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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 5, Issue 5

March 2009

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

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

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SQ3R Sheet
Check out our NEW FREE online resources, including the SQ3R sheet for reading 
and the Paragraph Graphic Organizer for writing.  These are forms you can fill in online and print, or have your students fill them in and print them for class!

Paragraph Organizer


Would you be interested in becoming a Featured Writer for the StarTeaching website?  Would you like to be published to over 25,000 readers each month?

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

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

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Poking Your Nose Into A Book

By Munir Moosa Sewani

Teachers love reading interesting and knowledgeable books to improve their understanding and to gather information for planning lessons. Children, on the other hand, love books.  However, what makes them read a book is not only the content but also the pictorial representation given in the book. There are many ways through which a teacher can make their students read a book. Both students and teachers can even try many innovative ways through which they can not only improve their knowledge, but could also share that to others. One of the best ways which I have always used for developing reading interest in myself is writing a Book Review. I have written a few reviews and all were published. It helped entice others toward those books while it helped me to improve my reviewing skills.

I have also used the same strategy for the students by giving them task to accomplish: a Book Review on their favorite book.

A Book Review is basically an evaluation or discussion of a new book by a critic or journalist. It is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit

The Book Review sounds boring for students, but it's of worth if you can give that task as a challenge to the students in a group. It can not only enhance their knowledge, but will also improve their writing skills.

There are many types of reviews, such as Articles, Journals, Events, Biographies, Literature, Books, etc. The aims of all these types are almost same:

  • To develop analytical skills

  • To depict and discuss the content of the book and provide analysis

  • To decide upon the validity of the author's points

  • To communicate the ideas to the reader's mind

It is mostly assumed that a book review is a task of a Journalist, Book Reviewer, Writer, Educator, Teacher, Student, Book Lover, etc. But anyone can do a book review, if s/he really wants to.

Here are some of the steps to follow for reviewing a book:

  • Select a good national/ international book of your interest. You can select books related to the topic of your interest. It could be a Geography, Computers, Business, Medical, General, Story, English, Political, Religious, Poetry, History book, etc

  • Pay attention to the number of pages.

  • Provide an outline of the contents of the book. This is the core part of a book review and should be as objective as possible. An Outline Format is give below:

Name of book
Name of Writer
First Published in
And Address Name of Publisher
Date of Publication
Buying Location/s
Number ISBN

  • Read the Content, Preface, Introduction and Back Cover and note important points. Read all the chapters and mark important lines.

  • Write an introductory comment or two on the overall value of the book.

  • Gather your positive and negative comments. Discuss the general import of the work.

  • Compare the book with a similar work by a contemporary like, what is the general significance of this book? Why should it be of interest to the specialist or non-specialist? Let the reader know whether or not the book is worth reading and why? Is the topic interesting, important? Do the author's ideas change anything in your own thinking? Does the work offer anything new--new perspectives, new insights? Why should we read it?

  • Quote passages from the book to make particular points. Put the citation in quotations marks and follow it with the page number in parentheses. Example: "Obama was a very striking figure for Americans." (A New President, 78)

  • Summarize the chapters or compile marked lines in the form of paragraphs.

  • Add quotes and your comments.

  • Write a closing paragraph in your own words.

  • Compile your work and proof read it.

The typical scholarly review is limited to between 500 and 750 words
Select any renowned scholar book
Always look for a publisher rapport
Donít criticize the writer harshly
Do not review older books

Donít include
A bibliography

Very long quotations from the book or other reviews

Information about the author's life unless that is the theme of the review

Best of Luck!

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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Signing Sight Words for Success

by Kim Taylor-DiLeva

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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.

When children know sight words, they can read more fluently and better retain what they read.  Struggling readers often struggle learning their sight words.  You can help your child/student retain more sight words by incorporating sign language signs along with each word.

Jan Hafer and Robert Wilson present a study in their booklet called Signing for Reading Success (p.12) where a 14 week study took place on 10 1st grade children who were struggling readers.  The children were purposefully chosen for this study because of their difficulty in retaining new sight words.  During regular instruction, these 10 students averaged sight word retention of 69%.  However, when a sign language sign was used in conjunction with the sight word, the students averaged 93% retention.  

On page 85 in the book Dancing With Words by Dr. Marilyn Daniels, she shares a story from Dr. Robert Wilson about a boy named Oscar who was in 2nd grade and because of poor behavior was seated away from the other students.  He had no sight word vocabulary.  Dr. Wilson started showing Oscar the sign for each sight word in the lesson Ė 10 words each day.  After the first lesson with the addition of sign, Oscar remembered ALL TEN.  After the second day he remembered 19 of the 20 words, and after the third day Oscar was seated back with the class.  He was motivated, excited, and became a teacher for the rest of the class (by teaching them the signs).

Incorporating sign language into your sight word instruction is very easy to do.  Just look up the ASL signs for the sight words that you want your students to learn in an American Sign Language Dictionary (you can also use an online dictionary that shows a video of how to do the sign.)  Show your students the sight word and the sign.  Say it and sign it.  Ask the students to look at the word, and say it and sign it with you.  Repeat this a few times.  Every time you are discussing, practicing, or reading this new sight word, you and your students will sign it when it is read. To make it easier on yourself and your students, you may want to look into purchasing ďMy 1st 50 Sight Words in SignĒ, where frequently used sight words are on a card alongside their sign for easy learning/recalling.  You can find them at http://www. kimssigningsolutions.com/ productsshop/sightwordcards. html

To make it easier, Iíve even 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!

Star Teaching Readers Get a Special Discount on a set of
My 1st 50 Sight Words in Sign
Regularly 12.95, You Pay ONLY 9.95.
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You must use the link above to receive your discount!  

Fully endorsed by Frank Holes Jr., editor of Starteaching



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Handheld Integration

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

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

Integrating handheld computers, formerly called palm pilots, into the curriculum can be exciting to the students and unsettling to the teacher, but as you will see very rewarding. I introduced handhelds into my fifth grade classroom one and a half years ago. It has certainly been a learning experience.

From the beginning the students have been willing to do things on the handheld that they fight against doing with pencil and paper. They study harder for tests, take more notes, organize themselves more, and have the ability to learn through ways that canít be accomplished in a classroom without them. I could go on and on, but here is a sample of what the students say about them:

I think handhelds are great! They really help you organize and they are WAY better than just paper and pencil. - Brooke
Handhelds have helped me out a lot this year. With handhelds we can study a lot easier with quizzler. Also we can stay a lot more organized with the programs tasks and calendar. We often take our handhelds home to use quizzler to study for our tests. We can practice our typing with the wireless keyboards and a typing program called Words Per Minute.   - Josh
Handhelds are very cool and make school very fun. They make it easy to write assignments so you donít lose them. They make it easier to study for tests and keep track of homework. Having handhelds in school is a big responsibility and it teaches us to respect expensive items. Without handhelds school would be boring and slow. If we didnít have handhelds many of us would lose our writing assignments. Without handhelds our grades would be lower and we wouldnít do well in school.   - Noah
Handhelds have helped me in school a lot compared to a classroom without them. Handhelds keep many kids organized knowing that their work is always there and cannot get lost. They are faster and a more improved way to check your work or spelling. There have been tests showing that kids get better grades and improve their schoolwork. When tests do come up, handhelds are a better study program when you practice on them. They do have gamesÖ. But, the games are also put into practice typing or spelling programs. The handheld can also be used for enjoyment. Such as, non-educational games or reading. A classroom without handhelds would be at a bit of a disadvantage. I am glad that I am in a classroom that has them.   - Emily
Handhelds have helped me work faster and easier.  - Jack
Handhelds have helped me this year by being able to do my work faster and more fun. Also, I do not go through as much paper because I can store information in my handheld. On the handheld there is a program called quizzler. This program helps me to study by the teachers beaming us the quiz. It has the practice quiz on it so I can study as much as I want at home. It makes studying a lot more fun and easier. This year would have been extremely different without handhelds because learning wouldn't be as exciting and tests wouldn't be as easy to study for.   - Austin

I think having handhelds is a privilege for several reasons. One because it keeps me organized. Another reason is that if you do an assignment on paper you could lose it, but if you do it on a handheld it will not get lost. Another is that with memos you can write anything at anytime. Also there is a palm reader that you can read books on it for reading or free time. Another reason is that there is a dictionary so you can look up words you donít know how to spell or for their definitions. Also there are education games and games for free time or after a test if your teacher says. Those are some of the reasons why I like to have handhelds.   - Katelynn

Iíve had four years of students using handhelds and the sampling of students above duplicates what they said last year, also. As I said in the beginning, using handhelds in the classroom is exciting to the students. Now how about the teacher?

One thing Iíve come to realize is that as in any technology integration I canít begin to understand it all. The students learn it far faster and easier than us older folk. My job is to be the coach. I introduce the lesson, provide the tools, the parameters, and then let the students take charge of their learning. My job is to be the coach, available to guide at all times. This means I canít sit on the sidelines (at my desk), but I must circulate among the students working with them.

This is certainly a different way of teaching, and can be unsettling if you are the type of teacher that stands up front and talks to the students. In the end you will find it rewarding and the students will learn and retain far more when provided the tools (handhelds) and teaching style (self directed learning) that makes learning exciting and rewarding to them. We may have learned the other way, but today's students arenít us. The world is changing and we have a chance to be a part of the change. 

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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Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Looping is a process used in education in some elementary schools. When a class loops, this means that the class has the same teacher in two consecutive years. For example, a teacher who teaches a third-grade class in one year could teach the same students the following year for the fourth grade.

One school, DeGrazia Elementary School, which offers a looping program describes looping as helping to increase student learning for the following reasons:

1. Research shows it gives students 4 to 6 weeks of added instructional time. By having more time in the year, we are able to focus on the individual needs of each student.

2. The students will develop strong peer relationships that will result in positive dynamics with fewer behavior problems.

3. The teacher becomes familiar with each child's strengths and weaknesses. Many young children have anxiety over change. With looping, they know the teacher, their peers, and how the class is structured from the first day of school.

4. By being together for 2 years, the students feel more comfortable and will take more risks in learning new things.

Another reason this is done is if there is one less teacher for one grade than for the grade before it. It is done to save money on hiring an additional teacher. For instance, if there are three third grade teachers and two fourth grade teachers, one third grade teacher may have his or her same class again for fourth grade.


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:




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A Place for New Teachers, Student Teachers, and Interns

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Designing And Running A Medieval Fair
(part 3)

by Frank Holes, Jr.

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.

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. This article, second in the series, describes how you can utilize the help of outsize sources.

Once the day is underway, your job becomes that of a facilitator.  You'll want to move about checking on your students at each group or station. You'll also need to be available to help and support your guests with their needs. For example, our calligraphy station ran out of practice writing sheets, so one of the teachers had to go make copies. Be flexible, and always remember you're setting up a grand experience for the students. This becomes an example of servant leadership, where you and your fellow teachers are enabling the groups to succeed so the students succeed.

During the morning, we met our helpers and re-enactors and got them in place. Students were instructed ahead of time here they would go first, and what their rotation was. Once the day is underway, the teachers are free to move about, monitor the students and groups, and participate alongside the kids.

A little before lunch, one of our teachers began working with the school cooks to coordinate lunch. Our feast is always held in our gym alongside the activities. We try to plan a whole group activity (singing, dancing, games, etc.) in the 10-15 minutes before lunch so our stations can clean up and we can set up our feast tables.

Depending on our overall set up, our feast is set up either in a long line or a traditional horseshoe shape. Set this up (in the background) while the students are engaged in another activity. This will keep them in the same train of thought and in the same location (it's not really authentic to immerse the kids in the middle ages only to bring them back to a modern day lunchroom).

You'll want a plan for your lunch line. We always make a point of feeding our volunteers first, followed by the girls (carefully observe the ideals of chivalry), and lastly the boys. We teachers eat once everyone has gone through the line.

After students are finished eating, we have another short sponge activity (dancing, singing, games, etc.) while we clean up the lunch tables and return the foodstuffs and equipment to the kitchen. This way again the students stay immersed in the activity while re-arrangement and cleaning occurs in the background.

Our afternoon resumes with more medieval festivities. Finish up your stations if necessary. This past year we had a community acting group put on a presentation of Robin Hood, and we invited our 5th and 6th graders to watch. This also gave the youngsters just a small teaser of what fun they'll have when they reach seventh grade.

All in all, a large scale event can appear to be too much work, and for an individual teacher, this may be accurate. However, for you brave souls who want to give your students an experience they'll remember forever, a lot of careful planning and a good team will enable you to pull off a first-class day. When we talk to former students, they rarely can tell us what they learned in any one of our class, but they remember in great detail the activities they participated in during the Medieval Fair. And those memories will be with them the rest of their lives.

Links you can use for more information:
The book of Goode Cookery: http://www.godecookery.com/
Heraldry: http://www.ceu.hu/medstud/manual/SRM/index.htm
Myths and legends: http://www.mythiccrossroads.com/myth.htm
Building a castle: http://www.artsedge.kennedy-center.org/content/3701/
Etiquette: http://www.lc.capellauniversity.edu/~135958/Medieval%20Banquet/Etiquette.htm
Medieval jobs: http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castle32.htm

Simple medieval foods and recipes (found in the Book of Goode Cookery):
Blankmonger (also blanck-mong or blowmanger) - This is a creamy rice dish that can take on a number of flavors depending on the recipe you use (there are several).
Fruays -Apple/fruit fritters
Mackeroons - noodles and cheese. This is truly a precursor to modern day macaroni and cheese, and students love to make it and eat it.
Medieval gingerbread - made with highly seasoned bread crumbs and honey
Baked pears and fruits - its been the same for hundreds (or even thousands) of years

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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"I Wanted To Change The World"
Author: Unknown Monk, 1100 A.D.

Themes on Life

Changing the world is within each of us...

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world."

Food For Thought:

"After you've done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over. " Alfred Edward Perlman

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." Anatole France

"Growth is the only evidence of life." John Henry Newman

"If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." Author Unknown

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." Victor Frankl


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

Poking Your Nose Into A Book

Signing Sight Words for Success

Tech Corner: 
Handheld Integration

New Teacher's Niche:
Designing and Running A 
Medieval Fair (part 3)

Themes on Life:  
"I Wanted To Change The World"

School Features: Looping

10 Days of Writing Prompts

10 Days of Math Problems

Winter Book Sale for Teachers

Book of the Month Club:
Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It


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Who are the Luckiest people you know?  Why are they so lucky?


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Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It

 by Kelly Gallagher



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

Day 1

1.    What is the area of a triangle with a base of 10 cm and a height of 15 cm?

Day 2

1.    Find the value for n:   
9/54 = n/18

Day 3 The perimeter of a square piece of cloth is 20 inches.  What is the area?
Day 4

4.    Estimate by rounding to the nearest hundredth: 0.062-0.007

Day 5

How much
time has passed
from 9:08 A.M.
to 12:10 P.M.?

Day 6

What is the perimeter
of a rectangle 5 cm
long and 6 cm wide?

Day 7

Find the average: 99, 83, 
51, 93, 79, 57

Day 8

What is 2.48 rounded
to the nearest tenth?

Day 9

Subtract 7.5 Ė 6.7

Day 10

What is the volume of
a rectangular prism 7 
inches long, 10 inches
wide, and 4 inches high?

Be sure to visit Mary Ann Graziani's website to pick up a copy of any of her THREE books for sale




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Books for Sale!

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