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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 8, Issue 3
February 2012
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

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

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   Tech Corner: Audience Feedback for the Teacher with GoSoapBox.com   Teaching Economics At the Middle School Level
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: Clone an iPad or iPod Touch Classroom Arrangement Themes on Life: 
"Insights on Love"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Social Anxiety (part 6)
New Teacher's Niche:
Designing and Running A Medieval Fair (part 2)
Student Teachers' Lounge: Learning Pods and Classroom Setup
Book of the Month Club:
The Art of Teaching Reading
  Website of the Month:
Grammar Girl
  Article of the Week: "Should Sugar Be Regulated?"

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

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


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

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

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

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


Guest Writer

Teaching Economics at the Middle School Level

by Marian Holes, 
Retired 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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Clone an iPad or iPod Touch

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.

Melissa Dills is an Ohio kindergarten teacher and has a blog, Adventures of iPads in Kindergarten. Melissa recently contacted me with this question:

I currently have 5 ipads in my kindergarten classroom.  I back up my 'original' one on iCloud and it pushes out the apps to the other four.  My question is do you know of a way to get them to go into the appropriate folder They are just going onto the screen instead of the folder I put it into on my original.  Thanks for your great website. It is very helpful!

It's very convenient to enable Automatic Downloads of apps in the Store section of Settings on iOS devices. This automatically downloads new purchases (including free) made on other devices and in iTunes. You just need to be signed into the same iTunes account on all of your devices. Don't worry; you don't have to input the account's password each time an automatic download happens (that would be annoying).

As Melissa points out, apps are indeed automatically downloaded, but they are not placed into folders or even necessarily onto the same Home screens. Currently Apple does not provide a way to synchronize folders among devices. Other settings, like wallpaper and sounds, are also not synced and have to be set up manually on each device. With older students, teachers can have them place apps in folders and make settings consistent across devices.

In Melissa's situation with younger students and only five devices, she could set up one of the iPads as a master. That means she would move apps into folders or onto specific Home screens and configure settings. After she has the iPad exactly the way she wants it, she will connect to iTunes, right-click the iPad's name in iTunes' sidebar, and choose Back Up.

After back up is complete, Melissa will disconnect the master iPad. Then, she'll connect one of her other four iPads, right-click the iPad's name in iTunes' sidebar, and choose Restore from Backup.

iTunes will ask Melissa to choose a backup to restore onto the current device. She'll of course choose the backup of the master iPad.

It will probably take some time for the restore to complete. When done, this iPad will be a clone of the master. That means all apps will be in the same folders, Home screens will be identical, and settings will match exactly. I suggest that Melissa rename the iPad so that it's not confused with the master iPad.

Melissa can restore her other three iPads from the master's backup as well. Afterwards, all five of her iPads will be set up identically. Because iTunes allows you restore only one iPad at a time, Melissa probably won't want to go through this process very often. She'll probably still rely on automatic downloading of apps and manually putting into folders unless she has downloaded a large number of apps that would take lots of time to sort.

Now, this method of restoring from a backup of a master device will replace all data with that from the master. That means images, recordings, and any high scores will be erased from the other devices.

Restoring from a backup can also save teachers time if they customize an app. For example, Learn How to Spell from Grasshopper Apps is fully customizable. You can use the sets of words that are included in the app. But even better, you can add your own words, complete with your own images and voice recordings.

It can take lots of time to make customized sets of words within the app. In a classroom like Melissa's where there are a small number of iPads that can be used as a center, it saves a lot of time and repetition to use the cloning method above to copy the customized sets from a master iPad to other devices. Perhaps one day Grasshopper Apps will update their apps to save customized lists to iCloud so they can be easily copied to other devices. Until then, restoring from a backup is the way to copy the app's data from one device to another.

Canby Schools in Oregon have deployed hundreds of iPod touches using this restore from backup technique. Joseph Morelock has written how they do it in the wiki article Imaging iPod touch Devices Using iTunes Restore.





iPod Touch

Order your own iPod Touch Today with the links below:



Mastering Basic Skills software:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to order your own copy today:



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

Learning Pods and Classroom Setup

Setting up small learning groups, or communities, in your class requires planning, not just in your instruction, but also in the physical space of your room.

When I decided to change my teaching style from a teacher-centered, lecture format to a student-centered, project format, I had to seriously contemplate how my room and its instructional resources were arranged. 

I knew I wanted to set up student 'pods' of four to five students.  Four makes a great sized group, but five is starting to push it.  These sizes also fit with the number of computers I had available.  Each pod needed one computer for the group to use, as well as work space, achieved by placing desks next to each other forming a table.   

I placed the pods at the outside walls for a few important reasons.  First was to get some elbow space between students and groups.  "The 'traditional' classroom and the 'student-centered' classroom are very different both in philosophy and in the application."

I wanted to eliminate interaction between groups so students could concentrate on their own group's activities.  Secondly, this arrangement allowed me to monitor the computers at all times.  Third, this setup created better traffic flow through the room, since students would often need to move back and forth to the central resource center.

I've set up the resource and presentation center in the center of the classroom.  This is where I keep student file cabinets (the short types), dictionaries & thesauri, school supplies, and art-type supplies. 

I've combined this storage area with my podium, overhead projector, and the other tech equipment like vcr or dvd players,

"Having previously taught in the traditional manner, I've found the pod setup, or student-centered class, to be both a challenge and a benefit to student learning." digital projectors, and the like.  This allows for easy student access to all resources, and I can effectively use all of my wall space when I need to present material.

The 'traditional' classroom and the 'student-centered' classroom are very different both in philosophy and in the application.  The basics of setting up your classroom to reflect the learning environment you've envisioned must be thought through carefully before jumping right into the pods.

Having previously taught in the traditional manner, I've found the pod setup, or student-centered class, to be both a challenge and a benefit to student learning.  Now that I've had a chance to compare them, my students and I prefer the pods.


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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

Audience Feedback for the Teacher

By Mark Benn, Instructional Technologist

Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 20 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.  He finished his Masters of Integration of Technology from Walden University. 

Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with emerging technologies.  He has been married to his wife Bonnietta for 32 years with one daughter and two sons.  In the summers, Mark works for the Mackinac State Historic Parks as a historical interpreter.

Here's an excellent article I encountered recently with a new app designed to give the teacher / instructor feedback from the student audience. Use this link to read about it, and check out the video 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

Classroom Arrangement

By Debbie Cluff

Article courtesy of EdArticle.com:   www.edarticle.com 


The set up of a classroom is very important to how a classroom is being managed. The teacher needs to make sure his/her classroom is arranged for the students to be productive. The teacher also needs to make sure their classroom has a positive environment for the students as they enter the classroom. Another key fact a teacher needs to consider is that their classroom needs to be ready for learning everyday. This is because in order to manage a classroom with proper discipline, a product and active classroom set-up is important. The students need to be placed in an arrangement that will keep them focused on the lesson and not deter them from learning. In this paper, we will discuss and provide ways for a lower elementary classroom to be set up.

Classroom Arrangement

Our map shows the classroom is arranged in centers. The students will sit in groups of six in four different groups. The reasoning behind the groups is that the students will be able to learn how to work with others. The students will also be able to motivate each other to do their work. The desks are arranged in the middle of the classroom so it will allow the teacher to walk around the room freely. Plus the teacher will be able to control the students in a more compact area. The setting of the desk will also help students to stay on task.

Reading Corner

In the corner of the classroom is a “cozy” reading nook which will contain the classroom library. This area will provide a “home” feeling and help the students to feel relax when they are in this area. The reading nook will also be a place for students to go to when they have completed their work and want to read a book in a cozy are. If a child is able to feel at home in the reading nook this can cut down on behavior problems for the teacher. In the reading nook, this area is a quite place. The reading nook is not located in the same area as everything else in the classroom. By having the reading nook in the corner of the classroom, it will help to promote reading in the classroom.


The listening center and computer station will be placed on the outside of the classroom. The centers will be facing the walls because the students will be rotating to the varies centers within the classroom. Plus, while students are at their centers they will need to be able to concentrate on their work. Also, located on the outside of the classroom are the storage areas for Science, Math, Art and Writing materials. This storage area allows the students to have a centrally located area to receive and place materials for Science, Math, Art and Writing. Plus, this area will help the teacher to keep his/her classroom organized.

The student’s desk will also serve as centers. During center time students will be able to move around the whole room to gain information. At each group their will be a different theme for students to learn about. By having the centers on both the inside and the outside of the classroom will enable the teacher to focus the students’ attention to their center activity instead of just rotating around the room. This will keep the flow of the classroom and will not give the students time to mess around maintaining classroom structure and discipline.

Teacher’s Desk Location

The teacher’s desk is located in the back of the classroom. The reason of this arrangement is that this will help the teacher to promote a student – centered classroom. By having the desk located in the back of the classroom the teacher will have full sight of his/her entire classroom at all times. Plus, the teacher will only use the desk for paper work. The rest of the time the teacher will be in the same area as the students.

Print Rich Environment

Not only is the arrangement of the desk important to the classroom but the motivation the classroom has to offer the students. To have a print-rich-environment, the teacher needs to have posters and signs that help to promote literature in the classroom. By having posters and signs on the classroom walls and bulletin boards will help the students gain a great deal of experiences with the different types of literature. Plus the students can do a read around the room, while sitting in the reading nook. By providing a print-rich environment, the students will be placed in a positive learning atmosphere that promotes learning thus preventing classroom misconduct.


In conclusion, the arrangement of the classroom is a very key part of how well the students will learn and interact with their classmates and their teacher. If a classroom is disorganized and clustered, then it will be kind of hard for a child to work and learn new skills. Plus, the teacher needs to take time to make sure his/her room is set up for learning because no matter how well your lesson plans are completed and ready to be presented. If the students do not feel comfortable in the room then the lesson plan will be presented in a way the teacher wanted it to.


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Social Anxiety
(part 6)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Social anxiety is an experience of fear, apprehension or worry regarding social situations and being evaluated by others. People vary in how often they experience anxiety in this way or in which kinds of situations. Anxiety about public speaking, performance, or interviews is common.


Arguably the most important clinical point to emerge from studies of social anxiety disorder is the benefit of early diagnosis and treatment. Social anxiety disorder remains under recognized in primary care practice, with patients often presenting for treatment only after the onset of complications such as major depression or substance use disorders. Improvement is lower for those with more severe social phobia and with comorbid disorders, such as avoidant personality disorder and depression. The patients who achieve full resolution are usually far fewer; there are still many who, after receiving treatment, are unable to function in the long-term without anxiety symptoms.

Research has provided evidence for the efficacy of two forms of treatment available for social phobia: certain medications and a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the central component being gradual exposure therapy.

Selective serotonin re uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants, are considered by many to be the first choice medication for generalized social phobia. These drugs elevate the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, among other effects. The first drug formally approved by the Food and Drug Administration was paroxetine, sold as Paxil in the US. Compared to older forms of medication, there is less risk of tolerability and drug dependency. However, their efficacy and increased suicide risk has been subject to controversy.

In a 1995 double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, the SSRI paroxetine was shown to result in clinically meaningful improvement in 55% of patients with generalized social anxiety disorder, compared with 23.9% of those taking placebo. An October 2004 study yielded similar results. Patients were treated with either fluoxetine, psychotherapy, fluoxetine and psychotherapy, placebo and psychotherapy, and a placebo. The first four sets saw improvement in 50.8 to 54.2% of the patients. Of those assigned to receive only a placebo, 31.7 percent achieved a rating of 1 or 2 on the Clinical Global Impression-Improvement scale. Those who sought both therapy and medication did not see a boost in improvement.

General side-effects are common during the first weeks while the body adjusts to the drug. Symptoms may include headaches, nausea, insomnia and changes in sexual behavior. Treatment safety during pregnancy has not been established. In late 2004 much media attention was given to a proposed link between SSRI use and juvenile suicide. For this reason, the use of SSRIs in pediatric cases of depression is now recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as warranting a cautionary statement to the parents of children who may be prescribed SSRIs by a family doctor. Recent studies have shown no increase in rates of suicide. These tests, however, represent those diagnosed with depression, not necessarily with social anxiety disorder. However, it should be noted that due to the nature of the conditions, those taking SSRIs for social phobias are far less likely to have suicidal ideation than those with depression.

Although SSRIs are often the first choice for treatment, other prescription drugs are also commonly issued, sometimes only if SSRIs fail to produce any clinically significant improvement.

In 1985, before the introduction of SSRIs, anti-depressants such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were frequently used in the treatment of social anxiety. Their efficacy appears to be comparable or sometimes superior to SSRIs or Benzodiazepines. However, because of the dietary restrictions required, high toxicity in overdose, and incompatibilities with other drugs, its usefulness as a treatment for social phobic's is now limited. Some argue for their continued use, however, or that a special diet does not need to be strictly adhered to. A newer type of this medication, Reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase subtype A (RIMAs) inhibit the MAO enzyme only temporarily, improving the adverse-effect profile but possibly reducing their efficacy.

Benzodiazepines are a short-acting and more potent alternative to SSRIs. The drug is often used for short-term relief of severe, disabling anxiety. Although benzodiazepines are still sometimes prescribed for long-term use in some countries, there is much concern over the development of drug tolerance, dependency and recreational abuse. Benzodiazepines augment the action of GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain; effects usually begin to appear within minutes or hours.

Some people with a form of social phobia called performance phobia have been helped by beta-blockers, which are more commonly used to control high blood pressure. Taken in low doses, they control the physical manifestation of anxiety and can be taken before a public performance.

Research has shown that a form of psychotherapy that is effective for several anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder and social phobia is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It has two main components. The cognitive component helps people become aware of and to change thinking patterns that keep them from overcoming their fears. A person with social phobia might be helped to question how they can be so sure that others are continually watching and harshly judging him or her. The behavioral component of CBT seeks to change people's reactions to anxiety-provoking situations. A key element of this component is gradual exposure, in which people confront the things they fear in a structured, sensitive manner. The aim is also to learn from acting differently and observing reactions (behavioral 'experiments'). This is intended to be done with support and guidance when the therapist and patient feel they are ready. Cognitive-behavior therapy for social phobia also includes anxiety management training, which may include techniques such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, which may be practiced 'in-situ'. CBT may also be conducted partly in group sessions (Cognitive behavioral group therapy), facilitating the sharing of experiences, a sense of acceptance by others and undertaking behavioral challenges in a trusted environment.

Some studies have suggested social skills training can help with social anxiety. Whether specific social skills techniques and training are required, rather than just support with general social functioning and exposure to social situations, does not seem to be clear.

Interpersonal Therapy has been shown to have efficacy for depression and a small study of the therapy in the treatment of social phobia suggests it may also work with social phobia.


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!

Now Available!

Click Here For The
Tales From Dogman Country Website


Now Available!

Year of the Dogman Website
Now Available!

Haunting of Sigma Website
Now Available!

Nagual: Dawn of the Dogmen Website 
Now Available!
Now Available!
The Longquist Adventures, written for elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and classic stories to young children.  




We now have special offers on Classroom Sets of our Novel.  Click here for more information:





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

Designing And Running A Medieval Fair
(part 2)

Running large events, such as a medieval fair, at school is often too much for most teachers to attempt. However, with careful planning, and some well directed help, you can orchestrate a successful, educational, and memorable experience for your students.

This article, second in the series, describes how you can utilize the help of outsize sources.

Bringing in outside help required making contacts with locals who had the skills we needed. We found the leader of the local archery group who volunteered to bring in bows, arrows, and targets. Our local scoutmaster was pleased to show and model primitive cooking techniques (most camp cookery isn't much different than the medieval methods.) A local church choir agreed to come in and sing and perform a medieval skit. And several parents who belong to craft groups were honored to be able to share their skills with the kids.

A great share of the details were researched on-line. Authentic costumes and dress were developed by looking at examples on the internet. Banners and heraldry, customs, meal etiquette and menus, weapons and armor, and peasant life were all thoroughly researched online by our students.

Well before the fair, our students worked through the curriculum. The social studies class completed their chapters on the medieval European time period. English class read exerpts from the tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood (you can find many printable copies online). Both classes practiced SQ3R reading skills on several handouts dealing with medieval culture and civilization. Science class completed their reports on historic European inventors. Even our math class supplemented story problems with medieval aspects. Art class created the students' costumes and medallions, and built the castle backdrops and scenery.

Our food menu was developed after carefully researching on-line. We first checked on foods that wouldn't be available, either because they hadn't been developed yet, or they were native to the new world and hadn't been discovered during medieval times. We then checked out recipes and dishes that we could realistically prepare. See the links below for more information.

We did have to make a few concessions, based on what we could get.  Even though we weren't completely authentic, we were very close. For example, instead of meat pies, our cafeteria food supplier had pasties. Instead of fruit pastries and turnovers, we ordered fruit pies. We avoided the necessary foods. We also found several side dish recipes for students to make at home. The parents brought in the dishes in the morning, and our kitchen staff kept them warm until lunch. In the overall scheme of the day, we provided an excellent balanced meal based on medieval traditions. You can see the entire menu at the end of this article.

But the biggest change in personnel was the contact we made with a group of medieval re-enactors. It took several phone calls and emails to finally locate a couple who were interested in meeting with us.  They listened to our plans and ideas, and not only made suggestions, but also volunteered to visit school several times during the marking period. They taught our students about heraldry, symbols, and medieval weapons, food, and dress. They also worked with the students on creating appropriate clothing. They suggested making simple 'tabards', loose-fitting over shirts that acted like combination vest and cape. Hanging to just above the knees, the tabards were tied with twine around the waist. The girls made simple headbands with flowing material over simple dresses.

The students also needed an insignia, a heraldry symbol on a colored background. Our elementary art teacher was kind enough to offer clay and glazing for our students to make pottery goblets and insignia to wear around their necks. This was a fun diversion over several Friday afternoons, our students working with elementary students and their kiln.

In the art classes, students made banners and tapestries, displaying aluminum punched and decorated shields. Students also created background elements to hang on the gym walls, transforming boring painted cement walls into an old-fashioned castle wall made of various sized and colored rocks.

Donated appliance boxes from a local warehouse store were transformed into castle walls and towers by painting stone blocks, windows, doorways, and battlements on them. Students used gray paint to create the stone and black paint for the chinking. Visual elements such as archways made of curved blocks and cracked or broken sections of stone added to the reality of windows and doorways.

These boxes were then placed around the gym in strategic locations (for example to cover up the baskets and volleyball equipment). Boxes that were still sturdy and intact could be built up one atop another to form towers and give the illusion of height. You need not cover every square inch to give the illusion of being in a castle; spread the decorations around and let your students' minds do the rest.

Another project we do is to create tapestries to hang as dividers between stations. Students bring in old bed sheets and our best artists paint castle scenes on them. We've collected half a dozen of these tapestries over the past few years, trying to add a few each year. The nice thing about this is you can fold them up and save them for future events. Some tapestries show suits of armor, treasure chests, castle walls and windows to the medieval world.

Set up the site the day or two before, and have a plan for decorating and traffic flow. We divided up our students into equal groups and developed a traffic flow pattern so they rotated to each group in an orderly fashion. We wanted a central location for our feast, right in front of the acting/presentation area (since feasts were accompanied by songs and music, dancing, skits and plays, and other forms of merriment). For us, we wanted to be in front of our stage, located on the long side of our gym. Since we were using our middle school gym, we had to reserve it several months ahead to avoid conflict with sports practices. In general it was not a problem, as long as coaches and janitors knew well ahead of time.

Look for more in the next segment!


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



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"Insights on Love"

Themes on Life

In a survey of 4-8 year olds, kids share their views on love. But what do little kids know about love? Read on and be surprised that despite their young and innocent minds, kids already have a simple but deep grasp of that four-letter word.

Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.

When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.

When someone loves you, the way she says your name is different. You know that your name is safe in her mouth.

God could have said magic words to make the nails fall off the cross, but He didn't. That's love.

Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.

Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french-fries without making them give you any of theirs.

Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.

Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is ok.

Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents for a minute and look around.

Love is hugging. Love is kissing. Love is saying no.

Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they've know each other so well.

Love comes from people's hearts, but God made hearts.


What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome to our first February issue. This month, our web partner Tony Vincent shares tips on how to clone an iPad or iPod Touch, while tech writer Mark Benn shares an awesome app for audience feedback for teachers and/or instructors.

Our Website of the Month features the ever famous Grammar Girl, and we have some great follow-up articles on our series on the Medieval Fair and Social Anxiety  There are also great articles for new teachers and student teachers.

Look for more real math problems from Mary Ann Graziani, science activities from Helen De la Maza, and the Article of the Week from Frank Holes, Jr.  Be sure to join up on our FACEBOOK page for StarTeaching for more reader interaction as well as constant, updated streams of educational information.  

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



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10 Days Of


What is fear?


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What are THREE fears you have, and why do you have them?


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Describe the hardest speech or presentation you've ever had to give. 


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10 days of writing prompts


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Writing Process Articles

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The Art of Teaching Reading

By Lucy McCormick Calkins



Coming Soon:

More Article of the Week

Technology & Teaching: Seamless Integration into Curriculum

Writing Process and Programs

Classroom Management


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 A cookie factory used 63.9 kilograms of chocolate chips to make 5 batches of cookies. How
many kilograms of chocolate chips did the factory put in each batch?
Day 2 A soda factory produced 15.7 liters of root beer in 2 minutes. How much root beer, on average, did the factory produce each minute?
Day 3 A dairy produced 78.5 liters of milk in 2 hours. How much milk, on average, did the dairy
produce per hour?
Day 4 A Road Paving Company used 282.1 tons of cement to pave 2 miles of roadway. How much
cement, on average, did the company use per mile?
Day 5 A train traveled at the same speed for 2 hours. It went 71.1 miles in all. How fast was the train going?
Day 6 Jim bought 5 glass paperweights. The paperweights weighed 1.7 pounds in all. What was the weight of each paperweight?
Day 7 Dan bought 6 rolls of paper towels. He got 514.56 meters of paper towels in all. How many
meters of paper towels were on each roll?
Day 8 Over the past few years, Chase has made 5 trips to visit the amusement park. He drove 813.95 kilometers in all. How far did Ronald drive on each trip?
Day 9 An aquarium owns 5 identical tanks. All together, the tanks can hold 584.48 gallons of water. How much water can each tank hold?
Day 10 A cookie dough factory made 445.08 pounds of cookie dough in 8 minutes. How much cookie dough, on average, did the factory make each minute?


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





Tech-Ed Articles

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* 21st Century Learning
* Integrating Technology
* Computer Literacy
* REAL activities you can use!




Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Looking At Leaves
(click for PDF)


Plant Life Cycle Hike
(click for PDF)

Click HERE to see all of 
Helen's Science Activities


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Inspirational Quotes
& Photos

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




Grammar Girl




Using Photography To Inspire Writing
By Hank Kellner

Visit his blog at: hank-englisheducation.



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


Article of the Week
"Should Sugar Be Regulated?"
Click here to download the PDF
"Nutrition Myths at the 
Grocery Store"
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