Category Archives: classroom management

Getting Started with Teacher Inquiry

I am proud to say that I have officially finished 9 of my 10 Masters courses (insert applause here). It has been a busy 12 months! My program really has changed me as a teacher – my planning, instruction, and how I regard assessment.

One course that I took a couple of months ago was “Action Research”. Before beginning the course, I was shaking in my boots. I envisioned research methods from my undergrad degree – reliability and validity, controlling variables and looking for statistically significant results…Shudder… I remember thinking, “It’s almost the end of the school year. I DO NOT have time to conduct RESEARCH!” As it turns out, I learned in the first week that action research has many other names, including “teacher inquiry”, and it was nothing like what I had pictured. I have come to prefer the term “teacher inquiry” to “action research”. I find it less intimidating – if that makes any sense! But, they do refer to the same process.

So, why have I chosen to share with you, my first venture into teacher inquiry? Well, as a requirement of my program, I had to conduct a teacher inquiry of my own. One of the major elements upon the completion of a teacher inquiry is to share what happened – the results, what I learned, and what it all means. So, as part of the “sharing” component I decided to share here on my blog with all of you. It’s too much to share in one post, so you can expect a few upcoming posts highlighting the whole process.

teacher inquiryWhat you need to understand, if you are new to teacher inquiry, is that it is a simple, yet complex process. Time-consuming, yet rich in professional development opportunities. The entire process begins with what is called a “wondering”. This is a question that you wish you had the answer to. It may be something that you think about on the drive home, or discuss with your spouse or colleagues, or something that rolls around in your mind as you try to sleep. As educators, we all have wonderings, of sorts….How can I help So-and-So be more organized? What can I do to increase student engagement? What can I do to improve achievement with this unit? How can I incorporate more technology into my course? What can I do to make So-And-So stop blurting out in class? How can I get all of my students to actually LEARN their times tables this year? These were all potential wonderings for me as I started the process of teacher inquiry. I encourage you to think about a question, a wondering, that you would like help with. It should be something that would improve life in your classroom and in return, increase student achievement – which is what it’s all about – helping kids learn and have success. 


I’m including a link to our course text, in case teacher inquiry sounds like something that you would like to explore this school year. In my opinion, the book was extremely helpful and user-friendly:

The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research: Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn Through Practitioner Inquiry


So, as I leave you to reflect on your own personal wondering, know that teacher inquiry is simply a structured method to help you find the answer(s) to that question. It is empowering, and helps teachers to find the answers to their own questions. So, what’s your wondering?


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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

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

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?


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


Establishing Class Rules

There are lots of philosophies on creating class rules. Some teachers try to keep their list to five, and have it posted on the wall to go over with students on that first day of school. Other teachers rather create a list of class rules with their students so that they have more ownership in the rules and hopefully, will be more likely to follow them.

Personally, I don’t really do either. I have a class discussion about what they think our class rules should be and why it would make sense to have those rules in place. Sometimes I’ll record their ideas on chart paper, other times we keep it to a discussion. When we get to the end, I tell them that they have great ideas (they always do) but I think we only need to have ONE  rule in our class – can they guess what it is? Someone always names my ONE rule: RESPECT.

lessons from the middle, respect, establishing class rules

Everything else, all of the other rules, fall under the umbrella of respect and so I keep it to that. We talk about examples of what respectful behavior looks like and what it does not look like. They’re in grade 7 – they know! Our “Respect” rule is in place for all of us – them and me. I tell them that I will always show them respect and I need for them to show that respect back to me, their classmates and the school. If we can follow our one rule – we won’t have too many problems!

I always look forward to this class discussion, because it’s effective in setting the expectations and tone for the class, for the rest of the year!Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons


How do you go about establishing rules in your class?


The Student Agenda – If you have one, why don’t you use it?

Do your students use the agendas that they’re so excited to buy that first week back to school? I’m lucky – many of my students do buy an agenda. Using it, however? That’s another story.

I’ve actually realized that I’ve been part of the problem.

I teach grade 7. I have been using the fact that I teach junior high, as an excuse of sorts. “They’re old enough to know what they need to do. If they don’t do it – that’s really their problem. I’m trying to teach them to be self-sufficient and independent here!”

Well, I’m thirty. I KNOW that I need to exercise. Do I always do it? Sometimes, I get lazy – plain and simple. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a cheerleader helping me along? Wouldn’t I be more apt to go for a run? Well, I’m going to be more of a cheerleader to my students this year (probably in more ways than one). They know what they need to do (just like I do) but they’re going to need my help to get and stay on track.


Here are some things that I plan to share with my students to help them get on the right track with using their agendas.

agenda tips, lessons from the middle


Need-Do-Due Poster: Help your students use their agendas

Need-Do-Due Poster: Help your students use their agendas


Here are a few things that I’m also going to try this year, in regards to agendas.

1) Give students more time and REQUIRE that they use their agendas. I wasn’t forceful enough in the last few years with getting students to use their agendas – the result? They didn’t use them. I don’t plan on using my brute force or anything, but I do plan on setting my expectations MUCH higher!

2) Spend MORE time talking about the agendas at Meet the Teacher night – how I plan to use them, what parents can do to help etc. I plan to really talk them up!

3) We always send home monthly reports about student behaviors, homework etc. I’m thinking about switching to weekly reports and then having students staple the reports in to their agendas. Then, parents will know to ask to see the agenda each week to check out their child’s report.


I’m excited about the changes I plan to make with the use of agendas in my class this year. If you would like a copy of the tips and poster above, head over to my TeachersPayTeachers Store to grab a free copy. I hope that my raising of expectations and putting more responsibility on the students will increase their overall success!


What are your thoughts on student agendas?


Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons




Getting Organized for Back to School

Just a quick post to share my newest “school supplies” buy! So sad that I can get excited over colorful supplies or organizational tools – this is BOTH!


lessons from the middle, organization

My newest back to school buy!



I have been on the lookout to find some ways to tame the “paper monster” that lives in my classroom. In particular, I really wanted some cool “In/Out” boxes – for papers that I need to pass back and papers that I’ve collected, as I’ve found that this is an area that I struggle with organizing. While picking out a new book bag for my own Kindergartener, I spied these rainbow-colored sets for $10 a piece at Walmart – so of course I got TWO! They are sturdy, brightly colored and weirdly enough – make me happy! I think it’s because I can see how I’ll be using them and improving my paper piles and that’s what makes me happy!

I’ve tried different methods for paper collection, but I still struggle with keeping everything straight for each subject and each class. The biggest problem I find, is when I’m switching classrooms to teach another group. I have collected papers in a folder, a hard plastic case type of deal – but I still find that they land in a messy looking pile on the table at the front  of my room. At least this way, it’ll be an organized and contained pile.

What are your paper organizing secrets?


Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

I got new school stuff!!!

Picture it. You’re at Staples (just fill in your favorite teacher store here). You can smell the Crayola…and you know that you’re home! Alright, I know that you all get excited about colorful post-its, new Sharpies and fancy bulletin board borders too.

Well, I decided to share about some treasures that I purchased on my yearly trek to Scholar’s Choice – the closest “Teacher Store” to me. It’s not even close, really. Out of province, actually;) But every year, for the last number of years, when my hubby and I take a trip across the Confederation Bridge, leaving little ole’ Prince Edward Island behind, I have to add “The Teacher Store” as I call it, to our itinerary (even though, ironically – we’re usually there when school has just ended).

I got some great “school stuff” this year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you so that my poor husband doesn’t have to pretend that he cares what I bought for the new school year;)

organizing, back to school, lessons from the middle


One thing that I would really like to improve this year in my classroom, is my organization. I look into other teachers’ classrooms and they are like well-oiled machines. I don’t feel like I’m there, yet. I’m still figuring out what I like, what helps me and my students and what maybe I thought was going to work, but didn’t. Right now, all of my math manipulatives are in labelled, blue totes. I’ve decided that it annoys me, though, to not be able to see what’s in the totes! So, I bought these clear bins at Costco –  nothing special about them – just regular storage bins. But they’re clear. Okay, so this is where Hubby would start to tune out;)

Also in this picture is one of my faves to help organize my students – plastic page protectors. For some reason, even my more careless students could hang on to things that were in page protectors. It’s almost as if they think, “Well if this piece of paper is important enough for her to pass out protectors to everyone – I better not lose it!” Works for me! I give them out for the REALLY important papers or to store their work in that may be in progress (post cards, posters) things that aren’t in a scribbler and that shouldn’t be hole punched. It may sound silly, but for certain students – they’ve been a lifesaver. Even if they don’t go and put them into the binder, at least the paper is less likely to get lost in the protector.

Finally, I got 3 new pocket charts to help me organize some of my paper work. I am someone who always has stacks on my table up front and it drives me crazy! I’ve realized it’s only because I haven’t come up with a better plan for myself than the filing cabinet. I need an in-between filing place until the papers get where they need to be. Rather than taking up more table space, I’ve decided to use the wall space for filing. So, I plan to use these hanging pocket charts on my bulletin board up front for referral forms, lunch forms, tracking sheets, bus notes, parent notes to me, school newsletters, extra hand outs. I bought three, because I may also use them for math centers and games. I’m very excited at the prospect of having a tidier work area at the front of my room. I’m no different from my students. I need the tools to be organized and then I’ll be able to do a better job!

longitude and latitude, lessons from the middle, math activity

Desk-top World Map


I love this desk-top map that I found, as well. Our first unit in Math is Coordinate Geometry and so I have big plans for this little map to use in a center on plotting points. (In hindsight, I should have gotten more than one…) It’ll also be perfect for Social Studies activities/centers that I may do throughout the year.

Also for Social Studies, I found EXCELLENT posters on Canadian Government which are aligned with my curriculum. Of course they’re not just posters  – they also have activities on the back for students and short pieces to read, as well. Again – stations!!!

Finally, for Social Studies, I found History of Canada glossy magazine-type resources that have just the MOST important information, with lots of color and pictures and then questions on the back of the resource. I got two of these, because I’ll always have modified students, or those on IEPs who will really benefit from the way this information is laid out. I also have the option to incorporate these resources into centers, but I see using them with students who can’t handle all of the information from the regular textbook and who are on their own plan.

Canadian Government Posters and Activities, lessons from the middle

Canadian Government Posters and Activities

Social Studies Activities, lessons from the middle

Social Studies Activities


Just For Fun!, Lessons From The Middle

Sharpies and Borders and Birthdays, oh my!

And finally, to add a little color and fun, check out my CUTE bulletin board borders and value pack of sharpies and pens! Why do I get excited over office supplies? I don’t know – but I don’t think I’m alone!

This year I got Birthday certificates to use in my class and they also come with tear off bookmarks – which I thought was a fun little extra. I also purchased my first “cootie catchers” for elements of a narrative – fun, include the main points that I need to cover, colorful… all in all a good buy!

Okay, I’m done sharing for now. I got some other great stuff too, that I’ll share another day.

So tell me, what’s your guilty pleasure when you go back to school shopping for your classroom? What do you get super excited about? Please share, so that I don’t feel lonely surrounded by my markers, posters and other goodies;)

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Professional Books for Summer Reading


I admit it.

I have committment issues.

Well, not exactly. My husband and I have been together since we were 17. It’s not that type of committment that I’m talking about;)

I can’t commit to just ONE book at a time. There. I said it. I read a bit, put it down, pick up another, put it down – read a chapter of this here and a chapter of that there. I know it’s not necessarily the best way to do things – but it’s my way. So, rather than choosing just one professional resource to flip through this summer, I’ll have four on the go!

I posted in May, encouraging teachers to choose a professional resource to read this summer, to enhance their teaching and hopefully, to find new and even better ways of doing things. Following this post, I got lots of comments about books that some of you were reading. I also went to my own school’s “professional library” to check things out. Just in case you haven’t decided on a book for yourself yet AND, to have as a resource for the future, I’ve added links to all of the titles that I have found and that were suggested to me. I have not read all of these books – yet. So, just to be clear, I can’t yet make comments on their usefulness…etc… However, they were recommended to me by other teachers. Since teachers have no time to read useless material – I figure that they’re all worth a look! So, without further adieu, here are my summer reading picks.

The four books that I’ve chosen all have to do with differentiation. I’ll be posting periodically about them, as I find interesting and helpful tidbits for you, so stay tuned! If you want to know more about any of the books below, I’ve linked them all from Amazon for you to peruse.

The first three focus mostly on differentiation, and teaching to the variety of students in your classroom. I found all three in my own school’s professional library! Before you buy anything, I suggest you start with your school or local library.

I’ve started reading the third one, “Differentiating Instruction in a Whole Group Setting”. The author, Betty Hollas, spoke at our annual convention a few years back. She was excellent! This book is for grades 3-8. So far, it’s a super-quick read, and also has lots of reproducibles in the back which is a huge plus!

My fourth summer pick, the book I’ve purchased, is about “Guided Math”. There’s actually an online study group  blogging about this book – so it would be a great one if you wanted to join in discussions. Click here for the kick off post for the Guided Math Book Study. It’s a book that applicable from primary up into junior high and beyond. I can’t wait until my copy arrives…I just ordered this one..


So, that’s my summer reading list and you’ll hear lots about it over the next two months, as I’m sure I’ll have tons to share as I make my way through!

Here are some other book recommendations for you, coming from Lessons From The Middle readers:)



Common Core would be a great place to start – just choose the right book for your grade level.



To sharpen your discipline skills…



For teaching reading in the content areas…



A pick for 21st Century Learning…



Practical strategies to help manage students, irritating adults and making the best of an imperfect environment…



For when you have parents whose child can do no wrong…


That should be plenty to get started!

So, once you’ve taken some time for yourself this summer,  find a book that excites you and meets your current professional goals and interests.

If you read any of the books above – please share your thoughts about them! Tips you’ve found useful (or not so useful). Also, let me know if you’re reading a book that you think I should add to this list. I’d love to do so! Once I’ve gotten some feedback (and made my way through my own summer picks) I’ll add worthy books to the “Must Reads” tab for you to refer to easily.

I look forward to some comments (good or bad) and some discussion about the books above and any others that you’re reading or want to read.  One last thing, if you know of a great book on “content literacy strategies”  (grade 5/6 level) a Lessons From The Middle reader, Shannon, would love for you to share!

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer so far! I’m looking forward to mine…(We’re still in school here until June 29th.)

Happy reading everyone!

Lessons from the middle, canadian teacher blog, middle school lessons

Incorporating Physical Activity into Your Classroom: My First Guest Blogger!

This is so exciting! I’m thrilled to welcome Neil, Lessons From The Middle’s first guest blogger. Neil is from the UK. He’s been teaching for two years, at the primary level. He has a passion for physical activity and recently started a blog focussing on physical activity and outdoor education. He practises what he preaches – he’s worked as a camp councillor and is a canoeing instructor. Although Neil teaches in the primary grades, his message is one for all teachers of all grades and subject levels.


We all know the stats: Approximately a third of children in the US, Canada and the UK are obese.  Children are getting fatter and may not live as long as their parents. I don’t want to dwell on the problem, but what is our role as educators to find a solution? Children spend around 6 hours a day at school and a lot of that time can be spent being pretty inactive. So I think as the olympics loom on the horizon, it’s a good time to start to talk to our classes about their lifestyle. What if every teacher spent an extra 5 minutes a week of our class time being active? Wouldn’t that make our children’s lives a bit less sedentary? I think that over time, it could start to make a nation fitter and healthier.

Lessons From The Middle, physical activity in the classroom


Healthy living should be like English – a subject that spans the curriculum and an area that every teacher has an obligation to teach well, no matter what their subject specialty. I’m not going to suggest that children should be constantly active in the classroom. There are lots of times when a calm quiet approach is the best way to get our learning across. But there are also those moments in a classroom, when we have a few minutes to spare or when the class appears restless, that using an active approach would enhance our teaching and the children’s enjoyment. So I wanted to share a few ideas to make your lessons full of beans.


An active few minutes:
I apologise if I’m preaching to the converted, but I find in the busy world of teaching – it’s always good to have the occasional reminder. So here are a few ideas for those quick breaks in the middle of your lessons to refocus children’s concentration. Action games are the best place to start. Games like Simon Says, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes can be adapted and put to good use in the younger grades. Music can work well depending on the dynamic of your class. You can simply play some music for 1 minute and just get your class to dance. Displaying songs with actions like the Cha, Cha Slide on your whiteboard is another option. Another idea is to lead some actions yourself and get the children to copy. I like to play the game where I repeat an action four times and then switch to a different action. But whatever action I am doing, the children have to repeat the action that I did previously.

Lessons From The Middle, physical activity in the classroomRelay Race:
If your lesson includes any kind of matching activity, then why not turn it into a relay race? Place all of the items at one end of a hall or outdoor space and the children have to run and collect each item one at a time. While this is happening the other children in the group can be matching. This is a good way to involve everyone in group work and helps to stop one child from taking over.

Dictation Race:
I have a lot of children in my class who have English as a second language and this next idea is a way of teaching language structure, as well as getting your class more active. Pick a short paragraph of information from your lesson. It could be a science definition or a poetic verse that you would like them to learn, about 6 lines or so should be enough. Then, photocopy it for each group. You’ll need a bit of room, so you’ll either have to take your class outside or clear some tables. Place the photocopied text at one end of the room and split the children into groups at the other end with some blank paper and pens. This is basically another form of a relay race – the children have to run to the other end of the classroom and memorize one line of text, then they run back and write it down. It doesn’t sound too tricky, right? Well, the catch is that the copied text must be perfect. So, no spelling mistakes and no incorrect punctuation. You can award points for the first team to finish and for the most accurate copy.

Fruit Salad:
Name everyone in your class as a type of fruit: Bananas, strawberries, pineapples and mangos. Then, when your class need to stretch their legs you say the name of the fruit. If you said “Strawberry” everyone who was named that fruit would swap places with the other children who were strawberries. If you feel brave shout “Fruit salad” and everyone has to swap seats.

This classic game is a good way to summarise a topic or to get children to explain different concepts. Get each table to think of a key word or concept from your lesson. Then, they have to act it out while the rest of the class have to guess what the word or idea is. This is a good way to get children thinking and moving.

So next week, try to include 5 minutes of activity in your lessons. Here are a few more exercise ideas, if you need them.

Neil @


Again, I’d like to thank Neil for his guest blog post. Please visit his new blog: Outdoor and Adventurous.

I totally agree with adding more physical and/or outdoor activities to our classrooms when we can. Although it can be a challenge – especially in Canada in the winter;) It’s important! Just the other day, we were doing a writing activity in class and it was such a nice afternoon that I took my class outside to write. We took a five-minute walk from class to a sunny spot outside, and also enjoyed some fresh air!

As you get up in the older grades, you have to be a little more creative, I think, to get the kids active. There are issues with self-consciousness, and space as the kids get physically bigger. That being said, I think we’ve all looked at our classes and thought – you just need to get up and move around! So, take Neil’s advice and try to add just five minutes of movement into your class. Trust me, your students will appreciate it – especially at this time of the year! And, I know what you’re thinking…but there are lots of simple ways to get them back into their seats when the activity is over. It’s like anything else – a routine to be taught. Well done Neil!

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