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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
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Volume 5, Issue 2

January 2009

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Parental Involvement Through 'In-Class Support Program'


Yasmeen Jumani has been a teacher Educator for the past 11 years.  She has done her Masters in Islamic History from the University of Karachi.  She has a Master in Education from Hamdard University, Institute of Education and Social Sciences, A VT certificate from AKU-IED along with an advance diploma in (PTEP) Professional Teacher Education Program from IIS and AKU- IED. 

“The school will teach children how to read, but the environment of the home must teach them what to read. The school can teach them how to think, but the home must teach them what to believe”.
- Charles A. Wells

The child is the center of any educational setting where curriculum, teachers, infrastructure all revolved around him or her. The physical structure in any educational setting is one of the major means where learning takes place. Curriculum is another facet accessible for every teacher, further translated accordingly in the form of prescribed text books and other supplementary reference material.  Teachers perform their role as facilitator, trying to achieve their targets throughout the academic year.

The above mentioned chain could be figured out very easily in any educational system through a top down approach or bottom up method, and outcomes may be observed very easily. The formal school structure has been now rigorously experiencing the unwillingness of parental involvement and only for this reason, the practical dimension of curriculum could not even be achieved. This vulnerable aspect is now becoming an educational dilemma especially during the in-class support time which indicates that parents are no doubt aware of their children's day to day school activity but  actually don’t even know whether  learning is  taking place or how they could become  the real partner of their children in the entire educational world.  

The statute defines parental involvement as "the participation of parents in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities, including ensuring that parents play an integral role in assisting  their child’s learning; that parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s education at school; [and] that parents are full partners in their child’s education and are included, as appropriate, in decision-making and on advisory committees to assist in the education of their child. …” (A-1)

The formal schooling is not sufficient to decide what and where a child would be in the near future and the entire responsibilities cannot be put on the school system only because each classroom contains a mixed ability group of learners, and teacher(s) usually deal with individual differences. Only parents are the key mediators whose involvement and induction help teachers to deal children with specific needs and sort out solutions of any pertinent impediment. The reason behind is that parents understand their children best because they usually spend more time with them and that’s why through their on-time support, children learning ability and class participation can flourish and foster. As Stenhouse mentioned (1977, p.3) “The central problem of curriculum study is the gap between our ideas and inspiration and our attempts to institutionalized them.’’  This indicates that parents are the ones who can play a vital role in their children’s learning and minimize the gap between curriculum and child’s understanding. Hence this partnership will also determine how a taught curriculum should practice in the home environment where children could further complement their learning through the practical dimension of education with their parent’s support.

the child is placed in a center of a triangle; certainly curriculum, parents, and teachers would be the three vertices which are interconnected, and this triangle functions as a scaffold.  Without of one of these, the figure of a child is seen incomplete.  Educationists strongly suggest that appropriate measures must be required for a school system to induct parents in the system.  Also we need to educate our parents about the underpinning of the curriculum and what outcomes must be catering through their support. "The child pulls parents and teachers together, but without the help of one another, parents and teachers pull the child apart.” Debora Tinnin

Education is a continuous process and allows all stakeholders to strengthen their connectivity with education as a lifelong learner. Hence involvement in children’s education is again a golden chance for parents to update and enhance their learning and understanding about new modes and perspectives through their children’s eye. Thus there are numbers of benefits of parental involvement when schools work together with families to support learning, and children tend to succeed not just in school, but throughout life (Source: The Parent Institute)

Moreover there are many ways through which parental involvement could be strengthened in our school system. Not only is it prudent to call parents in parent-teachers meetings (PTM) but in parents conferences  where parents could  discuss the educational issues of their children and seek for the solution. Also the home assignment is the best way that their involvement can be observed clearly.  However, it’s important to see how children could be facilitated during this process. There are some other occasions where every school manager could invite parents to supervise the co-curricular activities which could be a great incentive for both children and parents. If parents get involved in helping teachers in preparing low -cost and other teaching resource material, it will be an additional means of support from parents to engage themselves in their child ‘s learning and assess the learning that is occurring.  A school could initiate the services of professional parents by engaging them in yearly /annual activities such as debate, art, drama, speech and other competitions. ‘Parent day’ is one more innovation where the rich diversity of expression could be celebrated and promoted collegiality.  

Research indicates that the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status, but the extent the student’s family is able to:

1. Create a home environment that encourages learning.
2. Express high and realistic expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers.
3. Become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.
(Source: www.cde.state.co.us - Strengthening Parent Involvement)

Research clearly shows that those parents who are been involved  in teaching learning process, their  children shown remarkable interest in studies and day to day activities.  Moreover a culture of respect, trust and ownership could be commenced through parent’s indication in education which will further assure the ongoing progress of child learning’s.

Finally, it is up to the parent whether they want to participate in their children’s learning on a seasonal-based approach by attending a Parent Teacher Meeting and signing the report card only, or if they are really keen to see the difference in their children by partaking in the classroom as a reason based approach.  The U.S. Secretary of Education mentioned, “Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers. By reading to children or having them read to us, by making sure homework is done, by monitoring television use, by knowing how children spend their time, parents can have a powerfully positive effect on their children’s learning”.  



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!

I recently received a question regarding higher order thinking skills:

Dear Dr. Manute:

"I am a middle school teacher and recently our Principal has been promoting the use of higher order thinking skills in our everyday teaching.  My problem is I have very little expertise in this area and I am reluctant to share that with him, any ideas?"

S. Miller, Colorado Springs, CO

Dear S. Miller -

The use of higher order thinking skills in everyday teaching is not new; in fact it has been around as long as there has been teaching!  Effective teachers have utilized these methods but may not have known what they were called.  Let’s use the example of teaching a lesson in social studies.  In years past a lesson plan might include words like listen, take notes, lecture and discuss.  A more progressive approach includes verbs like compare and contrast, create, analyze or demonstrate.  Do you see the difference?  The key lies in the verb used or what action during the lesson is required.  Are the students, and for that matter the teacher, passive or active participants?  Passive means teacher centered instruction, while active leans toward student centered instruction.  If you were a student, which classroom would you rather be in? 

The jargon used to indicate basic to higher order thinking skills is very easy to understand.  If you look at the words used to describe the basic levels of knowledge and understanding and then compare them to higher levels of application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation, bingo, you have it at your fingertips!  Where do you find this information?  Where else, the internet!  Start by looking up Bloom’s Taxonomy.  There is a wealth of information available and from there use your teacher skills to implement them into your daily lessons.  Your students will be amazed and you will have a lot of fun being an active participant in your lesson.  

Good luck and good teaching!

Dr. Manute


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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
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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

Individualized Instruction

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Individualized instruction is a method of instruction in which content, instructional materials, instructional media, and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner.

Individualized instruction is not the same as a one-to-one student/teacher ratio or one-to-one tutoring, as it may seem, because economically, it is difficult, if not impossible to have a teacher for each student. Even the most expensive public school system in the United States (Washington, DC, 2003, approximately $11,000 per student per year) would require at least 5 students per teacher to pay teacher salaries, without anything left for buildings or non-teaching staff.

In a traditional classroom environment, lectures consume approximately 80% of an average teacher's in-class time, to say nothing of the time needed to prepare lessons. Yet lecturing is an inherently inefficient method of conveying information. The average student retains only approximately 10% of what is presented in a lecture, but without substantial reinforcement that figure falls to an abysmal 2%, or less, within 24 hours.

Therefore, throughout the history of education the notion of lecturing has been challenged as a time-effective method of teaching, and alternative pedagogical models have been proposed. For example Educational Research Associates has concluded that placing greater reliance upon well-designed instructional materials – whether audio, video, multimedia Computer-assisted instruction (CAI), or simply a good textbook – can hardly be less efficient than the lecture method, but yields a huge net benefit by freeing teachers to focus upon the needs and problems of individual students.

In this way, individualized instruction is like direct instruction, which also places greater reliance upon carefully prepared instructional materials and explicitly prepared instructional sequences. But where direct instruction is very rigidly structured for use with children in primary school, individualized instruction is recommended only for students of at least junior high school age, and presumes that they have greater self-discipline to be able to study more independently. Thus, individualized instruction has points of contact with the constructivism movement in education, started by Swiss biologist Jean Piaget, which states that the student should build his or her learning and knowledge. Individualized Instruction, however, presumes that most students of secondary school age still lack the basic knowledge and skills to direct most of their own curriculum, which must be at least partially directed by schools and teachers.

In a traditional classroom setting, time (in the form of classes, quarters, semesters, school years, etc.) is a constant, and achievement (in the form of grades and student comprehension) is a variable.

In a properly Individualized setting, where students study and progress more independently, achievement becomes more uniform and time to achieve that level of achievement is more variable.

Where implemented according to Educational Research Associates' recommendations, Individualized Instruction has been found to improve student accomplishment substantially even while reducing cost dramatically.

The coming of computer- and Internet-based education holds the promise of an enormous increase in the use of individualized instruction methodology.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



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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

Designing And Running A Medieval Fair
(part 1)

by Frank Holes, Jr.
Educational Consultant

Running large events, such as a medieval fair, at school is often too much for most teachers to attempt. However, with careful planning, and some well directed help, you can orchestrate a successful, educational, and memorable experience for your students.

The key to any event is your personnel. As a leader, choosing your team is the single most important piece of the puzzle. If you are already working on a teaching team, you have a great start. But you will undoubtedly need to enlist the help of others to pull off the event.

The medieval fair concept (at our seventh grade level) was born several years ago. In an effort to make better connections between our classes, we as a teaching team decided we should have projects involving two (or more) subject areas. As we became better at working together and team teaching, our projects became more and more involved and elaborate. Papers became stories, which became presentations, which then grew into multi-class hands-on experiences.

We used our school social studies curriculum as a starting point for projects. The first marking period of the year we connected to Africa. The second marking period was spent studying Asia. And our third marking period was spent in historical Europe.

The medieval European time period lent itself to creative ideas in all classes. We tried to make English-class connections with fairy tales and legends from various European cultures. Science and math classes studied explorers, inventors, and inventions. We also had the students write children's storybooks describing a drop of water traveling through the water cycle (it of course was set in the middle ages and included medieval details.)

After a few years of perfecting our projects, we started thinking of creating culminating activities to wrap up the unit for our students.  During the study of Africa, we create travel brochures and have small groups of students try to promote and 'sell' an African region as a great place to visit, work, or live. The Asia unit culminates with the presentation of a student-created magazine which includes articles on Asian stories, countries, and natural disasters (we even recently did this project during our Europe study, except our magazines were written on parchment or in monk manuscript form).

The idea for a Medieval Fair was first brought up by our (now retired) art teacher.  She had been contributing art projects to all of our units through the years. She had our students creating Adrinka cloths, and masks for the Africa unit. And our students wrote calligraphy-styled Japanese letters for haiku poems, Mandala paintings, and paint stamps (the fish stamp was quite interesting) during our study of Asia.

You'll want to develop your activity event around your interests and your particular curriculum. If you and your students are excited about the topic and really interested in it, you'll make it fun and fantastic! The biggest key is to have fun!

Start small. Our first Medieval Fair was a fun time, but lacked enough activities to keep the students occupied. We as teachers had to run the various activities, as well as monitor the older students who were helping to run booths. It made for a fun, yet hectic afternoon. Looking back, there was far too much 'administration and orchestration' for us to do BESIDES the running of events. We needed more planning and prep time, and more help.

Reflection was important. We met as a team right after the event and discussed what went well and what needed to be improved. Items we needed to fix are shown in the list below. We also set up meetings through the year to start working on our list. Planning ahead of time proved to be the best adjustment we could have made.

* more hands-on activities for the kids
* free up the teachers to facilitate
* sponge activities for extra time
* match boy-only activities with girl-only activities at the same
* more and better prep time on decorations
* set up the gym & activity areas at least a day early
* coordinate a 'true' medieval lunch menu that our school cooks could
* bring in outside expertise
* better preparation of knowledge base

However, we were gung-ho about the event, and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to start our planning much earlier. We also knew we needed some outside help. We wanted (and needed) to be free to move about the event, providing help and assistance, and monitoring the students. And we couldn't do that if we were tied down with running our own activities or groups.

We also experienced a tremendous influx of students (and teachers) from many other grade levels who wanted to see what we were doing.  This, however, had to change, as we spent too much time chasing off other students.

Look for more in the next segment!

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A Guarantee To Bring Improvement


Rozina Jumani is a Development consultant associated with a number of Non governmenetal Organizations(NGO). Prior to this, she was with Aga Khan Education Services Pakistan for 10 years as a Professional Development Teacher and Counsellor. She has done her Masters in Islamic Studies and English from University of Karachi. She is a commonwealth scholar and completed her Masters in Education Planning, Economic and International Development from the institute of Education (IOE), University of London.

Have we ever thought about the question, ‘What is the purpose of the classroom observation?"  If it is an informal visit to a classroom, or if we are guests and want to see the classes, or we are donors and want to investigate the infrastructure, etc., then certainly we would get in and out very quickly. But if we are teachers and are engaged in a process of learning, then our response would be entirely different.

If it is first agreed between observer and the observee then there are also other points to be determined.  For instance, whether the teacher initiated the process of observation by suggesting his/her name voluntarily, or it is enforced on him/her?  Does s/he willingly accept the visitor in the classroom? Then s/he must have thought about both positive and negative (improvement) areas to be highlighted by the visitor or observer. Thus all would be based upon the mature relations with each other, the purpose of the observation, and it would enable us to determine the outcome of the observation.

In my professional career as teacher and then teacher educator, I have had many opportunities to be observed and then observe others. Many times it was institutional policy, control and enforcement, but there were quite a few times when new teachers invited me to become their critical partners.  Furthermore it was to suggest to them how to be more effective in various aspects such as handling of content knowledge, pedagogical skills, time and resource management, classroom management, etc.

Furthermore, there are many other informal ways to provide feedback to teachers for instance:

·        Sharing opinions in an informal ways projecting oneself at his/her place using structure like, “If I was at your place, I would have…..’.

·         Invite him/her for observation of my own or another teacher’s class and discuss wanted and unwanted behavior and its impact on students learning

·        Audio or video recording of the taught lesson could be analyzed either individually (there s/he get more time to reflect) or together

·        Engage him/her in an open discussion on taught plan and its execution plan, etc.

·        Modeling and/or peer coaching could be another way to invite comments

Taking down observation notes is a skill that matures with time in the life of a teacher or teacher educator. In my career I have seen myself growing in that skill; initially I used to take down what is good or bad in the lesson, then gradually I noted down how the objective/s of the lesson are achieved. In the later years as teacher educator, I started observing a lesson with two major themes focusing on ‘What was the teaching saying?’ and ‘What were students saying?" Then I fine tuned my own observation by linking teachers’ instructions, explanation, and discussion points with students’ learning and outcome. I used to highlight my analysis (positive and areas to be improved) about each lesson.

Classroom observation and feedback process becomes demoralizing when the element of force directs the process, when the mutual coordination and trust building seems impossible due to misunderstanding. This culture creates a bossy attitude among the observers which cause humiliation and lack of trust, and eventually fosters hatred, jealousy, and unwillingness to work. To avoid such a condition where colleagues would play ruler and subordinate role, it is necessary to understand and practice a diversity of perspectives; to respect other ideas and avoid unnecessary impositions on a fresh teacher; rather it is suggested to inspire them by modeling one’s role appropriately when unconsciously s/he learns and adapt where necessary.

Teaching leads to inspiring other young people and adults.  It is a voluntary process and no one can dumb his/her ideas on others’ heads; thus it is suggested to keep this (classroom observation  and giving feedback) process lively when both the partners show willingness to share and create new knowledge.

Further it is suggested to create a friendly bond between observer and observee by co-planning and peer coaching.  As one cannot be perfect in knowledge, it is therefore important to remind all those who are TEACHER EDUCATORS to become nurturing and not be perfectionists;  And above all, avoid creating model of imposition and enforcement.



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"A 'Yes' Face" 

Charles Swindoll

Themes on Life

What does our countenance show the world?

During Thomas Jefferson's presidency he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks. Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life. 

A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river and then asked President Jefferson to take him across. The president agreed without hesitation, the man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him: "Why did you select the President to ask this favor?" 

The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across. 

"All I know," he said, "is that on some of your faces was written the answer 'No' and on some of them was the answer 'Yes.' 

His was a 'Yes' face."

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In This Week's Issue 
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Parental Involvement Through
 'In-Class Support Program'

Ask Dr. Manute: Higher Order Thinking Skills

A Guarantee To Bring Improvement

School Features: 
Individualized  Instruction

New Teacher's Niche:
Designing And Running A Medieval Fair
(part 1)

Themes on Life:  
"A 'Yes' Face"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Winter Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club:
Say It Like Obama


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10 Days Of


What is special about the Super Bowl?


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What are some of the traditions of the Super Bowl party?


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Describe something you learned from another class this week that can be applied to something we study in our class. 


What is your favorite thing to do on a Snow Day?


Why do schools call off school in bad weather?


Why is school transportation safety so important?


Why do students enjoy a Snow Day so much?


Describe how you can use something we learned in class again later on this year.   


10 days of writing prompts


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The Power of Speaking With Purpose and Vision

 by Shel Leanne



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

In 4 X 4 panmagic squares, the rows, columns, and every diagonal, including the so-called 'broken' diagonals, sum to 34.  Find the missing numbers to complete the panmagic squares


__   6   __   1
13   3   10   8
 2  16    5  __
 7   9    4  14
Day 2
 6   15   1  __
 3   10   8  13
__    5  __   2
 9    4  14   7
Day 3
__   7   9   4
 1  12   6  15
 8  __   3  10
11   2  16   5
Day 4
4   __   7   9
15   1  12   6
__   8  __   3
 5  __   2  16
Day 5

1.         9        4         __        7

 6  15    1  12
 3  __    8  __
16   5   11   2
Day 6

1.      7           9       4           __

12   6  15    1
13   3  __    8
 2  __   5   __
Day 7

1.      I__       2          __       5

14   7    9   4
 1  __    6  15
 8  13    3  __
Day 8

1.     I 5       __         2         __

 4  14   7    9
__   1  12    6
__   8  13    3
Day 9
16   5   __   2
 9   4   __   7
 6  __    1  12
 3  __    8  __
Day 10
 2   16   5   __
 7    9   4   14
12    6  __    1
__    3  __    8

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