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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 6, Issue 17
September 2010
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

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

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   Textbooks - Here Today, Gone Tomorrow   Clash of the Titans
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: Refine Your Twitter #edapp Search Article of the Week Revisited Themes on Life: 
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Tourette Syndrome (part 1)
New Teacher's Niche:
The Writing Process (part 4)
Student Teachers' Lounge: Building Positive Relationships with Your Librarian
Book of the Month Club:
Inspiring Middle and Secondary Learners
  Website of the Month:
  Article of the Week: "Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?"

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


Feature Writer

Clash of the Titans

by Chris Sura

Chris Sura, upon earning his Bachelors at Western Michigan University worked for Central Michigan University in Housing before teaching at River Valley High School. When he moved to Houghton Lake where he currently teaches, Chris completed his Masters in Education at Central Michigan University. A member of the Crossroads Writing Project through Ferris State University, he facilitates a conference on Professional Writing every summer and does online instruction through Kirtland Community College. He is married to Heidi, his wife of twenty years, and has two kids, Christopher and Grace. Chris writes poetry and fiction and has self published a book of poems. 

You can visit Chris at his website www.surawordz.com

In 1981, Clash of the Titans hit the cinemas. Being a fan of fantasy and mythology, I eagerly went with my friends and enjoyed the movie. At the time, I never thought it could be a lesson that I could use in a classroom. Several years later, it is has become part of the introduction to my Science Fiction and Fantasy class.

In the class, I show how elements of mythology evolve into the elements that make up fantasy and science fiction. To establish this baseline, I do short unit on Greek mythology. This includes the story of Perseus, which is the basis of Clash of the Titans. The unit closes with a great opportunity to write a compare/contrast essay between the movie and the myth-proper.

After brainstorming and recalling all the myths, gods, heroes and monsters the students can remember, I start connecting the random names and things. Students are most familiar with Odysseus, some recall Hercules thanks to Disney, but few are familiar with Perseus. Therefore, it makes a great lesson because it can be something new.

Many of the students know who Medusa was and what she could do. Also, the concept of the winged horse, Pegasus, is familiar. They, however, did not know the connection between the two or how they relate to Perseus.

A fun way to get the class involved is through MythWeb.com. They have a page on Heroes that takes you to Perseus. Through the site, the students can read an encapsulated (and animated) version of the myth. I have my students take notes on the order of events. We discuss things like the Pegasus connection, how Perseus came to be, as well as why he needed Medusas head.

Next in the unit is to watch the movie. The 1981 version of Clash of the Titans is lacking in special effects. It was great at the time, but with CGI technology in film making, my students found parts of the movie difficult to watch without laughter. The students, with a few prompts on the board or discussions, learn to pick up the differences of the film to the myth-proper. The movie does a good job illustrating how key bits of information are kept and how a Hollywood adaptation changes other parts. For example, Pegasus was born from the blood of the slain Medusa; yet in the movie, he was captured by Perseus so he could travel more easily.

The two story lines are engaging. The students over the years have written some good essays picking a part the movies adaptation of the myth-proper. The students have had fun. Even if you do not have a science fiction class, it is a different avenue to writing a compare-contrast essay.

Now comes the remake. The 2010 remake had awesome special effects that enticed the current movie-goer. The story moved much faster, and the story changed more drastically. King Acrisius of Argos was told that his grandson, Perseus would kill him and at the very end of the myth-proper, Perseus accidently does kill his grandfather. In the 1981 version, the king is killed in the beginning by the Kraken (a titan). In the new version, the king is directed by the gods to stop Perseus in his quest and does later die by Perseus hand.

I have debated whether to take the compare-contrast further by comparing both movies. The 2010 version even changes things from the 1981 version. But, maybe I would be getting carried away.

No matter what I do next, taking a movie I enjoyed years ago and bringing in mythology to write an essay has been a fun and flexible unit.


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Refine Your Twitter 
#edapp Search

By Tony Vincent

Learning in Hand is an educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies with students.Tony Vincent

Learning in Hand is written by Tony Vincent. Tony taught fifth grade in Omaha, Nebraska for six years, and three of those years his students were pioneers in educational handheld computing. Then, as technology specialist at Willowdale Elementary, Tony brought the newest technologies into classrooms. Whether it was digital video, blogs, email, podcasts, or handhelds, Tony helped Willowdale teachers and students understand the usefulness of new technologies. Currently, Tony is self-employed as an education consultant. He conducts workshops, presents at conferences, and writes books based on his teaching experiences and passion for new technologies.

Always excited to share, Tony has documented much of what he knows about handheld computing and podcasting on his website, learninginhand.com. There you'll find useful software collections, the best webs links for handhelds, complete lesson plans, and an informative blog.

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.

Twitter has become a valuable tool to discover educational apps. I've written about the #edapp keyword tag, and Episode #22 of my podcast features apps I learned about through the Twitter #edapp tag. Since searching Twitter is now a part of my daily routine, I thought I'd share some search tips.

When you use the twitter.com website, you can save a search. Login and input your search into the box on the right side of the page. On the search results page, click Save this search. The search text will appear on the right side of the page under Saved Searches each time you're logged in. You can click the saved search to see the latest results without having to retype the search.  Your Saved Searches also appear in many Twitter apps for handy access. 

Before you save your search, consider refining it. You can refine the #edapp search to produce results that are more useful. One thing you can do is add more tags to the search. I've added #iear to my search. #iear is the tag used by the I Educational Apps Review community. I've also added #slide2learn. Slide to Learn 2010 was a conference in Australia devoted to Apple's handhelds and the conversion continues on Twitter. To have your search display results from all three tags, enter the following into the search field (be sure to capitalize OR):

#edapp OR #iear OR #slide2learn

Retweets are when someone repeats someone else's Twitter update. Retweets are a way for users to give credit to the original author and to repeat the information to their own followers. Most of the time retweets start with RT. I often look out for RTs because these are the tweets that someone thought were so important that they were worth repeating. However, retweets can be annoying when reading through the results of a Twitter search because you find yourself reading the same tweets over and over. You can omit retweets from your search results by adding -RT to your search string. I've refined my search to:

#edapp OR #iear OR #slide2learn -RT

Just as you can omit retweets, you can use the minus sign to exclude tweets that contain certain words and tweets from specific users. For example, I do not want tweets from the Twitter username _EducationApps_ to appear in my search results. So, I type a minus in front of _EducationApps_ in my search string so that tweets from this user do not clutter my results:

#edapp OR #iear OR #slide2learn -RT -_EducationApps_

I can, of course, refine my search string even more. As I read through my search results, there will probably be more users I want to remove from my results and perhaps more keyword terms I want to add. 

To sum up, instead of simply saving a search for #edapp, you can refine your search string so that you are one click or tap away from reading tweets that are of interest to you.



iPod Touch

Order your own iPod Touch Today with the links below:



Mastering Basic Skills software:


There are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to say this is the most important basic skill for not just to survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment. Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory & Concentration in an individual, namely: 1. Picture recognition
2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
4. Serial processing
5. Parallel processing
6. Recognition and Recall
Each of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to difficult.

At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as Scores Obtained.

A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18 levels depending on the marks one scores during the test. 

Each individual can assess his/her performance any time by clicking on "history", which gives complete details of date and time of taking the tests, marks scored each time and even time taken to do the test. This builds the confidence level and encourages more participation to eventually culminate in improvement and enhancement of memory and concentration.

Essentially, this software is a SELF AWARENESS tool that surely motivates the individual to realize one's capability and seek or be receptive for improvement. Also, if repeatedly done over a period of time works as Training tool to enhance their capability.
This software package is specifically designed to help young children to learn basic skills that will help them in school.  Continued follow-up will give these young learners success as they mature.  

Three versions of the software exist: Individual Software on either CD or Online,   Family Version Software, and an Institutional Software package.

StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports and endorses this software.  It will make a difference with your child or student.

Click HERE to order your own copy today:



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

Building Positive Relationships with Your School Librarian -

By Dr. Peter Manute., Educational Consultant

This is the third article in the series, dealing with your library staff. Your school library staff can provide you with many important services connected with your curriculum.

A good librarian, or media specialist as they are being called in many schools, is certainly an asset to your district. 

The traditional librarian role has been changing rapidly, even over the past ten years.  With great changes in technology and communication, a media specialist must readily handle the tremendous variety of computer hardware, software, and all of those 'connective tissues' - the cables, wires, peripherals, and even the controls of every piece of equipment from vcrs to dvds to camcorders.

The internet has revolutionalized the world's communication and the way we research.  Libraries are moving away from thousands of tomes to computer terminals where entire buildings of information and texts can be found.  Many books and periodicals are now found on-line.  E-books, with their low cost and easily-updated versions, are quickly gaining both popularity and a share of the literary market.  Hand-held computers, which utilize E-books and downloadable text books, are being used around the country.

Your librarian / media specialist can help you with projects you may wish to have students do in class.  These can include basic book reports or research papers, or they may be elaborate multi-media presentations using PowerPoint or other computer programs.  In many cases, libraries are also school computer labs, and if you can get in good with your librarian, you may be able to schedule optimal times for your class. Librarians may also be the ones to check out tech materials, such as vcrs, dvds, and cameras. 

All in all, it is worth your time to get to know your local librarian, and build a positive relationship.  They can make your teaching life easier and more productive.


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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

Textbooks - Here Today, Gone Tomorrow 

By Mark Benn
Middle School Teacher

Mark Benn teaches math and ELA at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI. He completed his Masters of Science from Full Sail University on June 4, 2010. He is the educational/ technology writer for an online newletter called Star Teaching. He can be reached via email at mackinacfurtrader@gmail.com.

Last month I talked about grades and when they're appropriate. This month I'd like to take a look at something we, as teachers, do every day.

As the opening bell, buzzer, light, or whatever goes off every morning in every school across the nation, teachers have already made many decisions that apply to what the students will learn that day. This has been a time honored part of being a teacher for as long as teachers have been around. In the last century, the learning has centered around textbooks written for every subject. Even today, this practice continues throughout our nation and world.

Each week a teacher plans out their lessons based on the textbook they're using, following page by page and chapter by chapter until they complete the textbook or the school year runs out. You may say, yeah, your point?

My point is that the 21st century (the digital age) has arrived and with it a whole new way of doing things. You may ask, why should I change just because something new has come along? I agree, no one should change just because something new is available. Change should take place when it's more beneficial.

Observe your students and consider what you see. Are they truly engaged in that textbook, or are they checking out? I had a fellow teacher remark to me a year ago that she didn't see students very interested in their textbook anymore. How about you? Does going through a textbook page by page and chapter by chapter really fulfil your state standards, or is it just easier.

In all of this, does it meet the needs of today's students.

In the last two years, brain research has changed what we thought about how the brain works. With the help of technology we can see that today's students are different from the past in how their brain functions. These "screenagers", as some have called them, even prefer different colors then in the past. Blood red and neon green are some of their favorite colors. Their least favorite color is black. We're not talking about what color they like to wear, but what they like to see on the screen or in print. I've watched many students reverse the colors on their computer screens so it's white on black, instead of black on white. Now think of these implications when it comes to textbooks. I've seen students enjoy reading a book on their handheld computer, which is digital, compared to reading a hardcover book.

In the January 2008 edition of Technology & Learning magazine an article entitled "Top 10 Tech Trends" written by Susan McLester states In the recent report, A Revolution in K-12 Digital Content How Soon Is Now? research group Eduventures declares the textbook "dead...or at least dying" as the "primary content delivery mechanism" for schools. In another article from the same edition Tom McHale writes an article entitled "Tossing Out Textbooks" where he talks about a Tucson high school that has done away with textbooks and gone totally digital using laptops.

As we've talked about in the past, today's students are more engaged when it comes to learning in student centered  classrooms vs. the traditional teacher centered approach. So are you ready to make a change? You don't have to have a bank of computers to make the change, but it does help. In my next article I'll talk about ways you can break the textbook dependency cycle. Till then, think about it.


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




  StarTeaching Feature Writer

Article of the Week Revisited

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 fantasy novels, The Longquist Adventures: Western Odyssey and Viking Treasure. He is also putting together a book on teaching writing at the middle school level.

This past year, I had the honor of putting into practice the educational theory and pedagogy of Kelly Gallagher, a tremendously inspirational teacher from California.  I was turned on to his book, Readicide, by a colleague, and the practical applications of Gallagher's book absolutely rocked my teaching world.  

One aspect in particular that Gallagher promotes is the expository reading practice he calls 'Article of the Week.'  Taken from real sources like Time Magazine, US News and World Report, and leading newspapers from around the country, Gallagher provides his students with real, engaging articles that are relevant to their lives and give them the background knowledge to understand issues in our world today.  

On Kelly Gallagher's website, www.kellygallagher.org, under the link to 'Resources,' you can find his entire selection of Articles of the Week, both this year (as he posts them) and from the previous year.  This was the starting point for my classroom, as I used a few of his AoWs to get started.  But soon, I was finding my own articles that were relevant to my middle school kids here in Michigan.  

I then took Gallagher's idea a step further by coupling the expository reading practice with the SQ3R reading strategy.  Initially, I taught this strategy (as I do every fall), but this time I had a real connection for my kids to use the strategy in attacking a real-life source.  After a few times of utilizing the SQ3R graphic organizer (you can find on our website), I began to incorporate it directly on the back page of the AoW.  

I also added a FREEWRITE (see our website) to each Article of the Week so that the students could respond to a writing prompt related to the content of the article.  

In the pictures below, you can see an example of one of my articles of the week, and I've added a link to the PDF file which you can download and use in your classroom, or feel free to adjust it to fit your particular needs.  I'm going to add this feature, the AoW PDF as a monthly segment on the newsletters' left sidebar, which again you are all welcome to use for FREE!  It won't take long before you are adjusting them and finding your own AoWs for your own kids.

This first Article of the Week is titled, "Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?" and it is a great one to get your students thinking about common misconceptions and urban myths.  You can download the PDF file for this by clicking any of the pages or the link below.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4
  Click here to download the PDF  



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Tourette Syndrome
(part 1)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Tourette syndrome also called Tourette's syndrome, Tourette Spectrum (TS), Tourette's disorder, or Gilles de la Tourette syndrome, is a neurological or neurochemical disorder characterized by tics: involuntary, rapid, sudden movements or vocalizations that occur repeatedly in the same way.

The eponym was bestowed by Jean-Martin Charcot after and on behalf of his resident, Georges Edouard Albert Brutus Gilles de la Tourette, (1859 - 1904), French physician and neurologist.

According to the DSM-IV-TR, TS is indicated when a person exhibits both multiple motor and one or more vocal tics (although these do not need to be concurrent) over the period of 1 year, with no more than 3 consecutive tic-free months. Previous versions of the DSM required that the disturbance must cause distress or impairment in the individual's normal functioning, but this requirement has been removed from the most recent version of the DSM, in recognition that not everyone with the diagnosis has distress or impairment to functioning. The onset must have been before the age of 18, and cannot be attributed to the use of a substance or another medical condition.

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 200 experience some form of TS. Males are affected 3 to 4 times more often than females. Some cases decrease in severity or cease entirely upon reaching adulthood.

As it is a spectrum disorder, the severity of the condition can range vastly. Those with mild cases are often highly functioning, so much so that others would not know of their condition. More severe cases (which are the minority) can inhibit or prevent the individual from engaging in common activities such as holding a job, having a fulfilling social life, or maintaining his/her basic needs.

Other commonly associated disorders are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Recent research by Doctor Matthew State at Yale University suggests that Tourette Syndrome may be caused by an inversion defect on chromosome 13 of gene SLITRK1. This means that Tourette Syndrome can be inherited or caused by mutation. However, this research appears to apply to a very small minority of cases (1 - 2 %), and studies to locate all of the genes implicated in Tourette's syndrome are ongoing.

Other genetic studies indicate tic disorders, including TS, are inherited as a dominant gene(s) that may produce varying symptoms in different family members. A person with TS has about a 50% chance of passing the gene(s) to one of his/her children. However, the gene(s) may express as TS, as a milder tic disorder, or as obsessive compulsive symptoms with no tics at all. It is known that a higher than usual incidence of milder tic disorders and obsessive compulsive behaviors are more common in the families of TS patients. The sex of the child also influences the expression of the gene(s). The chance that the child of a person with TS will have the disorder is at least three times higher for a son than for a daughter. Yet only a minority of the children who inherit the gene(s) will have symptoms severe enough to ever require medical attention. In some cases, TS may not be inherited; these cases are identified as "sporadic" TS because a genetic link is missing.


Part 2 of this series will look at the symptoms of Tourette Syndrome.  


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Now Available!  2nd Book in the Longquist Series:

Viking Treasure

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

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

Not fully trusting his one-legged mentor, the time-traveling boy must rely on his own wits and ideals to escape terrifying, colossal beasts and unexpected, treacherous mutiny.  Can he survive in a world where nothing is what it seems?

Click Here For The
Longquist Adventures Website

Now Available!
Now Available!
Now Available! Now Available!
Part mystery, part science fiction, Year of the Dogman is an imaginative, compelling, and adrenaline-pumping adventure. Author Frank Holes, Jr. takes no prisoners in creating a diabolical creature that leaves the forest to prey on the hapless hamlet of Twin Lakes in Northern Michigan . When night falls, the nocturnal beast, Dogman, scares the living daylights out of anyone he happens upon as he searches for a timeless treasure stolen from a Native American tribe. In the midst of the chaos, a young teacher is forced to put two and two together no matter how high the cost to rid the village of the treacherous man-beast who thrives on destruction and terror.   In The Haunting of Sigma, Frank Holes, Jr. returns fans of the legendary Dogman to the wild world of cryptozoology in Northern Michigan .  This darker, far more sinister prequel to 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. 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.   Based upon the epic Greek tale of The Odyssey, yet set in the American Wild West, The Longquist Adventures: Western Odyssey chronicles the journey of a young boy and his guide through a perilous world of dangerous encounters and fantastic creatures.  It is a world of gun fights at high noon, stampedes on the great plains, stagecoach robbery, and an ultimate showdown with a ruthless, powerful gangster aboard a turn-of-the-century paddlewheel in the San Francisco Bay.  Can the time-traveling boy and the law-abiding Marshal restore order to the chaos of the American West gone truly wild?

Click Here For The
Year of the Dogman Website

Click Here For The
Haunting of Sigma Website


Click Here For The
Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen Website

Click Here For The
Western Odyssey Website

The Dogman, a creature of MythMichigan, is an excellent example of modern-day folklore to study in your classes.   


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


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




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

The Writing Process
(part 4)
Grading Procedures for Paragraph Writing

This is the fourth article in a series on using the writing process in class. 

The beauty of our class Paragraph system is its administration and management.  It is designed so that the teacher is NOT spending hours out of school grading every minor and major detail.   


Instead, the teacher grades the papers based on the FCA (Focal Correction Areas) chosen for the paragraph.  These are the specific areas that students concentrated on while writing.  The FCAs will evolve through the year as the focus moves from basic formatting of the paragraphs to concentrating on different aspects of the writing craft.  Dont worry about correcting everything on every paper youll lose your sanity! 

Students are going to make mistakes.  But they are also going to learn as they practice the writing craft OFTEN.  Choose to correct and work on a few items at a time so they are not overwhelmed (and you are not overwhelmed by looking for everything when you grade). 


Much of the teachers role in checking papers is to walk around the class WHILE the students are actually engaged in writing.  Help the students as you go, answer questions and give guidance where necessary.  Help the students to be successful at the assignment by making sure they have covered all of the FCAs. 

Give generous praise to the students for their work and efforts.  It is not easy for students to write in a constrained time period.  Remind students that they dont have worries about time because they are strong, creative writers. 

Students MUST check their FCAs when they finish and give themselves a score at the top of the paper.  We DO NOT accept papers without a score at the top. 


Many times we will pass out the papers the next day (or even the same day if you have time) to DIFFERENT students and peer check them.  The peer checking always involves proofreading for mistakes and spelling, and scanning for banned words.  However, the peer checking should also include looking at revision, editing, and reflection. 


  We chose 20 points for our paragraphs because that particular number matches up with other similar assignments with the same points.  Each FCA is worth points, and in many cases 2 points each.  Students have already checked their FCAs and written a score at the top.  The teachers job is to double check that the FCAs have been adequately covered in the paper.  This should take only a few seconds to scan the paper. 

  Choose and develop your FCAs wisely!  Let the students do the work for you!  Have them circle, underline, or draw a box around items you want to grade.  Have them label with letters or numbers in circles.  That way, you use THEIR energy to help save YOURS!

  As the students write through the year, many FCAs will be repeated until mastered by the class.  This repetition is great for practice, and the teacher will become faster and more proficient at looking for those particular areas.   For example, we use many of the basic formatting FCAs well into the year.  Areas such as Restating the Topic in the Topic Sentence, Restating the Topic in the Clincher Statement, and Circling the Personal Life Experience, are utilized throughout the year because it reminds students of the basics of paragraph writing:  1.  Tell what you are going to tell your audience, 2.  Tell them, and 3.  Tell them what you told them.  


We do allow students to fix paragraphs and turn them back in for a corrected score.  This is at the teachers discretion.  The student can keep the grade, or correct it within 24 hours and hand the paper back in.  This helps the student to see the mistakes made AND then correct them. 


  Students are sometimes absent from class.  We DO NOT make up writing assignments.  By writing nearly every day, the students are going to get plenty of good practice.  The next writing assignment will count double, and that same grade will be put into the grade  book spot of the missed writing.

Use this link to access this writing assignment on our website for your own classroom use:



Part 5 of this series will discuss how we use the writing process as students begin writing paragraphs.



Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use immediately in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm

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Be sure to check out our website for more great information, tips, and techniques for new teachers, student-teachers, and interns in teacher prep programs. Also be sure to check out our Who-I-Want-To-Be teacher plan for preparing yourself to enter the educational profession.  Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

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Author Unknown

Themes on Life

The things we learn from the most unusual of places...

Everyone in the apartment complex I lived in knew who Ugly was. Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: fighting, eating garbage, and shall we say, love.

The combination of these things combined with a life spent outside had their effect on Ugly. To start with, he had only one eye, and where the other should have been was a gaping hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot has appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.

His tail has long age been lost, leaving only the smallest stub, which he would constantly jerk and twitch. Ugly would have been a dark gray tabby striped-type, except for the sores covering his head, neck, and even his shoulders with thick, yellowing scabs. Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. Thats one UGLY cat!!

All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks at him, hosed him down, squirted him when he tried to come in their homes, or shut his paws in the door when he would not leave. Ugly always had the same reaction. If you turned the hose on him, he would stand there, getting soaked until you gave up and quit. If you threw things at him, he would curl his lanky body around feet in forgiveness.

Whenever he spied children, he would come running meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love. If ever someone picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.

One day Ugly shared his love with the neighbors huskies. They did not respond kindly, and Ugly was badly mauled. From my apartment I could hear his screams, and I tried to rush to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Uglys sad life was almost at an end.

Ugly lay in a wet circle, his back legs and lower back twisted grossly out of shape, a gaping tear in the white strip of fur that ran down his front. As I picked him up and tried to carry him home I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. I must be hurting him terribly, I thought. Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear.

Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned his one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring. Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion.

At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, or even try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.

Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.

Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful. He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply.

It was time to give my all to those I cared for. Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me, I will always try to be like Ugly.


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Day 1 If the Tigers, the Bolts, the Ravens, and the Rams are playing in the same sports league, in how many
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Day 7 An online auction includes listings for 2 items. If the listings all close at different times, in how many different orders could the listings close?
Day 8 A steakhouse wants to add a healthy option by offering a salad bar, with 2 items. In how many different orders could the manager decide to arrange the items in a row?
Day 9 An art teacher lines up a pink marker, a gray marker, a brown marker, a blue marker, and a red marker in a tray. In how many different orders can she line them up?
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