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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 4, Issue 20

October 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.   

Remember to bookmark this page and to visit our website for more great articles, tips, and techniques!

Also, feel free to email this newsletter to a friend or colleague!  

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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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Our Newsletter is now posting openings for a SCIENCE FEATURE WRITER and an ADMINISTRATOR to write a regular column on challenges facing 21st century schools.  

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

  Reader Response

Ask Dr. Manute

Dr. Manute is a well-renowned world traveler, guest speaker, and educational consultant.  

Dr. Manute holds multiple degrees in several educational fields. He has taught in both stateside and international school communities.  He has extensive experience (25 years) in school administration.  He also has worked at the university level, supervising teacher interns and teaching undergraduate courses.

As part of our NEW! Reader Response selection (asked for by our subscribers), we are pleased to have Dr. Manute answer questions from our readers.  

 You can  contact Dr. Manute through the form at the end of this article.  Thanks!

Now that the beginning of the school year is upon us, let's examine our goal setting:

Dear Dr. Manute, 

I'm a first year teacher.  What are some good goals for me to select for myself for the year?

Julia, Memphis, TN

Dear Julia -

Goal setting is very important not only for first year teachers but for everyone in education.  The goals we set help keep us on track through the year.  

Your first year can seem very overwhelming.  You've taken on a new position in a new school.  You have new students and curriculum.  The learning curve for a first year teacher is really immense!  You will have your principal, your fellow teachers, the support staff, and of course your students all vying for your time.  It is very important, therefore, to set a few goals for yourself so you aren't caught up in the swell of the first year.

Try to select a goal to improve your craft - it may be to work on class openings or closings, sponge activities, or transitions between activities.  It may be use the library on a regular basis.  It may be to try out a new teaching strategy each month.  There are a lot of goals, and you can discuss such ideas with your principal, who may have other ideas for you too.  

Also set your goal to have lesson plans for every day, and look them over to be sure they align with your school and state's curriculum and benchmarks.  Get in this habit early in your career!

And importantly, select a goal for your personal life.  Make time for your family, be it a special trip or vacation, a relaxing weekend with your spouse and kids, or just some 'me-time' for yourself.  Find a good book to read to help keep your sanity.  Take up a hobby or craft.  There's that old story about the pebbles in the vase - if you don't get the ones in there you want, the vase will fill up with the pebbles from everybody else.  

  Good luck in your teaching.  It is a very rewarding career!

Dr. Manute


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Debate as Pedagogy to Teach in Science Class
(part 1)

By Sultana Ali Norozi

Sultana Ali Norozi is an Instructor at the Aga Khan University-Institute for Education al Development (AKU-IED) in Karachi , Pakistan . She has a rich experience of teaching at all levels in both the public and private sector. Her research interests include teacher and teacher educator development, teaching and learning in science, science education, and Gender Education .

            The different learning theories have their own explanation. According to Vygotsky (1978, 2001) learning take place in social situations and it happens when one come across a new concept in social setup and then it goes to individual internalization. Usually, in science classrooms teachers experience the teaching pedagogies which focuses on teaching discoveries and inventions of science for example what are the organs (parts) of respiratory system and how they function. This is very important but then students should also know how to apply this scientific knowledge in their practical lives. Generally speaking students can not relate their scientific knowledge with their daily lives. That’s how science remains limited only to science classrooms and laboratories. In order to bridge the gap between scientific factual knowledge and the practical use of it, science teachers need to use variety of pedagogies in science classroom. One of them could be teaching socio scientific controversies in science through “debate”. It is not only teacher who should know about process of debate in classroom but it is always good to share it with students as well. Eventually students are going to participate in the process so they should know what they are expected to do. 


What is debate?

Debate is a competition in which two opposing teams make speeches to support their arguments and disagree with those of the other team.


Basic terms:

Resolution: the opinion about which two teams argue.

Affirmative team: agrees with the resolution.

Negative team: disagrees with the resolution.

Rebuttal: explains why one team disagrees with the other team.

Judges: decide the winner.


It is important to remember that you have been placed in your group based on what seems to be the opposite of what you really think.


Why debate?

Using debates in the classroom can help students grasp many essential critical thinking and presentation skills. Among the skills classroom debates can foster are:


·        abstract thinking

·        analytical thinking

·        questioning

·        point of view

·        distinguishing fact from opinion

·        identifying bias

·        organization of information

·        persuasion

·        public speaking

·        teamwork/cooperation


Kind of evidences to support your reasons

Supporting your reasons consists of evidence. The four kinds of evidence:

Example: from your own experience or from what you heard or read.

Common Sense: things that you believe everybody knows.

Expert Opinion: the opinions of experts -- this comes from research.

Statistics: numbers -- this also comes from research.


Here are samples based on the debate topic, "Smoking should be banned in all public places."

Example: For example / for instance / let me give an example

Whenever I go to a restaurant or bar and there are people smoking near me, I feel that I am breathing their smoke. This makes me a smoker even though I don't want to be.

Common Sense: Everyone knows / if...then / it's common knowledge that secondhand smoke is very unhealthy for nonsmokers.


Secondhand smoke causes about 250,000 respiratory infections in infants and children every year, resulting in about 15,000 hospitalizations each year.

Expert Opinion: According to.../ to quote.../ the book _____ says...

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers each year."


Debate topics in science class

Debate topics must be appropriate to the grade level of the students. Many "controversial issues" are about topics that would be inappropriate in the elementary classroom. Care should be taken in planning for debate issues that would not offend the beliefs and values of the students. Below is a list of possible topics:


·        Animals Used in Research

·        Energy resources

·        Bioengineered Foods

·        Genetic Engineering

·        Global Warming

·        Nuclear Proliferation


Different strategies of debate in class

The following different kinds of debate can be used to engage students and vary the debate structure by involving the class in different ways.

1.      Role play debate strategy

2.      Three-card strategy

3.      Participation countdown strategy

4.      Tag team debate strategy

5.      Fishbowl strategy

6.      Inner circle/outer circle strategy

7.      Think-pair-share debate strategy

8.      Four corners debate strategy

9.      Graphic organizer strategy

10.  Focus discussion strategy

Look for Part 2 of this article which will focus on how to teach several of these debate strategies

You can contact Sultana Ali Norozi at: sultana.ali@aku.edu


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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.
This software package is specifically designed to help young children to learn basic skills that will help them in school.  Continued follow-up will give these young learners success as they mature.  

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

StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports and endorses this software.  It will make a difference with your child or student.

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  School Features

A Brief History of Educational Reform (part 4)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

The term progressive in education has been used somewhat indiscriminately; there are a number of kinds of educational progressivism, most of the historically significant kinds peaking in the period between the late 19th and the middle of the 20th centuries.

Most states and districts in the 1990s adopted Outcomes Based Education in some form or another. The process usually was an umbrella for other disputed methods, such as constructivist mathematics and whole language. A state would create a committee to adopt standards, and a performance based assessment to assess "learning outcomes" which might look somewhat like a content based test, or something that parents might violently reject with very little recognizably academic content. A "Certificate of Mastery" would replace the diploma. At the start of the 1990s, "outcomes" tended to be nonacademic, but towards the 2000s, the term "high standards" instead was adopted, often resulting in very difficult tests. In the 2000s, many states are slated to require passing these tests to get a diploma, compared to the earlier tradition that any student who got a D average and attended for 4 years would graduate with one. States would spend millions to implement these reform programs. Other reform movements were School To Work, which would require all students to spend substantial class time on a job site.

Education reform has been pursued for a variety of specific reasons, but generally most reforms aim at redressing some societal ills, such as poverty-, gender-, or class-based inequities, or perceived ineffectiveness. Reforms are usually proposed by thinkers who aim to redress societal ills or institute societal changes, most often through a change in the education of the members of a class of people—the preparation of a ruling class to rule or a working class to work, the social hygiene of a lower or immigrant class, the preparation of citizens in a democracy or republic, etc. The idea that all children should be provided with a high level of education is a relatively recent idea, and has arisen largely in the context of Western democracy in the 20th century.

States have tried to use state schools to increase state power, especially to make better soldiers and workers. This strategy was first adopted to unify related linguistic groups in Europe, such as Germany and Italy. Exact mechanisms are unclear, but it often fails in areas where populations are culturally segregated, as when the U.S. Indian school service failed to suppress Lakota and Navaho, or when a culture has widely-respected autonomous cultural institutions, as when the Spanish failed to suppress Catalan.

Many students of democracy have desired to improve education in order to improve the quality of governance in democratic societies; the necessity of good public education follows logically if one believes that:

1. the quality of democratic governance depends on the ability of citizens to make informed, intelligent choices, and
2. education can improve these abilities.

Politically-motivated educational reforms of the democratic type are recorded as far back as Plato, whose book The Republic was essentially a thought experiment on education reform. In the United States of America, this lineage of democratic education reform was continued by Thomas Jefferson, who advocated ambitious reforms partly along Platonic lines for public schooling in Virginia.

Another motivation for reform is the desire to address socioeconomic problems, which many people see as having significant roots in lack of education. Starting in the twentieth century, people have attempted to argue that small improvements in education can have large returns in such areas as health, wealth and well-being. For example, in Kerala, India in the 1950s, increases in women's health were correlated with increases in female literacy rates. In Iran, increased primary education was correlated with increased farming efficiencies and income. In both cases some researchers have concluded these correlations as representing an underlying causal relationship: education causes socioeconomic benefits. In the case of Iran, researchers concluded that the improvements were due to farmers gaining reliable access to national crop prices and scientific farming information.

Libertarian theorists such as Milton Friedman advocate School choice to eliminate any need for formal accountability. Public educational vouchers would permit guardians to select and pay any school, public or private, with public funds. The theory is that children's guardians will shop for the best schools.

Home education is favored by some parents who directly take responsibility for their children's education, eliminating accountability by public officials.

Montessori Pre- and Primary school programs employ alternative methods of guided exploration, embracing children's natural curiosity rather than scolding it for falling out of rank.

Some of the methods and reforms have gained permanent advocates, and are widely utilized.

Many educators now believe that anything that more precisely meets the needs of the child will work better. This was initiated by M. Montessori and is still utilized in Montessori schools.

The teaching method must be teachable! This is a lesson from both Montessori and Dewey. This view now has very wide currency, and is used to select much of the curricula of teachers' colleges.

Conservative programs are often based on classical education, which is seen by conservatives to reliably teach valuable skills in a developmentally appropriate order to the majority of Myers-Briggs temperaments, by teaching facts.

Programs that test individual learning, and teach to mastery of a subject have been proven by the state of Kentucky to be far more effective than group instruction with compromise schedules, or even class-size reduction

Schools with limited resources, such as most public schools and most third-world and missionary schools, use a grammar-school approach. The evidence of Lancaster schools suggests using students as teachers. If the culture supports it, perhaps the economic discipline of the Lancaster school can reduce costs even further. However, much of the success of Lancaster's "school economy" was that the children were natives of an intensely mercantile culture.

In order to be effective, classroom instruction needs to change subjects at times near a typical student's attention span, which can be as frequently as every two minutes for young children. This is an important part of Marva Collins' method.

The Myers-Briggs temperaments fall into four broad categories, each sufficiently different to justify completely different educational theories. Many developmental psychologists say that it might be socially profitable to test for and target temperaments with special curricula.

Some of the Myers-Briggs temperaments are known to despise educational material that lacks theory. Therefore, effective curricula need to raise and answer "which" and "why" questions, to teach students with "intuitive" (Myers-Briggs) modalities.

Philosophers identify independent, logical reasoning as a precondition to most western science, engineering, economic and political theory. Therefore, every educational program that desires to improve students' outcomes in political, health and economic behavior should include a Socratic-taught set of classes to teach logic and critical thinking.

Substantial resources and time can be saved by permitting students to test out of classes. This also increases motivation, directs individual study, and reduces boredom and disciplinary problems.

To support inexpensive continuing adult education a community needs a free public library. It can start modestly as shelves in an attended shop or government building, with donated books. Attendants are essential to protect the books from vandalism. Adult education repays itself many times over by providing direct opportunity to adults. Free libraries are also powerful resources for schools and businesses.

New programs based on modern learning theories should be quantitatively investigated for effectiveness, as was done by KERA

A notable reform of the education system of Massachusetts occurred in 1993.

The current student voice effort echoes past school reform initiatives focusing on parent involvement, community involvement, and other forms of participation in schools. However, it is finding a significant amount of success in schools because of the inherent differences: student voice is central to the daily schooling experience because students spend all day there. Many educators today strive for meaningful student involvement in their classrooms, while school administrators, school board members, and elected officials each lurch to hear what students have to say.


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.


Based upon the epic Greek tale of The Odyssey, yet set in the American Wild West, The Longquist Adventures: Western Odyssey chronicles the journey of a young boy and his guide through a perilous world of dangerous encounters and fantastic creatures.  It is a world of gun fights at high noon, stampedes on the great plains, stagecoach robbery, and an ultimate showdown with a ruthless, powerful gangster aboard a turn-of-the-century paddlewheel in the San Francisco Bay.  Can the time-traveling boy and the law-abiding Marshal restore order to the chaos of the American West gone truly wild?

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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.  

Look for Western Odyssey this summer!

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

Assessing Student Writing

by Frank Holes, Jr.
Educational Consultant

Assessing student work is vital to determining if students have attained important skills and knowledge. This is especially true for writing because this is both knowledge and skill based. But many teachers are still using antiquated means of assessing their students' writing. You don't have to stay up late into the night swathing each paper in red ink. There are better and more efficient ways to assess your students writing.

An important thing to keep in mind is that students are practicing the writing process. We cannot expect them to be experts, and we certainly can't expect to grade each writing assignment as if it's a finished piece of writing.

One easy way to assess and grade works in process is to use FCAs, focal correction areas. Now, I'm sure your local or state rubrics will demand particular aspects of the writing, from organizing to fluency to voice to conventions and of course to many other areas.  These are all important assessment tools for pre- and post-testing, because they give an overall picture of students' knowledge and skill. But you wont want to use this rubric every time you grade a set of papers. You're going to want to focus in on individual skills for most of your students' writings.

Lets face it, we want our students to write well and write a lot. But the stacks of paperwork can be awfully intimidating. It is often this mound of essays that keeps teachers from assigning writing assignments on a regular basis. Its ok to be honest, grading the stacks of papers, especially if you have several classes worth, interferes with your personal life and keeps you up late forcing you to get them all done so students can receive feedback on their skill.  And looking at this from a logical stand, I want the kids to be working their butts off, not me; I want them exhausted after my class is over, I don't want to be exhausted in the mornings because I was up late grading essays!

A comparison can be made to sports. When basketball season begins, players aren't expected to perform at game level. They first practice for many sessions over many weeks before they are assessed in a game situation. The coach first drills the players in fundamentals, the basic skills that are required for the sport. Next comes the advanced techniques, moves that combine several skills, and the implementation of plays. Finally players practice the whole of these skills in controlled scrimmages where the coach can evaluate them through guided practice.

The same is true for writing. Why would we want to grade a beginner or practitioner as we would a master of the craft? True, we will eventually grade a final writing piece, just as basketball player must eventually play a game against real opponents. But we want our writing students to practice a lot of the fundamentals, skills, and the more advanced techniques before we use the state's rubric, which assesses everything. And it is the daily practice on these little skills and fundamentals where the greatest improvements can occur.

So how do we assess the improvement in these daily lessons? First of all we must acknowledge the fact that we cannot grade everything every time, and students can't possibly focus on improving each area of writing on each activity. Thus, we need to breakdown the overall rubrics into manageable pieces. These are the FCAs. We choose just a few FCAs to concentrate on for each activity or assignment. We partner these FCAs with short mini lessons and activities to teach and reinforce the skill. And these FCAs will change as students master those skills.

The most basic FCAs to start with are for form and format. Teach the kids how you want their writings to look. This includes the student name and topic at the top of the page (along with whatever else you require). Then we move into the format of the sentences, paragraph, or essay. For our kids, we require brainstorming & organizing, complete sentences, topic sentences, supports, and clinchers in each paragraph. Students work on these aspects until they are automatic parts of the writing. Provide interesting yet easy topics and give plenty of activities to practice these skills. And resist the temptation to grade everything. The students' writing may not be good yet; don't worry about it. Fix and correct one thing at a time so the kids (and you too) aren't overwhelmed. Give the kids a lot of practice and they'll improve. Trust in the system; the FCAs will come through for you. Make your students good at form and format, and when they are doing these skills well, then move to the next area.

Save yourself a lot of work by having students identify particular sections of their work for you before they hand it in. Then your job of grading is much easier. If the FCAs include topic sentences or clinchers, have students underline those sentences. If you require three supports, have students number them in the margin. If you want students to use particular vocabulary or terms, have them circle these for you (these last two are especially good for teachers in areas other than English). Let the kids do the work for you! I even have the students score their papers and add up the points they earned on their FCAs. This acts as a checklist, ensuring they actually covered all of the assignment's requirements. And since they wrote the paper, the students know where each item is in the paper (or if its not there!), saving you time you'd otherwise spend identifying each item and then adding them up. Now granted, you'll have to spot check the papers, and there are always a few students whose work you have to look over more carefully. We all have those students! But for the most part, this will save you hours of checking time and allow you to provide many more writing activities on a daily basis. Get those kids writing more, and save yourself the work!

I like to grade an essay in formal final copy once each marking period. By that time the students have amassed a large number of second drafts and rewrites. I'll give them the opportunity to make corrections and then type the essay out so its easy to read. Also have students do the underlining, circling, numbering, and other markings for you. This gives your students the chance to select from a number of their rough drafts and choose their best one to fix up and hand in.

And just like the team that continues to practice between games through the season, you'll have your students continue to practice fundamentals and individual skills between formal writing assessments. Use the formal assessments you give a few times each year to see gaps in the students' learned skills.

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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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"I Am Powerful" 

Author Unknown

Themes on Life

The Power of personal choice...

I am very powerful!

Whatever I set my mind on having, I will have.

Whatever I decide to be, I will be.

The evidence is all around me.
The power of my will has brought me precisely to where I am right now.
I have made the choices. I have held the thoughts.
I have taken the actions to create my current reality.
And I have the power to change it into whatever I want it to be.

With the choices I make, I am constantly fulfilling the vision I have for my life.
If that does not seem to be the case --
then I am deceiving myself about what I really want.
Because what I really, truly want, I will get!
What I truly wanted in the past, I already have.

If I want to build a billion-dollar business, I will take the actions necessary to do it.
If I want to sit comfortably watching TV night after night --
I will take the actions necessary for that.

Don’t be disappointed in my results --
they’re just the outward manifestation of my priorities.

I will be sure of what I truly want,
because I am sure to get it!

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

Reader Response: Ask Dr. Manute:
Goal Setting at the Beginning of the Year

Debate as Pedagogy to Teach in Science Class

School Features: 
A Brief History of Educational Reform (part 4)

New Teacher's Niche:
Assessing Student Writing

Themes on Life:  
"I Am Powerful"

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 do schools require students to take high-stakes tests?


What are THREE ways you can prepare yourself for a high-stakes test? 


Why should students always eat a good breakfast before a big test?


How can your teachers prepare you to do well on a high-stakes test?


Create a short, 5 question TRUE/FALSE quiz to cover this week's class information. 




What is the difference between 'being a character' and 'having good character'?


How can you improve your character?


Describe FIVE important traits of good character.


Describe how something we learned this week in class can be related to something you studied in another class.   


10 days of writing prompts


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Teach with Your Strengths: 
How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students

By Rosanne Liesveld,
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Coming Soon:

The Writing Process for Every Classroom

Technology & Teaching: The Latest Wave

Getting Ready for This Year

Setting Up Your Classroom


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1

Steve's quiz scores were 94, 88, 90, 82, 76, and 94. What was his average?

Day 2

The population of Afton over the last five years was 344, 339, 348, 340, and 354.

What is the average population over the last five years?

Day 3

The Jackson's phone bills for the last six months were $68, $64, $87, $59, $67, and $74. What was their average bill?

Day 4

If Tom's bowling scores were 110, 160, 115, 145, and 125, what was his average score?

Day 5

1.     If Jason has test scores of 44, 45, 34, and 50, what is his average score?

Day 6

1.     The football team has the ball on its own 20 yard line.  If they lose 6 yards on the next play, what is the new line of scrimmage?

Day 7

1.      IThe football team has the ball on its own 38 yard line.  If they gain 8 yards on the next play, what is the new line of scrimmage?

Day 8

1.     IThe football team has the ball on its own 46 yard line.  (Remember a football field is marked up to the 50 yard line and then marked back down to the end zone.)  If they gain 10 yards on the next play, what is the new line of scrimmage?

Day 9 The football team has the ball on its opponents' 35 yard line.  If they lose 6 yards on the next play, what is the new line of scrimmage?
Day 10

The football team has the ball on its opponents 12 yard line.  If they gain 4 yards on the next play, what is the new line of scrimmage?




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