Category Archives: Back to School

LOVE These Clips! A Simple Way to Organize Your Papers

Just bought these for next year at Scholar’s Choice and even though I probably overpaid, these clips are exactly what I’ve been looking for to organize my paperwork. My desk is not always the neatest, and I really think that these fancy shmancy clips may do the trick! I know how crafty some of you are and it would be so simple to “bedazzle” a couple of plain clips for your own needs. I bought 2 sets of 2″ clips, but I think I’ll try giving some of my plain clips a facelift with some snazzy new labels – for classes/subject/permission slips etc. I also think that the “To Be Filed” clip may be a little dangerous for me… Again, showing my nerdiness to be excited about binder clips (in July, no less) but I have never seen these before and I think that they just may save my organizational life :)

Organizing papers

My first Back to School Purchase! Too early? Naaaa!

What’s your favorite way to keep your desk tidy? jamberry nails giveaway

Starting the Year Off With A Little Bit of Problem Solving

I have had a great time getting to know my students in our first full week back to school. I’m pretty sure that I have lucked out this year! Ahh…the honeymoon period. I love it!

Anyhow, I had mentioned a book a little while ago that I’d read this summer (What’s Your Math Problem? Getting to the Heart of Teaching Problem Solving) and wanted to include in some capacity in my teaching this year. I just wanted to throw out a little update. 

It’s so practical! I’ve used 2 problems from the book, just this week, and the kids are enjoying the challenge (so far). 

The first problem I gave the students is pictured below. I gave them coins on their desks to manipulate and they had the solution in no time! I love when things work out the way I want them to!


brain teaser math problem


 How is your school year going so far?




Back to School With a Smile

My first day with students will be tomorrow. There is so much build up to the first day of school! I always look forward to it, but I am also happy when it’s over. The ice is broken, introductions have been made and I can start to get to know the young people in front of me.

I am just about ready to go, but still have a few preparations left to make. It’s an exciting year for me, for a few reasons. This will be the first year that all teachers have SMART Boards in our rooms. Also, my school is in transition. We will be coming together with our high school in the fall of 2014, and become a K-12 facility. Construction is well underway, as they are renovating the high school and it will become our new home. Lots of changes! A new administrator at our school, being another. She actually began our day on Tuesday with this funny little video and so I thought I’d share it with you!

We all know that teaching can be hard (as you’ll see in the video). You may get stressed, feel over worked and isolated… At those times, when you’re not sure if you can go on, just remember that at least you’re doing a better job than the teacher in the video! On that note, wish me luck tomorrow! I hope that they like the Banana Chocolate Chip cake that I made for their break time! (Hard not to respect someone who feeds you cake, fruit and juice on the first day - wouldn’t you agree? Wink  Well – it can’t hurt!)


A Middle School Blog Hop Just For You!

This post has TWO very important purposes.

 #1 Thank you to everyone who entered (and contributed to) my Back to School Giveaway. The winners have been contacted (and they’re very excited). Check your email/junk mail - I still have one winner who hasn’t gotten back to me yet – maybe it’s you!

#2 Kristy from 2 Peas And A Dog has generously volunteered to organize a Back to School Blog Hop for Middle Years – complete with freebies and a giveaway! I know, another giveaway SPECIFICALLY for Middle Years. How often does THAT happen? You’re welcome!

Alright. Kristy asked us to share a great tip for Back to School survival in our blog hop posts. My best tip would be to take those first few days to really get to know your kids. I know that you’re behind, almost before you start with the curriculum that you’re expected to cover. However, it’s in those first few days that the middle school students before you will decide what sort of a teacher you are, which will in turn impact the kind of year that you’ll have. That whole “Don’t smile until Christmas” advice from eons ago is simply garbage. Smile. Enjoy yourself. Get to know the dynamic, intelligent and funny people in front of you. Tell them about yourself and your family. I don’t mean take five minutes to introduce yourselves – but really talk to them. Don’t pass out the text books first, please. It can wait. What is more important, a promptly distributed text book or learning a bit about the students you’ll be teaching this year? I do realize that we have to pass out the books as well, I’m just saying don’t start with that. 

So, other than starting the first day with a big coffee and always having a stash of Advil in your desk (let’s face it – you’re going to need it) to survive and thrive this year, I’d say make sure to take QUALITY time to get to know your middle school students. They can be a fickle bunch and being treated with respect is huge for them. Rather than simply talking about respect – might as well start showing it to them right off the bat by having a conversation – asking them questions and really listening to their answers.

One way that I like to get to know my kids quickly, is through student surveys. Enjoy the rest of the hop! Oh, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway below!


Want More Back to School Goodies?

Enter our AMAZING back to school giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Oh yes – there’s just one more thing. TeachersPayTeachers has announced that their Back to School sale will be this Sunday and Monday – August 18th-19th. My entire store will be on sale! Now’s the time to stock up for those first few months!
Back to School Giveaway 
bullying video

How About An Early Bird Draw?

I’m pathetic. I’m the grown-up at Christmas time who just NEEDS to open ONE gift on Christmas  Eve because I can’t wait until morning. Looks like one of you is about to benefit from my sad lack of willpower!

I have decided that Saturday is TOO far away and I’m having an EARLY BIRD draw! I’m going to keep it simple.

Early Bird Draw Back to School

(Image from

There is a site called EdWorldExchange where teachers can buy and sell teacher resources. They are still just getting established and so they don’t have the volume that some other sites have, but everyone has to start at the beginning, right? I have some of my work on their site and I’m trying to help them out with getting more traffic and new users. That’s where you come in!

Here is your task to qualify for this EARLY BIRD draw: Sign Up with EdWorldExchange using this PROMO CODE: EWEpromo1.

That’s it! You don’t have to buy anything, it’s free to sign up and you never know, maybe you’ll go back and find some great resources for yourself.

Now on to the really important stuff…

What could you win?

I will choose ONE EARLY BIRD winner before the BIG Giveaway begins and that person will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and 20 bonus entries for the big Back to School Giveaway that starts on Saturday. Pretty sweet! I know!


Who wants a $10 gift card?

If you do choose to enter this draw and register with EdWorldExchange:

You sign up right under the Log In button on the EdWorldExchange homepage and it’s important that you use the promo code above, or I won’t know that you signed up! You enter it right after you select a password. Finally, just so that you know, when you register as a new user, only a few of the fields are mandatory (it should only take you about a minute to sign up). It’s not necessary to enter info in all fields – but you can if you want to.



Let the fun begin! Who will be the lucky winner of a $10 Amazon gift card and 20 bonus entries? It could be you! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

bullying video

Get Ready For It! Going Back With a MAJOR Giveaway!

I know that some of you have already headed back to the classroom this week. Here in PEI, we don’t begin until September. Whether you’ve started back this week or still have another few weeks left to enjoy, I’m pretty sure that you’ll all be psyched to win some great goodies for your classrooms!

It’s almost time for my annual Back To School Giveaway! I thought that I’d give you a little sneak peek, so that you know what’s up for grabs!



I have Shopping Sprees to give away in 20 different  TPT Stores (including my own) an awesome bag from Thirty-One, FOUR Duo Binders, a $75 gift certificate to WiseDecor, a $25 gift certificate to Black Rafter Soap Works,  and a $10 Starbucks gift certificate all to give away to you guys! Wow!

It’s going to be great and I’m very excited to be able to get to provide all of you awesome teachers with the opportunity to win some goodies for yourself. You deserve it!

In case you’re unfamiliar with some of the companies mentioned above…

Thirty-One provides fantastic options for school and lunch bags, purses and totes, organizers etc. in a wide variety of styles and colors. They are offering a small organizing tote for the giveaway!

inside out bag31

Duo Binders are a wonderful option for teachers or students to stay organized. They are essentially a binder, with a portfolio included to stash away single sheets. Again, a wide variety of styles and colors are available. They’re also perfect to use as sub binders.

Back to School Giveaway Back to School Giveaway Back to School Giveaway Back to School GiveawayBack to School GiveawayBack to School Giveaway

WiseDecor has generously offered a $75 gift certificate for this giveaway which is amazing! They offer wall word decals for all occasions, but they have some specifically appropriate for use in the classroom. I have one for my room that will go right above my new SMARTBoard:

 if you can dream it

Finally, Black Rafter Soap Works has graciously donated a $25 gift certificate in their Etsy Shop, because they know that we deserve a little pampering – especially at this time of year! What will you choose: Hand made soaps, lip balm or the natural sugar scrub?

Back to School Giveaway Back to School Giveaway Back to School Giveaway

As you may be able to tell, I have put A LOT of work into organizing this giveaway for you and I’m really excited to see how it goes! The giveaway runs August 10th – August 14th, so don’t forget to come back and enter!

Thanks again to all of my generous contributors – you rock!Smile

bullying video

“Party in Your PJs” – A “Thirty-One” Facebook Event and You’re Invited!

Do you LOVE your school bag? I mean do you REALLY LOVE it?

Every August I search for THE school bag that will hold all of my files and correcting, keep me organized and still look pretty. I usually find something, but it’s never exactly what I’m looking for.

So when Jen, teacher and Canadian consultant for Thirty-One, contacted me about holding a party on my Facebook page I jumped at the chance.


I have been admiring Thirty-One’s stylish school bags, purses, and organizational totes from afar for a while now. Many of my fellow bloggers have been singing their praises, as Thirty-One has been available in The US, but is just now breaking into Canada!


So, guess what? I’m having a party and you’re invited!

Thirty-One Gifts Facebook Party; organizing for Back to School



Here are the details:

Come to my Lessons From The Middle Facebook Page this Thursday, August 1st at 9:00pm – 10:00pm (Atlantic time, which will be 8:00pm Eastern time).

Don’t be late! Jen’s going to be doing a roll call and the first 10 people to chime in at the party will gain extra entries for the evening.

There will be a few little giveaways - some products, free shipping and discounts will be up for grabs.

Jen will also be sharing the August specials with us. It should be LOTS of fun!

PJs are optional, ( I’ll be wearing mine) deals will be scored and fun is sure to be had by all!


A few links and photos to get the juices flowing!

Thirty-One Shop Link - for your browsing pleasure….Although Jen may have some other things for us to check out as well!


 Thirty-One Gifts Facebook Party; organizing for Back to School

 Thirty-One Gifts Facebook Party; organizing for Back to School

What will you be on the look out for? The perfect school bag…a hot purse…a new lunch bag…a tote.. Don’t miss out on the fun! I look forward to seeing you at the Party in Your PJs on my Facebook page this Thursday at 9pm AT (8ET)!

bullying video

Middle School Math Freebies

Okay, first of all – I’m so sorry about the typo in the title of my last post! Ugh…made my stomach turn when I saw it. I know that my typing (and my spelling skills) need work sometimes but a mistake in the title? So sorry! Good thing I never claimed to be perfect, huh?


I wrote a post in the spring of last year, which linked up a whole bunch of great middle school math freebies. A few more links have been added and so I decided to post the collection again. If you have a great middle school math freebie that you’d like to add – feel free to link up! You can use the title of your product as the “Name”. I hope to see this collection GROW!




 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

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