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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 7, Issue 8
April 2011
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   The LEAST APPROACH to Classroom Discipline (part 7)   NEW! Science Selections: Rad Resources for Science Educators
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See"
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Communication is Changing
From the Administrator's Desk: To Tell the Truth
Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
A Nation At Risk
New Teacher's Niche:
Challenges of Curriculum
 (part 1)
Student Teachers' Lounge: Learning Pods and Classroom Setup
Book of the Month Club:
The Art of Teaching Reading
  Website of the Month:
  Themes on Life: 
"Power of Teaching"
Article of the Week: "Preparing for High School"   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.

Email your resume and letter of interest to:  editor@starteaching.com



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The LEAST Approach to Classroom Discipline
(part 7)


Robert R. Carkhuff

Copyright 1981

The Michigan Project and Northern Michigan University

  Used with permission

The LEAST approach to classroom discipline is a simple survival strategy for the teacher.  It is a response to teachers’ urgent pleas for quick and easy methods they can use in the face of mounting discipline problems.  Succinctly stated in the words of one teacher, “We must survive before we can grow.”  It involves the “least” methods that should be employed to facilitate and maintain classroom control.  LEAST is an acronym for the following activities of the teacher: 

L- Leave things alone when no problems are likely to ensue
E- End the action indirectly when the behavior is disrupting classroom activities
A- Attend more fully when you need to obtain more information and/or communicate
S- Spell out directions when disruption and/or harm will occur
T- Track student progress when following through to evaluate and reinforce behavior.

Option #5:  Track Student Progress

When Should You Track Student Progress?

ALWAYS track students' progress.  For one thing, this is an excellent way to let students know that you're paying attention to them.  For another, tracking progress is the only way you can determine whether or not a specific disciplinary approach has been successful.

What does “Track Student Progress” Mean?

Tracking students' progress means seeing how students are behaving in the minutes, hours, and even days following their involvement in some type of disciplinary situation.  There are four different activities in which the teacher may engage here: evaluating new behavior of the students involved (Are they doing what you asked?", following through on previously outlined consequences (if the students are not doing as you requested); providing positive reinforcement in a direct (e.g., praising more constructive behavior) or indirect manner (e.g., giving the student a chance to lead a discussion); and keeping the "track record.".

Why Track Student Progress?

Handling disciplinary problems without checking out the results of your actions is like trying to carry on a conversation without being able to hear the other person's comments: after awhile you can no longer tell whether you're having any constructive impact.  Only by tracking the progress of students who have been involved in the problems can you learn how effective your disciplinary efforts are -- and how they must be modified to achieve better results..

How Can You Track Student Progress?

As indicated above, tracking students' progress may involve the teacher in as many as four different activities.  Let's consider each activity in turn.

  1. Evaluating New Behavior
    When you choose to ignore an undesirable behavior, you do so because you're convinced that behavior will disappear without your intervention.  When you act to resolve a problem, you expect the student or students involved to behave more constructively in the future.  In either case, you will need to follow up to make sure the situation really has improved.  The simplest way to do this is to observe and listen to the student and try to answer some questions.  If you either did not act on the original incident or merely stopped the action without giving directions for future behavior, you'll want to answer the question, "Is this student behaving better or worse than he/she was in the problem situation?"  If the student's behavior deteriorates or remains unsatisfactory, you will need to provide some firm guidance.  If the student's behavior has improved, even if only slightly, you will want to positively reinforce such improvement.

    If you deal with the original problem by issuing directions you will want to follow up by asking, "Is this student doing what I requested?"  If the problem recurs, you may need to outline some consequences.  If the student is not doing what you requested but is still performing in a generally improved manner, you'll need to decide whether you can live with the new situation.  If the student is doing as you requested, you will certainly want to reinforce this new behavior.
  2. Following Through on Consequences
    It is probably inevitable that you will encounter some students who cannot take direction.  Billy is flicking the lights on and off.  You as him to stop and take his seat.  He does, but five minutes later he's at the light switch again.  If you have outlined the consequences of his actions, you will now have to follow through: "Billy, I told you before that you would have to come in after class if you continued flicking the lights.  And now I'm afraid that's just what you'll have  to do."  Here again, it is important to help Billy understand that he is solely responsible for the consequences of his actions.
  3. Positively Reinforcing New Behaviors
    It is impossible to underrate the importance of rewarding students for constructive behavior.  We all would like to think that being polite or talking softly, for example, are to be expected and require no reward.  Yet the truth is, all of us have added most to our constructive behaviors when others have rewarded us for doing those things.  (Be honest: Doesn't a student chorus of, "You really look sharp today" encourage us to dress that way again?)

    As a general rule, you should find ways to reinforce any student's constructive  behavior in the classroom.  It is particularly important to do so when a student who has been involved in a problem situation develops some better activity.  Only by positively reinforcing the behaviors you want in the classroom can you hope to perpetuate and promote them -- and to avoid that familiar, mumbled criticism, "The teacher never pays any attention to me unless I'm doing something wrong!"

    You can positively reinforce students in two ways: directly and indirectly:
    a.  Direct reinforcement makes it clear to the student that you are pleased with a specific activity or accomplishment.  A comment on a paper -- "Good Job, Karen!" -- may mean more to the student than the grade itself.  Vocal praise also serves to reinforce behavior directly: "John, that was great.  You were really paying attention!"

    b.  Indirect reinforcement is more subtle, often rewarding the student without explicitly linking the reward with the constructive behavior.  Here you might reward a student who has overcome a problem by giving him or her a new responsibility such as leading a discussion or organizing a project.  Or you might simply give the student an extra smile and make sure you call on him or her for comments.

    Direct reinforcement will be translated by the student into a principle along the lines of, "If I act like this, I'll get that."  Indirect reinforcement, in contrast, often means, "When I'm doing well, good things tend to happen."

    Try to develop a list of as many direct and indirect means of reinforcing students in your class as possible.  A word of caution here: Remember that your reinforcements must be considered positive from the student's point of view.   You may think that collecting papers from the class is a rewarding task, but your post-problem student may see the reward as a "real drag."

See the rest of OPTION #5 in our next issue!



Watch for more on the LEAST APPROACH coming up in the next issue!


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Using Photography To Inspire Writing

By Hank Kellner

Hank Kellner is a retired teacher of English who has served as a department chair at the high school level and an adjunct associate professor of English at the community college level.

He is the former publisher of Moneygram, a marketing newsletter for photographer.  He is also the creator of many photographs and articles that have appeared in publications nationwide, the author of extensive reading comprehension materials for a publisher of educational materials, and a former contributor to Darkroom Photography magazine.  His self-syndicated series, Twelve Unknown Heroes of the American Revolution appeared in more than fifty newspapers and magazines nationwide.

Kellner's most recent publication, Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing, is marked by Prufrock Press.  His blog appears regularly at hank-englisheducation.blogspot.com.

The purpose of Hank's most recent work, Reflections, is to inspire student writing through the use of poetry and photography.  

Most of the poems and photos have been submitted by students, teachers, and others nationwide, though some are directly from Hank.  Although Reflections has not yet been published, all of its contents are copyrighted.  Teachers are free, however, to download selected contents for use in their classrooms.

Each selection will include a poem, a photograph, a direct quotation, and four trigger words.

We at StarTeaching kindly thank Hank for his permission to use the materials.


Where I'm From
By Lisa Logsdon

I’m from lake effect,
From cotton candy bombardments
And blue crispy pathways.
I am from icicle trees,
Bending their branches to shake hands with the snow.
(shifting, shimmering, silence is loud).

I am from three dogs, four cats, one horse and a chicken.
They all had their tricks when we had the right treats.

I am from the tire swing,
From cider-drenched air, cicada’s tambourines,
And the hot sawdust perfume of grandpa’s garage.
I am from clothesline windows and berry bush curtains,                  
From settle down and speak up,
And children are seen but not heard.
I’m from the clean plate club,
Where the amount of my love equals the amount that I eat.

I’m from Parkman, Burton and Troy ,
From launching rocks at the sun like a fish out of water.
I’m from my father’s greasy hands
That threw softballs with the fireflies.
I’m from my mother’s good faith,
And achievements without payoff.
I’m from a one-armed coat hanger,
from unfinished business.
I’m a work in progress,
Painting on the canvas of my life.

Photo 9 By Hank Kellner

Some people are your relatives but others are your ancestors, and you choose the ones you want to have as ancestors. You create yourself out of those values”  ~Ralph Ellison



Smoldering Grass and Slithering Mice
By Martha Walker

Who can understand their dreams?   
The dark man on the corner leans
Against the house under the stars
He hears the sound of dancing cars.

They jump and leap and spin around.
The quiet man lies on the ground.
In his hand he holds a stick
The man performs a magic trick. 

The stars burst open in the sky
While nearby flies a butterfly,
And the grass goes up in the flames
The man sighs and his head hangs. 

I watch him secretly from the cave
His body limp I try to save.
The stoplight hisses green and red
The noisy message hurts my head.

A hawk hops toward the ground.
The mouse slithers without a sound
Moonbeams toward the corner fly
Around the bend and pierce my eye.

The dark man stands facing the door.
He’s finished leading his final tour.
The people, worthless, stop and stand
And I hold a stick in my hand


Photo 8 by Hank Kellner

"If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.”

- Marc Chagall


Copyright 2009 Hank Kellner

These poem/photo combinations are from Hank Kellner's upcoming publication, Reflections: A Collection of Poetry, Photos, and More.


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


iPod Touch

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:



Feature Writer

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To Tell The Truth
By Jerry Judge
School Leadership

Jerry Judge is a Affiliate Professor with Grand Valley State University.  Prior to this he was a High School principal at L'Anse , Kalkaska and Royal Oak for a total of 25 years. During his tenure in education he has observed many changes and has had the opportunity to work with many outstanding teachers in Northern Michigan. His position with Grand Valley is to work with educators on leadership and writing articles on leadership for all educators. 

I had a conversation with one of the superintendants I had to opportunity to work with, Larry Nichols,
Superintendent of Royal Oak. During that conversation he made the statement , “ When you tell the
truth you don’t have to remember what you told the other guy”. Today in education this quote makes
even more sense. How many time have we observed leaders caught in statements that contradicted
what they have previously reported.

During the years I served as a high school principal I found that the more correct information the
staff received the less likely that rumors will start. I once heard it said about an organization, “ If you
haven’t heard a rumor by 10:00 O’clock , start one”. Of course some information may be confidential
and is not available to everyone, and this information should not be shared. But there is other
information important to the staff that should be given at appropriate times. It is important that the
leaders let the staff know though emails and staff meetings of what is taking place. This is especially
true during financial situations that affect the personnel and their employment

Recently I had a conversation with an administrator that had been a teacher in the building where I
was principal. At that time he was head basketball coach with a win/ loss record that was less than
successful. I had a conversation with him at the end of his season, I instructed him that he was a good
coach, but people were starting to complain about the lack of success. Before the conversations become
uncomfortable or hostile, I instructed him to resign from that position and try another sport. I suggested
that when he would like to return as head coach he would be given the opportunity. He did resign and
went on to become a very successful volley ball and golf coach. Recently I had a conversation with this
individual and he brought up how much he appreciated me telling him the truth .

Sometimes it is uncomfortable to learn the truth, but often if given in a respectful way the truth usually
works for everyone.


Grand Valley offers a Masters in Educational Leadership in Boyne City and Cadillac. If you would like to find out more about our program feel free to contact me at: jjudge2935@charter.net  or call me at 231-258-2935.

Many of the topics we will present will be for teachers seeking and administration position and for recently appointed administration. I will also receive comments from those who have just completed their first year as administrators. Since the program in Northern began eleven years ago we have placed over 60 GVSU graduates in administration positions.



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

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Learning Pods and Classroom Setup

Setting up small learning groups, or communities, in your class requires planning, not just in your instruction, but also in the physical space of your room.

When I decided to change my teaching style from a teacher-centered, lecture format to a student-centered, project format, I had to seriously contemplate how my room and its instructional resources were arranged. 

I knew I wanted to set up student 'pods' of four to five students.  Four makes a great sized group, but five is starting to push it.  These sizes also fit with the number of computers I had available.  Each pod needed one computer for the group to use, as well as work space, achieved by placing desks next to each other forming a table.   

I placed the pods at the outside walls for a few important reasons.  First was to get some elbow space between students and groups.  "The 'traditional' classroom and the 'student-centered' classroom are very different both in philosophy and in the application."

I wanted to eliminate interaction between groups so students could concentrate on their own group's activities.  Secondly, this arrangement allowed me to monitor the computers at all times.  Third, this setup created better traffic flow through the room, since students would often need to move back and forth to the central resource center.

I've set up the resource and presentation center in the center of the classroom.  This is where I keep student file cabinets (the short types), dictionaries & thesauri, school supplies, and art-type supplies. 

I've combined this storage area with my podium, overhead projector, and the other tech equipment like vcr or dvd players,

"Having previously taught in the traditional manner, I've found the pod setup, or student-centered class, to be both a challenge and a benefit to student learning." digital projectors, and the like.  This allows for easy student access to all resources, and I can effectively use all of my wall space when I need to present material.

The 'traditional' classroom and the 'student-centered' classroom are very different both in philosophy and in the application.  The basics of setting up your classroom to reflect the learning environment you've envisioned must be thought through carefully before jumping right into the pods.

Having previously taught in the traditional manner, I've found the pod setup, or student-centered class, to be both a challenge and a benefit to student learning.  Now that I've had a chance to compare them, my students and I prefer the pods.

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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Communication is Changing

By Mark Benn

Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 20 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.  He finished his 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.

Visual media used to be solely the product of movie producers and large corporations. Today, a person can take their digital video camera and film their project. They can then load it into their computer and use an inexpensive program, such as iMovie, to edit their film and add effects. For more extensive changes there are other applications available for use at a higher cost, but still within the everyday person's budget. Upon completion, they can take their movie and upload it to YouTube.com for everyone to view. 

So what does this mean to education? 

In the past, a student wrote an assignment for the teacher to look at and grade. No one else would see it, so the whole goal would be for a grade. Making movies was unheard of. Becoming a published author was reserved for only those lucky enough to catch someone's attention and interest that had the power to publish. 

Now all that has changed and is available to everyone. Classblogmeister.com, gaggle.net, or epals.com provide safe places for teachers and students to go and speak their mind and yet allow it to be under the teacher's control. If we, as teachers, continue to do writing the old way it doesn't reach today's students. This isn't how the real world works. If our goal is to get students to become better writers and get excited about writing, we need to provide real world experiences for them. 

Your students will thank you, as mine have.


Great BLOGS to read on the changes in the way students learn

Doug Johnson The Blue Skunk Blog
Ian Jukes The Committed Sardine
David Warlick Two Cents Worth
Will Richardson WeBloggEd
Kathy Schrock Kaffeeklatsch
Tony Vincent Learning In Hand



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:




 Science Selections  

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Rad Resources for 
Science Educators
Standardized Testing Focus

by Helen De La Maza

Helen de la Maza is a Curriculum and Instruction Consultant in southern California with almost 15 years experience in the field of education. She has written curricula and taught science, environmental science, and environmental education to students ranging in age from 4 to 85 years! 

She believes that learning the process of scientific thinking can help students think critically and be careful observers of the natural and human-made world. 

Helen earned an MS in Wildlife Science, an MA in Curriculum and Instruction, California single subject teaching credentials in Biological Sciences and English, and a multiple subject credential. When she was in graduate school for her MS, she realized that "interpreters" were needed to communicate between the scientific community and lay people. Much of her work has been focused on doing this through teaching, training, and writing.

The Internet and World Wide Web provide the opportunity for massive amounts of information to be distributed to a wide audience. In fact, so much information is available that it is overwhelming to sort through! As a Science Educator you barely have enough time to plan your curriculum and assess your students, let alone spend hours surfing the web looking for great resources. The purpose of this new Science Feature in StarTeaching is to help you provide excellent information, media, and lessons to your students that are already available on the web. 

I’ll do the searching for you and highlight every couple weeks some Rad Resources for Science Educators. Feedback is appreciated! Email me at: delamazah@earthlink.net

Standardized Science Testing Focus

For many teachers across the United States, standardized testing occurs in April or May. Below
are some resources to help you and your students practice and prepare.

Science State Tests (sample and archived questions).

State tests compilation with links to released questions, etc.

Computing Technology for Math Excellence
Standardized test preparation and tips for success. Includes an article focused on NCLB.

National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Released Questions
After each assessment, NAEP releases dozens of sample questions to the public—more than
2,000 questions are currently available. The tools featured here can be used to supplement
classroom instruction, provide additional insight into the content of the assessment, and show
what students nationally or in your state or district know and can do.

Online Interactive State Standards Practice Tests

Articles on standardized test preparation.

Virginia State Standards of Learning: Science, Math and Technology Practice Tests


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A Nation At Risk

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

A Nation at Risk was the popular title of the 1983 report of President Ronald Reagan's National Commission on Excellence in Education. The report called for greater federal support of education and included the claim that the nation was threatened by "a rising tide of mediocrity." Ironically, President Reagan used the occasion of the release of the report to introduce a series of education reforms, including many that were later adopted by Congress, although they were not specifically included in the report.

One of the most quoted portions of this report came from the introduction just after the "rising tide" remark. It said, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament."

The following five recommendations were made by the report:

1. Content: Recommended that the graduation requirements for all students be raised to include 4 years of English, 3 years of mathematics, 3 years of science, 3 years of social studies, 1 semester of computer science, and for college bound students 2 years of foreign language.

2. Standards and Expectations: Schools should expect better academic performance and behavior from students and universities should strengthen admissions requirements.

3. Time: More time should be spent on the new required courses by being more efficient and by lengthening the school day and year.

4.Teaching: A series of recommendations that focused around teachers being better prepared.

5. Leadership and Fiscal Support: A call to citizens to hold educational leaders responsible be willing to provide the fiscal resources needed to implement the outlined reforms.



Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Dogman’s Back!

  The legends of the Michigan Dogman come alive in six haunting tales by folklore author, Frank Holes, Jr.  Based upon both mythology and alleged real stories of the beast, this collection is sure to fire the imagination!

  Spanning the decades and the geography of the Great Lakes State , Frank weaves:

  A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in Manistee County

A terrifying encounter in the U.P.’s remote Dickinson County

A BLOG, begun as one man’s therapy, becomes a chronicle of sightings from around Michigan

A secret governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma

A pioneer family meets more than they expected on the trail north

A campfire tale of ancient betrayal handed down through the Omeena Tribe

Welcome to Dogman Country!


Click Here For The
Tales From Dogman Country Website


Now Available!

Year of the Dogman Website
Now Available!

Haunting of Sigma Website
Now Available!

Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen Website 
Now Available!
Now Available!
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

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Challenges of Curriculum
(part 1)

By Salima Moosa Sewani

Salima Moosa Sewani has been in the field of teaching for 8 years. She is running her own Learning Center and also working with the Exceptional People in Pakistan. She is a Master Trainer and has done many teaching certifications.

Teaching is indeed a much respected but a challenging profession. The knowledge and expertise of a teacher helps him/her to fight back the challenges, but a positive ‘learning’ attitude is also required. I believe that we all are in a learning process. Every day we learn something new by making mistakes. 

If challenges are taken as problems, then a teacher might not be able to learn and move ahead. Accepting challenges creates opportunities for teachers not only to enhance their skills but to look at the real world more intimately. Teaching is an open field and the teacher is merely a player. To me, the player needs to be committed. Those who can’t commit shouldn’t adopt this profession, because teachers need to be role models, serve as leaders, and have the position akin to parents. In this way, teachers rear the children they teach, providing opportunities to students to sharpen their intellect, increasing awareness about the need to be ethical.  This is perhaps the most challenging task for a teacher. My experience has taught me to move on by accepting the challenges of this ‘challenging profession.

Here, I will try to focus on the challenges of curriculum and classroom interaction, which I faced during my 8 years of teaching in religious and secular schools.

I find the area of curriculum very wide. The challenges for a teacher regarding the implementation of curriculum in a class is the foremost debate not only in Pakistan , but worldwide. There are several ideas in the mind of Pakistani bureaucrats regarding planning and implementing the curriculum. But the question is, is there any proper curriculum prepared by any ministry, which could fully satisfy the expectations of children and teacher?

The curriculum is not planned according to the social needs of the youth. The challenge for a teacher is to implement the curriculum as forced, in accordance with the instructions of the authorities. A loyal teacher would implement the guided curriculum with the integration of his/her knowledge and study, so that they could prepare the solid leaders for the future generation. I believe that at the stage of learning, curriculum should be designed in such a way, which can produce the required skilled manpower for the future need of our country. In Pakistan , the students don’t have opportunities for practical work. After they complete the secondary school stage, many of them begin to search for a clerical type of job. Consequently unemployment and frustration becomes their fate. This is a real challenge for a teacher: to prepare students according to the needs of the future so that they can get good opportunities on the basis of their knowledge and skills. A real challenge of a teacher is to initiate curriculum in such a manner that it develops the ‘character’ of the individual. It isn’t only a merit degree which makes a person charismatic. It is the character building, which is the true missing asset, for which, teachers are continuously playing their role.

When I was teaching at Karachi Kids University , I observed children were not taking an interest in studies because the curriculum, which I taught was totally theoretical and based on rote learning.  I observed that the children learning were slow and the teachers teaching speed were expeditious. According to my observation, children think that education is the heaviest burden on them. After my observation, I took a challenge to add something fascinating, which can be used as a supporting aid of teaching the curriculum. I integrated all lesson plans with my co- teachers, in which our main focus was to attain objectives through activities. We kept in mind the interest of the students. Gradually, the students started taking an interest toward learning subjects without feeling it a burden.

Curriculum is to provide knowledge and skills, which can satisfy intellect. In order to develop good reading habits, we planned a mini- library, where donated books were kept.  Students were encouraged to read stories and informative books. To make reading literature interesting, we also developed  'pop-up reading skills', in which each student was given a chance to read a text loud and afterwards throw the 'pop-up' cotton ball to another classmate, whom s/he wants to read next. This successful technique not only developed interest, but also activated students in class room participation.

The second challenge regarding curriculum is to face the inappropriate content in our text books. Muhammad Ilyas Khan says,

“The whole education process in our primary and secondary school revolve around the textbooks which mostly are bad written and poorly presented. They are boring for the students as well as the teachers who use them. They seldom arouse any interest among students. As a result the teaching learning process becomes monotonous and lacks any active involvement of the students.”

I agree, because the challenge for a teacher is to implement curriculum through learning based activities so the students will take the interest. Students in Pakistan feel boredom when the teacher makes them to open their book and to learn things by heart only. The only thing which can make them survive intellectually is just a bit of effort and initiative of a teacher to study and plan lessons effectively.

If you will go through the book of general science, most of the topics which are being added, are irrelevant. I took a little initiative and wrote a workbook of General Science, keeping in view the National curriculum objectives. I just made the irrelevant topics precisely, which helped few of the schools in Karachi to teach students specifically with specialization rather than generalization. I think that diverse knowledge is good to boost a child's capability.

The people who design our curriculum are specialists in their subjects with Masters and Doctorate degrees. But the curriculum must be designed with specific objectives.  It is the duty of the government to make changes in our curriculum while asking the teachers, who are the real manifesto planners, so that the teachers can face this challenge with the role in it. But nobody is taking immediate action due to which teachers and students both are facing a lot of hindrance.

I suggest that a curriculum should have some ethical values to foster in them a pride in belonging to the nation, an understanding of its history and aspirations, and the eagerness to serve it. Curriculum should be such as to facilitate the full development of the personality of child and there aims can be achieved if education at this stage is directed towards the objectives.



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"Power of Teaching"

By Dr. Frank Trujillo
Themes on Life

Ours is a truly powerful calling...

I feel sometimes powerless and small, overwhelmed and inadequate, engulfed in thoughts and feelings that perhaps what I am doing is insignificant, that my life's pursuit, that my teaching, is futile.

And I say "Who and I to change the world? Who am I to think that I can make a difference?"

And then I reflect on the young people under my charge, and I think about my role and about what power, if any, I have.

And I find that I am not devoid of resources or strength, that I am, indeed, endowed with talent and ability and strength.

I do, after all, decide what will be taught. No one else. And it is largely my prerogative when it will be taught and how, and where, and why it will be taught.

To a great extent I determine the curriculum. And the richness and intensity with which it is taught is in my hands.

I have that power.

And I have the ability to think and to plan and then to implement; to select from my repertoire of skills the one best suited to my purpose, yet still able to adapt myself to student needs with the dexterity of an artisan.

Most adults would be fortunate to perhaps last out one day overseeing a roomful of kids. My orchestration makes enlightened music of the chaotic din.

I guess you could say this is power!

I have the power. I have the vigor to motivate, the fullness to laugh, the courage to control. I have the power to uplift and to create and, when I'm red-hot, the intensity to inspire! I can form my students into lines or circles, triangle or squares.

My influence is such I can turn their very feelings into F's or A's.

With just one look I can let a student know that everything is well with the world and that he or she has a perfect right to aim for the very top of it all!

And I can use my hands, turned up to lift them up. Or turned down to keep them down.

What power do I have in the system? In the eyes of my students I am the system.

And I have the power to lead them places they did not know existed, to build them back up when society tears them down, to catapult them higher than I myself will ever reach; and to push them gently, but assuredly, into the unknown, painting for them in broad brush strokes a future I can never hope to see.

And every day I have the wherewithal in my classroom to build walls or to build bridges between the generations.

And it is within my discretion to design a rigid, competitive structure or a cooperative, helping network in my classroom.

I even affect the weather! What I do every day determines whether their world will be indifferent cold or sweathouse hot, or warm, inviting, alive and vibrant with learning.

I have an awesome power.

If I succeed I pass the knowledge about what is important to the next generation. And, because their world will be the better for my labor mine is an important service to a just cause.

Mine is a present power and a future power. If I can reach the children of today I touch the children of tomorrow. Mine is a giving power.

All that I know about the world and about how one learns about the world I must give.

And in the giving of my gift, I receive my greatest power: the power to teach my students to learn how to learn.

Empowering them is o the essence, for if their teacher feels sometimes powerless and small, how insignificant must they sometimes feel?

And when the last day comes, and it is time for us to part we gather together, say our good-byes, and separate.

After that there is sadness but a certain contentment that I am sure only teachers feel.

It is a happiness that comes from knowing that a part of us forever, transplanted, lives... No, thrives! inside of each individual who has gazed at us across tired brown desks and called us "Teacher."

Even on a down day -- when I'm feeling puny and insignificant-- even I try hard to remember that all it takes is one person -- just one person! -- to make a difference in their lives.

And, there is no reason in the world that that person cannot and should not be me! I can make a difference! That is my power. That is the power to teach.

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Hello readers!  Welcome to your first March issue of Features For Teachers for 2011!   

This month, we bring another great poetry/photograph selection from Hank Kellner from his upcoming book, Reflections. We also have a great set of science resources by Helen de la Maza, these ones themed by Standardized Testing.  

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