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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 12
June 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   Best Quotes From Summer Reading   Building a Positive Classroom Environment Using Sign Language Signs
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See":
Combining Photos and Literary Devices
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Enhancing Learning Through Great Websites
Themes on Life: 
"The Three Races"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
School Discipline (Part 1)
New Teacher's Niche:
Group Work in Class (part 2)
Student Teachers' Lounge: Preparing to Enter the Job Market
Book of the Month Club:
Help! I'm Teaching Middle School Science
  Website of the Month:
KidsOLR: Kids Online Resources
  Summer 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



Building A Positive Classroom Environment:
Using Sign Language Signs

by Kim Taylor-DiLeva

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

Classroom teachers are always looking for strategies to help the students in their class to get along with each other. Their ideal classroom has students who are all friendly toward each other and can problem solve on their own. Here are a few ideas, using American Sign Language signs, to help build your peaceful and positive classroom environment.

Students can problem solve easier when using American Sign Language signs, especially if they are younger or have a hard time with communication. It is easy for most all children to sign the words share, my turn, your turn, yes, no or wait, and can use these signs when conversing and problem solving with each other.

This strategy also comes into play when the need to express feelings arrives. Students can sign angry and mad, which allows them to show their negative feelings in a positive physical way (instead of in an aggressive way toward others). Students can even sign sorry, which is sometimes the hardest word for many children to say.

When you use signs to give directions (like sit, stand, line up, go, or start) you’ll find that your class becomes a quieter, more calm classroom. Because you are only signing directions, students not only need to pay better attention, but you are also creating a quieter atmosphere (which they will adhere to).

A more positive atmosphere can also be created by giving praise and encouragement more often. From across the room you can silently give praise (using signs like great, proud, beautiful or silent applause) and your students can give praise to each other in the same way. Extra encouragement can be given and received by all students, just by using a few simple signs.

If you want to start using some signs with your class, you’ll need to first look up the sign in an American Sign Language Dictionary, either in print or online.  Learn it, practice it, and then teach it to your students.  Once you’ve mastered one, try another one.  To make it easier, I’ve created two classroom posters which will help you and your students to learn the signs and use them with each other more often.  You can find them at http://www. kimssigningsolutions.com/ productsshop/posters.html.

Don’t be overwhelmed by all of the above mentioned signs if you don’t know them. Just try one sign and then the next week add a new one. Start with the positive and encouraging signs. Just one or two signs can start your class on the way toward creating your ideal peaceful and positive classroom.


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Fully endorsed by Frank Holes Jr., editor of Starteaching






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Using Photography To Inspire Writing VI

By Hank Kellner

Combining Photos and Literary Devices

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.

If you’re as long in the tooth as I am, you can probably remember Patti Page’s rendition of  “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?”  Page recorded the song on December 18, 1952, and within a few months it became Number 1 on both the Billboard and Cashbox charts.

And you can probably remember James S. Tippett’s “Sunning,” a poem that appeared in one of his children’s books,  A World To Know.


       Old Dog lay in the summer sun
       Much too lazy to rise and run.
       He flapped an ear
       At a buzzing fly.
       He winked a half opened
       Sleepy eye.
       He scratched himself on an itching spot,
       As he dozed on the porch
       Where the sun was hot.
       He whimpered a bit
       From force of habit
       While he lazily dreamed
       Of chasing a rabbit.
       But old dog happily lay in the sun
       Much too lazy to rise and run.

                                                 James S. Tippett

Truth to tell, Tippett’s poem doesn’t contain simile, metaphor, irony, allusion, or any of the other literary devices that are found in more sophisticated works. But that really doesn’t matter. Together with one or more photos of dogs like those shown here, simple poems like “Sunning” can easily inspire students at all levels from elementary school through college to write many different kinds of compositions.

Who are some famous dogs that have appeared in literature, on television, and in films? What characteristics do dogs possess that make them desirable pets? In what ways can some breeds of dogs be helpful to handicapped human beings? How have dogs proven to be helpful in the military? In law enforcement agencies? How has a dog played an important role in your life or in the life of someone you know?

The questions cited above are just a few of many you can ask students as you encourage them to write either expository or creative pieces. What’s more, if you simply want to allow your students’ imaginations to guide them, you could always show them photos without comment.

The Case of the Fragmented Photo

Most photographers would wince at the thought of cutting a perfectly good photograph into several parts. And most teachers would wonder how anyone could possibly use a fragmented photo to teach point of view in fiction and in writing.

But that’s not the case with Kelsey Maki, an adjunct professor at Brookdale Community College , Lincroft , New Jersey .

“After I cut an 8 ½ x 11-inch photograph with diverse elements into numbered pieces,” she writes, “I give a different piece to each of several students.” 

Then Maki asks the students to create a fictional character and write a scene in the first person from that character’s point of view. Maki also directs the students to consider the ways in which a character’s desires color his or her perception of place.

At the conclusion to the exercise the students assemble the parts of the photograph to see the third person, omniscient “big picture” scene. “This activity,” concludes Maki, “helps the students realize that a setting is never an evenly focused, objective portrait, but rather a reflection of a character’s physical point of view and physical state.”


Photo Essays Tell Stories 

“Photo essays tell stories with pictures in ways that words cannot,” writes Kathy Miller, a teacher consultant at the Prairie Lands Writing Project. In one of her photo-related writing exercises, Miller directs her students at West Platte High School, Weston, Missouri to select three photo essays from the Internet, study them, and analyze them in terms of written responses to such questions as (1) Do the photos in the essays stand alone? (2) How much narration supports the photos? (3) How does the narration complement or support the photos? (4) What are your responses to the essays? In another exercise, Miller uses Brian Lanker’s I Dream a World as a source of photos of African-American women. “I direct students to select a photo, study it, and relate how the woman in the photo they chose is like them or different from them,” she concludes. 


Like, uh, Two Teenagers

What could the two teenage girls depicted in this photograph be discussing? It’s probably true that simply showing this photo to teenage students will trigger enough ideas for them to write many different kinds of compositions.

But if that doesn’t work, you can always conduct a class discussion centered on teenagers. If, for example, you were to ask your students to write about their relationships and/or problems with their parents, their friends, or other important people in their lives, you’d probably generate more ideas than you can count.


Free! Free! Free! Mystery Photo






Marketing experts tell us that one of the most powerful words in the English language is Free. That’s why I’ve used it three times in the subhead (above) and once more in the text box (left).

“Balderdash!” you exclaim. “Nothing’s free. You pay for everything.”

“Not so,” I respond, secure in the knowledge that the Free Mystery Photo I want to send you is really, truly, without-a-doubt, undeniably free. All you have to do to receive my Free Mystery Photo is to send me an e- mail at hankpix@gmail.com with the words Free Mystery Photo in the subject line.

Are you still unconvinced? Do you want to know more about the photo before you send for it…even though it’s free? Okay. This photo has been in my files for more than twenty years. During that time, it appeared on the cover of The Reading Journal and in many other publications. Most recently it appeared in Write What You See. Its center of interest is a teenager. Before I retired, I used it to inspire writing time and time again with great success.

By the way, the Free Mystery Photo will arrive in your electronic mail box with permission to reproduce it for use in your classroom. Send today!

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.


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

Preparing To Enter The Job Market: 
Finding That First Job -

By Dr. Peter Manute., Educational Consultant

This is a first in a series of informational articles focusing on finding that first teaching job from our international expert on student interns, Dr. Manute.

Statistics indicate that over 3 million people were employed as public school teachers in the United States in the year 2000. Another 400 thousand were employed as private school teachers. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). Retirement is in the near future as many baby-boomers reach the end of their careers. Federal and state reform initiatives are calling for decreased class sizes and as our national population continues to grow, the need for additional teachers has increased. Beginning teachers have a high drop out rate (about 15% the first year, 15% the second and 10% the third) (Croasmun 1999).

Given these statistics one would think the job market is wide open. In many states this is true, in fact some candidates have indicated signing bonuses, paid moving expenses, and other attractive offers. Some states are even granting teaching licenses through a proficiency test. Securing a teaching job in Michigan however, is not an easy task; it takes an enormous amount of preparation, flexibility and perseverance. It certainly is not for the faint of heart! In today’s teaching market, it is not unusual for a Michigan school district to have over a hundred applicants for a single position.

Competition for teaching jobs is very keen, with candidates coming from a variety of sources. First you have the recent graduates from Colleges and Universities, but also those who didn’t secure jobs the previous year. In recent years, a trend has emerged that includes older candidates who are choosing teaching as a second career. Many of these individuals have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the real world. Also thrown into the pool are the candidates from other states who want to relocate. And, there is a certain amount of lateral movement within Michigan School Districts.

Face it, Michigan, because of high standards and solid reputation for excellence, combined with competitive salaries and benefit packages, is one of the best places to teach! 

With careful planning and preparation combined with a certain amount of flexibility, a prospective teaching candidate can and will secure that first job.

The second article in this series will focus on planning and preparation and will include key tips that will provide an excellent starting point.


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



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Are You Looking To Be Published?

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


  TECH/21st Century CORNER

Enhancing Learning Through
Great Websites 

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. 

This article will touch on a number of great sites that will enhance what you are doing or send you into another great direction.

http://www.wikispaces.com/   Create simple web pages that groups, friends, & families can edit together. K-12 Teacher? We're giving away 100,000 free wikis for primary/secondary education.

http://www.jingproject.com/   Jing Project provides free screen capture and sharing software for Mac and Windows computers. Screenshots are very useful when making how-to handouts and slide shows. Videos of your desktop are great for how-tos and tours of web sites or software.

http://www.gizmoz.com/   Founded in 2003, Gizmoz offers consumers a new generation of character-based visual expression for use across their digital lives.
The Gizmoz service makes it easy and fun to create, customize, animate and share lifelike, 3D talking characters that enable individuals to put a unique face and voice to their digital communications.

http://www.think.com/en/   Think.com connects schools, teachers, and students from around the world to collaborate on projects, share experiences, and build knowledge together. Teachers can easily integrate project learning into their curriculum, enabling students to develop critical skills for life and work in the 21st century. Teachers and students build their own webpages to share learning experiences. Simple publishing tools allow members to easily create content and engage one another in thoughtful online discussions.

http://www.teachertube.com  Free videos made by teachers for teachers to use in the classroom.

http://rvms.nbed.nb.ca/  Check out this school site that hosts a K-12 video and photography festival. Just imagine what your students could do. The International Student Film and Photography Festival is now accepting submissions until March 31st., 2008!

http://imbee.com/   imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and 'tweens.

http://www.lulu.com/  Lulu is fast, easy and free

Publish and sell easily within minutes.
No set-up fees. No minimum order.
Keep control of the rights.
Set your own price.
Each product is printed as it is ordered.
No excess inventory.

http://earth.google.com/  If you think this is the old Google Earth, think again. Check out Tony Vincent’s article at: http://tonyvincent.net/?q=node/30 to find out more.

http://voicethread.com/classroom.php  Quoting from the website: A VoiceThread allows every child in a class to record audio commentary about the ideas and experiences that are important to them. Whether an event, a project, or a milestone, children can tell their story in their own voice, and then share it with the world. For teachers, VoiceThreads offer a single vessel to capture and then share all the diverse personalities of an entire class.

There you have it. Ten assorted web sites that should provide something of interest for everyone.


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:




  Guest Writer

Best Quotes From Summer Reading

By Janice Rozich 
Middle School Teacher
Lake Ridge Middle School, Schererville, IN

Having your own students advertising books can be a great way of getting more students to read.  The American Film Institute website is also a great place to find ideas for your classroom, including the "Best Quotes" idea presented below.

AFI’s recent tribute to movies in the form of developing a list of the top 100 quotes from movies got me thinking.  How many of us have lists of books for students’ summer reading?  How many of us ask that they write book reports on what they have read?  No matter what form these reports take in terms of length or comprehensiveness, can we agree that these reports often end up being less about how much fun the book was to read than they are about answering a list of forgettable questions about the book? 

So, here’s my idea.  When your students return to school this August, instead of that book report, ask them to find a phrase or sentence from the book that encapsulates the theme of the book or a memorable character from the book.  The student has to use critical thinking in order to select just the right phrase or sentence.  I think a great way to showcase this effort is to create a poster for the book that contains the selection; along with the title and author, the student could include a graphic of some kind.  Once the poster is complete, it can be hung in the media center, in the school hallway, or your own classroom.  What a great way to advertise a book!

To get you started, can you guess the book from which these quotes were taken:

1.  "Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it’s the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs."

2.  "Have you seen this wizard? Approach with extreme caution! Do not attempt to use magic against this man!"

3.  "What does it mean that Germans despise me simply because I am a Jew?"


1.  The Outsiders, S, E, Hinton

2.  Harry Potter (Prisoner of Azkaban), J. K. Rowling

3.  The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank

For more information on the American Film Institute, quick click the link below:



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School Discipline
(part 1)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

School Discipline is a form of discipline found in schools.

The term refers to students complying with a code of behavior often known as the school rules. Among other things these rules may set out the expected standards of clothing, timekeeping, social behavior and work ethic. The term may also be applied to the punishment that is the consequence of transgression of the code of behavior For this reason the usage of school discipline sometimes means punishment for breaking school rules rather than behaving within the school rules.

Generally, the aim of school discipline is (in theory at least) to create a safe and happy learning environment in the classroom. A classroom where a teacher is unable to maintain order and discipline can lead to lower achievement by some students and unhappy students.

The enforcement of discipline in schools can, however, be motivated by other non-academic, often moral objectives. For example, a traditional British public school usually has a strong underlying Christian ethic, and enforces strong discipline outside the classroom as well as in it, which applies particularly to boarders. Duties can include compulsory chapel attendance, sport participation, meal attendance, conformation to systems of authority within "houses", strongly controlled bed-times and restricted permission to leave the school grounds. Such duties can be stringently enforced, formerly by corporal punishment, and more recently by curtailment of freedoms and privileges (e.g. gating's, detentions), and by punishments administered by senior pupils on more junior ones (this last form tends to be the harshest and most arbitrary form of discipline, and even in modern times can include practices such as forced prolonged exercise to the point of exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and has been known in extreme cases lead to severe abuse). Such systems of discipline are often deliberately arbitrary, working on the philosophy that purely reasonable rules are inherently logical and therefore open to question and debate. The conservative elements inherent in traditional religious schools often demand full and unquestioning, instinctive respect for and adherence to rules, and an atmosphere of complete obedience, which necessitates a universal, rigorously enforced system of discipline.

Assertive Discipline

Assertive discipline is an approach to classroom managagement developed by Lee and Marlene Canter. It involves a high level of teacher control in the class. It is also called the "take-control" approach to teaching, as the teacher controls their classroom in a firm but positive manner. The approach maintains that teachers must establish rules and directions that clearly define the limits of acceptable and unacceptable student behavior, teach these rules and directions, and ask for assistance from parents and/or administrators when support is needed in handling the behavior of students.

Part of this approach is developing a clear classroom discipline plan that consists of rules which students must follow at all times, positive recognition that students will receive for following the rules, and consequences that result when students choose not to follow the rules. These consequences should escalate when a student breaks the rules more than once in the same lesson. But (except in unusual circumstances) the slate starts anew the next day

Part 2 of this series will focus on current theories and practices of discipline in schools


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Now Available!  2nd Book in the Longquist Series:

Viking Treasure

“Avast ye scurvy dogs,
there be danger on the high seas!”

The realms of blood-thirsty pirates and powerful Norse raiders collide in Viking Treasure, the exciting second book in The Longquist Adventures series.  Our young hero finds himself on a Viking merchant ship bound for long, lost treasure buried in the new world.

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?

Click Here For The
Longquist Adventures Website

Now Available!
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 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

Group Work in Class
(part 2)

This is the second article in a series on using collaborative groups in class. 

Make sure that while the groups are working that you are filtering around the room listening in to what they are doing. This allows you to quickly help a group refocus back on the task at hand if they go astray.

Another important thing to do is to set time limits. If you leave it wide open as to when they need to complete the assignment you will find they take much longer to accomplish the goals. This leads to your frustration which leads to not wanting to use grouping. Set time limits for each part, and then check with the groups to see how they are doing. If you need to make adjustments feel free to, unless you find they are taking advantage of it.

One of the ways I assess how their group functioned is to grade each student on how they worked in the group. At the end of the project, I sit down with each group and have the students grade on a scale of 1-10 how each person participated. Then I average all the input by the students. I found that the students are very fair. Because I filtered through the groups, I already have a good idea how hard each person had worked.

You will find that students will enjoy doing collaboration far better then doing it individually and my observation has been that they learn more. I did some research with my classes on how it affected their learning. I provided questions dealing with a specific chapter and they had to find the answers all on their own with no help. The room was totally quiet. The next day I quizzed them from the paper and established a base point. I then had them meet in groups and answer a set of questions dealing with the next chapter. Both chapters were similar and had similar questions. The next day I quizzed them again and found a marked improvement, by a whole grade, in their learning.

Here are some examples of group projects your students can do in class.  As always, feel free to adjust these to make them fit your curriculum.

Social Studies - Tip of the Mitt Community Research:

This is a social studies project in which student groups research information on a local town, county, area, or region of their state to demonstrate and persuade others that it's a great place to live, work, or visit.  Students use the five themes of geography to find such information as population, demographics, employment, wildlife, environmental interaction, activities and recreation, and local attractions. Once finished, students create visual aides and give a presentation to their classmates.

Mythology - Hercules' Labors:

Student groups are assigned to research one or more of the Hercules' Labors, finding characters, events, places, unusual vocabulary, and major themes for that part of the myth. Then groups plan a re-enactment of the story through acting, storytelling, readers' theater, puppets, etc. Groups must include visual aides and music, and must stay accurate to the story.

Math - Weather

Student groups are responsible for measuring an aspect of local weather, such as temperature, barometric pressure, cloud cover, wind speed/direction, etc. These observations are recorded daily (several times) over the span of a week. Data is tabulated and organized, and graphed. Groups also print out weather forecasts online. They must then make predictions about the upcoming weather observations. These are then presented to the class as 'daily news weather forecasts' and can be video taped.

Science - Outdoors Observations:

Student groups are responsible for observing an area outdoors, making careful notes and sketches on plant and animal species, weather conditions, soil and rocks, and any human-environmental interactions. The group then combines their observations, formulates their results, supplements their data with info and graphics from the internet, and creates a Powerpoint, magazine, or newspaper to describe that natural area. They try to make predictions about what the area will be like in 10, 50, and 100 years.

Drama - Asia fables:

Student groups read various fables from different Asian cultures (Arabian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Persian, Russian, etc.) and create study guides of vocab and questions for their fellow students. Groups then create a pay script from their fable, including a narrator if necessary, making sure every student in the group has at least one part. They then practice and perform (memorizing their lines) for the class.


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"The Three Races"
Darren Edwards

Themes on Life

What do you do with the gifts you have?

In old times, fable retells the story of the young athletic boy hungry for success, for whom winning was everything and success was measured by such a result.

One day, the boy was preparing himself for a running competition in his small native village, himself and two other young boys to compete. A large crowd had congregated to witness the sporting spectacle and a wise old man, upon hearing of the little boy, had travelled far to bear witness also.

The race commenced, looking like a level heat at the finishing line, but sure enough the boy dug deep and called on his determination, strength and power .. he took the winning line and was first. The crowd was ecstatic and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man remained still and calm, expressing no sentiment. The little boy, however. felt proud and important.

A second race was called, and two new young, fit, challengers came forward, to run with the little boy. The race was started and sure enough the little boy came through and finished first once again. The crowd was ecstatic again and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man remained still and calm, again expressing no sentiment. The little boy, however, felt proud and important.

"Another race, another race!" pleaded the little boy. The wise old man stepped forward and presented the little boy with two new challengers, an elderly frail lady and a blind man. "What is this?", quizzed the little boy. "This is no race" he exclaimed. "Race!", said the wise man. The race was started and the boy was the only finisher, the other two challengers left standing at the starting line. The little boy was ecstatic, he raised his arms in delight. The crowd, however, was silent showing no sentiment toward the little boy.

"What has happened? Why not do the people join in my success?" he asked the wise old man. "Race again", replied the wise man, "...this time, finish together, all three of you, finish together" continued the wise man. The little boy thought a little, stood in the middle of the blind man and the frail old lady, and then took the two challengers by the hand. The race began and the little boy walked slowly, ever so slowly, to the finishing line and crossed it. The crowd were ecstatic and cheered and waved at the boy. The wise man smiled, gently nodding his head. The little boy felt proud and important.

"Old man, I understand not! Who are the crowd cheering for? Which one of us three?", asked the little boy. The wise old man looked into the little boy's eyes, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders, and replied softly .. "Little boy, for this race you have won much more than in any race you have ever ran before, and for this race the crowd cheer not for any winner!"


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Greetings to our readers, and welcome to your second June 2010 issue of Features for Teachers.  Summer is here, and although we will be using this time to relax, we will also be reflecting on our practice for the upcoming year.  

Hank Kellner is back with a sixth article from his book, Write What You See.   We also have an article from Kim Taylor-DiLeva on using American Sign Language to build a positive classroom environment.  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

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