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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 8, Issue 11
June 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: What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents   Best Quotes From Summer Reading
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: 8 Useful and/or Fun Twitter Tools Do Kids Have Too Much Homework? Themes on Life: 
"Administration Test"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Instructional Methods for Teaching Reading (part 1)
New Teacher's Niche:
Group Work in Class
Student Teachers' Lounge: Outdoor Writing
Book of the Month Club:
The Heart of a Teacher
  Website of the Month:
Internet 101
  Article of the Week: "Social Websites Hurt Children's Brains"

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

Best Quotes From Summer Reading

By Janice Rozich 
Middle School Teacher
Lake Ridge Middle School, Schererville, IN

Having your own students advertising books can be a great way of getting more students to read.  The American Film Institute website is also a great place to find ideas for your classroom, including the "Best Quotes" idea presented below.

AFIís recent tribute to movies in the form of developing a list of the top 100 quotes from movies got me thinking.  How many of us have lists of books for studentsí summer reading?  How many of us ask that they write book reports on what they have read?  No matter what form these reports take in terms of length or comprehensiveness, can we agree that these reports often end up being less about how much fun the book was to read than they are about answering a list of forgettable questions about the book? 

So, hereís my idea.  When your students return to school this August, instead of that book report, ask them to find a phrase or sentence from the book that encapsulates the theme of the book or a memorable character from the book.  The student has to use critical thinking in order to select just the right phrase or sentence.  I think a great way to showcase this effort is to create a poster for the book that contains the selection; along with the title and author, the student could include a graphic of some kind.  Once the poster is complete, it can be hung in the media center, in the school hallway, or your own classroom.  What a great way to advertise a book!

To get you started, can you guess the book from which these quotes were taken:

1.  "Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think itís the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs."
2.  "Have you seen this wizard? Approach with extreme caution! Do not attempt to use magic against this man!"
3.  "What does it mean that Germans despise me simply because I am a Jew?"


1.  The Outsiders, S, E, Hinton
2.  Harry Potter (Prisoner of Azkaban), J. K. Rowling
3.  The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank

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8 Useful and/or Fun 
Twitter Tools

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.


I've been on Twitter since February 19, 2007 and to celebrate my 10,000th follower, I'd like to share some interesting Twitter tools.

When Did You Join Twitter?
No, I don't recall the exact date I first signed into Twitter.  I typed my username into whendidyoujointwitter.com, and it let me know when I created my account. 

My Tweet 16
Enter a username to view their first 16 tweets. I'm very embarrassed by my first tweets.

Type in a Twitter username to see their most popular tweets. 

Strawberry Jam
See the most popular links that have been mentioned by those you follow on Twitter. 

Twitter Tussle
Compare the frequency of words or phrases mentioned on Twitter. 

Add a bunch of tweets into Buffer and it will share them for you throughout the day.


Type in a hashtag or other Twitter search and the results are presented fullscreen and animated. This is great for displaying tweets during an event.


When Do They Sleep?
Enter a Twitter username into sleepingtime.org, and it will determine the user's approximate sleeping schedule based on when he or she is least active on Twitter. It's actually pretty accurate for my sleeping time.

Thanks to everyone who follows me and an even bigger thank you to those I follow! I cannot begin to tell you how much I've learned from Twitter over the years.



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


Outdoor Writing


In the spring especially I like to take the students outside to write. This makes a nice contrast from the classroom and can be a great reward for good classroom behavior. The favorite of my classes are journal writes, because students get to choose their own topics. Whatever type of writing you choose, make sure your students incorporate their observations of the environment around them.

Brainstorming is the name of the game here. We want our students to observe the natural world around them and then incorporate those details into a piece of writing. I will often ask for 20 or more triggers (individual pieces of brainstorming) at each observation point. Each write should increase the number of triggers so students are further challenged as they get better at observing.

Before going outside, we discuss what to look for. I tell students to use all of their senses. Start with the sky, the clouds, sun, and wind. Observe the temperature, the feel (and taste) of the air, and sounds around them. Try to focus on nature, not man-made noises. Then move down to trees. Watch the leaves and branches move, check out the shapes of the trunks, and feel the texture of the bark. Finally get to the ground. Observe the soil, the sand or clay or dirt, and start checking out what is covering the ground. Pick up the leaves, grasses, acorns, and twigs. Describe each in detail, again using every sense. Also watch for wildlife, be it birds, bugs, or other critters. Remind students they are there to observe, not interact with nature, so no killing bugs or bothering critters.

You'd be amazed at the variety of observation/writing points there are around your school building. I have about a dozen such places around the school building and grounds that my classes use. Each takes only a few minutes to reach so we can easily travel there and back and have plenty of time to write all in the span of a class period.

Generally students are quite spaced out, so I have to huff it around to check on their progress. I make it a rule that students must be at east 20 feet away from any other student. I remind students this is an observing and writing activity, not a discussion or talking activity.

Its important to share the students writing, especially if you can do it outside. Stop a bit early, gather the troops, and allow them to share (but be wary of requiring them to share!) I allow students to read all of their piece, read selected parts, or just tell us about it. Its a non-threatening event, and try to give positive feedback - you can critique later.

I always have students pick up a few pieces of garbage on the way back in. Each day will require a slightly different number of trash pieces depending on how much I see on the way out. This helps teach the kids the importance of keeping their environment clean. Your school administrators and janitors will appreciate it too. And it only takes a few moments to do this, but imagine all the garbage your entire class can find! Take your kids out even once a week for a few weeks and you'll be amazed at how much nicer your school grounds will appear.

Writing outside can be a fun and memorable educational experience for your students.


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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

What Teachers Really Want To Tell Parents

By Mark Benn, Instructional Technologist

Mark Benn is a Technology Integration Coach for VARtek Services, Inc. Having just completed almost 25 years as an educator for Inland Lakes Public Schools, and having received a Masters of Science in Educational Media Design and Technology from Full Sail University in 2010, he now works in a position that supports teachers of K-12 classrooms in the southwest Ohio region that are interested in integrating technology into their learning environments. VARtek Services mission is to be the best provider of managed technology solutions for enhanced learning in the KĖ12 marketplace. Our website is: www.vartek.com

Wow!  Telling it how it really is!  I just had to share this article pulled from CNN's website:





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




  StarTeaching Feature Writer

Do Kids Have Too Much Homework?

By Jonathon Hardcastle

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

In the late 90s, feature stories began appearing in the national media about children and parents who were so overwhelmed by the amount of homework that it was destroying their family life and causing psychological damage. The evidence presented in these stories was often anecdotal, profiling just one or two families. However, the articles were published in enough respected publications that they sparked a national debate on whether children have too much homework. Schools scrambled to create homework policies, parents held protests, and children began to receive sharply mixed messages on the value of homework.

In all the fuss, people never realized that the information contained the articles simply wasn't true. In 2003, the Brown Center on Educational Policy at the prestigious Brookings Institution released a report that shattered the perception that American students are staggering under an unreasonable load of homework. In fact, they found just the opposite: American students probably don't spend enough time on homework. Gathering data from a number of studies that had been performed in the late 90s, the Brown Center drew four startling conclusions.

Typical students, from kindergarten to high school, don't spend more than an hour a day doing homework. In fact, pointing to a study done by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, the Brown report found that more than two-thirds of college freshmen did five hours or less of homework during their final year of high school.

The report also analyzed studies and concluded that the homework load for the average student has not increased appreciably since the 1980s. This is in direct opposition to the anecdotal evidence cited in the article of homework increasing to as much as three hours per night.

However, a study performed in 1997 by Michigan State University showed that children at that time were spending just over two hours per week on study, which could include activities other than homework. Interestingly, this study is often used to prove that students have too much homework, since the weekly hours spent on study increased over the life of the study by 23 minutes. The Brown Center postulates that this statistical increase was actually caused by children who previously had no homework at all and because they had advanced in grade, now had homework.

Finally, the Brown report found that, contrary to the articles' portrayal of militant parents protesting homework, most parents are satisfied with the amount of homework their children receive. In fact, if parents were dissatisfied with the amount of homework their children had, it was because they felt it wasn't enough.

Jonathon Hardcastle writes articles on many topics including Education, Science, and Employment.


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Instructional Methods for Teaching Reading
(part 1)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

A variety of different methods of teaching reading have been advocated in English-speaking countries. In the United States, the debate is often more political than objective. Parties often divide into two camps which refuse to accept each others terminology or frame of reference. Despite this both camps often incorporate aspects of the other's methods. Both camps accuse the other of causing failure to learn to read and write.

Sub-lexical reading
Sub-lexical reading, involves teaching reading by associating characters or groups of characters with sounds or by using Phonics learning and teaching methodology. Sometimes argued to be in competition with whole language methods.

Lexical reading
Lexical reading involve acquiring words or phrases without attention to the characters or groups of characters that compose them or by using Whole language learning and teaching methodology. Sometimes argued to be in competition with phonics methods, and that the whole language approach tends to impair learning how to spell.

Historically, the two camps have been called Whole Language and Phonics, although the Whole Language instructional method has also been referred to as "literature-based reading program" and "integrated language arts curriculum". Currently (2007), the differing perspectives are frequently referred to as "balanced reading instruction" (Whole Language) and "scientifically-based reading instruction" (Phonics).

Phonics advocates assert that, to read a large vocabulary of words correctly and fluently requires detailed knowledge of the structure of the English language, particularly spelling-speech patterns. Whole Language advocates assert that students do not need to be able to sound out words, but should look at unknown words and figure them out using context.

Whole Language
The whole language methodology involves the teaching of reading skills and strategies in the context of authentic literature. Word recognition accuracy is considered less important than meaning accuracy; therefore, there is an emphasis on comprehension as the ultimate goal of reading. In a whole language classroom, students are immersed in a literature-rich environment, in which they are given the opportunity to appreciate real-world purposes for reading.

Initial teaching alphabet
This method was designed to overcome the fact that English orthography has a many-to-many relationship between graphemes and phonemes. The method fell in to disuse because children still had to learn the Latin alphabet and the conventional English spellings in order to integrate with society outside of school. It also recreated the problem of dialect dependent spelling, which the standardisation of spelling had been created to eliminate.

See more in our next issue!

Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



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A BLOG, begun as one manís 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.  




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

Group Work In Class

The business world tells us that they want people who are good at collaboration. Being that our job is to prepare the students for the future, this skill should become part of what we teach in the classroom.

Planning and preparation are key to getting your groups underway. The first thing to do as you prepare to use group work as part of the learning process is to setup your groups. Never allow the students to set up the groups; you are only inviting disaster. There are many ways to set up groups. I like to spread the abilities out among the groups.  The smartest student isn't always the one who can lead the group
through to a conclusion. I also like to mix boys and girls up in the groups. They tackle problems from different ways, so it enhances the learning taking place. Also, change the groups after every section, so they learn to work with different people. This makes it a more real world experience.

Size of the group is another part of the equation. A lot depends on the lesson being used. Two person groups are fine for a short-term group that lasts one day. If you are going to have it go longer, the group should be at least three to four students. The reason for this is the fact that what is the group going to do if the next day one of the students isn't there? With three or four students you will at least have a group of two or three to continue on if someone is missing.

As you begin the groups, realize the students may not know how to work in a group. This is something that we as teachers shouldn't take for granted. Talk about using listening skills, the fact that only one person is speaking at a time. Explain that arguing doesn't solve anything. They must learn, when there are differences of opinion, to share why they feel the way they do and support it with reasons. We also talk about the importance that everyone be a participant in the group process. Another thing I tell the groups is that they are not to ask me, the teacher, a question until they've talked about it in the group. If the group can't answer the question, then I will gladly help them out as a group. This fosters dependence on their group.  Focus is the most important part of using groups as a tool for learning. If you as a teacher don't provide a structure within the lesson, you will lose the students.

I like to call this the "Driving Question". This is what they are to be focusing on as they work together. Decide what you want them to learn, set the goals, and then communicate to the students your expectations.

In conclusion, from observation and research that collaboration (group work) when used properly can be an excellent learning tool. I hope you will find using this learning tool as stimulating and rewarding as I have, both for the students and yourself.


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


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Your favorite books, magazines, and newspapers on Kindle, instantly downloadable with 3G wireless.

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

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"Administration Test"

Themes on Life

This simple, 4-question quiz will let you know if you are ready to become an administrator...

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

The correct answer is:
Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe and close the door.

(This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.)


2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

The wrong answer is:
Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant and close the door.

The correct answer is:
Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.

(This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.)

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference, all the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

The correct answer is:
The Elephant. The Elephant is in the refrigerator.

(This tests your memory.)

OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions, correctly, you still have one more chance to show your abilities.

4. There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?

The correct answer is:
You swim across. All the Crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting!

This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.)


According to a Leading Management Consulting firm, around 90% of the management professionals they tested got all 4 questions wrong.

(But many preschoolers got several correct answers.)

This conclusively disproves the theory that most management professionals have the brains of a four year old.

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome to our first June issue. This month, our web partner Tony Vincent shares some great connections to your Twitter account and tech writer Mark Benn shares an article written by a teacher who tells the parents what we all really wish we could say to them!

We are also featuring excellent articles on teaching reading and summer reading.  We'll also examine some data on the debate whether students have too much homework. 

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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"Character is, for the most part,
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~ C.H. Parkhurst

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The Heart of a Teacher: 
True Stories of Inspiration and Encouragement

By Wayne Holmes



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 How many years are in a century?
Day 2 How many years are in a millennium?
Day 3 How many days are in a leap year?
Day 4 How many minutes are in an hour?
Day 5 How many whole weeks are in a month?
Day 6 At track practice, Dalton practiced running the hurdles for 30 minutes. Then he practiced the
high jump for 1 hour and 30 minutes. If Dalton's track practice ended at 5:30 P.M., what time
did it start?
Day 7 Stan and his sister watched a cartoon movie that was 1 hour long. After the movie, they played a card game for 1 hour and then played soccer for 30 minutes. When they came in from playing soccer, it was 3:30 P.M. What time did Stan and his sister start watching the movie?
Day 8 Desiree and her friends went to a movie on Thursday afternoon. They left at 2:30 P.M. It took
30 minutes to drive to the theater. They arrived at the theater 1 hour before the movie started. Once it started, the movie lasted for 2 hours. What time was it when the movie ended?
Day 9 Erik took a flight to Australia. He left his house at 6:30 A.M. It took 30 minutes to get to the
airport, and Erik spent 1 hour at the airport before his flight took off. What time was it when Erik's flight departed?
Day 10 Jane starting playing video games as soon as she got home from school. She played video games for 58 minutes. Then, it took Jane 1 hour and 24 minutes to finish her homework. When Jane finished her homework, it was 4:12 P.M. What time did Jane get home from school?


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





Tech-Ed Articles

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




Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Shape Scavenger Hunt
(click for PDF)

Air Pollution Experiment
(click for PDF)

Click HERE to see all of 
Helen's Science Activities


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Inspirational Quotes
& Photos

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Internet 101




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
"Social Websites 
Hurt Children's Brains"
Click here to download the PDF
"Archaeology at Project Troia"
Click here to download the PDF


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