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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 7, Issue 9
May 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   Google Apps for Education   2001: A Space Odyssey Lesson Plan
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: iPad/iPod/iPhone Accessories, Add-Ons, & DIY Rad Resources for Science Educators:  Climate Change Themes on Life: 
"An Analogy for Education"
Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Educational Economies in the 1800s
New Teacher's Niche:
The LEAST Approach to Classroom Discipline: (part 8)
Student Teachers' Lounge: Defining Literacy
Book of the Month Club:
Best Practices in Writing Instruction
  Website of the Month:
  Article of the Week: "Atlantis Found?"

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

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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



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Feature Writer

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2001: A Space Odyssey
Lesson Plan

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.

One of my many joys in teaching is teaching 2001, A Space Odyssey. The kids struggle with the film because is was made from another time in movie making history, but as a apart of my Science Fiction and Fantasy class, it serves as a benchmark for most science fiction films. I share with them how this movie is referenced continuously, copied visually and challenged continuously by other films.

Being a part of my class, there is the journal writing and the end of the week writing assignment. I have to say, on average, this assignment gets the most passionate writing. It is passionate as in how they hate the film, but the fingers do fly and the keyboards click away. At the beginning of the week, I explain how some movies are made as an allegory and everything, every scene, musical note and dialogue has significance. Stanley Kubrik, the producer, screenwriter (along with Arthur C. Clarke, author), and director, choose everything with precision and purpose. The music has a role, not just background music to sell a sound track. The long sequences with no dialogue have a purpose as well. They must, more than any other film they have seen in their lifetime, watch this film intently and ask, “why did Kubrick show me this image?”

My students get nervous when I say, “no dialogue.” I explain that the opening sequence is a black screen for an uncomfortable period of time, then it starts with the Dawn of Man. I tell them they are to answer questions after we watch the first part. And so we begin.

After watching from the opening to where the primitive man-ape throws a bone into the sky and it turns into a spaceship, I stop the movie and ask them the following questions for their journal.

"Why did Kubrick show us a black screen with some weird music?"

"What music played when the planets aligned and the ape-man used the bone to hit the other bones?"

"What is the role of it?" ( I usually than sing/mimic Dah, dah, da-ah, dada-a-ah..Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom ).

"And why does it go from bone in the sky to spaceship?"

The written answers that are revealed in later discussion are that Kubrick wanted to show the beginning of the odyssey of man was nothing but darkness; that the music’s role is to show significant moments in man’s journey; and that the bone to transition scene is the history of man that we already know from then to the near future.

The next sequence of the movie, still no dialogue, is space travel. A pen floats in the air, the stewardess on the ship walks with special shoes, and our traveler carefully reads the instructions for a “zero gravity toilet.” During this sequence of the stellar, ground breaking film, Kubrick selected ballet music to play. This leads to the next writing prompt: 

"What is Kubrick suggesting with segment of the film?" To which, the students write and talk about the beauty and grace of space travel.

Once upon the moon, we are exposed to the plot and mystery of the movie. I shall not give too much away, but the writing continues with “Why?” or “What?” 

"Why does Kubrick show Frank and Dave doing mundane things?" 

"What does Kubrick suggest with the movement and breathing during Frank’s space walk?"

"Now, when in space, why is there no music?"

I also found through random searches on the Internet, a website link that offers an interpretation of the film (www.kubrick2001.com). The home page says “the space odyssey explained.” It then offers to explain it in many languages being that this film has been viewed and studied worldwide. Then it offers you some words from Stanley Kubrick himself: “You are free to speculate, as you wish, about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of ‘2001’.” After viewing the film and before showing the video, I do ask students what they think. Many are confused. Some are intrigued. The online video is helpful with their questions. It is simple, yet quite good and thought provoking. When the quote appears, I stress that it is one person’s interpretation and that Kubrick invites everyone to take what they will from the film.

The movie is broken up into segments with titles and even an intermission, so, depending on your length of class time per day, you can break it up into a workable week with journal writing daily. Upon viewing the movie and the short online video analysis of the movie, one can develop many questions and adapt to one’s own focus or interpretation. Whether they get it or not, love or hate it, the students talk and question, which leads to some awesome writing.

I say they have to write 201 words on 2001 (I am not a fan of required word count, but with this assignment, it seems fun to use it). They can write whatever they want about the movie as long as they can back it up. And they write. 

I have found that 201 words are way too short for many of them. A portion of the students write how the film was tedious and boring with incessant breathing, lack of dialogue and a slow plot. They go into detail about one or many things. I have received many a response/critique that cannot contain what they feel in as little as 201 words. Some write about how confusing it was. Some write that it was awesome. They make comparison to other movies and say how 2001 was like them, and I point out that 2001 came first. This film and writing still gets reactions after students have moved on to other classes or even after they have graduated. I have received calls and emails from students saying “Mr. Sura, you were right.” There are references in other space movies, in cartoons, other movies and in commercials. The “I’m sorry Dave. I can’t do that” is a line students repeat to me. I recently received an email from a student who was in an education class and read an article that referred to 2001.

I tell more recent students that they will see references to or duplications from this movie and will curse me. One student has promised to punish her own children with the movie. Yet, I know, they will contact me eventually and some will say, “Get it out of my head.” And I, knowing that my work is done, will say, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that.”


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iPad/iPod/iPhone Accessories, Add-Ons & DIY

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.

One of the sharing sessions at Mobile Learning Experience 2011 was dedicated to accessories, add-ons, and do it yourself projects for mobile devices. I took along many of mine to share.


Disclosure: I do not accept free or special deals on products. However, I make a little money if you follow a product link and buy from Amazon.



iPod Touch

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Mastering Basic Skills software:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to order your own copy today:



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

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Defining Literacy

by Rozina Jumani

Literacy has multiple meanings ranging from the simple ability to read and write, to interpreting and implementing ideas, knowledge and skills that a person may have required.  

The definition of literacy is context specific. The parameters of literacy may vary from one geographical region to another and from one era to another. It can be as simple as just recognition of the alphabets, or signing of one’s own name, or may be broader in order to include the handling of equipment by studying manuals.

Some definitions of literacy focus on perception and decoding. For example, Spache (1964: 2) described literacy as “a series of word perceptions i.e. reading only”. Kaestle (1985: 34), described literacy as “the ability to decode and comprehend language at a rudimentary level, that is the ability to look at written words corresponding to ordinary oral discourse, to say them, and to understand them.”

These two definitions emphasize the aspect of skills to read the printed symbols and to map these symbols into the understanding of oral language.

It is observed that initially, the definition of literacy was confined to the acquisition of the basic skills of the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic). Over a period of time, basic literacy was upgraded to functional literacy, expanding further into knowing to do things by using insight.  This transformation of literacy is, in fact, associated with its importance for the society as a whole, and to enable a person to effectively participate in the life

Though defining literacy is a very complex notion, it is important to deliberate upon it since the definition has far-reaching implications.  Some experts have emphasized cognitive processes in describing literacy, some more generally and others more specifically. For example, Goodman (1976: 51) suggested that “reading is a psycholinguistic guessing game”.  Venezky (1991:22) states, it is “a cognitive skill.” Calfee and Nelson-Barber (1991:13) describe it as “the capacity to employ language as a tool for oral communication.”

These definitions are consistent with teaching reading and writing as a cognitive process that involves the processing of information through such strategies as activating background knowledge, encouraging readers to make predictions, or writers to organize their ideas into categories.  

The below cited definitions from different countries indicate that despite the broadening of the description of literacy in literature, the working definition of literacy, as adopted by different countries has remained fairly simple at the skill level.






Ability to read and write in any language



In Canada 9th grade pass is considered as literate and according to this definition illiterates are only 1 % in that country.



Literate is defined as the one who can read with accuracy at a speed of approximately 40 words per minute and write or copy at a speed of 10 words per minute and take dictation at the speed of not less than 7 words per minute in any language.



A person is considered as literate who can recognize alphabets, read simple words, signs his / her name (eligibility for voting) able to read and understand a letter, or able to read certain part of certain magazine or of a certain newspaper.



Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write in any language, a short statement on every day life of 06 years and above persons



The definition of literacy consists of three components viz-a viz.

1.      Reading and writing the printed materials without spelling each word.

2.      Writing 80 words in 45 minutes without making too many mistakes.

3.      Reading four digit numbers and write legibly the first ten numbers.

According to UNRSCO (2002), It is currently estimated that about twenty percent of world's population aged fifteen and above is illiterate and that about 115.4 million school-age children are not in school.


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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

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Google Apps for Education

by Mark Benn
Instructional Technologist

Mark Benn earned his Masters of Integration of Technology from Walden University. Previously, he 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.  

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.

How would you like a solution that can save money in a school’s IT department and help coordinate your staff and students. Check out Google Apps for Education. Now, I know when you hear Google you think of a search engine or probably G-mail. But this is a solution that is far bigger than that and best of all, it’s free. Let’s take a look at what Google Apps for Education is all about.

Click the link below to see a presentation by Google of 32 ways to use the apps in education:

PRESENTATION: 32 Ways to Use Google Apps in Education

You start by contacting Google to set up a specific domain for your school. Once that domain is set up you have many choices to make. The best part is that it allows you to control all the settings. Within the domain you will have available to all the staff and students Gmail, Google docs, spreadsheets, presentation, and forms. Also, within the domain are Google sites, calendar, video, and more. They have a training site for every part of Google Apps for Education. You have control of the security settings for all the parts.

To learn more about how Google Apps for Education can benefit your school go to: http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/k12.html

For training go to http://edutraining.googleapps.com/  and check it out. How does it save you money? It saves on servers, and it frees up your IT staff to work on other things and let Google handle their part. For a better understanding of this program check out the presentation below.

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

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Rad Resources for Science Educators

Climate Change

By Helen de la Maza

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

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

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

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

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

This week I present our Easy-to-Use Climate Change Action Projects for K-12 Students:

Facing the Future


Facing the Future has released a comprehensive service-learning resource for climate change.  The Climate Change Action Project Database includes more than 25 ready-to-use action projects that will prepare students to understand and take action on climate change.

Climate Kids

NASA offers the Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth website, targeted at kids in grades 4-6. It offers online interactives, images, video, and content, along with links to websites with educator resources.

Climate Change Education Program

Will Steger Foundation’s K-12 interdisciplinary climate change education program includes lesson plans that are experiential in nature, tied to national standards, and available free for download. The curricula and online adventure learning program is proud to have the support of the National Education Association with over 3.2 million members. Will Steger Foundation also provides exciting expedition footage from Will Steger and partner polar expeditions and a variety of other resources.

K-12 Science Curriculum

Access to the K-12 Integrating Science, Math, and Technology Reference Curriculum is FREE.  Educators or parents may use the copyrighted material in their classroom.

Drinking Water and Groundwater Kids' Stuff

Environmental Protection Agency Data Finder

Data Finder is a single place to find EPA's data sources so people can access and understand environmental information. All of the data sources are available on the Internet and have been organized by topics such as air, water, and chemicals.

NOAA Research

This site is a joint effort of the NOAA Research and the College of Education at the University of South Alabama. The goal of the site is to provide middle school science students and teachers with research and investigation experiences using online resources.

NAAEE Online Higher Education Directory

The online higher education directory is a comprehensive resource to undergraduate and graduate environmental programs at higher education institutions in North America. The directory provides details about institutions, programs, departments, and faculty. Updates are continually being made. The directory will help faculty network with each other, as well as provide direction to students seeking an institution that matches their interests in environmental courses and degree plans. The directory also supports NAAEE’s work with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

Bring MIT to Your Classroom


High school teachers looking to reinforce their curriculum and knowledge base can tap into the course materials faculty use at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An online program called “Highlights for High School” — part of the interdisciplinary OpenCourseWare system MIT launched several years ago — gives educators and students free Web access to the esteemed university's introductory courses and related tools, such as Advanced Placement test preparation, video demonstrations, and lab experiments. High school teachers at any level may use these resources to supplement their lesson plans, in-class activities, homework assignments, and reading lists.



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Educational Economies in the 1800s

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Prior to the advent of government-funded public schools, the primary mode of education for those of the lower classes was the charity school, pioneered during the 1800s by Protestant organizations and adapted for use by the Roman Catholic Church and governmental bodies. Because these schools operated on very small budgets and attempted to serve as many needy children as possible, economic factors were prominent in their design.

The basic program was to develop "grammar" schools. These taught only grammar and bookkeeping. This program permits people to start businesses to make money, and gives them the skills to continue their education inexpensively from books. "Grammar" was the first third of the then-prevalent system of Classical education.

The ultimate development of the grammar school was by Joseph Lancaster, who started as an impoverished Quaker in early 19th century London. Lancaster used slightly more-advanced students to teach less-advanced students, achieving student-teacher ratios as small as 2, while educating more than a thousand students per adult. Lancaster promoted his system in a piece called Improvements in Education that spread widely throughout the English-speaking world.

Discipline and labor in a Lancaster school were provided by an economic system. Scrip, a form of money meaningless outside the school, was created at a fixed exchange rate from a student's tuition. Every job of the school was bid-for by students in scrip. The highest bid won. The jobs permitted students to collect scrip from other students for services rendered. However, any student tutor could auction positions in his or her classes. Besides tutoring, students could use scrip to buy food, school supplies, books, and childish luxuries in a school store. The adult supervisors were paid from the bids on jobs.

With fully-developed internal economies, Lancaster schools provided a grammar-school education for a cost per student near $40 per year in 1999 U.S. dollars. The students were very clever at reducing their costs, and once invented, improvements were widely adopted in a school. For example, Lancaster students, motivated to save scrip, ultimately rented individual pages of textbooks from the school library, and read them in groups around music stands to reduce textbook costs. Exchanges of tutoring, and using receipts from "down tutoring" to pay for "up tutoring" were commonplace.

Established educational elites found Lancaster schools so threatening that most English-speaking countries developed mandatory publicly-paid education explicitly to keep public education in "responsible" hands. These elites said that Lancaster schools might become dishonest, provide poor education and were not accountable to established authorities. Lancaster's supporters responded that any schoolchild could avoid cheats, given the opportunity, and that the government was not paying for the educations, and thus deserved no say in their composition.

Lancaster, though motivated by charity, claimed in his pamphlets to be surprised to find that he lived well on the income of his school, even while the low costs made it available to the poorest street-children. Ironically, Lancaster lived on the charity of friends in his later life.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



MythMichigan Books
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.

Dogman’s Back!

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

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

  A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in Manistee County

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

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

A secret governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma

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

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

Welcome to Dogman Country!

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Year of the Dogman Website
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Haunting of Sigma Website
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Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen Website 
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The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  




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

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The LEAST Approach to Classroom Discipline:
(Part 8)


Robert R. Carkhuff

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

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

Option #5:  TRACK STUDENT PROGRESS (continued)

When Should You Track Student Progress?

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

What does “Track Student Progress” Mean?

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

How Can You Track Student Progress?

As indicated above, tracking students' progress may involve the teacher in as many as four different activities.  Let's first review steps 1-3, and then we will continue on with step 4:

  1. Evaluate New Behavior
  2. Follow Through on Consequences
  3. Positively Reinforce New Behaviors
  4. Keeping the Track Record

    This is a matter of selecting and/or developing a method of "tracking" that is adequate for your decision-making purposes but not so time-consuming that it interferes with normal classroom activities.  

    To do a good job of tracking you must know something about all your students.  This means you should plan ahead just as you would plan ahead to teach a lesson.  Keep some type of written record of student behaviors, your responses to these behaviors, and any pertinent information you have gained by "attending more fully."  A full anecdotal commentary on every student would be too time-consuming and therefore counterproductive, but the record does need to be such that you understand what you have recorded.  

    To make entries into the record quickly, have a list of all your students ready ahead of time -- in a notebook or card file, for example -- on which you can record events as they happen.  A listing of students by class would be useful.  Devise some coding that would suffice.  For example, in the case of Nikki tripping Sandra, put some coded notes about what happened after both names and the fact that you decided to "leave things alone."  It will become apparent through your "track record" whether this behavior is an isolated event or part of a pattern.  You may even find from the record that Sandra is more the source of the problem than Nikki.  The important thing is that you be able to make your entries quickly and with accuracy.  

    Once again, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you begin tracking the progress of your students:

    When you evaluate students' new behavior, try to avoid the "I'm watching you like a hawk to see if you mess up" approach.  If you get into the habit of observing and listening to each of your students every day, they won't decide that you care only about what's happening when there is trouble.

    Do not apply consequences unless and until you have to, but then do it promptly, firmly, and fairly.  Your students have to see that you are consistent, both in following through on consequences and in rewarding constructive behavior.

    Reward students frequently with small amounts of praise or similar reinforcements.  It  is a mistake to hold off while waiting for the "perfect" behavior -- you'll never get it.  Instead, make sure students are aware that you are pleased every time they function effectively.  


    The situation involving racial tensions especially reflects the need for tracking student progress.  Here the effective teacher will exercise Option #1 and leave things alone, since there is little that can be done on a unilateral basis to relieve the tension.  However, the teacher will also track the progress of all students to see if any overt signs of this racial tension are threatening to disrupt the learning process.

    Another example: Fred's school has no dress code, and Fred was one of the few students who tended to take advantage of this fact.  At first his homeroom teacher left things alone; there were more important problems to deal with.  Finally, however, Fred showed up in class looking like a walking disaster area and the teacher had to end the action.  He did so by speaking to Fred after class.  It was too late for Fred to change that day, but after responding to Fred's feelings, the teacher outlined quite clearly the minimal quality of dress and hygiene he expected from Fred the next day.  The directions were sufficient.  Fred "cleaned up his act" considerably, showing up the next day in fresh clothes and with a clean face.  The teacher noted this and reinforced Fred's new behavior: "Hey, Fred, now that's what I call sharp!"

    No big deal here -- just a simple follow-up-and-reward procedure.  And the teacher will continue to reward Fred mildly for his positive appearance until this new behavior has become a confirmed part of Fred's daily life.

    Now It’s Your Turn

    You've spent some time noting sample classroom situations in which you might use one or more of the LEAST options.  Now brainstorm some ways in which you would need to follow through in such situations.  What things would you look and listen for?  When would you invoke consequences and why?  And most important, when and how would you reinforce students' new behaviors?  All of these things are critical parts of the one activity which must accompany a teacher's approach to discipline: tracking the progress of students.  


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"An Analogy for Education"

Themes on Life

A little inspiration for our work...

If you can see other people, especially the lawmakers of this country, understanding this analogy, please share it with them. Be sure that you give proper credit to the author. We are merely sharing it with you in the hopes that you'll find it as meaningful as we did.

By John S. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster County School District

The Best Dentist
"Absolutely" the Best Dentist

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget checkups. He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth, so when I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.

"Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said.

"No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?"

"It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, and Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. It will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better, " I said.

"Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice."

"That's terrible," he said.

"What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?"

"Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry."

"Why not?" I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."

"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele; so much depends on things we can't control? For example," he said, "I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem and I don't get to do much preventive work. Also," he said, "many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. To top it all off," he added, "so many of my clients have well water which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"

"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. I couldn't believe my dentist would be so defensive. He does a great job.

"I am not!" he said. "My best patients are as good as anyone's, my work is as good as anyone's, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most."

"Don't get touchy," I said.

"Touchy?" he said. His face had turned red and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. "Try furious. In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average, or worse. My more educated patients who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating actually is a measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left with only the most needy patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?"

"I think you are overreacting," I said. " 'Complaining, excuse making and stonewalling won't improve dental health'...I am quoting from a leading member of the DOC," I noted.

"What's the DOC?" he asked.

"It's the Dental Oversight Committee," I said, "a group made up of mostly laypersons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved."

"Spare me," he said, "I can't believe this. Reasonable people won't buy it," he said hopefully.

The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, "How else would you measure good dentistry?"

"Come watch me work," he said. "Observe my processes."

"That's too complicated and time consuming," I said. "Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottom line. It's an absolute measure."

"That's what I'm afraid my parents and prospective patients will think. This can't be happening," he said despairingly.

"Now, now," I said, "don't despair. The state will help you some."

"How?" he said.

"If you're rated poorly, they'll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out," I said brightly.

"You mean," he said, "they'll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? Big help."

"There you go again," I said. "You aren't acting professionally at all."

"You don't get it," he said. "Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score on a test of children's progress without regard to influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools."

I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. "I'm going to write my representatives and senator," he said. "I'll use the school analogy-surely they will see the point."

He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I see in the mirror so often lately.


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome to our first April issue.  This month our web partner Tony Vincent shares great tips for connecting an iPad to your TV or projector for presentations.  Mark Benn features an awesome website with educational teaching videos.  And our featured writer Helen de la Maza shares her collection of Rad Resources for Earth Day.

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Day 1 Find the elapsed time:

Start:  4:45 A.M
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Day 2 Find the elapsed time:

Start:  11:45 A.M
End:  12:00  P.M.

Day 3 Find the elapsed time:

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Day 4 Find the elapsed time:

Start:  10:30 A.M
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Start:  10:15 A.M
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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.


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