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Ideas and Features For New Teachers 
and Veterans with Class

Volume 1, Issue 21

December 2005



We are now looking for CHRISTMAS teaching ideas, lesson plans, 
and activities to share with our readers in our December newsletters.  
If you have great ideas to share, 
please submit them at: 


Revisiting SQ3R
Strategy for Reading


Many teachers have used the SQ3R reading strategy successfully for years. For new teachers, this can have a positive impact on whatever class, grade, or subject you are teaching. Reading is a vital skill in every class and every subject area, and a strategy to improve students' reading while working on specific class material is extremely beneficial.

SQ3R is an instructional strategy for improving reading comprehension. It is an acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. Each of these activities focuses on a technique integral to the reading process. The uses in the language arts seem rather obvious, but SQ3R is great for other areas too. This can be used in social studies classes when reading through a new section of the text book. Science teachers use it to kick off new units and in new labs. Math teachers can even use it to teach students to take notes from their books. Possibilities are endless.

Like any other technique, you will want to teach this carefully to your students and discuss each part together in class. While there are many ways of interpreting and using the SQ3R strategy, in this article I'll be sharing how we use it in our classroom.

'Survey' refers to skimming the reading quickly. Students look for items that catch their eyes - titles, headlines, photos, pictures, graphs, bold-faced or italicized words. Sometimes I refer to them as 'sticky words' since the reader's eyes tend to stick to them. After the quick scan, students write down the first six items their eyes 'catch' upon. Just a word or short phrase is fine, as we want to keep this part short and sweet.

'Question' is the part where students make predictions and pose questions about what they've surveyed. We have students create and write down three questions in complete sentences based on what they surveyed.  "Reading is a vital skill in every class and every subject area, and a strategy to improve students' reading while working on specific class material is extremely beneficial."

Complete sentences requires students to think carefully about the info they skimmed, and put it into a logical organized form. Early on, students may pose rather simple questions. We do not allow easy yes/no questions, those with one word answers, or questions they already know the answers to. We even spend class time discussing what makes 'good' questions.

Once the pre-reading is finished, the 'Read' part is just that - the students now read carefully through the section, paying attention to everything on the page. It's important to find the answers to their questions. We have the students then answer their posed questions in complete sentences. Sometimes students may have posed questions that are unanswerable or not found in the reading. We do allow students to state that the answer was not found in the reading. That's ok, as long as they don't make a habit of it. If such a habit does form, simply require students to state where they could find the answer.

'Recite' refers to putting the data from the reading into a new use. We often create short freewrites to discuss the implications of the reading, or its applications. You can also create writing topics for students to respond to.

'Review' is, again, self-explanatory, as students review the material. We have students create quiz questions based on the reading, just as if they were the teacher. However, they are not allowed to use their questions posed previously! Students can create ten multiple choice or true/false questions. Sometimes we assign creating fill-in-the banks statements, or even have students make their own essay questions or writing topics. You could even have them create crosswords or other word puzzles.

"The SQ3R technique is easy to use and adapt yourself, once you and your students are comfortable with its components."  To make the SQ3R technique easy to do and grade, we've created a form that is used through our school. It is specific enough to cover all of the areas, and yet general enough to allow individual teachers to adapt and customize this strategy to their class, students, or current assignments. 

You can download a free copy of our SQ3R worksheet on our website by clicking the link below:


The SQ3R technique is easy to use and adapt yourself, once you and your students are comfortable with its components. We've used it as an warm-up activity, as a closing activity, and as a sponge. It is also useful when you need easy-to-follow plans for a substitute. Most importantly, this is a powerful, yet simple, tool you can use in any class to improve students' reading skills.




Is Mainstream School Right 
For Aspergers Children?

By Jo Divljak
FYI Aspergers Website

What is the right schooling choice for children with special needs? Mainstream inclusion or Special Schools? I've just completed the article below that looks at this issue with regard to an Aspergers child. Are their unique needs likely to be met within the mainstream education system, or are other options for their schooling likely to suit them better.? The article deals with public policy as well as personal family issues, so I thought that the readers of StarTeaching might enjoy it, and find it enlightening.

There has been a lot of emphasis over recent years on "inclusion". The idea is that integrating children into mainstream schools rather than placing them in special schools is a "Good Thing". But is it?

Aspegers children have a different perspective on life. They are often very pedantic. They have concrete ideas, and fixed ideas. Typically they have pre-occupations with the minutiae of subjects that interest them, yet little regard for other topics. The also, of course, have great difficulty in interpreting social interactions, and responding appropriately. 

Because of all this, other people, particularly their peers, may regard them as "weird" or "odd". Often this ends up with them being teased and bullied. Then, because of their problems with social interactions, they can react to this with aggression or violence - lashing out at those that torment them.

To their teachers they are very frustrating. They may pay scant regard to what the teacher is trying to teach, seeing it as irrelevant, yet can be obsessively interested in the fine details of one aspect of the subject at hand. They may then subject the poor teacher to endless questions on this. Not only that, they will often pick up the teachers on any unfairness or inconsistencies in how teachers handle situations. They can be acutely aware of injustice. 

Being perceived as oddballs by their peers, and having to cope with teachers who do not understand their ways of thinking, how to these children fare in mainstream school? 

Unfortunately, often they go badly. Their poor social skills often result in them getting into arguments or confrontations with peers or staff, both of whom they feel pick on them unfairly. 

Such problems, over time, start to add up to poor self esteem, academic failure, and even being thrown out of the very school that was supposed to be so "good" for them. 

In contrast, many special schools can be tremendously beneficial for these children. The teachers have both special training and experience, and so a better understanding of how to help, support and encourage the Aspergers child in his learning and social development. 

The students, likewise, tend to be much more tolerant of each other's idiosyncrasies, since they have themselves suffered teasing. With the right environment, these children develop a positive self esteem, a fascination for learning (in their unique style) and, ultimately, a much better outcome than they might have had in a mainstream school. 

Blanket solutions based on ideological theories rarely work. The unique child needs a unique solution. One size does not always fit all. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or politician, please be vary careful before you assume that the right place for the Aspergers child is the local mainstream school. It might be. But then again, it might not.

About the author: Jo Divljak writes exclusively for FYI Aspergers, one of the web's most up to date Aspergers sites.  While you're there sign up for the free newsletter. Want to read more Aspergers articles?  Just go to: http://www.fyiaspergers.com/articles






"Christmas Boxes"
Language Arts Activities

By Jaki Day

Subject - Language Arts
Grade Level - 3rd-8th grade
This plan will take a little preparation. You will need several gift boxes. The number of boxes will need to be determined by the number of students in the class. Divide the class into groups of 4 and each group will need a gift box. Inside each gift box you need to put a Christmas activity, such as:

Box1, group 1- Have old Christmas Cards for examples, and supplies for the students to make their own Christmas cards. Christmas coloring book pages make great Christmas cards. Have supplies in the box for coloring and writing.

Box2, group 2- Have slips of pre-cut paper, coloring aids and writing needs, for the students to create a coupon book for their parents. Each page of the coupon book will have a chore or free gift (like a hug, or smile) that the parents can redeem. This is really a great stocking stuffer for parents. :-) I also buy some inexpensive Christmas stickers to decorate the coupon books.

Box 3, group 3- A Christmas word search. Run off copies for all students and let them work on the word search.

Box4, group 4- The students will read several stories of the Poinsettia. Have the students make a poinsettia from a pattern and then write their own story about its existence to share with the class.  (Check the following links for stories/handouts:)

Poinsettia History & Lore:  http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/poinsettia/history.html

History & Legend of the Poinsettia:  http://www.pauleckepoinsettias.com/html/hist_fset.html


Box5, group 5- Letter writing activity. Writing to a company about a defective toy they got from Santa. A letter outline is in the box with an imaginary toy company address and envelopes. The students have to describe the toy and its defect and request a refund or an alternate toy from the company.

More boxes could be created and these boxes are then passed out each day for 4 or 5 days until all the students have had each box. The students really enjoy opening the next box to complete the activity inside.


Author Unknown

Themes on Life

What does Peace really mean?

There once was a King who offered a prize to the artist who would paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The King looked at all the pictures, but there were only two he really liked and he had to choose between them.

One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror, for peaceful towering mountains were all around it. Overhead was a blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All who saw this picture thought that it was a perfect picture of peace.

The other picture had mountains too. But these were rugged and bare. Above was an angry sky from which rain fell and in which lightening played. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not look peaceful at all. But when the King looked, he saw behind the waterfall a tiny bush growing in a crack in the rock. In the bush a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest... perfect peace.

Which picture do you think won the prize?

The King chose the second picture. "Because," explained the King, "peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace."

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In This Week's Issue 

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Revisiting SQ3R Reading Strategy

Is Mainstream School Right For Aspergers Children?

"Christmas Boxes" 
Language Arts Activity

Themes on Life:  "Peace"

10 Days of Writing Prompts

Teaching Books for Sale


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10 Days Of


List FOUR things you could HELP someone else do during the holidays.


Why is the holiday season a time for generosity between people?  Give THREE examples to support your answer.


If you could totally design the holiday feast, what would you eat and why?


Why is it important to help people during the holiday season?


Describe FIVE important pieces of information you learned today in class.


Write a letter to Santa.  Why do you deserve the items on your list?


Is it better to GIVE or to RECEIVE?  Defend your answer with THREE examples


What is meant by 'Goodwill'?  How do people show this during the holidays?


Describe your favorite holiday treat.  Why do you like it so much?


Create a FIVE question true & false quiz to cover the information from today's class.


10 days of writing prompts


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Preparing For Emergency Situations

Technology & Teaching: Setting up for Handhelds

Christmas Lesson Plans

Building Positive Relationships


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