WE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you for all of your positive energy and good vibes! Very excited to announce that we were the GRAND PRIZE winners in the Aviva Community Fund Competition! Souris Consolidated School was awarded a cheque today for $135 000 to pay for our inclusive playground. It just goes to show that when parents, teachers, students and entire communities work together, amazing things can happen. Mountains can be moved. What may seem impossible, becomes a reality.

Thanks again, everyone! What an awesome, emotional and simply unforgettable day!


aviva cheque 2


Souris: A Playground for All (coverage about us begins at 20:50

Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog







Wanted: Positive Vibes!

Remember a while back when I asked for your help by voting for my school’s inclusive playground project? And then I asked you to help out AGAIN when we made it into the finals?

Well, we did amazingly well in the competition with immense support from our community and all over (especially considering our community’s small size of 1 300 residents)! We will find out on Tuesday, January 28th if we won! Can you say EXCITED? Although I’m quite confident that all of our hard work will not go un-noticed by the judges, there are 29 other amazing projects from all across Canada that we are up against, AND I am a practical person.

So, I’m thinking I need to do my part and pull out the big guns. Yep, you guessed it. Positive vibes! You got ‘em. I need ‘em. Just to cover all of our bases, you know? There’s over $100 000 on the line here!

I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking, and so all I’m asking is that you send our school some positive vibes between now and Tuesday!

If you have a second, maybe even comment on this post with your province or state so we can feel where all of the positive energy is coming from!

positive vibesYep, positive vibes. Couldn’t hurt, right?


Thanks again!!!Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog

Moderated Marking – A School Wide Writing Assessment

What a productive PD day! This year we have been focusing on improving our students’ writing and we had the entire day today to do moderated marking of writing that our students completed two weeks ago.

In the fall, it was decided that the type of writing we would focus on this year, would be procedural. This meant that at some point early in 2014, every student in the school would write a procedural piece which would be marked, and the feedback given immediately to the classroom teachers, to inform their instruction.

Once our students had completed their writing assessments (different grade levels decided on different prompts) we were given numeric codes to label our writing. These codes were provided by our resource department, the purpose being to keep the identity of the students unknown (as much as possible) during marking.

With the pieces of writing completed and labeled, it was time to choose exemplars to establish the expectations of our writing assessment at each grade level. What a huge task! You wouldn’t think choosing exemplars and providing justification for those choices would be so difficult, but it was! Teachers were were given sub time to meet with their grade level and choose those exemplars, using a common rubric based on our standards. We had resource people and a literacy coach at our disposal as well, which made things run quite smoothly. Even though it was a challenging day to choose those exemplars, it was time very well spent to go through all of those pieces and really work to compare them to the rubric. The conversation that we had to justify our choices is how I see true “professional development” – which you know I love!

So, all of that led up to today, which was our PD day to actually do a school wide moderated marking session of the writing assessments. We were paired up and together we worked to mark each of our pieces on the traits of content/ideas, organization and conventions. After we agreed on the three marks for the piece, we also had to give one strength and one “next step” for the student. Finally, each teacher was given back his/her marked writing assessments. What we’re able to do now, is to create class profiles based on the information that we’ve gathered. In my class, for instance, one “next step” that came up quite a few times was to work more on strong introductions and conclusions. As a homeroom teacher, that is powerful, practical and useful information.

Moderated Marking - School Wide Writing Assessment

 Does your school do any sort of “school wide” assessments (reading, writing, math) which are created and marked by your staff? A math assessment is a future goal for us and I’d love to know if your school has any sort of “school wide” assessment (not talking about standardized assessments here, but rather teacher-created common assessments, to inform instruction).

Please share! I’d love to know what’s going on at other schools!

Moderated Marking - School Wide Writing Assessment

NextLesson: 21st Century Learning and Real World Projects to Engage Students

NextLesson is a marketplace to discover and manage 21st century projects. It was started by parents, is guided by teachers, and built for students. The folks over at NextLesson are dedicated to the task of building a better tomorrow by working on one simple, driving question, “How can we unleash projects students love?”

I became affiliated with NextLesson just a few months ago, but I could see the potential in the site right away and the passion of those behind the scenes.

The site offers free and priced lessons and projects for all grade levels. Projects on this site offer a unique component as they are very interactive for students and highly engaging.

Math, English Language Arts, History and Science resources are available and are searchable by topic, grade level and the Common Core (which I know is important for those of you who are knee-deep in CCSS).

New resources are constantly being added and are created by teachers, for teachers. Sign up is free and takes just a moment! And guess what?


NextLesson has agreed to give one of you a $25 gift card to the site! How awesome is that? 


All you have to do to enter this giveaway, is sign up to NextLesson. Then, just enter below for your chance to win! Easy-peasy!


You can gain extra entries by following NextLesson through their social media networks, as well. AND, if you share this giveaway through any of your own social networks, you can gain 5 extra entries!

I’m only running this giveaway for 3 days, so enter today! You don’t want to miss out!


If you want real life, interactive projects to engage your students, NextLesson may have just what you’re looking for!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NextLesson has tons of freebies! Make sure you check them out and good luck to you all!


Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog

A Christmas Gift That I’ll Treasure Forever

I received the gift of my career yesterday and I just had to share. It’s something that I’ll keep in my top desk drawer for “those days” when I need a little boost! There are 52 reasons…but here are some of my favorites.



image image image image image image image image imageimage imageimage imageimage

I was able to hold it together until I got to the last one…And people wonder why we do this…I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Have a great holiday season and a relaxing break everyone!

Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog


Bringing it to Life: Art in The Middle School Classroom

Thank you to Claire Holt for once more writing an amazing guest blog post! Fantastic ideas for incorporating art in middle school!


For enthusiastic students who are entering the fifth and sixth grades, life begins to shape itself in a myriad of fascinating ways as adolescents develop their sense of identity and nurture their ever-changing interests and attributes as the world opens before them. With so many possibilities awaiting and the desire to learn combined with the complex changes that begin to take place as they enter one of the most vital transitional phases of life, keeping the classroom open as an inclusive and dynamic space is essential. Engaging interest and cultivating critical thinking in preparation for the oncoming high school years is critical, and one of the best ways to do this is incorporate creative activities that are accessible and fun.

Here is where the humanities continue to play an important role, despite its reduced presence in the classroom over recent years due to cuts in public education. The core creative processes that drive innovative problem-solving skills as well as collaboration and a healthy venue for expression are essential for succeeding in today’s world, so it’s important to never take their value for granted. Through the discovery of music, art, and literature, individuals will find a unique outlet for their voice and incorporating them into the classroom – particularly art, and it can be included on a multi-disciplinary level.

Enhancing the Learning Experience through a Variety of Mediums

Art provides one of the most revealing mediums through which people can come to better understand the lives of their ancestors and the resonances of various events and beliefs throughout history. One of the most exciting and immersive ways to learn about past events and penetrate the “how”, “why”, as well as the “what” is to take a look through art textbooks at some of the vibrant mediums which artists used to portray the dynamic world around them. Featuring some of history’s most iconic works and inspiring the class to use similar techniques and create their own masterpieces will make this even more integrative – Medieval mosaics and coats of arms can be composed from construction paper, paint, and a little imagination, and can even be created online for a practice brainstorm. Small-scale models of ancient wonders can be made by using clay, cardboard, glue, popsicles, toothpicks, cloth, and paint etc. Building a bridge and testing its resilience by placing weights on it is one way to experiment with the basics of engineering as well as encourage peer participation and resourcefulness.

coat of arms

Picture: http://www.parkfieldict.co.uk


Finding Innovative Ways to Share Information

As well as discovering the many joys and complexities of art and architecture, teachers can generate interest in other creative fields which are found in the worlds of science, math, and information. As graphic design becomes the main medium by which facts and resources are delivered through the improvement of technological advances in media, experimenting with different ways to share this information is a vital skill for the growing generations. Using collages, colorful flow charts, diagrams, and 3 dimensional models – like a model of the solar system – draws on both visual and kinetic learning techniques, as well as transcending traditional methods of recording information.

art in middle school

Picture: https://diy.org/


Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda states that “Great science is about thinking out of the box. And art is way out of the box, and having that kind of influence improves both sides. Artists test the edges of how humanity is and can be, and scientists make it happen.” Suggesting that one of the best ways to improve education at the earlier levels would be to more effectively combine the art and science communities, Maeda follows the forward-thinking educators who are seeking to work with more interesting methods of instruction.

By handing over the gauntlet to the class so to speak, students are more motivated to try out their own ideas and methods and with some encouraging guidance can develop their talents. The learning process which is undertaken during every project is gift enough in itself, but getting to enjoy the finished product and competing in local events featuring students from other classrooms and schools is another excellent activity which inspires community involvement. Classrooms can even go the extra mile and learn the value of helping out others by painting murals for local libraries and other public spaces, and witnessing the importance of how art can transform a community.

With a little bit of creativity, students and teachers can create an environment where the level of learning is both enjoyable and memorable, and cultivate their potential for thinking outside of the box which will equip them for success in years to come.


More Holiday Freebies Coming Your Way!

I got to be a part of a fantastic project again this year – our Holiday E-book! It’s jam-packed with freebies and holiday tips! Make sure to download your copy for this year! There are actually three holiday e-books, organized by grade level – I’m leaving all three links below for your browsing pleasure!

Holiday E-Book


Holiday E-Book Grades 7-12

Holiday E-Book Grades 3-6

Holiday E-Book Grades 1-2

Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog


December Facebook Freebie Frenzy!

I’m happy to a part of this month’s “Facebook Freebie Frenzy” for grades 6-12! There are twelve of us participating this month and the frenzy runs through until the 9th of December. Hop over to each Facebook page, click on the FB Frenzy tab and you’ll be on your way to downloading your freebie! So fun! After the 9th, the Freebie Frenzy tabs will disappear, so don’t miss out!

Here are the grade 6-12 participants for this month!

Freebie Frenzy for December

December Freebie Frenzy Map (Click to check out all of the Freebie Frenzy groups!)

Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog

A Playground For All! We need your help!

So if you didn’t hear, my school is in a competition to win $140 000 for an inclusive playground. I posted about it back in October. Well, you helped us to end the round in first place (thanks again) and catapulted us into the semi-final round. Yay you!

Poof! Semi-finals have begun today and guess what? We are in first place again – out of 92 projects! I’m not surprised – I really do believe that we’re going to win! However, just in case my enthusiasm isn’t enough…I mean, just for safety sake – if you could spare a moment perhaps you could register your email and vote for us? Maybe?

How cool will it be to find out in a month’s time that a $140 000 playground project to help children with disabilities and an entire community, has been made a reality and YOU were a part of it? I’m thinking super-cool! Incredible, even!

So, just so that you don’t feel left out when I post that amazing “WE WON” post, (because again, I really feel like we’re going to win…) how about you hop over to Aviva and register your email and throw your votes our way! You can vote once a day until December 11th. It’ll only take a few seconds of your time and we would VERY MUCH appreciate it!!!! I mean, I can’t even put into words what your votes mean to us. Okay, I’m done – it’s just that this a cause that is close to my heart. Obviously Wink 

Thanks so much and happy voting! Oh, did I mention that we’d love any shares, likes, tweets or pins also? We’ll take it all!

So again, “SOURIS A PLAYGROUND FOR ALL” thanks you!

A Playground for AllAviva



Cyber Monday Sale!

Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway last week. The winners have been contacted and we’re waiting to hear back from everyone!

A quick note this evening to let you know about the Cyber Monday Sale that Teachers Pay Teachers is having Dec 2nd and 3rd. I’ve decided to begin my sale this evening and my entire TPT store is discounted! Happy browsing!


Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Monday Sale

Krystal Mills, Lessons From The Mille, Teacher Blog