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Ideas and Features For New Teachers
and Veterans with Class

Volume 8, Issue 17
September 2012
StarTeaching Store Advertise with us Previous Articles Submit an Article FREE Reports Feature Writers Tech Center New Teacher's Niche

Our Back-To-Back, Back-To-School Issues
Packed with excellent articles on getting yourself and your students back into school mode!

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

What's New @ StarTeaching   Tech Corner: Are We Moving Into a Post-Literate Society?   Going Beyond With Journals
NEW! Tony Vincent's Blog: Limit an iOS Device to Running A Single App Solar Energy With Kids Themes on Life: 
"Words To Live By"
NEW! Science Activities for Any Setting   10 Days of Writing Prompts   10 Days of Math Problems
School Features:
Homeless Education (part 2)
New Teacher's Niche:
Building Positive Relationships Around the School: Janitorial Staff
Student Teachers' Lounge: Emergency Lesson Plans: Real Lifesaving Tools
Book of the Month Club:
Teaching Teenagers Theater
  Website of the Month:
Teachers Pay Teachers
  Article of the Week: "Murder in Texas?"

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Feature Writer

Going Beyond With Journals

By Chris Sura

Three…two…one…and we are off on a new school year. It is usually a great time to start new techniques, practices or units. After my summer with the Crossroads Writing Project through Ferris State University back in 2006, I brought in a more active journaling program to my classroom.

I have always struggled with journal writing in my own personal writing world because I found my writing voice too forced; I thought certain rules had to be observed. My view, however, was changed with reading Breathing In/Breathing Out by Ralph Fletcher and with practicing journal writing with my summer Crossroads Institute. I was able to run, sometimes with scissors, on the journal page. This led to the use of journals in the classroom.

I used the daily journal writing as a part of creative writing class that fall. It worked well. It was a great tool for brainstorming, gathering information and writing. It fit the writing process well. Plus, I was able to develop several writing prompts and a grading system for its use. It fit the creative process.

So, my next question was could I tie it in to other academic classes. Since they were already taking notes, to use prompts related to notes, textbooks and current events was an easy expansion with my journalism, science fiction and fantasy and drama classes.

Basically, I would put a writing prompt on the board at the start at class. Students would date the entry and respond to the prompt. The prompt would be related to the topic or theme of the unit we were working on. For example, when discussing freedom of the press for journalism, I would put up prompts like “What rights do students have?” or have them read a news article about an issue with students and their freedom and have the students respond. With my science fiction class, I would ask, “What are rules or patterns that we associate with having wishes granted?” at the beginning of the unit on wishes.

The journal stays open for most of the class. 

I would either discuss the prompt, or save it for later in the class when we hit it with the lesson. Their notes went into the journal. Also, brief short answer assignments went in it too. The class spent the week filling their journals with information, writing, their ideas and so on. As we went through readings and discussion, the prompt or question would progress to “How did the court ruling of Tinker vs. Des Moines affect student rights?” or “How did today’s short story follow the rules or break the pattern of granting wishes?” Students would then start formulating their own opinion with support.

On Fridays, Writing Days, we would go to the Writing Lab (computer lab according to others) and write.

Writing Days would be impromptu writings related to the week, or it may be assignments shared at the beginning and developed through the week. Either way, students came with stuff in their journal and did not have to spend time figuring out what to write. As the semesters rolled by, I even started offering two or three writing options for Writing Day. Student liked the choice. They could write on a topic, still in the realm of the topic or there, that clicked with them.

My scoring I wanted to keep simple. On Writing Day, I collected the journals. I would put a plus, check, minus or zero for the week and record it in my grade book. Plus was for the students who went beyond the required material for the week, check for those who did the required writing and notes, minus was for those it did not do all, and zero was for those who did not bring it in on Friday. Before parent/teacher conferences, I converted the marks and added up the score. If there were five weeks of journals, I would set the points possible at 45. A plus was worth 10, checks were 8 and a minus was 6. This way, the student who did more earned a few extra credit points, and the average student would get a around a 40 out of 45, a good grade.

To facilitate more importance on the journal and the writing process, I also let them use the journal on the written portion of the semester exam. 

Experimenting with different classes, I found that the more mature student did not need to have the weekly journal check. With a freshman English class, I found that the journal helped develop organization skills, note taking and using writing to think; it takes the class beyond the note taking by linking notes to the thought process in the same place.

Journaling is flexible to any teaching and learning style.

The big benefits to journaling are free writing, thinking on paper and prompts that take the facts beyond the recall level of education that can develop a student’s higher level thinking skills, problem solving and application of knowledge.

As a teacher in the classroom, I would encourage you to journal with your students. Role modeling behavior, writing and thinking not only helps your student learn, but it let’s the student see more of you through instruction.

In conclusion, a journal can be used in any class to any level. But if used to its full potential, a journal stores knowledge, develops thought, strengthens understanding and enhances writing.

Chris Sura, upon earning his Bachelor’s at Western Michigan University worked for Central Michigan University in Housing before teaching at River Valley High School. When he moved to Houghton Lake where he currently teaches, Chris completed his Masters in Education at Central Michigan University. A member of the Crossroads Writing Project through Ferris State University, he facilitates a conference on Professional Writing every summer and does online instruction through Kirtland Community College. He is married to Heidi, his wife of twenty years, and has two kids, Christopher and Grace. Chris writes poetry and fiction and has self published a book of poems.

You can visit Chris at his website www.surawordz.com



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Limit an iOS Device to Running a Single App

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.


Apple has introduced Guided Access in iOS 6. It keeps your device in a single app and allows you to control which features are available. 

Locking a mobile device into a single app has been a request of parents and educators for some time. Using Guided Access to limit an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to one app can be handy when you want a child to remain on task and focused. It is also nice for youngsters who might accidentally click the Home button.

To start Guided Access: 

  1. Launch the Settings App.
  2. Go to General and choose Accessibility.
  3. Turn Guided Access On.
  4. Set a passcode.
  5. Launch the app you want lock the device into.
  6. Triple-click the Home button.
  7. You can choose to disable touch or motion in addition to disabling the Home and volume buttons.
  8. Tap the Start button. 

To exit the app, triple-click the Home button and enter the Guided Access passcode.

iOS 6 is now available as a free upgrade for iPad 2, iPad 3rd generation, iPod touch 4th generation, and iPhone 3GS and newer.



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


Emergency Lesson Plans: 
Real Lifesaving Tools


Everyone gets those situations in life where an emergency has come up, and you don't have the time (or sometimes the ability) to get a good lesson plan in to school for your students. Maybe you have a family emergency or a disrupted travel plan and you just cannot get into school to leave detailed lessons. That is why it is essential for you to have an emergency lesson plan available and handy.

The emergency lesson plan should be able to be used at ANY point in the year. It doesn't have to fit in with what you're currently doing (nor should it - it is to be used when you cannot leave normal sub plans). The lesson should be related to your normal curriculum, but it could be a supplement or an enrichment activity.

Get a folder (or a three-ring binder), and label it appropriately on the outside cover. There are even folders you can purchase (some schools even make these available to teachers) labeled 'sub folder' or 'emergency plans'. Also make sure you have an appropriate spot for your emergency folder on or in your desk area. Some schools will ask you to keep an emergency plan in the office. In either case, make sure it is easily accessible by a substitute teacher.

Think about keeping class activities to 10 to 15 minute increments.  This way the sub will have better control of your kids. Students have difficulties adjusting to changes in their routines, and you don't want to have to return to discipline referrals.

Keep the information organized and easily accessible for a sub. Remember, the sub won't know where you normally keep things, and they can't read your mind. Spell out exactly what you want done, where it can be found, and what you want done with it when they're finished.

Make sure you have made enough copies of any worksheets so the sub doesn't have to. And be sure to leave answer keys. Many subs will actually even grade your assignments for you if you ask them in your plans.

Get this done early in the year, and you can save yourself many headaches later, not to mention worries about what will happen in your room if you are unable to be there.


Language Arts: Include short writing activities involving students opinions. Thus they don't have to have 'background' information, and they can write from their own experiences. Parts of speech review can include mad-libs or easy, fun worksheets.

Math: Leave a calculator activity. These could even be puzzles or partner games. Or give review problems.

Science: Copy a science article and have students read carefully and answer questions. Make speculations and use the scientific method. Or have students create the plans for a lab activity.

Reading: Leave students a copy of a short story or article, and questions to answer. You could even set up a 'test-taking' exercise, and discuss appropriate answers and strategies.

Social Studies: Map activities are great for emergency plans. You can even set up a one-day unit on any area/region of the world, including your own town or city.

Everyone gets those situations in life where an emergency has come up, and you don't have the time (or sometimes the ability) to get a good lesson plan in to school for your students. Maybe you have a family emergency or a disrupted travel plan and you just cannot get into school to leave detailed lessons. That is why it is essential for you to have an emergency lesson plan available and handy.

Be sure to check out our website for the FREE teacher Who-I-Want-To-Be plan and other great Freebies for new teachers. Simply click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm

Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use immediately in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm

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  Tech / 21st Century Teaching Corner

Are We Moving Into a Post-Literate Society?

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

Are we moving into a POST-LITERATE society?

I know this question might knock you over, but please stop and think about it. Wikipedia defines a post-literate society as: a society wherein multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read written words, is no longer necessary. This doesn’t mean they can’t read, but choose to meet their main information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming. Now think about the students you have today. What do they choose to do first for pleasure, read a book, or do they seek multi-media stimulation?

Doug Johnson, writer of the Blue Skunk Blog, wrote a blog titled Libraries for a post-literate society I and is located at:


He later followed it with two more blogs titled:  Libraries for a post-literate society II and In defense of postliteracy.  Doug Johnson’s premise is that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We are just returning to a 21st century style of communication that is quote: “similar to more natural forms of communication - speaking, storytelling, dialogue, debate, and dramatization.”

If this is true, and I believe it is, because I see it all around me (including my three teenagers), think of the ramifications it should have on education. Are we making the change in our classrooms to meet these challenges? From what I’m reading from top educational speakers and from my observations around me, not much is changing. Is it a wonder we are losing the students in school?  They are checking out on us because we continue to teach in the old way. As one parent said to me today,  “Why don’t they learn it like we did?” My reply was that these kids aren’t us. This is not a generational gap. This is a major paradigm change in the way kids think and interact with their world.

So, what are you doing or going to do about this change? The first place to start is to begin reading what others are saying and what research is telling us. Check out the blogs of Doug Johnson, Ian Jukes, David Warlick, Will Richardson, Kathy Schrock, or Tony Vincent, to name a few. Become part of an online community of teachers such as: (http://www.classroom20.com/) and discuss this topic. Observe your students and ask them what excites them. This will get you started, but it is only the beginning. In closing, let’s look back at that question again. Are we moving into a post-literate society? It’s something to think about.

Next month I’ll talk about ideas on how to address this issue in the classroom. Now go do your homework and see what others are saying.



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




  StarTeaching Feature Writer

Solar Energy With Kids

By Jack McKee

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

Solar Energy with Kids

Back in 1970, thanks to the Whole Earth Catalog, I discovered Farrington Daniel’s book Direct Use Of the Sun’s Energy which was first published in1964. It not only recounted solar energy history about turn of the century hot water heaters and distillation plants, but told how to make solar ovens, cookers and hot water heaters. I was worried about the greenhouse effect so it captured my imagination. I remember running down to the thrift store to buy an umbrella in July. I lined it with aluminum foil, chopped off the handle, made a stand for a cup and, viola! a cup of almost boiling water for tea. I made a fresnel lens focusing collector for heating water. It was great.

As time went on I built a beer can solar collector for my shop and made a solar water heater by painting and old hot water tank black. We bought a house with big south facing windows and probably get 20-25% of our heat from the sun by just opening the curtains. If only gas had gone to $ 5.00 a gallon.
I stayed at least peripherally interested in solar energy but along about the middle 80’s I noticed my friends’ eyes beginning to glaze over any time the subject was brought up. I felt like the crazy uncle gone round the bend with impractical schemes.
A note of caution: The power of the sun can start fires. Collectors should be used only under the direct supervision of a knowledgeable adult. I once left my solar hot dog cooker unattended under shed roof, protected, I thought, from the rays of the sun. The sun dropped low in the sky and snuck in under the roof and over the end of the collector. The focal point became a beam of wood six feet above the collector. I did not think this was possible but, it was, and if someone hand not been around to smell the smoke the building could have burned down.

Solar Energy with Kids

One morning I woke up and realized I’d been talking about solar energy for almost 15 years and hadn’t really done much with it. I was working with kids doing science and carpentry and it occurred to me that they might be interested. At least I could make a demonstration project. So I built a solar hot dog cooker. Not exactly practical, but the kids loved it. I was amazed at their reaction: no glazed eyes, no chuckles about impracticality, just amazement and wonder, my feelings still. To make a long story short, the kids’ reaction motivated me to make more equipment to demonstrate solar energy and what evolved was a 2 hour solar energy presentation for a classroom of kids. The following is a description of my gear in the order of presentation:

1. A sundial. Clamp it to the table so it won’t move. Inside with the lights turned down, move a light past the sundial to illustrated how the shadow moves as the sun moves. Introduces the concept that the sun moves through the southern sky in winter.
To do: • Check the time when you start and kids will come back and check it again later.
• Copy the face of a sundial onto paper and the kids can make their own.

2. Black absorbs white reflects:
Materials: • Two pieces of copper, about six inches square, one painted black, the other white. If you have trouble finding copper or brass aluminum or steel will also get the point across.
• Digital thermometer is nice but not necessary
To do: • When you set these in the sun kids easily feel how much more heat black absorbs than white.
• Check the temperature difference with the thermometer.

3. Two, 2 pound coffee cans each filled with water, one painted black, the other white.
To do: • Same as #2 above

4. The hot water rises experiment: This experiment shows what happens inside the pipes of a solar water heater.
• One clear plastic 1 gallon jar
• 4 oz artichoke hearts jar: drill two holes in the lid and glue in two pieces of drinking straws in the holes so they stick out 1/4” above the lid, like two small chimmnys.
• food coloring

To do: Fill the big jar with cold water. Fill the small jar with hot water (solar heated of course), add food coloring to the hot water, put the lid on, and set the small jar inside the large jar. The colored water being hotter, takes up more space than the same number of cold water molecules, and rises up, through a straw, out of the little jar to the top of the cold water in the big jar. Like smoke coming out of a chimney.

5. Cardboard box heater.
• shallow cardboard box with a lid, approximately 12” X 18”
• Flat black paint
• Piece of plastic sheeting or thin plexiglass, 10” X 16”
• Duct tape
• Digital thermometer
This is a basic box heater. Cut a hole in the lid almost to the edges. Use duct tape to fasten the plastic sheet over this hole. Paint the inside of the box black.

To do: • Stick the thermometer inside the box. How hot does it get? Mine approaches 200 degrees F.
• Cut a small hole in the end of the box and stick your fingers down inside. Feeling how hot it is makes more of an impression than looking at a thermometer.
• Would painting the outside of the box increase the temperature inside the box?
• How could you make it hotter inside the box?

6. A hot water heater: This is the combination of experiments 2, 4, and 5. See Direct Use of the Sun’s Energy, chapter 6, for details of water heater construction.
Description: A 2’ X 4’ box framed with 1” x 4”. The back is 1/4”plywood. The inside of the box is insulated with 1/2” foam board, painted black with high temperature flat black paint and contains a framework of copper tubing (see book again). The top of the box is covered with clear plastic. The top of the copper grid is connected to the top of a three gallon plastic paint pail. The bottom of the grid is connected to the bottom of the plastic paint bucket. The water flows through the copper pipe, rising, gaining heat, into the water tank. The cooler water settles to the bottom of the tank and then flows to the bottom of the collector.

To do:• Stick your hand in the water, carefully. It’s hotter than you think.
• Look for the hot water where it comes out of the hose from the copper pipe. You will see it shimmer, like heat waves coming off hot pavement.
• With a piece of surgical tubing and large syringe inject some water with food coloring in it into the tank drain that feeds back to the bottom of the collector. .
• Measure the temperature difference between the top and bottom of the tank.
• How could this water heater be made to work better?
• Comment on how inventions are often a combination two or three ideas known to most people but put together in a clever and simple way. In this case: Black absorbs heat, hot water rises and a box with a clear lid combine to become a hot water heater.

7. Solar heated kid warmer. I built this for those chilly days in the fall and spring. It really works and my preschool kids loved it. It is just like the small box heater only bigger.
Materials: • Large cardboard dryer box
• Duct tape
• Flat black paint
• 3” X 4” piece of visquine
Directions: Cut a large hole in the side of a dryer box. Cover this hole with plastic sheeting using duct tape around the edges. In the opposite side from the window cut a small door. Paint the box black and face towards the sun.
To do: • Kids can hide inside this cozy space to warm up on chilly days.

8. Make or buy a small solar oven. I got a small cardboard oven (the sun spot) for $20. a while ago. There are good plans in the book Heaven’s Flame by Joseph Radabaugh. You can buy more expensive ovens from Kansas Wind Power or Real Goods.
To do: • I always make cookies (even if they are small) and put them in the oven before we start.
•After the cookies are finished baking the kids can put their hands in the oven to feel the power of the sun. (Although I did this it was the 1990’s and there may be some rules about food handling which I didn’t observe).

9. Solar Hot Dog cooker This is a parabola shaped frame that holds a plastic mirror. The parabola focuses the sunlight on the hot dog and will burn it if the hot dog is not rotated. The plastic mirror (available at glass stores) works a lot better than aluminum foil and it is easier to clean. This rather silly device I’ve used in my summer class and it is definitely an attention getter. Check Farrington Daniel’s book for how to draw a parabala if you don’t know how. Then just make a wood frame to hold the parabala.
To do: • Have the kids two or three at a time put their hand at the focal point if they want to. It is hot.
• Cut the hot dogs is half and let the kids cook their own.

10. Umbrella lined with aluminum foil.
Materials: • old umbrella
• Aluminum foil
• metal cup painted black
• bailing wire, pliers
Cut off the handle at the focal point and make a wire stand to hold a black cup. Mine took about 15 minutes to heat a cup of water.
To do: • Put your hand quickly in and out of the focal point to feel the heat
• Heat water for tea or hot chocolate

11. Fresnel lens cooker.
Materials: • 1 X 6 Lumber
• Approximately 18 square feet of plastic mirror
• a stand to hold the cooking pot
• Pan painted black
I made this from VITA plans. I would probably be easier to just find an old satillite dish which would do the same thing, only better. Be careful of the focal point, its HOT! Mine was about 4’ in diameter and had four steps, each 6 1/2” wide, aimed a the focal point. It heats a quart of water to near boiling in 15-20 minutes.
To do: • Heat water for tea or hot chocolate
• cook soup or rice
• Keep the collector aimed at the sun so the focal point will remain on the item being cooked.

12. Solar cells. This is an old 30 watt ARCO panel connected through a volt and ammeter to a rubber bladed 2 speed fan.
To do: • This is a good demonstration to teach that blocking the sun blocks the energy. People often stand in front of the cells and ask why they don’t work.
• Use the fan for air conditioning
• Hook up other electrical devices, a pump, motor or light

13. A race against solar cells. An old war surplus hand crank generator. This machine will put out about 50 watts, but it is hard to keep up for long.
To Do: •Kids crank to see how many watts they can produce and compare their output to the output of the solar cells. This will entail a short lesson about how to measure power. And you will need to mount volt and amp meters on the generator so the kids can figure out how many watts they are producting.

14. Books, magazines and plans: Direct use of the Sun’s Energy, Heaven’s Flame, The 12 Volt Bible for Boats, The latest Popular Science on solar cells and power plants, plans for a solar furnace made from beer cans and other miscellaneous stuff from my solar file.

Here is how I make my presentation:
Set all my equipment outside in the sun in the order they are to be presented. Put cookie dough in the solar oven. Go into the class room with the hot dog cooker, sundial and the two copper plates. I’ll talk to them for about 5-10 minutes and try to cover the following points:
• Use of solar energy is not new
• Native American Pueblos
• Greeks, Archimedes setting ships on fire
• Water distillation in South America 1890’s
• Cloths line or sun coming in a south facing window is solar energy
• There is a lot of power in the energy of the sun, 1000 watts/ square yard
• Kinds of energy, coal, gas, hydro, nuclear pollute, solar does not except in the manufacturing process
• Will be important in the future, during their lives because of greenhouse effect
• Many uses of solar energy are very simple
• Based on fact black absorbs heat and white reflects it
• Safety: • Be careful of the hot water, it is hot
• The focal paints are hot, test carefully

I demonstrate the use of a sundial by turning out the classroom lights and moving a light past the sundial. Kids can see the shadow move.

Outside I explain each demonstration in order asking for questions after each one. After we’ve worked through all the demonstrations they get 1/2 hour or so to check out things on their own. We take the cookies out of the oven and pass them around. Then we have our race between the solar cells and the hand crank generator. This involves a short explanation of volts X amps = watts. Then inside for questions and answers. This is the best part and the kids never cease to amaze me with their questions and avid interest.

I guarantee this demonstration will get kids excited about solar energy. There are several directions for follow-up activities: Explanation of heat energy vs electrical energy, writing about the history of solar energy, making their own solar oven or cooker, use of math to figure out how many solar cell you would need to supply their classroom lights, study and use of low voltage electricity, or making model solar powered boats or cars, to name a few.

A note of caution: The power of the sun can start fires. Collectors should be used only under the direct supervision of a knowledgeable adult. I once left my solar hot dog cooker unattended under shed roof, protected, I thought, from the rays of the sun. The sun dropped low in the sky and snuck in under the roof and over the end of the collector. The focal point became a beam of wood six feet above the collector. I did not think this was possible but, it was, and if someone hand not been around to smell the smoke the building could have burned down.

Jack McKee has worked as a mechanic, remodeled houses, built small boats and designed equipment used by children’s museums, schools and preschools. He has worked at a Montessori school teaching “shop” to 3-6 year olds and for the parks department teaching summer woodworking classes for kids. His articles have appeared in Home Education, Tech Directions, Early childhood Today and Wooden Boat. He has written two books, Woodshop for Kids and Builder Boards. You can see more of Jack’s creations in the do-it-yourself section of his web page at: home.earthlink.net/~mchkee

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Homeless Education
(part 2)

Courtesy of K12Academics.com

Homelessness has a tremendous effect on a child's education. Education of homeless youth is thought to be essential in breaking the cycle of poverty. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act mandates equal opportunity to a free public education to homeless students. This act is supposed to break down the barriers homeless students have to receiving an education. These barriers include residency restriction, medical record verification, and transportation issues. Once a student surpasses these barriers, they are still subject to the stigma of being homeless, and the humiliation they feel because of their situation. Some families do not report their homelessness, while others are unaware of the opportunities available to them. Many report that maintaining a stable school environment helps the students because it's the only thing that remains normal. Many homeless students fall behind their peers in school due to behavioral disorders, and lack of attendance in school.

McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (Pub. L. 100-77, July 22, 1987, 101 Stat. 482, 42 U.S.C. § 11301 et seq.) is a United States federal law that provides federal money for homeless shelter programs. It was the first significant federal legislative response to homelessness, and was passed and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on July 22, 1987. The act has been reauthorized several times over the years.

The McKinney Act originally had fifteen programs providing a spectrum of services to homeless people, including the Continuum of Care Programs: the Supportive Housing Program, the Shelter Plus Care Program, and the Single Room Occupancy Program, as well as the Emergency Shelter Grant Program.

It established the Interagency Council on the Homeless (later called the Interagency Council on Homelessness). The legislation has been amended several times since it was first written and enacted.

Sponsored by Representative Tom Foley (D-WA), the bill was named after Representatives Stewart McKinney (R-CT) and Bruce Vento (D-MN).

Congressional findings and purpose

The following are the findings and purpose from the law as of January 6, 1999:

(a) Findings
The Congress finds that —
  1. the Nation faces an immediate and unprecedented crisis due to the lack of shelter for a growing number of individuals and families, including elderly persons, handicapped persons, families with children, Native Americans, and veterans;
  2. the problem of homelessness has become more severe and, in the absence of more effective efforts, is expected to become dramatically worse, endangering the lives and safety of the homeless;
  3. the causes of homelessness are many and complex, and homeless individuals have diverse needs;
  4. there is no single, simple solution to the problem of homelessness because of the different sub-populations of the homeless, the different causes of and reasons for homelessness, and the different needs of homeless individuals;
  5. due to the record increase in homelessness, States, units of local government, and private voluntary organizations have been unable to meet the basic human needs of all the homeless and, in the absence of greater Federal assistance, will be unable to protect the lives and safety of all the homeless in need of assistance; and
  6. the Federal Government has a clear responsibility and an existing capacity to fulfill a more effective and responsible role to meet the basic human needs and to engender respect for the human dignity of the homeless.
(b) Purpose
It is the purpose of this chapter —
  1. to establish an Interagency Council on the Homeless;
  2. to use public resources and programs in a more coordinated manner to meet the critically urgent needs of the homeless of the Nation; and
  3. to provide funds for programs to assist the homeless, with special emphasis on elderly persons, handicapped persons, families with children, Native Americans, and veterans.

Look for more in Part 3, coming soon!

Article courtesy of K12Academics.com



MythMichigan Books
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Dogman’s Back!

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

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

  A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in Manistee County

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

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

A secret governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma

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

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

Welcome to Dogman Country!

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




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Building Positive Relationships Around Your School: Janitorial Staff

This is the second section, dealing with your custodial staff. Your school custodians and maintenance department are an important part of the overall functionality of your building. These are people who you should get to know immediately, because they can provide you with a tremendous array of services.

The custodial and maintenance staff isn’t just around to sweep the floors, empty the wastebaskets, and clean up messes. They play an important role in the school environment. These people are not only essential to keeping the building and grounds in top shape and presentable to the public, but also keep the various physical systems in the school in working order. These may include heating & cooling, water, plumbing, and electrical systems, and sometimes even technology. They may also put up walls, plow the snow, line the football field, repair the drinking fountains, and put together classroom furniture.

Your custodial and maintenance workers can help you in a number of ways. They certainly can keep your room and hallway in tip-top shape. Many times, custodians will pick up and collect pencils and pens from the halls, and will drop them off in your room if they know you need them. 

And they will often help you out if you have requests. In many schools, their contracts and union will dictate what physical jobs can be done by school personnel other than maintenance/custodial workers. So if you’re having trouble with your room heating unit, your clock is not synchronized with those around the school, or your door is squeaky, you can usually get prompt service if they know you and know you appreciate their time and efforts. If you are well liked by the maintenance staff, your requests may often move up the priority list. And if you want those extra ‘little touches’, such as a shelf put up in your room, or document frames mounted on your walls, such favors are often the reward of your time spent building positive relationships.

Appreciation for their work can be as simple as an honest and genuine ‘thank you’. Often times, including the custodial and maintenance staff in get-togethers and school celebrations goes a long way. Some groups will purchase donuts or treats for the custodians during the year. Other groups put on dinners or cook-outs. If your students bring in any extra treats, be sure to send some down to the maintenance staff.

If you take the time to get to know these hard-working people, and build positive relationships with them, you will definitely reap the rewards. Not only will you have handy people willing to help you out when you need it, but you may even find pleasant, friendly faces in and around your school.

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"Words To Live By"

Themes on Life

The power of words...

Anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the mind.

You can't change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying over the future.

Love ...... and you shall be loved.

God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.

All people smile in the same language.

A hug is a great gift ... one size fits all. It can be given for any occasion and it's easy to exchange.

Everyone needs to be loved ... especially when they do not deserve it.

What's New @ StarTeaching?


Welcome to our second Back-To-School issue! This month, our web partner Tony Vincent shares a great feature with the new iOS 6 and tech writer Mark Benn shares thoughts on the role of technology in society. 

We are also featuring new articles on homeless education, solar energy with kids, and journaling. 

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At Play: Teaching Teenagers Theater

Elizabeth Swados



Coming Soon:

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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 (1 × 103) × (6 × 103)
Day 2 4 × (1 × 102)
Day 3

(4 × 102) × (2 × 104)

Day 4 5 × (2 × 101)
Day 5 6 × (1 × 103)
Day 6 9 × 1043 × 103
Day 7 Determine < > =
9.52 × 101    ?     95.2
Day 8 Determine < > =
2.2 × 104   ?   2.2 × 105
Day 9 Determine < > =
1.40 × 102  ?  1.450 × 102
Day 10 Determine < > =
7.6 × 101  ?  7,600


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



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