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Guest Blog: Change a Student’s Life With One Quick Email

I’m so excited to have another guest blogger join in at Lessons From The Middle! I asked Catherine, today’s guest blogger, to tell me a bit about herself. She runs a nonprofit called Deep, which offers free after-school creative writing workshops to 400 public school students every year. She’s been teaching writing to middle school students for four years with Deep, and she also blogs about it at That Writing Lady. She also studied English at Yale, and finally, she told me that she does a great giraffe impersonation. Catherine obviously has a great sense of humor as well! Thanks again Catherine for insightful blog post.



We all know that students love to be recognized and rewarded for their hard work. We teachers do this every day through good grades, pats on the back, and gold stars. But what if I told you there was a way to recognize your students that would not only thrill them, but also give them a lasting source of pride that they and their families will remember for the rest of their lives (and impress the pants off your principal in the process)?

Well, here it is:

Get your kids on TV.

Think about it: have you ever been on TV? If you have (and you aren’t a celebrity), then you know that you will remember those fifteen minutes of fame for the rest of your life. Imagine how much more of an impression it makes on children. (I still have a vivid recollection of being on a local children’s show when I was in middle school—I’ve never felt cooler or more proud of myself.)

Sound difficult? It isn’t. Local news stations are usually starved for human interest stories, and your adorable students are just the thing they need to perk up their broadcasts. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Look up your local TV station’s website. Find emails for the local morning show hosts and evening news producers; they’re usually prominently displayed. If not, just call the station and they’ll tell you who to contact.
  2. Draft a quick email along the lines of, “Hi, my name is _______ and I teach _____ at ______. My students are just about to finish [a community garden project, a book publication project, huge musical production] and I think that it would be a great story for your program. I’m available by email or by phone at _______, and I would love to set up a time for you to send a crew here, or for me to send a student to your station for an interview.” If you’re feeling ambitious, you can attach a picture of an especially photogenic child doing said project.
  3. Send it.

That’s it.

My nonprofit, Deep, just did this for two of our students, and I can’t tell you how much the students (and their parents!) were bursting with pride when they walked into the TV station for an interview. Check out their interview here: Television Interview with Students Discussing “Deep”.

If you try it for yourself, I’d love to hear how it goes! Make a comment here or shoot me an email at



Such a great idea Catherine and congrats on the interview! You and your students did an amazing job!

We all love to be recognized for a job well done. Why not take Catherine’s advice? If it’s too late to do so this school year, hang on to the idea for next school year. Your students will never forget it.


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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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Want to be a Guest Blogger?

If you would like to write a guest post for Lessons From The Middle, I’d love to have you! Please, send me an email with your post attached. It should be about education, either for all grades OR the middle grades. Please be sure to include where you’re currently teaching, 3 interesting things about yourself and how long you’ve been teaching, so that I can introduce you to my readers. You can also email me with any questions. I look forward to hearing from you!