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Have Yourself a Moby Little Christmas

Updated: Congratulations to Meghan L., the winner of the MobyMax tablet!

I know that everyone likes a good giveaway, and this is a pretty sweet one! Have you heard of MobyMax?  MobyMax tablets offer teachers and parents an amazing option to help their kids gain skills in Language Arts and Math. Students can work to close gaps in their learning by working through lessons on the Moby tablet, and continue to challenge themselves to move ahead. Teachers and parents can monitor their child’s results through reports that Moby offers. There are games and other “fun stuff” to motivate kids as well! 


MobyMax curriculum is based on the research of professor John Hattie, and it is a great way to differentiate in your classroom.


Although these tablets are specifically loaded with MobyMax curriculum so that you can individualize your instruction, they are still tablets and so you can load them with your favorite apps, as well. Want your own Moby? Entering is easy, and one lucky follower is going to a have a “Moby little Christmas”! 


Check out these specs!

moby specs

MobyMax Curriculum includes all of this? Wow!

moby 2

Contest ends December 21st, 2014! Be sure to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Incorporating Guided Math Into My Classroom

Guided Math, by Laney Sammons, was the second professional resource that I added to my reading list for this summer. It was quite a quick read and I’m ready to share with you what I have taken from the book.  I’m not going to completely review the book and give away all of the good stuff inside, as I don’t believe that the author would appreciate that. However, I’ll share with you my three “take-aways” that I’ll hopefully be able to incorporate into my room this year.

1) Use more small group instruction for math.

This one is VERY important to me, but I’m already overwhelmed with how much work this is going to be. Of course, there are heaps of research supporting using small groups for instruction and I am looking forward to trying to modify my main teaching style, which is definitely heavier on the whole class instruction side. The book did a great job of explaining how different small groupings may work and I related a lot to the idea of feeling like I’m failing by not being able to challenge everyone at their level, neglecting those at the top and those just floating by, while trying to get the whole curriculum “covered”.  It’s overwhelming to think about how I may possibly get to everyone more effectively, because their levels vary so much. That being said, I know that I am ready to try to spend more time working in small groups with my students. I know that it’ll be a learning experience, because of the class management systems that must be in place to not be interrupted and so on – but I know it’ll be worth it!


2) Start the day with a Math activity.

Well, the last literacy book I read suggested starting the day off with independent reading! I can’t do both…or can I? I’ve decided to flip-flop independent reading and morning math activities. Three days of the cycle they’ll start the day with reading and the other three days, I’ll have a quick math activity for them to do. Actually, I’m QUITE excited about this! Every year, I get students who still struggle with basic facts (I teach grade 7). It’s hard to find time to practice math facts, since the expectation is that they have their facts by now. You  know what? They don’t. Some of them just haven’t gotten them yet – for whatever reason, and this makes learning the grade seven concepts more of a struggle. Providing morning math activities that target basic skills and problem solving two or three times a week, will be super-helpful and might just give students the boost that they need!


3) Give choice.

In Math? This one, really got me! I give lots of different options in Language Arts and Social Studies for projects, topics, book reports, posters – whenever I can. But Math? I have NOT been giving choice in Math. I’ve given projects, played math games and created stations. However, I have NOT said – you can complete this activity OR this activity. Why? Not really sure, to be honest. However, this totally fits in with my goal (from a previous post) of using Bloom’s taxonomy more effectively AND working menus into my classes. I’d like to try to use menus for math – giving choice to my students and building in differentiation. It can be done. I’m sure of it! Even though I’ll inevitably fall on my face, trying to get it all done – I’m excited to try!


Guided Math is a great resource – especially for elementary grades. I focused in on just three things, so as to not be totally overwhelmed by all of the ideas that it offered. I think that I’m going to start with the morning math activities and then the math menus. Finally, I’m going to try to do more small group instruction, but I think that this one is something that I’ll be working toward all year – and not just in math! I’d like to spend more time with small groups in the other subjects that I teach as well.


There was a book study on Guided Math this summer, that I’d mentioned in a past post. If this book sounds like something you may be interested in, you may want to check out some of the conversations and comments that teachers made with this book study. Here’s the original post for the Guided Math Book Study.



So, over to you: Those of you who are already using small group instruction or guided math effectively…. How are you doing it? Class management issues? How time intensive do you find it, preparing the different tasks for the different groups, versus one activity that you modify for the class? What tips for time management could you offer?

Please share your thoughts and questions!!!



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

Finished of my first summer read! Plus a flash giveaway!

Okay, I’m doing a 2 Part Blog Post today…
Part 1: Finished my First Summer Read
Don’t you just love it when you devote your time to something and it pays off? Me too!
I just finished my first summer read  “Differentiated Instruction in the Whole-Group Setting”  about  a week ago. It was a quick read and had LOTS of great ideas that I really do hope to incorporate into my room in some way next year. Of course, I can’t simply give you everything from the book. The author, Betty Hollas, would probably not be too happy with me. That being said, I’d like to share with you my THREE “take-aways” from this book.

Lot of great ideas in this book!

When I read a professional book, I use lots of post-its (if I don’t own the book) and I try to narrow the information down to just 3 things that I could try to incorporate into my teaching – whether that be points of reflection, specific ideas or teaching strategies. From those three, I choose ONE to start with. The way I figure it, it’s like a cook book. Even if I just get one good recipe out of it – I’m happy. If I get one idea that I actually use, that works well for my students and that makes my classroom a better place to be – well then it was worth it! Then, I can move on to number two on my list.
This book would be excellent for a teacher who’s just starting out. There were lots of ideas in there that I already use in my room (which was sort of a pat on the back, actually) and many others that I’ve heard of, but that I just haven’t gotten around to incorporating. Some of my favorites (that I already use) from the book are: Anticipation Guides, “I Have, Who Has” and Exit Slips. Betty has included descriptions and reproducibles to go with these, and so many other strategies in the book.
So, what am I going to focus on from this book, you ask? What were my Ah-ha! moments? It was hard to narrow it down to three – but here we go!
1) I have recognized that I am still not using Bloom’s Taxonomy the way I would like. I use it. I try to use it properly and encourage higher level thinking. I need to try a bit harder! So, my first goal is to really focus on getting my students up to those higher levels of thinking, and try to spend less time in the Knowledge/Comprehension arena.
2) I plan to use more menus and cubing to help me with differentiation. I know that menus, especially, have been around for a while. Again – I do use them. I’d like to use them more! Actually, I hope to cheat a little and combine my #1 and #2 goals by creating menus using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a  guide of sorts, where possible. Cubing – same thing! Whatever questions or tasks I put on the cubes, I plan to make sure that there is a good selection of higher level options. 
3) Finally, this is not so much of a goal as a mantra for me. I’ve realized that small shifts in my room can have a huge impact on the lives and learning of my students. It won’t be possible to differentiate everything all of the time. But, if I keep doing what I’m doing now and add in some more of the “good stuff” that I’ve found in this resource, my classroom will begin to evolve into what I what I truly want it to be. That is, a place where I am able to reach all learners, build on their strengths and address their weaknesses in a way that they learn most effectively. Some day. I’m only a few years into my career, really. I’m figuring out that everything doesn’t just “come” overnight. Knowing how to differentiate and actually being able to find the time to do it, are two different things. That’s why my “take-away” for #3 focuses on the idea of “baby steps”.
Once the year is underway, I’ll fill you in from time to time on my successes and struggles with differentiating for my students and I’ll be asking for your tricks too, of course! I’m excited to have put some goals down in writing and also to have shared them with all of you. I plan to put these goals in writing on my desk as a reminder, too. I know that all of this together, will really help me to be more focused next year!
Part 2: Flash Giveaway
I’m in the mood for trying new things and one of you will really benefit from this! This is my first Flash Giveaway! All you have to do is make a comment on this post and fill out your name and email in the Lessons From The Middle Flash Giveaway form. You can comment about some aspect of differentiation, anything that I mentioned in this post, your own goals, your summer reading, your own struggles or successes in the classroom, a strategy that you use that you’d like to share, a question that maybe I, or someone else may be able to answer or comment on. I’ll use a random number generator to choose one winner tomorrow. The winner will have a choice of either my best seller: “Turn the First Days of School into PD For Students”  OR my newest math resource “Rounding and Place Value Activities“.
lessons from the middle, differentiation and giveaway

Rounding and Place Value Activities


lessons from the middle, differentiation and giveaway

Turn the First Days of School into PD for Students

 Good luck and I look forward to reading your comments!!! 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

How do you differentiate instruction in your classroom?

I know that we all do it when we can – offering different options for assignments, differential seating plans, the opportunity to work alone or within a group, the choice of reading this novel or that novel: Differentiation! We do it all of the time – probably without much thought.

I’m just starting a new chapter in Social Studies and I’m taking a different approach. I asked the students ahead of time, what they’d rather do: Create a collage, write a letter, draw a map, perform a role play, draw to represent something, make a game…and so on. I also asked them if they’d rather work alone, with a partner or a group. The information that I got back was SO helpful!

What I did, was go through my current Social Studies chapter. I broke the chapter down into tiny pieces. There were 3 students who wanted to make a map and three significant maps in this chapter: BOOM! Group 1. Three others wanted to do a collage – there is a section on the “Metis” that totally lends itself to a collage: BOOM! Group 2. There is a section on Louis Riel which is quite appropriate for a role play…and so on.

Each group, pair or individual has a small section of the text that they are responsible for. Modified students are in groups and so have had help with reading the text. They also are completing a small part of a larger task and so it builds in success for them.

Students will all present their small pieces, in order, thus “teaching” us the chapter. There are 2 groups creating games for the chapter and so when we play these – they’ll also be built-in opportunities to assess. I’ll be using a rubric to assess the groups’ basic understanding and knowledge of their section as well as what they are presenting – role play, drawing etc. Based on their piece and their oral explanation, I’ll be able to assign a mark. Reading strategies are at play here as well, as we’ve been working on summarizing in LA most recently. I feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone!

I’ll also be requiring students to assess themselves on how they worked in their group and how their group members worked. Finally, the students will all have to write a reflection based on what they learned in the chapter – not only from their “section” but from the other students’ presentations.

Differentiated Instruction, Lessons From The Middle

We all enjoy having some choice!

I hope to post updates and pictures as they’re available on this little project. The kids are fairly excited about it (we just started it today) and they can be a difficult group to impress. I think giving them so much choice in what they’d be doing, as well as assigning just a small chunk of material were both smart choices on my part. The assessment is the part that is giving me the most grief because of the wide range of “products” that students are working on. However, I plan to focus on their oral presentation/explanation of the piece as well as the piece itself. The reflection will also tell me a lot about how deeply they understand the information.

What have I been doing, you may ask, while they’ve been busily “teaching themselves”? I’ve been circulating, facilitating, working with individual students who need clarification and listening to my students talk about the material. Today was great! We’ll see how “on task” everyone is tomorrow!

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