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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 7, Issue 14
July 2011
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

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

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   The Relationship Between Teacher and Student: A Symbol of Love and Understanding   School  Selections: Teaching Economics At The Middle School Level
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See"
Tech/21st Century Corner: 
Are The Students Truly Understanding It? Are We?
A Guarantee To Bring Improvement
Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Single Sex Education (part 2)
New Teacher's Niche:
Crosswords and Word Puzzles: A Great Way To Review In Class
Student Teachers' Lounge: The Many Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading
Book of the Month Club:
How To Survive Teaching Health
  Website of the Month:
  Themes on Life: 
"The Horse Story"
Article of the Week: "Michigan Urban Legends"   Summer Book Sale for Teachers      

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

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


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

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

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



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The Relationship Between Teacher and Student: A Symbol of Love and Understanding

By: Munir Moosa Sewani


Munir Moosa Sewani is one of the most famous, prominent and creative names in the field of Education for the past 10 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 four and a half 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 100 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 have 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.

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

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." (William Ward)

For an ordinary person, a teacher is a person who teaches students, but for students, the role of a teacher is far beyond our expectations. A teacher is a role model for many children. They imitate their teachers and many a times share all those things which they can’t even express in front of their parents.

When I joined the profession of teaching a decade ago, I had no idea about this field; but as time passed, I realized that this field has given more than what I had expected. But this field demands love, care, sympathy, understanding, and above all, a good relationship with students.

It's truly said “Children are like a pot of flowers. If you’ll give them proper attention, they’ll grow up properly; but if you’ll give them lack of attention or extreme care, they’ll be destroyed.” (Munir Moosa Sewani, 2006).

A teacher is a very important person in every student’s life. Understanding the needs of students is a challenging task for teachers. That trust can only be built if there is a good relationship between a teacher and a student. Research was conducted and 50 students were asked the question: what is the one line, which comes to your mind for your teachers? (Research conducted by Munir Moosa in March, 2007) Few of the responses are given below: I am fed up of my teachers because of their stupid threats! My teachers always support us and they always think good for us. They are really concerned about our future.

I am sure that sir (name undisclosed) was given severe punishments during his childhood. Now he has become mental and throwing tantrums on us. My teacher always insults me in front of all the students. I want to kill my teacher one. I love my teachers because I truly feel comfortable in taking their views in solving my personal problems.

These are some of the statements commented by students. What makes them say all that is something, which is to be assessed by us. Despite reading so many articles, news headlines, laws, etc., some teachers love to be staunch all the time. But a challenging teacher begins his/her teaching career by building understanding with their students.

During my 4th year of teaching, one of my students of class 3 said the following words to me “Sir, mayray daddy smoke kartay hai- mujhay bohat ganda lagta hai lekin woh kisi ki nahi suntay aur mummy ko be maartay hai isi liye may bohat darr jata hu. Aap please daddy ko bolo woh aap ki baat maan lay gay.” (Sir, my dad is a smoker and I dislike his habit of smoking, but he never listens to any one and always hit my mom, that’s why, I often feel insecure. Please talk to my dad; he will surely listen to you). I was deeply touched when the first time student started trusting me. That trust was based on student-teacher relationship. Students start trusting you if you are sincere to them. Days are gone when a staunch teacher was considered as the best one. Today, students need a good teacher not a villain; they need to learn rather than listening to dictating lectures; they need a friendly teacher rather than a strict one.

The relationship of a teacher and student is very sensitive. Once it is built with a positive gesture, a teacher can expect good outcomes of teaching.

According to a research review co-authored by Christi Bergin and David Bergin at the University of Missouri, students with positive attachments to their professors and institutions display higher grades and higher standardized test scores. Moreover, research was conducted in which the results concluded that children are more comfortable with their teachers than their friends, only if teachers are sincere to them. We all are teachers in some way or the other, but how many of us have achieved the level of satisfaction, is the question we need to ask ourselves. I would appreciate the readers to read the story provided below:

Once, a new child got an admission in my class. He just shifted to Pakistan from Afghanistan. When all the students saw him, they started hitting him, and made faces as if they did not like him. Few of the students even complained to me about his dirty clothes, while the others made lame excuses because they did not want to sit with him. One of the brilliant students of my class complained, "Munir Sir, this boy smells horrible. He is so shabby! I don't want to sit with him at any cost." At that time, an idea clicked to my mind to solve this dispute. The very next day, when I entered the class, that innocent Afghan student was sitting at the back, while other students were making fun of him.

One of the students, who were just sitting beside me, informed me that my socks were torn. Another student looked at my shirt and informed me that my shirt sleeves were torn. (Actually, I was already aware of that, but pretended as if, I had no idea). I replied, "Oh! I didn't know that; what should I do now? I think it's better for me to leave the class because I have worn tattered shirt and socks, and it's my presumption that you all would not allow me to be in your class in such a scruffy way."

One of the students exclaimed, "So what if your shirt sleeves and socks are torn. You must not leave the class at any cost. We don't want any other teacher to teach us." Another student exclaimed, "Hey! I have an idea. Let me ask the section head if she can arrange a safety pin for you?" At that time, I sparkled and replied, "My dear students, you all know that I have worn torn clothes, then why have you all requested me to be in your class?” One student responded, "You are our beloved teacher, and we don't want you to leave the class because you are the best teacher and we have no problem with your torn attire."

I replied, "You all love me and accepted me in any case. In the same manner, this new student has worn torn clothes and odor comes from his cloth. But is it wise enough to throw him out of the class or tell him not to come to school from the next day, just because of wearing untidy clothes?" I further added, "He is also human, and God always tell us to help every one. He is like your brother. If any of your brothers is in need, it's your duty to help." All the students realized and felt sorry for their harsh behavior. They all shook hands and welcomed that Afghani child. The very next day, I was surprised to see that boy's glinting face. It was like a miracle for me to see him mingling with other students. Spare clothes, books, stationary, etc, which were brought by the students for him. I still remember one of the students even brought soap and taught him how to clean his face and hands properly. My students are my strength and their motivation to help others makes me feel proud. 

The above story clearly reflects student-teacher relationship. If your students trust you, then the teaching can be performed successfully.

Here are some tips for teachers to have better relationships with their students. Few of the advices, I would like to give to the teachers are:

* Always love your students and care them like your own children.

* Respect your students and never hurt them in front of other students.

* Avoid corporal punishment; that will only left scars in their minds.

* Take your students for outing with the permission of your school so that students can feel cozy with you.

* Become a good counselor and provide them your valuable suggestions, whenever necessary.

* Mother Theresa beautifully quoted “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless. So be kind to your students.

* If the student fails to learn, the teacher fails to teach." –Therefore, we must look into our pockets rather blaming children for any failure.

* A sincere teacher does not look for one who performs the appearance of work. It means that appreciates student’s efforts and never let them down. If they do not perform well, help them to learn it and try to find the reasons behind it.

* Student-teacher relationship must be healthy, based on cooperation, mutual understanding with little bits of strictness.

* Never discourage students in sharing their ideas. Let them speak and give their views without any discrimination.

* Always be natural and express yourself without any hesitant.

* Give them chance to write on their own. Don’t ever try to showcase your skills. A sign of a good teacher is appreciating children efforts rather making them promoting rote learning.

* Know each an individual child’s capabilities and abilities and explore their creativity.

* Give them time to relax in class.

* If they regularly feel bored when you teach, try to arrange educational activity for them as an alternative resource to complete your curriculum.

* Give them incentives or reward when they perform good work. The reward could be a gift, star, stamp or just a good verbal slogan like Bravo! Keep it up! This positive gesture is required especially in primary classes.

* Try to teach according to the psychology of the students.

* Always remember that children are very sensitive, so treat them with gentle love.

* They notice each and every thing- from our dress to our gestures, so always be prepared for every thing.

Children usually ask us many questions and sometimes we don't know the answer to some questions. At that moment, just try to be loyal and tell your students that you'll search it and will tell them tomorrow or day after. In this way you'll not only gain trust and confidence, there will also be a strong bond of relationship on both sides.

Be a role model for your students not only by wearing extremely nice apparel, but also through your positive attitude and knowledge.

If any student makes any mistake in their copy, don’t punish them to re-write. That is the worst solution for a teacher. Look at your mistake because it is the teacher’s fault if a child does any mistake.

The tips will surely help all the teachers to build a stronger relationship with their students.

Best of Luck!


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Using Photography To Inspire Writing

By Hank Kellner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I Love a Parade
By Elizabeth Guy


Can you hear it?

Can you see them come?

The tweedle-de-tweet of the piccolo.
The pounding of the drum.
The brilliant blare of the sounding brass.
The sudden shock of the cymbal clash.

The cadence of those marching feet.
Marching, marching.
Down the street.

There they are!

Here they come!

Photo 14 and 14a By Hank Kellner

"The one thing I want to see again is a military parade."   

- Ulysses S. Grant  



The Absence of Color
By Cynthia Staples

Does sadness have a color?
Muted blue perhaps tinged with gray.
White with ash layered throughout like Morbier cheese?
Not black.  Black is beautiful
As are gold, brown, and green.
They indicate life.
Sadness equals absence
Of light and color and warmth.
Arctic white then, yes,
That’s the color of sadness.



Photo 12 by Hank Kellner

“Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing hours, makes the night morning, and the noontide light.”

 - William Shakespeare


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.


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2. Paired Associate Learning
3. Immediate Recall
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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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A Guarantee To Bring Improvement 

By Rozina Jumani


Rozina Jumani is a Development consultant associated with a number of Non governmental Organizations (NGO). Prior to this, she was with Aga Khan Education Services Pakistan for 10 years as a Professional Development Teacher and Counselor. She has done her Masters in Islamic Studies and English from University of Karachi. She is a commonwealth scholar and completed her Masters in Education Planning, Economic and International Development from the institute of Education (IOE), University of London.

Have we ever thought about the question, ‘What is the purpose of the classroom observation?"  If it is an informal visit to a classroom, or if we are guests and want to see the classes, or we are donors and want to investigate the infrastructure, etc., then certainly we would get in and out very quickly. But if we are teachers and are engaged in a process of learning, then our response would be entirely different.

If it is first agreed between observer and the observee then there are also other points to be determined.  For instance, whether the teacher initiated the process of observation by suggesting his/her name voluntarily, or it is enforced on him/her?  Does s/he willingly accept the visitor in the classroom? Then s/he must have thought about both positive and negative (improvement) areas to be highlighted by the visitor or observer. Thus all would be based upon the mature relations with each other, the purpose of the observation, and it would enable us to determine the outcome of the observation.

In my professional career as teacher and then teacher educator, I have had many opportunities to be observed and then observe others. Many times it was institutional policy, control and enforcement, but there were quite a few times when new teachers invited me to become their critical partners.  Furthermore it was to suggest to them how to be more effective in various aspects such as handling of content knowledge, pedagogical skills, time and resource management, classroom management, etc.

Furthermore, there are many other informal ways to provide feedback to teachers for instance:

·        Sharing opinions in an informal ways projecting oneself at his/her place using structure like, “If I was at your place, I would have…..’.

·         Invite him/her for observation of my own or another teacher’s class and discuss wanted and unwanted behavior and its impact on students learning

·        Audio or video recording of the taught lesson could be analyzed either individually (there s/he get more time to reflect) or together

·        Engage him/her in an open discussion on taught plan and its execution plan, etc.

·        Modeling and/or peer coaching could be another way to invite comments

Taking down observation notes is a skill that matures with time in the life of a teacher or teacher educator. In my career I have seen myself growing in that skill; initially I used to take down what is good or bad in the lesson, then gradually I noted down how the objective/s of the lesson are achieved. In the later years as teacher educator, I started observing a lesson with two major themes focusing on ‘What was the teaching saying?’ and ‘What were students saying?" Then I fine tuned my own observation by linking teachers’ instructions, explanation, and discussion points with students’ learning and outcome. I used to highlight my analysis (positive and areas to be improved) about each lesson.

Classroom observation and feedback process becomes demoralizing when the element of force directs the process, when the mutual coordination and trust building seems impossible due to misunderstanding. This culture creates a bossy attitude among the observers which cause humiliation and lack of trust, and eventually fosters hatred, jealousy, and unwillingness to work. To avoid such a condition where colleagues would play ruler and subordinate role, it is necessary to understand and practice a diversity of perspectives; to respect other ideas and avoid unnecessary impositions on a fresh teacher; rather it is suggested to inspire them by modeling one’s role appropriately when unconsciously s/he learns and adapt where necessary.

Teaching leads to inspiring other young people and adults.  It is a voluntary process and no one can dumb his/her ideas on others’ heads; thus it is suggested to keep this (classroom observation  and giving feedback) process lively when both the partners show willingness to share and create new knowledge.

Further it is suggested to create a friendly bond between observer and observee by co-planning and peer coaching.  As one cannot be perfect in knowledge, it is therefore important to remind all those who are TEACHER EDUCATORS to become nurturing and not be perfectionists;  And above all, avoid creating model of imposition and enforcement.



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

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



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

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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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  TECH/21st Century CORNER

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Are the Students Truly Understanding It?  
Are We? (part 1)

By Mark Benn, Middle School Teacher

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 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.

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

Everyday, as teachers, we work hard to have students learn material and acquire skills they will need in the future. Along the way, we attempt to see if they understand the material by asking questions of individual students, or giving them a quiz. This is called formative assessment. From this type of assessment we make decisions how to proceed with the material. In the end we may give a final test to measure their final understanding of the material. This final form of measurement is called summative assessment.

What is this formative and summative assessment about, you may ask? Giving final tests have been around forever (summative assessment). Asking questions of the students isn’t new either (formative assessment). But what have you done with the answers the students gave? Did they help in guiding where you were going with the material? Did it help you assess the success of your teaching strategies? Let’s look a little deeper at this.  

What is your motivation in teaching the curriculum, or skills, that you, as a teacher, are expected to present within your subject matter or grade level? Is your motivation to get through the material and hopefully the students will get it, or is it to teach for mastery? If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of material I have to teach in a year, I’m going to teach in a way that gets me through the material. Is this what we are called to do? Do you know, at any point in time, where each individual student is in their comprehension of the subject matter or skills?  What is your motivation for giving worksheets or answering questions on paper? Is it to just get a grade or practice the skill? Or should there be more?  I know these are heavy questions, but we, as professionals, should be asking them each time we teach. Today’s 21st century teacher is being called upon to raise the bar, but do we know how?

If you notice, I haven’t mentioned No Child Left Behind, until now. As frustrated as we get with the way this concept is being carried out, the idea isn’t bad. How many students have been dropped through the cracks over the years because of how we approached teaching? How many times have we been frustrated because students act like they have never seen the material, even though we know the previous teacher had taught it? It is time we start looking at out teaching strategies and ask ourselves if this is working. We need to be willing to talk with other teachers about what we are doing in the classroom and sharing among ourselves what has worked and what hasn’t. From this dialogue we can make adjustments to our strategies so that all students can be successful in some way.

Now, I know I haven’t addressed formative and summative assessment. I haven’t dealt with the many questions I brought up and the motivation behind our teaching. This first part was to get you thinking. In the next part I will address these questions. So think about it.


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:




 School Selections  

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Teaching Economics at the Middle School Level

by Marian Holes, Middle School Teacher

Economics in the Middle School seems such a difficult subject to me. It’s part of our content standards and tested on the high stakes proficiency test in the 8th grade so it truly must be presented to students. Yet, it’s not well covered in our typical M.S. history text or for that matter, in my own college curriculum. I find myself searching constantly for ways and means to present Economics to my 8th graders. 

Concrete examples and hands-on activities must be part of the economics curriculum. Vocabulary also must be learned in terms of a middle school students’ world. And, give our young consumers credit. They know quite a lot about money, choices and the way a free market system works. They just don’t know they know it because of the vocabulary! That’s our job as educators to take what they recognize, help them translate it into accepted econ vocab and principles, and apply it to economics to situations they observe or experience in society. Now that TRULY sounds like a daunting task!! 

I choose to start with vocabulary. My students like to hear “things” to do as we started with a workbook. As we read through our economics workbook, all the italicized (economic) words went on the word bank list, with definitions, of course. 

The word bank eventually evolved into flashcards. Now it’s an activity kids really like. We stay each other, review or quiz each other, all the while sorting flashcards from the “don’t know” to the “know that” piles. Flash card review is an activity before a test, when they finish something and are waiting for everyone else to get done, or as a fun game to end the class period. Using the vocab word in their own sentence checks for understanding. Can they use their sentence, deleting the econ vocab word, and have their partner figure out the word? Can they give an example for each word? Practice as a single proprietor, in a partnership, or in a (class-size) corporation. 

Using the vocabulary of economics in as important. When a student comes to class and needs a pencil, stop class for a couple of minutes and do a needs (demand) supply demonstration. Throw in a little advertising (my pencil writes the BEST answers), stir up some some competition (who else has a pencil to lend), set up a price (2 shoe deposit) and watch for supply and demand. Kids love it; it makes what they’re learning real. They recognize a surplus brings price down; a shortage could drive prices up, and supply or demand everywhere. 

Advertising is another great vocab word to demonstrate. Choose a product, and have partners do an ad. How will they convince customers their vision is best? Point out responsibility of the consumers from fraudulent advertising or unsafe products. How was the ad firm a consumer itself as well as a producer of a service? What is the difference between goods and services? Can advertising be proprietor, partner, or corporation? 

Proprietors, or better yet, partnerships could randomly select a flashcard and develop their own demonstration of its meaning. What a great opening set for today’s lesson if a couple of students shared the vocab definition by acting it out. Try partners determining profit, or a corporation giving dividends to first preferred stockholders, then general stockholders. Demonstrate limited vs. unlimited liability. Let everyone have an opportunity to act out vocab words. 

What a difference it makes when your students focus on the concepts and not puzzle over your words when you explain Economics. Start with vocab and help students make it their own! 



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Single Sex Education
(part 2)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Single-sex education is the practice of conducting education where male and female students attend separate classes or in separate buildings or schools. The practice was predominant before the mid-twentieth century, particularly in secondary education and higher education. Single-sex education is often advocated on the basis of tradition, as well as religious or cultural values. It is practiced in many parts of the world. A number of studies starting in the 1990s are showing statistical data that children from single-sex schools are outperforming students from coeducational schools, although some studies also say that these are non-conclusive. In 2002, because of these studies and bipartisan support, the US law of 1972 was revoked and funding was given in support of the single-sex option. There are now associations of parents who are advocating for single-sex education.


The practitioners of single sex school state that boys and girls learn differently. The brain is a sexed organ. There are significant differences between male and female brains.

On the other hand, intersexuals and trans gendered individuals would defeat the purpose of single-sex education, as they would not be one or the other.


Critics of the single sex education argue that without the presence of the opposite sex, students are denied a learning environment representative of real life. This deprives them of the opportunity to develop skills for interaction with peers of all genders in their work environment and fosters ignorance and prejudice towards the other gender.

However, the defenders argue that socialization is not the same as putting together, but is a matter of educating in habits such as respect, generosity, fairness, loyalty, courtesy, etc. And this can be done with more success knowing the distinct tendencies of boys and girls.

Defenders also state that there are more teenage pregnancies and sexual harassment cases in coeducational schools. Catholics usually refer to teachings of Pope Pius XI in 1929. He wrote an encyclical entitled "Christian Education of Youth" where he addressed the topic of coeducation. He said: "False also and harmful to Christian education is the so-called method "co-education." This too, by many of its supporters is founded upon naturalism and the denial of original sin.

See more in part 3 of this series, coming soon!



Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




MythMichigan Books
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Dogman’s Back!

 A masterful blend of science fiction, fantasy, and folklore, the DOGMAN EPOCH: SHADOW and FLAME 
is an epic tale in its own era, stretching from the present day to far beyond 
the history of humanity.


Tying the Dogman legend to the 2012 Mayan doomsday prophesy, a secret governmental agency races to solve 
the ancient puzzle and save the world 
from destruction, all the while 
dodging a hidden enemy…


10,000 years in the past, the Nagual and their sorcerer chieftain begin their conquest of the native civilizations. Can the great Guardians stand against the evil onslaught, or will the looming end of the Third Age of the Sun prove the downfall of humanity?

Welcome to Dogman Country!

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




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Crosswords and Word Puzzles:
A Great Way to Review in Class

Many of us enjoy the challenge of a good crossword puzzle in our local papers when sitting down to breakfast on the weekends or passing the time when traveling. But did you ever think about the benefits of using crosswords and other word puzzles in class?

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world. However, according to George Elliott of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament,
http://www.crosswordtournament.com/more/wynne.html, this serious adult pastime has a relatively short history. To paraphrase Elliott, "The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. The first known, published crossword (December 21, 1913 in the Sunday newspaper the New York World) was created by a journalist named Arthur Wynne, who is usually credited as the inventor of the popular word game. Wynne based his crossword on a similar, though much older game (played in ancient Pompeii) called Magic Squares or word square, which was a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally. These word squares were printed in children's puzzle books and other periodicals. During the early 1920's other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers."

Crossword puzzles require two fundamental vocabulary skills, 1) knowing the definition of the word and 2) knowing how to spell the word correctly. This can be a great way to review important terms and words for any class, from foreign languages, to math, to science, to language arts. By varying the number of words, and the size of the letter boxes, crosswords can be used at any grade level. Even lower elementary students can fill in these puzzles, and many children love the interesting shapes and connections between words.

Crosswords are not difficult to create, especially with the help of your handy computer. There are several on-line websites that allow you to input your vocabulary word list and definitions (clues). Good programs also allow you to customize the puzzle, changing the puzzle's overall dimensions, box sizes, title, and even colors. One easy to use puzzle making website is located at:

Once there, you simply choose the type of puzzle you wish (you can even see examples of the different types of puzzles, including math puzzles, mazes, and word searches among others). Crossword puzzles are fun for students, and they provide a welcomed break from finishing review worksheets, studying vocabulary lists, and answering questions from the textbook.

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

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"The Horse Story"

Author unknown
Themes on Life

Will we ever learn...

Common advice from knowledgeable horse trainers includes the adage, "If the horse you're riding dies, get off."

Seems simple enough doesn't it? Yet in education we don't always follow that advice. Instead, we often choose from an array of other alternatives which include:

  1. Buying a stronger whip
  2. Trying a new bit or bridle
  3. Switching riders
  4. Moving the horse to a new location
  5. Riding the horse for longer periods of time
  6. Saying things like, "This is the way we've always ridden this horse"
  7. Appointing a committee to study the horse
  8. Arranging to visit other sites where they ride dead horses more efficiently
  9. Increasing the standards for riding dead horses
  10. Creating a test for measuring our riding ability
  11. Comparing how we're riding now with how we did ten or twenty years ago
  12. Complaining about the state of horses these days
  13. Coming up with new styles of riding
  14. Blaming the horse's parents. The problem is often in the breeding.
  15. Tightening the cinch

Will we ever learn?

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Hello readers!  Welcome to your second June issue of Features For Teachers for 2011!   

This month, we bring another great poetry/photograph selection from Hank Kellner from his upcoming book, Reflections. We also have excellent teaching articles from Rozina Jumani and Marian Holes, and the return of Munir Moosa Sewani!  

You'll also find great articles to use in your daily teaching as you begin to prepare to head back for fall.

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.   

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

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

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


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Technology & Teaching: 21st Century Teaching and Learning

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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 Estimate the difference by rounding each number to the nearest whole number and then subtracting.

9.7 – 1.2
Day 2 Estimate the difference by rounding each number to the nearest whole number and then subtracting.

9.207 – 7.702
Day 3 Estimate the sum by rounding each number to the nearest whole number and then adding.

10.4 + 5.48
Day 4 Estimate the sum by rounding each number to the nearest whole number and then adding.

8.78 + 4.8
Day 5 Estimate the sum by rounding each number to the nearest whole number and then adding.

7.6 + 2.9
Day 6 Christian bought 0.98 pounds of peanuts and 0.01 pounds of raisins. How many pounds of snacks did he buy in all?
Day 7 A donut shop ordered 9.2 ounces of sprinkles. The next day, the shop used 4.7 ounces of it to
decorate a batch of donuts. How many ounces of sprinkles does the donut shop have left?
Day 8 Daniel bought 8.4 ounces of chocolate. 2.5 ounces of it was milk chocolate and the rest was dark
chocolate. How much dark chocolate did Nolan buy?
Day 9 71.871 - 3.18
Day 10 20. 335.8 + 17.265


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






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