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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 16
August 2010
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

Our Back-To-Back, Back-To-School Issues
Packed with excellent articles on getting yourself and your students back into school mode!

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   The Art of Story Telling   Going Beyond With Journals
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See":
Stimulating Imaginations
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Computer Literacy Terms (part 1)
Themes on Life: 
"Personal Empowerment"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
School Discipline (Part 5)
New Teacher's Niche:
The Writing Process (part 3)
Student Teachers' Lounge: Building Positive Relationships with your Custodians
Book of the Month Club:
Teaching Matters: Motivating and Inspiring Yourself
  Website of the Month:
Ether Pad
  Back To School Book Sale for Teachers

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

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Our Newsletter is now posting a opening for a Social Studies / History Writer interested in a monthly column focusing on Historical Events and Education.

We are also looking for an administrator interested in sharing 21st century leadership skills and ideas in schools.  

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



Going Beyond With Journals

By Chris Sura

Chris Sura, upon earning his Bachelor’s at Western Michigan University worked for Central Michigan University in Housing before teaching at River Valley High School. When he moved to Houghton Lake where he currently teaches, Chris completed his Masters in Education at Central Michigan University. A member of the Crossroads Writing Project through Ferris State University, he facilitates a conference on Professional Writing every summer and does online instruction through Kirtland Community College. He is married to Heidi, his wife of twenty years, and has two kids, Christopher and Grace. Chris writes poetry and fiction and has self published a book of poems. 

You can visit Chris at his website www.surawordz.com

Three…two…one…and we are off on a new school year. It is usually a great time to start new techniques, practices or units. After my summer with the Crossroads Writing Project through Ferris State University back in 2006, I brought in a more active journaling program to my classroom.

I have always struggled with journal writing in my own personal writing world because I found my writing voice too forced; I thought certain rules had to be observed. My view, however, was changed with reading Breathing In/Breathing Out by Ralph Fletcher and with practicing journal writing with my summer Crossroads Institute. I was able to run, sometimes with scissors, on the journal page. This led to the use of journals in the classroom.

I used the daily journal writing as a part of creative writing class that fall. It worked well. It was a great tool for brainstorming, gathering information and writing. It fit the writing process well. Plus, I was able to develop several writing prompts and a grading system for its use. It fit the creative process.

So, my next question was could I tie it in to other academic classes. Since they were already taking notes, to use prompts related to notes, textbooks and current events was an easy expansion with my journalism, science fiction and fantasy and drama classes.

Basically, I would put a writing prompt on the board at the start at class. Students would date the entry and respond to the prompt. The prompt would be related to the topic or theme of the unit we were working on. For example, when discussing freedom of the press for journalism, I would put up prompts like “What rights do students have?” or have them read a news article about an issue with students and their freedom and have the students respond. With my science fiction class, I would ask, “What are rules or patterns that we associate with having wishes granted?” at the beginning of the unit on wishes.

The journal stays open for most of the class. 

I would either discuss the prompt, or save it for later in the class when we hit it with the lesson. Their notes went into the journal. Also, brief short answer assignments went in it too. The class spent the week filling their journals with information, writing, their ideas and so on. As we went through readings and discussion, the prompt or question would progress to “How did the court ruling of Tinker vs. Des Moines affect student rights?” or “How did today’s short story follow the rules or break the pattern of granting wishes?” Students would then start formulating their own opinion with support.

On Fridays, Writing Days, we would go to the Writing Lab (computer lab according to others) and write.

Writing Days would be impromptu writings related to the week, or it may be assignments shared at the beginning and developed through the week. Either way, students came with stuff in their journal and did not have to spend time figuring out what to write. As the semesters rolled by, I even started offering two or three writing options for Writing Day. Student liked the choice. They could write on a topic, still in the realm of the topic or there, that clicked with them.

My scoring I wanted to keep simple. On Writing Day, I collected the journals. I would put a plus, check, minus or zero for the week and record it in my grade book. Plus was for the students who went beyond the required material for the week, check for those who did the required writing and notes, minus was for those it did not do all, and zero was for those who did not bring it in on Friday. Before parent/teacher conferences, I converted the marks and added up the score. If there were five weeks of journals, I would set the points possible at 45. A plus was worth 10, checks were 8 and a minus was 6. This way, the student who did more earned a few extra credit points, and the average student would get a around a 40 out of 45, a good grade.

To facilitate more importance on the journal and the writing process, I also let them use the journal on the written portion of the semester exam. 

Experimenting with different classes, I found that the more mature student did not need to have the weekly journal check. With a freshman English class, I found that the journal helped develop organization skills, note taking and using writing to think; it takes the class beyond the note taking by linking notes to the thought process in the same place.

Journaling is flexible to any teaching and learning style.

The big benefits to journaling are free writing, thinking on paper and prompts that take the facts beyond the recall level of education that can develop a student’s higher level thinking skills, problem solving and application of knowledge.

As a teacher in the classroom, I would encourage you to journal with your students. Role modeling behavior, writing and thinking not only helps your student learn, but it let’s the student see more of you through instruction.

In conclusion, a journal can be used in any class to any level. But if used to its full potential, a journal stores knowledge, develops thought, strengthens understanding and enhances writing.



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Using Photography To Inspire Writing VIII

By Hank Kellner

Stimulating Imaginations

A veteran of the Korean War, Hank Kellner is a retired educator who has served as an English Department chairperson at the high school level and an adjunct Associate Professor of English at the community college level.

For several years he published "Kellner's Moneygram", a newsletter for photographers. He also owned and operated Simmer Pot Press, a small press specializing in cookbooks, for several years.

Kellner is the creator of many photographs and articles that appeared in publications nationwide; the author of extensive reading comprehension materials for a publisher of educational materials, and a former contributing editor to Darkroom Photography magazine. His current publication is Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing (Cottonwood Press, due out January, 2009)

Born in New York City, Kellner now lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Visit his blog at hank-englisheducation.blogspot.com.

“Everything is funny as long as it happens to someone else.” So wrote the American humorist Will Rogers. That statement certainly is true, even though the young boy shown in this photo seems to be unaware of the events that are taking place around him.

One way to use a photo like this one is to present it to students with only a few accompanying “trigger” words designed to stimulate their imaginations. For example, you could pair the photo with words like humor, laughter, jokes, funny situations, or others. Then you could ask the students to write opening paragraphs based on the first thoughts that come to mind when they view the photo/words combination.

To complete the assignment, you could ask the students to write longer works based on their opening paragraphs. In some cases, students may wish to exchange their opening paragraphs before writing their compositions.

Another approach would be to conduct class discussions using thought provoking questions that will help the students formulate ideas for stories, poems, or even expository pieces based on the concept of humor. Students will readily respond to such questions as: (a) What is the little boy in this photo thinking? (b) Why are the two adults laughing? (c) What are some of the funniest things you have ever seen in a film or on television? (d) What does it feel like to have someone laugh at you? (e) Who is the funniest person in your class, and what is funny about this person? (f) What are some things that make you laugh (g) In what ways can laughter be harmful?

Long Live Books and Reading !

Silhouetted against a window, a girl appears to be engrossed in the book she is reading. At a time when motion pictures and television seem to capture the attention of so many people, is this girl the exception rather than the rule? What is it about the book she’s reading that holds her attention? In what way can reading a book be more satisfying than watching a film or television?

To teach specific writing skills, you could ask your students to discuss only the main character in a novel they have read. For this assignment, they should discuss the character they have chosen emo-tionally as well as physically. They should also tell how their characters dealt with conflicts or problems that were important in the novel they chose.

Of course, many students either don’t enjoy reading, or are outwardly hostile to doing so.  If that’s true of the students in your classroom, you could ask them to write compositions that cite specific reasons for their aversion to reading.

Behold the Lowly Onion

Students who have handled most onions know that they have to be careful when doing so.  If they’ve peeled or chopped onions, they might have cried. If they chewed on them, their mouths might have smarted. Worse yet, some students might have found that people turned away from them after they ate these members of the Allium plant family.

One or more of the responses described above could easily inspire any number of written compositions.  Alternatively, you could present your students with several suggested writing assignments.

For example, you could ask them to describe an onion in terms of what it looks like, tastes like, feels like, and smells like. This approach will encourage them to describe an object in terms of sense impressions. On a more creative level, you could ask your students to personify an onion and reveal what it’s like to be peeled, chopped or sliced, added to a salad, and drenched with salad dressing.

Promote Narrative Writing…With Humor

In Brooklyn Park , Minnesota , adjunct Instructor of English Amber Luck promotes narrative writing by showing her students at Hennepin Technical College photographs depicting people in situations in which what is happening isn’t immediately clear. “The assignment,” she writes, “for each student to choose one person in one of the photos and write the story behind the picture from that person’s point of view.” The students then take turns reading their stories aloud to their classmates. “The results are often hilarious,” concludes Luck, “and the assignment works as a community-building exercise, as well as an introduction to narration.”

Create an Image File

At Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Kalamazoo , Michigan , Linda Dick uses many interesting, creative techniques to help her students create stories, poems, and expository pieces. In her creative writing classes, for example, she asks them to create an image file: a folder full of magazine images and/or Internet images of anything. “In the classroom,” she writes, “I ask the students to choose one of the images. Then I direct some of them to write a biography, others to create a scene, and still others to create a plot line.” Finally, the students put everything together spontaneously. “In that way,” she concludes, “they learn a great deal about the elements of fiction.”

There Is No Limit

As you can see, there is no limit to the ways in which you can use photographs to inspire writing. You can use them to help teach the different forms of rhetoric. You can use them to help your students write biographies or family histories. You can use them to help teach figures of speech, poems, or short stories. Or, if you wish, you can simply present photographs to your students without comment or discussion and allow them to create compositions based on whatever the photos suggest to them.


Copyright 2009 Hank Kellner    Photos and Poem by the author


Hank Kellner is the author of Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing. Published by Cottonwood Press ( I-800-864-4297) and distributed by Independent  Publishers Group, Write What You See includes a supplementary CD with photos. 8 ½ x11, 120 pages, perfect binding, ISBN 978-1-877-673-83-2, LCCN 2008938630. $24.95. Available at bookstores, from the publisher,  and on the Internet at www.amazon.com and other websites. Ask your school or local librarian to order it.Visit the author’s blog at http://hank-englisheducation.com. The author will contribute a portion of the royalties earned from the sale of this book to The Wounded Warriors Project.


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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.

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Student Teachers' Lounge: 
For The Things They Don't Teach You In College

Starting Off Your First Year -
Building Positive Relationships Around Your School with your Custodians & Maintenance Staff

By Frank Holes, Jr., Educational Consultant

This is the second article in the series, dealing with your custodial staff. Your school custodians and maintenance department are an important part of the overall functionality of your building. These are people who you should get to know immediately, because they can provide you with a tremendous array of services.

The custodial and maintenance staff isn’t just around to sweep the floors, empty the wastebaskets, and clean up messes. They play an important role in the school environment. These people are not only essential to keeping the building and grounds in top shape and presentable to the public, but also keep the various physical systems in the school in working order. These may include heating & cooling, water, plumbing, and electrical systems, and sometimes even technology. They may also put up walls, plow the snow, line the football field, repair the drinking fountains, and put together classroom furniture.

Your custodial and maintenance workers can help you in a number of ways. They certainly can keep your room and hallway in tip-top shape. Many times, custodians will pick up and collect pencils and pens from the halls, and will drop them off in your room if they know you need them. 

And they will often help you out if you have requests. In many schools, their contracts and union will dictate what physical jobs can be done by school personnel other than maintenance/custodial workers. So if you’re having trouble with your room heating unit, your clock is not synchronized with those around the school, or your door is squeaky, you can usually get prompt service if they know you and know you appreciate their time and efforts. If you are well liked by the maintenance staff, your requests may often move up the priority list. And if you want those extra ‘little touches’, such as a shelf put up in your room, or document frames mounted on your walls, such favors are often the reward of your time spent building positive relationships.

Appreciation for their work can be as simple as an honest and genuine ‘thank you’. Often times, including the custodial and maintenance staff in get-togethers and school celebrations goes a long way. Some groups will purchase donuts or treats for the custodians during the year. Other groups put on dinners or cook-outs. If your students bring in any extra treats, be sure to send some down to the maintenance staff.

If you take the time to get to know these hard-working people, and build positive relationships with them, you will definitely reap the rewards. Not only will you have handy people willing to help you out when you need it, but you may even find pleasant, friendly faces in and around your school.

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

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  TECH/21st Century CORNER

Computer Literacy Terms (part 1)-
Free Printables for your Classroom
By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Here's a great vocabulary set to begin talking about computer literacy to your students. 

Computer Literacy 1     Match these words to their definition or explanation located below:
desktop mouse curser hard drive
ram browser bookmark refresh
cache file application copy
paste PC Mac system

1.       The storage area of a computer where it keeps all the files.  ______________

2.       A program used to see the internet.        ______________

3.       Something you use to get back to a specific place on the internet at a later time period.    ______________

4.       Another name for a program used on the computer.    ______________

5.       A folder that all programs are put into.     ______________

6.       A device used to navigate around the screen of a computer.______________

7.       The workspace on the screen of a computer.     ______________

8.       The amount of memory a computer has to work with. The smaller the memory the less things you can have open on the screen.       ______________

9.       A blinking line that shows where you will type next.       ______________

10.   An overall program that runs the computer. An example would be Tiger, windows XP,  windows 2000.      ______________

11.   Something you do first to duplicate writing that you want to use elsewhere.     _______________ 

12.   A type of computer made by Apple corp.      _______________

13.   A type of computer made by many companies such as Dell, Gateway, Sony.         _______________

14.     A temporary file that holds the memory of a page you looked at on the internet so that it will load faster when you bring it up again.           _______________

15.   The way you place writing from one document to another.           _______________

        16.  The way to update a page from the internet.                                    _______________                                          


Your browser may not support display of this image.  

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 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:




 Featured Writer

The Art of Story Telling

By Salima Moosa Sewani

Salima Moosa Sewani has been in the field of teaching for 8 years. She is running her own Learning Center and also working with the Exceptional People in Pakistan. She is a Master Trainer and has done many teaching certifications.

Storytelling is an art. It takes dexterity to expose the creative person inside us. When we play with any toy, we pretend to walk, talk, and act the same as that figure. We might be telling a story about a fairy, or we might be having a birthday party, or, conceivably, we may be going on some outings. The fun of playing by ourselves is in making different sounds and many gestures. We try to set different emotions in order to make our expressions clear and full of reality.

When we tell a story to anyone, for example let’s suppose a child,  we do follow the outline of beginning, middle, and end. We fill in details of our senses, emotions, feelings, expressions, etc. We try to locate the timings and make our story more interesting by adding descriptive words in it.

To be frank with you all, telling a story is not a cup of tea for everyone. It requires dedication and skills to fill it with emotions. I would suggest to teachers not to duplicate any characters. Be real!  Use gestures and always move from one place to another to grasp the attention of your audience. Everyone must start as who they are and let the action and the description of the story inspire us to play. There is no right or wrong way to tell a story except to be ourselves, relax, and have fun with the pleasure of sharing a story.

During my teaching career, I have used many techniques to teach students with the help of stories full of life. Here are some of the suggestions that might help you to become a good story teller.

The first step is to write it. Make your habit to fill the your words full of expressions and ideas in your writing. I, myself, am struggling to be a good writer, and that's what the dedication is (which is required from your side too) to be passionate about trying and learning things. The idea for your story may be based on an old tale or it might come right from your mind, but it must be put into your own words and then told with your own style of telling.  Never plagiarize a story or copy words. It might make your story artificial. There are many ways to tell the same story.  When you tell a story, you must imagine it just as if you were there.

Choose a favorite story from your school or college library or you can even try newspapers to get a good story. Websites can also help you a lot to get different tales.

First: Make an outline of each important plot point of the tale in sequential order: a true beginning, middle, and end. This outline is a map that will remind us where the story is going, even if we experiment by taking a few detours. Add some details and scenes that no one has ever thought of before. It should be unique and should please your listeners.

Second: start writing your first scene. Look at your outline and brainstorm. Work in a group to get a lot of ideas. You can arrange workshops for the teachers in order to gain different ideas before transforming it into reality. I still remember that while attending workshops at the Aga Khan University , Institute of Education , we brought many ideas by working in a group, and then formulate the effective lessons on the basis of our own thoughts and unique ideas. You may discover new actions to add to your outline or change the order of the outlined actions. You may make several outlines before you are done.

Ask yourself these questions:

*  Who are the characters in your story?

*  What is happening?

*  Why is there a problem?

*  Where and when does the scene take place?

*  Can you describe what the setting looks like?

*  By whom? By what?, etc.

List the senses:  seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching details of the pretend world of the play. Imagine you can hear what the characters are saying. Imagine and write the dialogue of the scene. Pretend to walk and talk like them. 

Third:  Imagine that you are one of the characters in the play. Write down the story from your point of view.  Imagine being the character and speaking this story out loud.  Share these monologues with your team so you get to know all the characters in the play.

Fourth: Now, imagine you are one of the spectators. Using pieces of the dialogue, the monologues, and the expressive details which you and your colleagues have already written, write a new version of the story describing the whole imaginary world you have been brainstorming. Tell this story out loud. When you converse the words of the characters, let yourself move and talk like them. Sometimes you will recount the details of the scenes that you can see in your mind's eye. Sometimes you may become the characters and feel what they are feeling. Let yourself be in the middle of the world of the story, describing to the listener what is happening all around you as if it were real.

Remember, imagining things is the most challenging task to learn. The imagination is like a muscle. The more we use it the quicker and stronger it gets. Don't be discouraged if at first you feel awkward. Keep trying and soon you'll be leaping and roaring. Just like bike riding, gymnastics, football, or any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get at doing it. Practice playing, and soon you'll see your storytelling skills growing.

Last, I wish you best of luck to become a professional story teller.



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School Discipline
(part 5)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Zero Tolerance

In the United States and Canada, zero tolerance policies are applied in schools and other education venues. These have proved controversial in that some of those penalized have claimed that their treatment is egregiously unfair.

A zero-tolerance policy is a policy of having very little tolerance for transgressions: any infraction of existing laws and regulations will be punished, no matter how small. The term may be used in general or with reference to a particular category of transgressions, e.g. a zero-tolerance policy towards alcohol use.

It is typically enacted by an organization (usually a school) against a particular action, or possession of something on organization-controlled property. Many schools have a zero-tolerance policy concerning drugs or weapons. For example, a student possessing or caught using drugs on school property governed by a zero-tolerance policy could immediately suffer the highest possible consequence for their actions. Many organizations avoid these policies because it binds those in authority to an action, regardless of circumstances. The policy must be written extremely explicitly or it may have negative consequences.

As of 2004 many publicized cases have sparked slight controversy with regards to (at least what some perceive as) irrationality of the policies. These cases include students being suspended or expelled for transgressions such as carrying Advil (a legal, non-prescription drug) in backpacks, keeping pocketknives (small utility knife) in cars, and carrying sharp tools outside of a "wood shop" classroom (where they are often required materials). In some jurisdictions, zero-tolerance policies have come into conflict with freedom of religion rules already in place allowing students to carry, for example, kirpans.

Most policies were enacted after the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. One well documented case took place in the Ashland, Oregon School district.

Controversy of Zero Tolerance

Supporters of zero tolerance policies claim that such policies are required to create an appropriate environment. They also point to examples of persons in authority providing lax discipline in the past, with a resulting breakdown in order (for example, in a school environment).

Some supporters also argue that the mass publicizing of examples of unfairness serves the schools' purpose by frightening students into conformity. They point to the millions of student acts and omissions each and every school day, only a small percentage of which prove to be unfairly penalized.

The utilitarian policy assumption is that inflexibility is a deterrent because, no matter how or why the rule was broken, the fact that the rule was broken is the basis for the imposition of the penalty. This is intended as a behavior modification strategy, i.e. because those at risk know that it may operate unfairly, they may be induced to take even unreasonable steps to avoid breaking the rule. This is a standard policy in rule- and law-based systems around the world on "offenses" as minor as traffic violations to major health and safety legislation for the protection of employees, those living nearby and the environment.

Critics of zero tolerance policies frequently refer to cases where minor offenses have resulted in severe punishments (see above and , for example, Zero Tolerance Nightmares. Typical examples include the honor-roll student being expelled from school under a "no weapons" policy while in possession of nail clippers; or a distinguished longtime employee at a company who, despite an impeccable work record and compiling many honors, losing his job because he made a seemingly innocent remark to a female co-worker (e.g., "You look nice today").

However, some view zero tolerance policies as a tool to fight corruption. Under this argument, if subjective judgment is not allowed, most attempts by the authority person to encourage bribes and/or other favors in exchange for leniency are clearly visible.

Some might argue that having a set of rigid rules serves as a way to limit the powers of the person doing enforcement, ensuring equal treatment for everyone. However, the evidence is that minority children are the most likely to suffer the negative consequences of zero tolerance.

Such policies could conceivably be established to allow unchecked freedom for officers; in such cases the rules could be intentionally self-contradicting, unclear and/or otherwise impossible or implausible to obey.

Research on Zero Tolerance

Zero Tolerance, Zero Evidence: An Analysis of School Disciplinary Practice reports that there is no credible evidence that zero tolerance is effective. Furthermore, school suspension and expulsion result in a number of negative outcomes for both schools and students.

The study, conducted by the Indiana Education Policy Center at Indiana University School of Education, reviewed the use of zero-tolerance policies since their inception in the 1980s.

"Zero tolerance is a political response, not an educationally sound solution," said Dr. Russell Skiba, author of the report. "It sounds impressive to say that we're taking a tough stand against misbehavior, but the data says it simply hasn't been effective in improving student behavior."


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



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Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

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Not fully trusting his one-legged mentor, the time-traveling boy must rely on his own wits and ideals to escape terrifying, colossal beasts and unexpected, treacherous mutiny.  Can he survive in a world where nothing is what it seems?

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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 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. Michigan ’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.   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
Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen 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.  


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





New Teachers' Niche: 
A Place for Teachers New To The Craft

The Writing Process
(part 3)
Second Day of Class Assignment

This is the third article in a series on using the writing process in class. 

Once the hectic pace of the first day of school is over, you'll want to get your students off and writing 'on the right foot'. We begin the second day of class with a writing assignment / activity that will give me an idea of where the students are in terms of their understanding of the writing process.

Our school uses a common writing program that increases in complexity at each grade level. The teachers use common terminology and formats for paragraphs which are the basis of our drafting. Thus, I know they will have a bit of familiarity with the process. However, even if you are teaching 'on an island' without any class or grade continuity, this activity will allow you to assess your students understanding of the writing process and set them up for the teaching of your expectations for writing paragraphs.

I've put this activity onto an overhead sheet so I can use it each year. At the top are the writing directions: "Write a paragraph describing one of the most important things you learned over the summer. No talking, and no questions." The directions are specific enough that I want a paragraph written, not a page or a few sentences. And the topic is broad enough that everyone can think of something to write about. However, it is just vague enough that students must use their best judgment to decide exactly HOW to structure the writing and how long it should be.

I tell the kids there is no right or wrong way to do this assignment, and there is no right or wrong response to the prompt. In fact, the only wrong thing that can be done is just to NOT write anything at all. This explanation will help most of your students get started right away. If a student is sitting idle for more than a minute, I'll remind them that this is a writing activity, not a thinking activity. They need to get started writing, or I'll assign them a disciplinary paragraph to copy. That's usually enough to get them going.

Undoubtedly you will have some students who seem stumped on this, or will want to ask questions of you. Stand firm on the 'no questions', and let them figure it out for themselves. If you give in now, these same students will rely on you the entire year. You want them to become good thinkers and problem solvers. Let them do it!

We usually give students about ten minutes to write. Although this is less than normal, it's just enough to get them on the right track and enough for you to see if they have any idea what they're doing.

Once the time is up, each student draws a line across his/her paper right under the paragraph. I then uncover the second part of the activity. Students must now "write down THREE rules, guidelines, or expectations they have learned about writing paragraphs." After these are written down, the students prioritize them, the most important labeled #1, and so forth. These provide excellent prompts for class discussions, which is next. We look to affirm correct ideas, and dispel the wrong ones. Then the students draw another line across the page.

Lastly, the students number their page #1-5, and write in their responses to four questions I pose for them. We then discuss their answers, and I'm able to evaluate what they know and what they think they know about paragraph writing.

Again, these help me to see what knowledge the students bring to class, and how closely they are to our class's writing expectations.

The last thing we do is a bit of self-editing. The students are to underline their topic sentences and clincher statements and number their three supporting statements (just imagine their surprise if any realize they didn't write these down!) This also makes for great conversation.

Now they're ready to learn the rules, procedures, and expectations for the formatting of a paragraph in this class. I have these on an overhead sheet and also on a PowerPoint presentation. Both have a note sheet so students can write down the information as it is presented. They quickly learn the rules and expectations I have for the formatting and writing of their paragraphs.

Use this link to access this writing assignment on our website for your own classroom use:



Part 4 of this series will discuss the writing process as we have students begin writing paragraphs.


Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use immediate
ly in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm

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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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"Personal Empowerment"
Marlene Blaszczyk

Themes on Life

What do we say when we talk to ourselves?

Use Empowering Words When You Talk to Yourself
(whether you are speaking out loud or silently)

How do you talk to yourself?

Do you use the words "can't", "won't", "don't need to", "why try"?
Many people do.

Do you find that what you say to yourself turns out to be true?

Why is this?

You see your brain is like a computer that you feed each day. It doesn't know always know what's real or not unless you tell it.

Example: If someone you love has hurt you, you may tell yourself that all people who love you will probably hurt you too.

Your brain just files this information for reference, it's data, little zeroes and ones and no column that asks "true or not true?" Now your brain thinks, based on what you told it, that everyone you'll ever love will hurt you.

How do you think you will respond the next time you get hurt?


Now, what if we instead told our brain:

"Okay this person ripped my heart out - but that's only one person. I'm lovable and have many loving people in my life who are not out to hurt me. I know that the right people are coming into my life all the time. If someone hurts me, I will forgive them and bless them on their way."

Words can be empowering.

I can
I love to
I want to
I will
I must
I am

We can reach a new level of living, if we feed ourselves empowering words and practice saying them until they become a habit.

I know first hand that it takes time.

And I also know that it's worth it.

Try it for a week.

Catch yourself saying, "I can't", when you don't really mean it and instead try, "I can", and see how you think and feel about yourself.

Remember, the words you use to empower yourself will have a lasting effect, only if you practice them and they become a habit (an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary).

They say it takes at least 28 days to develop a habit. After a week, you will see that it becomes easier. It's a mindset and you can control your thoughts. Be proactive and not reactive - give yourself some good words.

Dream big and empower yourself! Believe you can and you will.


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Greetings to our readers, and welcome to the first of our Back-To-Back, Back-To-School issues for 2010. It is an exciting time as both teachers and students begin filling in those empty classrooms and the school year begins.   

I want to welcome and thank our newest feature writer, Chris Sura, who will begin a monthly column on the teaching of English and language arts.  His first article on journal writing gives us many excellent ideas on focusing our students' writing and thinking skills.  Welcome aboard, Chris!  Look for his feature writer page on our website in the next few weeks.  

Hank Kellner is back with an eighth article from his book, Write What You See.   We also have an article from Salima Moosa Sewani on story telling, and Mark Benn provides us with a set of computer literacy terms.  And as always, we have articles with practical ideas and techniques to be applied directly into your classroom.   

And be sure to check out our article archives on our website: www.starteaching.com

We have great science activities by Helen de la Maza as well as a new set of weekly math problems from Mary Ann Graziani.  We know you'll find these useful for your class! 

And be sure to check out our FACEBOOK page for StarTeaching for more reader interaction and constant, updated streams of educational information.  

Thanks again for your continued support!  ~Frank Holes, Jr.


See more of our Freebies as well as Special Reports on our website by clicking the quick link below:


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10 Days Of


What is bravery?


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Describe someone you know who is 'brave'.  What makes him/her brave?


What are THREE ways a person can show their bravery in daily lives?


Are you looking forward to going back to school?  Why or why not?


How do people overcome fear?


Describe how bravery is the opposite of fear.


Can bravery always overcome fear?  Why or why not?


Tell about a time you have been brave to conquer a fear.


 What are FIVE important things you must do to get ready for school to start?

Click to see over 1000 prompts


10 days of writing prompts


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Year of the Dogman

A New Novel by Frank Holes, Jr.
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Writing Process Articles

Check out the entire collection of writing articles, including:
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* Essay Writing
* Journaling
* FREE printables you can use!




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Teaching Matters: Motivating and Inspiring Yourself

By Todd and Beth Whitaker



Coming Soon:

Preparing for Student Teaching

Technology & Teaching: 21st Century Teaching and Learning

Writing Process and Programs

Article of the Week


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See All Weekly Math Problems from 2007-2009!

click here for the math archives!

10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 What number does the Roman numeral X represent?
Day 2 How would you write 21 as a Roman numeral?
Day 3 How would you write 28 as a Roman numeral?
Day 4 What number does the Roman numeral IV represent?
Day 5 Which is a better estimate for the length of a finger? 46 millimeters or 46 meters?
Day 6 Which is a better estimate for the volume of a thimble? 2 liters or 2 milliliters?
Day 7 Which is a better estimate for the volume of a bucket? 18 liters or 18 milliliters?
Day 8 Which is a better estimate for the weight of a vacuum cleaner? 7 grams or 7 kilograms?
Day 9 Which is a better estimate for the length of an olive? 41 centimeters or 41 millimeters?
Day 10 Which is a better estimate for the volume of a pepper shaker? 39 liters or 39 milliliters?


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




Tech-Ed Articles

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* 21st Century Learning
* Integrating Technology
* Computer Literacy
* REAL activities you can use!




Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Soil Percolation
(click for PDF)


Pop The Top
(click for PDF)


Click HERE to see all of 
Helen's Science Activities


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Inspirational Quotes
& Photos

Check out our entire collection of inspirational quotes and photos from our 5 years of newsletters.  





Learning in Hand is an educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies with students. Tony Vincent
Tony is a teacher who wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in classrooms!  He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates teachers to use technology that students crave.






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Using Photography To Inspire Writing
By Hank Kellner

Visit his blog at: hank-englisheducation.




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