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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 3, Issue 9

May 2007


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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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Improving Student Achievement: 
The Magical Ingredient - Parental Involvement

By Donald Killingbeck
Inland Lakes High School ; Indian River, MI

The secondary school parent is a vast untapped resource to improve student achievement. Research has documented a positive relationship between achievement and high parental expectations (Desimone, 1999). Desimone in 1999 noted parent involvement is popular as a point of intervention largely because it is easier to manipulate than other sources of inequality, more importantly than ease is that parent-school involvement can increase student achievement particular grades across all demographics.

Barriers to Parental Involvement

Despite the obvious benefit to parental involvement there are a number of barriers. The specialization/difficulty of the curriculum at the secondary level (Simon, 2001), child-parent relationship shift, parent-teacher communication/poor school-family relationship (Simon, 2001). Strom, Strom, Collinsworth, & Strom in 1998 noted that Benson in 1997 stated, A review of 250,000 student survey responses from students between grades 6 and 12 indicate that parent involvement declines dramatically in conversations about homework, interaction about what takes place at school, assistance on assignments, and attending school meetings, family conferences, or other events. When high schools attempt to increase parental involvement, parents respond with increased involvement, regardless of family background or school context (Simon, 2001).

Educators Response: An Invitation

Educators need to be proactive! They need to invite parents into the school equation and remove barriers to the family-school relationship (Ziegler, 2000). At the secondary level that may have a different appearance than at the elementary level as fewer parents participate in the more traditional sense of volunteering at the secondary level i.e. as teachers’ aides, cafeteria monitors, and field trip chaperones (Simon, 2001). Despite the different type of involvement school-level volunteering was a significant predictor for student achievement  (Desimone, 1999).

The lines between home and school roles have been increasingly blurred (Strom, Strom, Collinsworth, & Strom, 1998) and that is unlikely to change. Classroom educators are asked more in more to assume the role of the parent.  In the end, the perception that matters is that of the student. Desimone in 1999 stated that student perception of involvement mattered more for achievement than did parent perceptions.  When parents support teenagers as learners, they are more likely to succeed in school (Simon, 2001).

Simon (2001) found the following:
Similarly, the more time that parents and teenagers spent together, the better-behaved students
were and the more prepared they arrived to class. Parents may reinforce norms and rules for
students’ behavior through leisure activities. Teenagers may also feel motivated because what
they do and they spend their time matters to their parents (p.13).

Schools have a duty to reach out and involve parents at every grade level. Schools have the ability to change/improve how parents support their children as learners (Simon, 2001).


Akers, P., (2005). Conferencing the smart way. Principal, 84, 47.

Bottoms, G., (1999). Outstanding Practices, 1998: Raising student achievement by focusing on the 10 key practices. High schools that work.  Southern Regional Education Board.

Borelli, J.G., & Maxfield, R.M. (1998). Improving academic achievement on a shoestring budget. Schools in the Middle, 7, 36-37.

Croninger, R.G., & Lee, V.E., (2001). Social capital and dropping out of high school: Benefits to at-risk students of teachers’ support and guidance. Teachers College Record. 103, 548-58

Desimone, L., (1999). Linking parent involvement with student achievement: Do race and income matter? The Journal of Educational Research (Washington, D.C.). 93, 11-30.

Finnigan, K.S., (2005). Principal leadership and teacher expectancy in low-performing schools. University of Rochester.

Gilbert, M.B. (1998). Why educators have problems with some students: Understanding frames of preference. Journal of Education, 37, 243- 255.

Klem, A.M. & Connell, J.P. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74, 262-273 

Martin, E.J., Tobin, T.J., & Sugai, G.M. (2002). Current information on dropout prevention: Ideas from practitioners and the literature. Preventing School Failure, 47, 10-17.

Martin, S., (2003). Profiling Achievement. Principal Leadership (Middle School Edition) 3, 49-50

Picucci, A.C., Brownson, A., Kahlert, R. & Sobel, A., (2002). Shaping school culture, Principal Leadership (Middle School Ed.). 3, 38-41.

Pinick, G. (1999). The success center. Lutheran Education. 134, 176-7.

Putnam, S.C., Tette, J.W.M. (2004). A prescription for at-risk students. Journal of Physical, Recreation & Dance. 75, 25-28. 

Roysee, D. (1998). Mentoring high-risk minority youth: evaluation of the Brothers Project. 33, 145-158

St. Germain, L. & Quinn, D.M. (2005). Investigation of tacit knowledge in principal leadership. The Educational Forum, 70, 75-90.

Sideridis, G.D. & Padeliadu, S. (2001). The motivational determinants of students at risk of having reading difficulties: planned behavior theory and goal. Remedial and Special Education, 22, 268-279 

Simon, B.S., (2001). Family involvement in high school: Predictors and effects. NASSP Bulletin, 85, 8-19.

Solo, L. (1997). School success begins at home. Principal (Reston, Va), 77, 29-30.

Strom, R., Strom., S., Collinsworth, P., & Strom, P. (1998). Evaluating parent success in guiding adolescents. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 25, 242-249.

Wright, J. (2005). Intervention ideas that really work: Here are some intervention ideas that can help remove barriers to learning for at-risk students. Principal (Reston, Va.) 85, 12-16.

Ziegler, W., Venturing beyond the schoolyard to bring parents in. High School Magazine, 7


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Web 2.0, The New Culture of Social Community

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.  

Quoting from an article written by Susan McLester in the April edition of Technology & Learning: “Web 2.0 has essentially transformed the Internet from an e-commerce and Web page publishing venue to a planet-wide networked community where every citizen is invited to create content.”

Let’s look at what it is.

First, let’s look at three skills: publishing, broadcasting, and movie production. In the past if you wanted to publish a book or article you would have to send it to a publisher and wait to see whether they would publish it. Newspapers and magazines were written by their own hired staff of writers. Only a small group of people compared to the whole population could accomplish this. The only way to broadcast was to work for, or own your own radio studio. Movie production could only be done by a production company with the equipment and know how.

Now enters Web 2.0 onto the scene. Anyone with a computer can publish on the internet in blogs or online newsletters. Likewise, you can produce a broadcast by making a podcast using programs like Garageband or Audacity. If you have a video movie camera you can edit your own movie and upload it to the internet for all to see. All of this can be accomplished with a computer and open source (free) software on the internet. It can then be uploaded onto the web for everyone to participate in. 

You ask, what do I mean by: participate in?

Social networking sites like MySpace, YouTube, and Yahoo! Groups have allowed our digital natives to collaborate and share information and thoughts on anything instantly.

Instead of just being a passive reader and watcher of what someone says or does, everyone can be an active participant on what goes up on the web. With new open source online tools like Jumpcut, Eyespot, Toufee, Picnik, and more everyone can participate. But wait, there’s more. New hosting sites such as Revver.com, Spymac.com, and uthTv.com have opened a whole new support network for this community.

What does this mean to us as educators? No problem, we just block all the sites. After all, it’s our job to protect them from the evils of the internet. I agree, we need to protect them from the evils of the internet, but are the above mentioned sites evil? Is having a social community on the internet wrong or dangerous, or is it something we don’t fully understand? By blocking all the sites are we making ourselves irrelevant in the eyes of the digital native? Shouldn’t we be teaching them how to safely handle the internet, and then participate in it with them?

About a month ago I got involved in an online social network called Runescape. My children had been involved in it for awhile and I had been watching. Runescape is a place where you become a virtual person in a virtual medieval world where you can fish, hunt, build houses, and on and on. You can be a free participant, or for $5 a month become a member with more privileges. Last month Runescape topped one million members. This doesn’t count far more that aren’t members. As I participate in this world, I watch as the young people are constantly helping each other, talking to one another, and problem solving. These are skills we want them to learn.

Shouldn’t we be integrating these communities into our classrooms, instead of blocking them? We could spark discussion about many academic topics where the student becomes not only the learner but the teacher, too. Think about it.   

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/ 


Check out our selection of past articles, including more about groups and stations, from previous issues at:


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Writing Every Day in Class

For your students to be good at any skill, they must practice it on a daily basis. This is true for any skill, and writing is an excellent example.

Regardless of whether your goal is to improve your students' abilities, or to raise test scores, you need to structure and designate specific time to practice this skill every day. As the classroom instructor, it must be YOUR goal to have your students practice the skill daily.

Now, you don't have to spend your entire class period on writing. There are many activities you can use that take anywhere from five to ten minutes and will accomplish this goal of writing daily. We should briefly describe the parts of the writing process, so we can then develop activities to improve each step. There are many different terms educators will use to name the parts of the writing process. Undoubtedly you have seen several different ways to name each step. Your school may even have a specific set of terminology you need to use. That's fine, especially if your students are hearing the same terms through different classes and grade levels. However you decide to designate each step of the writing process, there are several distinct parts.

The first is brainstorming and organizing information. This is the 'prewriting', thinking of topics and ideas about which the students will write. The second is drafting, writing out a first copy which we know will not be perfect but will need more work.

The third is revising, adding in more information, changing information around, or removing information not pertinent to the topic. The fourth step is to proofread and edit for surface errors and mistakes. The last step is to rewrite the draft making the corrections from steps three and four. This last step may be another draft, or it may be a finished, published piece. Now, you may want to add more steps to these basic five, and that's up to you. You'll get no resistance from me. The important thing is to fully understand what you're teaching and to make sure your students understand it!

Before we get into activities, you will want to create a special, specific place for the students to keep their work. I choose to keep this work in class so I know it will ALWAYS be there. No more losing it in folders, at home, or in lockers. Each student is provided a hanging file in a cabinet drawer (each class gets its own drawer). If you do not have an extra file cabinet, you can pick up plastic storage crates or boxes fairly cheaply. When I want the students to work with previous writes, they simply need to grab one out of their file. And best of all, the work is already in class.

Ok, so lets examine a few exercises to practice at each step. First for brainstorming and organizing. This is one of the most important steps, and it can be practiced in any subject area. You are going to want to have your students practice this two to three times each week. Have your students brainstorm in lists, in graphic organizers, in webs/maps, and by freewriting. Give them topics and a time limit and turn them loose. Use ideas from your text, from reading activities, and from real life situations that involve your students. You can create games and contests to encourage them to generate long lists.

There are many ways to draft. We've covered several in past newsletters (see the links below for more information on each) including FREEWRITES, JOURNAL WRITES, and PARAGRAPHS. You will probably have other forms and styles to use too. Drafting does not have to take a long time, either. Give your students a specific time limit and the minimums you want them to write. Be very clear about your expectations and rules so the students will have clear understanding of what you're looking for. Feel free to impose minimums such as a time period, length of paper, or number of words. Remind yourself you are working with activities with shorter time slots. You want your students to really push themselves, and you may have to push them at the beginning to get them up to the speed you want!

Editing activities work well when your students already have several pieces finished to look over. You can have students edit their own, or peer edit by trading writings. I usually hold off for a month to collect enough drafts so students can choose their own writing to edit. Normally students like this step the least, and try to resist editing. So you will want to make this a fun activity, and be sure to give it a grade.

I also try to give out extra credit so they will want to do these activities. We practice question writing with our SQ3R reading techniques, and we apply this to editing too. Some of the best editing is done by students posing questions, looking for more information, or needing clarification of ideas. This is not proofreading, remember! We use overheads (again so they can be re-used) with guiding questions and thoughts that will help students generate questions of the writing in front of them.

Undoubtedly you'll have a handful of students who think their first draft is perfect and needs no additional work. And you may even agree that some of these students are very good writers. But don't fall into the trap of letting them avoid editing. Even professional writers go through many stages of editing (as of this time, I've already edited this article four times!). Keep your kids following the writing process - no short cuts! Allowing one or more students to cut corners will lead to more asking, and then hard feelings among classmates ("Why doesn't so-and-so have to edit?") None of your students will be experts, none are perfect, even if you have seniors. There are always things you can adjust, clarify, or add to writings. And all of the students will benefit from good editing activities, whether they like it or not.

Another issue you will deal with at this step is a fragile student ego. Some students will fear having criticism of their work. And there will also be students who fear writing criticism on their classmates' papers. You will have to have some heart-to-heart talks with your students and convince them (or persuade them) that they are helping their classmates and themselves when editing. They're not there to rip on each other, just make everyone better writers.

Having your students write on a daily basis may seem like a homework-checking nightmare waiting to happen. You will need to create an administrative plan to make your life simple. In our class I use the random choices technique (See our website for more details) A white chip indicates we don't grade it, just file it. A blue chip is a peer check and immediate grade. And a red chip is a collection of the papers so I can read and score them. This keeps me from having to read and grade every paper every day. And for paragraph drafts, we use FCAs (focal correction areas) for grades (look for more on FCAs on our writing website) These administrative strategies help keep my sanity while allowing my students to practice a lot of writing on a daily basis.

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:

The Educator's Reference Desk

Our May WEBSITE OF THE MONTH award is presented to, The Educator's Reference Desk, a site for school, teacher, and educational reference materials.  

The Educator's Reference Desk is a great resource for teachers and other educators.  There are over 2000 lesson plans available on line.  There is a search for ERIC Articles you can do right on the website.  And there are over 3000 links to sites all over the web relating to schools, teaching, and education.  

There are specific areas developed for counselors, librarians, and even families.  Topics are even broken down by subject areas.  

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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"Creation: A Sioux Story"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

Do we actually look inside ourselves to see what is really there?

The Creator gathered all of Creation and said, "I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they create their own reality."

The eagle said, "Give it to me, I will take it to the moon."

The Creator said, "No. One day they will go there and find it."

The salmon said, "I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean."

"No. They will go there too."

The buffalo said, "I will bury it on the Great Plains."

The Creator said, "They will cut into the skin of the Earth and find it even there."

Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said, "Put it inside of them."

And the Creator said, "It is done."



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In This Week's Issue 
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Improving Student Achievement: 
The Magical Ingredient - Parental Involvement

Tech Corner: 
Web 2.0 The New Culture of Social Community

New Teacher's Niche:
Writing Every Day in Class

Website of the Month

Themes on Life:  
"Creation:  A Sioux Story"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Spring Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


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What is your favorite movie?


Describe why THREE friends should see your favorite movie too.   


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Create a short writing prompt that will cover this week's class information. 


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Why is it important to show kindness to others? 


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List 10 jobs that require you to be kind to others on a daily basis. 


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10 days of writing prompts


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Be sure to check out our

The Revision Toolbox:
Teaching Techniques That Work

By Georgia Heard  



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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