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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 7, Issue 1
January 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   Building PowerPoint Presentations   What is Your Resolution?
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: iPod Touch, Apps, and Wirenode in Fourth Grade Communication Skills!  Here the Magic Begins Themes on Life: 
"A Teacher's Survival Kit for Everyday Living"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Accreditation (part 3)
New Teacher's Niche:
Running Project Centers Effectively
Student Teachers' Lounge: Give Me Five Sentence Writing Activity
Book of the Month Club:
Sandwich Bag Science
  Website of the Month:
  Article of the Week: "Civil Rights"

Remember to bookmark this page and to visit our website for more great articles, tips, and techniques!

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


Would you be interested in becoming a Featured Writer for the StarTeaching website?

Our Newsletter is now posting a opening for a Social Studies / History Writer interested in a monthly column focusing on Historical Events and Education.

We are also looking for an administrator interested in sharing 21st century leadership skills and ideas in schools.  

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


Feature Writer

What is Your Resolution?

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

A new year begins. This is the time we take on resolutions or goals in the areas of self-improvement, finances or accomplishments. As teachers, many of us take on resolutions at the beginning of the school year: “This year I will use more technology, try out a new strategy or read more professional articles in the field.” But how about your resolution as a writer? What are your writing resolutions?

Writing is many things for many of us, and since writing is a cross-curricular tool of thinking, reporting, processing and assessing, writing needs to be on our list. And I have a great suggestion for following through on that resolution.

As you may have read, I am a fellow of the Crossroads Writing Project. This is a local, university affiliated branch of the National Writing Project (NWP). Across the nation, there are many affiliations with the NWP. Writing Projects are guided by the words, “Teachers as Writers. Writers as Teachers.” Basically, the NWP wants teachers to spend time on their own writing, thus developing the teacher’s own skills. The benefit then reaches out to the classrooms as teachers grow as writers.

After a few years of being encouraged to participate, I attended the Summer Institute of the Crossroads Writing Project in 2006. It was the best rejuvenating, rewarding experience as a writer and teacher I that I had ever participated in. During the Institute, I spent hours free writing, participating in teaching demos, pursuing my writing projects that emerge out of the free writings, learning about I- Search research and associating with excellent teachers from across the region. I left with great writing strategies, a journal full of my writing, and several good friends. And here’s the kicker. It’s not just for English teachers.

Writing Projects are geared for any grade level, and subject. In the Crossroads of 2006, out of the sixteen fellows, I worked with an art teacher, a social studies teacher and a couple of special education teachers. Plus, we had teachers from elementary to college. We were all after the same goals. We all wanted to find more ways to be effective in the classroom, and we all wanted to practice and develop out own writing. A lead by example motif.

Oh, and the writing - it was a blast. The voices and writing pieces that emerged from our writing groups were spectacular. I was privy to the blossoming of a rugged shipping tale on the Great Lakes, the horror of bad mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, the panoramic view of nature poetry and the humor of daily life of the classroom.

Since 2006, I have remained involved with Crossroads as a teacher-consultant. I am a part of the Leadership Committee (other teachers and CWP fellows) that meets three to four times of the year. I am the facilitator for the Professional Writing Summer Institute for Crossroads. We have other institutes for Professional Development, Technology and Action Research. All with the goal: teachers as writers.

The best way to find a Writing Project near you is to go to www.nwp.org  On the top right corner is a site map for all fifty states. Through the national website, you can read more about the NWP, find the affiliates and get more info about them.

So what is your writing resolution? How about a Writing Project?


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iPod Touch, Apps, and Wirenode in Fourth Grade

By Tony Vincent

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

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

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

Tony is a teacher who wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in classrooms! He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates teachers to use technology that students crave.



iPod Touch

Order your own iPod Touch Today with the links below:



Mastering Basic Skills software:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to order your own copy today:



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

Give Me Five Sentence Writing Activity

This is a great writing activity that can be used in any class, any subject, or any grade level.

We've created another variation of the context sentences activity which we call 'Give-Me-Five'. It is similar in that you create a matrix of words, vocabulary, or terms from which your students will write unique, interesting, complete sentences. And students should be given the opportunity to share their unique sentence creations with the class.

The original context sentences activity had a matrix of nine total words, three across by three down. Students then created a sentence for each line across, down, and diagonal, writing a total of nine sentences. Give-Me-Five builds on this, but expands the matrix to five words across by five words down, twenty-five words in all.

Now the lines down, across, and diagonal will include five words that you have designated. That gives you and the students twelve different lines of word combinations to choose from. We like to have the students choose five (or more) such lines from this 5x5 matrix. The students then must fit all five words from their line into a sentence. The students are getting practice in spelling and using the words correctly, as well as writing complete sentences.

One of the great aspects of this activity is its durability. I like to create several matrices and type them out on an overhead sheet so I can use them over each hour and I can file them for year after year. We make up specific sets of words to match certain stories, lessons, or units, and we also use them with random words just to have fun.

Always give the students the opportunity to share their creations with the class. This reinforces the correct use of the vocab or terms, gives students practice reading and listening to properly written sentences, and creates an opportunity for students to present in front of their peers, a skill that always needs practice.  This also makes a great lesson to leave for a substitute teacher, or to put in your emergency plans. Make sure you have fully explained this activity and your students have practiced it a few times under your guidance before leaving it as an activity for your sub.

This activity (as well as the context sentences activity) is great for utilizing vocabulary in foreign language classes, as it forces students to spell and use words properly while writing sentences. It is also good for any class or subject that has specific vocabulary students need to familiarize themselves with. This works well for social studies and science classes, and it makes an easy writing assignment for music, art, p.e, and other elective-type classes where the teacher may be required to add writing activities, even if he or she isn't highly trained in writing.

This is especially good for English teachers if you're covering compound or complex sentence structures, as you can specify particular types of sentences to have students write. Simply set up your matrix so there are two or more nouns or verbs in a line. You might even add a conjunction to the line!

Now of course you might want to adjust this activity to meet the needs and level of your students. This could include changing the number of lines you require students to make sentences out of. You might have students choose fewer lines and create different unique sentences from the same five words. You might have students choose two or three lines and take all ten or fifteen words and create a story paragraph. There are many possibilities you can develop. If you create any really interesting variations, let us know and we'll feature you in an upcoming issue of our newsletter.


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

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

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

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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

Building PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPoint is a fantastic program that can make your classroom presentations come alive. It is at a basic level an interactive slide show. For advanced users, it can include timed transitions, video clips, and audio elements. A digital projector and a computer can enliven your presentations and make note taking easier. The use of technology also captures and keeps the students (or your audience's) attention.

PowerPoint (or a comparable software product) allows information to be displayed in a fun, interactive manner. It ties text, graphics, and animation seamlessly in an easy to use format. You have total control, from choosing text sizes, fonts, and colors, to creating graphics of all shapes and colors, and even to adding pictures, clip art, sounds, and animations. You also determine the page layout by simply moving any item wherever you want on the slide.

You begin with a blank slide on which you will arrange your data, whether it be text or graphical elements.

Having used PowerPoint for many years, I have some suggestions for you.

1. Use at least size 16 font, and think seriously about size 20 or 24 font. This is so youw words and letters are large enough to see from everywhere in your room.
2. Be careful with color schemes. A creative slide may actually be hard to see when projected. Use light colored (white/yellow) text and graphics on a dark background, and use dark text and graphics on a light background. Avoid red/blue combinations, and others like these that tend to blend into each other. Always test your presentation before giving it so you can ensure it will be seen properly.
3. Don't bother using sound unless you have a good set of speakers. The audio will use up valuable memory and is useless unless you have speakers. And many times the novelty wears off and your audience will tire of the repetitive sounds.
4. When your students are using graphics and photos, check that the sizes are appropriate. Expanding (enlarging) a photo can reduce its resolution, making it grainy and hard to see clearly.
5. Animations and slide transitions are neat and fun, but don't overdo them. Choose one slide transition to use throughout the presentation so your audience knows the next slide is here. The same goes with animations: keep them simple and appropriate. You want to impress the audience with your information, not the 'gadgets' you use to soup up the PowerPoint.

The program also includes several templates where you can just click and insert the text or graphics you want. The best way of gaining proficiency is to play with the program. That's right, pretend you're a kid and try everything out. There's no way you can break it. Check out all of the menus and buttons. If you do become confused, find a third grader who can help you out (at that age, many kids are already proficient and still love to show you how to do it). There are many tricks, shortcuts, options, and neat ideas you can try. You'll find ones you like and that fit your personality or your presentation.

Most of the 'equivalent' programs for various platforms (Mac/Windows/Linux) are close enough for you or your students to be proficient on any machine. At our school, we regularly switch between Macs and Linux computers, and our students have quickly mastered both the basics and more advanced techniques. Remember, you as the teacher don't need to know exactly every detail of the program. You can rely on (or challenge) your students to find the little intricacies of the program. The big thing is for you to have your students use the program, and you'll learn alongside the kids.

PowerPoint is very easy to use. With just a little bit of computer familiarity, you can be creating professional and creative presentations.

Your browser may not support display of this image.  

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




  StarTeaching Feature Writer


By Munir Moosa Sewani

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

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

In today’s competitive world, communication plays an important role to progress in every walk of life. Once it was believed that communication is for businessmen and marketing managers; but today, the world demands that everyone, including students, must have good communication skills.

Are you good at expressing your ideas? Can you turn your ideas into words? If yes, then you are on the right track. But if you feel hesitation while speaking in front of an audience and you often pretend to have vocal issues when your teacher asks you to give answer to question, then you must learn the skills to be a good communicator.

In this article, I will try my best to give you some basic tips which will surely assist you to overcome the problem of communication. To begin with, I have a very good example. When I was in my school, I was very reserved and shy. I never spoke in front of my teachers because I always assumed that my classmates would laugh if I said anything wrong. Though I was a very good speaker when it came to sharing my ideas with my friends, I usually sealed my lips while facing the public or my classmates. I do remember that my class teacher once asked me to recite Naat in Eid Milaad. She called me up for the rehearsal with other students. At the last moment, I ran away to my class and started sweating. My teacher was disturbed. She always wanted to raise my morale.

But as time passed by, I learned the art of communication.

When I entered the field of teaching, I had a student in my class who always kept himself isolated in the classroom because he could not speak well. Whenever I used to ask him to come up front to recite a poem, he never showed up.

I also came across another student who was very shy and reserved. He thought he was not good at speaking. But after 2 years, he won the best speaker award in New York because of his motivation to overcome his phobia.

This was not the only child having such a problem. I came across many children during my career who were not good at communication. But improving communication is not a huge deal.

Here are some guidelines:

1. The first thing you require is to boost your confidence and to have courage to face the people. To begin with, you can regularly talk to your best friends, siblings or to your parents about your day to day activities. If you do not want to share anything with anyone, let’s begin virtually - you can start recording your ideas and upload them on the internet and later invite your family members, friends and anonymous people to listen to you. If you do not have any ideas to come up with, take out your English textbook, and record your reading regularly. People will comment on you unanimously, which will help you to gain confidence in sharing your ideas to others.

2. To become a good speaker, you must improve your listening skills. To begin with, all you can do is to tune in your favorite channel, and watch it regularly for half an hour. That will help you to get many ideas about different things. Moreover, always appreciate others' ideas before sharing yours. When I was in my university, I routinely tried to listen to others' ideas and then compiled those ideas to share my own.

3. Just believe in yourself. Learn the art of talking by receiving phone calls. That will help you to improve your listening skills as well as controlling your tone and tempo. Remember that yelling and arguing may not be the best way to communicate with other. Be mindful of your own tone of voice when talking to others. You can even monitor your tone by carrying recordable walkman. You can later listen to your voice to understand areas of improvement.

4. Do you know that you can call free of cost to the USA and Canada from Gmail to any landline or mobile number? All you have to do is to search numbers of schools located in USA or Canada, and call the representatives to learn about the courses offered by the schools. This will not only help you to gain knowledge, but at the same time you can also improve your accent which is mandatory for good communication. In the same manner, if you want, you can voice chat with your friend or to your cousins residing abroad, in order to improve accent.

5. Once you are familiar with your virtual practices, you need to learn the art of making good eye contact. Whenever you find teachers, friends and your family members speaking, you must make good eye contact with confidence and always have a pleasant smile on your face. While listening, always make proper facial gestures. That will surely help others to understand you and they will also listen you and will accept yours ideas with a open arms.

6. Posture and body language plays an important function in conversation. Learn space perimeters by improving your reading skills. Practice different types of body language so that you can understand how it affects others' perception of your message. Use simple terms such as "When you stand with your arms crossed, the listener might think you are angry or frustrated even if you are not." Practicing through role-playing or games will help you to develop effective communication skills that will carry you into adulthood.

7. The next step is to speak clearly and correctly in front of others. Using good pronunciation, not rushing your speech and using good grammar are all aspects of communication that are necessary. We already discussed how to learn the art of pronunciation. For good grammar, reading good books in the library may help.

8. The next step is to have patience. We often love to share our ideas by interrupting others in between. You must wait for your turn and don't interrupt.

9. Remember that communication is a two way process, so always pay attention and later respond appropriately.

10. If you have stage phobia, you can rehearse in front of your mirror to overcome it.  You must participate in extra curricular activities, such as debates, singing, etc., in order to gain more confidence.

11. Always enter conversations politely. Avoid giving bias statements. Last but not the least, “The art of communication is the language of leadership”. (James Humes)


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(part 3)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Accreditation is a process by which a facility's services and operations are examined by a third-party accrediting agency to determine if applicable standards are met. Should the facility meet the accrediting agency's standards, the facility receives accredited status from the accrediting agency.

In the United States, the term is most often used with reference to schools and hospitals. Accreditation of these institutions is performed by private nonprofit membership associations known as accreditors. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees accrediting agencies and provides guidelines as well as resources and relevant data. In contrast, in many other countries the authority to operate an educational institution is at the discretion of the central government, typically through a Ministry of Education (MOE). In these countries, the MOE may provide functions similar to those of accreditation body, depending on resources and government interests.

Legal Considerations

In the United States, unaccredited degrees may not be acceptable for civil service or other employment; criminal penalties sometimes apply should such a degree be presented in lieu of one from an accredited school. The use of such degrees are restricted in Oregon, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, Nevada and Washington where improper usage can result in misdemeanor charges punishable by fines. For instance, the state of Washington passed a bill in March 2006 "prohibiting false or misleading college degrees.". The state senate "unanimously amended and approved a bill that would make issuing or using a false degree a class C felony, a crime of fraud that could warrant five years in prison and a $10,000 fine" unless the degree were accredited or otherwise recognized. Oregon has a procedure in which unaccredited schools can apply for authorization from the state, which maintains a list of approved and exempt unaccredited schools which are permitted there. An Oregonian wishing to use an unaccredited degree not approved by the state must make it clear that the school is not accredited.

Some state laws allow authorities to shut down large illegal operations of unaccredited schools or diploma mills. In November 2005, a group of operators in Seattle was caught running several diploma mills. The group was indicted after a Secret Service investigation. In 1998, Tyndale Theological Seminary was fined $173,000 for issuing degrees as a seminary without a license.

Regional Accreditors

Regional accreditation is a term used in the United States to refer to the process by which one of six accrediting bodies, each serving an area of the country, accredits schools, colleges, and universities. Each regional accreditor encompasses the vast majority of public and nonprofit private schools in the region they serve. They include among their membership nearly all elementary schools, junior high schools, middle schools, high schools, community colleges, public universities, and private universities.


Vocational and religious accreditation groups have standards that are different from regional accreditors. For example, Trinity College (Florida) holds the Association for Biblical Higher Education. Trinity applied for regional accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but was rejected in December 2005 In December 2005, SACS reviewed the college and rejected the application for accreditation because "Trinity College of Florida failed to provide information demonstrating its compliance with Core Requirement 2.5 (Institutional Effectiveness), Core Requirement 2.7.1 (Program Length), Core Requirement 2.7.2 (Program Content), Core Requirement 2.8 (Faculty), Comprehensive Standard 3.7.1 (Faculty), and Core Requirement 2.9 (Learning Resources and Services) of the Principles of Accreditation

Unaccredited Institutions

Despite the widely recognized benefits and accountability of accreditation, some institutions choose, for various reasons, not to participate in an accreditation process. According to the United States Department of Education, it is possible for post secondary educational institutions and programs to elect not to seek accreditation but nevertheless provide a quality post secondary education. Yet, other unaccredited schools simply award degrees and diploma without merit for a price.

Some religious schools claim that accreditation could interfere with their mission or philosophy even though organizations do exist specifically to accredit religious institutions without compromising their doctrinal statements. Some states, such as California, allow exemption from accreditation for religious schools. Thus, occasionally diploma mills operate as religious universities to avoid laws against diploma mills. Meanwhile institutions, such as Strassford University, claim "none of the recognized regional accrediting organizations accept as members institutions that are not dedicated to traditional education," and thus, Strassford does not "desire" traditional accreditation. The Strassford University is listed by the Oregon State Office of Degree Authorization as part of a diploma mill operation. Furthermore, other schools simply do not have the means or organizational structure to meet accreditation standards and others, like San Diego Christian College, have had their accreditation status revoked after failing to meet minimum requirements.

An ongoing problem within higher education accreditation is the existence of diploma mills and accreditation mills. These organizations exist to grant apparent degrees without course work to give a willing buyer a degree for money. Sometimes both the buyer and seller know this or a potential student is not aware of the fraud. In some cases a diploma mills and/or its "accreditor" is unrecognized and exists only at a post office box or Web page owned by the proprietor of the school.



Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



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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!

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Year of the Dogman Website
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Haunting of Sigma Website
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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

Running Project Centers Effectively

Project centers or stations can be a great way to have your students working independently (or as a team) on a number of assignments.  These centers have been used successfully by elementary teachers, gym teachers, and coaches for many years. And this technique can be utilized by middle school teachers too. In fact, writer's workshops and science labs are really not too far from this style of teaching.  Basically you divide up your students into several groups, and each group of students moves from one project area to the next, doing work at each station.

Some teachers have specific centers or stations they use each week during the year. They have certain skills they want their students to practice through the year. Some stations may change or be adjusted as the year goes on. Other teachers use groups as needed in particular units or for extra practice. These are geared toward specific objectives in a unit or they may be determined by testing and assessment of students progress (or lack of progress).

Dividing up the students will be determined in large part by the resources you have to work with and the types of assignments you want the kids to do. For example, in my class I want my students using technology in real-life applications. Thus, we need every computer put to use every hour. Now, we're quite lucky to have a bank of eMacs updated with new software right in our room. Because of this, we have students working on projects like PowerPoints, web pages, newsletters, and the like. Each week the students have a large project similar to these to work on. Sometimes these are individual activities, and other times the group of students must work together.  This is one example of the resources in your room dictating the group size; there are five computers, so I can have groups of five students.

There are a number of ways to designate your groups. You might have preformed groups, either choosing them yourself or allowing students to have input. One teacher at our school has the kids write down one student they work well with and one student they cannot work with at all. She then uses this to form groups. Another teacher uses his knowledge of the students' leadership skills and academic performance to form groups. In my room, students are already at tables, and each table is labeled with a different symbol (star, heart, square, triangle, & circle). This makes it easy for me to just write the symbol on the board next to each group, and I can rewrite them each day. One teacher in our elementary has a permanent chart on his wall and uses velcro (you could use magnets if you have a white board) to affix small signs to designate each group. Then changing groups each day is quick and easy.

You have to be ready for and expect a certain noise level when your students are in groups or project centers. But as always, there is 'productive' noise and then there is 'off-task' talking. Keep yourself free to move about the room, monitoring students and checking their progress.

Monitor the groups carefully and keep the kids on task, especially the first few times you try centers. Once your students understand your expectations, you'll be freed up more to help individually. I like to include normal classroom activities and assignments as part of the centers. After we've practiced this skill or activity and the students know how to do it, they are more likely to successfully accomplish a similar task in group.

This is one great advantage of the groups - you can move from group to group working with kids. Each project center has an activity for the kids so they are on task. And since these are much smaller groups of students, you can work closely with them, discussing and answering questions. And you can check for understanding faster, easier, and more thoroughly.

Choose meaningful activities at each station. In our English class, students need at least one reading and one writing activity each week. These may take various forms, and I try to mix it up a bit.  Then I also try to make use of the technology with computer projects.  Each activity has meaning and many provide good practice on skills.

After a few rotations, the students get the hang of it. I'll give them a two-minute warning, and we put a 30 second timer on the switch between groups. This keeps them hopping and eliminates the down time. They do get much faster the more you practice.

My students have responded favorably to the groups. They enjoy switching gears once or twice each class period. This fits with their attention spans too. I like it too, because the kids are split up around the room and they're on task. And I'm able to interact more closely with the students. It frees me up to walk around and work individually or conference with a student if I wish. I'm not sure this is the only way to teach effectively, but it is an excellent teaching tool to keep in your toolbox.


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



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

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

Want to check out the articles in our Student-Teaching series?  Check out our special Student-Teaching page through the following link:  http://www.starteaching.com/studentteachers.htm



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Kindle weighs only 10 ounces and is 1/3 of an inch thick, yet it holds over 1500 books!

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"A Teacher's Survival Kit for Everyday Living"
Author Unknown
Adapted by Charles Nelson & fellow teachers

Themes on Life

What essential items do we need every day?

Reminds us to look for the good qualities in our students. You may be the only teacher who says something positive to them that day.

Reminds the teacher that they have to be flexible.  Things don't always go the way we plan, but flexibility will help to work it out.

Reminds the teacher that sometimes we do more than teach, that we help heal hurt feelings, broken dreams, and lend an ear to a problem.

Reminds us to be thankful and we should list our blessings daily, but also encourage our students to list their blessings and to be proud of their accomplishments.

Reminds us to allow students to know we are human and make mistakes just like they do, and it's ok.  We must all be able to learn from our mistakes.

Reminds us to stick with it and encourage our students to do like wise.  Even the impossible task or assignment can be accomplished by sticking to it.

Reminds us and our students we are worth a mint. (We may not be paid a mint, but are worth one.)

Reminds us that everyone needs a hug, kiss, or warm fuzzy everyday.  (All teachers, students, parents, and even administrators)

Reminds us we need time to relax, go over our blessing, and take time for others.  Family, husbands, wives, friends, children need quality time together.

A teacher must be willing to show their students how much they care!!!

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome to our first January issue.  We are celebrating the beginning of our seventh year!  This month, our web partner Tony Vincent shares great apps used by a fourth grade class, while tech writer Mark Benn shares an excellent video on learning, and our Featured Writer Chris Sura has a great writing activity to spur discussions.

Our Website of the Month features SpellingCity, and we have an excellent science book for our Book of the Month.  There is also an article on public speaking from Munir Moosa Sewani.  

Look for more real math problems from Mary Ann Graziani and the Article of the Week from Frank Holes, Jr.  And we round out the issue with articles on writing and project centers.  Be sure to join up on our FACEBOOK page for StarTeaching for more reader interaction as well as constant, updated streams of educational information.  

Of course, you should also check our website for a number of updates and re-designed pages.  We're starting to collect quite a few articles from educational experts all over the world.  See these archives on our website: www.starteaching.com



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"The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be."

~Horace Bushnell

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Feature Writers
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Educational Technology
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Mathematics Education
Helen de la Maza:
Science Education
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English Education
Munir Moosa Sewani:
World Education
Salima Moosa Sewani:
World Education
Rozina Jumani:
World Education
Yasmeen Jumani:
World Education
Dr. Peter Manute:
Student Teachers and 
Job Finding
Kim Taylor-DiLeva:
Sign Language
Christina Riggan:
School Features
Michael Kett: 
Magic in the Classroom






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Articles & Archives

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10 Days Of


Why do people make New Years resolutions?


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How can you improve your grades in the new year?


What are THREE goals you have for the second semester?


How can you improve your listening behavior during the second semester?


Describe your best class so far.  What makes it great? 


What is your worst class so far?  Why is it so bad?


 What are TWO ways you can improve your study habits during the next semester?

Click to see over 1000 prompts


10 days of writing prompts


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Writing Process Articles

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Be sure to check out our

Sandwich Bag Science

By Steve Tomecek



Coming Soon:

More Article of the Week

Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Writing Process and Programs

Classroom Management


Are You Looking For a Teaching Job?

Need a position in a K-12 school, administration, or a coaching job?  Our website has just gained access to a specialized service just for our members and newsletter readers.  Job listings, application and interviewing tips, and priceless information, at your fingertips!

Click here if you want to find that Teaching Job!

10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 2-1 =
Day 2 3-2 =
Day 3 What is the square root of 100?
Day 4 What is  1?
Day 5 What is the square root of 16?
Day 6 What is the square root of 25?
Day 7 What is  64?
Day 8 What is the square root of 0?
Day 9 What is the square root of 81?
Day 10 What is the square root of 36?


Be sure to visit Mary Ann Graziani's website to pick up a copy of any of her THREE books for sale





Tech-Ed Articles

Check out our entire collection of technology articles, including:
* 21st Century Learning
* Integrating Technology
* Computer Literacy
* REAL activities you can use!




Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Pennies and Surface Tension
(click for PDF)

Pennies and Surface Tension PDF


Boat Buoyancy
(click for PDF)

Boat Buoyancy PDF

Click HERE to see all of 
Helen's Science Activities


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Inspirational Quotes
& Photos

Check out our entire collection of inspirational quotes and photos from our 5 years of newsletters.  








Using Photography To Inspire Writing
By Hank Kellner

Visit his blog at: hank-englisheducation.



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


Article of the Week
"Civil Rights"
Click here to download the PDF
"Cell Phone Cheating"
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