WELCOME TO OUR BACK-TO-SCHOOL
Our Back-To-Back, Back-To-School Issues
Packed with excellent articles on getting yourself and your
students back into school mode!
Would you be interested in
becoming a Featured Writer for the StarTeaching website?
is now posting a opening for a creative educator interested in
designing a set of weekly science activities for
students and teachers to use.
Email your resume and letter of
interest to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reflective Writing - A Learning
By Munir Moosa Sewani
Reflection lies somewhere around the notion of
learning and thinking. We reflect in order to learn/explore
something, or we learn as a result of reflecting. In our day-to-day
life, we experience so many things, which eventually we forget
when time comes to explore it. Reflective writing is the best way
to keep you remembering your day-to-day experiences and to share
it with others. It is a learning tool for the classroom
Writing is an evidence of reflective thinking. It is a conscious
learning process where we share our experiences. Such writing helps us
to evaluate our positive points, while at the same time, it provides us
learning opportunities and to improve the areas, where some furnishing
is required. It is more personal than other kinds of academic writing.
It is mostly done by the classroom practitioners to gain further
insights from their work through deeper reflection on their experiences.
researchers suggest that teachers move through a series of concerns that
impact the focus of their reflections. So we can say that reflective
writing may be a means of becoming clearer about something.
Donald Schn (1999) in Educating the Reflective
Practitioner writes about reflection-in-action. He describes a
process of learning by doing with the help of a coach. This is after all
the way we all learned to talk as infants. As mature practitioners we
are able to exploit the process more fully. To maximize our learning we
can question and challenge the coach, ask for clarification and together
build new understandings. In this way we learn to be reflective with our
Another helpful way of understanding the process of
reflection is described by Stephen Brookfield in Becoming a
Critically Reflective Teacher. (
, 1992) describes the process of hunting out our assumptions and
critically examining them. Look for the assumptions that underpin your
practice and then play devil's advocate and develop a contrary argument.
You now have two sides of an argument to evaluate. This is engaging in
personal critical reflection. An example might be your assumption that
there is no place for collaboration between students completing
assignment work, that it should be all their own work if the assessment
is to be valid and accurate. Think back to your own collaboration with
your partner in peer review. Did collaborating increase the
product of your learning? Did you learn more than you would have done
alone? Could this be the case when our students work together?
Reflective writing is a
vigorous process. One needs to brainstorm before turning formal ideas in
black and white. Many times, it happens that we feel burdened writing a
piece on regular basis. The best way is to maintain a reflective diary
and to write it on regular basis. When
you feel something challenging in your classroom, grab the paper and
pen, and start writing a few lines to remember.
first step to begin with is to describe what you know --- what
you can see and hear, what a person tells you, and so on. While you are
in a classroom, ask yourself questions such as the following if you are
trying to describe a person, event, or learning context: What is the
physical description? What behaviors are observed? What is going on?
When did it occur? Who was involved in it? Where am I at that very
moment? What is the perspective from which I am observing and what are
the perceptions of others about it? How does my perspective impact what
I see, hear and know? What did me and others do?
While you are describing a
scene, you are likely to consider why things happened the way they did.
You are moving into analysis. This process is critical to reflective
practice. To analyze something, one needs to be conscious. You must be
optimistic, while at times, you need to criticize things as a positive
tool of learning. You can ask a few questions to yourself like why do I
think things happened in this way or what are the other ways for that
thing to happen? Why did I choose to act the way I did or what
alternative act was better to opt for? What was I thinking and feeling?
What were the feelings of others? How might this have affected my choice
of behavior? How might the context have influenced my and others
Being able to describe
something and figure out why it happened isn’t enough to improve
one’s teaching. A reflective practitioner needs to see the overall
meaning of events in order to use them to improve teaching practice.
Consider the following questions: Why did this seem like a significant
event to reflect on? What have I learned from this? How could I improve?
How might this change my future thinking, behaving, and interactions?
Later, try to find the
implications. The most powerful reflection focuses on student learning
– how you will shift your practice to improve learning for your students.
Edit and compile it once you are done with something achieved. Celebrate
your writing with the other colleagues and amateur teachers.
The example of my reflective writing will help you to see how a
reflective writing is written.
Reflecting upon my teaching always provides me many dimensions of
learning. It helps me to improve and overcome my weaknesses. When I
entered the field of teaching, I was an amateur. I had many questions in
mind: will the students accept me? Am I really creative enough to bring
about changes in teaching profession? For a couple of months, I was in
denial- I did not accept criticism and thought myself as a best teacher!
But I wasn't. I learned gradually that without reflecting on teaching
practices, it wouldn't have been possible to improve. As time passed, I
started reflecting upon my teaching. This was actually a transformation
process and taught me how to be a reflective teacher.
During eight years of secular and religious teaching, I came across many
challenges. I accepted these and they've served as a real evaluation
tool for analyzing my teaching growth.
Here I'm sharing one student's examples whose life was changed because
of my little effort.
On the first day of my teaching at Religious Centre to class 1, I came
across a slow learner child. While I was teaching, he distracted the
attention of the others. When I asked questions, he was blank. For few
days, I avoided him. The more I avoided, the more he misbehaved. I
talked to his parents. When his parents told me that he was a slow
learner, I felt ashamed how I ignored him on the basis of his behavior.
That event changed my life. At that time, I decided to carry on learning
about his problem. I read books and developed different activities and
designed easy lessons. I also gave him extra time. I used activity based
methods of teaching. At the end of a year, he was able to learn a few
things. The headmaster decided to fail him. Being a responsible teacher,
I decided that rather than de-motivating, we should appreciate him for
learning something. He was shifted to class two. After few years of
repetition, he was promoted to class three, where fortunately, I was
given a chance to be his teacher again. His mother was guided by the headmaster
to send him to our
. Being a responsible teacher, I denied this and took his "Adaptive
Behavior Skill" testing, which I learned during my Master Trainer
in special education. I identified him as a slow learner not a
During class 3, I involved him more in class activities. He was allowed
to sit wherever he wanted to sit in class. I also taught him basic
skills. His parents were happy with my efforts. At the end of the year,
he learned a few things. But again, his gradual learning and improvement
in behavior was an achievement.
While teaching him, I observed his interest in graphics, so I told his
parents about it. I've wherever possible raised my voice against others
to keep him in the Centre and continue to learn. I feel it's important
to cater to such children. For there will be many more like him who'll
need the attention of the teacher and the Centre. We as a team can make
a difference in their lives. This is something which hopefully will be
understood in years to come with more awareness of children with special
The tool of appreciation and extra attention brought change in his life.
Today, I'm happy that although he's studying gradually, he's working as
a graphic helper with his dad too.
I believe that every child can learn, regardless of
his/her abilities/disabilities. Accepting challenges and demonstrating
confidence to bring change is the sign of a reflective practitioner.
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
50 articles dealing with social, health, educational and
cultural issues, which are internationally recognized and
published in famous world wide websites, newsletters,
magazines and newspapers.
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
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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:
of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to
At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as
A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18
levels depending on the marks one scores during the
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
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
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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By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher
latest articles are focusing on 21st Century Learning and the
latest research to drive 21st Century Teaching.
Web 2.0 to me is fantastic, exciting,
creative, connecting, and finally frustrating. You may wonder why I
started with all those great things and then ended with a negative. The
reason why I think it is frustrating is because there are so many things
you can do with web 2.0 with a multitude of great sites and great
applications that it can get overwhelming trying to decide what to use.
About the time I find one (a website) that I think will work really well
for the content I’m having the students work on, I find another one
that looks equally great or even better. I’m learning to look for
specific tools that do specific things and keep focused on that so I
don’t get overwhelmed.
As a fifth grade teacher with students
that are pre-Facebook and Twitter is blocked I’ve had to look for
alternatives. My students have enjoyed blogging at http://www.classblogmeister.
com. This blog site has been designed for education where nothing is
posted or commented on till it goes through the teacher. It’s been
great to see parents post comments to their own children’s blogs.
Another site my students have enjoyed is http://voicethread.com/#home.
I’ve had students tell stories through a storyboard format with audio.
Voice Thread has been described as Power Point on steroids. One of the
Web 2.0 tools I want to use more of this year is a Wiki. I’ve had an
account with www.wikispaces.com
for at least two years, but haven’t used it. Last month in our team
project we used Google Docs so much it got me excited about Wiki’s so
that has become a goal for my classroom.
As you’ll find in this Ted talk Web
2.0 is here to stay, but is going to move forward. Kevin Kelly talks
about the next 5000 days on the web. This is a Ted talk from Dec. 2007
on what the web is and what it will become as Web 2.0 moves on to Web
3.0. He concludes with the idea that “We are the Web”. You can see
this at: http://www.ted.com/index.php/
5_000_days_of_the_web.html. When you look at all the social
connecting tools being used today you can certainly see why “We are
the Web”. The users of the web are the molders of what the web is
The link: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/
page=1 (Sept. 30, 2005) is another great resource explaining what
and where Web 2.0 came from. It goes through the history of Web 1.0
using the example of Netscape and moving into Web 2.0 with Google as its
example. It follows many of the leading Web 2.0 tools and what they
I look forward to working more and more
with Web 2.0 tools as I immerse my students in using the Internet for
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 32 years with one
daughter and two sons. In the summers, Mark works for
Mackinac State Historic Parks in the as a historical
|StarTeaching Featured Writer
|Mark Benn is a leading expert in using technology
in the classroom.
You can feel free to contact him on email
or at his blogsite: http://www.furtrader.blogspot.com/
Order your own iPod Touch Today with the links below:
of Reading Activities (Pre,
While and Post) for Upper Primary Classes IV, V and VI
highlighting the use of those activities by the teachers in the
classroom (part 1)
By Rozina Jumani
the first in a multi-part series displaying Rozina Jumnai's
In the words of Joseph
is to mind what exercise is to the body”, in fact reading plays an
important role in the learning process its vital role in acquisition of
knowledge, which leads to independent learning.
This research study was conducted to evaluate pre, while and post
reading activities in particular English textbooks for upper primary
classes IV-VI in the multi-lingual context of Karachi, where English is
learnt as a second, third or a foreign language for most of the
The purpose of the study was to identify and evaluate reading activities
(pre, while and post) from the particular textbooks for classes IV, V
and VI. Besides, it was to find out the relevancy of curriculum with the
School’s vision in the light of new learning directions.
The study was divided in to two phases in the first phase reading
activities from the textbooks were analyzed as pre, while and post
reading activities with the help of a checklist. Phase II was based on
the interview session with four teachers who were teaching those text
books in classes IV, V and VI, and eleven students who studied from
those textbooks were also interviewed.
From the analysis, it was concluded that although, all the reading
activities (pre, while and post) are apparently not mentioned in the
English textbooks in the form of instructions, but any skilled language
teacher might use those text books in the better way.
It was also discovered that most teachers of that school, employed a lot
many reading activities while teaching those lessons/units from the text
books, keeping in mind students’ level of interest, their
perceptibility, their prior knowledge etc. Hence teachers tailored the
textbooks’ exercises and use them as per their needs.
is vital to all
learning; it plays an important role in the child’s learning process.
is an essential skill for children to acquire basic language skills that
includes listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary,
punctuation etc; unless they are able to read; they will not understand
and comprehend the text. Although, reading and understanding go together
as it makes the learning process more effective and meaningful but there
comes the role of teachers along with those instructional strategies
through which all children eventually comprehend the text, no matter how
difficult the text would be. For this reason the focus of the study was
to explore those reading activities (pre, while and post) from a
particular English textbooks used in Upper Primary section i.e. IV, V
and VI that can play a key role in facilitating students to understand
the meaning of the text.
My interest in conducting this research study arose from my own concern
about teachers’ attitudes towards following language text books. Most
of them believed that it is a tool for language learning so teachers
need to be skilled while using those text books; hence it is the
prerogative of teachers to choose the parts from the textbooks and to
devise and many activities that foster students’ motivation to read.
On the contrary, other group of teachers felt that textbooks are written
for the students keeping their age, cognitive level and interest in mind
therefore, it is important to follow them step by step, then only one
would be able to contribute properly and does justice with the textbook.
Sullivan (1992) mentioned learning as an interactive and on going
process, that way we came to conclusion that teachers’ instructional
plan decides how to go with that reading text and what to be learnt been
when and how to be learnt, its all the choice of the teachers.
During schooling, I did not understand the purpose of reading, for me it
was an activity like other instructional activities, when teachers asked
us in the classroom to read and then follow questions/exercises at the
end of the text, and I used to take reading activity as fun. Richards,
J.C (1997: 64) shared the reasons for reading, he mentioned, “there
are three major reasons for preparing students to read: (1) to establish
a purpose for reading a given text, (2) to activate existing knowledge
about the topic and thus get more out of reading the text, and (3) to
establish realistic expectations about what is in the text and thus read
In my professional capacity, I worked in upper primary section as
Teacher Educator, there all language teachers whether they were
experienced or novice, grouped together for skills enhancement program.
In our regular monthly meetings we used to discuss issues related to
classroom teaching syllabus planning, challenges which students faced
etc. there we discovered that teachers had difficulty in finding reading
activities i.e. Pre, while and Post; thus, I chose this study to review
reading activities of the text books used in our school.
Part 2 of this series will detail Rozina's research methodology &
context, and literature review.
Depression (part 3)
The feeling of depression is one of emotional suffering,
sometimes seen as a mental analogue of physical pain. Someone
who is depressed may be said to have a 'heavy heart', or if more
seriously depressed be 'broken-hearted', because of a common
sensation of the emotion in the chest. Other somatic expressions
can be a sense of 'low spirits', a 'drag' or being weighed down,
and a heaviness in breathing, expressed as despondent or
dejected sighing. It may also be associated with apathy,
boredom, emptiness and lack of any positive source of interest
Depression, however, is a medical condition. You can be sad,
yet not be depressed. Depression can be a hormonal imbalance
that needs to be treated. It may be caused by a loss or personal
failure (as in sadness), personal rejection, or indeed by any
undesired outcome or situation, particularly if the situation
happens or continues despite the efforts of the subject. In
addition to sadness, there can in a depressed mood be a
conscious resignation that the unpleasant situation is difficult
to change. Usually whatever causes the state of depression is
consciously recognized as the cause, which is not necessarily
the case with longer-term clinical depression. Other conscious
factors in maintaining depression may be loneliness and
long-term stress. All these factors combine under the heading of
innate emotional needs, known as human givens, not being met
causing the person to worry excessively.
External affective signs of depressed mood also include a
physical hunching or stooping, or putting the head in the hands,
and an appearance of being physically subdued, and flatness of
speech. See also Dysphoria.
Sadness and sorrow tend to refer to a feeling about specific
events, whereas 'depression' can be a state of more generalized,
and possibly chronic, gloom and despondency that is not relieved
by companionship or hope. Sadness is more likely to involve
weeping as an external sign, and the corresponding subjective
experience of tension in the throat.
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.
Now Available! 3rd Book in the Dogman Series:
Of The Dogmen
’s legendary Dogman returns in
Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen by Frank Holes, Jr.
The third book in the series is a masterful blend of
fantasy and folklore, delving into the pre-dawn history of the
mysterious creature and then rushing forward to the present day.
The supernatural beast is seen from two fronts.
The first encounter, part of a 1700s French fur-trader’s
dream, chronicles the cultural clash between the indigenous,
prehistoric civilizations and the Nagual, the half-man,
half-canine skin-walkers, a clash where only one side can survive.
We then return to the modern day as the Dogman rampages
across the fields and forests, the farms and camps of Grand
. The supernatural
beast is hunting for the remnants of its stolen, ancient treasure
that will give it immortality and unlimited power.
Can two young camp counselors put an end to the chaos
without losing their lives?
Here For The
Nagual: Dawn Of The Dogmen Website
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
. 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
. This darker, far more
sinister prequel to Holes’s first novel fully establishes his hold
upon the imaginations of readers all over the
. June 1987 ushers in the
hot, dry summer season, but something else far more horrifying has taken
up residence in the deep wilderness in
. 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?
of the Dogman Website
Here For The
of Sigma Website
Here For The
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!
We now have special offers on Classroom Sets of our Novel.
Click here for more information:
A CLASS SET
A Place for New Teachers, Student Teachers, and Interns
Day of Class Writing Assignment
The writing process is important to focus on
for all teachers. The Third Day Assignment gets our kids
into the swing of essay writing for the year.
This is the first real attempt by our students to
write a paragraph under the rules and guidelines for their grade level.
The topic is easy, because it asks them to describe something they
learned during the first two days of school. There are dozens of things
students learn those two days, in school (classes, passing periods,
lunch time, recess) and out of school (at home, at practice, at clubs or
organizations, with their families or friends).
Brainstorming and organizing are key to the first
paragraph, so we spend a great deal of time in discussion of the topic.
It is important that each student has a concrete example to use in his
or her paragraph. Have students fill out the graphic organizer, and go
over it with them. Even pair up students if necessary. Teach the
prewriting at this point and work hard at it so the students can go
through this step quickly in the next writing assignment coming up in a
Be sure to allow a generous amount of time this day
for the extended teaching of the prewriting and the students' attempt at
writing out a paragraph. Now we know some students will be good at this
and really fly through it, and that's fine. Make sure those students
have a secondary assignment to work on when they're done. Your real task
is getting those middle-of-the-road and below average writers kicked in.
Keep the time period risk free and encourage your kids, but also prod
and push them to finish. Regardless of how much they completed, be sure
to collect ALL the essays at the end of the class period.
Keep in mind that this is the first attempt by your
students, and there will be a few pretty good ones, several ok ones, and
probably a lot of bad ones. Keep the encouragement going. You want the
kids to give you an excellent effort, even if it is a poor product. It's
much easier to improve the writing than the student's effort.
Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use
immediately in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our
writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm
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
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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"Just Five More Minutes"
What are your priorities?
While at the park one day, a woman sat down next to a man on a
bench near a playground.
“That’s my son over there,” she said, pointing to a
little boy in a red sweater who was gliding down the slide.
“He’s a fine looking boy” the man said. “That’s my
daughter on the bike in the white dress.”
Then, looking at his watch, he called to his daughter. “What
do you say we go, Melissa?”
Melissa pleaded, “Just five more minutes, Dad. Please? Just
five more minutes.”
The man nodded and Melissa continued to ride her bike to her
heart’s content. Minutes passed and the father stood and called
again to his daughter. “Time to go now?”
Again Melissa pleaded, “Five more minutes, Dad. Just five
The man smiled and said, “OK.”
“My, you certainly are a patient father,” the woman
The man smiled and then said, “Her older brother Tommy was
killed by a drunk driver last year while he was riding his bike
near here. I never spent much time with Tommy and now I’d give
anything for just five more minutes with him. I’ve vowed not to
make the same mistake with Melissa.
She thinks she has five more minutes to ride her bike. The
truth is, I get Five more minutes to watch her play.”
Life is all about making priorities, what are your priorities?
Give someone you love 5 more minutes of your time today!
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