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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 5, Issue 11

June 2009

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Features for Teachers, packed full of tips, techniques, and ideas for educators of all students in all levels.   

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Active Learning - A Key To Success

By Rozina Jumani

In the words of Christensen, Garvin & Sweet, “To teach is to engage students in Learning.” However the engagement of students is possible in various ways.

My school teachers use a traditional way of teaching as they think the course content can not be finished otherwise.  On the other hand, there are quite a few teachers who believe that using innovative approaches and presenting concepts in the form of activities helps students to develop the taught concepts gradually and also seeks confidence in participating and communicating their ideas with their colleagues in a better way. Thus, they advocate that through employing such methods, students' learning can be improved and teaching remains stimulating work.

My own association with the teaching profession is for more than a decade; I began my journey as an average teacher who had basic teaching skills. Other than that, I had nothing to offer until I received professional training and certificate programs that enabled me to think about teaching and learning, and with this my role expanded as ‘Teacher Educator”.

As Senge (1990) says, ‘Through learning we recreate ourselves’. This paradigm shift in my thinking and teaching brought many changes in me and I embarked on a whole new arena where as a researcher I investigated how children learn. Though I was sure that merely listening to the lectures and copying from the board won’t bring any learning and excitement among students, I started employing innovative activities, and that engagement brought a significant change in my students.

In the words of ‘Felder & Brent (1999); Hannula (2003); McConnell, Steer & Owens (2003) “Active learning incorporates strategies that require students to participate directly in their learning- to apply newly acquired knowledge to solve problems, to question and test theories, brainstorm, solve problems, hypothesize, summarize, or to critically think and interact with colleagues”.

As the term ‘Activity based learning’ encompasses a wide range of aspects - thus it is considered a relative term where every reader infers the meaning as per his/her own experience. In order to avoid the ambiguity, the understanding of the term is required to be shared.

The term ‘activity based learning and teaching’ means students and teachers both are considered ‘Learner’ and all play an equal role in constructing a new idea/concept about things. Hence both are active and mutually support each other in the process of learning. The motivation of initiatives brings confidence among learners and they construct their own meaning about the concept/idea.

According to Roth (1990)

Learning is enhanced when it is built on student’s prior knowledge and experiences allowing learners to link what they already know to new information to be learned

Activity based learning can be viewed as following:

1.        Active Learning is defined as any strategy "that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing".

2.        Constructivism” it usually means encouraging students to use active techniques (experiments, real-world problem solving) to create more knowledge and then to reflect on and talk about what they are doing and how their understanding is changing

  1. “Hands-on and learning by experience are powerful ideas, and we know that engaging students actively and thoughtfully in their studies pays off in better learning”. (Rutherford, 1993, p. 5).

Thus it is more important to enable students to think for themselves then to merely fill their heads with the right answer.

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.


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A Journey From Teacher to Action Researcher:   A case study


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.

Introduction and Literature Review

Teaching is a conscious activity where one has to deal with diverse individuals at a time. However, it seems pleasant to deal with a different group of learners but it requires skilled ability and quick decision-making from facilitators to deal with series of difficulties and complexities emerged during interaction. Consequently, it brings in reformation and improvement in any activity in which students and teachers are engaged in.  Thus, this whole process enables the teacher to become a reflective teacher who takes action(s) to improve the situations and processes to make learning meaningful.

Reflective teaching is an approach which requires constant thinking i.e. questioning our own beliefs, assumptions, judgments, prejudices, emotions and feelings encountered during the process of teaching and learning. According to Carson (1990),Action Research is a combination of both action and research. It is an attempt to more fully understands our educational practices in order that we may act in ways that may bring about, both, improvement and understanding. Moreover, Action Research is a small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such intervention(s)”.

The most important feature of action research is that it is concerned with immediate solution through intervention which means that throughout the process, it emphasizes a systematic approach to taking actions, critically reflects on planned actions, and observes the impact in both the cases either positive or negative.


Action research is a package of instant solutions, which assists practitioners to remedy problems diagnosed in specific situations, or improves in some way with a given set of circumstances.  It is a means of in-service training and development, to equip teachers with new skills and methods, sharpening their analytical powers, and heightening their self-awareness. Furthermore, it encourages learners to inject additional or innovatory approaches to teaching and learning on an ongoing basis.


Action research is a key to success where practical concerns of people are known in immediate problematic situation that motivates practitioners as a valuable source of knowledge regarding their practices where they explore issues of mutual interest and concerns through self-reflective inquiry. Also, it enables them to improve rationality and justice in their own practice and establishes a reflective, problem-solving mindset among practitioners. In short, Action Research is an opportunity that exists for bringing professionalism and efficacy.

How I became an Action Researcher of Ta’lim Curriculum?  A Case Study

During the second episode of my Professional Teacher Educator Program, one of my assignments was to conduct an action research in one of the School/RECs in Karachi.  I spent almost 23 contact hours and delivered three different lessons with various strategies to become familiar with the setting and learners’ needs.

In the words of Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988, "Action Research is a form of collective self-reflective inquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve rational practices, as well as their own social or educational practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out”.

Context of the Study

After seeking the familiarity, I crystallized my choice and focused only on the book 3 of the Primary V titled “Opening windows on Allah’s creation”. The total contact sessions were 23 that were held 3 days in a week for more than 2 months. There were 18 registered students with two teachers, one teacher known as class teacher and another was assistant-teacher. All the sessions i.e. classes were held in the big hall where almost 12 to 13 other classes were simultaneously running at the same time.

Area of Study

My area of study was:  “How to assist students in articulating the key messages of Ta’lim (P5 book 3) and relating with their practical lives”?

The proposed issue of this action research was very pertinent for me to ensure how the key messages of Ta’lim should be translated at the level of the students; as I have been pondering upon this issue for quite a long time and also raised in many forums and training programs. While seeking the opportunity for the field work I chose to explore this emerging issue with Action Research Model.

Upon finalization of School/REC, I met with the whole administration and shared the purpose and objectives of my action research. The approach is important in action research that is known as emancipatory i.e. the process is not hierarchical; rather all people concerned are equal participants contributing to the inquiry.

Being a researcher, it was very important for me to be familiar with the existing educational context where teaching learning is taking place and to build relation with the stakeholders and especially the class teacher. During my initial observations, I observed various things and shared my feedback with the class teacher accordingly. I felt these observations would certainly allow me to situate myself better as an inquirer and alert me as observer. This approach is called participative and collaborative which is the most significant characteristic of an action research where the researcher is not considered an outside expert conducting an enquiry with subjects, but a co-worker doing research with and for the people concerned with the practical problem and its actual improvement.

However, in this study, I was involved as a teacher as well as researcher; throughout the process class, teacher’s reflections about my teaching, students’ participation, behavior, and performances were of paramount importance. As a teacher, I prepared and developed lesson plans, educational forms, and arrangement of teaching learning material and resources, to implementing the curriculum in the class and evaluate student’s performances. As a researcher, I involved in collecting and analyzing the data that appeared in daily transactions and finally developing patterns to collate all my findings in a report.

The following is the rationale to select the role:

Ø      Getting first hand information about teaching learning process at a particular School/REC.

Ø      Personal realization of the issues and challenges of teaching and implementation the curriculum in real classroom situation.

The areas I concentrated during my teaching were:

·        Child-centered approach (student’s autonomy)

·        Student engagement  in teaching learning process

·        Using a variety of strategies

·        Students homework

·        Role of Ta’lim content  in terms of text book

        (For further study about Ta’lim, visit; http://www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=104853)

After careful study of action research approach and being acquainted with this, I internalize the action research cycle and then responded above-mentioned areas one-by-one as mentioned below.

Model of Action Research Cycle

1. Plan                 Problem Analysis and Strategic Planning

2. Action             Implementation of the Strategic Plan

3. Observation    Evaluation by appropriate methods and techniques

4. Reflection        On results of evaluation and the action itself
    a.  Identification of the new problem
    b.  New cycle of planning, action, observation, and reflection

Before initiated action research teaching in the class, I took two unstructured observations, where I came to know that students’ involvement and participation is less that required to be increased. During the observations, my findings informed me that because of teacher-centered approach with controlled behavior teachers could not seek maximum participation of students. Thus, I worked on it, brought in discussion strategy, and plan my lessons that required participation from students.

At the completion of action research, the class teacher reflected as following:

“My teaching method before coming of Yasmeen to my class was to read the lesson. My method was not so much activity-based. My strategy was a teacher not facilitator”

The pedagogical approaches suggested in Ta’lim are students-centered that enable them to partake in the process, which is embodied in constructivism (Jonassen, Peok and Wilson 1999)

On the other hand, the constructivism rests on the notion that instead of absorbing or passively receiving knowledge that is ‘out there’, Learners actively construct knowledge by integrating new information and experiences into what they have reconciled it with this new. (Billett1996)

The pedagogy that are based on the constructivist theory such as class discussion, group presentation, project work, etc. are supportive in stimulating students’ creativity and fostering their learning. Throughout the process, my teaching approach was based on constructivism where teaching strategies such as think-pair-share, group presentation, role-play, creative writing were commonly used. Initially students faced difficulties in sharing their views therefore in my initial lesson plans dated October 2nd   5th  and 9th , 2007, I intentionally placed some of the  activities that could help students to come up with their own ideas, and thinking, later on their involvement became the part & parcel of my teaching.

My critical partner (CP) shared her thoughts regarding the above:

“Firstly, in her teaching, she used much pedagogy that made it easier for students to learn that building a base of your students before starting any chapter is important for their full involvement”.

I was successful in bringing students’ voices up. Afterward they participated in all classes from initiation to the end of the day, and sometimes, it seemed difficult to stop them as in the 45 minutes we could not get involved in lengthy discussion as a whole class strategy; as a result, in further classes, I divided them into groups where they discussed their opinions. Initially it was very limited, chaotic but gradually it went quite well.

I also noticed that my students weren’t working well in groups especially sharing of ideas with each other.  Therefore initially I had to structure the task with greater details, projecting who would do what etc. but later with the help of cooperative learning strategy we overcome this issue together, and students started partaking in turns, appreciating others’ ideas and managing time etc.

A girl-student shared her thought during post- research interview: “Our mind cannot get with so many ideas at a time but by group work we got so many ideas.

Another participant said, “We built friendship bond.

The co-teacher of the class shared her views by saying, “Each child was participated, and every one shared their ideas through this group activity. They also learn how to cooperate with each other.

In addition to this, data indicates that students-centered approach is supportive in developing positive qualities among students such as confidence, ability to express, leadership qualities, and sharing ideas.

During the process of initial action, I noticed that students began to participate in the given tasks.

As my critical partner (CP) mentioned “All took great interest in this. I noticed that even those who don’t respond frequently in class, also took  great interest, one of the students who had problem on phrasing her sentences, has taking help from her classmates.”

One student shared his reflections during the informal talk, “We shared what we understood and what we didn’t was explained to us by our group mates”.

Another significance of the action research is its practicality where the results and insight gained are not only of theoretical importance to the advancement of knowledge in the field, but also lead to practical improvements during and after the research process.

Martin (2000) has highlighted “Motivation can be conceptualized as student’s energy and derive to learn work efficiently and achieve to their potential at school and the behaviour that follow from this energy and drives” (Pg 35).

During the process, it seemed difficult to respond to all the ideas made by students due to the shortage of the time, where hardly 25 to 30 minutes time is allocated for a day. For this, I recommended that at least 45 to 50 minutes to be allocated for certain concepts especially when a teacher employs discussion strategies where the input of each child is crucial for further conceptual development. This led to another intervention where I stretched the plan for my upcoming classes till the final cycle. As a researcher, I applied the negotiation strategy with observer teachers and students, and with their consent, we stretched the class timings up to 60 to 70 minutes to meet the agreed objective(s). Situational based is one of the characteristic of an action research  which  concerned with diagnosing a problem in a specific context and attempting to solve it in that context..

I practiced self-reflection and self-assessment in my professional learning by writing reflections and reviewing my plans to support my own development as a learner and a teacher. Reflective practice is defined in a most recent literature as a vehicle through which one can improve his practices by thinking and rethinking on their own experiences. As McKernan, 1987 defines that Action Research is self-reflective problem solving… which enables practitioners to better understand and solve pressing problems in social settings.”

The cyclic model of action research enabled me to bring in connectivity and monitor progress among learners. Though it seemed a humongous task in the beginning, all cycles were completed swiftly because of relativity. This learning opportunity fostered confidence and critical thinking in me.  It inspired me to partake in such challenging areas where I could model through my own practices some practical way-out for my fellow educators and teachers at REC.



Web 2.0, The New Culture of Social Community

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

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

Quoting from an article written by Susan McLester in the April edition of Technology & Learning: “Web 2.0 has essentially transformed the Internet from an e-commerce and Web page publishing venue to a planet-wide networked community where every citizen is invited to create content.”

Let’s look at what it is.

First, let’s look at three skills: publishing, broadcasting, and movie production. In the past if you wanted to publish a book or article you would have to send it to a publisher and wait to see whether they would publish it. Newspapers and magazines were written by their own hired staff of writers. Only a small group of people compared to the whole population could accomplish this. The only way to broadcast was to work for, or own your own radio studio. Movie production could only be done by a production company with the equipment and know how.

Now enters Web 2.0 onto the scene. Anyone with a computer can publish on the internet in blogs or online newsletters. Likewise, you can produce a broadcast by making a podcast using programs like Garageband or Audacity. If you have a video movie camera you can edit your own movie and upload it to the internet for all to see. All of this can be accomplished with a computer and open source (free) software on the internet. It can then be uploaded onto the web for everyone to participate in. 

You ask, what do I mean by: participate in?

Social networking sites like MySpace, YouTube, and Yahoo! Groups have allowed our digital natives to collaborate and share information and thoughts on anything instantly.

Instead of just being a passive reader and watcher of what someone says or does, everyone can be an active participant on what goes up on the web. With new open source online tools like Jumpcut, Eyespot, Toufee, Picnik, and more everyone can participate. But wait, there’s more. New hosting sites such as Revver.com, Spymac.com, and uthTv.com have opened a whole new support network for this community.

What does this mean to us as educators? No problem, we just block all the sites. After all, it’s our job to protect them from the evils of the internet. I agree, we need to protect them from the evils of the internet, but are the above mentioned sites evil? Is having a social community on the internet wrong or dangerous, or is it something we don’t fully understand? By blocking all the sites are we making ourselves irrelevant in the eyes of the digital native? Shouldn’t we be teaching them how to safely handle the internet, and then participate in it with them?

About a month ago I got involved in an online social network called Runescape. My children had been involved in it for awhile and I had been watching. Runescape is a place where you become a virtual person in a virtual medieval world where you can fish, hunt, build houses, and on and on. You can be a free participant, or for $5 a month become a member with more privileges. Last month Runescape topped one million members. This doesn’t count far more that aren’t members. As I participate in this world, I watch as the young people are constantly helping each other, talking to one another, and problem solving. These are skills we want them to learn.

Shouldn’t we be integrating these communities into our classrooms, instead of blocking them? We could spark discussion about many academic topics where the student becomes not only the learner but the teacher, too. Think about it.




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/ 


iPod Touch

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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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Educational Standards (part 2)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Educational Testing Service

The Educational Testing Service (or ETS) is the world's largest private educational testing and measurement organization, operating on an annual budget of approximately $900 million. ETS develops various standardized examinations primarily in the United States, but they also administer tests such as TOEFL in most nations. Many of the assessments they develop are associated with entry to US tertiary (undergraduate) and quaternary education (graduate) institutions. As well as test development, they also carry out internationally recognized educational research.

Their international campus-like headquarters (shown here) is in Princeton Township, New Jersey; processing, shipping, customer service and test security is in nearby Ewing; and European headquarters is in Utrecht in the Netherlands. ETS employs about 2,700 individuals, including 240 with doctorates and an additional 350 others with "higher degrees."

ETS is a non-profit organization. The organization is also self-supporting, which it maintains primarily by charging for assessment. Some test-takers find these prohibitively high, although test fee waivers or reductions are available for individuals who can prove financial hardship.

Much of the work carried out by ETS is contracted by the private, non-profit firm, the College Board. The most popular of the College Board's tests is the SAT, taken by more than 3 million students annually.


Tests Administered by ETS

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

SAT (formerly: Scholastic Aptitude Test)

Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT)

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Test Of English for International Communications (TOEIC)

Test de français international (TFI)

Certified Professional Electrologist (CPE)

California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)

Coming Next: Accredidation

Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

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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 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?
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

Developing an Essay Writing Program

by Frank Holes, Jr.

Recently we have upgraded our middle school writing program to expand the basic paragraphs our students are writing into multiple paragraph essays. We came to make this change after reviewing the released essays from our MEAP test (Michigan's high stakes test). The MEAP showed multiple paragraph essays scoring higher than single paragraph essays. We decided there and then to adjust our program. We also discussed his change with our high school teachers. They use and teach up to five paragraph essays, so we figured we ought to change a bit of what we do to better prepare our students for the rigors of high school. This is a time consuming process which is taking time to develop and teach to students. The first thing is to get all the writing teachers on board.

When our middle school teachers got together, there were a variety of viewpoints and ideas to consider. After much debate and development, a plan was put in place. The plan has two parts, one dealing with individual paragraph development, and the other in developing an essay format using several paragraphs linked well together.

Our plan for teaching the writing of individual paragraphs progresses each year. At the eighth grade level, students are expected to write paragraphs of at least eight sentences and 125 words. Each paragraph must have a topic sentence, at least three supports, a personal life experience, and a clincher statement.

At the seventh grade, students' paragraphs must have eight sentences, but only a minimum of 100 words. Each must also have a topic sentence (T.S.), at least three supports, a P.L.E., and a clincher statement (C.S).

In the sixth grade, paragraphs are to be at least six sentences long and at least 80 words long. Included in the paragraph are a T.S., three supports, a P.L.E., and a C.S.

The fifth grade (the youngest in our building) will concentrate on sentence structure and build up to a detailed paragraph. This will be at last five sentences long and at least 60 words in length. This paragraph will include a T.S., three supports, and a clincher or a personal life experience to wrap up.

Part two of the middle school plan is the development of an essay from these basic paragraph structures. Since the fifth graders are only concentrating on sentences and the development of a single paragraph, the essay development is slated for sixth grade through eighth grade.

Essays at the sixth grade will be at least two paragraphs and 160 words, each paragraph having 80 or more words. These are great for compare / contrast essays where two different sides are discussed.

Seventh grade essays will build up to three or more paragraphs, and 200 or more words (100 words per paragraph). Here we're looking for more thorough development of the topic and relevant details and examples. And in the eighth grade, essays will extend up to four paragraphs, and a whopping 600 words (125 per paragraph.)

We will teach the development of a topic sentence in the first paragraph for the entire essay. It will HOOK the reader and introduce the overall topic of the essay. We will also teach the creation of a clincher statement in the last paragraph that wraps up and summarizes the paragraphs while providing a THEME (a life lesson to be learned by the reader).

Main points of the topic each have their own paragraph, so a three paragraph essay will have three main points. Supports for each main point will be organized in a logical fashion and spread through each respected paragraph. Then relative details and examples will be used to exemplify each support.

Eighth graders will also develop a LEAD, a personal life experience or story at the very beginning of the first paragraph. This acts as a HOOK to capture the reader's attention while making a personal connection with the reader.

There is still much to do, and we know this implementation will take time. And we know there will be changes along the way. One area we've already encountered is the use of figurative language in the examples and personal experiences of the students. We are already planning on adding this later on this year. If your school is in the stages of updating your writing program, remember to keep a positive attitude, look carefully at good examples released by your state, and develop a strong program that everyone can buy into.

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 Greatest Little Boy"
Author: Don Schlitz
As Performed by Kenny Rogers

Themes on Life

Our perception determines everything...

The greatest little boy, in a baseball hat,
stands in the field, with his ball and bat.
Says "I am the greatest player of them all!"
He puts his bat on his shoulder,
and he tosses up his ball.

And the ball goes up, and the ball comes down,
and he swings his bat all the way around.
The world's so still you can hear the sound,
as the baseball falls, to the ground.

Now the little boy doesn't say a word...
Picks up his ball. He is undeterred.
Says, "I am the greatest there has ever been!"
And he grits his teeth. And he tries it again.

And the ball goes up, and the ball comes down,
and he swings his bat all the way around.
And the world's so still you can hear the sound,
as the baseball falls, to the ground.

He makes no excuses; he shows no fear
He just closes his eyes, and listens to the cheers.

Now the little boy, he adjusts his hat.
Picks up his ball. Stares at his bat.
Says "I am the greatest, and the game is on the line!"
So he gives his all, one last time.

And the ball goes up, like the moon so bright,
swings his bat, with all his might.
And the world's as still as still can be,
and the baseball falls; and that's strike 3.

Now it's supper time, and his momma calls.
Little boy starts home, with his bat and ball.
Says, "I am the greatest, that is a fact...
but even I didn't know, I could pitch like that!"


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In This Week's Issue 
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Active Learning: A Key To Success

A Journey From Teacher to Action Researcher

Tech Corner: 
Web 2.0, The New Culture of Social Community

New Teacher's Niche:
Developing An Essay Writing Program

Themes on Life:  
"The Greatest Little Boy"

School Features: Educational Standards
(part 2)

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Summer Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club:
Professional Learning Communities At Work


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10 Days Of


Why do people enjoy the outdoors?


What are FIVE activities people enjoy doing in the outdoors? 


Why is camping such a fun activity?


How can you help your family to plan outdoor activities?


Describe three important lessons you learned this week. 


What is your favorite kind of animal?


Describe FIVE animals that people like.  Why are they favorites?


Why do people connect with certain animals?


What are the differences between a wild animal and a domesticated animal?


Write down FIVE things you learned this week OUTSIDE of class.  Why was each important?


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Professional Learning Communities At Work:
Best Practices For Enhancing Student Achievement

 by Richard Dufour



Coming Soon:

Preparing For the Upcoming Year

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

Day 1

1.    If there were 9 cats on a bridge and one jumped over the edge, how many would be left?  Answer: None - they are copycats

Day 2

1.     If you take three apples from five apples, how many do you have?  Answer: You have three apples

Day 3 What has 4 legs and only 1 foot?  Answer: a bed!
Day 4

4.    How many times can you subtract 6 from 30?  Answer: Once; after that it is no longer 30 (Don't try this on a test!)

Day 5   If one nickel is worth five cents, how much is half of one half of a nickel worth?  Answer: $0.0125
Day 6

How many 9's between 1 and 100?  Answer: 20

Day 7 Which is more valuable - one pound of $10 gold coins or half a pound of $20 gold coins?   Answer: One pound is twice of half pound
Day 8

It happens once in a minute, twice in a week, and once in a year. What is it?  Answer: the letter 'E'

Day 9 How can half of 12 be 7?   Answer:  Cut XII into two halves horizontally. You get VII on the top half
Day 10

Why are diapers like 100 dollar bills?  Answer: they need to be changed!

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