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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 4
February 2010
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

Welcome back to our StarTeaching newsletter, 
Features for Teachers, packed full of tips, techniques, and ideas for educators of all students in all levels. 

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   Using MOODLE in the Classroom (part 1)   Using Sign Language To Make Your Read-Aloud Interactive and Fun
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See": Using Photos In Your Writing II
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
iste NETS project?  What is it?
Themes on Life: 
"The Path To A Happier Life"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Computer-Based Training
New Teacher's Niche:
Running Project Centers Effectively
Student Teachers' Lounge:
Creating an In-Class Cable TV Network
Book of the Month Club:
What Computer Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy
  Website of the Month:
Quest Atlantis
  Winter Book Sale
for Teachers

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

Also, feel free to email this newsletter to a friend or colleague!


Would you be interested in becoming a Featured Writer for the StarTeaching website?

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



Using Sign Language to Make Your Read-Aloud Interactive and Fun

by Kim Taylor-DiLeva

Kim Taylor-DiLeva is an educational trainer and owner of Kims 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.

Teachers read aloud to their students because of the benefits, which include introducing and reinforcing new vocabulary words, strengthening listening skills, encouraging reading for enjoyment, and introducing new genres, etc.  Since read-aloud time is a listening activity, it does not allow for much interaction. This specifically hinders your visual and kinesthetic learners.  Fortunately, there are easy ways to make your read aloud time more interactive and enjoyable for your students. One way is to incorporate American Sign Language signs.  Heres how:

  • Choose a book to read to your class. It would be best if it has one or two repeating words that are words you would like your students to learn.
  • If you do not know the signs, look up the sign in an American Sign Language Dictionary.  I suggest Michigan State University s ASL Web Browser, which you can find online at  http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/
  • Introduce the signs along with the book. Tell your students that whenever you read the word they are to sign it.  They will not only have to listen to the story but also sign the word when they do hear it.
  • Your students may need to be reminded to remember to do this, but this will force them to pay close attention because they have to listen carefully for the word and also remember to sign (and what the signs are).
  • In addition, you can also benefit from this because it will be easy to determine who is paying attention and who is not. Those who are not signing are most likely not listening and you can now redirect them. By using this strategy and incorporating ASL signs into your reading time, you will present your kinesthetic learners with a way to physically learn by acting out the story and your visual learners are more apt to grasp concepts by learning through the visual representation of the story you are reading.
  • For example, when teaching students about hibernation, I recommend using the book Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming for your read-aloud.  Have your students learn and sign the words winter and sleep. These two words are repeated often throughout the story to explain how each animal begins their winter hibernation. By the time you are done reading the story, your students will have signed the words several times and they will have an understanding that there are some animals that sleep through winter, or hibernate. Your students will now understand the topic and new vocabulary words. The best part is that they had fun doing it through the interactive read-aloud time.



A Great Offer to Our StarTeaching Readers
From Kim's Signing Solutions!

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Regularly 12.95, You Pay ONLY 9.95.
Click below to get your set of cards at this great discount, ONLY FOR STAR TEACHING READERS.  

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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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Using Photography To Inspire Writing II

By Hank Kellner

Write What You See

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.

Less is more. Theres really nothing complicated about the photo shown below. A figure stands silhouetted against a gray-to-black background. In the far distance, a bright circle hovers over the horizon.

    One fist appears to be clenched as the figure stands with its feet apart. Is the figure male or female? Is it facing the horizon, or is it facing the camera? Does its posture suggest anger, rage, or hostility? Why is the subject standing alone in a space thats delineated by shades of gray?

     If you showed this photograh to students to inspire them to write stories or poems, you might ask them the questions cited above. Alternatively, you might simply show the photograph and allow your students imaginations to kick in and guide them as they create their compositions.

    By the way, if youre a photography buff, youll probably want to know that this photograph was created using a Leica M-3 and Plus-X film back in the days when silver-based photos were king and digital imaging wasnt even on the drawing board.

       Some people maintain that as time passes, people and their pets begin to resemble each other. Many students who view this photo-graph will certainly comment on the similarities between the man and his parrot. Others will speculate as to where the two subjects of the photograph are standing and why they are there. Still others will be inspired to write papers in which they discuss the relationships that exist between people and their pets. A few will write about their own pets and how the pets affected their lives.

    In this photograph a woman stands alone on a city street, her arms folded, her face a study in anger or hostility. Why is she alone? Why is she angry or hostile? What kind of family does she have? Is she married? Does she have children? Why do people become angry? What are some things that make you angry? How do you cope with your anger?

   This photographor one similar to it can trigger many questions that can in turn stimulate students imaginations and provide the perfect antidote to help them get over the I dont know what to write about blues.

      Photographs can also lend themselves to teaching specific skills. At Columbus State Community College , for example, Sheila Dickson uses graphic images to focus on point of view as a writing tecknique. She writes, Being a flower child, I show images of the Kent State shootings in 1970. First, Dickson asks students to write descriptive paragraphs from the points of view of a participating student, a National Guardsman, or an observing student. Then she directs them to write another paragraph from a different point of view. Finally, she tells the students to develop one of their choices into an essay.  Using this technique, she concludes, Ive received some of the best student writing Ive ever received at the high school and college level during my thirty-six years of teaching English.

    At Independence High School in San Jose , California , English teacher Martin Brandt shows his students side-by-side photos of two women and asks them to respond in writing to the following five questions. (1) What does each photograph show? (2) How is each woman dressed? (3) What do you notice about the environment surrounding each woman? (4) What do you notice about the condition of each woman? (5) What do the two women have in common? In this way, Brandt helps his students develop papers based on comparisons and contrasts.

     From the Boston Writing Project, Peter Golden reports that in one of several photo-related exercises he uses with students at South Boston High School he projects a photo of Marilyn Monroe (a Norma Jean photo) and asks the students to write down their responses and share them. After the students arrive at a general description of the subject, as in shy or sophisticated,

Golden presses them for details. Then he directs them to write descriptions of Norma that convey their conclusion (shy or sophisticated) without using that word. In other words, he writes, the readers should come to the same conclusion just by reading the description.

    One of the projects my students and parents are most proud of is a project I do with my high school freshmen, writes Jennifer Sluss, Tech Liaison for the Mountain Writing Project. To help teach purpose and audience in writing, Slusss students create visual personal narratives/memoirs that she fondly refers to as the Me Mini Movie. In this exercise, students compile photos that tell a story or present an aspect of their lives that they value. We then add a song to the photos in Movie Maker or Power Point. When we do this, the students must focus on matching the music to their message. We also talk about tone, audience, and the purpose of the Me Mini Movies. Sluss also uses representations of abstract art to help her junior English students relate to the themes and plots of novels.

    Carol Booth Olson is the director of the UCI Writing Project, a member of the National Writing Project Advisory Board, and the author of The Reading Writing Connection. Olson has created a memory snapshot exercise for use with her students. First, she asks them to select photographs that they associate with significant memories. Then she directs them to create written snapshots that capture a you are there feeling in the reader by using rich sensory details. I point out that the goal is not to tell about the event but to show what is happening by dramatizing the event, she writes.

    Photographs are wonderful teaching aids. They can be used to elicit responses from the most reluctant students. They can be used to trigger the imaginations of students from elementary school through college. They can be used to inspire either expository or creative pieces. When you use them to encourage writing in the classroom, never again will students complain that they have nothing to write about.

 Copyright 2009 by Hank Kellner


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 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 authors 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.


iPod Touch

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Mastering Basic Skills software:


There are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to say this is the most important basic skill for not just to survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment. Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory & Concentration in an individual, namely: 1. Picture recognition
2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
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:



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

Creating an In-Class Cable TV Network

Ever wonder if you and your students could create your own TV news show? Would you like to have announcements and school/class information available to students all class long? Would you like to avoid those students who were absent constantly asking you, "What did we do in class yesterday?" It isn't only possible to do, but with a few pieces of equipment, it's easy to set up and run.

You, of course will need several pieces of hardware, including a TV or (digital projector) and a computer. You will also need the proper cables to connect the two. We've discovered that sometimes the resolution on some computers needs to be adjusted or changed, so check your monitors setting. You might even need a scan-converter if all else fails. Such a TV network can also be simply set up on a computer monitor which is turned to face the students.

Your computer will also need PowerPoint (or an equivalent presentation software). We've used such programs effectively on Macs, as well as Linux and Windows machines, and they all work well for this application.

PowerPoint has the feature of progressing through information or slides by either clicking your mouse, or by setting up timings between every action. Thus, you can have each word, line, paragraph, or even graphic animated automatically. You can change up the settings for different bits of info you have. Check the top menu for 'slide show', and follow down the menu to 'custom animation' (or look for a similar command). Once there, you can select each element to animate, the type of transition to occur, any sound you want associated with it, and also the timing (automatic, not on a mouse click). You will want to practice a few times until your timing is good, and there are enough seconds to see or read each element before the next animation or transition. Even your slides can be changed automatically. Go to the 'slide show' menu and select 'slide transition' or 'set up show'. From there, you can choose the type of transition, and even its speed of animation.

You may wish to check your computer's settings so the machine doesn't go to sleep on you, or change to a screen saver. That would definitely defeat your purpose!

Now that you know how to set up a show, you have to decide what material or information to put out on display. I put up basic information such as the lunch menu, school or class announcements, and homework assignments. I will also post a class schedule and switch times if the daily schedule is altered. For the students who were absent, we also display class notes from previous classes. Now there is no excuse for students missing assignments or class information!  And this saves you from having to deal with every returning student asking what was missed and where to find it.

If you are brave and want to create a great class project, have your students run your daily announcements. You could partner them up and have your first class of the day create the announcements. Another project is to have your students create storyboards, where a short story is broken up among a number of slides, each slide including pictures, clip art, or graphics to illustrate the story. You can find many good images online or in the clip art of your program. If you have access to a digital camera, you can even have students take their own pictures and insert them.

Yet another project we've done is to create a PowerPoint to summarize one class or a week's worth of class info. This becomes an animated newsletter or magazine. Again, assign a student to take photos on a digital camera during the class and combine these with articles on the various activities you've done. You might want to include students' work as examples.

There are also advanced techniques you can experiment with as you get better with the program. Sound can be added, such as background music, songs, or voice recordings. There are also ways to include video.  Become an expert with the basics, and you'll be ready for these advanced techniques.

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




Do You Have Great Ideas, Tips, or Techniques to Share with Our Readers?  
Are You Looking To Be Published?

Submit Your Articles On Our Website At:   http://www.starteaching.com/submit.htm


  TECH/21st Century CORNER

isteNETS Project-What Is It? 

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark's latest articles are focusing on 21st Century Learning and the latest research to drive 21st Century Teaching. 

Iste stands for the International Society for Technology in Education. Nets is a project that began back in 1998 and stands for The National Educational Technology Standards. What is the goal of this project you might ask?

Quoting from their web site The primary goal of the ISTE NETS Project is to enable stakeholders in PreK-12 education to develop national standards for educational uses of technology that facilitate school improvement in the United States. The NETS Project will work to define standards for students, integrating curriculum technology, technology support, and standards for student assessment and evaluation of technology use.

The NETS project has developed national technology standards for education in three areas students, teachers, and administrators. Counting the District of Columbia as a state, 49 out of 51 states have either adopted, adapted, aligned, or referenced some or all of these standards into their own state standards.

The  technology foundation standards for students are divided into six broad categories. They are

1.    Basic operations and concepts

2.    Social, ethical, and human issues

3.    Technology productivity tools

4.    Technology communications tools

5.    Technology research tools

6.    Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools

Under each category are several standards for students to achieve. All of this is broken down by grade level to make it easier for teachers to develop and use within their classrooms.

These standards have served us well as we transitioned from the 20th to the 21st century. But things are changing quickly in the workforce and new skills are being demanded by employers including problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and decision-making. None of these skills can be mastered in the 20th century teaching style classrooms where students sit in rows and listen to the teacher.

Technology integration provides the way to change, but we, as teachers, need to change with it. With this need the isteNETs project has responded with a draft of new standards to meet the needs of teachers in the 21st century. Like the old standards, they are divided into six broad categories with multiple standards for each. They are as follows:      

       1. Creativity and Innovation

       2. Communication and Collaboration

       3. Research and Information Retrieval

       4. Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, and Decision-Making

       5. Digital Citizenship

       6. Technology Operations and Concepts

These standards certainly answer the call of skills being demanded in the workforce of the 21st century. The final standards will be published in June at the National Convention  in Atlanta, Georgia. We, as teachers, need to begin to look at what we are doing and ask ourselves the question Am I preparing my students for the 20th or the 21st century?

For more information go to www.cnets.iste.org


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:




  Feature Writer

Using Moodle in the Classroom (part 1)

By Frank Holes, Jr.

Frank Holes, Jr. is the editor of the StarTeaching website and the Features for Teachers bi-monthly online newsletter.  Started in 2004, StarTeaching is received by an audience of over 25,000 readers in the US and world-wide every month.  He has been blessed with the help and aid of a wonderful international staff of gifted educational feature writers.  

Frank earned his B.A. degree from Michigan State University and his M.A. in Educational Leadership from Central Michigan University.  Frank has taught in both the high school and middle school levels (in schools of all sizes and communities) in his extensive educational career.  

In 2007, Frank was awarded the prestigious Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year award.  He is married to his wife Michele with son James and daughter Sarah.  Frank enjoys writing, publishing three Michigan folklore thrillers, Year of the Dogman , The Haunting of Sigma, and Nagual: Dawn Of The Dogmen, as well as the children's fantasies The Longquist Adventures: Western Odyssey and (coming soon) Viking Treasure.  He is also putting together a book on teaching writing at the middle school level.  


Interested in making your life much, much easier as a teacher?  Tired of grading dozens and dozens of worksheets and quizzes?

Interested in turning your classroom into an ONLINE course?  Want your students to have access to materials from any place in the world, any time of the day?

Interested in capturing your students' attention and building upon the strengths they already bring into your classroom?

Then perhaps using Moodle is for you.  Moodle is a software application that works online.  It is freeware, and there is a bit of setting up that your IT department will have to do for you.  I don't claim to know anything about how to get Moodle set up and on your computers.  That is up to you and your tech department.  However, once it is online and running, it can save you hundreds of hours of the menial 'grunt-work' of teaching and allow you to instead focus your time and effort into your actual teaching.  

The Moodle software has a vast array of different options for setting up an online course.  Even though I've used Moodle for four years now, there are still tons of options I still haven't explored!  

It is at its most basic, a web-page creator, though you don't have to know anything about HTML, JAVA, or the wonderful WIKI language.  It uses a visual, graphics-style interface where you simply click on little action buttons and type in what you want displayed.  It is really that easy!  You can break up your course into weeks (as I like to do), or by themes, chapters, modules, or sections.  Then you just add information.  This includes important events, notes, links to websites, PDF assignments, online assignments, and BLOGS.  There is also a chat room you can set up and monitor, and a means for students to message other students.  You get a calendar where you can post assignments, quizzes, and due-dates.  And you can even display students' grades on various assignments for them to see.  

One of the very nice features I use frequently are the online quizzes.  You simply create a series of questions (True/False, Multiple-Choice, Matching, Essay, and many others), type them into the correct spaces and provide answers, and the computer software will check and score each student's quiz!  Talk about saving time!  Now instead of grading 75 to 100 spelling/vocabulary quizzes each week, I have the students take their quiz on Moodle, and the software simply gives me the results.  INSTANTLY!!!

I like the quiz feature for students to practice.  They can practice the vocabulary words all week long if they wish, and they can do this at home or at school.  When we read novels or from our literature book, I can put together basic quizzes to cover the material.  Then the students practice these quizzes all week long.  It really helps their comprehension!  Suddenly the students know the characters, the events, and the important details of the stories.  Then we can use class time for good discussions and activities where the students apply both the knowledge of the text and their own personal experiences to writing assignments.  

The quiz feature has many different options.  I can, for example, change the settings so the students see what questions they had correct or incorrect.  I can give them feedback for each right or wrong answer.  I can set the quiz to take their highest score or their most recent.  And I can limit the number of attempts.  While reading Treasure Island, for example, I want the weekly quizzes to have an unlimited number of attempts, that way the students are still working on gaining understanding.  But at the final book test, I'll limit it to only one attempt.  However, I'll open up all of the previous weeks' quizzes for the kids to practice on.  

Recently our school stopped carrying Moodle on our servers and it was instead transferred to our local educational service district.  As a result, I ended up loosing all of my Moodle pages and information.  What a bummer!  But, once the program was running through our ESD, it was definitely worth my time to go back and re-enter all of that information.  Most of it I had saved in some form on my teacher computer anyway.  Some I had to completely re-do.  But it was worth the time.  It will save me, as I said earlier, hundreds of hours over a year's time, and of course I can re-use much of my material from year to year.  

I'll share more about Moodle in a series of articles coming soon.  Watch for them!


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Computer-Based Training

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Computer-based training (CBT), also called computer-assisted instruction (CAI) is a type of education in which the student learns by executing special training programs on a computer. CBT is especially effective for training people to use computer applications because the CBT program can be integrated with the applications so that students can practice using the application as they learn.

The first general-purpose system for computer based learning was the PLATO System developed at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.The Plato system evolved with the involvement of Control Data who created the first authoring software used to create learning content. The authoring software was called Plato. The Science Research Council then wrote the first CAI system of Math for K-6. Wicat Systems then created WISE as their authoring tool using Pascal and developed English and Math curriculum for K-6. The very first complete CAI classroom for K-6 students was set up at the Waterford Elementary School in Utah using the Wicat system. The first public CAI classroom with its own layout and design was implemented with the Wicat System by Baal Systems (later known as Virtual Systems) in Singapore as a joint operation between Wicat and Baal. It is from this design that all the computer learning centers globally evolved which were forerunners of e-learning.

Historically, CBTs growth has been hampered by the enormous resources required: human resources to create a CBT program, and hardware resources needed to run it. However, the increase in PC computing power, and especially the growing prevalence of computers equipped with CD-ROMs, is making CBT a more viable option for corporations and individuals alike. Many PC applications now come with some modest form of CBT, often called a tutorial.

Organizations such as SkillSoft, Thomson NETg and BlueU.com are leading innovators in the design and development of CBT in the commercial world.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Now Available!  3rd Book in the Dogman Series:

Nagual: Dawn Of The Dogmen

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-traders 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 Traverse and Benzie Counties in northern Michigan .  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?

Click Here For The
Nagual: Dawn Of The Dogmen Website

Now Available!
Now Available!
Now Available!

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 Holess 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.  

Look for Western Odyssey this summer!

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

Running Project Centers Effectively

Project centers or stations can be a great way to have your students working independently (or as a team) on a number of assignments.  These centers have been used successfully by elementary teachers, gym teachers, and coaches for many years. And this technique can be utilized by middle school teachers too. In fact, writer's workshops and science labs are really not too far from this style of teaching.  Basically you divide up your students into several groups, and each group of students moves from one project area to the next, doing work at each station.

Some teachers have specific centers or stations they use each week during the year. They have certain skills they want their students to practice through the year. Some stations may change or be adjusted as the year goes on. Other teachers use groups as needed in particular units or for extra practice. These are geared toward specific objectives in a unit or they may be determined by testing and assessment of students progress (or lack of progress).

Dividing up the students will be determined in large part by the resources you have to work with and the types of assignments you want the kids to do. For example, in my class I want my students using technology in real-life applications. Thus, we need every computer put to use every hour. Now, we're quite lucky to have a bank of eMacs updated with new software right in our room. Because of this, we have students working on projects like PowerPoints, web pages, newsletters, and the like. Each week the students have a large project similar to these to work on. Sometimes these are individual activities, and other times the group of students must work together.  This is one example of the resources in your room dictating the group size; there are five computers, so I can have groups of five students.

There are a number of ways to designate your groups. You might have preformed groups, either choosing them yourself or allowing students to have input. One teacher at our school has the kids write down one student they work well with and one student they cannot work with at all. She then uses this to form groups. Another teacher uses his knowledge of the students' leadership skills and academic performance to form groups. In my room, students are already at tables, and each table is labeled with a different symbol (star, heart, square, triangle, & circle). This makes it easy for me to just write the symbol on the board next to each group, and I can rewrite them each day. One teacher in our elementary has a permanent chart on his wall and uses velcro (you could use magnets if you have a white board) to affix small signs to designate each group. Then changing groups each day is quick and easy.

You have to be ready for and expect a certain noise level when your students are in groups or project centers. But as always, there is 'productive' noise and then there is 'off-task' talking. Keep yourself free to move about the room, monitoring students and checking their progress.

Monitor the groups carefully and keep the kids on task, especially the first few times you try centers. Once your students understand your expectations, you'll be freed up more to help individually. I like to include normal classroom activities and assignments as part of the centers. After we've practiced this skill or activity and the students know how to do it, they are more likely to successfully accomplish a similar task in group.

This is one great advantage of the groups - you can move from group to group working with kids. Each project center has an activity for the kids so they are on task. And since these are much smaller groups of students, you can work closely with them, discussing and answering questions. And you can check for understanding faster, easier, and more thoroughly.

Choose meaningful activities at each station. In our English class, students need at least one reading and one writing activity each week. These may take various forms, and I try to mix it up a bit.  Then I also try to make use of the technology with computer projects.  Each activity has meaning and many provide good practice on skills.

After a few rotations, the students get the hang of it. I'll give them a two-minute warning, and we put a 30 second timer on the switch between groups. This keeps them hopping and eliminates the down time. They do get much faster the more you practice.

My students have responded favorably to the groups. They enjoy switching gears once or twice each class period. This fits with their attention spans too. I like it too, because the kids are split up around the room and they're on task. And I'm able to interact more closely with the students. It frees me up to walk around and work individually or conference with a student if I wish. I'm not sure this is the only way to teach effectively, but it is an excellent teaching tool to keep in your toolbox.

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"The Path To A Happier Life"
By Dick Kazan

Themes on Life

Interject a good dose of humor and laughter into your daily life!

You have to stay in shape, said comedian Ellen DeGeneres. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. Shes 97 today, and we dont know where the hell she is.

Ellen made us laugh and in that instant we set our cares aside. Staying in shape is a nice tip, but the point of todays story is, every day, a little laughter. And as you laugh, youll bring joy into the hearts of others for happiness is contagious.

But you may claim you cant laugh and that others dont understand you or your pain and that its worse than we can all imagine.

We all have pain. Youre not the first to get sick, injured or to lose a loved one. Youre not the first to lose a job or your home or feel alone or fearful.

If you can smile or laugh when all seems lost, youll start taking control of your situation.

The husband of a woman I know left her and she had to raise their son alone. Then she got hit by a drunk driver and after months of intensive therapy in a live-in facility was left a paraplegic, living each day in a wheel chair.

She lost her independence, her social life, her job and control of most of her body.

But she didnt lose her sense of humor. To this day, 37 years after that accident her laughter fills a room with joy. And people want to be with her.

For the last 35 years, shes had a devoted live-in companion who helps to care for her needs and helped her regain the social life shed lost as he treasurers the wonderful person she is.

Her name is Silvia Richard, he is Terry Robinson and Im proud to say they are my friends.

31 years ago John Mackey, a 25 year old college dropout and 21 year old Rene Lawson Hardy opened a health food store in Austin, Texas. With a smile, the couple named it SaferWay, a play on the name of the grocery giant, Safeway Stores.

But their little store struggled and in the first year, they lost half the money they started with. Desperate to cut their expenses, they moved into the store, showering by using a water hose attached to a dishwasher.

A year later they merged their still struggling store with another health food store, changed its name and began to build a successful business.

Then just as it seemed success was theirs, a huge flood devastated Austin and it destroyed their inventory and damaged their equipment. They had no insurance and suddenly their success was gone as was their money and it looked like they were finished.

Yet they kept a positive attitude and a smile or two and they refused to quit.

And when times were darkest, friends and neighbors, customers and staff came together and rebuilt the store. Investors, vendors and creditors added financial help and against seemingly impossible odds, just 28 days later the store reopened.

This time success would be theirs. Today that little store, Whole Foods Market has 280 stores, $8 billion in annual sales and has 54,000 employees in North America, Canada and Great Britain. Its success has redefined the meaning of health food stores.

But theres another way to view business setbacks as comedian W.C. Fields expressed years ago. If at first you dont succeed try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

So if you want a happier life, look for humor. The more you can laugh, the more fun life will be as you rise above the heartaches and reverses we all face.

As such, Ill leave you with an observation about leadership from comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you have two life forms, one of them making a poop, the other carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?


What's New @ StarTeaching?


We've updated quite a few of our pages at our official website, including our new page with all of our Weekly Math Problems from 2007-2009.  And be sure to check out our article archives on our website: www.starteaching.com

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10 Days of 
Math Problems
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Day 1 Noah bought 9 golf balls. The total weight of the golf balls was 15.3 ounces. How much did each golf ball weigh?
Day 2 A lollipop factory used 113.62 kilograms of sugar to make 5 batches of lollipops. How much sugar did the factory put in each batch?
Day 3 A cookie factory used 92.72 kilograms of chocolate chips to make 4 batches of cookies. How many kilograms of chocolate chips did the factory put in each batch?
Day 4 Francis made 5 trips to visit his grandmother. He drove 781.95 miles in all. How far did Francis drive on each trip?
Day 5 A soda factory produced 89.05 liters of root beer in 4 minutes. How much root beer, on average, did the factory produce each minute?
Day 6 Elias went to the hardware store and bought 6 yellow ropes. The total length of the ropes was 357.9 meters. How long was each rope?
Day 7 Yutaka's Licorice Company made 432.4 feet of licorice in 5 days. How many feet of licorice, on average, did the company make per day?
Day 8 Jamal bought a package of 2 oatmeal cookies. The total weight of the cookies was 0.1 ounces. How much did each cookie weigh?
Day 9 A soda factory produced 111.02 liters of root beer in 4 minutes. How much root beer, on average, did the factory produce each minute?
Day 10 Erik's Taffy Shop made 684.69 kilograms of taffy in 2 days. How much taffy, on average, did the shop make per day?


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Science Activities For Any Setting
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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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