Monthly Archives: September 2012

Guided Math in Real Life…A Work in Progress

Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction” was one of my summer reads. I posted about my goals for Incorporating Guided Math into My Classroom in a post not too long ago. Well now I’m a month into school – time for an update!

I decided to start out by trying to give students some choice in math class, for the work that they would complete. Giving choice is something that I do in Language Arts, Social Studies – every other class, really. However, I hadn’t carried it over into math, for some reason. So, I created a Math Menu for my students to work through (basically a choice board). It’s great because it’s generic enough that I can use it with any chapter that we cover – I just have to change the activities and problems on the menu.  I’ll be honest, it was A LOT of work! To try to find activities that ALL students in the class would be able to understand and work on (students with modifications, IEPs, adaptations and oh yes, those on the regular program) was difficult – but in the end – I did it. So, how’d it go?

Math Menu: A choice board for differentiating math activities in middle school photo

Math Menu: A choice board for differentiating math activities in middle school

First if all, students were confused. They couldn’t seem to grasp that they were getting to “choose” what problems to complete. “I don’t get it,” one boy said, after what I thought was a thorough explanation. I explained again, that rather than me (the teacher) telling everyone what problems and activities they were doing, they’d get to choose. They had to complete one choice from each row on the Math Menu. He still didn’t get it.

Well, we worked our way through a rocky start and have made to the other side. I just gave my students a brief formative assessment on the outcomes that we were working on (around the topic of Transformational Geometry) and I was pleasantly surprised. Most “got it” in the end, through the activities that they chose, which made me feel really good about doing all of that differentiation. Also, those students on IEPs and modifications were able to choose from the same menu as everyone else, building the confidence that many of them need.

So, my thoughts so far on Guided Math, in real life? It’s going to be great – once I (and my students) get the hang of it. I know that the next time that I present a Math Menu (in the next chapter) I will only have to explain the activities and not how the whole thing works. We’ll be one step ahead. However, I haven’t yet gotten to meet with students in small groups more than once, due to the classroom management aspect. The students  I have this year love to chat and it just gets too loud for me to focus with a small group. Some days are better than others – it’s a work in progress.


Here are a two sites that may be helpful if you’re working on differentiating activities in your room:

Kutasoftware has some great printable worksheets. You can print what they have, get the 14 day free trial or buy their actual software to generate worksheets and tests. I just downloaded some perfect sheets on translations, rotations and reflections which can be a pain to find (an even bigger pain to create).

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is also a cool site for…you guessed it! Virtual manipulative of all kinds.  


Have you set some goals for yourself this year? I’d love to know how things are going with you and your students!

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Writing Effective Leads (plus my giveaway winners are announced)

Thanks so much to everyone who entered my giveaway this past week – I wish I had a prize for each of you. However, I could only choose two winners for this giveaway. And those winners are…

giveaway winners lessons from the middle photo

Lori has won the $100 gift card and Shannon has won the Macy’s gift card and my TPT Shopping Spree.

Thanks again everyone for participating!


This week just flew by for me – only one week left in September. Holy cow! This week in Language Arts, we were working on Making Connections to our reading and we starting with writing an effective lead. It occurred to me, as it does every year, that students really struggle with that opening sentence when beginning a piece of writing.

So, this year I tried something a little different – and it actually went really well. Instead of just having students write after discussing different ways they may want to begin their piece (a question, a simile, dialogue…etc) we went to the library. Students chose a book, read the lead and recorded those that they liked or didn’t like (along with the title). We then took all of these leads back to the classroom and discussed them. We talked about why they liked certain ones and which leads would cause them to put the book back.

This worked into a discussion on writing like a reader. They need a fantastic lead to their piece, because we make very quick judgments sometimes, about what we’re reading. They need to write a lead that would make them continue reading!


writing effective leads powerpoint lesson for language arts grades 6-9 from my teacherspayteachers storeI do have a Writing Effective Leads PowerPoint in my TeachersPayTeachers Store that walks students through this activity. The unexpected bonus of taking my grade sevens to the library and doing this activity, was that multiple students found books that they wanted to check out right away, because the lead was so captivating! It really helped to drive the point of an effective lead home!




For even more ideas (for writing fiction) – this is a book about beginnings.


How do you help your students begin a piece of writing?  

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 ~PS: If you got the draft version of this post in your email, I apologize. My 2 year old hit “publish” as I was typing…Sorry!~



Celebrating My Followers with a Giveaway ~$150 in gift cards

I began this blog back in February of this year. I’ve learned so much and have made so many wonderful connections since then. It’s been a great adventure so far. My followers have been growing here on my blog, but also on Twitter, Pinterest, TPT and most quickly on my Facebook fan page. I’ll soon reach 600 fans on FB, which is pretty awesome to me!  So, I thought it was time for a celebration.

The Giveaway…

There will be TWO lucky winners.

The first winner will receive 2 gift cards – a $30 shopping spree in my TPT Store and a $20 gift card for Macy’s (buy yourself something special!).

The second winner will receive the grand prize – a $100 gift card for You can go online and choose gift certificates from your favorite restaurants – over 18 000 restaurants to choose from. Splurge – you deserve it!


gift card for for teacher giveaway photo


macys gift card for teacher giveaway photo


gift card from Krystal Mills' TPT store for teacher giveaway photo


So, thank you everyone who’s helped out and followed along the way, as Lessons From The Middle has grown. You’ve been amazing!

Good luck to you all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Canadian residents – feel free to enter, but the gift card is only redeemable for US residents. I know, right? Sorry.

Contest ends 12:01am September 22nd.

Winners must respond within 48hrs of being contacted, or new winners will be chosen.*


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Macy’s is giving $1000 grants to 100 schools (application deadline is this evening)

This awesome grant opportunity was forwarded to me and so I’m passing it along to you. Today, September 13th, is the last day to enter your application for this grant and it’s on a first come first serve basis – so you’ll have to act quickly if you’re interested.


 The classic animated holiday special Yes, Virginia has been adapted into a musical play intended for children age 9 to 12 years. New songs, a heart-warming story, and unforgettable characters all come together in this new theatrical experience. To celebrate and share Yes, Virginia the Musical Macy’s is giving a $1,000.00 grant to 100 schools to help them with the costs of presenting their own productions of Yes, Virginia the Musical. The 100 grants will be awarded to the first 100 qualified schools that submit completed applications.

Super exciting!!!




You can find ALL of the information at Yes, Virginia The Musical. If drama is up your alley – you must check out this opportunity  and get that simple application in by this evening! You never know, you could be one of the 100 schools to receive a grant.


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Organizational Tips for Your Middle School Classroom

 I am breathing a sigh of relief. Aaahhhh…. Can you hear it? The first day is now behind me and I’ve got only one more day of going over rules, getting everyones’ materials labelled and put away and just getting to know the kids! It’s exhausting! We’ll be starting into the actual content and course material next week and I’m looking forward to the calmness and routine of that, for sure.


An aside… For those of you who read my previous post about being an emotional mess because of my first going to Kindergarten – he was fine! Surprise, surprise – I know. I didn’t get a lot of details from him about his day, but he says he’s going back tomorrow, so I take that as a good sign.


So, since much of my day was spent trying to organize my kids and our class – I thought I’d share a few organizational tips with you.

 1) Take your students’ geometry sets, rulers, scissors, calculators and anything else that usually goes missing through the year. Label them all and YOU keep them. Distribute when the students need them and collect at the end of class. I’m trying this out this year and I’m hopeful that it’ll keep us all more organized!

2) Give your students their ID numbers and then use them for everything. I ask my students to put their ID numbers on all of the papers that I need handed in (easier to find who’s missing). I have numbered the cubbies where students store their extra supplies  (that way I don’t have to switch the labels every year) and even where students leave their footwear is labelled. My motto this year is, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I wrote that – I did! No, I didn’t. Someone much smarter than I – but I’m going to try to follow it AND have my students follow it as well.



organizational tips to get your classroom ready for a new school year photo

Clip Art:

3) Have students create a table of contents for all of their notes. I’m trying this one for the first time this year. Basically, I’m going to have students go to the first page of their scribbler and label it “Table of Contents”. Then, I’ll ask them to number the first few pages of the scribbler. As we add math problems, notes etc to scribblers, I’ll first have students add a title for that material in to their “Table of Contents”. I’m keeping it simple. They can write “Math problems pg 118, #4,5,6,7,8,9” ——————————————————-PG 5,6. My thinking is that they should be less likely to tear random sheets from random places in their scribblers for random reasons. I learned last year that not everyone starts a scribbler at the first page and works to the end of the scribbler. Who knew? Multiple students would flip through the scribbler to a clean page and just start there! Oh the horror. So, this year I’m trying to use tables of contents for all subjects. We’ll see – but again, I’m hopeful!


What tips have you got to share?


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Learning How Your Students Learn: Multiple Intelligence and VAK Inventories

I’ve spent much of the day prepping for Thursday which will be my first day of school with students. I go back to work tomorrow for our Orientation and PD days before the kids arrive. I’ve got mixed emotions about going back this year, but I’ll fill you in on that after. I honestly don’t know where the summer went!

Anyhow, I’ve been trying to figure out which activities I’m going to start off with, and so I thought I’d share one of the things I’ll be doing on the first day of school.


I always like to have students do a student survey  so that I can learn a bit more about them, straight away. In addition to that, I also like to have students do a Multiple Intelligence (MI) Inventory and a VAK (Visual-Auditory-Kinestheic) Inventory so that their learning strengths are identified early on. Learning preferrences and styles, also happen to be a  part of our grade 7 Health curriculum, which is a bonus.


 I found a great MI Inventory to use this year! There are various versions of it, but the link I provided is the PDF version. The home site has tons of knowledge quizzes  and a VAK Inventory, as well. There are also awesome inventories in Start Where They Are: Differentiating for Success with the Young Adolescent (with CD-ROM) by Karen Hume (I know that I’ve mentioned this book before and I’ll mention it again – it’s just that good)  if your school happens to have it. I’ll be using her VAK inventory from the book.

muliple intelligence and vak inventory for students by lessons from the middle, teacher author krystal mills photo

Clip art:


Starting with these quick little inventories gives me some insight into the types of learners I have in my room. This year I’m pairing the inventories up with my “A Piece of Who I Am” activity (a visual “get-to-know-you” activity) asking students to include their learning strengths on their puzzle pieces.

Another plus for me,  is when a student inevitably asks why students are doing different work (students on IEPs are doing “easier work”)  I can go back to the inventories that we did on the first day. “Remember how we all learn differently and we all have unique strengths? Students do different work, because I am trying to reach everyone in a way that they learn best, and I’m doing the same for you.” Usually, this satisfies these inquisitive students and they seem to understand.

The first day butterflies are setting in already! This year is slightly tramatic for me, as I’m also taking my four year old with me to start Kindergarten, hence the mixed emotions.  On that note, I’d like to share something that my mother-in-law posted on my Facebook page that had me in tears. I don’t know the original source – sorry! But, I do know that it had me sobbing. It’s everything I’ve been thinking, while I anxiously anticipate sending my little boy into the big bad world. To all of you mothers out there, perhaps you can understand…



a mother's first day of school prayer, teacher author krystal mills, lessons from the middle photo


Sniff…sniff… on that teary note, I’d like to know what activities you do on your first days of school. I will pull it together – I promise! middle school lessons from the middle school blog canadian blog, middle school math photo