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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
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Volume 4, Issue 3

February 2008

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Welcome back to our StarTeaching newsletter, 
Features for Teachers, packed full of tips, techniques, and ideas for educators of all students in all levels.   

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Get It Out Of Your Head And Into a Mind Map

By Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D

Do you ever feel like you have some great ideas, but when you sit down to write them, they’re not so great? Or even worse, you can’t really get a sense of what the ideas were?

In one of my graduate student coaching groups we have been discussing the difficulty of translating partly formed ideas into words on paper. One technique that makes use of a normally underutilized part of our brain is called “Mind Mapping.”

What is a Mind Map?

Tony Buzan, who created the word “Mind Map” and has written extensively on it, describes it as a powerful graphic technique that makes use of the way our brains naturally work. He says it has four characteristics.

1. The main subject is crystallized in a central image
2. The main themes radiate from the central image as branches
3. Branches comprise a key image or key word printed on an associated line
4. The branches form a connected nodal structure

How Do You Mind Map?

Mind mapping is best done in color. If you have some markers or colored pencils, and a sheet of white paper, you’re ready. If you don’t, just use what you have.

Start with the central idea that you are trying to wrap your mind around. It could be the big picture (e.g. your next chapter) or a smaller idea (e.g. the next few paragraphs.) Write it down in one or two words at the center of the paper, and draw a circle around it. If there is a symbol or picture that you can put with the words, sketch that in. The idea is that you are activating the non-verbal side of your brain. The quality of what you draw is not important, since you will be the only one seeing it. The same is true for the ideas you come up with. Don’t edit, just put in what comes to mind.

There are no rules for the way to proceed from here. I tend to break rules, anyway. The way my mind works, I start thinking of related ideas, categories, and ideas, which I write in little circles surrounding the circle in the middle. I then use lines to connect them.

Tony Buzan likes to draw curved lines emanating from the center, and write the related or associated ideas on the lines. The result looks like a tree emanating from a central spot.
My technique looks more like a bunch of lollipops.

As you continue to add associated ideas to your outer circles or branches, you continue to draw the connections. You will notice as you fill them in that there are cross connections that appear. I find it helpful to draw lines between those interconnecting ideas.

How Does a Mind Map Help?

The brain is an associative network, and the right hemisphere (in most people) is responsible for non-verbal, visual, associative and much creative thinking. Normally when writing, we are mostly making use of our left hemisphere, which tends towards the analytical, one-thought-at-a-time approach. Our internal thoughts, however, are not shaped like that. Thus we have a roadblock as we try to get our brilliant thoughts on paper.

By using a Mind Map as a starting point for thinking, you can bypass the blockage and feeling of overwhelm caused by overly analytical thinking. The Mind Map allows you to see more than one thought at a glance, and in doing so helps clarify your thinking. It shows the way ideas are interrelated (or less related than you thought.) It allows more access to creative, non-linear parts of your brain.

How Can Grad Students and Professors Use Mind Maps?

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “How is it that Gina writes so brilliantly and clearly? How does she keep all her creative thoughts straight?” The secret is that I use Mind Maps to write my articles. So it’s not a high IQ but my Mind Mapping skills that got me where I am today.

Here are some helpful ways to make use of Mind Mapping:

1. Use it for brainstorming ideas for your proposal or new research project.
2. Make a Mind Map of your next chapter or the one you’re currently stuck on.
3. When planning your career, make a Mind Map to show the pros and cons of your available options.
4. Use a Mind Map to take notes.
5. Mind Mapping can help keep you awake and interested in your subject.
6. Prepare for an upcoming meeting with a Mind Map and use it to explain your ideas.
7. Use it in teaching, both to prepare classes and for handouts.

Play around with Mind Mapping. You’ll find it’s a refreshing break from the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other way that we approach many things in life.

Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, tenure and dissertation coach who helps faculty and graduate students realize their dreams. Check out her site at http://AcademicLadder.com  and get the free and unique “Academic Writer’s Block Wizard.” 

 

 

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  TECH CORNER

Textbooks, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark's latest articles are about changing our classrooms and teaching styles to reflect 21st Century learners.  

Last month I talked about grades and when they're appropriate. This month I'd like to take a look at something we, as teachers, do every day.

As the opening bell, buzzer, light, or whatever goes off every morning in every school across the nation, teachers have already made many decisions that apply to what the students will learn that day. This has been a time honored part of being a teacher for as long as teachers have been around. In the last century, the learning has centered around textbooks written for every subject. Even today, this practice continues throughout our nation and world.

Each week a teacher plans out their lessons based on the textbook they're using, following page by page and chapter by chapter until they complete the textbook or the school year runs out. You may say, yeah, your point?

My point is that the 21st century (the digital age) has arrived and with it a whole new way of doing things. You may ask, why should I change just because something new has come along? I agree, no one should change just because something new is available. Change should take place when it's more beneficial.

Observe your students and consider what you see. Are they truly engaged in that textbook, or are they checking out? I had a fellow teacher remark to me a year ago that she didn't see students very interested in their textbook anymore. How about you? Does going through a textbook page by page and chapter by chapter really fulfil your state standards, or is it just easier.

In all of this, does it meet the needs of today's students.

In the last two years, brain research has changed what we thought about how the brain works. With the help of technology we can see that today's students are different from the past in how their brain functions. These "screenagers", as some have called them, even prefer different colors then in the past. Blood red and neon green are some of their favorite colors. Their least favorite color is black. We're not talking about what color they like to wear, but what they like to see on the screen or in print. I've watched many students reverse the colors on their computer screens so it's white on black, instead of black on white. Now think of these implications when it comes to textbooks. I've seen students enjoy reading a book on their handheld computer, which is digital, compared to reading a hardcover book.

In the January 2008 edition of Technology & Learning magazine an article entitled "Top 10 Tech Trends" written by Susan McLester states In the recent report, A Revolution in K-12 Digital Content How Soon Is Now? research group Eduventures declares the textbook "dead...or at least dying" as the "primary content delivery mechanism" for schools. In another article from the same edition Tom McHale writes an article entitled "Tossing Out Textbooks" where he talks about a Tucson high school that has done away with textbooks and gone totally digital using laptops.

As we've talked about in the past, today's students are more engaged when it comes to learning in student centered  classrooms vs. the traditional teacher centered approach. So are you ready to make a change? You don't have to have a bank of computers to make the change, but it does help. In my next article I'll talk about ways you can break the textbook dependency cycle. Till then, 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/ 

 

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The Art of Story Telling

By Miss Salima Moosa Sewani

Storytelling is an art. It takes dexterity to expose the creative person inside us. When we play with any toy, we pretend to walk, talk, and act the same as that figure. We might be telling a story about a fairy, or we might be having a birthday party, or, conceivably, we may be going on some outings. The fun of playing by ourselves is in making different sounds and many gestures. We try to set different emotions in order to make our expressions clear and full of reality.

When we tell a story to anyone, for example let’s suppose a child,  we do follow the outline of beginning, middle, and end. We fill in details of our senses, emotions, feelings, expressions, etc. We try to locate the timings and make our story more interesting by adding descriptive words in it.

To be frank with you all, telling a story is not a cup of tea for everyone. It requires dedication and skills to fill it with emotions. I would suggest to teachers not to duplicate any characters. Be real!  Use gestures and always move from one place to another to grasp the attention of your audience. Everyone must start as who they are and let the action and the description of the story inspire us to play. There is no right or wrong way to tell a story except to be ourselves, relax, and have fun with the pleasure of sharing a story.

During my teaching career, I have used many techniques to teach students with the help of stories full of life. Here are some of the suggestions that might help you to become a good story teller.

The first step is to write it. Make your habit to fill the your words full of expressions and ideas in your writing. I, myself, am struggling to be a good writer, and that's what the dedication is (which is required from your side too) to be passionate about trying and learning things. The idea for your story may be based on an old tale or it might come right from your mind, but it must be put into your own words and then told with your own style of telling.  Never plagiarize a story or copy words. It might make your story artificial. There are many ways to tell the same story.  When you tell a story, you must imagine it just as if you were there.

Choose a favorite story from your school or college library or you can even try newspapers to get a good story. Websites can also help you a lot to get different tales.

First: Make an outline of each important plot point of the tale in sequential order: a true beginning, middle, and end. This outline is a map that will remind us where the story is going, even if we experiment by taking a few detours. Add some details and scenes that no one has ever thought of before. It should be unique and should please your listeners.

Second: start writing your first scene. Look at your outline and brainstorm. Work in a group to get a lot of ideas. You can arrange workshops for the teachers in order to gain different ideas before transforming it into reality. I still remember that while attending workshops at the Aga Khan University , Institute of Education , we brought many ideas by working in a group, and then formulate the effective lessons on the basis of our own thoughts and unique ideas. You may discover new actions to add to your outline or change the order of the outlined actions. You may make several outlines before you are done.

Ask yourself these questions:

*  Who are the characters in your story?

*  What is happening?

*  Why is there a problem?

*  Where and when does the scene take place?

*  Can you describe what the setting looks like?

*  By whom? By what?, etc.

List the senses:  seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching details of the pretend world of the play. Imagine you can hear what the characters are saying. Imagine and write the dialogue of the scene. Pretend to walk and talk like them. 

Third:  Imagine that you are one of the characters in the play. Write down the story from your point of view.  Imagine being the character and speaking this story out loud.  Share these monologues with your team so you get to know all the characters in the play.

Fourth: Now, imagine you are one of the spectators. Using pieces of the dialogue, the monologues, and the expressive details which you and your colleagues have already written, write a new version of the story describing the whole imaginary world you have been brainstorming. Tell this story out loud. When you converse the words of the characters, let yourself move and talk like them. Sometimes you will recount the details of the scenes that you can see in your mind's eye. Sometimes you may become the characters and feel what they are feeling. Let yourself be in the middle of the world of the story, describing to the listener what is happening all around you as if it were real.

Remember, imagining things is the most challenging task to learn. The imagination is like a muscle. The more we use it the quicker and stronger it gets. Don't be discouraged if at first you feel awkward. Keep trying and soon you'll be leaping and roaring. Just like bike riding, gymnastics, football, or any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get at doing it. Practice playing, and soon you'll see your storytelling skills growing.

Last, I wish you best of luck to become a professional story teller.

Salima Moosa Sewani has been in the field of teaching for 8 years. She is a post graduate, Master Trainer, and a professional teacher. She has been working with StarTeaching for the past year. She is a member of many teaching associations and has completed many teaching certifications. She has also written one General Science book for secondary students. Her passion is to research and to share her experiences with others. 

 

 

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Journal Writing (part 1)

This is the first in a series on developing Journal Writing in your classroom, a writing technique that is applicable to any grade and any subject area.


We use the journal writing style for several applications in class.  The number one goal of mine is to provide students with a place to record their thoughts and to reflect on their lives. I also advocate writing activities that can (and should) be done on a daily basis. I really believe students need to write a lot and often; they become better writers with a lot of practice. You can't expect students to be good at writing if they only write a few times each month or marking period. But I also don't believe students need to formally write essays each time either. Journaling is one way to break up the monotony of the formal style.

Creating journals is a very easy and fun activity that gives the students ownership of the journal. Pass out ten or so pieces of regular lined paper to each student. I always keep a basket of lined paper at the front and back of my room anyway, so students can add pages to their journal at any time they need. Then pass out colored construction paper for the front and back covers. Each student receives three fasteners to hold it all together. A suggestion is to NOT punch holes in the covers, as the fastener heads sometimes slip through, and the journals can fall apart. I allow the students to decorate their covers with anything, as long as it's tasteful and appropriate for school.

Students must be given the freedom of choosing their own topics if they wish. However, I always provide a topic for the students to use if they are unable to generate their own ideas. Students are allowed to use my topic, or to change any part of it. I'll share a few of my classroom journal topics in the follow up to this article. Any idea can be changed into a journal topic - I usually add a few guiding questions for students to consider when making their responses.

Some students also enjoy writing on the same topic for more than one writing session. I even have some students who are writing stories, and complete chapters or stanzas during class time. They may take a break once in a while and write on a different topic, but they usually end up back at their story.

Students are not allowed to stop and think for more than a few seconds - this is a writing activity, not a stopping and thinking activity.  And their grade is based on the amount they write, not the amount they think.

So what are the rules for a journal write? Basically you get to decide! Just keep them consistent and students will know what you expect within the first few writes. In my class, students are allowed to choose the genre, such as poetry, drama, or prose. They are encouraged to try out different styles.

Since the journaling is actually a form of active brainstorming, I don't worry about complete sentences, spelling, or mistakes in grammar or mechanics. These are the guidelines we use, but you can feel free to adjust them to suit your class and needs.

In the follow up article, I will explain the easy grading system that is set up to MINIMIZE the amount of teacher work. This stress-free system allows your students to write more and write often, without the massive paper stack for you to grade at home. I'll also provide some of my sample topics to get you started.

 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

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"The Given Light"
By Barbara Hug

Themes on Life

Are we willing to share our greatest treasure with others?

Once upon a time a man had heard, that in a foreign place, far away, there was a holy flame burning. So he got up and left his home to find the holy flame and bring some of its light back home to his house. He thought: 'When I have this light, then I will have happiness and life and all the people I love will have it too.'

He traveled far, far away and finally found the holy flame, with which he lit his light. On his way back he had only one worry: 'That his light could go out.'

On his way home he met someone who was freezing and didn't have any fire and who begged him to give him some of his fire. The man with the light hesitated for a moment. Wasn't his light too precious, too holy to be given away for something ordinary like that? Despite these doubts, he decided to give some of his light to the one who was freezing in the darkness.

The man continued his journey home and when he had almost reached his house a terrible thunderstorm started. He tried to protect his light from the rain and the storm, but at the end his light went out.

To return the long way back to the place where the holy flame was burning was impossible, he wouldn't have had enough strength to go back this far - but he was strong enough to return to the human being whom he had helped on his way home.

.........and with his light he could light his own again.

 


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In This Week's Issue 
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Get it Out of Your Head and Into A Mind Map

Tech Corner: 
Textbooks: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

New Teacher's Niche:
Journal Writing (part 1)

Themes on Life:  
"The Given Light"

The Art of Story Telling

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Holiday Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


 

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10 Days Of
Writing 
Prompts 

Day
1

Why do Americans love chocolate so much?

Day
2

Describe THREE different foods you enjoy that incorporate chocolate .

Day
3

How has chocolate been a part of American history and culture?

Day
4

What are Ten different chocolate candies you can give as a present?

Day
5

Write down THREE things you learned well this week in class.

Day
6

Why is it important to learn how to swim?

Day
7

What are FOUR important water activities that require a knowledge of swimming?

Day
8

Create a short story or poem that includes a character who swims.

Day
9

How can knowing how to swim save your life?

Day
10

 Create FOUR questions about information you still don't know well from this week's classes.

 

10 days of writing prompts

 

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Year of the Dogman


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By Patrick M. Lencioni

 

 

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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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1

Estimate by rounding to the nearest tenth: 0.672 + 0.424

Day 2

How many addition signs should be put between digits of the number 987654321 and where should they be put them to get a total of 99?

Day 3

What is the area of a rectangle 12 inches long and 7 inches wide?

Day 4

Mrs. Caras is redecorating her home with 1-foot-square tiles.  There are 3 rooms measuring 5 by 8, 15 by 11, and 12 by 11.  How many 1 foot-square tiles will Mrs. Caras need for all three rooms?

Day 5

Nancy has to be at work by 9:00 a.m. and it takes her 15 minutes to get dressed, 20 minutes to eat and 35 minutes to walk to work. What time should she get up?

Day 6

Suzy is maing a beaded bracelet. She has a box containing 32 beads.  12 blue, 12 green, and 8 red.  If she picks a bead without looking, what is the probability that she picks green or red?

Day 7 A book sells 2572 copies the first year, the second year it sells 1983 copies, the third year it sells 172 less copies than in its second year. How many copies are sold in 3 years?
Day 8

Solve the riddle to find the number with these clues:

  • (1) There is a 1 in the thousands place.
  • (2) The digit in the tens place is 9 times the digit in the thousands place.
  • (3) Multiply the digit in the thousands place by 2.
  • (4) The digit in the ones place is a hand without a thumb.

(5) The digit in the hundreds is 2 less than the number in the tens

Day 9

What is 9.81 rounded to the nearest tenth?

Day 10

What time is it 25 minutes after 10:40 P.M.?

 

 

 

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