much everyone for voting! I won:)

click here

I’ve seen this little badge of honor on so many blogs that I look up to and admire. Who knew? Now it’s my turn!

I’m very excited to share with you that Lessons From The Middle has been nominated for Most Fascinating Blog 2012, in the Middle School Teacher category. It sounds so cheesy but, “It’s an honor just to be nominated”.

I started this blog to share ideas that I have and that I find from other teachers, to collaborate with educators from all over, to save teachers time, to inspire, to learn, and to engage teachers in conversations about education. I started just 6 months ago, but I have learned so much from so many and I hope that I’ve reciprocated that knowledge as well.

I would very much appreciate your vote for this blog award. I’d love to display the “Winner” badge, rather than just the “Nominated” badge! (Although it’s pretty cool to have that nominated badge there. ) It’s just the glory I’m looking for with this one. There is a great prize for the winner too, but since I’m Canadian, I can’t claim it anyway. Oh well! I’ll take the glory over a monetary prize any day – and not just because I have to Wink

Thanks for taking the time out of your jam-packed days to read my blog. I put a lot of effort into it and I still have a lot more to say.

Click here to vote for Lessons From The Middle

Check this outLessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons


Communicating with Parents: Keeping the Momentum Going

This is the third post in a series about how you can effectively communicate with home – which is so important at Back to School time, and all year long. The first and second posts are here if you missed them.

Communicate regularly (from the beginning)

After that ever important first phone call, and the homework and other info that you’re providing on your class blog, some of you may think you’re done. Others, know better of course! The really tough part is to keep it all together on a day-to-day basis. My tips for this, would be to make yourself reachable and have a system in place.

Making yourself reachable begins with a helpful tip that I stole from another blogger, Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. She had said that she always starts the year by giving her parents  a fridge magnet with her contact info on it. What a great idea! At my school, we all get little blue cards to send home with our students with our name and the school phone number – but a magnet is so much better.

I found Vista Print this summer and so I ordered custom magnets from them. What a deal! I had them within a week and I ended up ordering 50 (enough for two years) for $26 Canadian – and that included shipping! I plan to pass them out to the parents who come to Meet the Teacher and send one home to the parents who can’t make it that night. I included my name, blog url, school phone number and email on the magnet so that I’m as reachable as possible for parents.

lessons from the middle, magnets


Having a system in place could be anything – using student agendas, weekly class newsletters or monthly reports. The other grade 7 teacher and I use what we call “The Clipboard”. We track behaviors and send home a report at the end of the month. I’m thinking, maybe we’ll do it weekly this year – it may carry even more weight! We are also continuing to try to link consequences to these monthly reports, but we haven’t found a fool proof method yet – loss of privileges (attending school events for poor behavior) natural consequences (lower marks for no homework) and so on…We re-vamp it a bit each year.

We are going also going “live” this year with our mark system, meaning parents will have online access to their child’s attendance and marks, so that will be a help for sure, as far as keeping the doors of communication open. No surprises at report card time!

Finally, I’m thinking about really training my students to use their agendas more effectively this year. I find, some students buy them – but then never open them and perhaps they just were never shown how to actually utilize them as an organizational and time management tool. (Look for a future post on using student agendas more effectively.)

How do you maintain communication with home for the whole year?


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

A Bloggin’ Day at The Beach

Lessons From The Middle,

A cloudy day at the beach for Tammy and I

You never know where things are going to take you or who you may meet along the way.

I’ve “met” so many wonderful teachers and bloggers online in the last few months. I never really thought I’d get to meet one of them in person! But like I said, you just never know.

A fellow Canadian teacher-blogger I’ve been chatting and collaborating with, Tammy Aiello, was on the Island with her family this summer and we actually had a chance to meet up in person. As the kids splashed in the waves and collected treasures along the shore, we had chance to talk about “teacher stuff”. It was a really unique experience and I’m so glad that we made the time to meet and have a chat. Check out Tammy’s blog, Teaching FSL.

Thanks again for stopping by Tammy and have a great year with your grade 8s!

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






TeachersPayTeachers’ Annual Back to School Sale

Back to school Sale, TPT


Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual Back to School sale August 12th-13th. They’ll be offering their usual 10% off, with many store owners offering up to an additional 20% off.

Every item in my own store will be on sale. Be sure to head over to TeachersPayTeachers to take full advantage of this awesome sale and to get yourself prepared for a new school year.


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