Monthly Archives: December 2012

“A Year in Preview” Linky Party

a year in preview link-up photo

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are enjoying your last few days of break. I know that I am! I took time off from everything over the last week – school work, blogging, writing – the whole thing. I’ve had lots of fun playing trucks and Lego’s with my boys, curling up to watch movies with my hubby, and visiting with friends and family. I’ve also made a conscious effort to appreciate the little things – like my beautiful Christmas cactus blooming just in time for Christmas Day. This cactus only blooms once a year – how does it know? Amazing!a year in preview link up photo

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is behind us already. I undecorated the house yesterday and you would never know that Christmas even happened here except, of course, for the lovely gifts that Santa left behind. You wouldn’t think that an area rug could make someone so happy! Any who, as I was contemplating what to blog about today, I found an awesome linky party that one of my blogging buddies, Michelle from Making it as a Middle School Teacher is hosting. It’s all about the upcoming year.

So, here’s my year in Preview!

a year in preview link up photo

 What do you have planned for 2013? What do you hope is in store for you?


Happy NewYear!

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

Literal Questions, Like Everything Else in Life – Are Fine in Moderation

I never ask my students the “What street did the character live on?” type of questions. I wouldn’t say that they’re a waste of time, but students can just go back to the text and put their finger on the answer. Fairly straightforward.

 Most – I’d say 99% of the time, I try to focus on inferential and evaluative questions in my classes – Social Studies, Language Arts and Health. Much like you, I’m sure, I want to push my students’ thinking.

Well, as I was planning the other night, I thought that for once – I was just going to have them read a section of text and answer 10 questions (this was for Social Studies). Old school, right?

Literal Questions

Well, first of all, one of the 10 questions was inferential and they sniffed it out in no time. To make a long story short, I was amazed at how these kids just put their heads down and worked for the 40 minute class, finding the answers to some basic comprehension questions. No one said it was boring. No one complained. No one. You’d think I’d given them a gift!

And you know what? They did the same activity today. Read…10 questions. I could never (and would never want to) teach like this on a regular basis. I try to make my students’ brains stretch until they hurt (just a little). However, for the week before Christmas Break, it is survival mode for many.

Give yourself (and the kids) a break and go back to basics at times like these. Let them answer some literal questions once in a while. It won’t hurt them, and it builds up confidence – especially for those who struggle.

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

The 12 Days of Gift-Mas Secondary Blog Hop~Day 6

12 days of gift-mas


I am super excited to be Day 6 in this middle and high school holiday blog hop! Thanks again to Michelle from Making It As A Middle School Teacher for coming up with this entire idea!  

There are twelve of us participating. Each day we’ll be highlighting some of our best freebies! Some teachers are giving away usually priced products for free on their special day,  and others are having gift card giveaways! I’m doing a combination of all of the above! 

I hope you got to check out Day 5 from Liz’s Lessons and don’t miss For the Love of Teaching Math‘s post tomorrow.


12 days of gift-mas


On the 6th day of Gift-Mas, Lessons From The Middle gave to me…


 I have a special holiday freebie that I spoke about in a previous blog post. Students speak from different points of view with this improv activity, with a holiday theme. It’s fun and I’ve got some great feedback on this freebie!

Point of View Improv Activity


FREE FOR TODAY ONLY: A product that is usually priced at $5.00, but can be yours free for today, Dec 6th only is:


Write an A to Z Holiday Story


And now on to the giveaways!

#1: You can enter to win a $25.oo gift card from Amazon.

#2: $25.00 shopping spree in my TPT Store.

Feel free to enter both!


~Win a $25.00 Amazon gift card~

 amazon christmas gift card for blog hop giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway


 ~Win a $25.00 Shopping Spree in my TeachersPayTeachers Store~

Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth -

  a Rafflecopter giveaway     Make sure to come back each day for more freebies and giveaways! We’re only half way through this awesome holiday blog hop!  Lots more to be given away and to be won! I’ll announce the winners of the Amazon gift card and my TPT Store shopping spree, on December 13th. Stay tuned!    

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

Want to Win a Nook?

I just found this great giveaway and so I thought I’d write a quick blog post to share!

Tips For Teachers is having a holiday giveaway. There are many resources to be won, donated by teachers (which is a whole lot of awesomeness) but what I’m really hoping for is the Nook that they’re offering! I can just imagine curling up with a new read over the holidays and also sharing this fabulous piece of technology with my grade sevens in the new year. I hope I win…but I’m just so thoughtful, that I had to share the giveaway with you guys too!

Good luck, and of course, let me know if you win…

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

If you don’t have time to read this post, I’m talking to you (Guest Blog Post)

I’m happy to introduce to you, Michael Roderick, my guest blogger for today. He’s got some really practical ideas on how to manage your time – I think most of us could use a little help in that area. I know I can! Take it away, Michael!


time managementAs a former teacher, I spent a great deal of time at school. Many times it felt as if I didn’t have much of a life outside of school. Then, something interesting happened.  I started prioritizing and developing time management tools and I suddenly had a lot more time to work on other projects. In the 8 years I taught I also was able to provide mentorship to student teachers, run a Drama Program, serve as a Department Chair, and as an interim Dean of Discipline. Below are some tools I used to make that happen. I hope they help you.

Stress and loss of time often come from feeling overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is a direct result of feeling like everything is urgent. If everything is considered urgent, then nothing gets done. 

Breaking down your week:

Create a list of everything you have to do in the next week. Even if it seems minimal, put it on the sheet. Once your list is complete, choose five things that you would consider a top priority. Circle them. Choose your second top five and put a square around them. Then leave the rest.  (10 minutes)

Now create an A column, B column, and a C column.  A=top 5- Done today , B=2nd top 5-Done tomorrow, C= Rest- Done within the week

Now approximate the time it will take to do each task

Choose test format- 5 minutes

Choose problems- 15-20 minutes

Write the test for 9th– 30-45minutes

Write the test for 10th– 30-45minutes

Write the test for 11th– 30-45 minutes

Now that you know how long each thing will take, punch it into your schedule.

If you prioritize and choose the most important things, you’ll find that not everything is urgent and you’ll have more room in your schedule to plan.

Grading strategies:

Specific days for specific assessment– Choose a specific day each week for tests and quizzes.  Ex: 9th graders get a quiz every Tuesday and a test every Friday. 

Paper overload- You can assign do now activities and do a spot check with 3 or 4 students randomly.  Do this often enough and you’ll cover the whole class in about a week.   You can also give each student a folder and collect 5-10 folders randomly each week. The key is spacing things out so that you don’t have a day when you walk home with 200 papers.  You can also stagger when things are due. So rather than having 4 classes with projects all due on the same day, you assign one class due on a Friday and another on a Monday etc.

Tracking- Whether it’s a clip board, a Note Pad, or an Ipad. You want a place that you go to for your notes from the day regarding students and issues. Having one place you can go to review for the rest of the day, will save you a ton of time.  You won’t have to run around finding notes in three or four different places. You can also plug in the items to complete into your online calendar, so you can see on your phone when it’s time to get something done.

Delegation- You do not have to do every single thing. Think about the things on your list that you can give to students. They can write your agenda on the board, help hand out papers, help you organize and more.

Keeping in Touch:

Email- Think about responses that you give all the time and create a template for that response. Whenever you are contacted about that specific issue, just cut and paste the template into your email.  Cut down on your folders.  You should be able to file everything into 5 easy to follow folders. You can remember them easily by thinking of clearing S.P.A.C.E.

  1. Students- Any email from a student regarding homework, assignments, questions etc.
  2. Parents- Any email from parents about a student and their progress
  3. Administration- This is where you file any email from the administrative team. Principals, Department Chairs, Asst. Principals, etc.
  4. Content- Use this for emails regarding lessons, tests, and anything else
  5. Extras- This is for clubs, activities, and any email that does not have to do directly with your classes. Ex.) Drama Club, Walk for a Charity, Newsletters that you’re interested in reading


Masterminds- Find a few teachers who teach the same subject and schedule a lunch or after school sit down at least once a week. One of the best ways to relieve stress is to converse with others experiencing the same thing. You can share best practices and connect which may be the best way to wind down.

Be realistic- If you have 100 papers to grade for tomorrow, it’s going to take you a lot of time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get them all done. You’re human. Remember the plan, take things in small chunks and schedule throughout the week. You’ll get them done. Remember that any big number can be divided.  Do the math on your projects and you’ll find more time.

 Bringing it all together

  So in order to take control of your time, you need to ultimately do 5 things.

  1. Identify what’s important
  2. Schedule everything according to priority
  3. Track what you’re doing daily
  4. Keep email at bay
  5. Schedule time to recharge


Hopefully you have found these techniques helpful.  If you have good time saving techniques, I invite you to share them below.


Bio: Michael Roderick is the Director of Business Development for LearnBop , a tool that helps teachers save time.  He has mentored student teachers and has a Masters in Educational Theatre from NYU. He has also produced on Broadway and been published as a playwright. He can be reached at  @LearnBop on twitter