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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 7, Issue 4
February 2011
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   The LEAST APPROACH to Classroom Discipline (part 3)   NEW! Science Selections: Rad Resources for Science Educators
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See"
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Are We Moving Into A Post-Literate Society?
Striking Out
Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Sociology of Education
 (part 3)
New Teacher's Niche:
Teaching Literacy to ESOL Learners!
Student Teachers' Lounge: The Many Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading
Book of the Month Club:
Art Is Fundamental
  Website of the Month:
  Themes on Life: 
Article of the Week: "Faraway Planet Could Support Life"   Winter 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



The LEAST Approach to Classroom Discipline
(part 3)


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.


When Should You Leave Things Alone?

Leave a situation or a student behavior alone when all indications show there is no real problem.  This is generally the case with any situation which fulfills all three of the following conditions:

1.  The behavior will almost certainly go away without your getting involved.

2.  No one is harmed.

3.  There is no danger of a ‘ripple effect” (i.e., other students are unlikely to imitate or repeat the disruptive student’s behavior).

What Does “Leave Things Alone” Mean?

Leaving a situation alone does not mean ignoring or being unaware of it.  On the contrary, you have to be completely aware of what is going on so that you can decide whether or not to act.  “Leave things alone,” then, means taking no active part in a situation – not acting to correct things – just continuing with your regular routine. 

Even though you decide to leave the situation alone, you should track the student’s progress.  (See component #5).  You need to be able to recall what happened and the fact that you decided to leave things alone.

Why Leave a Problem Alone?

As teachers, of course, we act to make things better.  Yet there are many times when action can only make a situation worse – by blowing it out of proportion, by focusing attention where it should not be, and so on.  The fact that you get involved may provide the disorderly student exactly the “reward” he or she is looking for.  Instead of stopping the disruptive behavior, you may be promoting it.  Learn to leave a behavior alone when it appears that nothing positive can be gained through action. 

How Can You Decide to Leave Things Alone?

In order to make this basic decision, you need to focus your attention on the student or students involved in the problem situation.  Observe what they are doing.  Listen to what they’re saying and how they’re saying it.  Try to identify the type and intensity of their feelings (“strong anger” as opposed to “mild irritation,” for example).  Finally, think about the implications of ignoring the matter.  Given what you know about the present situation and the students, both those who are involved and those who are not, do you think the situation will improve or deteriorate if you leave it alone?  Here are a few guidelines which may help you make your decision:

1. Students often act up just to get attention.  By reacting you may reinforce their troublemaking behavior.  By ignoring them, on the other hand, you can often show such students that you cannot be baited.
2. Remember that students can act as reinforcers for one another.  Thus a behavior you choose to ignore may continue if the disruptive student senses the support of his or her peers.  Recognition of this fact of classroom life should play a part in your leave-it-alone / act decision. 
3.  Know which of your students are leaders and work especially hard to keep them in line so they can serve as models.  Here your leave-it-alone / act decision is crucial.  Ignoring trouble from a leader may encourage imitators, and acting impulsively may only earn the leader sympathy from the other students.
4. Keep classroom rules to a minimum.  By definition, problems increase in direct proportion to the number of rules that can be broken.  For example, do you want a rule against chewing gum and (since some will chew it anyway) against disposing of it improperly, or only the latter?

The leave-it-alone / act decision may sound complicated, but it quickly becomes habit and is usually made in a split second by the effective teacher who knows that the best action is often no action at all.


A good example of a situation which should be ignored or left alone is the case of the two students who jostle each other in the doorway.  While the teacher may at first feel nervous or apprehensive at this show of high spirits, the incident does not represent a serious problem.  The bell has not rung yet.  Unless these students continue to act up once class has started, the teacher should definitely leave things alone. 

Another Example:  Sandra has been at the front of the room.  Going back up the aisle to her desk, she trips over Nikki’s feet, which are in the aisle, and mutters “Dummy!” at the other girl.  The teacher sees what has happened and hears the irritation in Sandra’s voice.  He notes that Nikki’s expression is apologetic – brow furrowed, mouth turned down – rather than malicious.  The rest of the class pauses, looks up to see what has happened, then continues to work on a math test.  Realizing that the problem will disappear by itself, that no one is being harmed and that no one is likely to repeat the offense, the teacher wisely chooses to maintain discipline by leaving things alone.  The decision is a good one.  Had he spoken out – “Nikki, keep your feet under your desk!  And Sandra, please be more careful!” – he probably would have made a minor interruption much worse.   Sandra and Nikki both might have felt anger over his criticism.  And the rest of the class would have been needlessly distracted. 

Now It’s Your Turn

Think of and jot down notes on some possible disruptive situations in your own classroom where you probably would be wiser to leave things alone rather than take a hand.  What behaviors and feelings would you look for or listen for in making your decision?  What are the implications you would want to consider?  How could you be reasonably certain that the problem situation would fade away by itself, that no one would be hurt, and that no one would be likely to repeat the offense?  Then practice sizing up such situations in class and not acting on all those that fulfill the three conditions listed above.  Your aim should be to develop the skill to “leave things alone” as your first option in handling class disciplinary problems.  

So You Leave Things Alone, What Then?

A problem arises in class and you decide that your best option is to leave matters alone.  This doesn’t mean you should forget the incident.  Instead, you should plan to track the progress of the student or students involved.  This means checking to make sure his/her/their behavior remains satisfactory and perhaps developing some specific reinforcements to keep things moving in the direction you feel is best. 

Another advantage to tracking progress at this point is that it gives you something to do.  In most of the petty annoyance situations, you – the teacher – are one of the most affected, most disturbed by the situation and you will want to do something about it.  Putting the incident in the “track record” – date, time, etc. – may pay great dividends in the future, and it may be personally satisfying that even though you took no overt action, you did not ignore the incident.  There is great value in appropriate tension relief for you as the teacher.

The specific activities required to track students’ progress are discussed more fully under component #5.



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


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Feature Writer

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.


Little Girl, Little Girl
By Hillary Lockhart

Little girl, little girl
Tell me, what do you want to be?

I want be a doctor, lawyer, or an airplane pilot
to fly high above the trees.

Little girl, little girl
Tell me, what do you want to be

Mother, teacher, mayor,
Oh yeah, drive a bright red fire truck, and be a fire chief.

Little girl, little girl
Tell me, what do you want to be?

I want to be an astronaut so I can soar to the moon
and sprinkle my dreams among the stars.

I want to be a beautiful
African Queen like magnificent Nerfiti.

I want to be a famous architect, and build towering skyscrapers;
I can  be a police woman—keep my city safe,
and protect all the little children in my hood

Little girl, little girl
Tell me, what do you want to be?

Tell you the truth
I just want to read like the little girl that sits next to me.

Teacher brags how smart she is and I want to read
so everybody be pride of me.
I like to be a nurse, scientist, or even invent.
If you teach me to write and read, I can believe in my dreams.
`Cause an education can open the doors closed in my life.
I’ll be able to protect myself; drive granny to the doctor and store.
Surely I can be my brother and sisters role model.
I gotta read and be something special!

The teacher reached out and grasped her hand
and softly hummed, “Little girl, little girl
walk with me. I’ll teach you how to write and read."

Photo 3 by Hank Kellner

“Books…if you’re going to be anything, they are vital in life.”  -Roald Dahl



stumbling on ground zero
By Karen Topham

driving one day through
lower manhattan
i was struck
by the sudden increase
in security.
the u.n. I said to my daughter,
and then,
oh god,
do you know where we are?
her face shifted for
one moment and she knew:
i don’t want to see it,
she said,
and i understood,
but we have to,
i said, we have to.
so we drove around the block
where a giant hole still sat
in the ground
so many years later
and there we stood,
while hawkers
sold souvenirs on
the walk behind us
and someone literally
on a soap box
blathered about blame,
staring in absolute silence
at crossed
metal bars
at an American flag
at a vast expanse
of still-nothing
at the price
of freedom.



Wall Art, NYC Photo 4 by Hank Kellner
"All of a sudden there were people screaming. I saw people jumping out of the building. Their arms were flailing. I stopped taking pictures and started crying."  
- Michael Walters

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

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Mastering Basic Skills software:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feature Writer

Striking Out

By Chris Sura

Chris Sura, upon earning his Bachelor’s 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

Many students have mastered verbal irony or sarcasm, but a fun way to do this in writing is using the strikeout function in a word processing program. It is an exercise where you say one thing, strike it out on the paper and say another. It is word play with a digital twist. For example: It is a tedious creative drill or assignment.

Before I go any further, let’s just say that students can be cruel, mean over-enthusiastic with this exercise. Therefore, the teacher needs to set ground rules that are clear.

Basically, the students write a letter to someone or an article about a topic, but due to political, social or the rules of this exercise, they have to put a positive spin on it. For example, say the student has to write a positive spin on the school dress code. “The current will be voted out soon school board has hacked voted to the new oppressive enlightened proposal on student attire.”

This exercise challenges the student to think in opposites and antonyms. It also applies some creative thinking and problem solving with the challenge of writing for and against something at the same time. And with good guidelines, it can be quite fun. It reminds me of Mr. Subliminal played by Kevin Nealon of Saturday Night Live. It is a definite play on words by playing with words.

Now, the rules. When I have done this writing assignment, I say that they cannot write about any student or teacher in the school. This is meant to be fun. Yet, because of the nature of the assignment and the delicate dance with verbal irony, it can be hurtful. I recommend using it to reprimand praise a book, character or author. It is a fun way for them to critique a work or complain to an author. It can be used to write a letter to a celebrity or public figure who is not in a good light, and the student has to strike out the negative because they are trying to put a positive spin on the celebrity. The troublesome
misunderstood Charlie Sheen comes to mind. This writing assignment does not give the right for students to use foul language and strike it out, either, but make it clear. As a teacher, you know your students, so you know how to set your guidelines to keep this activity focused on the play with the words and on good writing.

All in all, striking out can be a fun exercise.


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

The Many Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading

The benefits of classroom reading are many. Children (especially young children) have a natural love of reading. However, we at the middle school often see students who either struggle with texts or are turned off to reading. A great way of regenerating that interest is through sustained silent reading in your classroom.

This topic has been hotly debated recently in the International Reading Association newsletter. I'm not trying to enter this debate.  This article will simply describe what we in our school have observed and detail what we've done in our classes that has worked for our students.

First off, let your students choose what they read, whether it is a book, magazine, or whatever. It makes a huge difference in peaking their interest. Teachers already give (and require) plenty of specific readings through activities, literature, and in textbooks.  Students need the opportunity to read about what interests them, and this can occur when you allow them to choose what they want to read.  By all means, continue with your regular activities, but find a way to give your students time (in class is best) to read on their own.

It is very important for you as the teacher to model reading to your students. Read the entire time your students are reading too. Don't let this time be wasted on grading papers, checking email, or doing any other administrivia. If you want your students to take the time seriously, show them you are taking the time yourself and are enjoying the activity. Regardless of what the kids may say to you, they will imitate your behaviors in your class. You have this great opportunity to be a positive role model!

Just as in practicing writing and their skills through the week, you as the teacher need to schedule in time for sustained silent reading.  When I'm covering a piece of literature, for example, my class may read in a variety of ways. We may read aloud, I may read to the class, or we may play 'popcorn' around the room as students choose others. You probably have other out-loud reading activities you use too. These are great, and I always recommend them. But you should always give students time to read silently too. It doesn't have to be a lot, but I do recommend at least ten minutes, though not more than twenty. Think in terms of attention spans: plenty of time to become engaged in the text, read for a bit, and yet stay focused. Obviously some students could lose themselves in a book for hours on end, but not all kids have such a long attention span. Start with ten minutes and work upward, adding a few minutes each time.

In addition to literature we all cover in class, I also set up a regular library time so students can select their own books. We'll stay in the library for, again, about twenty minutes. I give students between ten and fifteen minutes to look over the shelves and 'try on' a book. Its like trying on clothing. This trial version is very important so students can start deciding if this is the book for them.  If it doesn't hook them in the first ten minutes, I suggest they try again. I'll try to make suggestions based on what I think the students' interests are. Sometimes we talk about what they like, what their interests are. Students are not required to check out a book, but they must 'try out' at least one book at each visit.

We designate each Friday after our vocabulary quiz for sustained silent reading. Students may read their library book, another book of their choice, or even a magazine from the rack in my room (I typically collect old magazines from everywhere and keep them in a large rack in class). Old magazines include the old stand bys - Reader's Digest, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated. But I also gather Teen magazines, food and cooking, gardening, hunting and fishing, and video game magazines, among others. This way there are a large variety of topics for students to choose from.

The bookshelves in my room also have old reference materials and some outdated textbooks I've scrounged from other teachers. Some of your students will enjoy looking through drafting texts, recipe books, or science books, and you'd be surprised at the number of kids who love maps in social studies, history, or geography text books.

I've noticed a difference, especially in the attitudes of my students toward reading. Students given choices through the year were more engaged in the assigned readings through the year. Often, students (especially struggling students or low readers) have told me they enjoy reading, or they've found a topic or author they want to read more about, or the readings I did assign were some of the only ones they actually read (that year or in several years). Comments like that last one are bittersweet, because though I'm glad the student has regained the interest in reading, I'm sorry it took so long and the student was turned off in the first place. Sustained silent reading and allowing students to choose their own texts can be very powerful and beneficial to your students. You can be the teacher who makes a difference to your students.

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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Are You Looking To Be Published?

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  TECH/21st Century CORNER

Are We Moving Into A Post-Literate Society?

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.

Are we moving into a POST-LITERATE society?

I know this question might knock you over, but please stop and think about it. Wikipedia defines a post-literate society as: a society wherein multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read written words, is no longer necessary. This doesn’t mean they can’t read, but choose to meet their main information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming. Now think about the students you have today. What do they choose to do first for pleasure, read a book, or do they seek multi-media stimulation?

Doug Johnson, writer of the Blue Skunk Blog, wrote a blog titled Libraries for a post-literate society I and is located at:


He later followed it with two more blogs titled:  Libraries for a post-literate society II and In defense of postliteracy.  Doug Johnson’s premise is that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are just returning to a 21st century style of communication that is quote: “similar to more natural forms of communication - speaking, storytelling, dialogue, debate, and dramatization.”

If this is true, and I believe it is, because I see it all around me (including my three teenagers), think of the ramifications it should have on education. Are we making the change in our classrooms to meet these challenges? From what I’m reading from top educational speakers and from my observations around me, not much is changing. Is it a wonder we are losing the students in school?  They are checking out on us because we continue to teach in the old way. As one parent said to me today,  “Why don’t they learn it like we did?” My reply was that these kids aren’t us. This is not a generational gap. This is a major paradigm change in the way kids think and interact with their world.

So, what are you doing or going to do about this change? The first place to start is to begin reading what others are saying and what research is telling us. Check out the blogs of Doug Johnson, Ian Jukes, David Warlick, Will Richardson, Kathy Schrock, or Tony Vincent, to name a few. Become part of an online community of teachers such as: (http://www.classroom20.com/) and discuss this topic. Observe your students and ask them what excites them. This will get you started, but it is only the beginning. In closing, let’s look back at that question again. Are we moving into a post-literate society? It’s something to think about.

Next month I’ll talk about ideas on how to address this issue in the classroom. Now go do your homework and see what others are saying.

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  

Rad Resources for 
Science Educators
Aquatic Ecosystems 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

Marine and Estuarine Ecology “Man and the Gulf of Mexico”

(direct link to 2.2 MB document)
A marine science curriculum developed to meet the marine science needs of tenth through
twelfth grade students. The first section contains unit objectives, discussions of the estuarine
ecosystem and reasons for classifying organisms, and an activity on using a taxonomic key.
The next five sections focus on: (1) plankton; (2) nekton; (3) intertidal organisms and their
environment; (4) coastal habitats; and (5) coastal ecology. Each section includes a statement
of concept(s) to be learned, objectives, vocabulary activities, vocabulary lists, and (with the
exception of the section on nekton) one or more science activities. Objectives, procedures, and
list of materials needed are provided for these activities which investigate: plankton bodies;
osmosis; snails; population pressures and succession in a laboratory community; relationship
of habitat to survival of an organism; diversity of organisms in an aquatic habitat; and the best
use for a marsh beach. Activities involving the construction of a plankton net and an artificial
ecological system are also included.

Our Wetlands, Our World High School Activity Guide

This includes information and activities to help high school students learn about the importance
of wetlands and to become involved in the restoration of these valuable, unique environments.
The focus of the guide is on Upper Newport Bay in Orange County, CA; however, much of the
information is applicable to other wetland sites.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Links to a variety of teaching resources about water for a variety of grade levels.

World of Fresh Water: A Resource for Studying Issues 
of Freshwater Research


(direct link to 695K document)
Activities in this packet were developed in reference to research conducted at the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Continent Ecology Division in Duluth, Minnesota.
These activities are designed primarily for students in grades 4-6. Each activity can be used
as a stand-alone activity or presented as part of a sequence. The package includes 16 activities
organized under four topics: (1) Water Facts and Usage; (2) Ecosystems; (3) Water Pollution;
and (4) Collecting, Sampling, and Keeping Aquatic Organisms.

Wyland Clean Water Challenge

Links to several curricular units for varying grade levels that address aquatic ecosystem


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Sociology of Education

(part 3)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

The sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes. It is most concerned with the public schooling systems of modern industrial societies, including the expansion of higher, further, adult, and continuing education.

Education has always been seen as a fundamentally optimistic human endeavor characterized by aspirations for progress and betterment. It is understood by many to be a means of overcoming handicaps, achieving greater equality and acquiring wealth and social status. Education is perceived as a place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potential. It is also perceived as one of the best means of achieving greater social equality. Many would say that the purpose of education should be to develop every individual to their full potential and give them a chance to achieve as much in life as their natural abilities allow. Few would argue that any education system accomplishes this goal perfectly. Some take a particularly negative view, arguing that the education system is designed with the intention of causing the social reproduction of inequality

Education and social reproduction
The perspective of conflict theory, contrary to the structural functionalist perspective, believes that society is full of vying social groups with different aspirations, different access to life chances and gain different social rewards . Relations in society, in this view, are mainly based on exploitation, oppression, domination and subordination.

Many teachers assume that students will have particular middle class experiences at home, and for some children this assumption isn’t necessarily true. Some children are expected to help their parents after school and carry considerable domestic responsibilities in their often single-parent home. The demands of this domestic labor often make it difficult for them to find time to do all their homework and thus affects their academic performance.

Where teachers have softened the formality of regular study and integrated student’s preferred working methods into the curriculum, they noted that particular students displayed strengths they had not been aware of before. However few teachers deviate from the traditional curriculum, and the curriculum conveys what constitutes knowledge as determined by the state - and those in power. This knowledge isn’t very meaningful to many of the students, who see it as pointless. Wilson & Wyn state that the students realize there is little or no direct link between the subjects they are doing and their perceived future in the labor market. Anti-school values displayed by these children are often derived from their consciousness of their real interests. Sargent believes that for working class students, striving to succeed and absorbing the school's middle class values, is accepting their inferior social position as much as if they were determined to fail. Fitzgerald states that “irrespective of their academic ability or desire to learn, students from poor families have relatively little chance of securing success”. On the other hand, for middle and especially upper-class children, maintaining their superior position in society requires little effort. The federal government subsidises ‘independent’ private schools enabling the rich to obtain ‘good education’ by paying for it. With this ‘good education’, rich children perform better, achieve higher and obtain greater rewards. In this way, the continuation of privilege and wealth for the elite is made possible.

Conflict theorists believe this social reproduction continues to occur because the whole education system is overlain with ideology provided by the dominant group. In effect, they perpetuate the myth that education is available to all to provide a means of achieving wealth and status. Anyone who fails to achieve this goal, according to the myth, has only themselves to blame. Wright agrees, stating that “the effect of the myth is to…stop them from seeing that their personal troubles are part of major social issues”. The duplicity is so successful that many parents endure appalling jobs for many years, believing that this sacrifice will enable their children to have opportunities in life that they did not have themselves. These people who are poor and disadvantaged are victims of a societal confidence trick. They have been encouraged to believe that a major goal of schooling is to strengthen equality while, in reality, schools reflect society’s intention to maintain the previous unequal distribution of status and power.

This perspective has been criticized as deterministic, pessimistic and allowing no room for the agency of individuals to improve their situation.

It should be recognized however that it is a model, an aspect of reality which is an important part of the picture.

Look for more in part 4 of this series!


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




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  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!


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

Teaching Literacy to ESOL Learners

By Christina Riggan

Christina Riggan, a twenty-five year veteran of public schools, and a former teacher in a primary (K-5) school in Austin, Texas, has worked with a variety of grade levels from Kindergarten to adults. Her certifications include Kindergarten, Reading, ESOL, Language Arts, and she holds a Principal's Certificate and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She is currently a full-time writer, her chosen area of focus in writing books (fiction and nonfiction) and articles that might help parents, teachers, and students. She is married to David, her husband of thirty-eight years, has two happily married sons, and four wonderful grandchildren.

Twenty three of my twenty five years of teaching in public schools was with ESOL students from all over the world—from Asia to South America to the Middle East . At one point I had students who spoke thirteen different languages in my classroom, in addition to the English-only speaking students. My job was to teach them English; and to teach them to read and write, learn math, science, social studies, etc. on top of the challenge of learning another language.

You may believe that I started out trained, certified, and with some experience with ESOL kids, or different cultures, but you would be incorrect. My first experience occurred in the second year of my teaching career when the Hispanic Kindergarten teacher next to me came to my room, and asked me to take the new student assigned to her class. He spoke only Japanese. She said, “I teach Spanish. I don’t know what to do with him.” Of course, neither did I, but I took him anyway.

I had no teaching experience with other cultures, or teaching English to others, but I had always loved history, cultures, and languages and their people. I taught the young boy that year for Kindergarten and his younger brother the following year, and learned “by the seat of my pants”. His parent invited me to dinner before they left to return to Japan . One valuable thing I learned about Japanese culture: Don’t eat everything on your plate. It means that they haven’t fed you enough food. Of course, to Americans it is meant as a compliment to the hostess. So therein lies the conundrum for cultural misunderstanding, and a good laugh, if everyone has a good sense of humor. These same parents have sent me a Christmas card faithfully for twenty years.  

Later, the next year, my district paid for twelve additional college course hours for my training in linguistics. I received my certification through training, not a test. To be fair to the district I worked in, they had little to no experience with ESOL students and their families. But when faced with an influx of students, they did the right thing and paid for training for their teachers. As unprepared and as untrained as I was initially, some situations I see occurring now are even worse. Usually they begin with districts unwilling to spend the money and time on training and preparing teachers properly, and teachers resentful of the extra burden from students who may need more than the teacher can supply.

Additionally, even though there is additional work, preparation, and training required for ESOL teachers, few teachers receive stipends. I have even heard some ridiculous folks say “Anyone can teach ESOL. It is simply good teaching.”

No, not just anyone can teach ESOL. It demands training and preparation. You needed a certified math teacher for your math classes; you need trained and certified personnel for one of the most important jobs in public school: teaching English and literacy.

So I will offer to you my Five Principles of Teaching ESOL Students, gained from twenty plus years working with these students and their families, my training, and my professional development and reading. This is certainly the short and sweet version—honed down for this article.  


FIRST PRINCIPLE: Remember that they are scared to death, may cry, may vomit, tremble, run away, throw temper tantrums, or not speak for a year, OR MORE. You get the idea.


1.      Be loving, patient, welcoming, smile, and be friendly.

2.      Discuss compassion and empathy with your students beforehand.

3.      Create a learning environment that encourages success for everyone.

4.      Help them make friends.

5.      80% of communication is nonverbal, so you can communicate. Use nodding heads, hand signs, pictures, mime.

6.      If you resent the child, (or the extra work he/she requires) he/she will know.

7.      Art and drawing are the first written universal languages of communication--begin there, and use it as a tool to gaining language.

8.      Play, fun, games, and laughter are universal childhood pathways to learning--

       be smart and use them to your advantage to teach ESOL learners.

SECOND PRINCIPLE: Fear can paralyze anyone. Risk for a child might mean shame and humiliation in front of their friends, peers, family, and teacher, or school.


1.      Keep the task small, manageable, and successful. (90% successful-10% risk- especially at first)

2.      Nodding approval, smiling, “good job”, clapping, etc. show approval and offer reward and success for students. Most of them want to learn and are desperate for approval.

3.      Create a low-risk classroom where risks are encouraged and applauded, failures are minimized as paths to learning, and everyone helps each other learn, by respecting the process and each other.

4.      Encourage collaborative learning. It lightens your load and creates synergy for learning. Learning is then the responsibility of everyone, and everyone is responsible for each other’s learning. Besides, remember the adage that the best way to learn something is to teach it?

THIRD PRINCIPLE: Teach vocabulary, writing, and reading together and keep it simple.


  1. Gather teaching materials that help illustrate words and their meanings. Real objects are terrific. Models of the real thing work too. For example, it is fun to bring real food to school when you do the food unit.
  2. Pictures (realistic and in the correct color) with the matching word are essential tools to do your job. As are writing materials-paper and pencils, markers, crayons, notebooks.
  3. Dictionaries with pictures and words, and simple reading materials are also necessary. Use simply written books with either one word per page or one simple sentence per page.
  4. Start with a thematic unit that is universal—family, body parts, colors, food, transportation, animals, numbers, and the alphabet. I start with the family and the family names.
  5. Spend as much time as it takes to master the concept. Language learning occurs constantly, but usually silently. But then it may begin all at once like an avalanche. Be patient. Encourage speaking, by modeling. Speaking slowly and clearly, but naturally. Don’t try to force them to speak.  On this vein, make sure that you are speaking Standard English correctly. Do not use slang, or idiomatic expressions, and keep drawls to a minimum. Please do not use “fixin’ or getin’”. Students--all students--are hearing and learning English from you. While no one wants a teacher so prim and proper he/she can’t relax, nevertheless, remember that you are their model for many things.
  6. Teach them how to write and say their name first. Then work on a simple repetitive sentence. i.e.  I see my mom. I see my dad, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, dog, baby brother/sister, aunt, uncle. Draw and illustrate one to a page and assemble into a book.
  7. Keep the books at school in a safe place for them to use as a source for spelling and as examples of vocabulary development. This will allow for transference to other sentence structures such as:  I see a tree, a house, a school.
  8. Over time, you will have created dictionaries for learning (colored and illustrated) evidence of teaching, learning and mastery for anyone to examine or view; and definitions of progress and growth.

FOURTH PRINCIPLE: Learning the alphabet, phonic sounds, and how to combine those sounds into simple words is a basic foundation for linguistic mastery. Spelling simple words (from word families) is essential to reading, writing, and speaking English. I recommend that you read Richard Gentry’s “Teaching Kids to Spell” for valuable information on this. 

  1. Pull your ESOL kids for ten minutes daily-- devoted to building background for learning, developing vocabulary, and reading.
  2. They should write and read every day.
  3. Ask for help from the administration, and accept help if it is offered. If parents or an assistant teacher offers to help, let them work with the most needy students.
  4. Sometimes the most at-risk English speaking kids are also in need of extra help with vocabulary, sentence structure, phonics mastery, spelling, and reading and writing skills. Consider how you could expand your lesson to subtlety include more students who may need it.

FIFTH PRINCIPLE: Be respectful in every way of other cultures, their customs, beliefs and values, or food, especially when they differ from yours, the schools, or even the United States .


  1. Learn something about the cultures of the students you are teaching.
  2. Many cultures teach their children to never look adults in the eyes.
  3. Many cultures do not like to shake hands. A slight bow or a nod may acknowledge one another.
  4. Some cultures find it highly offensive to touch their child’s head. Safe advice is to not touch any child anyway.
  5. Food is culture specific. Teach your American kids manners about civility when eating together. No offensive comments like “Ew! That’s gross or disgusting!”
  6. Discuss cultural preferences with respect and an interest in learning. I have found that most Americans have a great deal to learn about the history, contributions, and value of other countries and cultures.
  7. Encourage some cultural experience days when your class might learn a dance, new words in another language, or taste food from a different culture.
  8. Advocate respect for other cultures with your fellow teachers, other students in the school community, and the community at large. It seems ridiculous to me to argue whether it is proper for women to wear their head covered. Generally speaking, I have found that the more respect you evidence for other cultures, the more respect you will receive for your own, and this will allow honest communication and clearer understanding between cultures.

My experience with other cultures and ESOL students has been one of the greatest rewards of my teaching career. I have learned so much, and my experiences have deepened my interests in all cultures and their histories. The more I have learned about other people and their history, the more respect I feel for different cultures; and it helps me realize that America could learn something of value from all people. I suggest that if you have the opportunity to teach ESOL students, that you try it, and see if it is not one of the greatest rewards of your life.


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By Cleo V. Swarat
From "Thoughts in Poetry" self-published in 1948

Themes on Life

How well do you unite with your students' parents...

I dreamed I stood
in a studio
And watched two
sculptors there,
The clay they used
was a young child's mind
And they fashioned it with care.

One was a teacher;
the tools she used
were books and
music and art;
One was a parent
with a guiding hand
and a gentle loving heart.

And when at last
their work was done
They were proud of
what they had wrought
For the things they
had worked into the child
Could never be
sold or bought.

And each agreed she
would have failed
if she had worked alone
For behind the parent
stood the school,
and behind the teacher
stood the home.


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Hello readers!  Welcome to your second February 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 are also pleased to showcase another set of super science resources by Helen de la Maza to use in classrooms.  

You'll also find great articles from  Chris Sura and Mark Benn, as well as from guest writers Christina Riggan and Robert Carkhuff.

As always, we have free activities (from Mary Ann Graziani and Frank Holes Jr.) and articles with practical ideas and techniques to be applied directly into your classroom.   

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Art is Fundamental: Teaching the Elements and Principles of Art in the Elementary School

By Eileen Prince



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Technology & Teaching: 21st Century Teaching and Learning

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Day 1 Three friends want to share a pizza and soda after school.  If the bill comes to $25.80, how much should each chip in?
Day 2 A fourth friend joins them, so they order a second pizza for $6.50 more.  How much should each contribute now?
Day 3 Mary and Alice decide to share a piece of pie.  If it costs $3.40, how much will these two now be spending?
Day 4 The total bill comes to $35.70, and they have to pay a 6% sales tax.  How much will the tax be?
Day 5 How much will the new total be WITH the tax included?
Day 6 What is an easier way to compute the new price with the tax included?
Day 7 Tony suggests they leave a 10% tip.  How much would that be?
Day 8 Steve says a 20% tip would be much better. How much would that be?
Day 9 Mary and Alice said they should compromise and leave a 15% tip.  How much would that be?
Day 10 Now, with the total bill (including tax and tip), how much will each person spend?


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