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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 2, Issue 21

November 2006


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Developing a School-Wide
 Essay Writing Program

by Frank Holes, Jr..
Middle School Teacher

Recently we have upgraded our middle school writing program to expand the basic paragraphs our students are writing into multiple paragraph essays.  We came to make this change after reviewing the released essays from our MEAP test (Michigan's high stakes test).  The MEAP showed multiple paragraph essays scoring higher than single paragraph essays.  We decided there and then to adjust our program.  We also discussed his change with our high school teachers.  They use and teach up to five paragraph essays, so we figured we ought to change a bit of what we do to better prepare our students for the rigors of high school.  This is a time consuming process which is taking time to develop and teach to students.  The first thing is to get all the writing teachers on board. 

When our middle school teachers got together, there were a variety of viewpoints and ideas to consider.  After much debate and development, a plan was put in place.  The plan has two parts, one dealing with individual paragraph development, and the other in developing an essay format using several paragraphs linked well together.

Our plan for teaching the writing of individual paragraphs progresses each year.  At the eighth grade level, students are expected to write paragraphs of at least eight sentences and 125 words.  Each paragraph must have a topic sentence, at least three supports, a personal life experience, and a clincher statement. 

At the seventh grade, students' paragraphs must have eight sentences, but only a minimum of 100 words.  Each must also have a topic sentence (T.S.), at least three supports, a P.L.E., and a clincher statement (C.S). 

In the sixth grade, paragraphs are to be at least six sentences long and at least 80 words long.  Included in the paragraph are a T.S., three supports, a P.L.E., and a C.S. 

The fifth grade (the youngest in our building) will concentrate on sentence structure and build up to a detailed paragraph.  This will be at last five sentences long and at least 60 words in length.  This paragraph will include a T.S., three supports, and a clincher or a personal life experience to wrap up. 

Part two of the middle school plan is the development of an essay from these basic paragraph structures.  Since the fifth graders are only concentrating on sentences and the development of a single paragraph, the essay development is slated for sixth grade through eighth grade. 

Essays at the sixth grade will be at least two paragraphs and 160 words, each paragraph having 80 or more words.  These are great for compare / contrast essays where two different sides are discussed. 

Seventh grade essays will build up to three or more paragraphs, and 200 or more words (100 words per paragraph).  Here we're looking for more thorough development of the topic and relevant details and examples.  And in the eighth grade, essays will extend up to four paragraphs, and a whopping 600 words (125 per paragraph.)

We will teach the development of a topic sentence in the first paragraph for the entire essay.  It will HOOK the reader and introduce the overall topic of the essay.  We will also teach the creation of a clincher statement in the last paragraph that wraps up and summarizes the paragraphs while providing a THEME (a life lesson to be learned by the reader). 

Main points of the topic each have their own paragraph, so a three paragraph essay will have three main points.  Supports for each main point will be organized in a logical fashion and spread through each respected paragraph.  Then relative details and examples will be used to exemplify each support.

Eighth graders will also develop a LEAD, a personal life experience or story at the very beginning of the first paragraph.  This acts as a HOOK to capture the reader's attention while making a personal connection with the reader. 

There is still much to do, and we know this implementation will take time.  And we know there will be changes along the way.  One area we've already encountered is the use of figurative language in the examples and personal experiences of the students.  We are already planning on adding this later on this year.  If your school is in the stages of updating your writing program, remember to keep a positive attitude, look carefully at good examples released by your state, and develop a strong program that everyone can buy into. 

Be sure to check out our website for more great information, tips, and techniques for new teachers, student-teachers, and interns in teacher prep programs. Also be sure to check out our Who-I-Want-To-Be teacher plan for preparing yourself to enter the educational profession.  Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

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School Band Fundraisers

By Kimberly Reynolds

Talk about your hard workers! Band groups are awesome when it comes to putting forth the effort it takes for fundraising success. The key is making sure they have the right fundraiser that will leverage all that energy.

In this article, we'll consider three band fundraisers that:
*Take some effort
*Are perfect for medium-sized groups
*Produce excellent results

Citrus Fruit:
One band fundraiser that fits the easy fundraiser formula is selling cases of citrus fruit shipped direct from the Florida groves.

Here, the band members use an order-taker brochure to explain the offering to prospective supporters.

You really need to go door-to-door or sell from a merchant table to achieve the kind of numbers where you'll raise substantial funds. This is perfect for a band group with enough members to canvass entire neighborhoods by working in pairs.

Customers can choose from Navel Oranges, Tangelos, Tangerines, Red Grapefruits, and mixed cartons. Order sizes range from ten pounds all the way up to forty pounds.

A common size is 2/5 of a bushel or 20 pounds. Generally, you can expect to pay roughly $8 for this size and make a profit of $4 each. These are rough prices because citrus fruit can vary in price based on weather patterns and availability.

Citrus fruit is a wintertime offering with availability best between mid-November through mid-April. There are discounts for large orders and bonuses for ordering a whole truckload.
Christmas Wreaths:
Another band fundraiser that's a good fit is selling Christmas wreaths via an order-taker brochure.

It's another late fall fundraiser that takes advantage of a holiday "must have" decoration.

Since they're made fresh, you can get an early jump on the retail stores and conduct your fundraiser as an order taker before Thanksgiving.

There are a number of offerings in addition to the traditional door wreath.

Suppliers also offer door swags, mantelpieces, centerpieces, candle wreath packs, and fresh cut holly. Prices range from $17 up to $50.

Profits are approximately 40% of the selling price on most items, so it makes a great band fundraiser because the total revenue is high.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how quickly your band profits can add up with an aggressive marketing campaign. You need to set some high goals for each band member, such as ten sales each before Thanksgiving.

Delivery is easy, with each wreath sealed in a plastic bag to preserve freshness. Get your orders in early and allow two weeks minimum for delivery.
Coffee Fundraiser:
A third band fundraiser that produces great results is a coffee sale. Like the other two fundraisers we've already discussed, a large selection of pre-bagged coffee products are sold via an order-taker brochure.

Your supporters can select from twenty or more flavors. Most suppliers have small "dollar bags" or the better selling half-pound package.

Usually, the cost for a half pound of quality coffee is $3, and the retail price is $5 or $6. You can offer a choice of whole bean, or ground varieties.

The idea here is to tap into the market for something that almost every household buys regularly, then expand upon it with multiple flavors.

Their names conjure up images of a cup of coffee wafting delicious aromas throughout the kitchen - flavors like Hazelnut, Toasted Almond, Hawaiian Coconut, Butterscotch, or Morning Glory.

Again, success is best achieved by presenting your offering to large numbers of prospective supporters. Set up a table at any event that draws a large crowd. Offer samples from tiny paper cups. Get the word out to as many people as you can.

Your band group works hard. Make sure you pick a band fundraiser that works just as hard by being impossible to resist. 

Kimberly Reynolds writes about fundraising ideas and tips on band fundraisers on her website. Find hundreds of fundraiser ideas on her website:  http://www.fundraiserhelp.com/fundraiser-ideas.htm

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Our November WEBSITE OF THE MONTH award is presented to, FunBrain, an interactive site for students and teachers.  

FunBrain is an excellent and fun website for both students and teachers in the elementary and middle school grades.  Great resources for parents and teachers include guides on curriculum and standards, ways of improving communication between home and school, activities students can do along with their parents, as well as many links to other resources on the net.

There are many games and simulations to practice math, reading, writing, and grammar skills.  These are fun activities that hide the fact that students are learning and practicing important skills.  Short quizzes, flashcards, cartoons, web books, puzzles, and stories add to the learning experience.

There is also a section where students can BLOG their thoughts on selected topics.  This is great for students to practice their writing with actual audiences who read (and often comment on) their work.  

This is a user-friendly website with quick links to the various parts of the site.  It is a great resource for elementary teachers.  

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In This Week's Issue 

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Developing a School-Wide Essay Writing Program

School Band Fundraisers.

Website of the Month

Themes on Life:  
"Never Give Up"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Autumn Book Sale for Teachers

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