FEATURES  FOR   TEACHERS
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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
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Volume 6, Issue 6
March 2010
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche
   

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

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   Using MOODLE in the Classroom (part 2)   Using Sign Language Signs to Make Your Poetry Center or Unit More Interactive & Fun
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See":
Go Google!
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Learning Content Management Systems
Themes on Life: 
"King Solomon and the Baby"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Collaborative Learning
(part 1)
New Teacher's Niche:
Writing Every Day In Class
Student Teachers' Lounge: The Changing Face of the Traditional Book Report
Book of the Month Club:
The Book Whisperer
  Website of the Month:
Discovery School Puzzlemaker
  Spring Book Sale
for Teachers

Remember to bookmark this page and to visit our website for more great articles, tips, and techniques!
http://www.starteaching.com

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

FEATURE WRITER OPENINGS:

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

 

FEATURE WRITER

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Using Sign Language Signs to Make Your Poetry Center or Unit More 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.

Many elementary and preschool teachers create poetry centers or teach a poetry unit, including rhyming, poem styles, word use, and more. Teachers usually set up their poetry centers with poems for students to read on their own. This does not allow for interaction with the poetry so it is not as enjoyable for them, specifically students who are kinesthetic learners. By incorporating American Sign Language signs in your poetry center, students will have fun and be more eager to learn. Heres how:

        Choose poems that relate to your current curriculum so its content has significance. 

        Choose keywords from each line of the poem for the students to sign.  Be sure to use the most important words as the signing words. 

        Use an American Sign Language Dictionary to look up any signs you dont know. I suggest Michigan State University s ASL Web Browser, which can be found online at  http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/

        Teach your students the poem and the signs. You may want to explain that they will not be signing the whole poem, but only the keywords you have chosen.

        Your students will not only be able to practice reading the poem, but also practice the signs you have taught them to go along with the poem. This will be more interactive for them because they will feel like they are acting out the poem physically, rather than only reading it. You can even create sign cards for each word with the word written and a picture of its sign next to it. This can also be helpful for your struggling readers since many signs are iconic, which means they look like the word they represent. This presentsl a visual representation of the words they are trying to learn.

        If your students have good dictionary skills, you can even put an American Sign Language Dictionary in the poetry center with a new poem. This will allow your students to find keywords and learn the signs on their own. If they are correct, they could teach their classmates the signs for that poem.

American Sign Language signs can be beneficial if integrated into your poetry unit. Your students will be eager to learn because they will be given a new, fun, and interactive way for them to learn about poetry.

 

 

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Fully endorsed by Frank Holes Jr., editor of Starteaching

 

 

 

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Using Photography To Inspire Writing III

By Hank Kellner

Go Google!

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.

    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  

Go Google!

     If you Google the phrase photographs and writing, youll discover an astounding 23,400,000 entries for that topic. Thats enough to keep you busy for the rest of your life and beyondif that were possible.
    But 23,400,000 entries are just a few drops in a teacup when theyre compared to the mind-boggling 77,100,000 entries Google cites when you enter photography and writing instead of photographs and writing.
    Obviously, I couldnt sample more than just a few of the websites cited in Google, but I did find one,
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/collections/environ/langarts.html, thats especially helpful to anyone whos interested in using photographs to inspire writing in the classroom.

     According to the unnamed author of this Learning Page from the Library of Congress, some photographs can help to launch  projects that will develop visual literacy and creative writing skills, while others lend themselves to expository writing.
     In the section of the article that deals with creative writing, the author presents a photograph of five students who are on a field trip, directs the students to select one of the students shown in the photographs, and then asks such questions as: (1) How old is the student? (2) Has the person you chose been on an adventure like this before? (3) What unexpected events occur on the trip? (4) Are friends along on the trip? (5) Is there someone in the group the student dislikes?

    In the expository section of the article, the author presents a simple, uncluttered photograph of a sand dune and points out that in writing about a sand dune, an essay might include the definition of a dune, an account of where dunes exist in the world, the kinds of animals and plants that live among the dunes, and an assessment of the human impact on sand dunes.

Every Photograph Tells a Story

    On a more personal level, today almost everyone owns a digital camera. Except for a few diehards, gone are the days when people waited anxiously for rolls of film to be developed and prints to be made. Now, as if by magic, images appear instantly to be downloaded, stored on hard discs, and printed at the drop of a sombrero.

    This means that most students probably have collections of hundreds, if not thousands, of digital images that can trigger writing assignments. 

Consider these two photos, for example. A student at almost every level could have created them. And the photos could easily trigger any number of questions designed to inspire writing. For example: (1) What were the conditions under which the student photographer created the photos? (2) What were the reasons for creating them? 

(3) What was happening while the student photographer snapped the photos? (4) In what way are the people in the photo-graphs related?

      Indeed, the number of questions you can ask is limited only by your imagination and by the imaginations of your students.

    Alternatively, you could simply show the two photographs without comments or questions and ask the students to respond to them based on their unspoken thoughts and their feelings before they write their compositions.

       This photo is a good example of a photo that reveals little but says a lot. Almost in silhouette, a uniformed police officer wearing a helmet stands near a display window. Part of a shadow appears behind the officer.

    A headless mannequin clothed in white stands framed in the window to the officers left.

    Some students will want to discuss the contrasts between the officer and the mannequin; the similarities between the positions in which the two are presented; and the helmeted officer as opposed to the headless mannequin. Other students will want to create narratives featuring the two figures. For example, what would happen if the headless mannequin somehow morphed into a living person? How would the officer respond to such a startling event?

     Photographs that feature people involved in some form of activity always elicit interesting verbal and written responses from students. In this photograph, a woman leans forward at what appears to be the shore of a lake or river as she trains her camera on  something or someone we cannot see. On each side  of the frame, several canoes rest on the shore.  

    Who is the woman? How old is she? Is she married or single? Does she have a companion whos waiting outside of the scene? Who or what is she photographing? Is she a professional photographer or an amateur?  

How Some Master Teachers Use Photographs

     After having students respond to several photos in terms of the five senses, Lehigh Valley Writing Project Co-Director Kristy M. Weidner-Gonzalez has the students write short poems in which each line reveals one of the senses. Then the students take a walking tour of the school and surrounding neighborhood during which they photograph their favorite places. Using the images they produced, the students revisit the idea of senses as they write about what they had experienced when they created the photos. The second time around has much more meaning for the students, writes Weidner-Gonzalez, because the places they photographed were much more personal and held certain memories for them.

     As a Teacher Consultant for the Illinois State Writing Project and an English teacher at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Ann Cox uses photos to teach characterization. After giving her students a magazine photo of a person, she asks them to write a character sketch of the person. Then she provides a scenario and directs the students to describe how their characters would react and why. Finally, students share their writing with the class and discuss their motivation.

   At the Prairie Lands Writing Project, Technology Liaison Mary Lee Meyer conducts workshops for teachers at which she emphasizes the use of images to inspire writing. About 15% of the student population has low verbal skills, she wrote in a recent workshop handout. Using images to invoke responses helps that population. Meyer pointed out, also, that images require students to use their powers of critical analysis when writing.

    Among other things, in her workshops Meyer urges teachers to help students (1) write dialogue by using comic characters; (2) discover details by analyzing images; and (3) expand the use of imagery words by studying photos and paintings. You can read one of her workshop handouts, Images: Their Impact on Learning at the following website. http://www.missouriwestern.edu/plwp/08saturdayseminar/info.html

 

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

Order your own iPod Touch Today with the links below:

NowAvailable! 

  

Mastering Basic Skills software:

$29.99

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

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The Changing Face of the
Traditional Book Report

Are your students bored with your old book reports? Looking to jazz up your old presentations? There are a number of great ideas to change your old assignments and bring them into the modern day. We want our students to enjoy reading, and to read outside of class, but we don't want to bore students with the same old reports they've been doing for years.

Don't get me wrong, I like my students to find some specific pieces of information. They will always be required to find info on characters, setting, and plot. And I like to have them include their evaluation of the book, what they learned and to whom they'd recommend this book.

Beyond the basic fact-finding is the presentation. There are many ways to jazz these up too. Your students could make commercials or infomercials trying to sell their books. These could be live in class, online, or recorded on video. Include music and graphics or special effects.

Students could create a project to represent a scene from their story.  This might be a model, a diorama box, posters, banners, or other art projects using various art class media.

You might allow students to take an important scene from the book and bring it to life. Reader's theater, puppet shows, and skits can be performed in class or videotaped earlier.

Students can vary the old display 'poster' by showing off artifacts in a shadow box. Find items around the house that represent the story's character, setting, or events and set them up in an interesting display.

Another idea is to use presentation software such as PowerPoint. Have your students create different slides detailing what they learned about characters, plot, setting, mood, and other literary devices from their books.

Another neat program we started using this year is the GarageBand from Macintosh. This enables students to create their own music using basic templates of different sounds, instruments, beats, and rhythms.  Students have created short songs that impart the mood and tone of their books, and we can then present these to class or add them to web pages or PowerPoints.

If you've assigned a biography or autobiography, you might have students make a website describing the life and beliefs of the individual character. You could have students create a 'mock' interview with their character, writing in the answers that person might have given.

There are many ways to change your old book reports so they're more interesting. And you can incorporate technology easily in these projects. Don't be afraid to try out something new. You can often rely on your students to help you when it comes to technology. And you'll be making class much more interesting for your students.

Check out our Book Report page for actual forms you and your students can use in class. These are FREE and printable: http://www.starteaching.com/bookreports.htm


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

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  TECH/21st Century CORNER

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Learning Content
Management Systems 

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. 

Today I'm going to talk to you about a particular online article.  You can read the article at: http://www.astd.org/lc/2009/ 0309_perry.html

Its entitled Training Professionals Gain Agility and Power from LCMS Technology By Bill Perry. Though the article leans toward industry training there are great possibilities for education. One tool possible for this is Udutu. The following are some thoughts on Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS). 

The LCMS is a very powerful tool that puts trainers in control of what they need in todays competitive market. The fact that you can mix and match different pieces of content together to make a lesson makes it so flexible. Keeping a library of whats already been completed so that you can mix and match makes that possible so you dont have to reinvent the wheel each time you put a training together. In this world of just in time, on demand learning this flexibility makes that possible. There are also other benefits to this system. 

The fact that you can search the library to make changes if needed is a huge time saver and cost savings. The reusing of content is another cost savings since you dont have to start form the beginning. With the idea of modules, reusing content, and mixing and matching, this allows for the possibilities of more personalized training. That raises the engagement and interest level of the learner, thus making it more successful. 

So much of this focuses on industry, how well this works, and what they are doing to train their employees. Where does K-12 education fit in? I see the universities getting on board, as the video discussed, but when I searched for videos tagged K-12 and LCMS there were none found. Education in K-12 is lagging and needs to catch up in this area. Check out this video and what they are saying. 

As this video said, the Berlin Wall needs to come down in K-12. I like what Hilary Burchett said in her thread on this topic about LCMSs that you could have, as an example, a teacher that has done well teaching a certain skill, designing a module for it. Then other teachers of that discipline within the district could use it. I would take that idea even farther. You could design a content lesson centered on a skill that is learned in a number of grade levels. This module would center on the concept. Then, threads would break off (other modules), depending on the grade level, allowing the lesson to go farther and deeper with the subject (skill) according to each grade level. This would then be available for any teacher to use. This would allow the same basic concept to flow through the entire school instead of changing from teacher to teacher, or not being presented at all. It would take away students confusion from year to year, and support their learning. Imagine the power of all this.

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:

http://www.starteaching.com/newsletter.htm


 

 

  Feature Writer

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Using Moodle in the Classroom (part 2)

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.  Last time I focused on the quiz feature of Moodle.  This time I'd like to share with you some of the basics of the page setup and layout.

One very important feature of Moodle is its ability to link up to any webpage, file, or document.  This is excellent for keeping your students on track (and making sure they aren't off wandering through cyber-space, potentially getting themselves into sticky situations as we know they all will!).  You can very easily set up a series of links for your students to use.  This ensures they are heading in the right direction from the get-go.  

I often set a series of links at the very top of the Moodle page.  These are important links for the entire course, such as Google, Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, Wikipedia, etc.  I show the students where these are so they can access these important sites quickly and easily from any computer anywhere in the world that has internet. 

I will also set particular links during a specific week or lesson.  When I'm teaching Treasure Island, for example, I set Moodle to open one week modules at a time for students.  As the new week opens, a new series of links for that particular week are also available to the students.  These might include links to particular sections of the book, study guides, important vocabulary or character descriptions, or pages of related information.  There are specific webpages I want my students to explore and learn from both about the book itself and about the history of pirates.  

The link feature can also direct students to specific files or documents on my school computer.  As I make assignments, I can save them as PDF files and link to these so students (and parents too!) can print them out at home.  Sometimes I have online assignments where students complete work and email it to me.  Then there are also documents I've made for the students for enrichment and extended activities.  These are all easily displayed through the link feature.  

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

 

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Our Website Store for Specials:

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Collaborative Learning
(part 1)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Collaborative learning is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches in education that involve joint intellectual effort by students or students and teachers. Groups of students work together in searching for understanding, meaning or solutions or in creating a product. The approach is closely related to cooperative learning, but is considered to be more radical because of its reliance on youth voice. Collaborative learning activities can include collaborative writing, group projects, and other activities.

Collaborative learning has taken on many forms. One form is Collaborative Networked Learning for the self-directed adult learner.

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) has emerged as a new educational paradigm among researchers and practitioners in several fields, including cognitive sciences, sociology, computer engineering. It thus constitutes a new trans-disciplinary field.

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is a research topic on supporting collaborative learning with the help of computers. It is related to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW).

CSCL supports and facilitates group processes and group dynamics in ways that are not achievable by face-to-face, but they are not designed to replace face-to-face communication. This type of learning is typically tailored for use by multiple learners working at the same workstation or across networked machines. The purpose of CSCL is to scaffold or support students in learning together effectively. This system can support communicating ideas and information, accessing information and documents, and providing feedback on problem-solving activities.

The most resilient features of the evolving field of CSCL include an emphasis on collaborative aspects of learning as well as individual ones, an identification of social interactions as an important element of knowledge construction, a focus on the learner(s) and their activities, a shift towards technological environments that promote authentic group learning, and finally, an increasing role for all technological artifacts that form a global network. People promoting CSCL generally target the acquisition of higher-order thinking skills, problem solving abilities, epistemic fluency and the collaborative improvement of knowledge within a field of practice. This demands the analysis of processes (rather than just products) within complex and authentic contexts. CSCL is much more ambitious than previous approaches of ICT-support in education. It is therefore more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of CSCL activities. Nonetheless, all actors involved in e-learning, and more specifically in CSCL processes, from policy makers to everyday practitioners need to have evidence of whether, how and when expected improvements in learning take place. Significant effort is required to provide systematic evaluation of innovative projects, the specific experiences within an action/research framework, the new CSCL systems developed, and so on.

Part 2 of this series will focus in on Collaborative Networked Learning

 

Article courtesy of K12Academics.com

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.   

http://www.dogman07.com

The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  

Look for the sequel, Viking Treasure, this summer!

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

ORDER A CLASS SET 

 

 

 

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

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Writing Every Day In Class

For your students to be good at any skill, they must practice it on a daily basis. This is true for any skill, and writing is an excellent example. Regardless of whether your goal is to improve your students abilities, or to raise test scores, you need to structure and designate specific time to practice this skill every day. As the classroom instructor, it must be YOUR goal to have your students practice the skill daily.

Now, you don't have to spend your entire class period on writing. There are many activities you can use that take anywhere from five to ten minutes and will accomplish this goal of writing daily.

We should briefly describe the parts of the writing process, so we can then develop activities to improve each step. There are many different terms educators will use to name the parts of the writing process. Undoubtedly you have seen several different ways to name each step. Your school may even have a specific set of terminology you need to use. That's fine, especially if your students are hearing the same terms through different classes and grade levels. However you decide to designate each step of the writing process, there are several distinct parts.

The first is brainstorming and organizing information. This is the 'prewriting', thinking of topics and ideas about which the students will write. The second is drafting, writing out a first copy which we know will not be perfect but will need more work. The third is revising, adding in more information, changing information around, or removing information not pertinent to the topic. The fourth step is to proofread and edit for surface errors and mistakes. The last step is to rewrite the draft making the corrections from steps three and four. This last step may be another draft, or it may be a finished, published piece. Now, you may want to add more steps to these basic five, and that's up to you. You'll get no resistance from me. The important thing is to fully understand what you're teaching and to make sure your students understand it!

Before we get into activities, you will want to create a special, specific place for the students to keep their work. I choose to keep this work in class so I know it will ALWAYS be there. No more losing it in folders, at home, or in lockers. Each student is provided a hanging file in a cabinet drawer (each class gets its own drawer). If you do not have an extra file cabinet, you can pick up plastic storage crates or boxes fairy cheaply. When I want the students to work with previous writes, they simply need to grab one out of their file. And best of all, the work is already in class.

Ok, so lets examine a few exercises to practice at each step. First for brainstorming and organizing. This is one of the most important steps, and it can be practiced in any subject area. You are going to want to have your students practice this two to three times each week. Have your students brainstorm in lists, in graphic organizers, in webs/maps, and by freewriting. Give them topics and a time limit and turn them loose. Use ideas from your text, from reading activities, and from real life situations that involve your students. You can create games and contests to encourage them to generate long lists.

There are many ways to draft. We've covered several in past newsletters (see the links below for more information on each) including FREEWRITES, JOURNAL WRITES, and PARAGRAPHS. You will probably have other forms and styles to use too. Drafting does not have to take a long time, either. Give your students a specific time limit and the minimums you want them to write. Be very clear about your expectations and rules so the students will have clear understanding of what you're looking for. Feel free to impose minimums such as a time period, length of paper, or number of words. Remind yourself you are working with activities with shorter time slots. You want your students to really push themselves, and you may have to push them at the beginning to get them up to the speed you want!

Editing activities work well when your students already have several pieces finished to look over. You can have students edit their own, or peer edit by trading writings. I usually hold off for a month to collect enough drafts so students can choose their own writing to edit. Normally students like this step the least, and try to resist editing. So you will want to make this a fun activity, and be sure to give it a grade. I also try to give out extra credit so they will want to do these activities. We practice question writing with our SQ3R reading techniques, and we apply this to editing too. Some of the best editing is done by students posing questions, looking for more information, or needing clarification of ideas. This is not proofreading, remember! We use overheads (again so they can be re-used) with guiding questions and thoughts that will help students generate questions of the writing in front of them.

Undoubtedly you'll have a handful of students who think their first draft is perfect and needs no additional work. And you may even agree that some of these students are very good writers. But don't fall into the trap of letting them avoid editing. Even professional writers go through many stages of editing (as of this time, I've already edited this article four times!). Keep your kids following the writing process - no short cuts! Allowing one or more students to cut corners will lead to more asking, and then hard feelings among classmates ("Why doesnt so-and-so have to edit?") None of your students will be experts, none are perfect, even if you have seniors. There are always things you can adjust, clarify, or add to writings. And all of the students will benefit from good editing activities, whether they like it or not.

Another issue you will deal with at this step is a fragile student ego. Some students will fear having criticism of their work. And there will also be students who fear writing criticism on their classmates' papers. You will have to have some heart-to-heart talks with your students and convince them (or persuade them) that they are helping their classmates and themselves when editing. They're not there to rip on each other, just make everyone better writers.

Having your students write on a daily basis may seem like a homework-checking nightmare waiting to happen. You will need to create an administrative plan to make your life simple. In our class I use the random choices technique (discussed in length in the September issue.) A white chip indicates we don't grade it, just file it. A blue chip is a peer check and immediate grade. And a red chip is a collection of the papers so I can read and score them. This keeps me from having to read and grade every paper every day. And for paragraph drafts, we use FCAs (focal correction areas) for grades (look for more on FCAs in an upcoming issue!) These administrative strategies help keep my sanity while allowing my students to practice a lot of writing on a daily basis.


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"King Solomon and the Baby"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

Human nature is often the insight to true wisdom...

One day, the wise King Solomon was approached by two women arguing over a baby. Each claimed the child was hers. Unable to judge, King Solomon thought up a plan - he offered to cut the baby in half, giving half to the one and half to the other.

The first women agreed with the King: "Let the baby be neither mine nor hers, but divide it. If I can't have the child", she cried, "she can't have it either". The second women pleaded with Solomon not to hurt the child. "Give her the baby. I'd rather lose the child that see it slain".

Solomon knew immediately that this was the rightful mother. He returned the baby to her.

 

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

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Why do people celebrate Easter?

Day
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What are some traditions around the Easter holiday?

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Describe the role of the Easter Bunny.  What does he do?

Day
4

Why do people color eggs during Easter?

Day
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Describe how well you are accomplishing your goal you set for this semester.

Day
6

What are your FIVE favorite books?  Why are they your favorites?

Day
7

Describe the plot of your favorite book.

Day
8

How do good books develop good characters? 

Day
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Day 1 In 4.98, in which place is the 8?
Day 2 In 0.85, in which place is the 8?
Day 3 In 0.47, in which place is the 7?
Day 4 In 0.9, which digit is in the tenths place?
Day 5 In 0.89, in which place is the 8?
Day 6 In 0.2, which digit is in the tenths place?
Day 7 In 0.12, in which place is the 2
Day 8 In 4.81, in which place is the 1?
Day 9 Math Definition:

What is an Abacus?  
(An abacus is an ancient calculating device used for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, square roots and cube roots.   It's still used today in some countries.)

Day 10 Math Definition:

What is Absolute Value?
(An absolute value is a number's distance from zero on the number line. 
Examples:   | 0 | =  0        
| 5 | = 5       | -3 | = 3    )

 

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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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