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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 8, Issue 20
October 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   Halloween Activities   To The Learning Bank We Go
NEW! Hank Kellner: 
"Write What You See"
Are We Moving Into A Post-Literate Society (part 3) The Call For Small Class Sizes
Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
Education Economics (part 2) New Teacher's Niche:
Assessing Student Writing
Student Teachers' Lounge: Positive Parent Conferences
Book of the Month Club:
Pathways to the Common Core
  Website of the Month:
Tech & Learning
  Themes on Life: 
"Tired Looking Dog"
Article of the Week: "Michigan Urban Legends"   Autumn Book Sale for Teachers      

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

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


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

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

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



Halloween Activities

By Freda J. Glatt, M.S.

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

With more and more Halloween celebrations taking place in the classroom, at home parties, or at community events, here are some cross-curricular Halloween activities for you to enjoy.

1. Read a Halloween poem or song and find rhyming words, similes, metaphors, nouns, verbs, onomatopoeia, and so on.

2. Find Halloween-related words in the dictionary by using guide words. Divide them into syllables, write the accent mark, tell the part of speech, give the definition, add suffixes...whatever skills you want to review.

3. Research the origin of Halloween and its symbols. Write a report and include a bibliography.

4. Brainstorm a list of Halloween words and create your own crossword, kriss-kross, or word search puzzles.

5. Write a Halloween story or a short play. Perform the play and tape it!

6. Tape the class singing Halloween songs and play them on October 31.

7. See how many 3-letter words you can make out of 'Halloween.'

8. Cut out Halloween pictures from different print media to make cards or a collage.

9. Give everyone some colored M&M's and have children graph them. Alternately, have children classify the candy they bring to school and graph the different kinds. Possible categories are chocolatey, nutty, soft, and hard.

10. Look through newspaper ads and see what you would buy if you had $20. If your children are old enough, have them calculate the tax for your area.

11. Review following directions, measurement, health, and safety by making Halloween cupcakes, a cake, or cookies. Use Halloween-related cutters, food coloring for frosting, and small candies as decorations. Of course, adults should supervise children.

12. Use a pumpkin for the following activities:

a. Cut out the stem, take out the seeds, and carve out the pulp (refrigerate it). Have children draw a face for a jack-o-lantern and cut it out.

b. Roast the pumpkin seeds and have store-bought seeds on hand. Let children eat both and compare the taste, texture, and color.

c. Heat the pulp until it is soft and use it to make your own pumpkin pie! (NOTE: One recipe usually makes three regular pies.) Make sure to save pieces for the principal and others in your school. Tell children to remember the taste so they can compare it to a store-bought pumpkin pie.

d. Make sure to take pictures of each step. Have children write a caption for each one and make a book.

13. Foster multi-cultural awareness by having candies from different countries.

I hope these ideas are useful and inspire your own creative thinking. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

And remember...Reading is FUNdamental!


Freda J. Glatt, MS, retired from teaching after a 34-year career in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Her focus, now, is to reach out and help others reinforce reading comprehension and develop a love for reading. Visit her site at http://www.sandralreading.com. Reading is FUNdamental!


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Feature Writer

Using Photography To Inspire Writing

By Hank Kellner

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

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

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

The purpose of Hank's most recent work, Reflect and Write: 270 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing, is to inspire student writing through the use of poetry and photography.  

Most of the poems and photos have been submitted by students, teachers, and others nationwide, though some are directly from Hank.  Although Reflect and Write: 270 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing has not yet been published, all of its contents are copyrighted.  Teachers are free, however, to download selected contents for use in their classrooms.

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

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


Forever Spring

By Lisa Winter

I sit amidst this garden
And marvel at His work.
Pure fragrance never fading,
The essence of my birth.

I wonder of His greatness,
The King of Majesty,
Heavenly host of praises,
Angelic rhapsody.

A whisper of His presence
Is what I long to hear.
Sweet song of reassurance
So sweetly lingers near.

I lift my eyes toward Heaven
And dream what it must be
To dwell among such glory

Sing holy praises daffodils,
And lily of the valley,
Sweet melodies of love and grace
That blossom all around me.


Photo # 35 by
Hank Kellner
“I think if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.” F. Frankfort Moore



Sonnet 118
by William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thy ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
    So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 119.5  (A Parody)
by Hank Kellner

Shall I compare thee to a clump of clay?
Thou art more gloomy and intemperate:
Rough winds do turn your hair to hay,
And winter’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime through clouds the eye of heaven shines,
And always are his rays of light unglimm’d;
And every fair from fair oftimes declines,
By time, or many ruthless years untrimm’d;
So look not to your friends for timely aid,
Nor pray for help you surely need the most,
For Death will brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When as they must your bones will turn to toast.
     So long as men can walk and tongues can wag,
     So long lives this, and this says you’re a hag.


Photo 36 by Hank Kellner


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”   

-Margaret Wolfe Hungerford


Copyright 2009 Hank Kellner

These poem/photo combinations are from Hank Kellner's upcoming publication, Reflections: A Collection of Poetry, Photos, and More.


Hank Kellner is the author of Write What You See: 99 Photos To Inspire Writing. Published by Cottonwood Press ( I-800-864-4297) and distributed by Independent  Publishers Group, Write What You See includes a supplementary CD with photos. 8 ½ x11, 120 pages, perfect binding, ISBN 978-1-877-673-83-2, LCCN 2008938630. $24.95. Available at bookstores, from the publisher,  and on the Internet at www.amazon.com and other websites. Ask your school or local librarian to order it.Visit the author’s blog at http://hank-englisheducation.com. The author will contribute a portion of the royalties earned from the sale of this book to The Wounded Warriors Project.


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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.

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Feature Writer

The Call for Small Class Sizes

By Mary Ann Graziani

Most teachers would agree that they prefer smaller classes to larger ones. This is no surprise since smaller classes are easier to manage, allow the teachers to cover more learning material, and provide daily feedback to students more easily. In smaller classes, it is easier for the teacher to pinpoint students who require remedial help and they have more time to adapt teaching strategies to a student’s individual needs. 

According to an article in Education World, Charles M. Achilles, a professor of educational administration at Eastern Michigan University states, “Conclusive evidence has shown the benefits of class sizes of 1:15, especially in the primary grades.” Since the early 1980s, a large-scale project in Indiana, a major experiment in Tennessee, numerous smaller studies and evaluations of projects that use low adult-to-student ratios have found that youngsters in small classes (1:15 or so) as compared to youngsters in larger classes obtain higher test scores; participate more in school; demonstrate improved behavior; and retain many benefits of early class-size reductions in their later years of schooling (Hopkins, 1998). 

To address this problem there have been many class size reduction programs initiated in many schools throughout the nation. Today, however, with educational budget cuts in many states, there would not be enough money to fund class size reduction programs adequately. When student - teacher ratios are high, teachers are unable to meet the needs of all students and budget cuts make class size reduction programs impossible. 

There are solutions that are simple and require no money or commitment from anyone other than the teacher themselves. When used, they can make managing a large class more simple. 

Solution 1: Classroom management plan. When presented with a large group of students, the most important thing is to manage the classroom. There must be a way to gain the students attention immediately, without having to yell or shout. Rules, and consequences for breaking each rule, must be decided, posted, and strictly adhered to. Students can be involved in helping develop the rules and consequences. They can be decided together as a class on the first day of school. Consequences for each rule should be posted and followed each and every time the rule is broken. It is imperative that all students be held accountable for following the rules at all times. The teacher must be seen as fair. If even one student is allowed to “get away” with something, then the whole discipline plan falls apart and the teacher loses management of the class. When planning out rules and consequences, the teacher should include the administration in his/her ideas so they can help enforce the ! rules. Often, a school will have rules that apply to every student and teachers support each other by encouraging students to act within these guidelines. Hopefully, it will never come down to having to enforce rules. Dr. Harry Wong states “the number one problem in the classroom is not discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines. . . A vast majority of the behavior problems in the classroom are caused by the failure of students to follow procedures and routines” (Wong, 1998). A teacher’s classroom management plan, therefore, must consist of how things are to be done in the classroom, starting from the moment they walk in the door. A procedure might be: walk in, put your backpack in your cubby, sit at your desk, and write a page in your journal. Eventually these procedures become habits and things will run smoothly. The first few weeks of school may require the teacher to “remind” students several times what the procedures are, but it will pay off in the long run ! (Wong, 1998). 

Solution 2: Encourage students to work independently. Students who work independently of the teacher are more successful. “The fact that the teacher does most of the work at school explains why there is little learning in school” (Wong, 1998). This is especially true when trying to teach a large number of students. A teacher will become exhausted trying to keep the kids in line and focused on a lecture. If, instead, the teacher gives students activities to work on; they learn more. They not only learn from each other, they learn by doing. This frees the teacher up to walk around and assist. “The research says that the person who does the work is the only one doing the learning” (Wong 1998). Students can act as “teacher assistants” by being given various jobs within the classroom. This will also help the students be more independent and responsible. Students may have jobs such as feeding the class pet, taking the attendance cards to the office, monitoring the clean up o! f toys, collecting homework, cleaning the chalkboard, etc. These jobs will give the students a sense of pride in their classroom, while taking some small but necessary tasks away from the teacher. 

Solution 3: Keep Parents Included: Give them copies of lesson plans, or form a calendar of main lesson topics, which they can follow (i.e. September topics: Johnny Appleseed, signs of fall, subtracting 3 digit numbers). Make sure parents are aware of special dates like conferences or open house. Invite them and make them feel welcome. One of our teammates keeps her lesson plans posted on the wall of her classroom, because parents are always asking what the topics of discussion are. Parents like to supplement the topics at home, and also send theme related show-and-tell items with their children. Parents and teachers working together is the best scenario for any child. A teacher should do all he/she can to keep parents in the loop with what is going on in the classroom. “Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers” (Wong 1998). 

Another way to help parents stay involved is through weekly newsletter sent home on Fridays. This is a simple solution that a teacher can implement into their classroom. One easy way to manage the newsletter is to let the students design and write it. This is one way to give the gifted and talented students something that is educational and fun to work on. This will keep them from becoming bored and disinterested in the class. It will also give the teacher additional time to work with the students who may need extra help in various academic areas. 

An additional method of communication with parents is to set up a website where parents can log on and keep up daily with what is going on in school. Sometimes the newsletter will just sit on the counter all weekend and not be read. Parents, who work long hours, often have some free time at work where they check personal email or surf the web. If a teacher sets up a classroom website and keeps it updated, parents can keep abreast of school happenings. Also, this helps in divorced families, because both parents have a way of keeping up with what is going on in school. If a parent only sees their child every other weekend, they will appreciate a way to keep up with their daily lives. Maintaining a website is not difficult or time consuming. It may make a huge difference in the lives of your students. This is another area where students who are doing well academically can have a fun and have an educational project to work on. Allowing students to help maintain the website will provide the same benefits as students creating the newsletter, and additionally, will integrate technology into the curriculum. 

The benefits of creating a newsletter and website will provide a method of communication for the parents, so they can keep track of what is going on in school. Most parents put their kids on the bus in the morning and don’t see them again until dinnertime. When they ask their child “what did you do in school today?” the answer they get is usually brief, something like “not much” or “the usual.” Even worse is, “nothing.” As teachers, we want parents to be interested in their child’s school. We cannot expect this from them if they don’t even know what is going on. This excerpt was taken from research done by the National Education Association on why it is important for parents to know what is going on in their child’s school: 

“Here are just some of the reasons it is important for parents to be actively involved in their child's education:

1.When parents are involved in their children’s education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school—and the schools they go to are better (Henderson and Berla).

2.The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from pre-school through high school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income, education level or cultural background (Henderson and Berla). 

3.When children and parents talk regularly about school, children perform better academically (Aston & McLanahan, 1991; Ho & Willms, 1996; Finn, 1993).

4.Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child’s time, helping with homework and discussing school matters (Finn, 1998).

5.The earlier that parent involvement begins in a child’s educational process, the more powerful the effects (Kathleen Cotton and Karen Reed Wikelund. "Parent Involvement in Education," Research You Can Use. NW Regional Educational Laboratory).

6.Positive results of parental involvement in their children's schooling include improved achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling (Institute for Responsive Education. The Home-School Connection: Selected Partnership Programs in Large Cities. Boston: Author.)” (National Education Association 2003).


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

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



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

Positive Parent Conferences

It's parent-teacher conference time! Some are positive experiences where teachers are able to make great connections with parents. And yet other meetings are foretold by apprehension and met with strife. Over the years, you will encounter the gamut of positive and negative experiences, and everything in between. However, there are strategies you can use to make the best of any situation.

It is extremely important to make a good first impression (even if you already know the parents). Make eye contact with them, and greet the parents with a firm handshake. No weak grips! If you've never met the parents, stand up to introduce yourself. Welcome them with a smile. Remember that you are building relationships, and setting the tone for the conference.

A good way to open the conference is to ask how the student is doing in other classes. Ask about their other grades, and start building an overall picture. You will often find the student's strong and weak areas, and you may even find surprises. I've found students who were failing every class but mine. And I've found the opposite too. A good overall picture can really give you a new perspective on your students.

Always try to say something positive. Even in the cloudiest of situations, you should find some ray of sunshine. And if you do have bad news to share, opening with good news can help ease the transition.

Be objective with bad news. Give truthful and accurate facts, and keep from making speculations. Make sure you have your facts straight! Work with parents, and try to offer suggestions. Most parents will look to you for ideas. Plan what you'll say ahead of time. If you've taken the time to get to know your students well, you'll find the conferences easier.

Positive parents are what we all expect and hope for. They come in with an open mind, are pleasant, and are willing to both listen to your comments and help with solutions to problems that do occur.  These are often very short conferences at the middle and high school levels. The parents have heard the stories all before, and with good reason; students whose parents regularly attend conferences have higher grade averages and fewer instances of behavior problems than those students whose parents rarely interact with school personnel.

The truth be known, many parents are intimidated by teachers. Many do worry that their concerns and critiques will be turned around and used against their kids. Even though teachers find this entire concept laughable and preposterous, it does, nonetheless, cross many parents' minds.

So, what do you do with a hostile parent? Diffuse the situation by being patient and listening. Sometimes its hard to just listen while parents are going off on you. They may be right or wrong, misinformed or even plain out of line. It is only a mistake to interrupt them, especially if they are on a roll. Stop yourself, focus on what they're saying, even take notes to show you're listening, and let them burn themselves out. Sometimes the hostile parents are looking for an audience, and sometimes they just need to vent. By giving them the time to 'get it all out of their system', you allow them to calm down so you both can reasonably discuss the situation.

Be sure to stand when they leave, again this is being courteous and polite. Thank them for attending. And let them know you'll contact them if anything changes. Parents generally want to be kept informed about their kids, both the good and bad.

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  TECH/21st Century CORNER

Are We Moving Into a Post-Literate Society?
(part 3)

by Mark Benn

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 K–12 marketplace. Our website is: www.vartek.com

Are we moving into a POST-LITERATE society?

Since a larger percentage (possibly 80-90%) of students today are visually oriented learners, and as I said last time, we should begin with a visual introduction to our lessons let’s take a look at the use of online games and interactive activities.

There are many online games that allow students to practice skills for grades one through eight and even higher. Even though some of the games are similar to work they would do on a worksheet the students find it more interesting just because it’s on a computer. Other games provide learning opportunities that could never be done in a classroom. A few of the sites are: 

STUDENT RESEARCH RESOURCES http://www.geocities.com/EnchantedForest/Tower/1217/math.html
INTERNET FOR CLASSROOMS http://www.internet4classrooms.com
I KNOW THAT http://www.iknowthat.com
NATIONAL LIBRARY OF VIRTUAL MANIPULATIVES http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html
SHEPPARD SOFTWARE http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Geography.htm
JEFFERSON COUNTY SCHOOLS (K-8) http://classroom.jc-schools.net/basic/
ACADEMIC SKILL BUILDERS http://www.arcademicskillbuilders.com/
MR. NUSSBAUM SCHOOL ACTIVITIES http://www.mrnussbaum.com/

Another area to explore, then use are interactive simulation sites. Science study is growing more every day with many skills on line that once again could not be done in the classroom except out of a book, that doesn’t reach the students of today. Some sites are: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/index.html

There are also whole lessons online that are interactive and keep students engaged. I use lessons on area, perimeter, percentages, decimals, fractions, and angles. These sites are located at: http://enlvm.usu.edu/ma/nav/index.jsp
http://www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/mentalmaths/angleshapes.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/numbers/

The best way to find more sites is to do an advanced google search using key words such as educational, interactive, games, online, and then more specific such as space, multiplication or sixth grade. It’s important that you try whatever you want to use first. Also, monitor what the students are doing when on the computer. Make sure they understand in advance what they are suppose to be learning and when completed discuss what they found.

The key to students learning is to get them engaged. I know you will find that they are more engaged when given the chance to go online. 


Great BLOGS to read on the changes in the way students learn

Doug Johnson The Blue Skunk Blog
Ian Jukes The Committed Sardine
David Warlick Two Cents Worth
Will Richardson WeBloggEd
Kathy Schrock Kaffeeklatsch
Tony Vincent Learning In Hand



Mark Benn received his Masters of Science in Educational Media Design and Technology from Full Sail University in 2010.

Mark Benn earned his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary Certification from Northern Michigan University.  He is a 25 year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.

Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with emerging technologies.  He has been married to his wife Bonnietta for 32 years with one daughter and two sons.  

StarTeaching Featured Writer

Mark Benn is a leading expert in using technology in the classroom.  
You can feel free to contact him on email at mbenn@inlandlakes.org or at his blogsite:  http://www.furtrader.blogspot.com/ 

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




 Guest Writer  

To The Learning Bank We Go

By Joe Pagano

As a former teacher of high school mathematics, I understand the day-to-day frustrations that any teacher might experience, particularly when trying to teach a subject like mathematics. The first day of class was always interesting. As teacher, I felt like the enemy who was bringing messages of death and despair to the students. I could see in many of their faces how dreaded a subject this truly was. But I would win them over. Yes, one by one I would quench their fear and instill new hope.

If you want to be successful as a teacher—any teacher—you have to refrain from playing the fear trump card. Unfortunately many math teachers do this, thinking that this will set the tone for the year and keep the students in line. This is not the way to go. Remember. You are on difficult turf. Most students despise math because it frustrates the heck out of them. They feel hopeless, lost, and confused most of the time when trying to work through this strange domain of variables, number systems, and word problems. Instilling fear in them will only make the problem worse.

Rather, you need to try alternative learning strategies. Now I know you’ve had this concept rammed down your throats a hundred or more times and I don’t mean to be like another administrator who forgot what it was like to be in the classroom. The truth is you can only lead a horse to water—you know the rest. So what kind of alternative strategies do you try? After all, you’re dealing with teenagers whose racing hormones keep their thoughts grounded on things other than math, English, and social studies.

What about integrating two different subjects, the so called “cross learning” approach. What about integrating math and English through the use of poetry. Now this definitely sounds interesting. What if you could open a lesson by reading a poem on mathematics which teaches a lesson on the subject, or gives some good food for thought? By taking this approach, you’re getting away from the textbook for at least a day and integrating a completely new approach to learning this dreaded subject. Moreover, you’re getting the kids to learn something about reading poetry as well. Could you see the startled expressions on their English teachers’ faces when they find out what’s going on in your math classroom? Now this is an idea that you can take to the bank—the learning bank.

About the author:

Joe is a prolific writer of self-help and educational material and an award-winning former teacher of both college and high school mathematics. Under the penname, JC Page, Joe authored Arithmetic Magic. As a result of this publication, Joe was invited to be a guest on the television show the Book Authority. Joe is also author of the charmingly pithy and popular ebook, Making a Good Impression Every Time: The Secret to Instant Popularity; the seminal collection of verse, Poems for the Mathematically Insecure, and the creator and scriptwriter of an upcoming DVD series that is both visionary and highly educational. The diverse genre of his writings (novel, short story, essay, script, and poetry)—particularly in regard to its educational flavor— continues to captivate readers and to earn him recognition.

Joe propagates his teaching philosophy through his articles and books and is dedicated to helping educate children living in impoverished countries. Toward this end, he donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every ebook. Joe makes himself available for speaking, consulting, teaching and inspiration. For more information on Joe, his teaching style, as well as information on how to purchase his books or other writings, please visit his website www.mathbyjoe.com.



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Education Economics
(part 2)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Education economics or the economics of education is the study of economic issues relating to education, including the demand for education and the financing and provision of education. From early works on the relationship between schooling and labor market outcomes for individuals, the field of the economics of education has grown rapidly to cover virtually all areas with linkages to education. It has become a very vibrant area for research by young researchers, and it has led to four separate Handbook volumes covering both theoretical and empirical issues.

Financing and provision
In most countries school education is predominantly financed and provided by governments. Public funding and provision also plays a major role in higher education. Although there is wide agreement on the principle that education, at least at school level, should be financed mainly by governments, there is considerable debate over the desirable extent of public provision of education. Supporters of public education argue that universal public provision promotes equality of opportunity and social cohesion. Opponents of public provision advocate alternatives such as vouchers.

Education production function
An education production function is an application of the economic concept of a production function to the field of education. It relates various inputs affecting a student’s learning (schools, families, peers, neighborhoods, etc.) to measured outputs including subsequent labor market success, college attendance, graduation rates, and, most frequently, standardized test scores. The original study that prompted interest in the idea of education production functions was by a sociologist, James S. Coleman. The Coleman Report, published in 1966, concluded that the marginal effect of various school inputs on student achievement was small compared to the impact of families and friends.

The report launched a large number of successive studies, increasingly involving economists, that provided inconsistent results about the impact of school resources on student performance. The interpretation of the various studies has been very controversial, in part because the findings have been directly entered into policy debates. Two separate lines of study have been particularly widely debated. The overall question of whether added funds to schools are likely to produce higher achievement (the “money doesn’t matter” debate) has entered into legislative debates and court consideration of school finance systems. Additionally, policy discussions about class size reduction heightened academic study of the relationship of class size and achievement.

Marxist critique of education under capitalism
Although Marx and Engels did not write widely about education the social functions of education, their concepts and methods are theorized and criticized by the infuence of Marx as education being used in reproduction of capitalist societies. Marx and Engels approached scholarship as "revolutionary scholarship" where education should serve as a propaganda for the struggle of the working class. The classical Marxian paradigm sees education as serving the interest of capital and is seeking alternative modes of education that would prepare students and citizens for more progressive socialist mode of social organizations. Marx and Engels understood education and free time as essential to developing free individuals and creating many-sided human beings, thus for them education should become a more essential part of the life of people unlike capitalist society which is organized mainly around work and the production of commodities.


Article courtesy of K12Academics.com




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

  A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in Manistee County

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

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

A secret governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma

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

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

Welcome to Dogman Country!


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




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

Assessing Student Writing

Assessing student work is vital to determining if students have attained important skills and knowledge. This is especially true for writing because this is both knowledge and skill based. But many teachers are still using antiquated means of assessing their students' writing. You don't have to stay up late into the night swathing each paper in red ink. There are better and more efficient ways to assess your students writing.

An important thing to keep in mind is that students are practicing the writing process. We cannot expect them to be experts, and we certainly can't expect to grade each writing assignment as if it's a finished piece of writing.

One easy way to assess and grade works in process is to use FCAs, focal correction areas. Now, I'm sure your local or state rubrics will demand particular aspects of the writing, from organizing to fluency to voice to conventions and of course to many other areas.  These are all important assessment tools for pre- and post-testing, because they give an overall picture of students' knowledge and skill. But you wont want to use this rubric every time you grade a set of papers. You're going to want to focus in on individual skills for most of your students' writings.

Lets face it, we want our students to write well and write a lot. But the stacks of paperwork can be awfully intimidating. It is often this mound of essays that keeps teachers from assigning writing assignments on a regular basis. Its ok to be honest, grading the stacks of papers, especially if you have several classes worth, interferes with your personal life and keeps you up late forcing you to get them all done so students can receive feedback on their skill.  And looking at this from a logical stand, I want the kids to be working their butts off, not me; I want them exhausted after my class is over, I don't want to be exhausted in the mornings because I was up late grading essays!

A comparison can be made to sports. When basketball season begins, players aren't expected to perform at game level. They first practice for many sessions over many weeks before they are assessed in a game situation. The coach first drills the players in fundamentals, the basic skills that are required for the sport. Next comes the advanced techniques, moves that combine several skills, and the implementation of plays. Finally players practice the whole of these skills in controlled scrimmages where the coach can evaluate them through guided practice.

The same is true for writing. Why would we want to grade a beginner or practitioner as we would a master of the craft? True, we will eventually grade a final writing piece, just as basketball player must eventually play a game against real opponents. But we want our writing students to practice a lot of the fundamentals, skills, and the more advanced techniques before we use the state's rubric, which assesses everything. And it is the daily practice on these little skills and fundamentals where the greatest improvements can occur.

So how do we assess the improvement in these daily lessons? First of all we must acknowledge the fact that we cannot grade everything every time, and students can't possibly focus on improving each area of writing on each activity. Thus, we need to breakdown the overall rubrics into manageable pieces. These are the FCAs. We choose just a few FCAs to concentrate on for each activity or assignment. We partner these FCAs with short mini lessons and activities to teach and reinforce the skill. And these FCAs will change as students master those skills.

The most basic FCAs to start with are for form and format. Teach the kids how you want their writings to look. This includes the student name and topic at the top of the page (along with whatever else you require). Then we move into the format of the sentences, paragraph, or essay. For our kids, we require brainstorming & organizing, complete sentences, topic sentences, supports, and clinchers in each paragraph. Students work on these aspects until they are automatic parts of the writing. Provide interesting yet easy topics and give plenty of activities to practice these skills. And resist the temptation to grade everything. The students' writing may not be good yet; don't worry about it. Fix and correct one thing at a time so the kids (and you too) aren't overwhelmed. Give the kids a lot of practice and they'll improve. Trust in the system; the FCAs will come through for you. Make your students good at form and format, and when they are doing these skills well, then move to the next area.

Save yourself a lot of work by having students identify particular sections of their work for you before they hand it in. Then your job of grading is much easier. If the FCAs include topic sentences or clinchers, have students underline those sentences. If you require three supports, have students number them in the margin. If you want students to use particular vocabulary or terms, have them circle these for you (these last two are especially good for teachers in areas other than English). Let the kids do the work for you! I even have the students score their papers and add up the points they earned on their FCAs. This acts as a checklist, ensuring they actually covered all of the assignment's requirements. And since they wrote the paper, the students know where each item is in the paper (or if its not there!), saving you time you'd otherwise spend identifying each item and then adding them up. Now granted, you'll have to spot check the papers, and there are always a few students whose work you have to look over more carefully. We all have those students! But for the most part, this will save you hours of checking time and allow you to provide many more writing activities on a daily basis. Get those kids writing more, and save yourself the work!

I like to grade an essay in formal final copy once each marking period. By that time the students have amassed a large number of second drafts and rewrites. I'll give them the opportunity to make corrections and then type the essay out so its easy to read. Also have students do the underlining, circling, numbering, and other markings for you. This gives your students the chance to select from a number of their rough drafts and choose their best one to fix up and hand in.

And just like the team that continues to practice between games through the season, you'll have your students continue to practice fundamentals and individual skills between formal writing assessments. Use the formal assessments you give a few times each year to see gaps in the students' learned skills.

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Tired Looking Dog

Themes on Life

A bit of humor from home...

An older, tired-looking dog wandered into my yard; I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home and was well taken care of.

He calmly came over to me, I gave him a few pats on his head; he then followed me into my house, slowly walked down the hall, curled up in the corner and fell asleep.

An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, greeted me in my yard, walked inside and resumed his spot in the hall and again slept for about an hour. This continued off and on for several weeks.

Curious I pinned a note to his collar: 'I would like to find out who the owner of this wonderful sweet dog is and ask if you are aware that almost every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.'

The next day he arrived for his nap, with a different note pinned to his collar: 'He lives in a home with 6 children, 2 under the age of 3 - he's trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Hello readers!  Welcome to your second October Issue of Features for Teachers in 2012!   

This month, we bring another great poetry/photograph selection from Hank Kellner from his upcoming book, Reflect and Write. We also wrap up our series on Education Economics, and include articles on writing, class sizes, and Halloween activities.

As always, we have free activities (from Mary Ann Graziani and Frank Holes Jr.) and articles with practical ideas and techniques to be applied directly into your classroom.   

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Pathways To The Common Core: Accelerating Achievement

Lucy McCormick Calkins



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Preparing for Student Teaching

Technology & Teaching: 21st Century Teaching and Learning

Writing Process and Programs

Article of the Week


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10 Days of 
Math Problems
by Mary Ann Graziani

Day 1 The pine tree is taller than the elm tree but shorter than the maple tree. Which tree is the shortest?
Day 2 Patricia scored fewer goals than Philip but more goals than Anna. Who scored the fewest goals?
Day 3 Kathy spent less money than Bob but more money than Faro. Who spent the most money?
Day 4 Canyon City is smaller than River City but larger than Ridge City. Which city is smaller, River City or Ridge City?
Day 5 Dana has fewer crayons than Nathan but more crayons than Meghan. Who has more crayons,
Meghan or Nathan?
Day 6 Desert City is larger than River City. Canyon City is not larger than River City. Which city is the largest?
Day 7 The grocery store is shorter than the hotel but taller than the city hall. Which building is the tallest?
Day 8 The silver jump rope is not shorter than the white jump rope. The white jump rope is longer than the gold jump rope. Which jump rope is shorter, the silver jump rope or the gold jump rope?
Day 9 Katy wrote fewer postcards than Sam but more postcards than Manuel. Who wrote fewer
postcards, Manuel or Sam?
Day 10 Mrs. Graziani has more students than Miss Hendrix but fewer students than Mr. Smith. Which teacher has the fewest students?


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




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Science Activities For Any Setting
By Helen de la Maza
Habitat Bingo
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Germinating Seeds in the Dark
(click for PDF)

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


Tech & Learning




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Using Photography To Inspire Writing
By Hank Kellner

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Article of the Week
"Michigan Urban Legends"
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"Your Head is in the Cloud"
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