Success in the Middle Grades Workshop

February 27–28, 2017
Kansas City, Missouri

AMLE, in partnership with the Missouri Middle School Association, is bringing the learning to you! Join us as we travel to the "Show Me" state for this 2-day professional development event!

What you can expect

Monday, February 27, 2017 - Middle school experts-in-action will bring you engaging, research-based solutions during focused concurrent sessions.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Nationally recognized middle grades experts will provide exemplary, in-depth sessions on four critical strands including:

  • Engaging and motivating young adolescents
  • Classroom management solutions that work!
  • Meeting the needs of diverse and at-risk learners in the middle grades
  • Promoting Growth Mindset and Literacy Solutions

Kim Campbell
-Get to know

Victoria Lentfer
-Get to know

Charles Beaman
-Get to know

Dru Tomlin
-Get to know

Kim Campbell has been a proud middle level geography teacher for the past 19 years and loves it!! She is very involved in her school and has a variety of roles. Currently, she is a part-time 7th grade geography teacher as well as the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Specialist) coordinator for her school. She has also been a team leader and a member of her school's Equity Team and Literacy Team. She is also the founder and coordinator of an after school program called Students on Academic Rise (SOAR), a program created to address the achievement gap. In 2004, she was a semi-finalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year, and in 2007, she was chosen by Fox 9 News as one of their nine "Top Teachers" of the year, and recently she was named Minnesota Middle School Teacher of the Year. Kim is a consultant who has facilitated workshops around the country and world.

Victoria Lentfer is an education instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She teaches classroom management and middle grade courses. She is an educational consultant and founder of the CALM Classroom Management Program, which is a comprehensive behavior management and teacher leader program that provides communication models to guide teachers and students to a safe and compliant classroom. She has more than 20 years of experience of providing instructional support and teaching at both the middle and high school urban districts.
Charles Beaman was a middle school English teacher and principal for 30 years, consults frequently for Staff Development for Educators, and works with schools nationally and internationally. He recently studied international educational practices in Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Finland. A dynamic and energetic speaker, Charles is known for his practical and humorous presentations.
As the Director of Middle Level Services for the Association of Middle Level Education, Dru Tomlin, Ph.D. has a commitment to educational improvement and a passion for teaching, learning, and middle school. In 1994, Dru began his 18 year career in education as an English teacher at Harrisonburg High School in Virginia and then, in 1998, he discovered the joys of middle school in Georgia as a language arts, reading, and social studies teacher and then as a school administrator. He has also been a school system staff development trainer and a faculty member for AMLE's Leadership Institute, believing firmly in the power of professional learning. For his work, Dru has been recognized as a school system Teacher of the Year and as Georgia's Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year. He holds a Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning and a M.S. in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University and a B.A. in English/Secondary Education from James Madison University.

Workshop Schedule

Monday, February 27, 2017
Registration 7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m.
General Session: Key Ingredients of an Effective & Amazing Middle Grades School (60 min) 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m.
Concurrent Session 1 (60 min) 9:15 a.m.-10:15 a.m.
Concurrent Session 2 (60 min) 10:25 a.m.-11:25 a.m.
Lunch (included) (45 min) 11:35 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Concurrent Session 3 (60 min) 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Concurrent Session 4 (60 min) 1:40 p.m.-2:40 p.m.
Concurrent Session 5 (60 min) 2:50 p.m.-3:50 p.m.
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Welcome/General Session (10 min)
8:00 a.m.-8:10 a.m.
Strand Sessions (Part 1)
(with Kim, Victoria, Charles, and Dru)
8:15 a.m.-11:25 a.m.
Lunch (included) (45 min) 11:35 a.m.-12:20 p.m.
Strand Sessions (Part 2)
(with Kim, Victoria, Charles, and Dru)
12:30 p.m.-3:40 p.m.
Closing/Adjournment (10 min) 3:40 p.m.-3:50 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Monday, February 27, 2017

STOP! Collaborate and Listen!
Amanda Blackwell and Racheal Watson
Join two crazy teachers as we break it down through a series of engaging activities that can be used in the classroom (mainly math but applicable to other classes as well). There will be a focus on engaging students to be active as well as sharing ideas on collaboration.

The Effect of Trauma on Students' Social-Emotional Skills and Academic Growth
Anatasia Linebach
In this session, we will explore the relevance of an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score, research on how trauma affects the development of the brain, and how those two variables affect a student's experience and success in the classroom. Students exposed to trauma are at greater risk for behavioral and learning issues in the classroom as well as developing chronic health issues and high-risk behaviors as they enter early adulthood. Research shows that the earlier and more frequently children are exposed to trauma, the harder it is to re-wire their brains. Additionally, these children become hyper-sensitive and tend to live in survival mode, fight/flight/freeze, which presents in a classroom a myriad of ways including defiance, apathy, disassociation, lack of trust with an adult, lack of empathy, and the inability to read social cues. This behavior hinders their academic growth because they are functioning in their emotional brain (amygdala) and not their thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex). This session will provide the research and resources to begin becoming a trauma-sensitive educator and what that looks like, sounds like, and feels like in a classroom.

Snapchat for Education? YES! #BookSnaps
Tara Martin
Let’s create BookSnap reflections using the Snapchat app to annotate and share excerpts of a book or text. Why? Easy. BookSnaps allow the reader to connect an idea or thought by creating a digital visual representation. This visual representation solidifies the text content within the mind and signals the brain to retrieve the idea from memory.

Gamification with Classroom Goals
Colleen Carter-Skiles
At the middle level, gamification is a strategy to encourage increased participation and excitement within the student about learning the content. The question remains: "How can you take gamification to the next level?" Middle level educators can use gamification and goal setting to differentiate the learning environment to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom. Gamification and goal setting can create a classroom environment that encourages students to try new approaches to learning and supports the students to try again when the level is reached. Middle level educators can then use the goals to track students' achievement, differentiate lesson plans, work with individual students, set specific objectives, and discover the tools needed to create success in the classroom. Participants in the session will learn about the benefits of gamification and goal setting, use the objectives from the content areas as the base of the goals, and work on techniques and strategies to gamify lessons. At the end of the session participants will have a set of techniques ready to use in the classroom.

Collaborate, Motivate, Educate, Caffeinate: Professional Learning and Lattes
Erin Paysen
Hear from a junior high instructional coach and building leader who helped shift a staff culture that perceived professional learning as something that happens to teachers into one that views it as an opportunity for enjoyment and empowerment while building leadership capacity in staff and building relationships. Learn about the creation of the "Lancer Cafe," where staff members gather, collaborate, and motivate with colleagues throughout the school day, and the more focused "Learning and Lattes" after-school sessions that provide opportunities for teachers to share their expertise and explore areas of interest together while sharing the responsibility of leading. Learning & Lattes has provided an opportunity for staff to share learning from a multitude of sources to help us best meet the needs of our students. Topics have included increasing our understanding of Social and Emotional Learning, technology-enabled learning, and takeaways from professional conferences including AMLE (Teach Like a Pirate, Brain Breaks, etc.). From theory to logistics, from development to refinement, grab a cup of coffee, learn about one journey, and begin your own. Participants will collaboratively, electronically generate ideas for potential Learning & Lattes-type sessions in their buildings, share stories about fostering a culture of learning for ALL, and walk away with ideas and electronic resources to help their school continue to improve.

Improving Attitudes about Writing
Kristina Buttrey
Teachers often create stumbling blocks for themselves through their own attitudes about writing. Additionally, to have true success with writing, student attitudes have to be considered. Thus, participants will get some background information on the importance of teacher and student attitudes when participating in writing instruction. Additionally, 10 simple steps (strategies) will be introduced to improve teacher and student attitudes about writing.

Student-Led Conferences in Action
Liese Rhodus, Travis Marcum, Ellen Woolery, Dana Kendrick, and Christi Sexton
This session will look at our school's planning process and implementation of student-led conferences. Going to school is no longer about showing up and doing the things in the textbook; our students now need to be aware of where they are academically and where they are going. Student-led conferences are a way for students to use their real data from MAP and state test scores to set annual goals and to monitor their personal academic growth. Using Prezi, members of our team will share how things rolled out as well as the various outcomes we discovered during the year of initial implementation. Our team will share the surprises that emerged during the initial year and we will discuss the adjustments made the subsequent year of implementation. Overall, our team feels that the implementation of student-led conferences has been successful and has benefitted the students, their parents, and the faculty. As faculty of the laboratory school in the College of Education at Eastern Kentucky University, we see the value of these conferences in fostering a sense of student ownership as students are making their transitions from elementary to middle school as well as from middle to high school.

Growth Mindset: Unraveling Teachers' Sacred Selection of Literature Selection
Lisa Bruce
This workshop explores language arts teachers' selection process of adolescent literature in middle school. The purpose of this session is to explore how teachers utilized and developed a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006) while critically examining their book selection used within the Language Arts curriculum. After a quick analysis of the literature being used in the middle school Language Arts block, we noticed that teachers were using literature written by "dead white guys" and that a global point of view across texts was missing. We developed a literature analysis tool to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of the literature that was being selected and read within the middle school classrooms. All learners need authentic literacy experiences and stories that facilitate knowing and create opportunities to collaboratively examine analytical texts that invite students to see critical connections. Teachers took on a growth mindset as they analyzed their literature for a global point of view, international authors, action within the plot, a balance of a focus on relationships versus action, Lexile levels of the texts, and in-depth examination of the ethnicity of the characters within the text. Book lists of current book selection from the past two years, students' preferences in literature, and current global literature will be shared with participants. This workshop supports This We Believe by reinforcing curriculum that is relevant, challenging, and innovative.

Engaging Reluctant Readers through Fusion Reading
Michael Hock
Fusion Reading is designed to re-engage students in the reading process, especially students who are at risk for various reasons. Fusion Reading (FR) is a comprehensive and structured middle school reading program that is responsive to individual reader needs in grades 6-7-8. The program includes components on motivation, classroom management, and all reading component skills. FR is an evidence-based program for middle school students who have been minimally responsive to previous reading instruction. During this session, we will review the program's components, share videos of classroom instruction, and answer participant questions. Objectives include: (a) gain knowledge of the Fusion Reading program and the nature of struggling adolescent readers, (b) participate in FR instructional activities, (c) discuss ways FR can be integrated into existing middle school curricula as an intensive supplemental course, and (d) review evidence supporting the program.

Everyone Thinks, Everyone Talks: Building Confidence in Math Through Daily Number Talks
Melissa Buntin
In this session, learn how daily number talks engage all students and help build confidence in a child's mental math ability. Participants will practice number talks specific to the middle school classroom, and will leave with materials and ideas that can be implemented immediately in the classroom.

Socratic Seminar: Passing the Leadership Torch
Melody Hapner
This session will not only have your kids engaged, but they'll be asking to do it again and again! In this session, you will learn step-by-step how to prepare for and set up a student-led Socratic Seminar for grades 7-12. Implementing the Socratic Seminar within the classroom can result in significant improvement in the areas of verbal communication, listening skills, critical thinking, leadership skills, and compromise. The Socratic Seminar method, which utilizes questioning as a foundation for exploration, will encourage students to discuss literature and social issues in greater depth than other modalities of instruction will yield. After having successfully implemented Socratic Seminar in the high school grades, I brought it with me to the middle school this year, and my students are motivated, engaged, and eager to lead within this platform. In addition, I have successfully guided several of my colleagues through the process of implementing their first Socratic Seminar, and I'm eager to do this for even more teachers through this session. I will take you through the importance of proper preparation, and then go into how to set up and conduct a successful Socratic Seminar. Videos and student work of seminars will be shared and analyzed.

Nurturing Student Motivation through Possible Selves
Michael Hock
Possible Selves (PS) are visions of oneself in the future. These visions can include goals one hopes to achieve, what one expects to achieve, and what one fears in the future. These visions can motivate middle school students to engage in learning and understand that goals are malleable. This session will describe the Possible Selves program, show participants how to integrate PS into existing curricula, allow participants to experience part of the program, and discuss how to align the school experience with student hopes and dreams for the future. Objectives include: (a) gain knowledge of the Possible Selves program, (b) participate in PS activities, (c) discuss ways PS can be integrated into existing middle school curricula, and (d) review evidence supporting the program.

Help! I'm Not a Reading Teacher! How am I Supposed to Teach Reading in My Class?
Rachelle Meyer
You chose to be a teacher because you love your subject area. You are an expert in your content area, but now you are expected to teach reading. You planned to nurture future artists, athletes, musicians, mathematicians, not readers! Come learn nonfiction reading strategies that will aid your students in deeper comprehension reading the "text" of your class. These strategies will increase student engagement and achievement in your classroom.

Reaching Reluctant Readers
Rachelle Meyer
Sometimes students can read, but won't. Sometimes students want to read, but can't. Sometimes students seem to read fluently and want to comprehend, but don't. I wondered how a student could make it to middle school and still be reading at a primary level. I struggled with how to teach kids that were reading on grade level and above when I had so many reading far below grade level with no other reading support available to me. All of these things plagued me as a classroom teacher and drove me to find solutions to help every child learn to love reading. Come learn how you can support the struggling readers in your classroom.

Global Collaborations Transform Your Classroom
Rhett Oldham
Global collaboration projects enable students to work together with peers around the world. Allowing them to communicate and collaborate with peers in other countries provides students with opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills needed for global citizenship. These projects also engage students in learning digital citizenship and Web literacy skills.

Teaching and Assessing Students for 21st Century Skills
Shalee Jo Lindsey and Melissa Beberniss
What does "career ready" really mean in the business world? Some of the most vital skills students require involve not only cognitive processes, but mindset, resilience, and outlook, along with the ability to interact responsibly. This session will give you a glimpse of what a 21st Century curriculum looks like, based on Robert Marzano's book, Teaching and Assessing 21st Century Skills when it's taught as a core subject or embedded in any class.

Making the World Around Us Matter
Sharon Alexander
Middle school is about capturing kids' hearts and helping them understand that they have a place in this world. School's I have led have been high-performing, ranked schools, but have often missed the nurturing link because teachers are not given "license" to teach more than the content Instead, content has come first, and the ability to capture hearts and minds comes second, if it's even addressed. In this sessions I will encourage teachers to involve current events and issues to increase critical thinking, analysis, and an understanding of how one fits in the world. Middle school is about starting dreams and goals, and developing young people who inspire the world. Teachers are the catalyst, and they can boldly assist students to discover their place in the world. Students observe news from around the world, and see that the events of the day have an impact not only on them, but on others. The middle school classroom is an ideal place for students to emerge from being egocentric learners to ones that understand that their actions affect the world in small and impactful ways. Teachers need the freedom to engage in their students' world and tackle challenging issues like racism, sexism, and life situations. In this session, teachers will be given strategies to teach collaboration for student discussions and the use of digital literacy to share world stories and individual stories of struggle and caring for self, others, and the world.

When Do We Learn About Ourselves?
Sharon Alexander
Growing up as an African-American female, I rarely, if ever, saw anyone who looked like me on television, in books, or anywhere. I thought I did not matter, and I later learned about the legacy and difference great leaders of color have made in this world. What made them great and why should the middle school student care about past great leaders? Because he or she will one day be thrust into these great leaders' roles and footsteps? Who will be the next Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., or Rosa Parks, when they are rarely learned about in the classroom? While I was in middle and high school this information did not exist unless I took a Black History class. I later learned in college about the greats of my culture, which influenced who I am today. Why wait to share knowledge about who students are? The biggest challenge in education today is its unwillingness to address inequalities and inequities in the world. We understand many school funding systems are inherently unfair, and there is continued disparity that contributes to achievement gaps and "haves versus have nots," but we have to be bold in helping students understand and embrace who they are as a people and culture. Where are the embedded stories on other races and cultures in US history lessons? Where are the students who look different than the people featured in the textbook or who may not be mentioned but are sitting in the classroom? What if they are not in the classroom, but they're only shared by the media, and students truly never gain an understanding of others? This session will investigate the importance of curriculum development that embraces diverse and at-risk learners and implores teachers who sit on those committees to insist on ALL of their students' history being shared. Instruction in the classroom must be intentional and tools will be shared with teachers to make this a reality in their schools.

Want To Peek Into the Minds of Your Students While Teaching?
Tara Martin
During this workshop, participants will be engaged and prompted to share their thinking VISIBLY by using the media app resources embedded within SeeSaw: photos, videos, drawings, text, voice recordings, and links through a collaborative digital journal. The content will be uploaded, organized, and immediately accessible to the facilitator and participants for collaboration. The purpose of this session is to gauge the thinking of the participants (or students in our classroom) as it pertains to analysis of a variety of texts, characters, and cognitive concepts in any subject. The digital portfolio creates a bonus of collaborating with classmates and developing digital citizenship, as well.

Interactive Academic Vocabulary Strategies: Which Strategy Will You Add To Your Toolbox for Success?
Timothy Watkins
The ideas presented in this session are based on research completed by Dr. Robert Marzano in the area of vocabulary instruction. The presenter will include a brief overview of Marzano's six steps of effective vocabulary instruction. The content presented in the session will consist of interactive ways to teach academic vocabulary in any content area to any level of students. Examples of the interactive strategies are vocabulary triangles/squares/diamonds, graphic organizers, concept circles/maps, word sorts/webs, including interactive games and online games/websites such as Kahoot, Jeopardy, Four in a Row, Socrative, and many others.

Strand Sessions

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Classroom Management Solutions that Work!
Victoria Lentfer
Looking for ways to create a calm and peaceful classroom? Not sure how to deal with that challenging student? Do you want easy strategies to de-escalate challenging situations and lessen the opportunity for a power struggle? Then join me and discover how to enhance your communication skills and reduce disruptions in your classroom by implementing simple communication models that will ultimately empower the students to make appropriate choices. Participants will be able to implement these strategies the next day and engage in role play activities to demonstrate how the communication models are implemented.

Engaging and Motivating Young Adolescents
Kim Campbell
Shake, Rattle, and Roll: Motivating the Middle School Student - Looking for a little “spice” to fire up your students? Want quick, easy activities to engage your class? If so, join me and learn hands-on activities and strategies designed to motivate the middle school student. Activities, used in a geography class, will be presented but can easily be adapted to any subject matter.

Meeting the Needs of Diverse and At-risk Learners
Charles Beaman
All students deserve a high quality education. With an escalating population of diverse and difficult-to-teach students, principals and teachers are experiencing problems with closing the achievement gap and connecting with all learners. Participants in this session will walk away with a dozen simple and unique strategies to engage the most reluctant learners and open the door to academic achievement.

Promoting Growth Mindset and Literacy Solutions
Dru Tomlin
Helping students understand, celebrate and grow their learning potential is one of our most vital responsibilities as educators. In this active session, we'll discuss how we can make that happen, so all students can achieve more--through the power of growth mindset. Discover how to promote growth mindset in your classroom, grade level and school through practical literacy-based strategies. Join this session and keep going strong with growth mindset!


All events are being held in conjunction with the University of Missouri – Kansas City.

The Kauffman Foundation Conference Center
Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
4801 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, Missouri 64110

Free parking is available directly in front of the Conference Center with additional parking across Rockhill Road at the Memorial Gardens. If these lots are full, guests can park at UMKC and walk down to the Conference Center.


While AMLE does not have a formal block of rooms reserved, see the list below for hotels within 5 to 6 miles of campus.

Residence Inn Kansas City Country Club Plaza
4601 Broadway
Kansas City, Missouri 64112

Hampton Inn & Suites Kansas City-Country Club Plaza
4600 Summit
Kansas City, Missouri 64112

Courtyard Kansas City Country Club Plaza
4600 JC Nichols Parkway
Kansas City, Missouri 64112


Registration is now closed

Included in registration:

Attendee Registration Rates
AMLE Professional Member
$200 (U.S) 
Non-Member & Associate Member
$250 (U.S.)
All non-members receive a one-year Complimentary Individual Professional Membership.

-cancellation policy-


Cancellations must be made in writing and received a week before the event date. AMLE cannot be responsible for cancellations that are made by phone. A $35 (U.S.) processing fee is assessed for all cancellations. No refunds will be issued after the registration deadline, a week before the event date.

Registration fees include all presentations, course materials, and lunch each day of the event. Attendees are responsible for accommodations, transportation. Registrations must be received a week before the event date.

Within 14 days of your registration, AMLE will send you a confirmation email. Registrations received after the registration deadline may be returned, and you may be asked to register on-site at the on-site registration rate.

Continuing Education Contact Hours

Contact hours are now offered with your attendance at the Success in the Middle Grades workshop! A certificate for 12.6 hours of continuing education will be emailed to you a few weeks after the event.