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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 3, Issue 15

August 2007


Our Back-To-Back, Back-To-School Issues
Packed with excellent articles on getting yourself and your students back into school mode! 

Look for August Issue 16 and September Issue 17, coming soon

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

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

SQ3R Sheet
Check out our NEW FREE online resources, including the SQ3R sheet for reading 
and the Paragraph Graphic Organizer for writing.  These are forms you can fill in online and print, or have your students fill them in and print them for class!

Paragraph Organizer

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Our Newsletter is now posting a opening for a creative educator interested in designing a set of weekly problem solving activities for students and teachers to use.  

Email your resume and letter of interest to:  editor@starteaching.com

Designing and Running a Medieval Fair
(part 2)

By Frank Holes, Jr.
Middle School Teacher

Running large events, such as a medieval fair, at school is often too much for most teachers to attempt. However, with careful planning, and some well directed help, you can orchestrate a successful, educational, and memorable experience for your students.  This article, second in the series, describes how you can utilize the help of outsize sources.

Bringing in outside help required making contacts with locals who had the skills we needed. We found the leader of the local archery group who volunteered to bring in bows, arrows, and targets. Our local scoutmaster was pleased to show and model primitive cooking techniques (most camp cookery isn't much different than the medieval methods.) A local church choir agreed to come in and sing and perform a medieval skit. And several parents who belong to craft groups were honored to be able to share their skills with the kids.

A great share of the details were researched on-line. Authentic costumes and dress were developed by looking at examples on the internet. Banners and heraldry, customs, meal etiquette and menus, weapons and armor, and peasant life were all thoroughly resaerched online by our students.

Well before the fair, our students worked through the curriculum. The social studies class completed their chapters on the medieval European time period. English class read exerpts from the tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood (you can find many printable copies online). Both classes practiced SQ3R reading skills on several handouts dealing with medieval culture and civilization. Science class completed their reports on historic European inventors. Even our math class supplemented story problems with medieval aspects. Art class created the students' costumes and medallions, and built the castle backdrops and scenery.

Our food menu was developed after carefully researching on-line. We first checked on foods that wouldn't be available, either because they hadn't been developed yet, or they were native to the new world and hadn't been discovered during medieval times. We then checked out recipes and dishes that we could realistically prepare. See the links below for more information.

We did have to make a few concessions, based on what we could get. Even though we weren't completely authentic, we were very close. For example, instead of meat pies, our cafeteria food supplier had pasties. Instead of fruit pastries and turnovers, we ordered fruit pies. We avoided the necessary foods. We also found several side dish recipes for students to make at home. The parents brought in the dishes in the morning, and our kitchen staff kept them warm until lunch. In the overall scheme of the day, we provided an excellent balanced meal based on medieval traditions. You can see the entire menu at the end of this article.

But the biggest change in personnel was the contact we made with a group of medieval re-enactors. It took several phone calls and emails to finally locate a couple who were interested in meeting with us. They listened to our plans and ideas, and not only made suggestions, but also volunteered to visit school several times during the marking period. They taught our students about heraldry, symbols, and medieval weapons, food, and dress. They also worked with the students on creating appropriate clothing. They suggested making simple 'tabards', loose-fitting over shirts that acted like combination vest and cape. Hanging to just above the knees, the tabards were tied with twine around the waist. The girls made simple headbands with flowing material over simple dresses.

The students also needed an insignia, a heraldry symbol on a colored background. Our elementary art teacher was kind enough to offer clay and glazing for our students to make pottery goblets and insignia to wear around their necks. This was a fun diversion over several Friday afternoons, our students working with elementary students and their kiln.

In the art classes, students made banners and tapestries, displaying aluminum punched and decorated shields. Students also created background elements to hang on the gym walls, transforming boring painted cement walls into an old-fashioned castle wall made of various sized and colored rocks.

Donated appliance boxes from a local warehouse store were transformed into castle walls and towers by painting stone blocks, windows, doorways, and battlements on them. Students used gray paint to create the stone and black paint for the chinking. Visual elements such as archways made of curved blocks and cracked or broken sections of stone added to the reality of windows and doorways.

These boxes were then placed around the gym in strategic locations (for example to cover up the baskets and volleyball equipment). Boxes that were still sturdy and intact could be built up one atop another to form towers and give the illusion of height. You need not cover every square inch to give the illusion of being in a castle; spread the decorations around and let your students' minds do the rest.

Another project we do is to create tapestries to hang as dividers between stations. Students bring in old bed sheets and our best artists paint castle scenes on them. We've collected half a dozen of these tapestries over the past few years, trying to add a few each year. The nice thing about this is you can fold them up and save them for future events. Some tapestries show suits of armor, treasure chests, castle walls and windows to the medieval world.

Set up the site the day or two before, and have a plan for decorating and traffic flow. We divided up our students into equal groups and developed a traffic flow pattern so they rotated to each group in an orderly fashion. We wanted a central location for our feast, right in front of the acting/presentation area (since feasts were accompanied by songs and music, dancing, skits and plays, and other forms of merriment). For us, we wanted to be in front of our stage, located on the long side of our gym. Since we were using our middle school gym, we had to reserve it several months ahead to avoid conflict with sports practices. In general it was not a problem, as long as coaches and janitors knew well ahead of time.

Look for more in the next segment!


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Mastering Basic Skills software:


There are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to say this is the most important basic skill for not just to survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment. Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory & Concentration in an individual, namely: 1. Picture recognition
2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
4. Serial processing
5. Parallel processing
6. Recognition and Recall
Each of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to difficult.

At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as Scores Obtained.

A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18 levels depending on the marks one scores during the test. 

Each individual can assess his/her performance any time by clicking on "history", which gives complete details of date and time of taking the tests, marks scored each time and even time taken to do the test. This builds the confidence level and encourages more participation to eventually culminate in improvement and enhancement of memory and concentration.

Essentially, this software is a SELF AWARENESS tool that surely motivates the individual to realize one's capability and seek or be receptive for improvement. Also, if repeatedly done over a period of time works as Training tool to enhance their capability.
This software package is specifically designed to help young children to learn basic skills that will help them in school.  Continued follow-up will give these young learners success as they mature.  

Three versions of the software exist: Individual Software on either CD or Online,   Family Version Software, and an Institutional Software package.

StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports and endorses this software.  It will make a difference with your child or student.

Click HERE to order your own copy today:


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Help!  I Can't Find Anything

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark's latest articles are about changing our classrooms and teaching styles to reflect the latest changes in technology.  

If you have ever found yourself saying that, you need to begin to organize yourself.

I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with technology integration education. Haven't you gotten frustrated with students that can't find anything in their trapper keeper or locker? Because of this lack of organization, there is a loss of valuable time. What about their computer files?

Let's face it, most people aren't born with great organizational skills, they have to learn these skills. When was the last time you taught the students how to organize themselves on a computer? You may have helped them organize a project, but how about continual long term organization? As we move away from pencil and paper and more towards electronic forms, this skill becomes very important. I was reminded of this last school year when I attempted to help a student, I found their desktop so crowded with icons they couldn't find anything. That's when I faced the fact that I hadn't taught them how to organize themselves. Let's take a look at what should be done.

If you are using computers that aren't on a network, then everything should be saved in My Documents. Even here it can become a mess, if not planned out. One idea is to set the computer up with accounts. Then each student has their own My Documents. Within this file you should have them brainstorm what folders they should have. Maybe it should be folders named Language Arts, Social Studies, and so on. Within these folders could be other folders that might be set up for projects, homework, etc. Guide the students through this process without telling them everything. Have them discuss within groups how to organize things, and then share their ideas with the others. This process takes longer then telling, but will get them thinking about organization and taking ownership in it. Then, teach them how to follow a route to save into the correct folder. If you don't want to set up accounts you can always set up folders for each student on the desktop or in the My Documents folder.

If the computers are on a school network, each student should already have their own personal folder. If this isn't set up, have the school IT person set it up. Show the students how to set up a new folder and name it. Also, show them how to rename it. This can be done by right clicking and choosing Rename. Right clicking will also get you a new folder. The same process should be followed as mentioned in the above paragraph.

Now, let's talk about the desktop. The desktop is great for temporary  items and even those should be saved in a folder. If a person is doing a powerpoint and looking for pictures, having a folder on the desktop to drag them to is great. Otherwise, the desktop should be clear for downloads, special folders, or application shortcuts.

Another good teaching strategy is to continue bringing up the discussion of organization throughout the year. Don't stop after one or two sessions on this topic. It is said that to learn a tech skill it takes at least 26 hits, or sessions, to make it a part of you. Also, hold them accountable by periodically checking on their organization . Even give them a grade since this is an important life skill. This raises the importance of this skill to a higher level.

Remember, if done at the beginning of the year, you will lessen your's and your students' frustrations. It also touches on the life skill called time management. If you do this, this time, you'll thank yourself.


Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 20 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.  He is currently working on Masters of Integration of Technology from Walden University. 

Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with emerging technologies.  He has been married to his wife Bonnietta for 32 years with one daughter and two sons.  In the summers, Mark works for Mackinac State Historic Parks in the as a historical interpreter.

StarTeaching Featured Writer

Mark Benn is a leading expert in using technology in the classroom.  
You can feel free to contact him on email at mbenn@inlandlakes.org or at his blogsite:  http://www.furtrader.blogspot.com/ 


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Year of the Dogman
A new novel by Frank Holes, Jr.

Part mystery, part science fiction, Year of the Dogman is an imaginative, compelling, and adrenaline-pumping adventure. Author Frank Holes, Jr. takes no prisoners in creating a diabolical creature that leaves the forest to prey on the hapless hamlet of Twin Lakes in Northern Michigan . When night falls, the nocturnal beast, Dogman, scares the living daylights out of anyone he happens upon as he searches for a timeless treasure stolen from a Native American tribe. In the midst of the chaos, a young teacher is forced to put two and two together no matter how high the cost to rid the village of the treacherous man-beast who thrives on destruction and terror.  

The Dogman, a creature of MythMichigan, is an excellent example of modern-day folklore to study in your classes.   


Order your copy by clicking the link below.

New Teachers' Niche: 
A Place for New Teachers, Student Teachers, and Interns

Daily Points in Class

Starting your class on the right foot each day is very important to both you and the students. There are certain expectations you will have, be they required materials (texts, folders, gym clothes), basic supplies (pencils/paper), or behaviors (on time, in seats, working on opening activities). You are going to want these expectations met every day.

We designed a simple set of 5 rules to start out every class. These are easy to remember and easy to keep track of. Several of our teachers use a variation of the 5 rules to start their classes, and you may feel free to adapt these to your class. These are the rules I use in English class:

Rule 1: Students must be in their seats when class begins. In some schools, classes begin (and are dismissed) by a bell. Some classes begin at a specific time. Still other classes are started by a particular signal from the teacher.

Rule 2: Students must have a writing instrument. Again, different teachers have different expectations, be it pencil or pen or whatever. For me, it doesn't matter as long as it s dark enough to read. I only balk at silver, gold, white, or any other light or fluorescent color (hot pink or yellow for example).

Rule 3: Students must have their folder out on their desk. Each of our classes requires students to keep important papers, notes, and other course artifacts. Some teachers allow students to keep these, and others provide a location in the room for folders.

Rule 4: Students must have all required materials for class that day. To reduce the number of times students ask me about what they need for the day's class, I will either write the materials list on the board or put it on the class announcements on our TV (watch for the article on creating a class cable TV network our upcoming March issue).

Rule 5: Students must be working on the class warm up activity. In English class, students write out Daily Oral Language (DOL) sentences, practicing proofreading skills. On the edge of each day's entry are the numbers 1 through 5, making it easy to grade. All you have to do is circle the appropriate number.

Again, we give each student a daily grade of points (1-5). Some teachers have only four rules and one rule is worth 2 points. You can change up and set your own rules and create an easy to grade set of points to fit your own classroom.

After a few weeks of practice, the checking of daily points becomes a student job. One student from each group (the RECORDER) gets the weekly responsibility to check the students' daily points and circle the proper number. The teacher is freed up for other activities, and you only need to spot check through the room. This way I can record the daily points only once every two weeks and they are already tallied up for me.

Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use immediately in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm

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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

Want to check out the articles in our Student-Teaching series?  Check out our special Student-Teaching page through the following link:  http://www.starteaching.com/studentteachers.htm

Website of the Month:


Our August WEBSITE OF THE MONTH award is presented to, QuizzlerPro.com, a site for students to practice their quiz-taking skills. 

QuizzlerPro is a site where teachers (and students too) can create and publish their own quizzes and download them to PDAs, iPODS, and other computers. Able to be used on Mac, PC, Palm, and Pocket PC platforms, the quizzes created by teachers can be utilized by students almost anywhere. Quizzes can be beamed back and forth, and graded instantly.  There is also a library of over 15,000 quiz questions you can use.  

This is a user-friendly website with quick links to the various parts of the site.  It is an excellent resource for any teachers who use technology regularly in their classes.

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



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

Want to check out the articles in our Student-Teaching series?  Check out our special Student-Teaching page through the following link:  http://www.starteaching.com/studentteachers.htm


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"Gifts From The Heart"
Michael Josephson

Themes on Life

Do we recognize true gifts when they are given to us?

According to legend, a young man while roaming the desert came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart.

Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container. The student challenged his teacher: "Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?"

The teacher replied, "You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving-kindness and nothing could be sweeter."

I think we understand this lesson best when we receive innocent gifts of love from young children. Whether it's a ceramic tray or a macaroni bracelet, the natural and proper response is appreciation and expressed thankfulness because we love the idea within the gift.

Gratitude doesn't always come naturally. Unfortunately, most children and many adults value only the thing given rather than the feeling embodied in it. We should remind ourselves and teach our children about the beauty and purity of feelings and expressions of gratitude. After all, gifts from the heart are really gifts of the heart.

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In This Week's Issue 
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Designing and Running a Medieval Fair 
(part 2)

Tech Corner: 
Help!  I Can't Find Anything

New Teacher's Niche:
Daily Points in Class

Website of the Month

Themes on Life:  
"Gifts From The Heart"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Summer Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


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10 Days Of


Describe your Favorite Vacation spot.


Describe FOUR places you'd like to visit on a vacation.


What are THREE reasons why people need to take vacations?


What is the best time of year to take a vacation?


What are FIVE questions you still have about something we learned in class this week?. 


What does it mean to be courteous?


What are THREE ways you can be more courteous at home? 


Describe FIVE ways students could be more courteous at school.


Why would the world be better if more people treated each other courteously. 


Describe THREE things you learned really well this week in class. 


10 days of writing prompts


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Year of the Dogman

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Teach With Your Strengths:
How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students

By Rosanne Liesveld, JoAnn Miller, & Jennifer Robinson



Coming Soon:

Preparing for Student Teaching

Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Getting Ready for Next Year

Setting Up Your Classroom


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