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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 4, Issue 17

September 2008

StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers New Teacher's Niche Tech Center  

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

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

Challenges of Curriculum
(part 1)

By Salima Moosa Sewani

Teaching is indeed a much respected but a challenging profession. The knowledge and expertise of a teacher helps him/her to fight back the challenges, but a positive ‘learning’ attitude is also required. I believe that we all are in a learning process. Every day we learn something new by making mistakes. 

If challenges are taken as problems, then a teacher might not be able to learn and move ahead. Accepting challenges creates opportunities for teachers not only to enhance their skills but to look at the real world more intimately. Teaching is an open field and the teacher is merely a player. To me, the player needs to be committed. Those who can’t commit shouldn’t adopt this profession, because teachers need to be role models, serve as leaders, and have the position akin to parents. In this way, teachers rear the children they teach, providing opportunities to students to sharpen their intellect, increasing awareness about the need to be ethical.  This is perhaps the most challenging task for a teacher. My experience has taught me to move on by accepting the challenges of this ‘challenging profession.

Here, I will try to focus on the challenges of curriculum and classroom interaction, which I faced during my 8 years of teaching in religious and secular schools.

I find the area of curriculum very wide. The challenges for a teacher regarding the implementation of curriculum in a class is the foremost debate not only in Pakistan , but worldwide. There are several ideas in the mind of Pakistani bureaucrats regarding planning and implementing the curriculum. But the question is, is there any proper curriculum prepared by any ministry, which could fully satisfy the expectations of children and teacher?

The curriculum is not planned according to the social needs of the youth. The challenge for a teacher is to implement the curriculum as forced, in accordance with the instructions of the authorities. A loyal teacher would implement the guided curriculum with the integration of his/her knowledge and study, so that they could prepare the solid leaders for the future generation. I believe that at the stage of learning, curriculum should be designed in such a way, which can produce the required skilled manpower for the future need of our country. In Pakistan , the students don’t have opportunities for practical work. After they complete the secondary school stage, many of them begin to search for a clerical type of job. Consequently unemployment and frustration becomes their fate. This is a real challenge for a teacher: to prepare students according to the needs of the future so that they can get good opportunities on the basis of their knowledge and skills. A real challenge of a teacher is to initiate curriculum in such a manner that it develops the ‘character’ of the individual. It isn’t only a merit degree which makes a person charismatic. It is the character building, which is the true missing asset, for which, teachers are continuously playing their role.

When I was teaching at Karachi Kids University , I observed children were not taking an interest in studies because the curriculum, which I taught was totally theoretical and based on rote learning.  I observed that the children learning were slow and the teachers teaching speed were expeditious. According to my observation, children think that education is the heaviest burden on them. After my observation, I took a challenge to add something fascinating, which can be used as a supporting aid of teaching the curriculum. I integrated all lesson plans with my co- teachers, in which our main focus was to attain objectives through activities. We kept in mind the interest of the students. Gradually, the students started taking an interest toward learning subjects without feeling it a burden.

Curriculum is to provide knowledge and skills, which can satisfy intellect. In order to develop good reading habits, we planned a mini- library, where donated books were kept.  Students were encouraged to read stories and informative books. To make reading literature interesting, we also developed  'pop-up reading skills', in which each student was given a chance to read a text loud and afterwards throw the 'pop-up' cotton ball to another classmate, whom s/he wants to read next. This successful technique not only developed interest, but also activated students in class room participation.

The second challenge regarding curriculum is to face the inappropriate content in our text books. Muhammad Ilyas Khan says,

“The whole education process in our primary and secondary school revolve around the textbooks which mostly are bad written and poorly presented. They are boring for the students as well as the teachers who use them. They seldom arouse any interest among students. As a result the teaching learning process becomes monotonous and lacks any active involvement of the students.”

I agree, because the challenge for a teacher is to implement curriculum through learning based activities so the students will take the interest. Students in Pakistan feel boredom when the teacher makes them to open their book and to learn things by heart only. The only thing which can make them survive intellectually is just a bit of effort and initiative of a teacher to study and plan lessons effectively.

If you will go through the book of general science, most of the topics which are being added, are irrelevant. I took a little initiative and wrote a workbook of General Science, keeping in view the National curriculum objectives. I just made the irrelevant topics precisely, which helped few of the schools in Karachi to teach students specifically with specialization rather than generalization. I think that diverse knowledge is good to boost a child's capability.

The people who design our curriculum are specialists in their subjects with Masters and Doctorate degrees. But the curriculum must be designed with specific objectives.  It is the duty of the government to make changes in our curriculum while asking the teachers, who are the real manifesto planners, so that the teachers can face this challenge with the role in it. But nobody is taking immediate action due to which teachers and students both are facing a lot of hindrance.

I suggest that a curriculum should have some ethical values to foster in them a pride in belonging to the nation, an understanding of its history and aspirations, and the eagerness to serve it. Curriculum should be such as to facilitate the full development of the personality of child and there aims can be achieved if education at this stage is directed towards the objectives.

Look for part 2 in the next issue!

Salima Moosa Sewani has been in the field of teaching for 7 years. She is running her own Learning Center and also working with the Exceptional People in Pakistan. She is a Master Trainer and has done many teaching certifications.


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

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21st Century Learning? 
This is the Answer!

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark's latest articles deal with the change to 21st Century Learning.

As you read all the articles and blogs, view the videos, and sort through what everybody is saying about the change so badly needed in education, you find this concept has so many parts it's hard to nail it all down. But then I read the article called "30 Strategies for Education Reform" by Prakash Nair located at http://fieldingnair.com/edreformnair1.pdf.  Prakash is not an educationalist. He's an architect who's part of a global award winning company that designs and builds schools. As he worked on schools, he realized that he needed to focus on how students learn in coming up with how to build a school building. As he looked at all the research, he brought together these 30 strategies for today's learning.

He begins this online guidebook with this thought and I quote: "In education, there is widespread support for the idea that every student is important and yet, in practice, systems are set up to favor a few at the expense of the many." After giving supports for why reform is needed, he gives individual guidance for superintendents and board members, principals, parents, teachers, and students on how to use the guidebook. He then lists the 30 strategies while linking them to three categories (pedagogy, organization, and non-academic). After that he gives an overview of each of the strategies. He concludes the guidebook with a survey to get you to put into action what you have just read.

I highly recommend this as a great read. It brings together what everyone is saying and puts wheels on how to get going with 21st century learning and being a world class classroom and school.

Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 21 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 33 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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A Brief History of Educational Reform (part 2)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

The basic program was to develop "grammar" schools. These taught only grammar and bookkeeping. This program permits people to start businesses to make money, and gives them the skills to continue their education inexpensively from books. "Grammar" was the first third of the then-prevalent system of Classical education.

The ultimate development of the grammar school was by Joseph Lancaster, who started as an impoverished Quaker in early 19th century London. Lancaster used slightly more-advanced students to teach less-advanced students, achieving student-teacher ratios as small as 2, while educating more than a thousand students per adult. Lancaster promoted his system in a piece called Improvements in Education that spread widely throughout the English-speaking world.

Discipline and labor in a Lancaster school were provided by an economic system. Scrip, a form of money meaningless outside the school, was created at a fixed exchange rate from a student's tuition. Every job of the school was bid-for by students in scrip. The highest bid won. The jobs permitted students to collect scrip from other students for services rendered. However, any student tutor could auction positions in his or her classes. Besides tutoring, students could use scrip to buy food, school supplies, books, and childish luxuries in a school store. The adult supervisors were paid from the bids on jobs.

With fully-developed internal economies, Lancaster schools provided a grammar-school education for a cost per student near $40 per year in 1999 U.S. dollars. The students were very clever at reducing their costs, and once invented, improvements were widely adopted in a school. For example, Lancaster students, motivated to save scrip, ultimately rented individual pages of textbooks from the school library, and read them in groups around music stands to reduce textbook costs. Exchanges of tutoring, and using receipts from "down tutoring" to pay for "up tutoring" were commonplace.

Established educational elites found Lancaster schools so threatening that most English-speaking countries developed mandatory publicly-paid education explicitly to keep public education in "responsible" hands. These elites said that Lancaster schools might become dishonest, provide poor education and were not accountable to established authorities. Lancaster's supporters responded that any schoolchild could avoid cheats, given the opportunity, and that the government was not paying for the educations, and thus deserved no say in their composition.

Lancaster, though motivated by charity, claimed in his pamphlets to be surprised to find that he lived well on the income of his school, even while the low costs made it available to the poorest street-children. Ironically, Lancaster lived on the charity of friends in his later life.

Part 3 of this article will detail the Educational Reforms of the 1900s.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




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In The Haunting of Sigma, Frank Holes, Jr. returns fans of the legendary Dogman to the wild world of cryptozoology in Northern Michigan .  This darker, far more sinister prequel to Holes’s first novel fully establishes his hold upon the imaginations of readers all over the Midwest .  June 1987 ushers in the hot, dry summer season, but something else far more horrifying has taken up residence in the deep wilderness in Kalkaska County .  The Dogman, a supernatural combination of canine and man, has returned to wreck havoc upon the tiny, sleepy community of Sigma.


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


The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  

Western Odyssey, the first novel in the series, is now available!

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

Writing Paragraphs

The basics of writing paragraphs are important for students in any class.

Writing paragraphs in our school's program means following a specific rubric. We teach the students to use the same format and steps. We follow the five-step writing process, focusing on brainstorming, drafting, and revision. Paragraph writing for us means drafting, which will be full of mistakes and correctible areas (which we can edit later on). When first introduced, students will be practicing writing paragraphs every day until they master the format we use.  Then we will shift focus from format to working closely on organization, then to content, and finally to writing conventions.

The first step is brainstorming. We require a specific number of 'triggers' for each topic. Students generally choose between making a web or a list to visually show their brainstorming. For example, our 7th graders must include eight triggers, while seniors must have at least fifteen. You and your school will decide what is appropriate. Then all triggers are ORGANIZED by order of importance, chronological order, etc. Students are asked to number the triggers 1-8. Of course, students are always encouraged to write down more triggers (sometimes we even offer extra credit for more triggers!).  We also encourage students to freewrite as brainstorming. Students look over their prewriting and start using their organized triggers to form the ideas presented in the paragraph.

Students then create a topic sentence (T.S.). This is an introductory sentence which captures the reader's attention and gives the reader an idea of what the paragraph is about. We require students to restate the topic in the T. S. This begins to create flow (the connectedness of ideas and transitions) by using several key words in the topic.

At least three body sentences follow (we require six in the 7th grade). These will include details and examples, as well as data in the form of facts or statistics. Make sure these all support the topic sentence. The body sentences also will include a personal life experience (PLE) which connects the topic to the writer's life or to a real-life situation (7th graders must have two sentences for each PLE). We've found, in particular, that papers with a well developed PLE scored much higher on the MEAP than those without a PLE. The body sentences must connect to the topic sentences, and be sure their details flow in a logical manner.

Finally, wrap up the paragraph with a CLINCHER STATEMENT. This again restates the topic, brings closure to the paragraph, and summarizes the ideas presented. The clincher should leave the reader satisfied that he/she understands what was presented in the paragraph. It may also leave the reader wanting more, and provide a means to find more information. The clincher may also be a transition to another paragraph or subject.

Always have your students write a title for the paragraph. This is really an advanced skill, requiring students to think about what they really wrote and condense down the ideas into a short phrase that must also catch the reader's attention. It's a great skill to practice each time they write.


Q: How long is a typical paragraph required for class?
A: This is always hotly debated among teachers. We have set limits at each grade level, based on what our MEAP requires and a progression up the grades. These minimums ensure our students are forced to include examples and details to enhance the paragraph's supports. Our 5th graders must write at least 40 words in each paragraph (as always, they can always write more). In the 6th grade, 80 words are required. At 7th grade, students must write 100 words, and at 8th grade it is 125 words. There are also sentence requirements. A 5th grade paragraph must have at least 5 sentences (topic sentence, body/support sentences, and a clincher). 6th graders must have 6 sentences, while 7th and 8th graders must include at least 8 sentences

Q: How much time do we give students to write out a paragraph?
A: The paragraph structure was developed in response to the demands of the MEAP test (Michigan's high stakes test) as well as to our own school's curriculum and class needs. We wanted a structure that could be easily learned and remembered (by both students and staff). It had to be versatile enough (and adaptable) to use at any grade level or course. And it needed to allow for students to make it their own – we believe it promotes students' creativity, writing style, and voice while giving them a structure that nearly guarantees success. Thus, it had to be written in a fairly short span of time to allow for students to proof and edit. Brainstorming & organizing should take no more than five minutes (most of our students can do it in under a minute with practice!). The whole paragraph can be written in fifteen minutes or less (again with practice). We NEVER let these go home, and they're always due in class. Students cannot take their MEAP tests home to finish, remember! Time frames start out longer at first, but then we shorten the time as they become more proficient.

Q: How much do you worry about mistakes in spelling, grammar, mechanics, etc.?
A: Remember, this is drafting. We always encourage the students to be careful about what they write. However, we want them focusing on the structure and the logical flow of ideas. Corrections can be made if/when we revise and proof for a final copy.

Q: Doe the PLE have to come at the end of the paragraph?  
A: Certainly not! It should be inserted where it makes the most sense in the paragraph. Think about how that story will fit in the flow of ideas in the paragraph. PLEs can even occur in the beginning of the paragraph; we call these LEADS.

Q: Can a topic sentence or clincher be more than one sentence in length?
A: We try to keep these at one sentence in our younger grades, but as students become more mature writers, it is expected that they will attempt and experiment with developing their own personal style. If a middle school student asked about this, I'd ask back, "Why do you need more than one sentence?" If there is a compelling reason, I wouldn't have a problem.

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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"Words of Great Wisdom"
The Native American Code of Ethics

Themes on Life

Great thoughts to live by...

1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.

2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.

3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.

4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.

5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. If it was not earned or given, it is not yours.

6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth - whether it be people or plant.

7. Honor other people's thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.

8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.

9. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.

10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.

11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us. They are part of your worldly family.

12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life's lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.

13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.

14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.

15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self - all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in spirit to cure emotional ails.

16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.

17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others - especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.

18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.

19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.

20. Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity.

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In This Week's Issue 
(Click the Quick Links below):

Challenges of Curriculum (part 1)

Tech Corner: 
21st Century Learning? This is the Answer!

New Teacher's Niche:
Writing Paragraphs

Themes on Life:  
"Words of Great Wisdom"

A Brief History of Educational Reform
(part 2)

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Autumn Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club


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10 Days Of


Why is it important to be respectful toward substitute teachers?


Write down THREE ways you can make a substitute teacher's day pleasurable. 


What behaviors should you display for a substitute teacher?


How will class be different when you have a substitute teacher compared to your regular teacher?


Describe FIVE important facts you've learned in class this week. 


What is wisdom?


Why is it important to study wisdom?


How can you learn to be more wise?


Describe FIVE important pieces of wisdom you've learned from your family.


Write down THREE questions you still have about something we learned this week in class.   


10 days of writing prompts


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Year of the Dogman

A New Novel by Frank Holes, Jr.
Now Available!
click here for more info

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Be sure to check out our

Getting To Yes,
Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In

 by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton



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

1.    It is now 2:30pm.  In 48 minutes, what time will it be?

Day 2

1.    It is now 7:55am.  In 90 minutes, what time will it be?

Day 3 It is now 11:42 pm.  In 1 hour and 40 minutes, what time will it be?
Day 4

4.    It is now 4:33am.  In 3 hours and 55 minutes, what time will it be?

Day 5 What is the TOTAL PRICE for a $20 DVD with a 6% sales tax?
Day 6

What is the TOTAL PRICE for a $14 CD with a 5.5% sales tax?

Day 7 What is the TOTAL PRICE for a $5 lunch special with a 15% tip?
Day 8

What is the TOTAL PRICE for a $25 dinner with a 20% tip?

Day 9 FOUR friends want to share a pizza and soda at a restaurant.  The bill is $18, and they want to leave a 20% tip.  How much will each pay?
Day 10 Five friends want to share a pizza, soda, and dessert at a local restaurant.  They have $35 all together to use.  If they want to be sure and leave a 20% tip, what is the most they can spend?
Pick up a copy of MaryAnn Graziani's book, Fat Pigs Fly!

Click HERE for to purchase your copy today!



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