Monthly Archives: October 2012

Students Need An Audience For Their Writing

Providing an audience for student writing photoI know that my students are more motivated to write when they know it’s for a “real life” audience – not just me! I’d be the same way, honestly. So far this year, I’ve been conscious of trying to provide my students with real audiences for their writing, making the revision process much less painful and more motivating for them.

This year, I had all students write a personal narrative for a writing contest, the main prize being their work published in an anthology (other school and cash prizes are available to be won as well). They thought it would be pretty cool to see their writing in a book and so I was lucky that they bought in. I’ve had past students enter this writing contest and some of our students always get published and so it’s worth the effort. If you want to check out this particular contest, it’s for K-12 in the US and Canada. As I said, I’ve had multiple students published over the years (which makes a publishing party celebration extra special) but last year I also had a student finish in the Top Ten which was fantastic! For more information, you can visit Poetic Power. 

Currently, my students are completing essays and poems for a local Remembrance Day writing contest and the work that they’ve been doing for this contest has been really well done – which is awesome! For grade 7 students, some of their poems in particular are quite unique! Since they know that their piece will be in front of judges, having them continue to edit, hasn’t been a big deal. I’m sure most communities have similar contests, as well. I don’t always find time to get to this one – but luckily this year, I did! Now we’ll see if anyone gets their work chosen.

Finally, I am a contributor to GlobalTeacherConnect – a one of a kind teacher blog with teacher-authors from all over the globe. I had my grade seven students do the photography and writing for my most recent post, to once again, provide a “real audience” for their writing. They’re quite excited to see if we get any comments on the post – so if you have a minute…it would be much appreciated;)

Writing – especially the revision and editing processes can be time-consuming – and for what? Kids are smart. Where does their writing go after it’s been marked? Home? Their desks? Many don’t think it’s worth the hassle to craft a piece that’s only going to be read by the teacher. Gone are the days of trying to impress the teacher. Yes, there are still some “teacher pleasers” out there who want the approval of the teacher, the pat on the back and the good mark. However, there are more students who want the quickest way to get xyz completed. Period. They can’t be bothered to go back and improve it once they’ve decided it’s done. It’s these students, especially, who’ll benefit from writing opportunities that provide a wider audience than just a single person.

Have a look around your school, community and online. There are LOTS of opportunities out there to give your students a real audience.

Your students could:

-Write a school newspaper

-Write the morning announcements

-Enter writing contests

-Create and judge a writing contest at your school (what a project that would be!)

-Read and comment on blog posts, or write their own posts

-Share their work with the class and parents in a publishing party

-Write a children’s story and share with a younger grade

-Write letters to the editor about local issues (don’t forget to okay with parents)

-Write notes home to parents (fundraising information, school updates etc.) that teachers usually compose

-Maintain a class blog (students can write blog posts, book reviews, or post their own creative writing)

-Start a class Twitter feed and have a student contribute a tweet a day (approved by you first, of course)

-Find a class/school to penpal with

TeenInk is another great option to contribute work to for publishing

-Instead of “book buddies” have shared writing time with another class

Think about writing from the students’ perspective. If you didn’t like writing and found it difficult to begin with, how motivated would you be to revise and edit your work? Even if it meant a higher mark, it’s an awful lot of work to be committed to making a piece of writing stronger.

Make the writing process a little more meaningful, by giving students an audience!


What other ideas can you add to the list of “realistic” writing opportunities?

middle school lessons from the middle school blog canadian blog, middle school math photo

Middle School Freebies ~ Lessons, Activities and Printables

free middle school resources photoI’ve been getting lots of traffic on my “Freebies” page from blog followers and visitors. It occurred to me, though, that maybe not everyone has looked beyond the homepage of Lessons From The Middle.

 I just had a peek at the Middle School Freebies collection that I started a while back, and I noticed that it was up to 71 links (as of today)! That’s pretty cool. So, just in case you haven’t already seen this collection of freebies – here it is! Grab a cup of coffee and download away.

 There are free resources of all sorts and for the most part, vary from grades 4 – 9. Again, this collection is located on the FREEBIES tab, if you’d like to find it again in the future.

Oh, and if you have a middle school freebie that you’d like to add – by all means – please do so!

This link-up is part of Teaching Blog Addict’s Ulimate Linky Party!

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

middle school lessons from the middle school blog canadian blog, middle school math photo

Improving Word Choice ~ A Freebie For You!

We just had our 2 day, Annual Teachers’ Convention. The sessions were really fabulous and I feel totally energized – and the weekend’s not even here yet! I just need some time, now, to reflect on the messages of the presenters and figure out how to incorporate them into my classroom. More on all of that in a future post…

Right now, I’d like to share with you some word choice lessons that I did with my students last week. I find that students often completely underestimate their writing potential. Their writing can be lifeless, at times. Dare I say, even boring.  However, they are more than capable of recognizing strong word choice in what they read and incorporating it into their own writing.

Below are a few pages from my most recent freebie – Incorporating Strong Word Choice ~ Language Arts Lessons (Grades 6-9).  

Incorporating Word Choice into Writing photo

 Incorporating Word Choice into Writing photo


Incorporating Word Choice into Writing photo

If you have a word choice lesson idea, or a book title that would be good for teaching word choice – please share!

middle school lessons from the middle school blog canadian blog, middle school math photo

Ahhh…Professional Development – Gotta Love It!

Okay, you’re about to learn to what extent of nerd I am – if you didn’t already know. I love PD. I know, I know….what a geek! But you know what? I’m 30 and I can be a geek if I want to!

There’s something about professional development that makes me feel…. well…like a professional! Now,


I’m not talking about the “jumping through hoops” or “developing for the sake of developing” kind of PD. I’m talking about the really good stuff! New and inspiring ideas, fresh perspectives, and practical strategies that make me want run to my classroom to show my students. THAT’S the kind of PD I love.

 We have our 2 day Teachers’ Convention tomorrow and Friday. Every teacher in the province will be there – all 1500 of us, all under one roof. I think that’s so cool! No other province in Canada can house all of its teachers in one ballroom all at the same time, but because we’re small – we can! I love the conversations and connections, the lunch time chat (not having to shovel my food before duty) and feeling like I belong. I only ever wanted to be a teacher and our Annual Convention reaffirms my chosen life-path and career (although my students do that most days, too).

Oh, and one of my teacher-friends and I have a room booked in the hotel where the convention is being held, which means some well deserved ME time in the evening. So, that’s a bonus! All in all, I’m pretty excited about the next two days.

So tell me, who else out there is a “closet PD lover”? I promise I won’t tell;)

middle school lessons from the middle school blog canadian blog, middle school math photo

Seating Arrangements: Your First Line of Defence in Classroom Management

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, and heck I’m going to say it right now: Don’t underestimate the power of a well-planned seating arrangement. 

seating arrangements and classroom management photo

I had allowed my students the privilege of sitting beside a person of their choice. I know when I do this, it probably won’t last the day. However, I let them know up front that they will keep their seats if I don’t have to speak to them for being chatty and off-task. Having to speak to them more than a couple of times shows me that they obviously won’t be able to work productively beside that person and they will have to move. So, fast-forward a few days into the seating arrangement (basically chosen by them). Some partnerships are working (as usual) and others are crashing and burning. There were a couple of pairings, in particular, that were poison for one another. So, one day at break-time, I made some quick seat changes and the difference in the noise level from before lunch to after, was measurable – especially for a Friday afternoon.

If you have never given much thought to your seating arrangement OR you need to give some more thought to it now, I’ve got a few things that you’ll want to keep in mind. This is not a complete list – just a few things to get you started.

Seating Arrangement Tips (in no particular order):

1. When you’re planning your arrangement, think about the space that you have and how you usually teach. Will they be taking notes? Can everyone see the board? Will you be asking them to work with a group every day?

2. Survey your room and see if there’s any furniture that could be placed elsewhere to free up floor space for desks. Your teacher desk, computer, shelves – are they all in the best spot giving you the most usable classroom space? (I hadn’t considered this one until just this past August. I had my furniture as it was when I inherited the room and I realized that the configuration wasn’t optimal for space and utility.)

3. Think about the different seating options that will fit/work in your room: Single rows, rows of pairs, rows of threes, small groups of 3 or 4, a horseshoe shape, a horseshoe shape with a few rows inside the horseshoe etc. Have a look around your school for inspiration of desk/table configurations that will work in your room.

4. Students with hearing or seeing issues should be placed close to the teacher if possible.

5. Are you going to seat by ability, pairing like students together or students with different abilities together? There are pros and cons to both – there can also be some mixing and matching here to try to reach the needs of your students.

6. Who is easily distracted? Try not to seat these students by the sharpener, the windows, door or other high traffic areas – IF possible. Try to seat these students beside students who tend to be more focused, to balance things out.

7. Students who tend to turn around in their seats need to sit at the back, if possible.

8. When you make changes to a seating plan, always move more than one person. If ONE person is being a problem and s/he comes in to class to find that s/he is the only one moved, s/he may feel targeted and could get defensive. However, if you have moved multiple people, you can say that a few pairings weren’t working out and so you had to make some changes.

9. Write each student’s name on a post-it (there are online options for doing this as well) and then move the post-its on your desk until you have students where you want them.

I’ve stopped at 9, hoping that you can help me to continue this list. What other tips or lessons learned about seating arrangements could you share?

middle school lessons from the middle school blog canadian blog, middle school math photo