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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 3, Issue 6

March 2007


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'Give-Me-Five' Sentence Writing

by Frank Holes, Jr.
Middle School Teacher

We've created another variation of the context sentences activity which we call 'Give-Me-Five'. It is similar in that you create a matrix of words, vocabulary, or terms from which your students will write unique, interesting, complete sentences. And students should be given the opportunity to share their unique sentence creations with the class.

The original context sentences activity had a matrix of nine total words, three across by three down. Students then created a sentence for each line across, down, and diagonal, writing a total of nine sentences. Give-Me-Five builds on this, but expands the matrix to five words across by five words down, twenty-five words in all.

Now the lines down, across, and diagonal will include five words that you have designated. That gives you and the students twelve different lines of word combinations to choose from. We like to have the students choose five (or more) such lines from this 5x5 matrix. The students then must fit all five words from their line into a sentence. The students are getting practice in spelling and using the words correctly, as well as writing complete sentences.

car green slow student jump
red swim water tall baseball
late UFO blue smelly short
bubbly smelly play beach purple
fly peaceful dinosaur yellow eat

One of the great aspects of this activity is its durability. I like to create several matrices and type them out on an overhead sheet so I can use them over each hour and I can file them for year after year. We make up specific sets of words to match certain stories, lessons, or units, and we also use them with random words just to have fun.

Always give the students the opportunity to share their creations with the class. This reinforces the correct use of the vocab or terms, gives students practice reading and listening to properly written sentences, and creates an opportunity for students to present in front of their peers, a skill that always needs practice.

This also makes a great lesson to leave for a substitute teacher, or to put in your emergency plans. Make sure you have fully explained this activity and your students have practiced it a few times under your guidance before leaving it as an activity for your sub.

This activity (as well as the context sentences activity) is great for utilizing vocabulary in foreign language classes, as it forces students to spell and use words properly while writing sentences. It is also good for any class or subject that has specific vocabulary students need to familiarize themselves with. This works well for social studies and science classes, and it makes an easy writing assignment for music, art, p.e, and other elective-type classes where the teacher may be required to add writing activities, even if he or she isn't highly trained in writing.

This is especially good for English teachers if you're covering compound or complex sentence structures, as you can specify particular types of sentences to have students write. Simply set up your matrix so there are two or more nouns or verbs in a line. You might even add a conjunction to the line!

Now of course you might want to adjust this activity to meet the needs and level of your students. This could include changing the number of lines you require students to make sentences out of. You might have students choose fewer lines and create different unique sentences from the same five words. You might have students choose two or three lines and take all ten or fifteen words and create a story paragraph. There are many possibilities you can develop. If you create any really interesting variations, let us know and we'll feature you in an upcoming issue of our newsletter.


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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By Christina Riggan

Bullying might be defined by a number of definitions. But most teachers recognize it when they see it. Often, teachers will speak to the students; tell them not to do it-bullying-anymore and usually get preoccupied with other things, like teaching. You know the drill: time-outs, loss of privileges, no recess, sit alone at a desk.

Often, I found myself-here I am being painfully honest- forgetting about it until another incident arises.

Some of my self-talk was: “These are just kids. All kids fight. They’ll work it out.” Heaven forbid, if I saw another teacher bullying his/her students. (Not the same as disciplining, by the way.) I made all sorts of excuses to myself for this teacher’s behavior and for my own for pretending it didn’t happen.

But there really is a better way. And with numerous reports of the escalation of violence of kid to kid interactions and of kids toward society; it really seems like it is time to tackle this problem as a serious one. I know every teacher is out there complaining to him/herself of yet another responsibility that teachers have to shoulder.

Really, I have made them all to myself already: “I am not their parents. If parents were just doing their job, I wouldn’t have to take this on too, and teach. I barely have enough time in the day for teaching let alone teaching cooperation, respect, and nonviolence. Isn’t that the counselor’s job? Why doesn’t the principal do something?”

I am not really sure that this is a parenting problem, anyway. It seems to be a societal one, and as teachers, we are helping to mold society, whether we want to admit that or not.

Worst of all, I did not know what to do to stop this bullying behavior. Some of the blatantly physical stuff seems obvious; speak to the kids, find out what happened, if it is not too serious, warn them to not repeat it. Principals expect you to handle it yourself when possible and most of us do. Write up a discipline report on the kid/s and send them to the principal. Sometimes, these kids are kicked out of school, even when they are the neediest of schooling. And this still does not deter the problem from reoccurring- more like an endless cycle. True, some kids may be sent to an alternative school, but helpful interventions seems like they should happen long before that, if we want to save any of these kids from a possible path to violence—maybe even prison. We all know it doesn’t take much for a verbal confrontation to escalate to a physical one or even one involving an assault with deadly weapons.

But how do you stop the insidious bullying--name-calling, nasty notes, snide remarks? According to recent news reports mean girls are taking phone pictures of girls undressing in locker rooms, posting them on the internet with derogatory comments. Girls can take the term bullying to a new level of cruelty that I have rarely seen with boys. Boys seem more physical, violent, but not as sneakily malevolent about it.

These are categories I think of when I try to define- what is bullying? 

1. Verbal abuse- ranging from name calling to vicious slander, insults, ruinous comments for one’s reputation

2. Physical abuse- ranging from a shove to assault with weapons

3. Humiliation- anything written, physical, verbal, or technological use to demean anyone

4. Shame- spreading a false rumor, or revealing information that is true, but may have been revealed to a friend as a private and confidential matter, malicious gossip

5. Disrespect-Calling students by the wrong name or an insulting name, spitting at people, using hand signals, addressing adults or other students in a snide manner, cursing,

6. Mental torture-a student who is constantly or repeatedly victimized by one person or a group of people

According to the experts, bullying can be reduced, but most classrooms methods were ineffective. This according to a review of over 2000 studies of bullying published in the January 2007 Issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine by Rachel Veerman M. D. and co-author, Aaron Carol, M.D. M.S.  Both authors are employed by the Indiana Children’s Health Services Research section of the Department of Pediatrics at the Indiana School of Medicine

“We found that bullying can be curbed, but that many of the common methods of dealing with the problem, such as classroom discussions, role playing or detention, are ineffective. Whole school interventions involving teachers, administrators, and social workers committed to social change are the most effective and are especially effective at junior high and high school level, “says the paper’s author, Rachel Veerman, M.D.

“Bullying is a complex health problem for boys and girls. Up to ten percent of children are bullied or are bullies themselves. As a pediatrician, I see a growing number of children with physical, social, and emotional problems, including lower self-esteem, that are the result of bullying.”

The authors’ definition of bullying includes: punching, pushing and other physically aggressive actions, malicious teasing, ganging up on other children, as well as, malevolent actions towards others.

Their final comment: “As pediatricians, we need to ask about bullying and be advocates to get schools to effectively intervene to improve the environments where children study.”

Often when we think of stopping bullying we do not consider the bullies as victims of their own antisocial behavior or in dire need of help.  But, according to The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,  

 “Bullies are much more likely to expand their antisocial behaviors. Research shows that reducing aggressive, antisocial behavior may also reduce substance use and abuse.”

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program targets students in elementary, middle, and junior high schools. All students participate in the program, while students identified as bullying others or as targets of bullying receive additional individual interventions.

Their statistics are impressive.

  1. 30-70% reduction in student reports of being bullied and bullying others:

       results are largely parallel with peer ratings and teacher ratings.

  1. Significant reductions in student reports of general antisocial behavior- vandalism, fighting, theft, and truancy.
  2. More positive attitude toward schoolwork and school.

This program was designed by Professor Dan Olweus commissioned by the Ministry of Education of Norway . It was developed by the University of Bergen in Norway and is in implementation all over Norway , the United States , the United Kingdom , and Germany .

Dr. Dan Olweus worked with Dr. Sue Limber and Dr. Gary Melton at Clemson University in South Carolina to implement the program in the United States . This program is recognized and approved by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and is part of the SAMHSA Model Programs.

SAMHSA= Effective Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

Go to SAMHSA Model Programs-

 http://modelprograms.samhsa.gov. or call 1877-773-8546.

Dr. Olweus’ book: Bullying at School: What We Know and What we Can Do is available in fifteen languages.

Contact information is listed below for the United States contact.
Susan Limber, PH.D.
Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life
Clemson University
158 Poole Agricultural Center
Clemson , SC 29634
Phone- (864) 656-6320
Email: slimber@clemson.edu

While the Olweus Program does involve significant commitments from administrators, schools, teachers, and students, the results speak for themselves. I really wonder if teachers can truly achieve academic success if the students are miserable, silently hurting from mistreatment, or dreading the trip home because of what they might face on the way. In addition, teachers seem to spend an inordinate amount of time with discipline problems, rather than teaching. Doesn’t it make sense to you to consider a comprehensive program that lets us get back to that focus and helps to reduce irreparable harm along the way?

Additionally, by intervening when we can, before serious harm might occur, we may prevent students from resorting to crime and substance abuse. Saving victims and bullies is worth our time and effort, and we will help turn out better citizens for our country.

Other resources to consider:

Dorthea Ross: Childhood Bullying and Teasing
Stan Davis: Schools Where Everybody Belongs: Practical Strategies for Reducing Bullying

Christina Riggan, a twenty-five year veteran of public schools, and a former teacher in a primary (K-5) school in Austin, Texas, has worked with a variety of grade levels from Kindergarten to adults. Her certifications include Kindergarten, Reading, ESOL, Language Arts, and she holds a Principal's Certificate and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is currently a full-time writer, her chosen area of focus in writing books (fiction and nonfiction) and articles that might help parents, teachers, and students. She is married to David, her husband of thirty-eight years, has two happily married sons, and four wonderful grandchildren. 

StarTeaching Featured Writer

You can contact Christina at criggan3@sbcglobal.net  or order her book in ebook form or in paperback on her book's website www.howtobeagreatteacher.com


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Modeling Student Behavior

Whether you as a teacher realize it or not, you are the best model of behavior in your classroom. A large part of your proactive behavior plans should include your own behavior you demonstrate to the students every day.

You must set expectations for your students, demonstrate the behaviors, and be vigilant to correct the kids. Don't waver on your expectations; inconsistencies will only confuse the students and cause you more problems.

If you stay calm, collected, and in control, your students will exhibit the same behaviors. The same is true about enthusiasm; if you are excited about your lesson and truly believe in its importance, the kids will respond in kind. Conversely, the kids will know when you are tired, bored, don't want to be there, or are 'winging it.'

If you are late to class, or don't start on time, the kids will pick up on it and be more likely to do the same. The same is true about the way you dress, the way you act, the language you use, and your 'body language'.

If you want your students working from 'coast to coast', or from bell to bell, you need to set the expectation of activity all hour. Start with a warm up, and ensure the kids are doing it. Keep them busy on activities with transitions between each. Don't let there be any down time. Work them to the end of the period, and have them pack up when you say so, not whenever they want to.

If you want your students to quietly read in class, but you are spending that time working on other things, it sends the message that you don't value the activity personally. Modeling the skill for the kids reinforces your belief that it is important. It show you as a lifelong learner who values the skills you're teaching them.

The same is true for writing. Students rarely have the chance to see real people writing - for many, the only examples (and role models) are their classmates. Work along with your students. Now this doesn't mean you have to do this the entire time. You must also supervise, coach, monitor, and actively support their learning. But you can spend at least a few minutes 'at their level'.

Be a positive role model for your students. Don't just explain and show the behavior; be the example day in and day out.

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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Book of the Month Club:

When Kids Can't Read:
What Teachers Can Do

By Kylene Beers 

Our March BOOK OF THE MONTH award is presented to When Kids Can't Read by Kylene Beers.  This is a fabulous book for teachers of all ages and levels who are looking to improve their basic understanding of kids' reading problems and the strategies we can use to help them. 

Amazon.com Review:
“If I had to recommend just one book to middle and secondary teachers working to support struggling readers, this would have to be the book. When Kids Cant Read, What Teachers Can Do is a comprehensive handbook filled with practical strategies that teachers of all subjects can use to make reading skills transparent and accessible to adolescents. Blending theory with practice throughout, Kylene Beers moves teachers from assessment to instruction from describing dependent reading behaviours to suggesting ways to help students with vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, word recognition, response to text, and so much more. But its not just the strategies that make this book so valuable. Its the invitations to step inside a classroom and eavesdrop on teacher/student interactions. Its the student profiles, the if/then charts, the extensive booklists and, of course, the experiences of a brilliant reading teacher. This is simply the best book published to date to support struggling adolescent readers!”– Gillda Leitenberg,District-wide Coordinator, English/LiteracyToronto District School Board

"If I was confused by the students who didn't like to read, then I was absolutely confounded by those who couldn't read.  I had no idea why they couldn't read... So, I began a chant that I repeated to all who would listen: "These kids can't read."  With That simple phrase, I relegated my students who couldn't decode to the same position as students who could say the words but couldn't make sense of what they had read...Then, in October of that first year, something happened that has guided my path as a teacher ever since."  
(When Kids Can't Read, P.4)

You can order a copy of When Kids Can't Read by clicking the link to our affiliate, Amazon.com 

Have you read When Kids Can't Read?  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.

We welcome articles and book reviews from our readers.  Do you have a great educational book to share with our readers?  Write up a summary, along with the pertinent book information, and email it to us at  editor@starteaching.com. Please type in BOOK CLUB SUMMARY in the subject line.  Book reviews will be proofread and may be edited for content or space.



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"Are You a Bucket Filler or a Dipper?"

Author Unknown

Themes on Life

Who are we really?

You have heard of the cup that overflowed. This is a story of a bucket that is like the cup, only larger, it is an invisible bucket. Everyone has one. It determines how we feel about ourselves, about others, and how we get along with people. Have you ever experienced a series of very favorable things which made you want to be good to people for a week? At that time, your bucket was full.

A bucket can be filled by a lot of things that happen. When a person speaks to you, recognizing you as a human being, your bucket is filled a little. Even more if he calls you by name, especially if it is the name you like to be called. If he compliments you on your dress or on a job well done, the level in your bucket goes up still higher. There must be a million ways to raise the level in another's bucket. Writing a friendly letter, remembering something that is special to him, knowing the names of his children, expressing sympathy for his loss, giving him a hand when his work is heavy, taking time for conversation, or, perhaps more important, listing to him.

When one's bucket is full of this emotional support, one can express warmth and friendliness to people. But, remember, this is a theory about a bucket and a dipper. Other people have dippers and they can get their dippers in your bucket. This, too, can be done in a million ways.

Lets say I am at a dinner and inadvertently upset a glass of thick, sticky chocolate milk that spills over the table cloth, on a lady's skirt, down onto the carpet. I am embarrassed. "Bright Eyes" across the table says, "You upset that glass of chocolate milk." I made a mistake, I know I did, and then he told me about it! He got his dipper in my bucket! Think of the times a person makes a mistake, feels terrible about it, only to have someone tell him about the known mistake ("Red pencil" mentality!)

Buckets are filled and buckets are emptied ? emptied many times because people don't really think about what are doing. When a person's bucket is emptied, he is very different than when it is full. You say to a person whose bucket is empty, "That is a pretty tie you have," and he may reply in a very irritated, defensive manner.

Although there is a limit to such an analogy, there are people who seem to have holes in their buckets. When a person has a hole in his bucket, he irritates lots of people by trying to get his dipper in their buckets. This is when he really needs somebody to pour it in his bucket because he keeps losing.

The story of our lives is the interplay of the bucket and the dipper. Everyone has both. The unyielding secret of the bucket and the dipper is that when you fill another's bucket it does not take anything out of your own bucket. The level in our own bucket gets higher when we fill another's, and, on the other hand, when we dip into another's bucket we do not fill our own ... we lose a little.

For a variety of reasons, people hesitate filling the bucket of another and consequently do not experience the fun, joy, happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction connected with making another person happy. Some reasons for this hesitancy are that people think it sounds "fakey," or the other person will be suspicious of the motive, or it is "brown-nosing."

Therefore, let us put aside our dipper and resolve to touch someone's life in order to fill their bucket.

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In This Week's Issue 
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'Give-Me-Five' Sentence Writing

School Features:
Bullying:  Is It Really Serious?  What's A Teacher To Do?

New Teacher's Niche:
Modeling Student Behavior

Book of the Month Club

Themes on Life:  
"Are You a Bucket Filler or a Dipper? "

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Winter Book Sale for Teachers

Website of the Month


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Learning Math Step By Step


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Designing and Running a Medieval Fair

Technology & Teaching: Exactly What Are Our Kids Learning?

Discipline Procedures in School

Teaching the Writing Process


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