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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 3, Issue 5

March 2007


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Setting Up Field Trips

by Frank Holes, Jr.
Middle School Teacher

Field trips are excellent experiences for most students, and they are really under used in today's schools. Students appreciate the chance to prove themselves in the out-of-school settings. They also appreciate the teacher's trust in taking them out of the building. And many times out of school trips are the experiences students remember for years to come.

One type of field trip is simply for fun. These are activity trips often used as rewards. Hay rides in the fall, and sledding, skiing, or skating in winter are simple trips just for fun. Other classes leave the building to host picnics, carve pumpkins, play softball, and do activities not really conducive to the academic setting of school. PE classes often use field trips to access facilities schools don't have. Bowling, archery, racquetball, horseback riding, swimming, and downhill skiing are just a few sports and activities that require a change in venue.

Another type of trip is for academic work. I've taken upper level writing classes to local and collegiate libraries to research. Before the great mainstreaming of the internet, our small school library couldn't maintain the resources of larger institutions. Of course that has changed dramatically, though the basic tenets of book research are still expected in colleges and universities. Other classes may go to outside academic institutions for hands-on activities, projects, and guest teachers and facilities far too impractical to bring to your school.

And still another type of field trip is to explore and learn through observation. These include trips to museums, historical places, landmarks, monuments, zoos, aquariums, businesses, and even governmental institutions. Examples include your state or national capitol, and local points of interest.

Ok, so how do you set up a field trip? The first step is to check your school's policies and determine what paperwork is necessary. See who must give permission for your trip. It may be your principal, superintendent, or other designee. If you need transportation, you may need to arrange a bus and driver with the transportation department. Check who is paying the bill - are you required to charge the kids or fundraise to cover expenses. Let everyone know as far in advance as possible. Tell the secretaries, attendance office, cafeteria, and even janitors if they are even remotely involved.

Determine if you'll need chaperones, and how many. Our school likes one chaperone to about six kids, so we'll try to break the students up into groups. We will assign students to groups, and many times we make up name tags for everybody. Copies of group lists are given to each chaperone. Spread out your chaperones through the bus, and always have a teacher in the back seat. Always over plan; it's better to have more supervision than you might originally plan. Thus the students and chaperones know all expectations. And you cover yourself well.

Contact the various stops on your trip. Check for costs, both for students and chaperones. Sometimes there is no charge (or reduced charge) for adults. Prepare a basic budget sheet of all costs, and how you'll be covering them.

Permission slips are very important. Write up a parent letter / cover sheet that explains in detail what you're planning. Include costs, times (leaving and returning), what students should bring, what students should NOT bring, and a rationale for the trip. Think about why the trip is important, what they'll learn, and what important connections the trip will make to curriculum. Trust me, doing this will pay off if any parents question the importance or appropriateness of the trip.

Before, during, and after the trip you should always take careful attendance records. There's no worse thought than leaving a kid behind somewhere.

Remind your students that in public they represent themselves, their family, you the teacher, the school, and their community. They need to show excellent behavior and make good choices. They must treat places and people with more respect than their counterparts at school. We also have our students leave the places we visit cleaner than when we arrived. We designate particular students to clean up, and we make sure our bus is cleaned up before returning to the building.

Taking your kids on field trips can be an exhausting experience. But seldom is it ever a wasted time. It is their chance to escape the confines of the school building. And most kids enjoy being able to impress you with their behaviors. They want to be good, and they want to go again, and they yearn for the chance to prove it.


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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isteNETS Project-What Is It?

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Iste stands for the International Society for Technology in Education. Nets is a project that began back in 1998 and stands for The National Educational Technology Standards. What is the goal of this project you might ask?

Quoting from their web site The primary goal of the ISTE NETS Project is to enable stakeholders in PreK-12 education to develop national standards for educational uses of technology that facilitate school improvement in the United States. The NETS Project will work to define standards for students, integrating curriculum technology, technology support, and standards for student assessment and evaluation of technology use.

The NETS project has developed national technology standards for education in three areas students, teachers, and administrators. Counting the District of Columbia as a state, 49 out of 51 states have either adopted, adapted, aligned, or referenced some or all of these standards into their own state standards.

The  technology foundation standards for students are divided into six broad categories. They are

1.    Basic operations and concepts

2.    Social, ethical, and human issues

3.    Technology productivity tools

4.    Technology communications tools

5.    Technology research tools

6.    Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools

Under each category are several standards for students to achieve. All of this is broken down by grade level to make it easier for teachers to develop and use within their classrooms.

These standards have served us well as we transitioned from the 20th to the 21st century. But things are changing quickly in the workforce and new skills are being demanded by employers including problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and decision-making. None of these skills can be mastered in the 20th century teaching style classrooms where students sit in rows and listen to the teacher.

Technology integration provides the way to change, but we, as teachers, need to change with it. With this need the isteNETs project has responded with a draft of new standards to meet the needs of teachers in the 21st century. Like the old standards, they are divided into six broad categories with multiple standards for each. They are as follows:      

       1. Creativity and Innovation

       2. Communication and Collaboration

       3. Research and Information Retrieval

       4. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision-Making

       5. Digital Citizenship

       6. Technology Operations and Concepts

These standards certainly answer the call of skills being demanded in the workforce of the 21st century. The final standards will be published in June at the National Convention  in Atlanta, Georgia. We, as teachers, need to begin to look at what we are doing and ask ourselves the question Am I preparing my students for the 20th or the 21st century?

For more information go to www.cnets.iste.org

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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Preparing For Emergency Situations in School

We know emergency situations can (and will at some point) happen in your class. It may be minor, such as a student becoming sick in your room, or even a practice event like a fire drill or tornado drill. Hopefully you won't encounter a real life-threatening emergency. But you should always be prepared for such instances.

Fire drills are probably the most common situations you will encounter. The best way to handle these is to teach your students what to do in the event of a drill or an actual evacuation. Yes, you can teach this to your students. Fire drills are to be surprises only WHEN they occur, not a surprise in WHAT to do. It is good practice for your students to know exactly what the procedure to follow is. The most important part is to be sure YOU fully understand the school's fire drill procedure and you can confidently teach it to your students.

Making sure all of your students are accounted for is your main responsibility. Thus, your attendance taking is very important. You want to make sure you have a means of carefully checking attendance when you and your students reach your destination. Have your grade book, attendance sheets, or a class roster easily accessible and always in the same location so you can grab it as you leave the room.  I use the class roster file on my handheld because it's always with me. Teach your students to exit the room carefully yet quickly.  Instruct them in which direction to turn from your doorway, and what exit is to be used. Always have your kids line up and stay organized so you can take attendance easily.

And let them know why it's important to maintain composure and control, not playing or wandering around. If you are new to the building, your students will probably already know where to go! The trick will be getting them there quickly and maintaining order.

You'll want to let the students know how to react to different situations. They may find themselves in the hallway heading back from the library, in the rest room, or involved in a group activity in a far corner of your classroom.

Obviously more urgent matters will constitute true emergencies, and it is very difficult to prepare for these. Hopefully your school has a comprehensive plan to cover bomb threats, intruders, inclement weather, and other emergencies. Take time to carefully read through and understand these procedures, so when an emergency does occur, you can confidently lead your students. The students will respond to you when you give direct, confident directions.

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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Website of the Month:

For Kids

Our March WEBSITE OF THE MONTH award is presented to, MyPyramid For Kids, an interactive site for students, parents, and families. 

MyPyramid For Kids is a great website with excellent information on the new government standards for healthy eating and physical activity.

The website includes worksheets and activities for kids, tips for families, classroom materials for teachers to use.  There is even a game for kids to play to familiarize themselves with the new food pyramid.  There are also links to other tips and resources, dietary guidelines, and a detailed look at the many tenets of the food pyramid.  

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

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




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"The Story of St. Patrick"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

Not many have every heard the story and legend of St. Patrick

Imagine being a privileged young Briton of the early fifth century, whose father was a Roman civil servant and whose grandfather was a priest - and then, in your early or middle teenaged years, being kidnapped by plundering invaders and taken to an alien land, where the people were pagan and you were suddenly a slave, put to work on a hillside herding and tending someone else's sheep.

These are the events of the early life of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

It was Ireland to which he was taken after his village in Scotland was overrun by the raiding party. It was Ireland in which he lived for the next six years - during which he became so fluent in the language that later, when he returned as a missionary, he was able to communicate faultlessly with both high- and low-born, and to be incredibly successful as an evangelist, teacher, and establisher of churches.

Somehow, with God's hand on him, Patrick's formative years produced neither a resentful, embittered antagonist nor a despondent, despairing pessimist, but rather a humble, pious, gentle, mature individual who loved and trusted God absolutely and devoted the rest of his life - until his death on March 17 in or about the year 461 - to serving God in the place where he had been a slave of men.

During those half-dozen years in the land of pagans and Druids, he learned to communicate with the Almighty in a way he had not at home, even in a Christian household headed by a priest. He wrote, "The love of God. . .grew in me more and more. . .my soul was roused. . .I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. . .felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain." He prayed almost without ceasing - probably remembering prayers he'd been taught and adding to them the rejoicings and petitions of a captive who was free in spirit.

When he was about twenty, he had a dream, or a nighttime vision, in which he was instructed to be ready for a brave effort: to travel alone some 200 miles, to a place on the seacoast where he would find a ship which would take him home.

Accordingly, he ran away from his master; and he did find the ship. At first, the sailors scoffed at his request for free passage. But then, the stories say, he prayed silently; and the sailors called out to him to come aboard. After a three-day voyage, they reached landfall and trekked for another month through uninhabited land before young Patrick was reunited with his delighted family.

Of course they begged him to be careful never to leave again; but they could not know that Patrick was to have another dream.

This one was of the people of Ireland, and they were calling out to him: "We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk amongst us once more."

He prepared to do just that: was educated, ordained, made priest and then bishop, commissioned to preach the gospel to the Celtic people. He was probably in his early thirties when he arrived again in Ireland; the traditional date is 432 AD, the traditional place is Slane (which, by the way, is the name of the hauntingly beautiful tune to which is set the hymn, "Be Thou My Vision"). What he was returning to was a well-established pagan Celtic society, but one which readily accepted Christianity.

This, of course, is where so many legends that are told and retold every St. Patrick's Day were born. Or fabricated. At any rate, they were believed. And all the stories, both real and fanciful, illustrate something of the sort of consecrated servant Patrick was.

Even the narrative of how he drove all the snakes out of Ireland by beating his drum - and utilized trickery to get the biggest into a box, which he then hurled into the sea - symbolizes his putting an end to the venomous pagan practices for which serpents were the symbol.

Another story has him encountering a pagan chieftain named Dichu just after he reached his mission territory. Dichu attempted to murder Patrick - but then found his arm was paralyzed. He was converted and became a friend, and movement was restored.

Sure it is that Patrick preached the Gospel throughout Ireland, and that many thousands of souls were converted upon hearing the message he brought.

And surely, his plucking of a shamrock and pointing out how it's possible for something to be three, and yet ever one, stands as a classic object lesson to help people understand the Holy Trinity.

A lovely legend is how Patrick lit the Easter bonfire: On a night when it was forbidden to kindle any fire anywhere in Ireland before the high king's own royal blaze was visible at Tara, Patrick caused a flame to be lit in honor of the Resurrection. The punishment for such an action was death - but when the king's men came to douse the Paschal fire and kill those who had kindled it, the flames would not go out; and Patrick, with his companions, baffled and evaded the druids by assuming the shapes of deer, in which they reached Tara, where many were converted.

Another has it that one day, while preaching a sermon on the patience and suffering of Christ to King Aengus, Patrick accidentally drove his staff right through the King's foot. The good King, thinking this was the moral of the sermon, made no sound of complaint. When Patrick realized what had happened, he prayed - and the king's foot was miraculously cured.

The final legend surrounding this saint is that when he died (at Saul, where he had built the first church), his shrouded was placed on a cart drawn by two white oxen. Unreined, they wandered to a place called Downpatrick, where he was buried under a simple cross on a granite boulder. For twelve days and nights, the sun shone in the sky, refusing to set and make a new day without him.

The "Lorica," or "Breastplate," of St. Patrick has been called "part prayer, part anthem, and part incantation." It includes these timeless words:

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

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In This Week's Issue 
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Setting Up Field Trips

Tech Corner: 
isteNETS Project: What is It?

New Teacher's Niche:
Preparing for Emergency Situations in School

Website of the Month

Themes on Life:  
"The Story of St. Patrick"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Winter Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


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Coming Soon:

Designing and Running a Medieval Fair

Technology & Teaching: How Life Is Changing For Our Students

Discipline Procedures in School

Setting Up Your Classroom


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