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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 2, Issue 5

March 2006



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We Wish A Warm Welcome 
to Mr. Holes' EDU 200 Class
from Spring Arbor College.

Thanks For Joining Us!  

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The Value of Effective Questioning 

by Dr. Peter Manute
Educational Consultant


In every classroom regardless of grade level, teachers are either answering questions or asking them. Effective teachers use both of these opportunities to create learning bridges or extensions to the desired learning outcomes. 

Just what are learning bridges or extensions? Well, some people call them "teachable moments" or an opportunity to enable students to make relevant connections or in some way enrich the learning experience. Some master teachers actually use an inquiry-based approach where one question and response leads to more and more. Ultimately students are engaged in higher order thinking skills (analysis, evaluation and synthesis levels) and are active participants in the learning process. 

Letís look for example, at an elementary lesson focusing on the Solar System. The teacher begins the lesson by assessing prior knowledge with a series of questions. Students respond and ordinarily that is that. By asking additional questions the teacher can actually provide the stimulus for extended learning. This technique also encourages active participation, critical in student retention. 

This approach can also be used when a student asks a question. Instead of providing the answer, turn it into another question for the entire class Ė "Thatís an interesting question, what do you think about that?" Again it encourages participation and when a studentís question or response is dignified, guess what? They are more likely to ask or respond again. 

An obvious question comes up Ė "What do I do when you ask a question and there are blank stares and no response?" All teachers have been there, so this is nothing new. One technique would be to provide a little wait time and ask students to think about it for a few moments. Another would be to provide a prompt, or a hint. Many times that will be enough for students to continue. Wait time actually supports the Intrapersonal Learning Style.  "It is one of those many teacher decisions that can challenge students to think for themselves as well as being an assessment tool."

Effective questioning is also a valuable technique when checking for understanding. Most lessons are a progression of activities integrated with formal and informal assessment strategies at each stage in the progression. Responses can be verbal or written, and can lead to some pretty interesting discussions, again creating learning extensions. 

The use of student slates in the elementary grades is an excellent way for teachers to assess step by step learning. Immediate knowledge of results is an effective tool that enables the teachers to move ahead with the confidence that their students are learning. 

Using effective questioning skills is a technique that can be very helpful in the classroom. It is one of those many teacher decisions that can challenge students to think for themselves as well as being an assessment tool. Try it, you may find that it opens many windows to inquiry and higher order thinking skills. In todayís teaching world, it is vital to actively involve your students - it works!


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A Happy New Year to you all from the staff at StarTeaching.  

Remember to bookmark this page and to visit our website for more great articles, tips, and techniques!

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Creating an In-Class Cable TV Network

By Frank Holes, Jr.
Middle School Teacher

Ever wonder if you and your students could create your own TV news show? Would you like to have announcements and school/class information available to students all class long? Would you like to avoid those students who were absent constantly asking you, "What did we do in class yesterday?"  It isn't only possible to do, but with a few pieces of equipment, it's easy to set up and run.

You, of course will need several pieces of hardware, including a TV or (digital projector) and a computer. You will also need the proper cables to connect the two. We've discovered that sometimes the resolution on some computers needs to be adjusted or changed, so check your monitors setting.  You might even need a scan-converter if all else fails.  Such a TV network can also be simply set up on a computer monitor which is turned to face the students.

Your computer will also need PowerPoint (or an equivalent presentation software). We've used such programs effectively on Macs, as well as Linux and Windows machines, and they all work well for this application.

PowerPoint has the feature of progressing through information or slides by either clicking your mouse, or by setting up timings between every action. Thus, you can have each word, line, paragraph, or even graphic animated automatically. You can change up the settings for different bits of info you have. Check the top menu for 'slide show', and follow down the menu to 'custom animation' (or look for a similar command). Once there, you can select each element to animate, the type of transition to occur, any sound you want associated with it, and also the timing (automatic, not on a mouse click). You will want to practice a few times until your timing is good, and there are enough seconds to see or read each element before the next animation or transition.

Even your slides can be changed automatically. Go to the 'slide show' menu and select 'slide transition' or 'set up show'. From there, you can choose the type of transition, and even its speed of animation. "If you are brave and want to create a great project, have your students run your daily announcements."

The key to automation of the entire show is the 'looping' feature of the program. Once your PowerPoint has been finished, set up the show so it continuously loops from the last slide to the first slide. Generally this is found in the 'slide show' menu under the 'set up show' command. It will direct you to set up the show to loop continuously back to the first slide. Voila! Your programming will continue to cycle over and over until you stop it.

You may wish to check your computer's settings so the machine doesn't go to sleep on you, or change to a screen saver. That would definitely defeat your purpose!

Now that you know how to set up a show, you have to decide what material or information to put out on display. I put up basic information such as the lunch menu, school or class announcements, and homework assignments. I will also post a class schedule and switch times if the daily schedule is altered. For the students who were absent, we also display class notes from previous classes. Now there is no excuse for students missing assignments or class information! And this saves you from having to deal with every returning student asking what was missed and where to find it.

If you are brave and want to create a great class project, have your students run your daily announcements. You could partner them up and have your first class of the day create the announcements. Another project is to have your students create storyboards, where a short story is broken up among a number of slides, each slide including pictures, clip art, or graphics to illustrate the story. You can find many good images online or in the clip art of your program. If you have access to a digital camera, you can even have students take their own pictures and insert them.

Yet another project we've done is to create a PowerPoint to summarize one class or a week's worth of class info. This becomes an animated newsletter or magazine. Again, assign a student to take photos on a digital camera during the class and combine these with articles on the various activities you've done. You might want to include students' work as examples.

There are also advanced techniques you can experiment with as you get better with the program. Sound can be added, such as background music, songs, or voice recordings. There are also ways to include video. Become an expert with the basics, and you'll be ready for these advanced techniques.


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Website of the Month:

Learning Resources
for Home and School

Our March WEBSITE OF THE MONTH award is presented to the BBC.co.uk site, Learning Resources for Home and School, located at the BBC website. This is an extremely useful site with a tremendous array of teaching activities, lessons, and information.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) website is a user-friendly site for teachers, educators, and students to supplement normal classroom activities.  It is fun and interactive, and includes many hands-on activities, simulations, games, and learning activities.  It is initially broken up by age levels, and then further by subject areas.  

The BBC School website also includes vast resources and information to use in classes, or in research.  Although I've only used the sections on history and English, there are many more areas to explore in all age levels, grade levels, and subject areas.     

History classes at our school use the BBC site for more information on various periods in history and cultures and civilizations.  Beyond the cultures of British history (Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, etc.), the site also has detailed information on Greeks, Romans, Shakespeare, and others.

There are also great lesson plans and activities for all grade levels and classes.  

Our Ancient Literature class has used the BBC site and its interactive games and simulations.  One of the student's favorites is the VIKING QUEST, a simulation where students play the role of a Viking, making decisions such as the settlement to start from, what type of boat to build, what crew to hire, and how to plan your attacks.  


Check this site out, you'll be glad you did.  Simply click the link below:





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"The Emperor's Seed"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

All the faces in the world are mirrors. What kind of reflections do you see in the faces of the people you meet?

Once there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different.

He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!"

There was one boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.

After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.

By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn't have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey nice try."

When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"

All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grown, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"

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The Value of Effective Questioning

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"The Emperor's Seed"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Spring Book Sale for Teachers

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10 Days Of


What does it mean to be 'LUCKY'?


Why do people believe in Luck?


What are THREE ways you can improve your 'Luck' at school?


Write a short story in which a student is 'Lucky' on a test.


Write down 10 important facts you've learned in class this week.


It is sometimes said, "Its better to be Lucky than to be Good."  Do you agree with this statement?  Why or why not?  


What are THREE ways that good preparation can be seen as 'good luck'?


Write down 5 True/False statements (with answers) about what we learned in class today.


Why do people wish others 'Good Luck' before they participate in a contest?


How can you make your own Luck?  Give THREE real-life examples.


10 days of writing prompts


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Lincoln On Leadership
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Donald T. Phillips




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Teaching Listening Skills

Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds

Master's Degrees

Creating Web Pages & PowerPoints 
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