Monthly Archives: February 2013

Inquiry Based Math Lesson on Data Management (Guest Blog Post)

I’d like to introduce a guest blogger this evening,  AnneMarie, from Looking From Third to Fourth. She teaches grade 3/4 in Ontario. She’s written an excellent and detailed data management blog post. Enjoy!


This year I am part of my board’s Junior Numeracy Network, where I work with math consultants and other Grade 4-6 teachers from other schools to develop, implement and discuss inquiry-based math lessons. In between our sessions we have to have another teacher and consultant watch us teach an inquiry-based lesson to discuss at our next workshop.

As I was about to begin my data management unit I decided to do a formative assessment lesson to kick off our unit. Previously when teaching in primary classrooms I have always started by making a class graph based on a survey questions – to engage the junior students I decided to change it up a bit. Here’s what I did.

First we played a classroom minute to win-it like game. Students were giving some conversation hearts (left over from our Valentine’s Math!). They were given 1 minute to stack them as high as they could. Each time it fell they were to start over – but record the height of the tower before it fell.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Her stack just fell over!
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Page to record data.

When the 1st minute was up I recorded their data (only at that point we were calling it scores) on our Brightlinks whiteboard.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

I was purposefully recording their numbers in an unorganized manner. Once it was up I asked them a few questions: Which ones were Preston’s? Who made taller towers the girls or the boys? Which number is on the board the most?  The students all agreed that we could not answer some of those questions just by looking at the numbers, and when someone told me what number was up there the most and I asked are you sure they quickly said well no, I said can you prove it and they started to hesitate. So we quickly reached our first pieces of consolidation:
*you need to organize information so that it is easy to read
*information that we collect is called data (yes they actually remembered it from the year before – they must have had a great teacher : ) ).

We started again, they had another minute to build and record data. Before I collected it from them we talked about ways to organize it. Some students tried to apply multiplication since that is what we just finished but a few came up with a chart. I was supposed to use tally marks but didn’t in my haste to collect.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Next, I gave students paper strips (all the same length). They were given 3 minutes to create the longest paper chain they could. Some students worked in partners, 2 worked alone. I did this to help introduce fairness/bias later on. I got this idea from a measurement activity I found on Pinterest and modified for this activity.
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

They labeled their first loop and put them away. The first part of our lesson was over.

That afternoon I had the students get their paper chains and bring them to our carpet area. I did not give direction about how to put them down. They all started putting them down in the same direction and one eager student started to line them up – but I stopped him for a minute and asked him to let people decide where to put their chains.

Once we had all the chains we talked about how they were displayed – were they easy to compare. The students decided they all needed to line up at one starting point so we could compare them. Yes, consolidation point 3 – our display need to be organized – in this case with a starting line.
Now we could easily compare the chains and see which was the longest.

Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Next we decided that our display reminded us an awful lot of a graph (although first we said grid and could not come up with bar graph or pictograph). I then asked them to identify features that were missing – they again focussed on a grid (ugh!). Finally we got to a title – yes – then had to decide where to put it. There was much confusion about whether it could a horizontal or vertical graph – finally we decided both were okay!
After that we finally got to the fact that we needed labels at the bottom to tell whose chain was whose. Yes more consolidation – graphs need titles and labels!
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post
Then I brought out my chain – and they lost their minds. I made it with 11 x 17 paper instead of their 8.5 x 11. They knew for sure that this was not fair. I asked a lot of questions about why they thought it wasn’t fair. I asked if they knew mine was longer than the rest – just by looking – could they really compare them. We came up with the idea that we needed to count mine to see if it was the longest – and it wasn’t. They were shocked. What did we learn – a graph needs a standard size or scale so that we can read it accurately. Yes, more consolidation.
Data Management, Inquiry Based Math Lesson, Guest Blog Post

Lastly, they were asked to make their own graph based on our data. They could choose a blank paper or one with a grid section in the middle. Many chose the grid paper – only to realize it was not big enough to count by 1’s for the scale – and some people were stumped. A few said “Oh, I know what to do” (yes, what a great teacher they had last year). And a few just added squares to the top of the grid (who the heck was their teacher last year!).

Our next steps are to use the paper chains and plot our data on a number line. Then we will find the median. We will also find the mode – we have 3 paper chains that have 19 chains and one that has 23 so we will focus on the mode being the answer the one that occured the most not the one with the most chains. Lastly they will make a model of their chain using paper clips and then we will find the mean by averaging out the paper clips from one chain to the next.

During our computer lab I plan on using this website to continue practicing our skills:

If you made it through that long post I would love to have you stop by and visit my blog some time!
Looking From Third to Fourth
Thanks for sharing such an awesome, and in depth lesson!  Any comments or questions for AnneMarie?
canadian link up, giveaway

My Blog Birthday Winners, A Canadian Teacher-Blogger Link-Up, and Great Giveaways

This post is a little bit of a mish-mash!

First, thanks so much to all of you who entered (and contributed to) my Blog Birthday Giveaway. The winners of the packages have been contacted and have begun to receive their prizes!

#1 Lesley

#2 Sue

#3 Ursula

#4 Lee Ann

#5 Brianne

#6 Beth Ann

#7 Ann

#8 Laura

#9 Susan

My TPT  Store shopping spree winners: Kari and Amanda

Thanks for all of your comments, your follows and your support! It was a great first blog birthday. Here’s to many more.


Second, I just found a new link-up for you Canadian bloggers out there! If you’re a Canadian teacher-blogger and would like to link up – The Adventures of an Occasional Teacher would love to have you!


Canadian linky party




Finally, some wonderful giveaways for you to enter!teacher giveaway

Tammy at Teaching FSL is celebrating her first Blogiversary with a great giveaway and I am so happy to be a part of it. Lots of amazing teacher resources to be won! Head over to her blog to enter now!

Who likes coffee? How about TeachersPayTeachers gift certificates? Fifth is Fabulous is having a giveaway – just because. There’s a $25 TPT gift certificate and a $25 Starbucks gift certificate up for grabs.  


If you have a long weekend like me (it’s Islander Day here in PEI tomorrow) – have an extra cup of coffee tomorrow morning and enjoy your day! If you’re back to work as usual, I hope you have a painless Monday;)


What do you have coming up this week in your classroom? We’re working on divisibility, fractions and free verse poetry (among other things, of course).


canadian link up, giveaway

Celebrating My First Blog Birthday with a BIG Giveaway! $500 in Resources and Gift Certificates to be Won!

Celebrating my first Blog Birthday - Lessons From The Middle

**~** This giveaway has now ended. Thanks everyone for making it such a success! The winners have been notified and I’ll wait to hear back from them before I post…**~**


I can’t believe it’s been a year!

I had no idea when I began Lessons From The Middle a year ago, that I would learn so much and meet so many amazing teachers in such a short span of time. I’ve said this before, but the connections and ideas that I get from all of you are simply awesome and I know that they have made me a better teacher. For this, I thank you.

Now, let’s not waste any time getting to the good stuff. I was taught that it’s better to give than to receive. So…. of course I’ve got a giveaway for you!

So many generous teachers and teacher-bloggers have donated their products and gift certificates for this giveaway (you all rock, by the way) totaling about $500 which is simply incredible!

There are NINE prize packages to be won, based on grade level (keep in mind that some items are grouped in one grade level, but may also be appropriate for other grade levels as well – a bit higher or a bit lower). You may enter to win all nine prize packages, or just the ones most suitable for your grade level.

I’ve decided to keep the prize packages a bit of a mystery – a birthday surprise for the winners, if you will. SO, you’ll know the grade level, approximate value and general contents of each package, but not the exact items until you win! Fun, eh? Think of each prize package as a beautifully wrapped birthday gift just begging to be opened! Who doesn’t like a little mystery?

In addition to the NINE prize packages, donated by 95 teachers and teacher-bloggers, there will also be TWO $50 shopping sprees in my TeachersPayTeachers Store to be won. To qualify to win one of these, simply comment on this blog post as one of your entries in the prize package(s) of your choice. Then, I’ll use a random number generator to choose TWO lucky winners from those comments.

I couldn’t have done this without the generosity of all of the contributors for this giveaway – again thanks so much for helping to make my blog-birthday extra special! Follow them in their TPT Stores, blogs and on Facebook; they are amazing educators with so much to offer (plus these follows earn you more chances to win, of course).

PLEASE NOTE: Just in case you’re new to Rafflecopter, clicking the “Follow Me” link on the widget doesn’t automatically follow the stores and blogs of the contributing teachers. It takes you to the store or blog and it’s up to you to follow once you’re there. If it’s a TPT Store, click on the red “Follow Me” above their name. If it’s a blog, look for how to follow them on the side bar – usually there are a few options. When you “Like” a Facebook link, it is automatic and then you can enter.

Also, each of the nine giveaways will have a winner. Therefore, you’ll need to enter in each of the prize packages that you’d like to win. For example, entering to win Prize Package one, will not enter you to win the awesome resources for Gr 7-9 in Prize Package two.  

Let the giveaway begin!

 Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!

Prize Pack ONE

Grade 7-9

My awesome contributors for this prize package:


prize pack 1 revised




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!


Prize Pack TWO


Grade 7-9


My awesome contributors for this prize package:
prize pack 2 revised

        a Rafflecopter giveaway
Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!


Prize Pack THREE

Grade 4 -6

My awesome contributors for this prize package:

Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!    

Prize Pack FOUR
Grade 4 -6
My awesome contributors for this prize package:

Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway! a Rafflecopter giveaway      Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!      
Prize Pack FIVE
Grade 4 -6
My awesome contributors for this prize package:

Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!     a Rafflecopter giveaway       Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!     
Prize Package SIX
Grades K-3
My awesome contributors for this prize package:

      Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway! a Rafflecopter giveaway  Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!  


Prize Pack SEVEN

Grade K-3

My awesome contributors for this prize package:

  prize pack 4 gr k-3

  a Rafflecopter giveaway   Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!    

Prize Package EIGHT
Grade K- 3  
My awesome contributors for this prize package:

  Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway! a Rafflecopter giveaway bunting  
 Prize Package NINE
Grade K- 3
My awesome contributors for this prize package:

  Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!       a Rafflecopter giveaway


Celebrating my first blog birthday with an awesome teacher giveaway!

This giveaway runs Feb 8th – 11th.

Winners will be emailed their products and gift certificate codes, so PLEASE make sure to check your email following the 11th (spam folder too) in case you’re a winner!  Of course, you can also check back here to see if you may have won. If you do not respond to my email within a week of being notified, another winner will be chosen.

Thanks for celebrating with me!


assessing writing in middle school


Buntings by:


Trying to Combat Acts of Bullying with Acts of Kindness

Bullying is an issue at most schools, and unfortunately it is no different at mine. This year though, we’re trying something new. On Thursday, we launched our “Stand Up” to bullying campaign. Our project was inspired by a project that our VP saw about a principal in the states. We kind of thought…if they can do it…maybe we can too. The idea is to create a culture of kindness in your school, so that acts of bullying are less likely to occur because of the expectations of students, and the emphasis on the positive.

To begin with, all of the classes entered a logo contest to design an anti-bullying logo that would be screen-printed on t-shirts that students would wear on “Kindness Fridays”. One of my grade 7 students won the contest with his “Stand Up” logo, and we went with a nice bright orange color for the shirts. Sponsers’ dollars helped to fund these shirts!

Students had to do an act of kindness in order to earn the right to receive their shirts. Classes did everything from creating artwork for the local hospital residents, to collecting food for the food bank, helping out with the morning snack program and so much more! Students also had the chance to create an anti-bullying pledge for our school and the pledge that was chosen was placed on a banner for all of us to sign.

We had a huge assembly to launch this whole project, in which the students shared the acts of kindness that they did, received their shirts (class by class), we even had a local celebrity to play for us, which was a surprise for the kids! Here’s a little video clip…

(It may or may not be me step-dancing in the last 5 seconds of the video with one of my students;)


We have a “Hallway of Heroes” to highlight students who have been particularly kind, and we’ll be wearing these shirts (as a reminder of what we’ve all pledged) every Friday.


I think that being covered in the local newspaper and on the Island news (my kids did the opening and our story’s on about 11 min. 40 seconds in to the program) really helped to show students the importance and legitimacy of what we’re doing. 

I’m really proud of what we were able to initiate with this program and even if it helps one student to Stand Up for himself or another student, it will have been time well spent.


Just for your information…some popular “anti-bullying” titles…

The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others

Confessions of a Former Bully

Just Kidding

My Secret Bully

The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to HighSchool–How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle (Updated Edition)

Bullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools (Guilford Practical Intervention in the Schools)

assessing writing in middle school




Assessing Writing in Middle School

 I had an excellent Professional Development Day yesterday, on assessing writing. I’ve got so much work to do this weekend now! Don’t you just love it when that happens? You attend a PD session and by the time you get to the end, you have more questions than answers? Well, that’s the kind of afternoon that I had (in a good way).

We started off the session with reading a chapter from Assessing Writers, an excellent book from our Literacy Library by author Carl Anderson. Everything was made so simple in that first chapter- confer with your students, gather evidence on what individual students need in their writing and plan your writing lessons and mini-lessons accordingly. Sounds easy, right? In theory it is, and I’m planning on giving it a shot!

assessing writing in middle school

Toward the end of the session, I was able to score a few minutes alone with the Literacy coach to pick her brain about a few things that I’ve been concerned with in my classroom around our new ELA resources and how I’ve been using them. I feel (and have felt for a while) that I am not as focused in my Language Arts teaching as I would like to be. (My strength is Math – that’s no secret.) Therefore, I feel like I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to teach reading and writing to my students. And, each year it’s like I start from scratch again, hoping to “figure it out” this year.

Our conversation turned toward another topic of concern for me as well – evaluation and marking. It’s not so much the gathering of information that I have the issue with. I know how my kids are doing and I assess them with rubrics, checklists, observational data, conferencing etc. However, the subjectivity and somewhat grey area that can creep into evaluating a piece of student writing,  has given me a feeling of dissonance for a while now.

We operate on a 100 point scale in my province, and I truly feel as though I am working within a flawed system. Even when I use a rubric, mathematically the results don’t always convert to the percent that is most appropriate for the piece of work. On a four point rubric, if a student is meeting expectations across the board, he will receive a 75%. Did he deserve a 75%, though? Was his work a “strong three” and therefore more worthy of an 85%? Or perhaps, he met expectations, but just barely and since a pass is a 60%, he should receive a mark closer to 60%? Realistically, what’s the difference between an 87% and an 88%? I would love to give letter grades a try. Having a range of marks that is suitable for a piece seems so much more appropriate than the system that we’re currently using here.

Anyhow, we chatted  for a while and it was so nice to get some of these things off of my chest  and to come up with a plan of sorts for how to best work within the system. I’ve been teaching based on the themes and resources that we received 2 years ago when we got a new program. As the Literacy coach reminded me, they are the resources, not the curriculum (although of course they are based on the curriculum outcomes). She suggested that since I seem to be searching for a better way to organize my ELA program,  that I do so by writing form, rather than theme. I’m willing to try anything and after talking to her, I’m quite excited to see what this may look like for the remainder of the school year.

The current book club writing focus is poetry, which works out perfectly, since we haven’t covered it much yet this year. This weekend, I’ll be looking at the other forms of writing that still need to be covered before the end of the school year and finding reading selections within our program resources that support/are examples of each writing form. That way, if we are doing Descriptive Report writing, for example, we’ll only be reading examples of descriptive reports so that we can really get a feel for how a report is written and the text features that authors may use such as captions, diagrams, headings etc. Even though this mid-year plan reorganization is going to take time and a lot of effort, I am SO okay with it if it means that I will be more focused in my teaching and my students in their learning. The thing is, I know without even beginning, that it will be! The Literacy coach also gave me some ideas for how to make my rubrics aimed more precisely at what I’ll be covering – so that’s great! Although she’s supposed to be just for the K-6 teachers, she has been wonderful to do her best to support me as well in our K-7 school.

As for my other issue, with the 100 point scale – I know that this is a shift that will have to come from above (or within). I am doubtful that things will ever change within my career – but who knows! Perhaps I’ll spearhead a crusade for letter grades and finally release us from the shackles of this ridiculous system of evaluating students once and for all!

How do you mark where you teach? Percents? Letter grades? What kind of assessment tools do you prefer?

 assessing writing in middle school

 PS: In case you haven’t heard – HUGE SUPER SALE at TeachersPayTeachers THIS SUNDAY – tomorrow! TPT is offering 10% off of all purchases and most sellers will be having sales in their stores as well. Everything in my TPT Store will be on sale at 28% off (the most I can do). If you have any items on your wishlists – it’s time to get them off of there!


assessing middle school writing