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Accessible Mathematics – I Got The Power!


accessible math

I had mentioned this book Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement
in a previous post and I had also mentioned that I would be following up with my insights as I read the book, throughout the summer. (Thanks for the inspiration Andrea @ For The Love of Teaching Math.)

I just read the introduction, which was quickly curtailed with, “Mommy…Mommy…Mommy…you play Legos with me?” How can I say, “No” to that?

So, I’m only three pages in, but I’m loving the common sense feel so far. This is what I have surmised. It really is the instruction of each teacher in the classroom, that will determine much of the success of the students in the room. If we engage them, or bore them; teach at them or to them; consider their learning needs and our delivery of the material. It’s our job and it truly is all up to us! No pressure…

When you stop and think about it, a teacher really could mess up a class of students, without too much trouble! I know, it’s a scary thought – but stay with me. Just imagine for a moment, that you are not the forward-thinking, best practice seeking professional that you are. What if you made your class copy out each problem, word for word, from the book before answering it? Think about all of the time wasted with this “instructional choice”.  How much more success would your students potentially have if more time was spent on instruction, rather than copying?  It’s a simple example, but I think that you catch my drift! So, I’ve come up with an “instructional mantra” if you will, to remind teachers of their part in determining the success of their students,  “I Got The Power!”

Okay, I can’t just drop a line like that without a musical interlude – so here you go… Let’s meet back here in 5!

Seriously though, we do have the power! I know, that so much of our students’ success lies with them – their efforts, their attitudes and their aptitudes. However, you can’t downplay, the fact that we set the stage for learning and it is up to us how each and every minute in our classrooms is spent. Personally, I do think that I make the most of my instructional time – to the best of my ability. I am human, of course, but I always try my best. That being said, I also know what I need to work on. I need to focus more on problem solving strategies and giving time for students to actually struggle through problems. I find it frustrating, because they get frustrated so easily and shut down at the drop of a hat. I need to figure out a way to instill some perseverance in to the youth of today! I also know, that I need more time built in to my lessons for review.

So, what do you think?

Are you using the most of your time, each and every day, to the best of your ability? Do you feel as though you are using adequate time for instruction? How much weight do you believe should be put on to teachers’ instruction, in determining the success of their students? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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My Summer Read Has Arrived! Accessible Mathematics

I was pleasantly surprised just the other day when I went to collect my mail at the post office, and found that my prize from a blog contest that I entered had arrived! You know that I love PD and professional books. Well, I won a book called Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement, from Andrea, over at For The Love of Teaching Math. (Thanks again, Andrea.) I haven’t even gotten to sit down and have a really good look yet, but I’m dying to find some time to delve in. The ideas in this book are not about completely revamping your program, but making small shifts in what you already do. Some phrases that jumped out to me in reading the book’s description: “practical” “common-sense ideas” and “streamline your teaching”. Yes, please! I’ll take one of each!


mistake pencilI always read at least one or two professional books over the summer – and it looks like this is going to be one of them! I know, I know. Summer time is a time of rest and relaxation, but for me a big part of the summer is also working on improving my craft and finding at least a few new ideas that I may incorporate into the next school year. (I think it’s because I still feel so lucky to have a job, with the current state of education in my area, even though I’m almost seven years in.)

Anyhow, I’m not going to commit to a “book study” on the book. I’d love to, but I think that it’s just more than I’d like to sign up for – I’m running low on energy! I know that many of you may be in the same boat. However, this is a slim, little read at under 90 pages (there are multiple Appendices in addition to that, though). Very do-able if you are looking for a professional math read this summer. It also has examples from across the grade levels, so if you teach math – you’ll find something useful to take away, I’m sure!

I’m excited to start reading and seeing what common-sense ideas it has to offer me! I’ll be sure to share my main takeaways from the book in future blog posts this summer. If you have read the book, or would like to – please be sure to comment from time to time to tell me your thoughts. A conversation about these 10 shifts would be great.

Thanks again, Andrea. You’ve made choosing a summer reading focus pretty simple this year! I hope that all is well in your state of Oklahoma.


Do you read professional resources in the summer? Do you have a book that you could recommend? Please leave a comment with the title and I’ll add the links to the bottom of this post as they come in!


Some of your favorite professional reads:


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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