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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 10
May 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   Daily Classroom Improvement with Action Research (part 2)   Re-Directing the Off-Task Student Using American Sign Language Signs
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See":
Combining Photos and Writing
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Are The Students Truly Understanding It?  Are We? (part 2)
Themes on Life: 
"The Great Fire and the Little Water"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Reading Recovery (Part 2)
New Teacher's Niche:
The Effective Teacher
Student Teachers' Lounge: Preparing For Your Student-Teaching Experience (part 2)
Book of the Month Club:
Understanding the iGeneration and The Way They Learn
  Website of the Month:
Udutu Online Course Developer
  Spring 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



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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 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.

 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 student’s 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 won’t be disrupted either.


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Using Photography To Inspire Writing V

By Hank Kellner

Combining Photos and Writing

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.

I’d been teaching for six years when Stephen Dunning’s Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle was published in June 1966. Because the book featured 114 modern poems accompanied by exciting photographs, it soon became a favorite with English teachers who wanted to teach poetry.

Many teachers, however, realized that when the photographs that appeared in Reflections were viewed apart from the poems, they were powerful incentives to writing. Other teachers discovered that the combination of a photograph and a poem triggered students’ imaginations and helped to inspire writing.

The Return of Watermelon Pickle…Almost

As far as I know, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle is out of print.  But that doesn’t mean that combining photos with poems is any less effective today than it was years ago. After all, grandma’s famous chicken soup still cures colds, doesn’t it?

Even though the photo and poem shown here didn’t appear in Reflections, they’re a good example of how that combination can help to inspire students to write either prose or poetry.


Like diamonds on black velvet,
Starlight dances on water.
Alone, I sit and think
Of life, and love,
And lesser things like
Who will win the Super Bowl next year?

In the photograph, the extremes of light and darkness suggest ideas that students can translate into writing. In the poem, the narrator introduces thoughts that many people share at one time or another. Together, the photograph and the poem can introduce ideas that will trigger students’ thought processes and help to create many kinds of written compositions. The possibilities are endless.

Who Are These Guys?

And why are they sitting, alone, as if they were waiting for someone—or for something to happen? Why does one of the men appear to be calm and relaxed while the other man is tense and apprehensive? What is the significance of the darkness that surrounds the man on the left? Why is the man on the right as anxious as he appears to be? What are some of the differences between the settings shown in the two photographs?

You could ask students to imagine what either or both of the men’s lives are like. Where do they live? What kind of work do they do? What are their families like? 

Why are they sitting alone on a sidewalk in a city? How would the two men respond if they were to meet each other? What secrets do they harbor?

Alternatively, you could simply let the students discuss what they see and feel when they view the photos before they write short stories, poems, or imaginative biographical entries.

Mickey Mouse Lives!

“Mickey Mouse is, to me, a symbol of independence.” Those are the words of Walt Disney, the American cartoonist and filmmaker who created Mickey Mouse and a host of other memorable characters.

Mickey made his debut in Steamboat Willie at the Colony Theatre on November 18, 1929, went on to star in 120 different cartoons, and also starred in “The Mickey Mouse Club” television show during the 1950s. Amazingly, Mickey is still alive today, ninety years after Disney created him. He appears on the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” on the Disney channel, and on the Internet as well. What’s more, he’s also the chief greeter at the Disney theme parks.

Truth to tell, the image shown at the left doesn’t resemble Mickey Mouse, but it does offer students an opportunity to reflect on symbols as opposed to signs.

The image on the right depicts a sign. Using similar images, you could ask your students to discuss the difference between symbols and signs before they write about them using examples they have photo-graphed or clipped from newspapers and magazines.

Perhaps the students could compile annotated anthologies or create bulletin boards based on images of symbols and/or signs.

Comic Strips, Cartoons, and Working Lunches

Mary Lee Meyer is a Prairie Lands Writing Project Technology Liaison working as a PLWP teacher consultant. See http://writingwithtechnology.edublogs.org for examples of some of the activities she demonstrates at her writing workshops for teachers.

In one activity, Meyer suggests using comic strips or political cartoons from newspapers and magazines to inspire student writing. “Scan an image into Microsoft Paint™ or another photo editing program and erase the words in the bubbles,” she writes. “Then print copies and ask the students to discuss the cartoon or comic strip in small group settings.” Meyer points out that this exercise helps students develop writing assignments that use dialogue.

In another activity, Meyer asked workshop participants to take a working lunch during which they recorded at least five digital photos that they thought they could use in a writing assignment. “This was a two-day class,” she writes, “during which participants were required, among other things, to use one of their images appropriately in a written piece.”

This assignment could easily be completed with students at any level in just one day if the students are directed to come to class with photos they had already taken.

Family Photos and Postcards

At the Ottawa Elementary School, Petoskey, Michigan, Alisa Santii uses family photos to connect with her students’ lives. “I ask the students to bring in photos showing family-oriented activities,” she writes. “Then I encourage them to write descriptive paragraphs that reveal more than just what is plainly seen in the photos. To this end, we urge them to generate ideas in terms of who, what, when, where, and how.” In another activity, Santii uses postcards or photos of various places as triggers for descriptive paragraphs. “After they write their descriptions,” she concludes, “the students read them to their classmates who must then draw pictures based on what they saw.”

Sharing Is Caring

Do you have a photo-related writing activity you’ve used successfully in the classroom? Would you like to share that activity with other teachers at many levels nationwide? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Please send approximately 100 words describing your activity to me at hankpix@gmail.com as a WORD attachment to your e- mail . Don’t forget to include your name, title, school or college, city, state, and a brief statement granting permission to use your submission in my articles. Thank you.

Copyright 2009 Hank Kellner    Photos and Poem by the author


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


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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.

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

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Preparing for Your Student-Teaching Experience 
(part 2)

Your student teaching experience is a very important step in your teaching career.  In fact, your entire outlook on teaching and learning can be affected by your success during this period of your life.  This series of articles will help give you excellent 'insider information' on what they didn't teach you in your college classes. 

Being an intern is an interesting position to be in. The university treats you as a student, making you jump through hoops completing projects and meeting deadlines sometimes seeming totally irrelevant to the internship.  The school district you are working in expects you to be a professional educator with all the secrets of innovation and new technologies fresh from the university 'think tank'.  Parents think of you as someone who really doesn't know what they are doing yet and don't understand why you are practicing on their kids.  They are always quick to point out their perceptions of student teachers when a problem arises about grades or behavior.  

Hopefully I will provide you with some practical information presented in a no-nonsense form.

First and foremost, make sure all of your personal chores and plans are in order before you begin your assignment.  Once you start it is vital to focus all of your energy and time into your placement.  Secure your housing well in advance and establish a routine of daily tasks.  Plan to arrive at school early and plan to stay late.  Student teaching is absolutely relentless; you will be exhausted after your first day.  The mental and physical strain is unbelievable .  Make sure all of your details are taken care of in advance;  you don't want anything to interfere with your teaching.  Do create some time for yourself or you will self-destruct.  You need to keep your mind clear in order to make effective teacher decisions.  Plan to have some time each day for your self - it may only be a few minutes, but it is very important.  You may think you don't need it, but all veteran teachers will tell you differently.  

Secondly, be a sponge.  You are new to the profession and regardless of how well your university has prepared you, nothing measures up to being on your own in a classroom.  When the door shuts  for the first time you will know what I am talking about.  Glean as much from your mentor and other teachers as possible, and by all means, don't come across a s an expert.   "Learn from your observations and reflections;  don't be afraid to make mistakes.  As you progress and you become more effective, take risks and try different methodologies and teaching strategies."

You have not paid your dues and therefore you are really not an expert at anything.  Learn from your observations and reflections;  don't be afraid to make mistakes.  As you progress and you become more effective, take risks and try different methodologies and teaching strategies.  By all means keep in close contact with your mentor and always remember - no surprises.  Ask questions before you do something;  your mentor knows the ropes and will offer excellent advice.  Make it your responsibility to learn the routines and specifics of the district and building you are working in.  Don't rely on someone to tell you; find out on your own, take the initiative.  You can learn many things from both effective and ineffective teachers.  Unless asked, keep your opinions to yourself, being new and having all the energy of youth will be a threat to some, so tread lightly.  

If there is any down time in your room, ask your mentor for tasks to accomplish.  Help out anywhere you can.  Ask to take on something difficult and work with your mentor to accomplish it.  Save as many artifacts as possible and use them in your professional portfolio.  Creative lesson plans and examples of student work are excellent things to have.  Ask for feedback and listen and process.  Create an open dialog with your mentor;  remember that is the person who will be called first when a district wants to know about you. Your mentor will be able to talk about strengths and weaknesses, so what do you want to them to say about you?  

Finally, enter the internship with the idea there will be a teaching opening that you will be qualified for in the very building you are student teaching.  Create positive relationships with staff, parents, and students.  You do that by demonstrating professional behavior.  When your internship is completed you want everyone to say - "We would really like to have you become part of our team!"  Prove to people that you are the type of teacher that would be a perfect fit for their district.

School districts are looking for candidates who are 'low maintenance' - teachers who can come into their buildings and have an immediate impact.  Confidence, solid work ethic, and exemplary professional dispositions are words you want people to use to describe you.  Your internship is an excellent place to begin!

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

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

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  TECH/21st Century CORNER

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Are the Students Truly Understanding It?
Are We? (part 2) 

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 is part two of a three part look at what teaching is all about.

I think we live in one of the most exciting times when it comes to education. The students are changing in ways that challenge us to look at what we are doing in the classroom and make changes when needed. From outside the classroom we are being held accountable for what we are doing. Basically, we are being called to be a professional. Never before have we had so much learning available for us outside a classroom. In the past we had to take classes and read textbooks written by people that hadn’t been in the classroom for awhile. True, we’re still called to take classes. But now, as teachers, we can interact with professional learning communities online, take classes online, and share with other colleagues from around the globe our successes and failures so that we can improve what we do.

And what do we do? We educate kids. Our whole focus should be on the student. Without them we’re out of a job. In Part 1 of this article written last month I challenged you to think about whether your motivation was to just get through the curriculum, or educate the student. It’s an easy trap to fall into with all the pressures being brought to bear on the teaching profession today.

Another problem is that the way we were taught in school doesn’t work well with today’s digital students. Dave Warlick, a nationally renowned educational speaker, made some interesting statements in his Oct. 16th blog I’d like to quote: “I think that it’s part of the job.  It is my job, as a teacher, to be able to teach today — to be skilled at using today’s information technologies within today’s information environments and apply pedagogies that reflect today’s information environments.  We suffer from the myths of old world education,  that you go to school so that you will be prepared for the next 30 or 35 years.  But the teacher we are at graduation from college,  is not necessarily the teacher we need to be five years later.  Those days are long behind us — and I think that the job has become a whole lot more exciting as a result.”

He ended his blog with another statement that sums up what I’m talking about. And again I quote: “It’s part of the job of the teacher to continue to grow,” then we can get on with the far more interesting question, “What does the school and classroom look like where learning is what you see happening, not teaching — where learning stops being a job, and, instead, becomes a lifestyle.”

To help students learn, I need to focus on my learning. If I expect to be told what to do all the time, that is what I will expect out of my students. If I work on becoming a self-directed learner, I will help my students to do the same. These are the skills of the 21st century. Focusing on the learning, and not on the teaching, has helped me focus more on the individual student. With student centered learning it’s great to hear from the students and guide them like a coach in the learning process. It’s exciting to walk by each group of students and hear them discussing the focus question and helping each other to understand the material. They are now engaged in the learning process, not just checking out as I stand up there lecturing. Students today are interactive. Is their learning interactive or one sided? Do you follow the textbook, or do you look for a way that meets the needs of your students and how they learn? That is where we, as teachers, become the professional. We need to always be looking for the strategies that help our students learn.

The educational term being used today is differentiated instruction. This isn’t a bad thing. When you begin to operate this way you will get to know your students better. Have you ever asked them what they liked when it comes to teaching strategies? I work with fifth graders and they have no problem telling me. When I reflect on what they have said and use their feedback, I find a more motivated student. All of us understand the importance of motivation.

My goal as a teacher is to engage every student anytime there is learning taking place. What I have found is the more engaged they are the less I have to deal with discipline issues. My students work in pairs and groups most of the time. I will ask a question and then move around the room as they work on it. Sitting at my desk is rarely an option. There are times where they work on something by themselves, but I allow them to ask questions of their fellow classmates or myself when needed.

This hasn’t always been the way I’ve taught. I was a lecture type teacher for many years. I was never satisfied though, but didn’t know any other way. After all, that was how I was taught. I then took an on-line class on helping students to become self-directed learners. Then, as I read more about the expectations of the work world and 21st century skills it all began to come together. I will tell you it is a work in progress, and I haven’t arrived yet, but it is exciting. I’ve shared with other teachers and we are learning together. More teachers are joining us, one teacher at a time.

So now it’s time to make your choice. Jump in and begin the change. It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight, but will happen. Get involved in some of the online educational forums. There’s plenty of support and help out there online.

In the next article I will be talking about formative and summative assessment and some of the tools available to help you get to know where each of your students is at any given time.


Your browser may not support display of this image.  

Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 21 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.  He is currently working on Masters of Integration of Technology from Walden University. 

Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with emerging technologies.  He has been married to his wife Bonnietta for 32 years with one daughter and two sons.  In the summers, Mark works for Mackinac State Historic Parks in the as a historical interpreter.

StarTeaching Featured Writer

Mark Benn is a leading expert in using technology in the classroom.  
You can feel free to contact him on email at mbenn@inlandlakes.org or at his blogsite:  http://www.furtrader.blogspot.com/ 

Check out our selection of past articles, including more about groups and stations, from previous issues at:




  Feature Writer

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Daily Classroom Improvement with Action Research

By Munir Moosa Sewani

Munir Moosa Sewani is one of the most famous, prominent and creative names in the field of Education in the past 9 years. He is a Master Trainer In Special Education, Post Graduate, Teacher Educator and a Teacher. He is a Freelance Writer and Photographer, in addition to his role as a featured writer for StarTeaching's newsletter for nearly four years now. He is an author of the famous self-published storybook for children titled "The MORAL STORIES FOR CHILDREN" and has also written a Biology book for Secondary Classes. He has written more than 75 articles dealing with social, health, educational and cultural issues, which are internationally recognized and published in famous world wide websites, newsletters, magazines and newspapers. 

He is also a Social worker, private tutor, career counselor, musician, lyrics writer and has multi-dimensional talents. His future plan is to write dozens of informative articles and to work for education and media, in order to explore hidden creativity.

His future plan is to write dozens of informative books and articles and to work in the education field and the media, in order to develop the sense of understanding many dimensions of life through his creativity.

You can contact Munir Moosa Sewani at: munirmoosa@yahoo.com

Most of the readers of Star Teaching are teachers, and practicing classroom teaching. Classroom action research begins with a question or questions about classroom experiences, day to day issues, or challenges. We, the teachers are always in a phase of learning from our very own experiences. Action Research helps us to polish our skills in many ways. It works as a magnifying glass and helps teachers to examine aspects of teaching and learning and to take action to change and improve.

For a good Action Researcher, maintaining a reflective diary is must.  Writing day to day challenges and looks for the improvement that helps to solve day to day class challenges.

An example of maintaining a reflective journal is provided below:  


My aim of conducting an Action Research was to find the challenges of a secondary class and to improve the teaching standard. For this purpose, I first visited the school to evaluate the lesson plans and activities of all the secondary classes. I also interviewed the class teachers, in order to get a brief introduction about the teaching strategies that were being used by them.

After evaluating everything for a couple of weeks, I came to the conclusion that there were numerous severe problems going on in the school. The lessons plans were not up-to-date; the activities were not available for most of the secondary classes; the classroom set up was not being provided to the students; most of the teachers were not trained; the curriculum was based on rote learning; the grading system was not up-to-mark; students attendance was short; teachers were not enthusiastic to teach with much motivation; etc. 

At last, I decided to take the 7th grade as a real challenge for me, because 7th class was the most affected one in terms of proper learning. Keeping in view all the major problems, I took an initiative and designed lesson plans in such a manner that were not only activity-based, but also the students' participation and teachers' learning was the key motive and slogan of my plans.  

My Focus

The developed some important points which helped me a lot to observe and record my performance in the classroom. I selected 1-2 areas regularly and the areas given below were successfully achieved during my teaching practicum:

1.         Made linkages with students’ beliefs & identity

2.         Served as a role model by demonstrating enthusiasm, curiosity, and a joy of learning

3.         Effectively motivated students to improve student learning

4.         Effectively supported and assisted students in meeting their academic, social and emotional needs by being sensitive to these needs

5.         Actively involved the students in the learning process

6.         Assessed student performance on a regular basis

7.         Balanced student and teacher interactions to promote learning

8.         Created an environment that maximizes learning

9.         Praised student achievement appropriately

10.       Demonstrated care, respect and fairness for all students by maintaining positive interactions

11.       Promoted polite and respectful student interactions

12.       Addressed inappropriate student behavior in a positive manner

13.       Allowed all students to ask for help whenever they need it

14.       Ensured that the students get a good grounding in the key messages inherent in the curriculum

15.       Gone beyond the curriculum to discuss/address issues

16.       Adopted different teaching strategies to teach the curriculum (e.g. group work, role play etc.,)

17.       Asked questions related to the curriculum that promote critical thinking skills

18.       Displayed student work around the classroom

19.       Used appropriate strategies to manage discipline

20.       Established classroom management strategies that support learning, respect and dignity of students

21.       Made the curriculum relevant to the students so they see  the connection between the curriculum and their daily lives

22.       Encouraged students to question rather than simply accept what is delivered in class

23.       Encouraged creative thinking in the class

24.       Kept an up-dated  reflective journal on the classes taught

25.       Used technology appropriately to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the classroom


Day 1:

The day prior to my practicum, I visited my classroom and managed the classroom setting. There were around 30 students as per register of the classroom. So to cater to them and to make them sit comfortably, the seating arrangements were changed so that I can move quickly and the students can also feel as a center of learning. To make teaching effective and for the on-going learning process, I also prepared a bulletin board with a lot of interesting games, news, speeches of Imam, etc.

Today was my first day. I was a bit nervous. I had a vast experience of teaching at the primary level, but after a gap of around 2 years, I was supposed to come across the students of religious education center. I was not confirmed whether the students would accept me as their teacher or not. But I was confident, that the teaching style of mine would definitely inspire them and will motivate them to accept me as their teacher.

I had a lot of expectations from all the students. Although I hadn’t met any of the students before, I was sure that their level would be quite more advanced. I was not there to be a dictator, so my rule was very clear: to be a teacher and a friend. I had fully planned the lesson and activities. The topic I planned was an Introduction to Nasir Khusraw. As a teaching aid, I used the whiteboard, OHP, flashcard and game cards.

As it was my first day, I reached the center on time.  I saw that the Prefect, who was standing in the class, had threatened those students who were talking to each other. That scene was unbearable for me. That was the worst way to build ethics in students forcefully. I humbly requested the heads not to send such Prefects in my class next time. Firstly, I greeted all the students and developed some classroom rules, which students promised to follow regularly. Then, I gave my little introduction to my students and asked them their name, hobbies and aim in life. After the familiarity, my students felt a bond of attachment with me and I felt as if they were much more comfortable with me. Then I began my lesson with the story of an old woman who received her degree at the age of 80, without any hesitation. Then I threw a few questions, including "Who gave our parents, grandparents and forefather’s guidance?" I appreciated their comments. Later I clarified their concepts about Daai and Pir and also told them how they all worked hard to spread the message of Imam. So many questions were raised about how they spread Is mail ism. With the help of different examples I cleared their concepts. Students were told about the early life of Nasir Khusraw. I also told them that he learned many different languages. To create an interesting class, I made them learn some very interesting Arabic words. That was the most interesting part of my lesson, which made them realize, that like Pir Nasir, they can also learn different languages if they want. Later, the concepts of different religions were briefly explained to the students.  I tried my level best to keep knowledge attitude and skills in the lesson plan. In order to develop ethics I integrated some Quranic verses in my lesson.

I used the OHP for introducing many things as the part of my effective teaching, and that worked well. During my class, I found few students who were very reserved but I believe that within a couple of days, they will also participate in the classroom discussion. Two of the students tried to create a disturbance in the class. I found one challenged student in my class who found it difficult to solve the math puzzle, which was later given as the part of activity time. I assisted him to achieve the target. The students were excited and eager to learn; that’s what I observed after today’s session. Many times, students raised questions together, which puzzled me a lot. So, I introduced a norm that if any student wants to ask anything, they can ask by raising his or her hand.

The successful area of my teaching was the story, which I used as an introduction, and the activities, which students loved. I served as a role model by demonstrating enthusiasm, curiosity, and a joy of learning. The area of improvement was the management of time. The time was short, but the lesson took 10 more minutes to complete.  I will try my level best to teach less, but more effective from the next time. I also learned that it is the environment which makes student naughty.  If the teacher is humble and can teach students according to their expectations, then they will listen to you for sure. The question answer session was interactive, but only 3-4 students willingly participated. I will definitely pay my attention particularly to the students who did not participate in the class.  

DAY 2:

Today, I was much more confident to take my class actively. The students were now familiar with my teaching style. I assumed that there will be an interactive class and I will be able to achieve all of the entire objectives on time. I will test them by an on-going assessment system and through group activity.  The students will be able to realize the importance of intellect and I hope that they will understand the importance of education in our lives.

Today, I taught them about what intellect is and what its importance is. I was resourceful and fully planned. My objectives were to tell students what intellect is, and what was its importance, and how we can take advantage of the creation of Allah. I started off my lesson very well. I tore 10 rupee notes and then asked students who need it. In this way the whole analytical thinking was raised, which was liked by the students.  The students participated with full enthusiasm in class. I explained them that if we use intellect properly, we can resolve most of our problems easily. Many students quoted Hadith, Quranic Verses and regarding intellect. I tried to integrate my lesson with it as well.

The group activity was thoroughly enjoyed and students realized that to take decisions on their own. The students were very sharp. They threw many questions while the other students answered it effectively. Retaining activity and paper work was also good. 3 students in my class were not participating actively. So I tried to involve them as well by asking them questions.

Over all, it was a successful class where students thoroughly enjoyed the class. Students also brought some board material, which showed their keen involvement in classroom. I took 50 minutes to complete my lesson. The area of learning is to manage time again. I will definitely try to overcome this problem soon.

My strength was my voice and my pre-planning, plus the integration of activities was my strength. Group activity worked well. Diversify concepts and then accepting each other comment made them to work in a group while thinking genuinely.

The students were enthusiastic and eager to learn and participate. Most of the students eagerly listened to me and also shared their view without any hesitation

I will try to give quality knowledge within time limitation next time and will try to avoid others distraction in class, which was going on again and again. Observer appreciated me a lot. I tried to manage class without the help of any teacher. The resources were not available due to which I pre-planned and managed it at my own cost. 

DAY 8:

Today I taught students about role of intellect in Islam. I was resourceful and was well planned. I was sure that the students will like the topic. Once again, I used a different strategy to start my class. The mind map activity was given to the students in the beginning and was asked to go through it for two minutes. They read it and then gave their own interpretations. I linked it with the Is mail i tradition of intellect, and motivated students to work voluntarily for Imam in their own capacity, as it is our tradition to work for Imam. 

Intellectual importance and how it helps us to understand the creation of god was a healthy discussion between me and my students.

I provided opportunities for students to express their opinions and to criticize arguments and positions that reflect different views and also encouraged students to believe that what they learn in class is useful in life.

Later, an activity of situation was played by the students in groups, which was successful. I saw all the students were very much eager to come forward to share their views. Today class was little bit disturbed, because of group activity. I can’t blame students because I can’t force students to be quiet all the time. I want them to express, as it’s the part of my teaching.

The success of my lesson was my command over the subject and the area of learning is time management. I pre-planned a lesson of 45 minutes but it took 55 minutes. I guess that I should plan my lesson in such a way that I could complete my lesson on time. One parent also came and she was angry that I made her child sit in the class for extra 10 minutes. I will try to over come it.

DAY 12 :

Today was my last day. I was very much confused how the students would feel after knowing this news that today was my last day with them. During a short span of time, the bond of attachment between me and my students was built strong on the basis of trust. I was shocked that few of the students already knew that it was my last day. One of the students presented me a card, and all the students wrote sir I miss you on the board, which touched me deeply.

The topic of today’s lesson was the measurement of intelligence. The class was planned with a lot of activity based teaching. I was fully resourceful. I started my class by raising few of the questions related to their intelligence. I also gave the chance to the students to share their views about intellect. The class was wholly based on discussion. Integration of Quran was also made. Three activities, based on their lesson were planned. One was the friendship test; the second activity was to find out the number of A in a jumble page of alphabets by the students; and the third activity was to form 25 words out of the few alphabets given to them. All these activities explored their creativity and made them analyze that if they want, they can use their intellect properly. Few situations were also given, which showed them that we can measure intelligence in our daily lives, by giving priorities to those things first, which are more important. Students were very active and participated actively in all class activities. Book reading was also done.

Today, the class got over on time. There was no mess in class. The sitting arrangement was proper and the activities were well planned. The best part of today’s teaching was the enthusiasm of students and me. Activities were also the secret of my lesson success. The area of improvement is to be slightly slow in delivering my lesson, as I usually get excited and speak very fast, which might irritate my students.

I am assigning a task to the teachers. The topic of research is, "CHALLENGES YOU FACE IN CLASSROOM". I suggest teachers to keep a reflective journal and note day to day activity. Once you are done with it, edit it and e- mail to munirmoosa@yahoo.com. I will reply you back with my comments.




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Reading Recovery
(part 2)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Reading Recovery is a supplementary education program that aims to offer the lowest-achieving first-grade children an effective method of English language reading and writing instruction. It was designed to compromise between the two "schools" of beginning reading education, intensive phonics instruction and the whole language approach.

Reading Recovery offers daily half-hour one-on-one tutorial sessions for students who have trouble learning to read after one year of formal instruction. The program is supplementary and short-term, with most students needing from 12 to 16 weeks of instruction before they can be successfully discontinued from the program. A combination of teacher judgment and systematic evaluation procedures identify those lowest-achieving children for whom Reading Recovery was designed. The program's goal is to bring students up to the level of their peers and to give students the assistance they need to develop independent reading strategies. Once students are reading at a level equivalent to that of their peers, they are discontinued from the program.

Reading Recovery is designed to provide the social interaction that supports the students' ability to work in their "zone of proximal development"—just beyond their level of actual development—with a supportive adult who helps them solve problems and to perform. Clay's theory of learning to read is based on the idea that children construct cognitive systems to understand the world and language. These cognitive systems develop as self-extending systems that generate further learning through the use of multiple sources of information.

A Typical Reading Recovery Lesson

During the daily half-hour sessions, children read many small books, some of which are written in a style close to that of oral language. The books also often use predictable language. Teachers take a running record to analyze the child's reading performance. Children also compose and read their own messages or stories. In addition, children read slightly more challenging texts that they have not read before. Teachers provide detailed support for the children as they read these more difficult texts. Magnetic alphabet letters might be used to assist in analyzing words. Reading skills are taught in the context of extended reading and writing by Reading Recovery teachers who have completed a year-long in service education program that focuses on moment-to-moment responses to children's actions and behavior.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Available for Preorder!  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.  

Look for the sequel, Viking Treasure, this summer!

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The Effective Teacher

By: Mary Ann Graziani

The students of today are our future.  A teacher is an important part of making a better future through teaching their students.  What more rewarding career can there be than teaching?  

     A teacher has a tremendous amount of power over their students to either positively or negatively affect their students’ entire lives.  The effective teacher motivates students by creating a positive learning environment where students want to learn because they have a teacher who respects them as individuals.   They  help their students by recognizing each individual talent without favoritism or criticism.  An effective teacher has a genuine love and respect for children. They enjoy working with children and want to work with them to create a positive and nurturing learning environment.         

    An effective teacher will treat each student as an individual with unique personal experiences that they bring into the classroom community. The unique experiences each student brings can be used collaboratively and creatively in group work where all students will learn from each other through shared discussions and reflections of their personal experiences. Everyone is included and needed in the classroom community.  An effective teacher will encourage imagination and creativity through exploring, observation, and freedom of expression. Every student is involved in the decision making process that involves their classroom and encouraged to make choices that affects not only them but also their classroom community.  Diversity is embraced in the classroom and lesson planning is inclusive of everyone in the classroom. 

     An effective teacher believes that all children can learn and grow.  Every child is given choices and personal freedom of expression in order to promote their growth in learning.  The effective teacher knows that if children are shown respect, they will show respect in return.  They show respect by enabling children to assume responsibility for their own learning.  The effective teacher encourages their students to build meaningful relationships with them and their fellow classmates.

     The effective teacher knows that all children are unique in their learning style and that their understanding is based on their own unique experiences.  They understand that by catering to individual learning styles, teaching can be geared to develop the whole child.

     To truly learn what qualities it takes to be an effective teacher; perhaps it is best to look at what the students believe makes a great teacher. Brian Zkmund-Fisher, Coordinator of TA Support, Eberly Center for Teacher Excellence (1998) compiled information from numerous student evaluation forms to find out what students think. Here are some of the responses:

Enthusiastic in discussing course material.

Makes me feel free to ask questions.

Listens to what students had to say.

Manages student participation in an equitable way.

Encourages students to participate actively in class.

Raises challenging questions for discussion.

Never intimidates or embarrasses students.

Helps students learn from one another.

Uses student questions as a source of discovering points of confusion.

Is readily available for consultation with students.

Treats all students with respect.

Gives constructive feedback on students' work.

Grades assignments in a fair and consistent manner.

Manages class time effectively.

Stresses important points in class.

Slows down when discussing complex and difficult topics.

Is consistently well prepared and organized for class.

Is well prepared to answer questions.

Grasps and responds to student questions and comments.

Is able to give alternative explanations when needed.

Uses examples and illustrations which are clear and concise.

Is able to explain concepts in terms students can understand.

Relates theories and concepts to practical issues.

Gives directions for assignments that are clear and specific.

Carefully explains each step of new processes and techniques.

Is patient with students.

Encourages students to seek their own solutions to artistic questions or problems. 


     The effective teacher has the ability, motivation, and above all, the wonderful opportunity to elevate humanity and themselves in the process of teaching. Can there be a better career than this?


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"The Great Fire and the Little Water"
Author Unknown

Themes on Life

What do you do with the gifts you have?

Among the Aztec people of Mexico, it is said that a long time ago there was a great fire in the forests that covered our Earth. People and animals started to run, trying to escape from the fire. Our brother owl, Tecolotl, was running away also when he noticed a small bird hurrying back and forth between the nearest river and the fire. He headed towards this small bird.

He noticed that it was our brother the Quetzal bird, Quetzaltototl, running to the river, picking up small drops of water in his beak, then returning to the fire to throw that tiny bit of water on the flame. Owl approached Quetsal bird and yelled at him: "What are you doing brother? Are you stupid? You are not going to achieve anything by doing this. What are you trying to do? You must run for your life!"

Quetzal bird stopped for a moment and looked at owl, and then answered: "I am doing the best I can with what I have."

It is remembered by our Grandparents that a long time ago the forests that covered our Earth were saved from a great fire by a small Quetzal bird, an owl, and many other animals and people who got together to put out the fire.


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Greetings to our readers, and welcome to your second May 2010 issue of Features for Teachers.  As classes start to wrap up for the school year, we're continuing a couple of series of articles including Action Research, Preparing For Student Teaching, and 21st Century Learning.  

Hank Kellner is back with a fifth article from his book, Write What You See.   We also have an article from Kim Taylor-DiLeva on using American Sign Language to re-direct off-task students.  And as always, we have articles with practical ideas and techniques to be applied directly into your classroom.   

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

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

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

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


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Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and The Way They Learn

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Preparing for Student Teaching

Technology & Teaching: 21st Century Teaching and Learning

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Preparation Over The Summer


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See All Weekly Math Problems from 2007-2009!

click here for the math archives!

10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 Something is on sale for $45.00 and it is  advertised  25% percent off? How much is it going to cost?
Day 2 In 6.25, which digit is in the ones place?
Day 3 In 51.70, in which place is the 5?
Day 4 In 1.7, which digit is in the tenths place?
Day 5 In 9.8, in which place is the 9?
Day 6 In 0.5, which digit is in the tenths place?
Day 7 In 0.6, which digit is in the ones place?
Day 8 In 0.32, in which place is the 3?
Day 9 In 0.8, in which place is the 8?
Day 10 In 85.20, in which place is the 5?


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


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