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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 2
January 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   U.S. Congress Unit Plan   Re-Directing the Off-Task Student Using American Sign Language Signs
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See
" - Using Photos in Your Writing
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Is The Educational Establishment Scared?
Themes on Life: 
"Worry Not Bug"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
The Montessori Method
(part 3)
New Teacher's Niche:
Reward Day For Your Students
Student Teachers' Lounge:
Creating A Classroom Rules Pamphlet
Book of the Month Club:
On Common Ground: The Power Of Professional Learning Communities
  Website of the Month:
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills
  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



Re-Directing the Off-Task Student Using American Sign Language Signs

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.

It is frustrating when your students are off-task and not doing what you expect them to be doing. They could be talking with a classmate, fooling around, or just not paying attention. No matter what they are doing, the frustration comes from the fact that they are not listening while you are teaching and you struggle to get them back on task.  You say the students name aloud to try to get their attention, but probably repeat their name with little or no response. You are bothered with having to call their name and if the child is not embarrassed, they will be happy to have the attention on him/her, even if it is negative. In addition, your other students will now become distracted as well and will be trying to figure out what their classmate did in order to have their name called to begin with.

Fortunately, you do have other alternatives to get your students to focus when they are off-task. By using American Sign Language signs, you can re-direct the student who is off-task while still keeping your other students focused on what they are supposed to be doing. For example, you can repeat the signs for pay attention or look at me to the off-task student without distracting your other students. It is much less disruptive to your classroom than interrupting your lesson by calling attention to one child. By using signs, you can continue teaching but make a sign directed at the student who is off-task. The student will be less embarrassed because they are not having attention drawn to them and they can understand visually what they are supposed to be doing. For a student who is talking you can sign quiet, or for a student who is fooling around you can sign stop.

By only using signs, you can instruct the student to pay attention without having to yell. Rather than focusing on the negative, this method serves as a positive reminder for the student to focus on what they should be doing.  With less interruptions, you will be less frustrated without having to nag your students as often and your students who are on-task wont be disrupted either.


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Using Photography To Inspire Writing

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.

Words and pictures can work together to communicate more powerfully than either alone.
William Albert Allard, American Photographer

     If One picture is worth a thousand words, can one picture also inspire a thousand words? Of course it can. Thats why educators are becoming increasingly aware of the power photographs have to unlock students imaginations and help them express themselves through written language.

     Whether you want to teach specific writing skills or simply to help students overcome their reluctance to write, youll  find that photographs are powerful teaching aids that can inspire students at all levels to create both expository and creative compositions. Whats more, when you use photographs in your classroom, you can be as directiveor as non-directiveas you choose to be.

     For example, you could show this photograph  to a group of students and ask them to let their imaginations guide them as they respond to it in writing. But if you want to be more directive, you could ask them such leading questions as: What is the woman in the photo thinking? Why is she standing alone in this scene? What does it feel like to wait for someone who is late? What kind of a family does this woman have?

    You could even use short poems to complement photos that help to initiate responses from students. Heres an example of one such poem that worked well with this photograph at the middle school, high school, and community college levels.

What are you thinking of
As you stand, unsmiling,
Alone on a deserted street?
Another time?
Another place?
A moment when your world
Was bright and cheerful
And you didnt have to stand
Alone on a deserted street.

    Many educators who have used photographs successfully in the classroom are eager to share their photowriting experiences with other professionals. At Piedmont Virginia Community College , Charlottsville , Virginia , former Adjunct Assistant Professor Justin Van Kleeck showed his students a photo of a baby macaque and a pigeon who had adopted each other as friends. I asked the students to freewrite after showing them the photo and giving them information about how the animals came together, he writes. You can see the photo at: http://primatology.net/2007/09/13/baby-macaque-and-white-pigeon-make-friends/ The students wrote about everything from how different species can get along so easily while humans cannot, to the human behaviors that stress animals, such as poaching, he concludes.

      At the Prairie Lands Writing Project, St. Joseph , Missouri , Teacher Consultant Mary Lee Meyer asks her high school students to write I am From poems based on photos that are significant to them in terms of their lives.  To support this activity, she asks such questions as Where are you from? Who are/were your grandparents or great grandparents? What occupations did some of your ancestors have? Meyer has also used this exercise at a writing institute for teachers. You can see samples at http://missouriwestern.edu/plwp/wtca/examples.htm under I Am FromExample 1 Michelle. You can also find a great deal of valuable information about teaching writing at Meyers blog, http://writingwithtechnology.edublogs.org.

      How creative can you get with photographs of bridges? Ask Diane Sekeres, who conducted a workshop for teachers at the University of Alabama s Longleaf Writing Project Summer Institue for Teachers. I found about 20 pictures of different kinds of bridges: rope, draw, suspension, destroyed, over gorges, over highways, over water, she writes. Then I asked the teachers to study the photos and select one that was a metaphor for their teaching. At the conclusion to the exercise, the teacher-students wrote about their choices and their reasons for making them.

     Another outstanding example of how a teacher uses photographs to inspire writing comes from Iowa Writing Project Director James Davis. First, Davis asks his students to recall a photograph of some significance to them. Then he directs them to describe the photograph as they remember it. Who is in the photograph? he asks. What are their expressions and stances? What are the important details of the setting? To conclude this assignment, Davis asks the students to find the photograph they described and study it carefully before writing about any discrepancies between the photo as it exists and their memories of it. Why might these discrepancies exist? he asks. Which version has more to do with truth?

    When hes not busy editing Star Teaching www.starteaching.com Frank Holes, Jr. teaches at Inland Lakes Middle School, Indian River, Michigan. Holes shows his students photographs of children performing daily activities and asks them such questions as Who is the child? What is his/her name? What is the subjects family like? How old is the subject? What is he or she feeling? I also ask the students to give a full description of the setting that includes sense impressions, writes Holes. Then he asks questions related to a possible plot before he directs the students to write a story that places the child in the setting.

    To spur on students who are afraid to write, or intimidated by the writing process, writes Derri Scarlett, I have them take pictures (or bring in pictures) that they like. An English instructor at Bismarck (N. D.) State College and a columnist for The Bismarck Tribune, Scarlett then encourages those students to talk about why they like the photos, or what the photos mean to them. Then she directs the students to brainstorm on paper. Thats when they jot down the words they first spoke of when they discussed the photographs. From that exercise come sentences, then an essay. Because the students have invested themselves in the subject matter, concludes Scarlett, this is a great way of easing into the writing process.

    Often maligned but never out of sight, visual images surround and captivate us without letup. Show a photograph to a child, and the youngster will point to it, trace its image, and respond with a variety of emotions. Show another to an adult, and you get a frown, a smile, or a gesturerarely will you draw a blank. Show a photograph, or a series of photographs, to students at any level, and youll generate more responses than you can handle. Soon your students will be creating stories, poems, and essays that will make you wonder why you hadnt used this simple and obvious technique years earlier for stimulating the creative process.


 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.


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

Creating A Class Rules Pamphlet

We've found that teaching your classroom rules and procedures right away at the beginning of the school year will tremendously improve your chances of a successful relationship with your students. This should include giving your students a hard copy to keep, look over, and even discuss with their parents.

Our seventh & eighth grade team accomplishes this by creating a course introduction pamphlet. This tri-fold pamphlet is given out on the first day of class and presented by each member of the teaching team.  That way we teachers are all on the same page, and students have consistency between their classes.

Creating a pamphlet is relatively easy on a word processing program.  You will need to change your page setup from 'portrait' (normal 8.5 x 11 tall) to a 'landscape', the 8.5 x 11 long. You will also need to create two or three columns to type in (two if you are simply folding in half, or three if the pamphlet is a tri-fold). Your word processing program will automatically adjust your document's margins, though you might want to print it out and double check the margin space when you're finished (sometimes copy machines will 'slide' your original up to 1/2 inch, so try a sample). Once the paper is folded, this setup will make your pamphlet look professional. A bi-fold pamphlet is easy to create and fold, but a tri-fold looks so much nicer both to your students and parents.

You'll want a catchy cover with basic class or grade information.  Include a school graphic or clip art with the teachers' names, the classes, periods, room numbers, and other key info. We've added a place for both students and parents to sign, indicating that they have read through and understood these rules and procedures. This returned signature becomes the students' first assignment for your class. In fact, I like to allow three days to get them turned in, giving 10 extra credit points if it's two days early, and 5 extra credit points for one day early.

The next few pages display what we will cover in class this year. Its not in great detail, but simply an overview. In English, for example, a brief section is devoted to our main areas, writing, reading, literature, speech, technology, and presentations. In science, a brief section is devoted to the areas of ecosystems, matter, waves, rocks & minerals, and weather. The same is done for math and social studies and any other core classes.

The last few pages cover class rules and procedures. We always try to have just a few important rules that are general enough to cover most events that can happen in class. We like to include a rule about respecting all people and materials, since this is general enough to cover most poor behavior choices not specifically mentioned.

You'll want to include a section on your discipline procedures so students know exactly what punishments or consequences are due to them if they make poor behavior choices. Again, leave yourself room by adding a statement such as "Serious or continual problems may result in skipping one or more discipline steps." As always, follow your school or district's codes or policies in making up your class rules.

Procedures are different from rules in that these are desired behaviors you want your students to display at particular moments in class. Some procedures will include your class warm up or wrap up, passing in papers, raising hands, lining up, sharpening pencils, and even answering the telephone, among others. You'll want to spend some quality time thinking of what your students are going to DO in class, and the most effective way to accomplish these tasks. Be clear and simple when writing these down so the kids understand them.

The rules packer looks nice and professional. Students and parents alike will enjoy (and respect) the fact that you've taken the time to spell out exactly your expectations and to begin communicating with them. By having a section to sign and return, no one can claim they weren't aware of your rules or procedures.

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

Is The Educational Establishment Scared? 

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. 

If youre reading this article the title probably isnt referring to you. But Id like you to think about the idea. Professions of all kinds are being turned upside down by one thing, the Internet. 

The Internet is changing the way life is lived, and causing a lot of upheaval along the way in many establishments. When you look at the music and movie industry and its fight to stop the illegal downloading and copying of music and movies. The telecommunications companies trying to stay viable as website companies like Skype change their world by providing free to very inexpensive phone service to people around the world. The world of journalism is being undone, as weve known it. Take the example of the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. Within a few short minutes of the bombing photos and information was already posted on the Internet. As the hours passed it was continually revised and updated. This example is repeated daily throughout the world. With the Internet, anyone can be a reporter through print, video, and pictures. 

Another area that is changing is in publishing books. A person can publish books on their own through websites. Books are coming out in print online and in audio versions. As in anything online like music, movies, and books, because of the openness of the Internet, these things end up being copied and shared across the Internet for free. 

So what does all this have to do with my title? What happens when you are no longer the primary source of learning and knowledge? Are you going to feel threatened? 

As I watch my teenage children using the Internet, I observe them constantly in the process of learning.  They work hard at their learning; I just wish they would work that hard on schoolwork. The Internet provides a source of knowledge that is in constant growth, editing, and revision. Thats something a textbook can never be. Its also made up of multi-media and other non-text sources of learning that are far more engaging to students today. 

Educational researchers are frustrated by the slow movement of K-12 education changing even though it is well documented on how using technology engages students and improves their learning when used correctly. 

Now back to the question, are we changing slowly because were fearful of not being the sage on the stage anymore? Ive heard teachers say: I dont know how to use the technology.  When I say to them our job is to design the plan and the students will run with it. They just look at me blankly. Not being the main provider of the learning is a foreign language to many. The idea of the kids taking charge of their own learning is a scary, out of control idea.  

I believe we need to get out of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves like we ask the students to do.  Professional development is the key, but it needs to be purposeful and supported by the administration. Then, teachers need to be held accountable. That is when we will see real change in the classrooms. 


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:




  StarTeaching Guest Writer

U.S. Congress
Unit Plan

By Kelly Payne

Knowledge of government enables individuals to define the roles of citizens within a constitutional democracy and to compare the American system of government with other systems. Civic knowledge builds understanding about the exercise of power. With knowledge of government and politics, citizens are equipped to evaluate domestic and international policy and to exert influence in public affairs.


US Congress Unit Plan

Subject(s): Social Studies Grade/Level: 9-12 

Standards addressed by unit: Michigan Curriculum Frameworks 
Subject: Social Studies Strand III: Civic 


Students will use knowledge of American government and politics to make informed decisions about governing their communities.  Over time and in varying contexts, students construct an increasingly sophisticated civic perspective organized by the following themes: 

Standard III.1: Purposes of Government - All students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local governments in the United States, describe how citizens organize government to accomplish their purposes and assess their effectiveness. All societies establish governments to serve intended purposes. The purposes served by a government and the priorities set have significant consequences for the individual and society. In order to accomplish their purposes, governments organize themselves in different ways. 

Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Evaluate how effectively the federal government is serving the purposes for which it was created. Performance Benchmark 3: Evaluate the relative merits of the American presidential system and parliamentary systems. 

Standard III.4 : American Government and Politics - All students will explain how American governmental institutions at the local, state, and federal levels provide for the limitation and sharing of power and how the nations political system provides for the exercise of power. The American system of government is based on shared power. Citizens who operate effectively within the federal system understand its institutions and how to work within them. 

Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Analyze causes of tension between the branches of government. 

Time Required:10 class periods. 1.5 Hrs per class. 

Objective(s): To learn the basic workings of Congress and the process of how a bill becomes a law. Summary:  In this unit students will learn the basic workings of the United States Congress through various activities and learning techniques. Students will analyze and discuss current legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Students then will create their own bills and take them through the legislative process, with the end result being participation in a mock Congress simulation. 

STAGE I: IDENTIFY DESIRED RESULTS Enduring Understanding(s):  Students will understand the process of how Congress passes legislation that affects their daily lives and futures. Essential Questions:  How and why does Congress pass legislation that affects and changes a variety of aspects of life in America today? Knowledge and Skills: Students will be acquainted with what Congress does; Students will Identify how Congress is elected; Students will be able to describe the structure of each house of Congress; Students will be able to explain the in depth process of how a bill becomes a law. 

STAGE II: DETERMINE ACCEPTABLE EVIDENCE OF LEARNING (ASSESSMENT) What evidence will show that students understand? 

Performance Tasks (summarized):  Student written bills on a relevant issue in their life (attached), Students notes- to follow study guide and packet (attached), Redistricting activity, Mock Congress Simulation (attached)  
1. Congress Packet Page 2 
2. Congress Packet Page 9: Describes the Process of How a Bill becomes a law 
3. Congress Packet Page 1: Congress Study Guide 
4. Congress Packet page 11: Blank bill for creation of own legislation 
5. Day 1 Congress simulation proceedings  To use the first day of Congressional simulation 

Other evidence: Committee Reports, Headline Activity, Pop Quiz Race (group activity, attached), Written reflection on Mock Congress (attached), How a bill becomes a law quiz, US Congress test. 

1. Pop Quiz Race Reinforcement activity. Students complete this the day after finishing study guide. Students are given 7 minutes to fill in working off of memory, then they are given 5 minutes to work with notes, the final step is group work, students work together to make sure they all have the same information, and that it is correct. Groups race to get done first, then the group finished first, with the most correct receive a prize. 
2. Written reflection after Mock Congress - This is the Collins writing across the curriculum style 

Unprompted evidence:  Dialogue and participation in mock Congress, Discussion on a day in the life of a member of Congress, discussion on current bills in US House and Senate. 

Student Self-Assessment:  Students will self assess through the bills they write, and how well they participate in the mock Congress



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The Montessori Method
(part 3)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Montessori is a highly hands-on approach to learning. It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing many types of activities. These activities include use of the five senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small and large motor skill coordination, and concrete knowledge that leads to later abstraction

The Montessori Classroom:

A Montessori classroom is quiet, bright, clean, well-maintained and attractive. Nothing should be torn, broken, dirty, or otherwise unattractive. Furniture is child-sized, and there is no teachers' desk. The typical classroom consists of four areas: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Mathematics. Practical life includes activities such as buttoning, sweeping, pouring, slicing, tying, etc. Sensorial includes activities to stimulate and train hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

Most Montessori classrooms try to include ways for the children to interact with the natural world, perhaps through a classroom pet (rabbits, gerbils, mice, etc.), or a small garden where the children can plant vegetables or flowers.

In schools that extend to the upper grades, each Montessori classroom still includes an approximately three-year age range in order to establish a non-competitive atmosphere in the classroom. This system allows for children to review work as many times as necessary and to move rapidly through the materials as they are able, as well as allowing children to become natural teachers by sharing what they have learned. The children realize that class work is different for each person and are less likely to try to keep track of where other children are academically.

Pedagogical Materials:

Every activity has its place in the classroom and is self-contained and self-correcting. The original didactic materials are specific in design, conforming to exact dimensions, and each activity is designed to focus on a single skill, concept or exercise. All of the material is based on SI units of measurement (for instance, the Pink Tower is based on the 1cm cube) which allows all the materials to work together and complement each other, as well as introduce the SI units through concrete example. In addition to this, material is intended for multiple uses at the primary level. A perfect example of this is the "Knobbed Cylinder" materials: not only do they directly offer a sensorial lesson, but indirectly the child's grip on the cylinders paves the way for holding a pencil, and the grades of cylinders allow for an introduction to mathematics.

Other materials are often constructed by the teacher: felt story board characters, letter boxes (small containers of objects that all start with the same letter) for the language area, science materials (e.g. dinosaurs for tracing, etc.), scent or taste activities, and so on. The practical life area materials are almost always put together by the teacher. All activities, however, must be neat, clean, attractive and preferably made of natural materials such as glass or wood, rather than plastic. Sponges, brooms and dustpans are provided and any mishaps (including broken glassware) are not punished but rather treated simply as an opportunity for the children to demonstrate responsibility by cleaning up after themselves.

At higher grade levels, the teacher becomes more involved in creating materials since not only the students but also the potential subject matter widens so much. However, many of the earlier materials can be revisited with a new explanation, emphasis or use; for example, the cube that a five-year-old used as an exercise in color matching is revealed to the junior-high level student to physically embody the mathematical relationship (a+b)3=a3 + 3a2b + 3ab2 +b3.

Montessori Lessons:

A child may not work with an activity until the teacher has demonstrated its proper use to him or her, and then he or she may use it as he or she wishes (limited only by his or her imagination or a danger to the material, himself or herself or others) Each activity leads directly to a new level of learning or concept. When a child "plays," he or she is acquiring the basis for later concepts. Repetition of activities is considered an integral part of this learning process and children are allowed to repeat activities as often as they wish. A child becoming tired of the repetition is thought to be a sign they are ready for the next level of learning.

The child proceeds at his or her own pace from concrete objects and tactile experiences to abstract thinking, writing, reading, science, mathematics. For example, in the language area, the child begins with the sandpaper letters (26 flat wooden panels, each with a single letter of the alphabet cut from sandpaper and affixed to it). The child's first lesson is to trace the shape of the letter with their fingers while saying the phonic sound of the letter. A next level activity might be the letter boxes (small containers each with a letter on the top, filled with objects that begin with that letter). Having mastered these, the child may move on to the word boxes (small containers each with a short three-letter word on the top, for example CAT, containing a small wooden cat and the letters C, A, T). One child might move through all three levels of lessons in a few weeks while another might take several months; although there is a prescribed sequence of activities there is no prescribed timetable. A Montessori teacher or instructor observes each child like a scientist, providing him with appropriate lessons as he is ready for them.

Home schoolers may find both the philosophy and the materials useful since each child is treated as an individual and activities are self-contained, self-correcting, and expandable. Aspects of the Montessori Method can easily scale down to a home schooling environment - save, of course, Montessori's requirement for large, mixed age groups of children


Part 4 of this series will focus on criticisms of the Montessori method


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

Reward Day For Your Students

There are a lot of ways to try and motivate your students to maintain high standards of academic achievement and proper behavior.

A year ago, our 7th and 8th grade staff began running a Reward Day program for our students.  We found that the 'carrot' was even more effective than the 'stick'!!

We start our first Reward Day between Halloween and Thanksgiving. This is a good time for us because the first marking period and fall parent conferences are over. Kids have settled in to the new school year and they are a bit more motivated at this point. This gives us about a three week window, which is a short time for the students to achieve moderate success.  It is not too long of a time for them to lose sight of their academic and behavior goal.  The reward is a couple of hours of time with a fun activity.  One activity the kids really enjoy is bringing in a Karaoke machine.  

Our second Reward Day occurs during the four weeks between thanksgiving break and Christmas break.  This one is a bit longer, and the reward is bigger.  It may be a half day or more and it usually includes food or snacks of some sort.  This year we took the kids sledding and played outdoor games in the snow.  Then we came back to school for hot cocoa and cookies.  

We then set up our biggest reward during the longest stretch from the new semester (end of January) to just before spring break. This helps to break up the monotony of that time period and to give the students a goal to work toward. This is generally a nice, fun day trip outside the school.  Last year we took the kids to an indoor arena / fun park with bowling, mini-golf, arcade games, and of course a pizza and soda lunch.  

To fund our trips, we have to raise much of our own cash. We use a variety of activities that directly involve the students. That way they get something out of the activity besides just raising money (or donating money). We hold yearly basketball and volleyball tournaments where students participate. Sometimes it is even the students against the staff, which is really fun. We've also held 3-on-3 tournaments, dodgeball games, art fairs, Karoake, dances, plays, and video gaming tournaments. We take a dollar donation from the students to participate, and we run the activities ourselves. We usually get some cheap prizes for the winners, and we always have a concession stand because the whole school is invited to watch! We also sell bottled water and snacks to kids on Fridays.

Raising money isn't much fun unless you make it fun. When the kids participate, it is much easier on the wallets. But there are times we do have kids pay part of their way for field trips, especially if there is an entry fee for our destination (like a museum or theme park). We try not to ask for much because we are not an affluent community.

The reward days are great motivators for kids. We always notice a higher percentage of qualifying students for each successive reward day. They get the hint - be good and do your work and the teachers will reward you well!

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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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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"Worry Not Bug"
By Catherine Pulsifer

Themes on Life

Why Worry?

For months I notice the painted rock that sat on Karen's coffee table. The rock was painted and its face had a smile that just made you smile when you looked at it. I examined the rock and painted on the bottom was "why worry". Curious I asked Karen where she got the rock.

She told me that during a very stressful time in her life, a friend that she worked with gave her the rock. Her friend told her that when she looked at this rock, she was to remember not to worry so much. Her friend called it her "worry not bug". There was a poem with the rock, she went and got it and as I read the poem I thought how true it was:


"Why Worry?" by Author Unknown

- 40% will never happen, for anxiety is the result of a tired mind,
- 30% concerns old decisions which cannot be altered,
- 12% centers in criticism, mostly untrue, made by people who feel inferior,
- 10% is related to my health which worsens while I worry,
and only
- 8% is "legitimate," showing that life does have real problems which may be met head-on when I have eliminated senseless worries.

Karen went on to explain that she used to worry about everything and everyone. She now uses the rock as a reminder not to worry about the things she cannot change. She also went on to tell me that when she finds herself worrying, she asks herself what percentage this worry is?. Most of the time she found what she was worrying about was the 40% - things that will never happen.



What's New @ StarTeaching?


We've updated quite a few of our pages at our official website, including the New Teachers Niche and the StarTeaching Store.  And of course you can see all of the article archives on our website: www.starteaching.com

Starting this month, we are fortunate to link up with Hank Kellner, a leading expert in using photography to help teach writing skills.  He was so kind as to include one of my articles in his book, Write What You See.   We also welcome back Kim Taylor-DiLeva with expertise in using American Sign Language in education.  

We are still offering a lot to our readers each issue!  Our new column, Student Teachers' Lounge, is a section devoted just to those teachers-in-training.  And be sure to check out our FACEBOOK page for StarTeaching for more reader interaction and constant, updated streams of educational information.  




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How do you define TRASH?


How can one person's TRASH be another person's TREASURE? 


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What is one thing you've learned in class this past semester that will be important next semester?


Why do students in America study foreign languages?


Describe FIVE important lessons you can learn from a foreign language.


How does studying a foreign language help you to learn the English language better? 


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 Describe THREE things you learned about yourself from taking your semester exams.

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Coming Soon:

Preparing For the Spring

Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Writing Process and Programs

Classroom Management


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 Paul has two dozen carrot cookies. He will eat three cookies on Sunday. On every day that follows, he will eat a number of cookies that is one greater than the day before. On what day will he find that he doesnt have enough cookies to follow this procedure?
Day 2

Anthony and Carolyn have bug collections. If they combined their collections, they would have a collection of twenty bugs. Which of the following statements could not be true?

a. Carolyn has a dozen bugs.
b. Anthony has eleven bugs.
c. Anthony has one more bug than Carolyn.
d. Carolyn has two more bugs than Anthony.
e. Carolyn has one bug
Day 3 Eighty percent equals 4/5. Francine got 80% on her last math test. There were five questions. How many questions did she get right?
Day 4 Twenty-five percent equals 1/4. We have a rule that when our Cooking Club members vote on a new rule, at least 25% of the members must be present. There are 18 members in our club. How many members must be present in order for us to have a legal vote?

Day 5 At our last Cooking Club meeting, 50% of the members were present. We voted to have a Valentines Day party. Only two members voted against the proposal. How many members voted to have the party?
Day 6 All the students at Harms Elementary School voted in a poll about school uniforms. Twelve percent were for school uniforms; Seventy-one percent were opposed to the idea. The rest were undecided. __________ percent were undecided.
Day 7 There are 400 students at Harms Elementary school . Based on the poll, how many of them say that they are in favor of school uniforms?
Day 8 Based on the same poll, of the 400 students at Harms Elementary school, how many students were undecided?
Day 9 Based on the same poll, of the 400 students at Harms Elementary school, how many were opposed to school uniforms?
Day 10 Todd, Brian, and Eric are having pizza at the restaurant.  Their bill is $17.50.  If they want to leave a 15% tip, how much will each have to contribute to the total?


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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Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Insect Life Cycle
Scavenger Hunt
(click for PDF)

Plant Life Cycle Hike
(click for PDF)


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