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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 5, Issue 3

February 2009

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Happy New Year, and 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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Paragraph Organizer


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The Need For Special Education

By Munir Moosa Sewani

Karim is one of the most brilliant students in my colleagueís class. He is participates well, he's active, and he also takes part in all the extra-curricular activities. The only problem he faces while solving his math is that he can't count or subtract numbers. Although the teacher has taught him everything in the class, Karim is not willing to grasp addition and subtraction skills. He is bit confused on how to pass the math test this year. The course is going on, but his teacher is not ready to change or edit the course just for Karim. The point to ponder is: Is the teacher doing right by comparing Karim's skills with others? Such a problem is common among students. There are at least two on average in every class, where the student somehow lack skills, and that problem is identified as a Learning Disability. If your child has more difficulties than most children of his/her age with schoolwork, communication or behavior, you must work to identify the area of learning disability. Special Education can help the LD child to acquire proper education. Although the progress of your student may be slow; these gradual steps would let them conquer the world one day.

Special education refers euphemistically to the teaching of students with a learning disability, a Developmental disability, or a behavioral problem, or possibly even that of teaching gifted children. This article will focus mainly on the teaching of students with disabilities.

Special Education is specially designed instruction to meet the unique learning needs of students who require Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Special education services are given to the students according to the needs of an individual. Special education also includes related services, like transportation and developmental, corrective, and supportive services that are required to assist a child with a disability in benefiting from special education. These related services include, but are not limited to: speech-language therapy, audiology, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, counseling services, and parent counseling and education. All services are provided by teachers and educators who are proficient in this field. I salute those dedicated teachers and educators who really work for the student's development. Parent's co-operation is also required to deal with any sort of disability. 

If your student has special educational needs, they may need extra help in a range of areas, for example:
Reading, writing, computation, or understanding information
Expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying
Making friends or relating to adults
Behaving properly in school
Organizing themselves
Some kind of sensory or physical needs which may affect them in school

A child who is suspected of having a disability is entitled to an appropriate comprehensive evaluation to determine whether the child is eligible for special education. The evaluation will determine the nature and extent of the childís needs. Evaluations are made up of separate assessments that cover all areas related to the suspected disability. These can include, where appropriate: health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communication skills and motor abilities. ABS (ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOUR SKILLS), etc.

Hundreds of schools are working for that purpose and we should applaud them for their dedicated service that they have understood the need of special education. I would like to request teachers not to measure a child's capability through information. It would be wise enough for the teachers to understand their responsibility and to help such children in your class with some lenient modification to the course. Remember, children learn in different ways and can have different levels or kinds of special educational needs. So if your child has special educational needs, you will increasingly, step by step, bring in the special expertise to help with the difficulties they may have. This step-by-step (Ďgraduatedí) approach will surely change many lives.

A teacher should motivate administrators to start giving extra or different help to a learning disabled child because of his/her special educational needs. Adaptations and modifications to the regular education curriculum will be made to meet the childís needs. If the childís needs cannot be met in the regular classroom setting, an administrator can allot a helper teacher to work with that child. 

The basic level of extra help is known as School Action, and could be: 
A different way of teaching certain things
Some extra help from an adult
Using particular equipment like a computer or special desk 

The IEP could include:
What special or additional help is being given?
Who will provide the help and how often?
What help you can give your child at home?

Whether a student is gifted and talented or has mild/moderate or severe needs, specialized learning programs provide the unique educational opportunities these children need to reach their potential. Parents should be involved in decisions relating to programs and services for their child. And each and every normal school should have the facility to assist exceptional children need so that they could also become the part of our normal crowd.

Remember! Your child's early years are a very important time for their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. Early intervention is the only solution to the problem.

Exceptional Children are the part of our living society and they are the ones who need proper guidance and proper educational facilities from a teacher like you, to meet the future challenges for them.

Munir Moosa Sewani is one of the most famous, prominent and creative names in the field of Education in the past 9 years. He is a Master Trainer In Special Education, Post Graduate, Teacher Educator and a Teacher. He is a Freelance Writer and Photographer, in addition to his role as a featured writer for StarTeaching's newsletter for more than two years now. He is an author of the famous self-published storybook for children titled "The MORAL STORIES FOR CHILDREN" and has also written a Biology book for Secondary Classes. He has written more than 40 articles dealing with social, health, educational and cultural issues, which are internationally recognized and published in famous world wide websites, newsletters, magazines and newspapers. 

He is also a Social worker, private tutor, career counselor, musician, lyrics writer and has multi-dimensional talents. His future plan is to write dozens of informative articles and to work for education and media, in order to explore hidden creativity.

You can contact Munir Moosa Sewani at: munirmoosa@yahoo.com 


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Building A Positive Classroom Environment:  Using Sign Language Signs

by Kim Taylor-DiLeva

Kim Taylor-DiLeva is an educational trainer and owner of Kimís Signing Solutions (www.kimssigningsolutions.com).  She conducts parent and teacher workshops throughout New York State and conducts sign language enrichment classes for daycares and preschools in the Albany , NY area.

Classroom teachers are always looking for strategies to help the students in their class to get along with each other. Their ideal classroom has students who are all friendly toward each other and can problem solve on their own. Here are a few ideas, using American Sign Language signs, to help build your peaceful and positive classroom environment.

Students can problem solve easier when using American Sign Language signs, especially if they are younger or have a hard time with communication. It is easy for most all children to sign the words share, my turn, your turn, yes, no or wait, and can use these signs when conversing and problem solving with each other.

This strategy also comes into play when the need to express feelings arrives. Students can sign angry and mad, which allows them to show their negative feelings in a positive physical way (instead of in an aggressive way toward others). Students can even sign sorry, which is sometimes the hardest word for many children to say.

When you use signs to give directions (like sit, stand, line up, go, or start) youíll find that your class becomes a quieter, more calm classroom. Because you are only signing directions, students not only need to pay better attention, but you are also creating a quieter atmosphere (which they will adhere to).

A more positive atmosphere can also be created by giving praise and encouragement more often. From across the room you can silently give praise (using signs like great, proud, beautiful or silent applause) and your students can give praise to each other in the same way. Extra encouragement can be given and received by all students, just by using a few simple signs.

If you want to start using some signs with your class, youíll need to first look up the sign in an American Sign Language Dictionary, either in print or online.  Learn it, practice it, and then teach it to your students.  Once youíve mastered one, try another one.  To make it easier, Iíve created two classroom posters which will help you and your students to learn the signs and use them with each other more often.  You can find them at http://www.kimssigningsolutions.com/productsshop/posters.html

Donít be overwhelmed by all of the above mentioned signs if you donít know them. Just try one sign and then the next week add a new one. Start with the positive and encouraging signs. Just one or two signs can start your class on the way toward creating your ideal peaceful and positive classroom.

A Great Offer to Our StarTeaching Readers
From Kim's Signing Solutions!

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Fully endorsed by Frank Holes Jr., editor of Starteaching



iTouch: The New Handheld!

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

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

Handhelds are back in education, and it is called an iTouch. If you think back five years ago you will remember Palm handhelds. Everyone thought they would be the answer to one to one computing. Unfortunately, Palmone, the company who made the handhelds, decided to move into a different direction, and the whole movement died. Handhelds are still around, but have been incorporated into cellphones.

About one and a half years ago, Apple came out with a new device called the iTouch. The iTouch was more like an advanced iPod. It could play music, movies, and go on the internet. Then, last July 1st, Apple opened a new section in iTunes called the App Store. To make things even better, they opened up, and provided free of charge to anyone who wanted to, the program needed to make applications for the App Store. As of this date, there are more than 20,000 applications available. It is now expected that sales of these apps will pass the one billion mark this year. So what does this have to do with education?

Initially, the iTouch was fairly expensive.  The price was lowered last September for an opening 8gig iTouch to $229. The Palm Tungston E's sold for $200. The number of iTouch apps for education has already surpassed 1500. With the Palm handheld apps you had to buy an application for every handheld you had or buy a site license. With the iTouch apps, the price is much lower, free up to $9.99, with most being under $5. The other great thing is that you can put them on as many iTouch's that you sync to one computer.

It is still early on in the application development time frame, considering the app store has only been open seven months.  But one of the favorites, Lemonade Stand, is already there for only $0.99. They don't have Sketchy, but they do have something similar called Flipbook. There are a number of math practice apps such as Number Crunch, and also quiz making ones like gFlash. Another great app is Stanza. This app allows you to read many great classics. Since there are new apps being introduced almost everyday, you have to continually check.

You can put audiobooks and converted videos from teachertube or youtube on the iTouch. A new addition to the second generation iTouch is a speaker and volume control on the outside so you don't need headphones, neccessarily. Also, you can get a separate microphone to record things you may want for a struggling reader such as a book or lesson you are doing, or they could record things like interviews or their thoughts on an issue and send it to you.

Hopefully, this will get you thinking and checking out the many uses the iTouch has in the classroom. Remember, we are dealing with multimedia students who will engage themselves in learning using the right tools and our guidance.

While you're at it, here are a few great BLOGS to check out:

Great BLOGS to read on the changes in the way students learn

Doug Johnson The Blue Skunk Blog
Ian Jukes The Committed Sardine
David Warlick Two Cents Worth
Will Richardson WeBloggEd
Kathy Schrock Kaffeeklatsch
Tony Vincent Learning In Hand


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/ 


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





Mastering Basic Skills software:


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
3. Immediate Recall
4. Serial processing
5. Parallel processing
6. Recognition and Recall
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.

Click HERE to order your own copy today:


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Social Promotion

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Social promotion is the practice of promoting a student (usually a general education student, rather than a special education student) to the next grade despite their poor grades in order to keep them with social peers. In Canada and the United States, this practice is only used in the elementary and middle school level. Advocates of social promotion argue that this is done so as not to harm the students' self-esteem, to keep students together by age (together with their age cohort), and to allow teachers to get rid of problem students. The alternative to social promotion is a policy of grade retention, where students repeat a grade when they are judged to be a low performer. The aim of retention is to help the student learn and sharpen skills such as organization, management, study skills, literacy and academic which are very important before entering middle school, high school, college and the workforce.

The following are common arguments regarding this practice.

Arguments against social promotion

Opponents of social promotion argue that it cheats the child of an education. As a result, when the child gets to high school they will probably be forced to be retained or attend summer school. Studies have shown that the high school student that is being retained would be inexcusably painful for a student emotionally because high school students are more vulnerable to change; they are experiencing a lot of pressure because of the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Opponents of social promotion argue that it has the following negative impacts:

Students who are promoted cannot do the work

Students will have many failures in the high school years which will most likely lead to dropping out

It sends the message to all students that they can get by without working hard

It forces teachers to deal with under-prepared students while trying to teach the prepared

It gives parents a false sense of their children's progress

Some hold that most students at the elementary school level don't take their education seriously and therefore retention is most likely not to be effective. Since most middle school students value their education more, retention should be used if they are judged not to have adequate skills before entering high school.

Arguments for social promotion

Opponents of "no social promotion" policies do not defend social promotion so much as say that retention is even worse. They argue that retention is not a cost-effective response to poor performance when compared to cheaper or more effective interventions, such as additional tutoring and summer school. They point to a wide range of research findings that show no advantage to, or even harm from, retention, and the tendency for gains from retention to wash out.

Harm from retention cited by these critics include:

Increased drop-out rates of retained students over time

No evidence of long-term academic benefit for retained students

Increased rates of dangerous behaviors such as drinking, drug-use, crime, and teenage pregnancy among retained students as compared with similarly performing promoted students.

Critics of retention also note that retention has hard dollar costs for school systems: requiring a student to repeat a grade is essentially to add one student for a year to the school system, assuming that the student does in fact stay in the system until graduating from high school.

Part 2 of this article will identify studies of Social Promotion and statistics.  


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Now Available!
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Part mystery, part science fiction, Year of the Dogman is an imaginative, compelling, and adrenaline-pumping adventure. Author Frank Holes, Jr. takes no prisoners in creating a diabolical creature that leaves the forest to prey on the hapless hamlet of Twin Lakes in Northern Michigan . When night falls, the nocturnal beast, Dogman, scares the living daylights out of anyone he happens upon as he searches for a timeless treasure stolen from a Native American tribe. In the midst of the chaos, a young teacher is forced to put two and two together no matter how high the cost to rid the village of the treacherous man-beast who thrives on destruction and terror.  

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 Holesís 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?
Click Here For The
Year of the Dogman Website
Click Here For The
Haunting of Sigma Website
Click Here For The
Western Odyssey Website


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!

We now have special offers on Classroom Sets of our Novel.  Click here for more information:




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

Journal Writing (part 2)

by Frank Holes, Jr.

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

I use a grading system that makes the journals easy to grade. In my class, a full page is given ten points (ten being the maximum per page). However, I'm a stickler; the students must write a full page, right down to the last line on the paper. I do allow the top eight lines for brainstorming, though I don't always require it. Students are always allowed to use the brainstorming lines if they wish.

I require at least one page at each journaling session, which lasts from ten to fifteen minutes. Students are required to write constantly until the time is up, or until they reach a full page.  However, before they are allowed to go on to another activity, they must show me their completed work. Students may also write more than a page for extra credit. I give out ten points for each full page beyond those required. For example, we may have three journal sessions in a week, so the weekly grade is out of thirty points. If a student completes five full pages, their score is fifty points, twenty of them extra credit!

I don't mind offering the extra credit, since usually the ones who take advantage of this are your A students anyway. And since I want to promote as much writing as possible, I strongly encourage every student to write for extra credit.

Journals are the only form of writing that I allow to be done outside of class. Mostly this is because I allow students to write for extra credit (only promoting more writing!)

Students are allowed to share their writing with the class afterward, though no one is required to share. I tell the class they may read all or just part of their writing, or just tell about it. The remainder of the students are allowed to keep writing during the sharing time, and must stop when there are no more to share.  I strongly believe students should be allowed to keep their journals when the year is finished. For many students, putting down their private thoughts in class can lead to a lifetime of writing.

If you'd like to check out a list of journaling topics, check our website at the following quick link: www.starteaching.com/free.htm

Again, you may feel free to use any or all of these, and they may lead you to think of many others of your own. You can also use any of our Weekly Writing Prompts from issues of our newsletter. I encourage you to send along your own topics to add to our calendar.

Be sure to check out our website for the FREE teacher Who-I-Want-To- Be plan and other great Freebies for new teachers. Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

Did you find this article helpful and useful for your classes?  Interested in more information on teaching writing, or writing ideas you can use (and adapt or change for your classes)? See our website or click the following link to access our NEW writing page:

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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"The Wise Woman"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

What's Inside Us That Really Counts?

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream.

The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. "I've been thinking," he said. "I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone."

Sometimes it's not the wealth you have
what's inside you that others need.

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

The Need For Special Education

Building A Positive Classroom Environment: Using Sign Language Signs

Tech Corner: 
iTouch: The New Handheld

New Teacher's Niche:
Journal Writing (part 2)

Themes on Life:  
"The Wise Woman"

School Features:
Social Promotion

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Winter Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club:
School Leadership That Works


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10 Days Of


What does LOVE mean?


Why do people fall in love? 


Who are the people you love the most?  Why?


Why do we send Valentines to people we love?


Describe how something we learned in class this week can be applied to real life.. 


What is the difference between liking someone and loving someone?


How can you tell someone you love him or her?


Describe 5 ways to show someone that he or she is important to you.


Why is it important to love others?


What are 5 subjects in college that can use something we learned in class this week?.


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School Leadership That Works

 by Robert J. Marzano



Coming Soon:

Designing and Running  A Medieval Fair

Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Writing Process and Programs

Classroom Management


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

  Use the following Chart for this week's problems:
1 I 16 XVI
2 II 17 XVII
4 IV 19 XIX
5 V 20 XX
6 VI 30 XXX
7 VII 40 XL
8 VIII 50 L
9 IX 60 LX
10 X 70 LXX
11 XI 80 LXXX
12 XII 90 XC
13 XIII 100 C
14 XIV 500 D
15 XV 1000 M
Day 1

1.    Convert CMXCIX to an Arabic numeral

Day 2

1.    Convert DCLXXXIX to an Arabic numeral

Day 3 Convert CXCVII to an Arabic numeral
Day 4

4.    Convert CCV to an
Arabic numeral

Day 5
Convert XCVI to an
Arabic numeral
Day 6
Convert CCXLIII to an
Arabic numeral
Day 7
Convert LVI to an
Arabic numeral
Day 8
Convert DCXCIX to an
Arabic numeral
Day 9
Convert CCXII to an
Arabic numeral
Day 10
to an Arabic numeral

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