FEATURES  FOR   TEACHERS

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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 2, Issue 8

May 2006

   

 

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A warm spring welcome 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!
http://www.starteaching.com

Also, feel free to email this newsletter to a friend or colleague!  

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Student Biographies And Interviewing 

by Frank Holes, Jr.
Middle School Teacher

 

Our biography project begins with careful planning long before the actual class implementation. The first step is to set up the access to information. We arrange our time with our local librarian so she's well aware of the project expectations. She always thinks of details we need, and she's really good about setting out autobiography/biography books and materials for us.

The students each check out an autobiography/biography book from the library. I require teacher's permission and approval before check out. I do allow students to use outside books, but they must still be brought in to be approved.

We allow students to 'test drive' the books for a one-week span. If the subject is just too boring or awful for the student, I do allow them to change books (though the due date stays the same!) The most important aspect to me is the reading of the book; we'll take time every day during the project to quiet read in the classroom. I want to stress the importance of the reading of biographical text, since it's much different than the fictional works they normally read.

You can also skip ahead of the reading of the book and move right into the fact finding session. If you have internet access and an updated encyclopedia you can find most or even all of the facts abut your subject.  But make sure your students are reading the books too.  This is important to get an overall, rounded-view of their character.  Be careful that your students have chosen biographies and not historical fiction or the various 'diary' books out there now!

This next step is to identify what information you want your students to find about their subject. We call this our 'fact-finding' stage. We complete a note taking sheet which organizes the students' research. You can find a copy of our 'fact-finding' worksheet on our website.  There are basic facts to find such as personal and family information, employment, and education.  

"We allow students to 'test drive' the books for a one-week span. If the subject is just too boring or awful for the student, I do allow them to change books (though the due date stays the same!)"

Then there are the facts which must be uncovered, such as mentors they had, who they have influenced, their impact on society, and why they'll be remembered in history. Lastly, I'll have students complete several short writing assignments extending the new knowledge. Sometimes students create interview questions and formulate fictional answers based on what they think the person would say. Another idea is to create a fictional conversation with that person which is held around a dinner table or around a campfire. There are many applications you can create to use the students' facts.

Finally, you need to consider what the students will do with their completed research. We have had students create PowerPoint documents and give in-class presentations. We have had them create posters to display their findings. This year we're putting our research onto each student's website along with any multi-media that is available to us (such as clip art, photos, audio and/or video clips).

Most years, we will have students pair up and interview each other.  Students find out personal information about each other, such as basic family and friends, schools and education, and where they've lived.  They pose questions on likes/dislikes, favorites, and goals for the future.  You can go ahead and create a short sheet of sample questions, then allow students to create their own as the interview goes on (also check out our website for a FREE printable copy of the interview sheet we use in class).  Allow each student about 10-15 minutes to ask questions and write down answers, then have students trade roles.  

Now you have enough information to create student biographies (or give the data sheets to the owners and have students create autobiographies).  We will write these up in a narrative form to tell a life story, but we've also done projects like PowerPoints, web pages, and posters.  One favorite is cutting out t-shirt shapes out of paper and having students write on them and decorate them with photos, drawings, and clip art.  These are then presented to the class and hung in the hallways. 

The biography project is not only required in our curriculum, but it is also fun for the students.  It is also a great means of incorporating an informational text (non-fiction) into your class curriculum.  

Be sure to check out our website for a link to the FREE printable interviewing question page. Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

 

 

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U.S. Congress
Unit Plan

By Kelly Payne

Knowledge of government enables individuals to define the roles of citizens within a constitutional democracy and to compare the American system of government with other systems. Civic knowledge builds understanding about the exercise of power. With knowledge of government and politics, citizens are equipped to evaluate domestic and international policy and to exert influence in public affairs.

US Congress Unit Plan

Subject(s): Social Studies Grade/Level: 9-12 

Standards addressed by unit: Michigan Curriculum Frameworks 
• Subject: Social Studies • Strand III: Civic 

Perspective:

Students will use knowledge of American government and politics to make informed decisions about governing their communities.  Over time and in varying contexts, students construct an increasingly sophisticated civic perspective organized by the following themes: 

• Standard III.1: Purposes of Government - All students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local governments in the United States, describe how citizens organize government to accomplish their purposes and assess their effectiveness. All societies establish governments to serve intended purposes. The purposes served by a government and the priorities set have significant consequences for the individual and society. In order to accomplish their purposes, governments organize themselves in different ways. 

• Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Evaluate how effectively the federal government is serving the purposes for which it was created. Performance Benchmark 3: Evaluate the relative merits of the American presidential system and parliamentary systems. 

• Standard III.4 : American Government and Politics - All students will explain how American governmental institutions at the local, state, and federal levels provide for the limitation and sharing of power and how the nation’s political system provides for the exercise of power. The American system of government is based on shared power. Citizens who operate effectively within the federal system understand its institutions and how to work within them. 

• Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Analyze causes of tension between the branches of government. 

Time Required:10 class periods. 1.5 Hrs per class. 

Objective(s): To learn the basic workings of Congress and the process of how a bill becomes a law. Summary:  In this unit students will learn the basic workings of the United States Congress through various activities and learning techniques. Students will analyze and discuss current legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Students then will create their own bills and take them through the legislative process, with the end result being participation in a mock Congress simulation. 

STAGE I: IDENTIFY DESIRED RESULTS Enduring Understanding(s):  Students will understand the process of how Congress passes legislation that affects their daily lives and futures. Essential Questions:  How and why does Congress pass legislation that affects and changes a variety of aspects of life in America today? Knowledge and Skills: Students will be acquainted with what Congress does; Students will Identify how Congress is elected; Students will be able to describe the structure of each house of Congress; Students will be able to explain the in depth process of how a bill becomes a law. 

STAGE II: DETERMINE ACCEPTABLE EVIDENCE OF LEARNING (ASSESSMENT) What evidence will show that students understand? 

Performance Tasks (summarized):  Student written bills on a relevant issue in their life (attached), Students notes- to follow study guide and packet (attached), Redistricting activity, Mock Congress Simulation (attached)  
Attachments: 
1. Congress Packet Page 2 
2. Congress Packet Page 9: Describes the Process of How a Bill becomes a law 
3. Congress Packet Page 1: Congress Study Guide 
4. Congress Packet page 11: Blank bill for creation of own legislation 
5. Day 1 Congress simulation proceedings  To use the first day of Congressional simulation 

Other evidence: Committee Reports, Headline Activity, Pop Quiz Race (group activity, attached), Written reflection on Mock Congress (attached), How a bill becomes a law quiz, US Congress test. 

Attachments
1. Pop Quiz Race Reinforcement activity. Students complete this the day after finishing study guide. Students are given 7 minutes to fill in working off of memory, then they are given 5 minutes to work with notes, the final step is group work, students work together to make sure they all have the same information, and that it is correct. Groups race to get done first, then the group finished first, with the most correct receive a prize. 
2. Written reflection after Mock Congress - This is the Collins writing across the curriculum style 

Unprompted evidence:  Dialogue and participation in mock Congress, Discussion on a day in the life of a member of Congress, discussion on current bills in US House and Senate. 

Student Self-Assessment:  Students will self assess through the bills they write, and how well they participate in the mock Congress

Kelly Payne is a student at Lake Superior State University in Michigan.  Kelly has just finished a year of student teaching American history and government at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Michigan.

 



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Book of the Month Club:

Who Moved My Cheese?

by Spencer Johnson

Our May BOOK OF THE MONTH award is presented to Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese?  This short, easy to read book uses a simple storyline to describe how to deal with change in your life, your work, or your relationships.  

Dr. Spencer Johnson is the famous, international, co-best selling author of the New York Times best seller, One Minute Manager.  He is often referred to as "the best there is at taking complex subjects and presenting simple solutions that work." His books, including Who Moved My Cheese? show simple truths and ideas that help regular people to enjoy healthier lives, find more success, and deal with change and stress in their lives.  

Book Review from Amazon.com:
Change can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective. The message of Who Moved My Cheese? is that all can come to see it as a blessing, if they understand the nature of cheese and the role it plays in their lives. Who Moved My Cheese? is a parable that takes place in a maze. Four beings live in that maze: Sniff and Scurry are mice--nonanalytical and nonjudgmental, they just want cheese and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Hem and Haw are "littlepeople," mouse-size humans who have an entirely different relationship with cheese. It's not just sustenance to them; it's their self-image. Their lives and belief systems are built around the cheese they've found. Most of us reading the story will see the cheese as something related to our livelihoods--our jobs, our career paths, the industries we work in--although it can stand for anything, from health to relationships. The point of the story is that we have to be alert to changes in the cheese, and be prepared to go running off in search of new sources of cheese when the cheese we have runs out.

I've found this book particularly interesting and helpful because as a teacher, I'm seeing change every day, and every hour.  Especially in times of budget cuts, teacher layoffs, trimming of programs, and yet new educational requirements by our governments, a teacher's CHEESE is constantly being moved.  We have to be flexible, adaptable, and positive in these trying times.  Our CHEESE is often moved, changed, altered, and it even runs out.  

 “Each of us has our own idea of what CHEESE is, and we pursue it we believe it makes us happy.  If we get it, we often become attached to it.  And if we lose it, or it's taken away, it can be traumatic ... The 'MAZE' in the story represents where you spend time looking for what you want.  It can be the organization you work in, the community you live in, or the relationships you have in your life.” (Who Moved My Cheese, p.14) 

You can order a copy of Who Moved My Cheese by clicking the link to our affiliate, Amazon.com 

Have you read Who Moved My Cheese?  Do you have comments you’d like to share with our readers about this book? Email your responses to editor@starteaching.com. Please type in BOOK CLUB READER RESPONSE in the subject line. Responses will be posted on our website with the StarTeaching Book of the Month Club.  All responses will be proofread, and may be edited for content and space before publication.

 

 


 

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"If Your Dog Were Your Teacher"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

Here are a few simple life lessons from Man's Best Friend...

You would learn stuff like...
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.

  • Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

  • Take naps and stretch before rising.

  • Run, romp, and play daily.

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  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you
  • Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout - run right back and make friends.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
And MOST of all...
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.




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What's New at StarTeaching

Monthly Updates to our Website

 

Be sure to check out our website by clicking the link below:

http://www.starteaching.com

It's loaded with great tips and techniques by teachers for teachers.  You can find articles from the past newsletters, as well as special reports and 'freebies'.  

We've updated our Technology Page.  In addition to great articles on integrating technology in to classes, you'll find step-by-step directions for creating student web pages and Power Points.  

One great new freebie on the tech page is Mark Benn's Computer Literacy Terms worksheet you can print out and give to your students or make into an overhead sheet.  There are two worksheets, so you have one for beginners and one for more advanced students.

http://www.starteaching.com/technology.htm

 

See more of our Freebies as well as Special Reports on our website by clicking the quick link below:

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Make sure to BOOKMARK our website so you can keep up with more changes and additions through the year.  And feel free to share our site by EMAILING it to a friend.

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Email us at editor@starteaching.com

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In This Week's Issue 

(Click the Quick Links below):

Student Biographies and Interviewing

U.S. Congress Unit Plan

Book of the Month Club

Themes on Life:  
"If Your Dog Were Your Teacher"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Spring Book Sale for Teachers

Website of the Month


 

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"All we have of freedom, 
all we use or know -
This our fathers bought for us 
long and long ago."


     ~
Rudyard Kipling

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IDEA CENTRAL:

THE PLACE FOR ALL TEACHERS!

Do you have a great TEACHING TIP or ACTIVITY to share?

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Have you created WRITING PROMPTS that you’d like to add to our WEEKLY CALENDAR?

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All articles will be proofread, and may be edited for content and/or length.

 

10 Days Of
Writing 
Prompts 

Day
1

Why do we celebrate Memorial Day?

Day
2

What are FIVE important freedoms we now have that other countries do not?

Day
3

Why is it important to show your thanks to a veteran on Memorial Day?

Day
4

Would you have fought for our country's freedom?  Why or why not?

Day
5

Write a short poem describing what we learned in class this week. 

Day
6

Why do we have national symbols such as our flag, our national anthem, and the eagle?

Day
7

What are THREE reasons why monuments are built to honor past national heroes?

Day
8

Describe what the colors on our flag represent.

Day
9

How has our American Flag changed over the years?

Day
10

Write down FIVE true/false statements that describe what we learned in class this week.

 

10 days of writing prompts

 

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Website of the MONTH

Sheppard Software:
Online Educational Games
& Quizzes

 

Coming Soon:

Designing and Running a Medieval Fair

Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds

Using Magic in Class

Preparing for Student Teaching (part 2)


 

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