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Features For New Teachers
Volume 7, Issue 18
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“What Do I Write About?” This question surfaces with the deep thrumming of a tuba that usually accompanies a shark fin. It has also been known to be just as scary. The answer, to continue with the metaphor is simple, “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” Or should I just say a boatload of resources.
My primary resource for ideas of what to write in a composition or writing class is the journal. By having the students write journals daily or by the next class next week for my college class, I start building starts or pieces of starts that the student can choose from. For example, the journal entries leading up to a narrative essay include:
Tell about a childhood game you played
The list can go on with journal entries that ask or prompt the student to write about events that cover a wide spectrum of possibilities and emotions. This technique can continue for a descriptive essay.
The prompts can be about describing a vacation spot, a favorite place at home, their bedroom, or a doctor’s/dentist’s office.
With a journal, a collection of thoughts and ideas can be channeled and stored for future use. The student can develop an awareness or an ear for future writing if prompts are done and then revisited down the road. Take, for example, a journal entry or two focusing on pet peeves and life annoyances:
List five pet peeves. What really gets you mad?
You may use this with a short story about anger or with a thematic unit about injustice. Later, in a writing unit, the class takes on persuasive or argumentative writing. If a student cannot find a topic, a visit to the above journal entries can be a launch point.
If you need help with journal entry prompts, visit your computer and Google it. I did and it came up with over four million hits. Talk about a bigger boat.
I have a small collection of writing prompts myself. I have them organized (somewhat) for a creative writing class, but I have pulled from them for various writing projects with my students. Here are three that I like to use:
List 5 sounds and smells that bother you.
The five sounds and smalls is great pre-writing for descriptive writing and for persuasive writing.
Many students are uncomfortable about bragging, so I have assigned bragging poems and essays. I focus on using them to show a stronger voice. The king/queen of the world is another avenue into persuasive essays. When the students write about being a ruler, they sometimes cross into things they would change or eliminate, which creates possibilities and topics for argument.
The journal is the bigger boat. It definitely can help in the dark waters of what to write about
Mathematics is one of the most interesting subjects during the academic year for some of the students. But in contrary to that, this fact can’t be denied that most of the students dislike mathematics. I, myself was one of such students during my school who disliked mathematics very much.
In order to find the reasons behind these negative feelings towards mathematics, I researched at my Learning Center. After evaluating all of my students, the following were the main reasons which I found relevant and authentic:
According to the research, approximately 6% of school-age children have significant math deficiencies, and among students classified as learning disabled, arithmetic difficulties are as pervasive as reading problems. This does not mean that all reading disabilities are accompanied by arithmetic learning problems, but it does mean that math deficiencies are widespread and in need of equivalent attention and concern.
Parents and teachers should keep in mind that such students in their classes are not burdens for them. They also need your attention as well as the others do. If the child is not getting a concept, try to give them extra time to clear their concepts rather than failing them in an examination.
Recently, increased attention has focused on students who demonstrate challenges learning mathematics skills and concepts that are taught in school across the grade levels. Most of the parents, educators, and researchers are noticing that some students seem perplexed learning simple math skills that many take for granted. Disliking mathematics and problem learning the skills related to mathematics do not lie in a same plane.
If a person dislikes math, then a teacher can use different strategies to their level of interest, but if a person is continuously getting low grades in math, then this problem might indicate that he/she may have mathematic disability.
Fortunately, researchers are now paying their
valuable attention to help students who struggle learning basic
mathematics skills, mastering more advance mathematics (e.g., algebra),
and solving math problems. Before learning any thing, we should know
that what Math Disability is.
If a child has difficulty making sufficient school progress in mathematics similar to that of her peer group despite the implementation of effective teaching practices over time.
If a child is not able to learn basic skills and
concepts of math according to his/her age level, then a child is termed
as “Math Disabled.”
Brain scans can also explain math problems in a
child. In order to find Math Disability, the new research used scans of
brain activity in the intraparietal sulcus - the area known to be
involved in processing number information.
The scientific name for Math Disability is Dyscalculia. It means “a severe or complete inability to calculate”. Remember that the terms learning disabilities in mathematics, Math Disability and Dyscalculia are same.
People with Dyscalculia may have better than average language skills and be good at sciences, the creative arts and even some aspects of mathematics. But they tend to have difficulty visualizing number sequences and the passage of time.
Teachers, tutors, psychologists, master trainers, etc., can use different observant skills and testing to find out whether a child has Math Disability or not.
When a child is identified as having a math disability, his difficulty may stem from problems in one or more of the following areas:
Memory problem is one of the most common problems found among the school going children. Few of the students have a problem of memorizing things effectively, and they used to forget every thing in a short span of time. This problem may affect a child’s math performance in several ways.
A child might have memory problems that interfere with his ability to regain basic arithmetic facts quickly. In the upper grades, memory problems may influence a child’s ability to recall the steps needed to solve more difficult word problems and in solving algebraic equations, or to remember what specific symbols.
Look for more in the next issue!
Make sure that while the groups are working that you are filtering around the room listening in to what they are doing. This allows you to quickly help a group refocus back on the task at hand if they go astray.
Another important thing to do is to set time limits. If you leave it wide open as to when they need to complete the assignment you will find they take much longer to accomplish the goals. This leads to your frustration which leads to not wanting to use grouping. Set time limits for each part, and then check with the groups to see how they are doing. If you need to make adjustments feel free to, unless you find they are taking advantage of it.
One of the ways I assess how their group functioned is to grade each student on how they worked in the group. At the end of the project, I sit down with each group and have the students grade on a scale of 1-10 how each person participated. Then I average all the input by the students. I found that the students are very fair. Because I filtered through the groups, I already have a good idea how hard each person had worked.
You will find that students will enjoy doing collaboration far better then doing it individually and my observation has been that they learn more. I did some research with my classes on how it affected their learning. I provided questions dealing with a specific chapter and they had to find the answers all on their own with no help. The room was totally quiet. The next day I quizzed them from the paper and established a base point. I then had them meet in groups and answer a set of questions dealing with the next chapter. Both chapters were similar and had similar questions. The next day I quizzed them again and found a marked improvement, by a whole grade, in their learning.
Here are some examples of group projects your students can do in class. As always, feel free to adjust these to make them fit your curriculum.
Social Studies - Tip of the Mitt Community Research:
This is a social studies project in which student groups research information on a local town, county, area, or region of their state to demonstrate and persuade others that it's a great place to live, work, or visit. Students use the five themes of geography to find such information as population, demographics, employment, wildlife, environmental interaction, activities and recreation, and local attractions. Once finished, students create visual aides and give a presentation to their classmates.
Mythology - Hercules' Labors:
Student groups are assigned to research one or more of the Hercules' Labors, finding characters, events, places, unusual vocabulary, and major themes for that part of the myth. Then groups plan a re-enactment of the story through acting, storytelling, readers' theater, puppets, etc. Groups must include visual aides and music, and must stay accurate to the story.
Math - Weather
Student groups are responsible for measuring an aspect of local weather, such as temperature, barometric pressure, cloud cover, wind speed/direction, etc. These observations are recorded daily (several times) over the span of a week. Data is tabulated and organized, and graphed. Groups also print out weather forecasts online. They must then make predictions about the upcoming weather observations. These are then presented to the class as 'daily news weather forecasts' and can be video taped.
Science - Outdoors Observations:
Student groups are responsible for observing an area outdoors, making careful notes and sketches on plant and animal species, weather conditions, soil and rocks, and any human-environmental interactions. The group then combines their observations, formulates their results, supplements their data with info and graphics from the internet, and creates a Powerpoint, magazine, or newspaper to describe that natural area. They try to make predictions about what the area will be like in 10, 50, and 100 years.
Drama - Asia fables:
Student groups read various fables from different Asian cultures (Arabian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Persian, Russian, etc.) and create study guides of vocab and questions for their fellow students. Groups then create a pay script from their fable, including a narrator if necessary, making sure every student in the group has at least one part. They then practice and perform (memorizing their lines) for the class.
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
Articles abound on the Internet dealing with education testing the use of the iPad within
And to close this article out, realize I did it all on my iPad. It's the real mobile computer.
This is the fourth in a series of articles on building positive relationships in your school. This article describes why you should 'get in good' with your school food service personnel.
School kitchens are great places to find boxes of all sizes and shapes, which have hundreds of uses in classrooms. We've used boxes simply for storage, for art supplies, for project centers. Cardboard is used in art projects, building sets and backdrops for plays. Large, sturdy boxes can also be useful for moving!
Food service companies typically drop off boxes and crates of bulk food items weekly. If your cooks know you're looking for boxes (or cardboard or cans), and you've developed good relationships with them, they will usually be more than happy to save these items for you.
There will also undoubtedly be times when class celebrations require plastic silverware, paper cups, or foam plates or bowls. Sometimes we know about such events, and other times they occur in relative spontaneity. Now, most kitchens keep a good record of their inventory, and will charge accordingly for the use of consumables. But, with a postive relationship built between you, the food service personnel will usually cut you a deal, or even find enough 'extra' items to help you out in a bind.
Middle school teachers may find their schedules changing at times to accommodate special events or programs. The Middle School Concept tends to do this a lot. Always let your kitchen staff know well ahead of time if your schedule change affects the food service even in the slightest. Most cooks will be accommodating if they have some advance notice. But this is only being polite and professional anyway!
Dyslexia is a neurological disorder with biochemical & genetic markers. It is a disability which a person reading and/or writing ability is lower than his or her grade level of intelligence. However, people may read and write perfectly and have dyslexia. They are diagnosed with the disorder when their problems can't be explained by a lack of intellectual ability, inadequate instruction or problems such as poor eyesight. Being as it is a complex mental process, it can have many potential causes. From a neurophysiological perspective, it can be diagnosed by closer inspection of the brain. It is associated with phonological problems.
Treatment of Dyslexia
A few weeks of intense phonological training (breaking down and rearranging sounds to produce different words) can improve reading skills. Unlike normal adults, phonological training has shows an increase in activity in the right temporoparietal cortex.
This part of the brain works in tasks and is the main compensatory structure in phonological training. This is the region responsible for visual motion processing which is under active in dyslexics. The earlier taken the better the overall results. Brain scans can identify the problem before the children can even read, though simple tasks of balance can do the same. Early diagnosis & treatment can almost completely eliminate the symptoms of dyslexia.
The most important thing is to keep your child active with simple jobs such as cleaning around the house to help improve their concentration & motivational skills.
One hypothesis of the symptoms of dyslexia is overall short term memory. A dyslexic will not remember your name and will have trouble transcribing phone numbers, due to difficulty laying down short term memories.
It is not uncommon for dyslexics who have trained themselves to deal with this affliction to develop efficient visual memories to aid in reading and comprehending larger amounts of information faster than usual. Adversely, some dyslexics will show a dislike of reading and will compensate by developing verbal communication and leadership skills. Different people develop different strategies.
A hypothesis for reading difficulty is strabismus, which is difficulty in bringing both eyes into focus at the same time. This explains why dyslexics confused written letters or numbers, as one eye sees the beginning of the word and the other sees the end. Studies which young children wear an eye patch have shown promising results. This is based on the theory that because children can benefit from learning to read than being con focal, the former should take precedence over the latter
Several genetic regions on chromosomes 1 and 6 have been found possibly linked to dyslexia. Dyslexia being a conglomeration of disorders that affect all and similar areas of the cortex. In time studies will be able to identify and classify all individual suborders to help understand how low level genetics can affect writing of the brain and enhance or reduce a particular component of human mental capacity
Studies have concluded language whose orthography has a strong correspondence between letters and sounds (e.g. Italian) have much lower incidence of dyslexia than speakers of language with letters closely linked to the sound (e.g. English).
The main lesson of dyslexia is that minor genetic changes affecting the layering of the cortex in a minor area of the brain may create inborn limitations on the overall intellectual function. It also shows the brain exhibits a strong ability to compensate for its limitations, and intense training can result in turnabouts
Now, you don't have to spend your entire class period on writing. There are many activities you can use that take anywhere from five to ten minutes and will accomplish this goal of writing daily.
We should briefly describe the parts of the writing process, so we can then develop activities to improve each step. There are many different terms educators will use to name the parts of the writing process. Undoubtedly you have seen several different ways to name each step. Your school may even have a specific set of terminology you need to use. That's fine, especially if your students are hearing the same terms through different classes and grade levels. However you decide to designate each step of the writing process, there are several distinct parts.
The first is brainstorming and organizing information. This is the 'prewriting', thinking of topics and ideas about which the students will write. The second is drafting, writing out a first copy which we know will not be perfect but will need more work. The third is revising, adding in more information, changing information around, or removing information not pertinent to the topic. The fourth step is to proofread and edit for surface errors and mistakes. The last step is to rewrite the draft making the corrections from steps three and four. This last step may be another draft, or it may be a finished, published piece. Now, you may want to add more steps to these basic five, and that's up to you. You'll get no resistance from me. The important thing is to fully understand what you're teaching and to make sure your students understand it!
Before we get into activities, you will want to create a special, specific place for the students to keep their work. I choose to keep this work in class so I know it will ALWAYS be there. No more losing it in folders, at home, or in lockers. Each student is provided a hanging file in a cabinet drawer (each class gets its own drawer). If you do not have an extra file cabinet, you can pick up plastic storage crates or boxes fairy cheaply. When I want the students to work with previous writes, they simply need to grab one out of their file. And best of all, the work is already in class.
Ok, so lets examine a few exercises to practice at each step. First for brainstorming and organizing. This is one of the most important steps, and it can be practiced in any subject area. You are going to want to have your students practice this two to three times each week. Have your students brainstorm in lists, in graphic organizers, in webs/maps, and by freewriting. Give them topics and a time limit and turn them loose. Use ideas from your text, from reading activities, and from real life situations that involve your students. You can create games and contests to encourage them to generate long lists.
There are many ways to draft. We've covered several in past newsletters (see the links below for more information on each) including FREEWRITES, JOURNAL WRITES, and PARAGRAPHS. You will probably have other forms and styles to use too. Drafting does not have to take a long time, either. Give your students a specific time limit and the minimums you want them to write. Be very clear about your expectations and rules so the students will have clear understanding of what you're looking for. Feel free to impose minimums such as a time period, length of paper, or number of words. Remind yourself you are working with activities with shorter time slots. You want your students to really push themselves, and you may have to push them at the beginning to get them up to the speed you want!
Editing activities work well when your students already have several pieces finished to look over. You can have students edit their own, or peer edit by trading writings. I usually hold off for a month to collect enough drafts so students can choose their own writing to edit. Normally students like this step the least, and try to resist editing. So you will want to make this a fun activity, and be sure to give it a grade. I also try to give out extra credit so they will want to do these activities. We practice question writing with our SQ3R reading techniques, and we apply this to editing too. Some of the best editing is done by students posing questions, looking for more information, or needing clarification of ideas. This is not proofreading, remember! We use overheads (again so they can be re-used) with guiding questions and thoughts that will help students generate questions of the writing in front of them.
Undoubtedly you'll have a handful of students who think their first draft is perfect and needs no additional work. And you may even agree that some of these students are very good writers. But don't fall into the trap of letting them avoid editing. Even professional writers go through many stages of editing (as of this time, I've already edited this article four times!). Keep your kids following the writing process - no short cuts! Allowing one or more students to cut corners will lead to more asking, and then hard feelings among classmates ("Why doesnt so-and-so have to edit?") None of your students will be experts, none are perfect, even if you have seniors. There are always things you can adjust, clarify, or add to writings. And all of the students will benefit from good editing activities, whether they like it or not.
Another issue you will deal with at this step is a fragile student ego. Some students will fear having criticism of their work. And there will also be students who fear writing criticism on their classmates' papers. You will have to have some heart-to-heart talks with your students and convince them (or persuade them) that they are helping their classmates and themselves when editing. They're not there to rip on each other, just make everyone better writers.
Having your students write on a daily basis may seem like a homework-checking nightmare waiting to happen. You will need to create an administrative plan to make your life simple. In our class I use the random choices technique (discussed in length in the September issue.) A white chip indicates we don't grade it, just file it. A blue chip is a peer check and immediate grade. And a red chip is a collection of the papers so I can read and score them. This keeps me from having to read and grade every paper every day. And for paragraph drafts, we use FCAs (focal correction areas) for grades (look for more on FCAs in an upcoming issue!) These administrative strategies help keep my sanity while allowing my students to practice a lot of writing on a daily basis.
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plan and other great Freebies for new teachers. Simply click the
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One day I found two pumpkin seeds.
I planted one and pulled the weeds.
It sprouted roots and a big, long vine.
A pumpkin grew; I called it mine.
The pumpkin was quite round and fat.
(I really am quite proud of that.)
But there is something I'll admit
That has me worried just a bit.
I ate the other seed, you see.
Now will it grow inside of me?
(I'm so relieved since I have found
That pumpkins only grow in the ground!)
When all the cows were sleeping
And the sun had gone to bed,
Up jumped the pumpkin,
And this is what he said:
I'm a dingle dangle pumpkin
With a flippy floppy hat.
I can shake my stem like this,
And shake my vine like that.
The above poems were taken from DLTK 's crafts and activities for kids.
Pumpkin song (tune: I'm a little teapot)
I'm a little pumpkin
Orange and round.
Here is my stem,
There is the ground.
When I get all cut up,
Don't you shout!
Just open me up
And scoop me out!
Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
The first one said, Oh, my it's getting late!
The second one said, There are owls in the air!
The third one said, But we don't care!
The fourth one said, Let's run and run and run!
The fifth one said, I'm ready for some fun!
Then Woooo went the wind
And out (clap) went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!
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