survival kit


KIT for New Teachers

Empowering Educators for Classroom Success

A User-Friendly Handbook

Dyan M. Hershman

Emma S. McDonald, M.Ed.

Survival Kit for New Teachers:

Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Emma S. McDonald, M.Ed.


Dyan M. Hershman


Inspiring Teachers Publishing, Inc. / Garland, Texas

All Art Work reprinted by permission under license or otherwise.

Art Work: 6th grade students at Spring Valley Elementary in Richardson, Texas (1997)

Michael Morgan

Little Wing’s Clipart Collection

Texas Agricultural Extension Service

Florida First/Second Wave IFAS/ TAEX Clipart Collection


Microsoft Publisher

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

© 2003 by Emma S. McDonald and Dyan Hershman

ISBN# 0-9667145-5-5

Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means whatsoever, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Authors and the publisher, except for those pages with express permission to reproduce for classroom use only. For information address Inspiring Teachers Publishing Inc., 2510 Meadowridge Dr., Garland, TX 75044 or call 1-877-496-7633.

Information contained in this publication has been acquired by the copyright owners and Inspiring Teachers

Publishing Inc. based on their own experience, knowledge, and training in relation to the education profession.

The sources of such information are believed to be reliable. Further, where applicable, the copyright owners and Inspiring Teachers Publishing Inc. have taken all reasonable measures to give credit to other persons, and made reference to other works, from which such information was acquired in accordance with the copyright laws of the United States. However, because of the possibility of human or mechanical error, neither the copyright owners or Inspiring Teachers Publishing Inc. guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, or completeness of any such information, and hereby disclaim any responsibility, whether criminal or civil, for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from use of such information. Any persons or events portrayed or depicted in this publication are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.











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This book is dedicated to our loving husbands, Sean and Matt, and our children,

Joshua, James, Mason, and Kylie. Without their unfailing support and help this book would not have been possible!

In addition, we’d like to dedicate this book to our parents, Captain and Mrs. Charles O.

Barker and Lt. Colonel and Mrs. Michael J. Ferguson. They have given us the drive and discipline to tackle any task with enthusiasm and determination. Without their love and support we would not be the teachers we are today!

We’d also like to dedicate this book to our beloved students who we have taught. It is from them we have learned so much about the art of teaching and learning.

Lastly, we’d like to dedicate this book to our great friend and constant supporter, Rita

Bukin. Although she is no longer with us, her constant sense of purpose and boundless energy continues to inspire and sustain us in our quest to help new teachers.


Thank you to the 1997-98 6th grade students at Spring Valley Elementary

School in Richardson, TX for providing much of the art work found in this book!

We would like to acknowledge several schools, professors, and teachers for their hard work and dedication to the teaching profession.

Spring Woods Middle School, Houston, Texas

Handley Middle School, Fort Worth, Texas

Spring Valley Elementary, Richardson, Texas

Borman Elementary, Denton, Texas

Maurine Graves, teacher, Spring Branch ISD

Alice Ann McDuffy, teacher, RISD

Missy Norrell, teacher, Ft. Worth ISD

Emory University Education Department

University of North Texas Education Department

University of Houston Education Department

All of our education professors

All the excellent teachers we have worked with in our years of teaching

Our TPC Interns

We would also like to especially thank the following people:

Vaughn Gross for her support and help with the production of earlier versions of this book

Sandy Nobles and the Master Teachers in RISD for reading over our book and providing insightful comments

Reta Bukin for being our constant cheerleader, support, editor, and friend

Table of Contents


Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:

Chapter 3:

Chapter 4:

Chapter 5:

Chapter 6:

Chapter 7:

Chapter 8:

Chapter 9:

Chapter 10:

Chapter 11:

Chapter 12:

Chapter 13:

Chapter 14:

Being a Professional

Before School Starts

Classroom Management

Lesson Plans

The First Day

Parent Communication

Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

Implementing Math

Brain-Based Classroom

Brain-Based Teaching Strategies


Motivating Students

Technology in the Classroom

Career Bound















Detailed Table of Contents

Being a Professional

Field Training

Interpersonal Skills

Professional Development

Stress Busters

Before School Starts

Quick Tips

Getting Organized

Preparing for a Substitute

Classroom Setup

Checklist of Things to Do

Classroom Management

Leadership Styles

Key Concepts

Organizing Students


Class Jobs

Student Discipline

Student Talking

Bag of Tricks

Clipboard Monitoring


Lesson Plans

Essential Elements of Planning

Tips and Steps for Long-term Planning

Sample Plans

Blank Templates


Teacher Observations

First Day of School

Teacher Preparation

Planning for the First Day

Checklist for the First Day

Sample First Day Lesson

Get-to-know Activities

Rainy Day Games

Team Building Activities

Reproducible pages







































Parent Communication

First Contact

Progress Reports

Academic Calendar

Parent Newsletter

Calling Parents

Communicating with Parents

Parent Conferences

Open House


Reading & Writing Across the Curriculum

Reading Instruction

Literature Groups

Whole Class Reading

Responding to Reading

Integrating Reading Skills

Reading Novels


Sample Reading Program

Writing Instruction

Writing Modes

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Sample Language Arts Program

Graphic Organizers and Grading Checklists

Sample Bookstudies

Reading Responses

Implementing Math

Integrating Math

Motivating Math Strategies

Math Teaching Strategy

Tips for using Manipulatives

Solving Word Problems

Sample Lesson

Brain-Based Classroom

Knowing your Content

Knowing your Students

Knowing about the Brain








































Brain-Based Teaching Strategies

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy

Teaming Activities

Discovery and Experiential Learning


Note-taking Skills

Making Connections between Subject Areas

Learning Centers

Field Trips


Alternative Assessment Tools

Portfolio Assessment


Testing and Test Anxiety

Reproducible Pages

Motivating Students

Activities from A to Z

Special Needs Students

ESL Students

Technology in the Classroom

Using Computers

Teacher use of Computer

Student use of Computer

Subject area Ideas

Scheduling Computer Time

Alternate Forms of Technology

Internet Websites

Career Bound


Cover Letter



District Interviews

Educational Philosophy

Other Issues to Know

Hiring Process

School Interviews







































Dear New Teacher:

We wrote this book to openly share experiences and strategies to help you become a well-prepared teacher. Some of them we developed on our own. Others are ideas that were shared with us by other teachers, some we know were told to us, and others we simply have no clue where they came from. Regardless, successful teachers have a funny way of taking information they see, read, or hear and adapt it to their own classroom. While an original idea may have come from a college text-book, professional book, professor, or colleague, teachers shape these teaching tools to fit their own classroom needs. This is called

“professional sharing”, and is done by educators everywhere. We encourage you to take the ideas from this book and modify them as you see fit so that they will work for you.

We believe we have covered most of the questions and problems you will encounter as you prepare for and enter the teaching profession. Please realize, however, that it is impossible to cover EVERY question or problem as each school and each classroom is unique.

Remember, the more effort you put into these strategies and ideas, in fact, the more effort you put into teaching itself, the more effective you will be in the classroom. When our students have an effective teacher from the very first day, they are more successful learners.

We sincerely hope that you use the ideas found within this book to help smooth your first several years in the classroom. However, remember that this book is meant as a starting point, not a program. Successful teachers are constantly striving to improve as they gain experience.

Below are some of the reasons why we wrote this book. Since some probably sound familiar to you, and all are addressed in the pages to follow, we believe that Survival Kit for

New Teachers will continue to be of great value to you for several years to come.

“How do I talk to parents or hold a conference?”

“Where do I start when looking for a teaching job?”

“How do I report and handle student misbehavior?”

“What am I supposed to do on the first day of school?”

“What am I supposed to teach each day?”

“Who do I go to when I have questions?”

“I’m so frazzled! Somebody help me, PLEASE!”

The life of a new teacher is full of unfamiliar experiences and questions. Let’s face it, who has time to stop and ask?

The ideas and strategies within this book offer a road map to navigating the world of teaching.

Being a Professional

I know that the field of teaching is considered a profession.

What does that mean?

Entering the teaching profession is a noble act. By being a teacher you can have a profound impact on our society as a whole. In shaping young minds, we influence many lives and guide the learning of our future leaders. This being said, it is important for teachers to be positive role models in schools and in the community. The way we are perceived by those around us influence whether we are considered part of a profession or just glorified babysitters.

As Vivian Troen and Katherine Boles so eloquently state in their book, who’s teaching your children?

“...teaching is a complex skill that requires specialized training. Once we understand that teaching is much more than simply conveying information from one person to another, certain truths begin to emerge, and persistent myths disappear.” (p. 148)

Teachers can have an impact on how we are percieved by society if we all make a concerted effort to demonstrate our professionalism.

Being a professional teacher requires:

Training beyond initial course work

Dedication through extra effort and time

Professional appearance and demeanor

Positive interpersonal skills

Working collaboratively with other educators

Continuing professional education throughout career

Resourcefulness and flexibility

Within this chapter you will find many tips and strategies for working as a professional with your students, parents, colleagues, and the community as a whole.

Page 18

Being a Professional

Field Training

All educators are required to do some sort of field work before attaining their teaching certificate. This includes both university trained and alternatively certified teachers. When working in a field situation, many interns find themselves working closely with a veteran teacher within the school. Here are some strategies to make this a positive learning experience for you.

Learn all you can from your experiences whether positive or negative.

Perhaps your cooperating teacher has a personality and teaching style that is very dissimilar to your own. From these experiences, jot down ideas of what you will and will not do in your classroom.

Observe other teachers

• Gather new ideas

• Observe a variety of teaching styles

• Observe different classroom management techniques

• Observe different teacher/student interactions

The more involved you become within the school, the more likely you will be to garner positive recommendations from other teachers and perhaps even one or more of the administrators.

Become involved in the school

• Volunteer for committees and other school projects

• Attend staff development and faculty meetings

• Sit in on parent meetings to observe positive


• Attend school events such as open house, grade

level meetings, parent nights, etc.

• Be an active participant whenever you can

Plan and Team Teach with Veteran Teachers

Planning lessons and team teaching with a veteran teacher provides first hand experience in good lesson design and presentation. When preparing to student teach, talk with your cooperating teacher about using the following format to help you ease into full classroom duties.

1) Classroom observations - several days

2) Team planning of lessons to be presented by

veteran teacher while you observe

3) Team teaching of lessons planned together

4) Independent delivery of lessons planned together

5) Independent planning and delivery with veteran


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Page 19

Set aside time to debrief

It is important to take time and debrief throughout your field work experience. This gives both you and the veteran teacher a chance to engage in discourse about observations of each other.

• Feedback shared by veteran to help you improve

You need to know both the positive aspects of your lesson as well as ways to be more effective. Without this type of constructive feedback, you have fewer chances to grow as a professional.

• Reflect on teaching practices you observed

Talk with the veteran teacher to determine his/her reasoning behind different teaching strategies and lesson presentation styles. Reflect in a journal or through discussion ways that you will or will not incorporate what you’ve seen in your own classroom. Specifically, you might ask for copies of lessons, handouts, and other procedures you felt were very effective.

Collect Ideas and Materials

• Use a 3-ring binder with tabbed sections to organize

• Sections might include: Classroom Management, Special Education, ESL,

Different subject areas, Assessment, Parent Communication, Technology ideas, etc.

• Gather materials from teachers during observations

• Also store student samples and copies of your own lessons to use later when

creating a professional portfolio

Working in Difficult Situations

There may be times where you are faced with a difficult situation while working with your supervising teacher. Whether it is a personality conflict or differring attitudes about teaching practices, it is in your best interest to maintain a professional demeanor.

Be professional:

Show up on time.

Dress appropriately.

Maintain consistent attendance.

Refrain from gossip.

Be diplomatic.

Maintain a positive attitude.

• Be diplomatic

“You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

• Work to solve problems through mediation and


• Remember, you are a guest in their classroom

• Respect the experience and knowledge of veteran

teachers even if you don’t agree with their strategies

• Be humble

• Keep open communication with your professor to keep him/

her informed of the situation

• Try to work with a variety of teachers within the school

building to gain different perspectives and ideas

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

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Being a Professional

Teaching Is Not An 8 to 3 Job

Although students get out at 2:30 or 3:00, teachers do not.

It takes time outside of school hours to organize and manage your classroom, plan lessons, develop positive relationships with parents, work collaboratively with school staff, and attend professional development sessions to enhance your teaching strategies. Teachers have a heavy load. After all, our mission is educating our future leaders. Be prepared to work anywhere from 8 to 12 hours (or more) just like other professionals in the business world.

Dedication Means:

• Participating in


• Tutoring after school

• Joining committees

• Calling parents

• Attending school


• Staying after school

to plan

• And more!

Maintaining a Professional Appearance and Demeanor

Being a professional includes maintaining a certain type of appearance and demeanor.

Think about other professionals in the world. Generally they are sharply dressed and use appropriate language for their field. When seeing a doctor or lawyer, you expect a certain level of speech and attire. When that does not occur, do you still feel confident in that person’s abilities? Now apply that to how others in the community view you as a professional educator.

Dress Professionally

We understand the need for primary teachers, who are on the floor half the time, to wear practical clothes, not a 3-piece business suit. But please, no baggy t-shirts and stretch pants!

What kind of image does this present to students, parents, and other members of the local community?

If you are doing a hands-on art project with students, such as making adobe bricks with mud and straw, you’ll need to wear practical clothes. Blue jeans are fine for this occassion, but not ones with paint stains and holes in the knees.

Appropriate Attire

Although there are many cute styles of clothing available, not all are appropriate to wear when working in a professional environment teaching children. Remember that you will be kneeling, bending, and often leaning over to help students.

Check your outfit before you leave home to be sure that it remains appropriate.

• Nice slacks/pants • Skirts of a reasonable length

• Blouses or collared shirt • Teacher vests and ties

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

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Appropriate Demeanor

The language we use with students, parents, and other educators helps to define us as professionals. Use care when talking. Be aware that others are responding to your level of dialogue. Before you get ready to say something, think through what you plan to say before you say it. This will help keep you from making serious communication mistakes.

Demeanor also is the way in which you carry yourself. Good posture (ie - standing up straight, personal grooming, etc.), all play a part in whether or not you appear professional. Below are some tips for maintaining a professional demeanor.

“Remember, everything you say and do reflects upon your professionalism.”

• Refrain from using slang

• Be aware of your body language and facial expressions

• Be diplomatic in your relations with other colleagues,

students, and parents

Interpersonal Skills

Teacher Testimony

“I remember once when I was a new teacher, I decided to send an unruly student out of the class. Since we could not use the hallway as

“time-out,” I decided to send him to another teacher’s room. Later she approached me quite upset because I had caught her off guard with this action. When the student unexpectedly arrived, she was not prepared to deal with him.

I learned how important it is to check with other teachers before making this kind of a decision.

Had she and I talked about this type of situation earlier and worked out the details, she would have been prepared.”

Our interactions with others can be either positive or negative depending on our interpersonal skills. Look at the tips below to help you have positive relationships with your colleagues.

Be respectful to all school staff including office staff,

maintenance staff, paraprofessionals, and others.

don’t agree with them.

Acknowledge the experience of veteran teachers even if you

When implementing innovative strategies, be prepared to

support your ideas with appropriate background reading and


Be considerate of others.

• Inform other school staff when utilizing school resources,

going on field trips, holding an assembly.

• Always ask before taking supplies or using resources.

• Don’t make assumptions.

When working with others, be diplomatic in making suggestions

or sharing ideas.

For example, If another teacher leads the planning of a lesson and you want to input your ideas, you could say, “What do you think about

(insert idea)?”

Approaching a situation with a humble and agreeable tone is more effective than being confrontational.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

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Being a Professional

Collaboration with Others

As soon as you enter the school, you are part of a community and will be working with other professionals. Collaboration is not only important because it makes your job easier, but it also benefits the students. You know the saying, “Two minds are better than one.” Whether you are working with a mentor, special area instructor, or the office staff, it is beneficial for all to engage in a sharing of ideas and resources.

Become a part of the School Culture and Community

Work closely with Mentor

The mentor is your guide to the school culture. This person can offer advice in a variety of situations. Your mentor helps you gain access to established networks within the school. They can also be an advocate and speak up for you in important situations. Lastly, your mentor can help you stay true to your goals by holding you accountable. They can check and evaluate your work, giving you feedback on your progress.

Team teach with Mentor or other veteran teachers

Once again, we feel that Vivian Troen and Katherine Boles have accurately described the importance of team teaching in the school. Here is what they have to say:

“Numerous studies conducted both in the United

States and in other countries, notably China and

Japan, have shown that teachers become more proficient by continually working on curriculum, demonstration lessons, and assessments together.

Research shows that not only does working in teams improve the practice of teaching; it also eliminates the isolation inherent in most teachers’ work lives.” (p. 150)

Teacher Testimony

“When I was teaching fifth grade, there were just two of us and both new to the grade level. In order to help our students and each other, we chose to team teach the majority of the year. Each week we planned our lessons together, and often taught together as well. We gathered the students into one room and presented the lesson as a team. One would be at the front giving information, while the other was monitoring students, providing one-on-one help and interjecting timely and insightful comments throughout the lesson. In this way, we were both teaching and students were getting the benefit of two different perspectives and experiences.

Whenever we covered a topic that was my expertise, I taught the majority of the lesson. Alternatively, my partner taught the topics/concepts that were her forté.

Our students really enjoyed the banter between the two of us and often told us it was more exciting to learn this way.

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Participate in vertical planning teams

Due to the isolation often experienced by teachers, student learning can become disjointed between grade levels. Therefore, many schools have implemented Vertical Planning Teams to build consistency from one year to the next.

Example: Second grade teachers and third grade teachers meet together to determine benchmarks (where students need to be at the end of the year/ skills learned) for student progress.

Additionally, it is helpful for students when teachers agree on certain terminology to use in different subject areas.

Example: Students are exposed to the term “pre-writing” from Kindergarten as a means for brainstorming and gathering ideas. This same term is used throughout their schooling.

Working with others as a team in a committee situation helps us network with other teachers in the school and build a camaraderie.

There are times when we may feel that being a part of a committee is just another item added to our already large workload. Think of this as a type of “break” from the usual routine of re-tying wet shoelaces, wiping off tears, and redirecting behavior. All day you are surrounded by children or adolescents. When do you have time to be part of an adult group?

Become a part of the school community by being visible at school events. Students and parents want to see you actively involved. They are invested in their neighborhood school and want to know that you are part of the community. Additionally, students love it when you show up for their art shows, science fairs, sports events, carnivals, etc..

Participate in other school committees

Attend school events to show support

Working with other Special Areas teachers and para-


When planning lessons, be sure to include your special area teachers such as Art, Music, PE, Special Education, and ESL. Why?

Their input can be valuable for student learning as well as to make connections for students between subject areas. Additionally, these teachers are fantastic sources of expertise in their field and can provide you with ideas, support, and resources.

Parent Testimony

“As the parent of a nonsighted child, I have seen the value of teachers working together for the benefit of my son. The classroom teacher plans lessons with the speech teacher and the VI

(Visually Impaired) teacher to make sure that my son can take part in the fun and exciting lessons going on in the pre-school classroom.

Although the regular teacher is wonderful, the special area teachers can offer specific ideas to make the lessons more meaningful for my son.

For example, the class planted seeds in a garden one day. The VI teacher knew that my son wouldn’t like to touch the dirt. Although he still participated, they also did an edible garden as an extension.

Pudding and oreo cookies became the dirt, with jelly beans as the seeds. He certainly didn’t mind touching and using food! This really made the lesson come alive for my son, and the other kids loved it too!

For example, when studying the continent of Africa, you might approach the Art teacher to do a unit on African masks. Also, the music teacher could provide different types of music from that culture.

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

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Being a Professional

Professional Development

It is important for teachers to continually increase their knowledge about effective teaching practices to implement in the classroom. This new knowledge is often gained through staff development either within the school or from outside sources. For those of us who have been in the profession for a while, we come to think of staff development as torture equal to any medieval stretching machine. However, staff development should be a time of professional growth and continuing education. Here are some things you can do to turn a potential waste of time into a valuable learning experience.

Take the Learning into Your Own Hands

Remember that YOU are the one who needs to benefit from this information. Come to the session with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Just as our students need to be open to what we teach them, so should we be open to what others have to teach us. You never know what jewel of an idea or strategy that you may discover.

Remember that this is life-long learning.

If you have questions during a presentation, but don’t feel it is appropriate to interrupt the speaker, write them down on an index card. Then, when the time is right, you will have not forgotten what you were planning to ask.

This strategy can also be used with comments or ideas of your own that you wish to share with others around you.

Write them down, and then at a break in the presentation, feel free to share.

Do Not Bring Anything Else to Do

Although you run the risk of being bored, take a chance and be proactive in your learning. If you don’t bring any other tasks with you to the workshop, you won’t be tempted to start working on them when the presenter is speaking. It is difficult to listen and learn when your mind is focused on other tasks. While others may be grading papers, looking over lesson plans, or some other task, ask yourself, “Are they missing out on potential ideas for

their classroom?”

Request Meaningful Activities and Information

Before the workshop begins, speak with the presenter and request that they give practical ways to apply and implement the information throughout their presentation rather than all at the end or only in a handout. If you let the person in charge know what you are looking for ahead of time, he/she may be able to adapt the presentation to meet your requests.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Go ahead and speak up. If something is confusing to you, raise your hand and ask for clarification. The workshop will not do you any good if you sit through half of it confused.

Most likely if you are confused, several others are too. Also, ask for examples of how strategies presented would work in the classroom. Don’t wait until the end to ask your questions, but instead ask when the question is pertinent.

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Go With a Positive Attitude

We are always saying this to our students and it applies to us as well. If you walk into a staff development with a poor attitude and no intention of learning anything, then you will have a wasted day. If, however, you walk in with an open mind and positive attitude, you just may get several great ideas to use during the school year. I find that sometimes I get ideas, not only from the workshop itself, but also from casual conversations or side conversations happening during the workshop.

“An effective teacher seeks ideas from a variety of sources and presentations to use in the classroom.”

Provide Specific Constructive Feedback to Presenters

If the workshop still ends up making it on your “worst” list, let those in charge know why it was a complete bust. Don’t forget to start out with one or two positive comments first. Be sure to offer a couple of suggestions for correcting the problems. Sometimes those who are presenting staff development forget how to be good teachers. Your comments may help someone else have a great staff development in the future. Who knows, perhaps one day you’ll find yourself presenting to a group of teachers and will appreciate helpful feedback from them.

Encourage Others Around You to Maintain a Positive Outlook

We all know teachers who prefer to sit in the back and complain about the workshop before it even begins. This negative attitude can infect everyone around that person which causes a chain reaction through the room. Instead of responding to a negative comment with a negative comment of your own, try to infect that person with your positive attitude. You might try pointing out something positive for each negative comment that is said. If all else fails, move to another seat so that you are not distracted.

“Attitude can be infectious, whether positive or negative.

How do you want to influence others?”

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

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Being a Professional

Resourcefulness and Flexibility

Teaching is a profession of constant change and movement. At a moment’s notice a schoolwide assembly may be called, interrupting an important lesson. Additionally, students are often unpredictable in their thoughts and actions which means that you need to be prepared to handle a myriad of situations. Being flexible also means being able to utilize resources on hand and go-with-the flow when necessary.

“Don’t feel that you are alone.

Everyone feels stressed out and frustrated their first year in the classroom. This is common and it will pass!”

For example: If the Art teacher is ten minutes late letting your kids in her room, what are you going to do with them standing out in the hallway? This calls for flexibility and resourcefulness. What quiet instructional activity can you do to keep students occupied? Also, how are you going to spend your planning period now that you have ten minutes less of it?

These are just some of the things you need to be prepared to handle.

Situations like the one above (and others) can cause serious frustration and stress. A teacher’s professional life is full of stressful events. In talking about stress, we recently attended a professional workshop where the presenter stated, “Stress makes you stupid.”

What he meant was that when you are working in stress mode, you are not performing at your optimum level.

As a new teacher you will experience even more stress in trying to assimilate and apply everything you’ve learned into becoming an effective teacher. It takes time to get your own routine and procedures perfected, which will help relieve much of your stress. Until then, what can you do to take some time out for yourself? Below are some “Stress Busters” to help you along.

Take Time Outs

We give our students time outs when they need a break to cool off and get back on task. Why not give yourself one every now and then? When you are feeling a little hot under the collar and are ready to strangle somebody for something...anything...

that’s the moment you need to take a time out.

Turn away from the situation, go out into the hallway, and collect yourself. You’ll find that even with a small amount of distance, your blood pressure will lower, and you will have a fresh look at the situation.

“Even veteran teachers have their moments of stress, though it may look like they have it all together.”

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 27

Take Time for You

Our life is not meant to be spent inside grading papers all the time! You need to take some time for yourself. Leave those papers at school at least one night a week and treat yourself to something fun. Go see a movie, attend a happy hour, cruise the mall, or get to the gym. There is more to life than teaching and, let me tell you, there will always be more papers to grade.

Set a Goal, then Pamper Yourself

Set a goal for yourself such as, “I’ll plan lessons for next week.” Then, when you’ve reached your goal, pamper yourself! Treat yourself to a relaxing bath, a nice dinner out, or a great dessert. Although these are things you should be doing for yourself every now and again anyway, you might feel better about doing them if you know you’ve accomplished at least one goal.

5 Minute Exercises

If you are feeling exceptionally stressed, try some of these 5 minutes exercises:

• Count slowly to ten. Breathe deeply in on the

odd numbers, and breathe out on the even


• Tighten your body from head to toe. Then, slowly

relax the muscles in your body starting with the

toes and working your way up the neck and

shoulder muscles.

• Do a few small circular muscle stretches with

your wrists, ankles, and neck.

• Close your eyes and imagine a place where you

feel happy and relaxed. Keep that image in your

mind when you are stressed.

• A moment of meditation goes a long way towards


Teacher Testimony

“My first year of teaching

I made it a priority to take one day off a week from my usual afterschool, into the night, working-like-a-dog, routine. Every

Wednesday I went to the local movie theater and watched a $2.50 movie.

As a movie buff, this was a real treat for me and helped me remember that there IS life in the world outside of school.”

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 28

Being a Professional


Upon reading this chapter we can conclude that teaching is a stressful, intense, unpredictable and difficult job. Teaching carries a heavy burden. However, with the right attitude, level of dedication and coping strategies at your fingertips, teaching is also the most rewarding career in the world! For the same reasons that make it hard, it is also exciting, challenging, and fun! Teaching is never dull. It is a wonderful career choice made all the better with a positive attitude.

Additionally, when we act as education professionals, we change the public’s view of teaching. Since the early 1900’s teachers have often been viewed as nothing more than

“glorified babysitters.” It is time to change this perception and as the future generation of teachers, it is up to us to change it! Remember, the more we dress and act like professionals, the more we will be treated as such.

Additional Resources

Who’s Teaching Your Children?

by Vivian Troen and Katherine C. Boles

Making Teaching a True Profession by J. D. Saphier

Teaching as the Learning Profession: Handbook of Policy and Practice by Linda Darling-Hammond (Editor) and Gary Sykes (Editor)

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 29

Questions for Reflection

1) In what ways can you become involved in the school as a student teacher or intern?

2) Do you feel you come across as a professional to others? Why or why not? What are some ways you could help others see you as a professional?

3) Think about the way you relate to others. What are some positive and negative reactions you’ve experienced when working with other people? What kinds of changes might you make to your interpersonal skills to receive more positive reactions than negative?

4) Why is collaboration among teachers so important? Support your reasons.

5) What is your attitude towards professional development workshops? How does this attitude affect your ability to learn and apply new information? What are some ways you can be sure to get the most out of a professional development workshop?

Suggested Activites

1) Create a 3-ring binder with the following tabbed sections (as applicable to you):

•Classroom Management




•General Teaching Strategies

•Special Education




•Parent Communication





Begin gathering materials to place within this binder for future reference. OR, organize materials you’ve already gathered into this binder for easy reference.

2) Approach your Cooperating Teacher, Mentor Teacher, or a veteran teacher on your grade level with the idea of team teaching a few lessons. Keep a journal reflecting on the process, ways that you benefited, and ideas to improve future team teaching efforts.

3) Plan a strategy for taking time for yourself. What is something you can do away from school one day a week? What might you do during the day to help relieve stress? Type up your plan and post it on your refrigerator, computer screen, desk, bathroom mirror, and any other place where you will be reminded to take time for yourself.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Notes/ Reflection on Chapter

Being a Professional

Before School Starts

I just got hired and school starts in a couple of weeks.

Where do

I begin?

While you may feel overwhelmed with a new job and all that it entails, there are a few important things to do before school starts that will help you later on. As a well-prepared teacher, one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and for your students is getting organized before the first bell rings on the first day. This will make your life so much easier and will provide a smooth beginning for everyone.

You can’t know everything by osmosis.

There are so many small details in the day to day operation of a school that you need to be aware of. The veteran teachers in your school already know where to find necessary materials and supplies, and on top of that, know what materials and supplies they need!

Who do I ask?

If your school provides a Mentor Teacher, this person would be an excellent resource. Also, the school secretary and librarian are both a treasure trove of knowledge. Some questions you may want to ask are:

Where do I find:

School/ Class Schedule?

Class lists with addresses and phone numbers?

Hall/ Office passes?

Detention forms?

Paper for the copier?

Substitute information?

Resource materials for the classroom?

Classroom supplies?

Discipline/ office referrals?

Insurance information?

School rules/ code of conduct?

Computers & computer programs available?


Any other important papers you might need

(ask the secretary)?

Page 32

More Questions to Ask...


Do I need a special Lesson Plan book/ Grade

Book and where can I get one?


How are supplies handled in this school? Do

we buy our own or does the school provide



How are curriculum materials, field trips and

other necessary items funded?

Quick Tips

Before School Starts

“A wellprepared teacher asks questions and seeks out answers.”

Check out the school library or teacher workroom.

Most schools keep their supplies either in the library or in a teacher workroom.

This can also include the overhead projector and overhead carts.

Take some time to look through the cabinets, drawers and bookshelves for resources you could use during the year.

Explore every nook and cranny and you may find treasures galore!

Take some time to talk to the librarian. This person is often the keeper of supplies and resources and may be able to show you what the school has to offer in the way of materials.

Sign up for the TV/VCR in advance.

Most teachers want to reserve the TV/ VCR for specific days, such as the day

before a holiday, the last day of school, etc. If you wait too long to sign up, you

may find that there are none left.

Do you know where to sign up for a TV/VCR? Usually the Librarian handles these


These days many teachers have presentation stations which may include a TV/

VCR combination. If you have one of these in your classroom, you will not need to

worry about this issue.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 33

Join School Organizations

Most schools require 100% participation in the school PTA. After all, the T stands for Teacher.

Another organization you may be asked to join is the Social/ Morale club. If you do not join before school starts, you may be so overwhelmed that you will forget.

Keep a ream of paper stashed in your room for emergencies.

You never know when the copier will run out of white paper, or when you will need white paper for projects. Therefore, it is important to always have some in your room.

Laminate your supplies.

Don’t hang anything on your walls without laminating them first. Teacher stores charge for lamination and they can be expensive. However, almost every school has a laminator that you can use for free.

WARNING: Check to see whether YOU can use the laminator. Some schools only allow ONE PERSON to run the laminating machine.

Also, many school districts have a Media Center where teachers can laminate for free or at a reduced cost. Retail copy and print shops can do these same services, but the fee is often quite costly.

“Your district

Media Center may be able to laminate your classroom posters to save you time and money.”

Some things you many want to laminate:


Student work from previous experience

Strips of colored construction paper for later use to make die cut letters, etc.

Clip art for bulletin boards

Manila folders that you may want to use all year

Pages from illustrated calendars to use as journal starters or for classroom decoration

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 34

Before School Starts

Gather Supplies

You will need all of these items before school begins to help you get organized and ready for the new year. Check to see if your school/ district gives you these supplies before you spend your own money. Also, check to see how generous your school is with supplies.

You may end up having to buy supplies at a later date, but these items are well worth spending the money if you have to.

Tubs or crates

Letter trays

Desktop filing

Drawer organizers

Overhead pens

Transparency film

Electric pencil sharpener

Three hole punch

“A wellprepared teacher brainstorms a list of supplies needed for the classroom.”

Manila folders

Boarder for bulletin board

Plastic shoe boxes with lids

Office supplies including scissors,tape, stapler, staples, paperclips,pencils, pens, rubber bands, etc.


You do not have to do everything yourself. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Most of the seasoned teachers in the school are more than willing to help you out, but they do not want to make YOU feel uncomfortable by offering advice. No one will think you are stupid for asking questions.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 35

Write or Call Students Before School Starts

The year gets off to a positive start when you welcome the students through a postcard, letter, or phone call.

Your welcome message should include:

An introduction of who you are

The name of your class and your room number

A statement expressing your excitement to meet that student

A statement about the upcoming year


August 9, 20__

Welcome to the 4th grade. My name is Mr. Sims, and I am your teacher for this year. I believe in learning through experiences, and have planned some great activities for us throughout the year. Our room number is 32. I look forward to seeing you there Monday morning.

Bring your school supplies, your imagination, and your brain!


Mr. Sims

Other Tips for Communicating with Students and Parents

Don’t forget to translate this letter into another language when appropriate.

Create a web site complete with a picture of you that explains more about who you are, your educational training background, and any previous teaching experience (student teaching).

Put your web site address on your postcard/ welcome letter so that students and parents with computers can get to know you better!

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 36

Before School Starts

Other Options

Instead of sending home a postcard, other ways of welcoming students before school starts include:

Fold-over note cards

Designer stationery

Home visits

Colored paper

Phone call

If you have several classes of students, one option is to type up a letter and save it on the computer. Print your letter on colorful paper for that extra spark!

Welcome Letter Example

August 9, 20__

Dear Parents and Students,

Welcome! My name is Paul Richards and I am pleased to have you in my class this year. This is my first year with Spring Elementary School. I moved to this area recently from Atlanta, Georgia with my wife. I graduated from the University of Georgia with an Elementary Education degree and have worked with grades two and five. I am looking forward to teaching 4th grade this year, and I know we will all work together to have a successful year!

This year our theme is Exploring Our World. We will learn all about different countries and cultures as well as our own. Other topics of study will include: climates, ecosystems, multiplication with large digits, decimals, and fractions. In addition, we will be reading several novels and short stories that go along with our theme for the year. Fourth grade is also the time when we focus on the four writing modes to prepare for our writing exam. We will be taking many field trips and doing a lot of discovery learning. I know that it will be a fun year for all of us.

Communication is very important to me. I want you as students and parents to feel comfortable asking questions and sharing concerns. If you would like to contact me before school starts with any specific needs, I will be available during the day at the school number 555-456-3355 after August 12th. School starts August 17th and I look forward to meeting you in room 32.

Mr. Richards


If you do not know your curriculum for the year, check your State Standards or Essential Elements for the grade/ subject you’ll be teaching. This will help you begin the planning process.

Every State Department of Education has a website. You can get a listing from the US Department of Education at

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 37

Home Visits

Some principals require their teachers to conduct home visits before school begins.

When visiting a student’s home, the teacher can gain a better understanding of the financial and time resources available to the family. This is also a good time to meet additional family members, and observe parent-child interactions within a comfortable setting for the family. A home visit will also help the teacher gain a more realistic picture of the student and his or her home life.

Why do home visits?

“A wellprepared

“Be professional and appropriate at all times when meeting with students and parents.”

Home is often more of a relaxed and non-threatening environment than school.

teacher is aware of cultural differences when meeting with families.”

Students often come to class with much more enthusiasm than when the teacher is a complete stranger.

Parents are more comfortable with the teacher in charge of their child.

“Pull out your resources, or search the internet on different cultures to prepare for meeting families.


Don’t forget about safety issues. Be sure that at least one other person knows where you are. If you have a mobile phone or pager, keep it with you at all times. Use common sense at all times.

Not all families will want to invite you into their home. Offer to meet at a local restaurant or park near the school for your intial visit.

When meeting students and their family for the first time, keep the conversation light.

Know ahead what you will and won’t tell them so that you won’t be caught off guard by questions.

Do not direct the entire conversation. Allow the student and parent opportunities to ask questions and lead the discussion.

Be aware of your comments. Every comment and action has a consequence. That consequence can be either positive or negative. Be very careful in what you say and do.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 38

Before School Starts

Read the Cumulative folder for each student

This may sound time consuming, but it really only takes five to ten minutes for each student.

Information included in the cumulative folder:

Health records

Previous report cards

Special Education information

ESL information

Information on family situations

Comments from previous teachers

Test resuts

Helps teacher not make assumptions in regards to the student

“Cumulative folders supply important information about students!”

Make notes for yourself in your own student folders or on index cards.

Remember, this is not for judgement purposes. If you want to wait until you’ve had a chance to meet the students before reading the folders, that is fine. Just remember that this information will help you in understanding why the student may be behaving a certain way. You may also learn some important ways to interact with each student for positive results.

If you have more than

30 students, take it ten folders at a time.

Do not feel pressured to read 150 folders all at once. Set aside some time each day to read through a few folders. Before you know it, you’ll be done!

Teacher Testimony

My first year of teaching I did not read the cumulative folders for my students because I did not want to pre-judge them. I felt it important to make my own assessment of each student instead.

One day while reprimanding a student, I made the comment, “If your behavior does not improve, I will have to call your mother.”

What I did not know was that the student’s mother had died the year before. By not reading the Cumulative folder I made a serious mistake which jeopardized my relationship with that student for the rest of the year.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 39

Getting Organized

Write down important dates on your calendar.

Every school has a SCHOOL CALENDAR.

This calendar marks important school holidays, functions, meetings, etc. Any time you or your grade level has an important event, you need to make sure you put this on the big calendar so everyone else knows what is going on.

Before school starts you need to write down dates that are already on the school calendar into your own personal/ desk calendar. This way you will not be caught off guard or schedule conflicting meetings or conferences.

“Record important school events and meetings on your

Be sure to immediately mark down dates given to you through school memos. Then throw them away or file them in a binder chronologically. This type of paperwork can drown you the first six weeks of school and can get easily lost.

own calendar to help you with scheduling and with planning lessons.”

Make sure you write down any staff development meetings that are required by your school or district as well as school holidays.

Organize your filing cabinet.

It is important that you decide how to organize your filing cabinet before school starts because you won’t have a chance later on. There are several ways to do this.

By drawer

Each drawer has a different purpose.

student folders

lesson/ thematic folders

administrative information (certification, staff

development, insurance, committees, clubs, etc.)

extra materials

By subject

“A wellprepared teacher is organized.”

“Organization is the key to a successful year”

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 40

Before School Starts

Set up a manila folder for each student.

Create your own file on each student with a manila folder. These folders are excellent for keeping documentation on:

• student behavior

• parent communication

• student information records

• special classes information

• absent/ tardy notes

• anything else that pertains to that student

• office referrals

This will be your saving grace if you or the school needs to go to court for anything dealing with the student.

It would be helpful to staple a


RECORD form on the inside left of this folder for record keeping purposes. A sample phone record can be found in the back of the Parent




It is vital to document all forms of parent communication (phone calls/ letters/ conferences)!

Teacher Testimony

My first year of teaching I had a very difficult student who was constantly in trouble. After a few months I had a pretty large file of all his transgressions. Right around Thanksgiving this student brought a gun to school and was expelled. His parents then withdrew him from the school on the pretext that they were moving. Unknowing of the consequences, I threw away his student record thinking that he was no longer our problem. A few months later he returned, and the school prepared to testify against him in court proceedings. I was asked to submit my files on this student. Unfortunately all of the documentation I had gathered was long gone. The school was still able to expell the student, but only because other teachers had kept their records.

Create Student Mailboxes

Each student should have a place to call their own in the classroom to keep folders, novels, papers, and personal supplies organized. This “mailbox” doesn’t have to be a large tub or box. An inexpensive way to create mailboxes is to get plastic crates and hanging file folders with tabs. This works well for middle school teachers as well.

Mailboxes are handy

for storing school

supplies on the first

day of school before

students begin using


They work very nicely for handing out graded papers without taking up class time to do so.

When students are working

on research or group

projects, mailboxes are a

good place to keep class

work so that it won’t get lost.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 41

Teacher Testimony

For the longest time my classroom was in a constant state of chaos with papers and supplies floating around everywhere. I finally decided to get organized and set up mailboxes. I used hanging file folders and dedicated one for each student in my class. Students keep their journals, books, and unfinished folders in their mailbox. I also keep a folder labeled “graded work” in each. Once a day either I or my teacher helpers file graded student work into these folders. The students can then pull the work out of that folder and put it in their binder to take home. It has really kept the classroom less messy and I don’t feel like I’m wasting class time every day to pass back student work!

Make Day of the Week folders

Day of the week folders are an invaluable tool for classroom organization. As teachers, we are faced with the challenge of staying organized on a day-to-day basis. Day of the week folders help us manage paperwork and materials in two main ways:

1. A place to hold materials

During the week, as you plan for lessons later that week

or the following week, you will begin to gather materials

such as copies of handouts, etc.

Example: Tuesday during your planning period you research information, gather materials, and make copies for

Thursday’s lesson. Immediately you place these materials in the Thursday folder so that they are ready to be used.

Otherwise, they end up in piles on your desk, cause clutter, and often are lost when you need them!

If you have a special test or form for students to complete

on Friday, stick these in your Friday folder

If you have a field trip on Wednesday, then put all of the

necessary information, forms, entrance tickets, etc., into

the Wednesday folder.

“A wellprepared teacher has lessons and materials ready ahead of time and organized in one location.”

2. Relieves Stress and Promotes Professional Appearance

Situation: You have a flat tire on the way to work Tuesday morning, and your principal must tend your class for an hour or so until you arrive, which would she appreciate more?

a) b)

A mass of papers piled on the desk with your lesson plans somewhere in your room, but she doesn’t know where they are.

A Tuesday folder placed neatly on your desk with lesson plans, warm-up activities, materials, copies, and a substitute folder inside, all ready to go.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 42

Before School Starts

Using Day of the Week folders not only give you a more professional appearance, but you will actually feel more calm and prepared every morning when you follow these Day of the Week folder guidelines. It truly makes for a smooth start to every day.


Get everything ready for the next day BEFORE you leave the classroom. Set up your chalkboard with the date, agenda, objectives, and warm-up activity.

Prepare your Day of the Week folder to be used the following day.

Be sure your lesson plans and materials for the day are inside.

Lay it flat on your desk so that it is the first thing you or anyone else sees when approaching your desk. Put the sub folder in last (on the bottom), just in case.

Setting up the Day of the Week folders

Use manila folders and label each one with the day of the week (ie - Monday, Tuesday, etc.).

Use different colored folders to color code each day of the week. This is an excellent

organizational tool!

You need to:

Laminate the folders so they will last.

Put a stand-up file holder on your desk to hold the folders in an easily accessable place.

Put all materials for each day’s lesson in the folder. (i.e. - copies, lesson plans, newsletter, activities, etc.)

Before you leave each day, place your substitute folder inside your day of the week folder in case you are absent.

Teacher Testimony

One day I remember in particular where I was very late for school. My son was sick and I had to wait for my mother to come over and watch him. By the time I arrived to my classroom, school had been in session for over an hour. I was frantic! I walked inside to find the principal standing there working with my kids (panic attack). As he left, he smiled and said, “Thanks for having everything ready to go today. Keep up the good work.” I am so glad that I had my board set up the afternoon before and my lesson plans in the day’s folder right on my desk!

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 43

Make a Substitute Folder

Taking the time to put together a folder for substitutes is an excellent way to stay organized when you are absent from school. As a teacher you are judged on how well your classroom runs even when you are not there. You are expected to make things easier for a substitute who is a guest teacher in your school.

Across the nation there has been a huge shortage of substitute teachers available. The biggest reason for this deficit of

“guest teachers” is the lack of respect and support from school staff and faculty. This includes a lack of prior preparation, communication, and acknowledgment.

One way you can ensure that substitutes will want to come to your classroom is to provide them with detailed plans, instructions, and classroom policies/procedures. If these necessary tools are readily accessible, the substitute teacher will be more comfortable and confident about leading your class through the day. This will more than likely result in a problem free day for both the sub and the students!

When leaving instructions for “guest teachers,” be sure to offer detailed explanations of how your classroom management system works. When you determine your classroom procedures and motivational techniques, be sure to type them up and place them, not only in your teacher binder, but also in the sub folder.

“A wellprepared teacher has a substitute folder with important information, alternate lessons and activities ready to be used.”

“Before you leave each day, place the sub folder inside your Day of the

Week folder just in case you need to be absent the following day.”

You also want to have alternative plans that can be used at any time during the year. Oftentimes grade levels, departments, or teams plan for special units or lessons that require everyone to have full participation. If you are absent, your team may decide to do different lessons on that day.

Also, the school may call for an assembly or other type of event may occur that will disrupt your scheduled plans. If you have alternate plans which are easy to implement and follow, your substitute will have a much easier time of adapting to an unexpected situation.

Additionally, your substitute may not understand your plans and may not feel qualified to implement lessons or activities. Having alternate plans with hand-outs ready alleviates this potential frustration for the sub and students.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 44

Before School Starts

Checklist for Substitute Folder

You may be able to get a Sub folder from a teacher store or your school secretary. However, if you cannot find a pre-made folder, it is very easy to make your own out of a manila or pocket folder. The following items should be included:

Seating chart

Class schedule

Easy stable lesson plans

-substitutes tend to work best with paper/pencil activities that can be easily monitored and explained.

Daily instructions

-classroom procedures explained in detail, lunch schedule for teacher and students, and students who are pulled out for special classes.

Class roll

Sponge activities/ creative writing ideas

-just in case they finish lesson early

A form for them to report back to you

Helpful students

“Returning to the classroom after an absence can be either a pleasure or a pain depending on how prepared You were for having a substitute teacher in your class.”

Names and room numbers of grade level/ team members

Type out your classroom procedures and other information that will not change too much over time. Save this file for future reference.

Next year you can open the file, make the necessary changes, print it out, and you are ready to place the new information into your substitute folder.

Use a generic response form using Bloom’s Taxonomy that can be used for any type of reading, both fiction and non-fiction. See the form in the back of the Reading/Writing chapter for reference. Have a class set of this form in your substitute folder ready for use. Be sure to replenish your supply when you return to school. See page

284-285 for a description of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 45

Set up a Teacher Binder

An excellent way to organize yourself and your units is to create a binder for yourself. Within this binder you can keep your classroom information, lesson plans and handouts organized for each six weeks period. The binder should be organized with tab dividers and contain the following sections:

1. Student information section:

Student list (you’ll get this a few days before school starts)

Seating chart

Textbook records

ESL and Special Ed lists and schedules

Student locker and class job information

“A wellprepared teacher has class information organized in

2. Calendars/ Schedules section:

an easily



Computer lab

Elective/ special areas

accessible location”

Lunch schedules

Daily classroom schedule

A calendar with important district, school, grade level, and personal dates marked.

Classroom management procedures

3. TEAM Planning section:

Middle school teachers may want to keep an extra section for notes taken during team planning.

The more records you keep, the more you are safeguarded against problems in the future.

4. Extra Forms section:

Hardcopies of forms such as parent communication, bonus points, certificates, free homework coupons, etc.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 46

Before School Starts

5. Six Weeks Unit section:

Planning calendar that shows an overview of the entire six weeks

Six weeks lesson plans and daily handouts

Keep everything in chronological order to make planning easier the following year.

Transparencies can be attached through hole-punched clear plastic covers – look for

these in office supply stores.

At the end of the six weeks, transport this section into another three ring binder and clearly label it for future reference with the name of the six weeks unit.

Many teachers like to plan at home rather than in the classroom. If you have a binder, this will cut down on the number of manila files you will have to take back and forth between school and home. It will also simplify your preparation for the next year.

“Don’t let paperwork pile up on you!

File memos and other papers as soon as you read them.”

Note of Warning:

The more records you keep, the more you are safeguarded against problems in the future.

Your school may give you a binder that holds the teacher manual and other information for the school and district. READ IT CAREFULLY!

If you ask your principal or another veteran teacher a question which is already answered in the Teacher Manual, they will be very irritated!

The school’s teacher manual is another great place to store memos, newsletters, or other paperwork you receive from the school. Create an additional tabbed section in the notebook if necessary.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 47

Set up your Classroom

Your room should reflect you and your teaching style. It should be completely set up before the first student arrives. A first impression is everything for students and parents.

Make a sketch of your ideal classroom.

Look to see how you can meet that image. What do you need? What do you already have?

Make necessary changes to your sketch.

Try it out and see how it works. It may take you several tries until you are completely satisfied.

Think about the flow of your room. Where do you want your students looking? Where is your overhead screen, presentation station, chalkboard, and bulletin board?

Ask yourself:

Should I use rows or groups of desks?

Should I use tables?

How easily will I be able to move between students?

Can we all get out of the classroom quickly in an emergency?

Do I want a writing center?

Do I want a reading corner?

Do I want learning centers?

Do I want a conference area?

Do I want an arts area?

Do I want a time-out area?

Should I have a computer station?

“Your room will reflect your personality and teaching style.

What does your room say about you as a teacher?”

How will the teacher area look?

• where will you put your desk? filing cabinets? shelves?

• think about easy access to curriculum materials

• think about visual monitoring of students

• do you need your own personal space?

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 48

Before School Starts

Create a Learner Centered Environment

The environment we create for our students is equally as important as the content we teach and the learning strategies we use. This applies to all teachers of all age groups from pre-school to graduate school. The environment includes the atmosphere, the traditions we set, the furniture arrangement, the centers or special areas within the room, and the decorations. All of these things add up to create either a positive or negative environment for students.

On the previous page we discussed classroom layout, furniture, and setting aside special areas for student use. Here we will discuss classroom traditions, attitudes, and decorations to help create a positive learner-centered environment.

1) Students should feel welcomed and inspired to learn from the moment they walk through your door.

Decorate Your door with a theme or slogan. Some examples include:

-Welcome to a Beary Special Place -Blasting off to Learning

-Come Explore Learning in Room 32 -Soar the Heights

-A class slogan such as:

“Learning is Victory!” or “Learning=Success!” or “Using Our Minds to Conquer the World!”

Greet students with a smile.

2) Create traditions within your classroom. These are fun actions or events that students look forward to experiencing each day or week

Every Friday we read from our Acts of Kindness box.

Whenever we read a story, one student gets to

introduce the reader.

Mrs. M always sings a silly song right before the end

of class.

“What kind of traditions could you create in your classroom?”

3) Classroom walls and bulletin boards are covered with thought provoking and stimulating material.

Motivational posters

Language rich

Humorous posters

Manners and Character Building posters

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 49

Bulletin Board Ideas

Some bulletin boards you’ll want to create on your own, especially at the beginning of the year. However, think about different ways you can take the ideas below and get your students involved in locating information and creating their own bulletin boards. This encourages higher level thinking and creativity.

Quotable Quotes

What’s New - to post classroom, school, community, and world events

Birthday board - post student birthdays or a class birthday graph

Centers - Use a board to post brain challenges or learning center activities for students to complete

Miss Manners - posting manners posters or tips of etiquette

Famous Authors - teacher can post information or have students research 1 author and post their findings on the board.

Famous Mathematicians, Scientists, Artists, Musicians,

Sports figures, People in History (same as above)


“A wellprepared teacher utilizes bulletin board space to enhance student learning.”

Highlight a concept being taught

See What We’re Doing - post student work

Who’s Who in Room___ (spotlight students & their work)

Who Am I? - show a baby picture and offer clues. Students guess who that person is

Classroom Expectations

Class Slogan

Theme - changes with each unit

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Before School Starts

Create a class/ daily schedule

When making a schedule, try to think in terms of time rather than subject periods. This will help you maintain a good flow to your day or to your class.

Example: Elementary – Full Day – 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM

8:00-8:10 Announcements, Copy Homework and

Words of the Day

8:10-8:20 Students write in their journal

8:20-9:30 Share journals and discuss Words of the Day

8:30-9:00 Students complete Daily Oral Language,

Daily Geography and Daily Math

Go over as a class

9:00-9:50 Math

9:50-9:55 Bathroom Break

9:55-10:45 Special Classes – Art, Music, PE

10:50-11:20 Reading (Library once a week)

11:20-12:00 Writing (Computer once a week)

12:00-1:00 Lunch/ Recess

1:00-2:30 Integrated Time – Science & Social Studies focus

2:30-3:00 Read Aloud/ End of the Day Journals

A 45 or 50 minute class period might look like this:

Example: English - 50 minutes - 9:00 AM to 9:50 AM

9:00-9:05 - Daily Oral Language ( call roll, etc.)

9:05-9:10 - Go over DOL - (grammar lesson)

9:10-9:25 - Mini-lesson -(writing skill)

9:25-9:45 - Writing time -(students work on individual writing pieces)

9:45-9:50 - Clean up/ Closure

Some schools have block scheduling which generally lasts 1 and 1/2 hours:

Example: Social Studies - 90 minutes - 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM

9:00-9:15 - Daily Geography (call roll, etc.)

9:15-9:25 - Discuss answers to Daily Geography

9:25-9:55 - Lesson

9:55-10:20 - Activity to enhance lesson (group work, etc.)

10:20-10:30 - Closure/ Clean up

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Before School Checklist

Laminate supplies

Set up room arrange desks/tables set up reading corner set up other special areas (writing center, learning centers, etc.) post classroom expectations and consequences posters organize filing cabinets

Set up student mailboxes/ cubbies

Create Day of the Week folders

Create individual student folders

Set up gradebook

Write welcome postcards to students mail postcards/letter

Create a class schedule

Create a substitute folder

Organize a Teacher Binder

Write out lesson plans for first day second day?

third day?

Be aware that many districts require you to start work at least four days before the kids start. THIS WILL NOT



Several of those days will be spent in staff development, new teacher training, and school meetings. You will probably be given one day or

1/2 day to work alone in your classroom. It is wise to get your classroom keys the day you are hired or as soon as possible thereafter.

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Before School Starts

Substitute Report Form



Use this space to report what was actually done during class. What activities did you do, how much of the lesson plans did you cover, what else did you do that was not on the original lesson plan, etc..

The following problems occurred:

Use this space to describe any serious behavior or other type problems. Be specific and report the facts without emotion. Use the back of this page if necessary.

Problem: Action Taken:

Problem: Action Taken:



Action Taken:

Action Taken:

The following students were exceptionally good and/or helpful:

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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There are so many different tasks that must be done before school starts, it can be overwhelming. However, they are necessary to ensure that you start the year well-prepared.

Veteran teachers know that the more prepared we are at the beginning of school, the more effective we are throughout the year. It is important to keep in mind that the more time you spend in your classroom before school starts, the more you will get done and the better prepared you will be.

Additional Resources

Wonderful Rooms Where Children Can Bloom by Jean Feldman

So Much Stuff, So Little Space: Creating and Managing the Learner Centered Classroom by

Susan Nations, Suzi Boyett, Steven Dragon

Begin With the Brain: Orchestrating the Learner-Centered Classroom by Martha Kaufeldt

Questions for Reflection

1) What do you plan to put in your substitute folder? Why do you feel these elements are necessary?

2) Why do you feel it is or is not important to have a mailbox or “cubby” available for each student in your classroom? How would you implement this idea in your classroom?

3) Do you think it is important to create a positive learner centered environment in the classroom? Why or Why Not?

4) What do you feel is top priority to be done before school starts to be well-prepared?

Explain why you feel these activities are vital for a successful start to the school year.

Suggested Activites

1) Create your own Day of the Week folders to be used in your classroom.

2) Design the ideal classroom set-up for yourself using a computer draw program or “good old-fashion” construction paper. Include the following items, and more of your own:

Desk arrangements

Teacher work station

Computer stations

Learning Centers

Some type of “Book Nook”

Don’t forget the details of how you plan to make this a warm and welcoming learning environment for students.

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Notes/ Reflection on Chapter

Before School Starts

My room is all set up and ready to go, but I’m not sure how to make everything flow smoothly.

Where do I begin?

Classroom Management

Good management is vital to a successful classroom. The best time to think about how our classroom will work is before school starts. In this chapter you will find various ways to have a smooth classroom through proactive management and discipline strategies.

As teachers we need to strive for positive relationships with our students - one that has clear expectations, but is based on mutual respect, communication and kindness. Just because we are in control and expect appropriate behavior does not mean that we need to be cold or distant.

Teachers can help to create a positive and motivating classroom environment by:

Being friendly

Having a sense of humor

Having a good rapport with students

Effectively communicating our desires and expectations

Understanding that students cannot read our minds

Being organized

Being well-prepared

Teachers are much more than just babysitters, managers, and timekeepers, they are also leaders. This role has much more importance than one realizes on the overall classroom climate.

A leader guides, shapes, teaches, motivates, corrects, directs, and encourages his/her “platoon.” In a teacher’s case, the proper leadership style is crucial so that chaos doesn’t rule!

“Leading your platoon takes effort, communication, dedication and respect!”

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Classroom Management

Classroom Leadership Styles

The three main leadership styles teachers use in the classroom are:

Teacher as Dictator

Teacher as Free-Spirit

Teachers as Balanced Leader

Teacher as Dictator

The teacher who acts as a dictator is often afraid of losing control, so he/she resorts to maintaining a very distant and stringent relationship with students. This often results in a relationship that is businesslike, firm, and authoritarian.

Characteristics of a Dictator Leadership Style:

No room for group discussions or banter of any sort

“The Dictator

Leadership style does not promote a positive classroom climate.”

• Routines are strictly adhered to

Flexibility is not commonplace

Tasks are performed in a quiet and efficient manner

Students are not encouraged to be individuals and active participants in the lesson

Students are required to conform to the teacher’s way of learning

• Creative thinking is not encouraged

• Memorization and “skill and drill” are the main learning styles of this classroom

Although predictability and routine can be a positive classroom feature, this type of leadership is often boring and squelches creativity. It promotes a dull and resentful environment instead of one filled with active learning and excitement.

Rarely does a teacher accomplish a smooth running classroom by resorting to dictatorship. Students are more likely to rebel, complain, and misbehave because they are not intrinsically motivated.

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Teacher as Free Spirit

An ingredient in the free-spirit recipe is a teacher who is more than likely unorganized and unprepared which results in a choppy and incomplete presentation. Students are kept waiting while the teacher mentally decides what to do next and looks for materials. Students get confused and distracted easily which results in disruption after disruption. This in turn results in more

“breaks” as the teacher must stop to deal with unruly behavior.

“Being friendly with the students is NOT the same thing as being their friend.”

Characteristics of a Free Spirit Leadership Style:

• Teacher wants to be a “buddy” with the students rather than an authority figure.

• Students end up making most classroom decisions without guidance.

Do not allow students to address you by your first name, even in fun. Your relationship with students should be a professional one.

Preschool teachers frequently use

“Miss Ann” rather than

“Miss Johnson.

Check with your administrator before establishing this type of procedure.

• Lesson plans are loosely sketched and student digressions dictate the course of the lesson rather than the teaching objective.

• Students are given maximum freedom to work and move about the classroom.

• The teacher gives the students the responsibility to make the decisions by themselves, in other words to “be their own boss.”

• When students are not actively engaged in learning, this teacher is often quick to anger because he/she feels they are giving students freedoms which are being abused.

This leadership style would be fabulous in a world where all students had the same set of values—honesty, integrity, responsibility, and determination. We would love for every classroom to be totally student centered, where students were always intrinsically motivated.

However, this is unrealistic. It is the nature of most children to push the limits as far as they can. Therefore, this laissez-faire, or lax, style of leadership will most likely be a recipe for disaster and anarchy.

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Classroom Management

Teacher as Balanced Leader

This leadership style blends both of the other styles to achieve the greatest results. As they say, “Everything in moderation.” A teacher using this balanced approach to classroom management will:

· Set limits

· Communicate expectations clearly

· Follow routines and procedures

· Provide students with freedoms and responsibilities

· Offer choice

· Value students

· Invite student involvement on a daily basis

Other Characteristics of a Balanced Leadership Style:

• Is organized in order to maintain a productive classroom.

Maintains discipline as a key component to this teacher-student relationship.

• Encourages students to be responsible for their own actions and holds them accountable.

• Allows students to be actively involved in the classroom.

• Explains and reinforces clear expectations from the first day of school.

• Consequences are consistent when behavior is inappropriate.

• Students feel valued and motivated.

• Students are given freedoms and choices in order to discuss, move, and work about the classroom freely.

“A wellprepared teacher is a balanced leader!”

Students tend to be much more cooperative with this classroom environment because they feel respected, appreciated, and valued. This leads to students who are intrinsically motivated!

This leadership approach IS student

centered, but recognizes that students need discipline to feel comfortable.

Children require boundaries to feel at ease.

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Creating a “Balanced” Classroom Envrionment

As we just discussed, the balanced leadership style results in a balanced classroom which creates a non-threatening environment where students and teachers feel safe. This comfort allows students to be better learners.

In providing a balanced classroom, teachers need to be prepared to accept additional roles of:

· Mediator

· Tutor

· Leader

· Caregiver

· Listener

· Problem solver

· Disciplinarian

“An effective teacher is prepared to fill many roles with grace and flexibility.”

Accepting that you have these roles is the key to having positive student relationships. To a new teacher, this may seem like an overwhelming task. How does one manage to perform all of those roles as well as the tasks required of us as teachers. The answer is effective time management and organization.

Classrooms are very complex, busy places! During a typical day we are required to perform many tasks:

Organize learning activities

• Present lessons

• Prepare materials

Manage student behavior

• Manage classroom equipment

Handle administrative/ housekeeping duties

• Beat the Clock!

All of this must be accomplished while being interrupted for various reasons, such as assemblies, intercom announcements, office assistants, helping a sick student or getting a brand new one!

The remainder of this chapter is dedicated to providing strategies for maintaining a balanced and positive classroom environment in the face of these many challenges.

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Quick Tips on Successful Classroom Management

Classroom Management

Read up on Brain-based learning. This research clearly shows how a nonthreatening environment increases student learning and leads to open communication between teachers and students. See our discussion in the

Teaching Strategies Chapter.

Students crave consistency. Your class will run smoothly if students always know what to expect.

Consistent behavior builds trust.

Trust then builds respect.

Distinguish between “Teacher Time” vs.

“Student Time.” A productive classroom allows for teachers to instruct without interruptions, and then gives students opportunities for debriefing, disscusing and assimilating the new information.

When joking with students, be sure to set a limit and end with a phrase such as,

“Well, that was fun, but now it’s time for us to get back to work. Everyone needs to focus on chapter…”

Frustration builds when students are confused. When frustration builds, behavior breaks down. Don’t let this happen to you! Structure your daily routines!

Personal choice and group discussions are daily occurrences in a classroom which thrives on student involvement.

Use eye contact to make sure that

everyone has understood the move from

“play time” to “work time.”

You’ll find that when your lessons are motivating for students, they beg to stay in the classroom!

Post basic classroom procedures so that in the beginning students and parents know what to expect and can become accustomed to your classroom management style.

When students are actively participating in classroom activities which are meaningful and motivating, they are too focused to misbehave.

The more specific directions and expectations are, the better students will understand how to follow them.

Always check for student understanding before releasing students to get started.

Use a key word like

“GO!” and do not let students begin the activity until you say your key word.

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Key Concepts for Successful Classroom Management

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Dealing with your regular classroom duties with efficiency and calmness allows for positive student relationships. Students feel flustered and uneasy when their teacher is in a panicked or unorganized state. Too much unstructured time or too many pauses in instruction result in misbehavior. Also, loss of respect and trust for the teacher can result in additional misconduct. Here are some tips to help you streamline your classroom routines so that you are more prepared.

“Always remain calm and maintain order.”

“A wellprepared teacher trains students on class routines used everyday to build consistency.”

Have Specific Procedures Every Day.

It is important to have procedures ready for students to follow upon entering the classroom from the very first day. Examples of daily routines which need teacher expectations and procedures:

· What to do before the bell rings

· Checking attendance

· Giving directions

· Collecting classwork and homework

· Distributing materials/ papers

· Bathroom breaks during class

· Transition times between lessons/activities

· Working on projects

· Reading workshop

· Writing workshop

· End of the day

Teacher Testimony

My first year of teaching I had a horrible feeling at the end of every day! It seemed like chaos as students grabed their backpacks and began shoving everything inside! Some students were asking me questions about homework, while other students were responding to a lesson we had just finished, and most students were excitedly chatting with each other about after school activities. I felt so scattered and disjointed when the bell rang and the students rushed the door. After several weeks of this, I decided to enact an End of the Day Routine that we would follow everyday. If the procedure wasn’t followed, then students didn’t get to leave my classroom.

This included cleaning up the room, copying homework into their daily planner, packing up their backpacks, and then writing quitely in their journal until the bell rang. I gave them topics that provided closure to my lesson or that stimulated interest for the next day. When the bell rang, we all sat in silence until I said “Go!” Then they put their journals away and off they went! I felt so much more collected and relaxed at the end of the day from then on!

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Have an Assignment ready BEFORE the bell rings.

Have the chalkboard, an overhead transparency, or your presentation station made out with important information and morning assignments.

Students should enter the classroom, begin copying important announcements, and work on morning assignments.

Some possible warm up assignments are daily journal, daily vocabulary words, daily oral language, daily math and daily geography activities.

For the middle school teacher, warm ups, or sponge activities should not last longer than 10 minutes.

Students should KNOW every day to come in and get busy with their morning work.

Classroom Management

“A wellprepared teacher has a procedure

READY for when students enter the class.”

• Follow your procedures religiously. You may want to

post them so that students can see what to do every


• Procedure posters will help students and substitutes

throughout the year (Susan Kovalik, 1997).

• Sample procedure posters that you may use can be

found in the back of this chapter.

An example morning procedure

(intermediate grades):

1) Check student mailbox & get out Journal,

Math folder, and graded work

2) Get supply box & supplies

3) Sharpen pencil

4) Copy homework in calendar

5) Copy Word of the Day

6) Write in Journal

7) Complete other Morning


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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

An example morning procedure

(primary grades):

1.) Put backpack on hook

2.) Get folders and book

3.) Check “Cubby”

4.) Sit at desk

5.) Begin D.E.A.R. time

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Here are a few examples of how you could set up your chalkboard or presentation station before class begins.


Objectives: Daily Oral Language Date:


Daily Math



A detailed, wellorganized board will keep you and your students on track!


Words of the Day:

Daily Geography

It also prevents those pesky questions of

“What are we doing next?”

You can adapt this board to fit any grade level. Knowing your objectives are equally important in Kindergarten as they are in the upper grades!

Teacher Tip: If you are using a thought-provoking introduction and want students to be guided into discovering the objective rather than being told, leave it off the board until after the activity is finished. Then, review the objective with students and write it on the board.

“A wellprepared teacher sets up the board for the next day before going home to reduce stress in the morning.”




Warm-up Activity:







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Classroom Management

Make your Directions Clear, Detailed and Precise.

When asking students to perform a task—BE SPECIFIC! Tell them exactly what you want them to do.


“Table number 1, please bring your papers to the front quickly and quietly.

I expect all of the other table groups to sit quietly and check over your work.”

“Now we are going to the library. I expect everyone to bring their library books, two pieces of paper, and a pencil. When we are in the library,

I expect everyone to listen to the librarian and write down the names of three authors she presents.”

Don’t Waste Precious Time

One important element of being a teacher is multi-tasking. This means that you need to be able to do several things at once. When you are teaching or doing other administrative tasks, you should also be monitoring students and checking their level of comprehension. The following are some examples of how you can effectively manage your time.

When giving a test:

It is not appropriate to sit behind your desk while students are taking a test. You should be monitoring, monitoring, monitoring!

Straighten the classroom.

You need to be walking around monitoring anyway.

Prepare the board for the next lesson.

Scan over memos from the office and record these items on your desk calendar.

Scan over lesson plans to prepare for the next activity.

Return graded papers to student mailboxes.

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When completing administrative tasks:

Have a daily routine that allows for checking attendance, checking the academic calendar, etc...while students are engaged in another learning activity. The morning/ beginning of class focus activity is the perfect time to take care of your “business”.

Checking Attendance (Roll Call)

Try to find the fastest way WITHOUT using the students if you can. For the first few days you’ll need to call the roll out loud, but then you need to develop a quicker silent method.

One easy way to do this is to use a seating chart, check who is missing and record it.

Another method which works well with teachers who group students together would be to call out, “Group 1” and have the students tell you who is missing.

One last method is to place student journals or folders out for students to pick up when they enter the room. Folders that are left on the table are absent students.

“Become a Master at making effective use of class time and down time.”

Checking Academic Calendars (Daily Planners)

After roll call, you may want to go around the room, while students are still working on their morning activities, to check to see that the homework has been copied down correctly. This gives you an excellent way to say hello to each student personally and check on their well being.

You will be taking proactive measures to ensure a positive classroom environment through this one daily action. How? First of all, you are creating a bond and developing a relationship with each student as you go around and speak to each person quietly. If you are sincere, students can see that you care about them as a person and will begin to trust and respect you in return. Secondly, in those few minutes you should be able to see whether a student is angry, frustrated, sad, or having any other issue that may affect their behavior and their participation in class. Take the time to ask how they are doing and offer a listening ear. If the problem is one that needs your attention, offer some time to listen later during class.


“Jose, I can tell that you are really angry about something that has happened to you. I really want to listen and talk to you about this.

As soon as I get everyone started on our next activity, we can go to my desk or the hallway and talk, okay?”

Taking time to care about your students and their lives builds a bond of trust and respect that goes a long way towards increasing and maintaining positive student behaviors.

Checking the academic calendar each day can also be used to your benefit during parent conferences. It shows that you have taken a proactive role in teaching students to be responsible, and provides a record of student knowledge about assignments, tests, etc.

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Classroom Management

Always Prepare Lessons Ahead of Time

Students can immediately tell when the teacher is not in control due to lack of planning.

When this happens the class will quickly become rowdy or unmanageable.

Stay a little longer after school in order to plan and prepare for the next day. (Use the Day of the Week folders explained in the previous chapter)

Before you start an activity, all materials should be organized and ready.

Never use class time to prepare for the lesson.

Always prepare warm-up assignments and sponge activities ahead. Write them in your lessons and prepare your board ahead!

“Train your students at the beginning of the year regarding procedures for transition times.”

Plan for Transition Times

Don’t just let things happen! Take time in your lesson plans to decide what you expect and give appropriate directions to students. This includes transitions between activities and classes. Otherwise chaos can occur. It is helpful to have these procedures or directions written down in the lesson plans or posted in the room so that a substitute will know how your classroom operates.

Between activities

Clapping rhythms - (helps to focus students on you)

Circle time - (have primary students meet in a common area)

Straighten up

Logic Puzzles

Silent reading

Thinking Games

Read Aloud

Jig-saw puzzle

Between classes, lunch, recess, or even activities as well

While students are lined up, you can do the following with them:

Quiet game

Quick questions (for Math, Science, Geography, etc.)

True or False Facts

Vocabulary/Spelling Review (one students says one letter as you go down the line)

Picnic Basket

Other “sponge” or ice-breaker activities (See next chapter)

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Create a Calm and Welcoming Climate

Maintain your Composure

Create a classroom climate that is calm by not overreacting to situations or problems that arise. Stay alert for behavioral problems and initiate strategies to dissolve the problem before it gets worse.

Avoid Yelling

When you find yourself losing your temper, turn around and count to ten or take several deep breaths while you close your eyes.

This will help you remain calm and focused. Yelling only makes things worse. It upsets students and causes them to lose respect for you. Also, increasing the volume does nothing more than add to an already chaotic situation.

Verbalize Directions firmly but quietly OR Use Non-Verbal Cues

Use a quiet signal to help students focus on you while you are giving directions. This allows you to use a quiet and deliberate voice. Do not speak until EVERYONE is silent and looking at you.

Redirect Inapproprate Behavior Immediately

Unnecessary commotion must not rule your classroom. If things get out of control, rely on your non-verbal cues, such as eye contact or a quiet signal, to bring things back to order.


Students are interested and engaged, behavior problems are at a minimum and positive student teacher relationships are at a maximum.”

Keep Students Actively Engaged in Learning Activities

“Busy hands are happy hands,” our grandmothers always say. Challenge students and keep them involved with lessons by planning meaningful activities that have connections to other subject areas and real life.

Give students project type activities where they must create some sort of a product. This can be as simple as a scavenger hunt of important concepts within a chapter, or as complex as a diorama and oral presentation.

We offer specific strategies for this in the latter half of this book! Please read on!

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Classroom Management

Organizing Students

Organization is an important life skill that should be taught and reinforced throughout a student’s academic career. Spending time on training students in organizational skills through student binders, folders, lockers, and desks is time well spent. Use the beginning of the school year to make student organization a focus, not only during “homeroom” or advisory time, but also in your lessons.

Student Binder

It is important that students begin the year in an organized fashion. Teachers can help their students do this by requiring them to set up a binder. Here are a few tips on creating an organized binder:

“Organization is a key element of


Management ”

Use tabbed sections. The best way is to organize them in the order you teach each subject.

Middle school students should order their sections according to their schedule.

Have students keep graded work in the appropriate subject area.

Keeping student supplies organized is equally important. Use plastic shoe boxes with lids to store supplies such as scissors, crayons, tape, math manipulatives, etc..

These also make great storage places for supplies used by student groups. Label each box with the table number or name so that students can easily locate the supply box for their group.

An assignment calendar should be in the very front of the binder.

Class or school rules, procedures and syllabus should be placed behind the calendar.

It is important that you check the binders regularly (every six weeks will work). Sometimes it is helpful to take a grade for an organized binder. This will motivate students to continue using it correctly.

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Student Folders

A great way to keep students organized is to set up folders for each subject/activity/record keeping area.

Pocket Folders

In addition to the binder, it is helpful for students to keep and use separate pocket folders that STAY in the classroom. Color coding these folders will help with quick and easy access for each activity/ subject area.

Writing Journal

Students place paper in the middle. Then they date and write their daily journal entry. In order not to waste paper, I encourage my students to use up an entire page before beginning a new one. There could be several entries on a page.

Writing Workshop Folder (Nancie Atwell, 1992)

Students keep notes for Writing Workshop in the middle of the folder, Prewriting/Drafts in front pocket, Works in Progress in back pocket. Final copy will go in the Writing

Portfolio. We will discuss Writing Workshop in greater detail in the Reading/Writing chapter.

Test Taking Skills Folder

Students place paper in the middle to keep notes on test taking strategies covered in class. Practice sheets, scan-trons, and answer keys should be kept in the pockets.

Reading Workshop Folder (Nancie Atwell, 1992)

Students keep a reading log that includes title, author, pages read and a short summary as well as a reading response. Students may also keep their book project work in this folder. We will discuss Reading Workshop in the

Reading/Writing chapter.

Student Log

Students use this pocket folder to turn in any major projects. Any data collected and drafts should be placed in the front pocket to show the process of their work. The final copy of the project should be placed in the middle of the folder with any bulky or odd sized papers/products placed in the back pocket.

“Pocket folders are an inexpensive and easy way of keeping students organized in classroom.”

Teacher Testimony

It was driving me crazy that my students kept losing their writing samples. We do several drafts on different topics and then towards the end of the semester, I ask the students to pick one draft to turn into a final copy.

Half my students couldn’t find their previous work!

Finally, I got smart and insisted that the students leave their works in the classroom in a writing folder. We are all less frazzled during writing instruction now!

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Manila Folders

Classroom Management

Writing Portfolio

This manila folder is used to hold student writing pieces. Nancie Atwell, in her book In

The Middle , describes an excellent way to set up a writing portfolio. This is a great way to track the progress of a student’s writing skills throughout the year. A simple portfolio collects student work to be reviewed at the end of the year. Our Assessment Chapter further discusses and give examples of the use of portfolios.

General Portfolio

Absent Folder

This manila folder is used to collect work and assignments for students who are absent.

Have a student work as a “scribe” to copy down board assignments,homework, notes, and any other important information/ activities done during class on a specific absent form that you use consistently all year. The student should place this form along with any handouts in the absent folder and place it on the absentee’s desk. The teacher could be the “scribe” if necessary. This folder is a great way to help students get back on track when they return to school.

This manila folder is used to hold student work of all kinds. Students should have some choice as to the works placed in this folder.

Also, when students enter work into their portfolio, they should attach a 3x5 index card with comments about their product. These comments should tell the teacher whether the piece is the student’s “best” work, a “work in progress,“ or a sample to show how they have improved over time (this can include their

“worst” work also).

Student information

This manila folder is for teacher purposes.

As we discussed in an earlier chapter, this is the perfect place to keep student and parent communication records.

Thinking Folder

This manila folder is used as a place to hold enrichment work. Students who complete learning center activities on their own can place the products into their thinking folder to be graded for extra credit. In our

Teaching Strategies Chapter we discuss how to set up learning centers.

“A wellprepared teacher brainstorms how to teach students to be organized.

Organization is a life skill.”

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Teacher Testimony

My first year of teaching was a year of drowning in paperwork.

I spent wasted time wading through a clutter of graded papers, memos, and sticky notes to myself. One day, a sweet, wellintentioned fifth grade student asked if she could help me organize my desk, so it would look as neat as her class cubby space.

I realized that while I had done a good job of teaching organizational skills to my students, I was not serving as a good role model for this important life skill. I now use student folders and stand-up file holders on my desk to help me have a place to put stuff and not lose it!

Organizing Attendance Records

Elementary School Teachers

It is important to keep accurate records of attendance in your grade book. Student attendance will be recorded on report cards as number of absences, unexcused and excused tardies. An easy way to keep track of this in your gradebook is to mark absences as an ‘A’ and tardies as a ‘T‘. If it is excused, circle the letter.

Middle School Teachers

Middle School teachers have several classes, therefore, it is not as easy to keep attendance in the gradebook. The school will give you a class attendance sheet for each period. An easy way to keep track of attendance is to create a manila folder for each period.

Staple the attendance sheet to the right hand side and a seating chart to the left hand side.

This way you can easily see who is absent and tardy. Mark absences as an A and tardies as a T. If it is excused, circle the letter.

The school office will also keep track of absences. However, you are ultimately responsible. It is crucial to keep accurate records, as attendance has legal ramifications.

“You can be held legally responsible for your attendance records, so accuracy is vital!”

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Class Jobs

Classroom Management

There are several ways in which teachers choose to assign class jobs. However you choose, it is a vital way to stay on top of classroom management! Why not let your students help you take care of routine classroom tasks? In our classroom we organized our jobs this way and found it to be a fabulous success!

Host and Hostess

A boy and girl each week serve as Host and Hostess.

Once everyone has had a chance to serve, then you may assign this job as a privilege to responsible students.


Line leaders

Turn off/on lights

Close/open doors

Pass out papers

Teacher helper and errand runner

Washing transparencies

Board eraser

Other miscellaneous jobs

Giving students different jobs in the classroom makes them feel important and gives them a sense of cohesion in your class.

Assigning jobs to your students also helps with your work load!

The following jobs require an application and letter of interest. These jobs are assigned for an entire semester.


At the very beginning of class two students get homework papers from bins, check in grade book that it was turned in

(pencil only), make out a list of students who did not turn in assignments and give to the teacher.

Teachers can’t do everything – We need help sometimes!

Qualifications - Student must get to class early and

finish AM assignments (or warm ups),

be responsible, neat, have homework

done on time, and upstanding behavior.


Two students help the teacher grade easier assignments that have a KEY. This can be done when these students finish their class work, or during study period.

Qualifications - Graders must be responsible, neat,

and have upstanding character and


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Three students help file graded work in student mailboxes. One student helps teacher file materials in folder, notebooks, and student information files.

Qualifications - Students must be responsible, neat, and have upstanding character

and behavior.


There are many jobs that are easier to assign to all ages of children. Take a look at these classroom jobs listed below and think about having your students join the team, and take part in the classroom community.

“Relinquish some of your responsibility and let the students take part in the class community.”

Board eraser

Errand runner

Handout monitor - passes out papers

Media person - sets up overhead projector, turns on TV, collects videos, CD’s and other computer

programs from Librarian

Pet monitor

Lights monitor

Table washer


Teacher helper

Door monitor

Transparancy washer

Trash monitor

Line leader

Here are some other methods used by teachers to sort out and assign class jobs:

“Teaching is like being the captain of a ship and its crew. Everyone should do their part to keep the ship afloat!”

Student/ Job Wheel

For this method, mark several clothespins with different classroom jobs. Make a wheel with student’s names on it. Clamp the clothespins on different names. You can rotate jobs every week, two weeks, or month.

Pocket chart

Get a clear pocket chart (primary grades use these as calendars). Label each pocket with a different job. Mark each student’s name on an index card in bold letters. Place a card in each job pocket. You can rotate jobs as needed.


Go down your student list and assign jobs alphabetically.

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Classroom Management

Page 74

Student Discipline

As we stated earlier in this chapter, student discipline problems will be at a minimum if you keep your students CHALLENGED and BUSY.

If students are working and having to think the entire time they are at


school, they will be less likely to misbehave. This does not mean that piling worksheets upon worksheets will keep your students out of trouble.


They need meaningful assignments that are motivating as well as

knows the



Activities which are meaningful to students:

Show connections between content areas

Require active student participation

Offer choice for students

Relate to the real world and real world scenarios

Require thinking rather than regurgitating information

between a


Class and




Many teachers confuse the terms “Classroom

Management” and “Classroom Discipline.” What do each of these really mean?

Classroom Management - The way you organize and manage your daily classroom events so that no problems occur. This includes:

“A well-

Creating a positive classroom climate

Implementing classroom procedures

Organizing both the teacher and the students

Preparing lessons and activities ahead of time

Classroom Discipline - Behavior modification for students who are not meeting classroom expectations. This can include both rewards and consequences for behavior displayed in the classroom.

Do not confuse “Classroom Discipline” with a “well-disciplined class.” When your students know exactly what to do and when to do it, and meet the expectations of the teacher each and every day, you have a “well-disciplined class.”

When students misbehave and do not meet classroom expectations, you will need some sort of “Classroom Discipline” plan in place to help those students modify their behavior.

“Without effective classroom management on the part of the teacher, you will NEVER have a well-disciplined class!”

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Recipe for a Well-Disciplined Class

Teacher who has planned ahead and is well planned


Established routines and procedures

Consistent follow-through

Positive attitude


Brain-based classroom

• non-threatening environment

• offers guided choice

• teacher as a learning facilitator

• relates to real world

• motivating

• discovery learning

• students actively engaged

Establishing Expectations and Consequences

“An effective teacher spends time on classroom management and planning so that behavior problems are less likely. ”

Although we strive to have a well-disciplined class, we still must set expectations for students as well as consequences for not meeting those expectations.


It is important that you decide upon five or six rules for your classroom. Your school and/or team may have rules that everyone follows. Be sure to find out what these rules are. Your rules should be clear and concise so that students know what you expect of them.

The rules on the following page were set by Spring Valley Elementary School in

Richardson, Texas. Notice how they set clear expectations for the students.

You must spend time at the beginning of the year training your students in these expectations if you want to have a well-disciplined classroom. Do not stress about taking up class time to teach these expectations. Class time spent the first several weeks of school will ultimately mean more time throughout the year to teach meaningful lessons without disruptions.

When students begin “forgetting” your expectations, you need to stop whatever you are doing, remind students of the expectation, and practice it again. The more you take time to do this at the very beginning and throughout the year, the less disruptions you will have at the end of the school year.

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Classroom Management

Sample Classroom Expectations and School Rules

1. Follow directions given by any adult.

Respond each time addressed by a teacher with ma’am or sir

Follow directions given the FIRST time given

Equal respect for ALL school personnel

2. Be in your assigned seat ready to learn.

3. Have all needed supplies and assignments (paper, pencils, books)

Turn in assignments on time

Use your time wisely

Complete work neatly and carefully

4. Work and move about the building so as not to disturb others.

Keep hands, feet and objects to self.

Minimum noise level in halls

Appropriate playground behavior

Right of way in halls

5. Show a respectful attitude to everyone.

No profanity, inappropriate language, rude gestures, teasing or put-downs.

6. Take care of school property and the property of others.

Show respect for building and personal items.

“Rules and

Consequences should be clear and concise.”

Teacher expectations do not end with classroom rules.

You also need to brainstorm what you expect from your students at ALL times.Take a moment to think about everything that goes in a classroom on a daily basis. Don’t assume students will know how, when and where you want homework to be turned in if you don’t tell them specifically. If you expect for homework to be put in the tray on your desk - explain this to the students. If you don’t explain this, then you will have many students trying to hand you their homework throughout the day, while you are often in the middle of something else!

Take some time to think about lifeskills that are important to you and important to building a positive classroom environment. Lifeskills you might want to discuss at the beginning of the year in terms of expectations include honesty, integrity, cooperation, teamwork, perseverance, personal best. What are your expectations of students exhibiting these lifeskills?

Students should be told exactly what you expect from them and then trained in these expectations on a daily basis. Be consistent. It takes 27 days to form a habit. You want your students to develop positive habits that will create and maintain a well-disciplined class. Also, remember that students cannot read your mind. When they know what is expected of them and know the limits, students will be less likely to cause problems.

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Let’s put into perspective this idea of explaining our classroom expectations to students. Imagine that you are visiting a foreign country where you have never been before. When you arrive, a list of cultural guidelines and laws are given to you to help you know what is and is not acceptable. You read over these, and feeling confident that you are aware of everything you need to know, you venture out for dinner. Upon arriving at a restaurant, you enter and wait to be seated. The hostess comes and beckons for you to follow her. You calmly follow her to your table. Suddenly she turns around, looks down at your feet and begins to yell at you. You are startled and don’t really understand the problem. The hostess is now quickly ushering you out of the restaurant. As you are being pulled back towards the exit, you realize that everyone else is wearing closed toed shoes and you are wearing sandals. It is an unwritten rule, or expectation, that everyone wear socks and shoes inside buildings in this country. Unfortunately, this was not in the list of guidelines, and no one ever told you about this “unwritten rule.” Now you are flustered, you feel stupid, and feelings of anger and resentment begin to build because you are being punished for not knowing the expectation.

Think about these questions:

How do you expect for papers to be turned in?

What are your rules regarding neatness?

Can the students write in print vs. cursive?

What type of paper do you want students to use?

Can they use colored ink pens?

What are your expectations for bathroom breaks ?

How will students get supplies during class or sharpen


What do you expect students to do when they are

finished with their work early?

What are your expectations for students in learning

centers, the reading corner, or lab stations?

When going over expectations at the beginning of the year, you want to be sure to:

Maintain eye contact with each student - this type of body

language helps keep students focused on you

Speak slowly and pause after each sentence to emphasize the

importance of what you are saying

Practice procedures over and over until they are habits!

Have discussions with students to explain why these

expectations are important to you.

Have a student stand at the front of the classroom and read a paragraph. Then as the student is reading, you walk around the room talking with other students, sharpening your pencil, doing jumping jacks, and acting the way you wouldn’t want your students to act while you are presenting a lesson.

Then, have the students explain how difficult it was for her to continue reading with all of the distractions.

Maybe demonstrate some examples of why it would drive you

crazy if students...

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Classroom Management

Getting a Handle on Student Talking

One of the biggest complaints from teachers is the issue of student talking. “They just won’t be quiet!” “I constantly have to ask them to be quiet.” “They don’t listen to my lesson.”

What are some things you can do to be prepared to deal with this issue?

Appropriate Talking Times

The first thing you need to ask yourself is when are they talking?

Are they talking during your instruction, or when you are giving directions? Or, are they talking during a project or work time? There is nothing wrong in allowing students to talk while they are working.

Although they may not always be talking about the subject matter, they will stay on task, especially if you are walking around monitoring.

Additionally, the more motivating the assignment, the more students will actually be talking about their work.

Human beings are social creatures by nature, and we tend to do a better job when we talk to others. Talking helps us express our thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Students get ideas from one another, judge how well they are doing, and help each other do a good job on their work. Sometimes they are just chatting, but even this helps build a strong community in the classroom.

Talking aloud often allows us to work through a problem, formulate strategies, and organize thoughts. Research done with small children shows that youngsters who are constantly talking are also constantly thinking. Because younger children cannot control their thought and speech patterns, the two are very closely connected. Therefore, a chatty class of primary students should be welcomed as a sign that everyone is using their brains!

Introduce the concept of “My Time” and “Your time.”

Students need to know that there will be opportunities for them to talk and move around. In order to help them understand when it is and is not appropriate, introduce this concept. “My time” is teacher time. This is anytime you are teaching a lesson, giving directions, addressing the class as a whole group, or directly working with a small group. “Your time” is student time. This is anytime students are working independently or in groups (excluding testing situations) on classroom activities. Explain to your class that you know they can be quiet and focused during “My time” because after a few minutes, generally five to fifteen, it will be “Your time” and students can take care of their needs.

Teacher Testimony

In my classroom, I schedule talking pauses after new or important concepts are introduced.

This allows my kiddos to discuss their thoughts on the topic with a neighbor. I don’t just stop teaching, but instead say something such as, “Now I’d like you to turn to a neighbor and discuss what I just presented to you. Write down any new thoughts and ideas you generate so that you won’t forget them. Be prepared to share some of your ideas with the whole class.”

Then I give everyone several minutes to talk while I walk around listening and engaging in some of the individual discussions.

I got this idea when I went to a district training for in-service presenters, but now I find that is works beautifully with my 6th graders as well!

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Introduce this concept at the beginning of the year:

“Whenever I am giving a lesson, directions, am speaking to the class, or am standing in front of the class as a whole, that is MY TIME. During My Time, I expect for students to be silent, looking at me, and listening. You may be taking notes, but you are expected to pay attention to what I am saying. If you are talking to a neighbor, are you paying attention to me?

(No) If you are rummaging around in your backpack, are you paying attention to me? (No)

Exactly. Now, let’s practice what paying attention looks like.”

After practicing a few times on what paying attention looks like, next you might say:

“Now, if I have given you a class or group assignment and have given you time in class to work, that is YOUR TIME. You may get supplies, sharpen your pencil, go to the restroom...”

(These are examples, you DO want to be specific in telling them exactly what they are allowed to do. l let mine get a drink of water or use the restroom if they really need to, because thirsty kids and kids who need to go to the bathroom are kids who won’t be thinking about their work - the only things they are thinking about are their bodily needs.)

“When I put up the quiet signal (my hand in the air), or ring the bell (a small dinner bell that I keep in my pocket or on my desk), that is the signal that it is MY TIME again, and I want full attention on me!”


Keep a clipboard with you as you walk around. On the clipboard, have either index cards or a spreadsheet of student names, so that you can take notes on what is happening: who is on task, who is not, problems, etc...

Later in the chapter

we will discuss

Clipboard Monitoring.

Next, you need to practice this with them several times.

Tell the kids to talk and chatter, sing songs, etc.. Then, time them to see how quickly they can come back to order after you signal them. Practicing this is fun for the students, but also allows them to internalize your expectations.

Monitoring and Redirect

Remind students that as long as they listen during the lesson, “My Time,” that you will let them talk while working, “Your Time.”

When you do allow your students to talk during their work time, be sure you are walking around monitoring their conversations. Although it is okay to get off the assigned topic for a minute or two, too much off task talking is not appropriate. While you monitor, you are in more of a position to redirect student talking quietly, rather than yelling out,

“Quiet Down Now!” which is completely ineffective. Instead, walk up behind the student who is taking and say (just to them) something like,

“So, tell me what you have done so far? I am taking progress checks.”

That student is immediately on task and you haven’t singled him/her out in front of the class, or yelled at the class as a whole. Standing behind a group of students for several minutes while they are working is also very effective for redirecting off task behavior.

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Classroom Management


When students do not follow the class or school rules, then you must modify their behavior with consequences. Your consequences should be clear and concise, and should be followed consistently. When you do not use the consequences you have set forth, or allow students to persuade you towards leniency, discipline will falter.

Your students will begin to push you more and more until you are frustrated and angry.

The following consequences go along with the Expectations mentioned earlier:

Classroom Consequences

1 mark on the clipboard = WARNING

2 marks on the clipboard = TIME OUT and/or Loss of priviledge

3 marks on the clipboard = TIME OUT in another classroom,

Detention and letter home to parents

4 marks on the clipboard = TIME OUT in another classroom, phone call to parents and parent conference

5 marks on the clipboard = OFFICE REFERRAL

“Consistency is vital when working with students!”

These consequences follow the Self-Manager Program at Spring Valley Elementary in

Richardson, Texas and is outlined in the following pages. The clipboard is the key to this form of discipline management, as it follows the students from class to lunch to recess to special areas, etc.. The clipboard is kept in a place easily accessible by the teacher and does not make public display of student infractions.

Important Teacher Tip:

Writing student names on the chalkboard and placing checks next to the names for misbehavior is not an appropriate way to record behavior problems. Instead, it only serves to embarrass the student. If it doesn’t humiliate the child, it could have the opposite affect, and the student enjoys the negative attention. Either way, this will generally result in additional rebellious behavior.

Does the thought of keeping up with student behavior frazzle you?

What is the best way to record and keep track of student conduct?

We have provided a variety of ways in the following pages. You can choose one that feels most comfortable to you.

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Recording Student Discipline Infractions


Some schools use a clipboard. Each classroom has clipboard sheets with each student’s name listed on the sheet. Each time a student does not meet an expectation, a mark is given next to their name under the appropriate day of the week. Consequences are met for marks given that day. Each day starts over. This is an excellent way to hold students accountable while out of your classroom as the clipboard follows the class throughout the school.

Student Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Julie 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5



1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

Class Rolls

You can mark checks OR the number of the rule not followed in your grade book or on your class roll. You could also make a spreadsheet and attach it to your grade or roll book.

Index Cards

You can mark down the date and the number of the rule not followed on an index card. It is easier and less time consuming to simply write the number of the rule rather than taking the time to make written comments on the card.

When you fill the index card, staple another to it. This is helpful when you are contacting parents and want to access a record of student behavior easily.

Pocket Chart

Place a clear pocket chart on the wall. Each student should have their own pocket. Next to this chart, place your poster of rules. Attach pockets next to each rule. Place different colored strips next to each rule. (ex: Rule #1 has purple strips)

Each time a student does not follow a rule, have them pull a colored rule strip and place it in their pocket on the chart.

Remember to clearly tell the student which expectation they have not followed. This is excellent for primary grades because it is so visual. At the end of the day, you should record each child’s infractions in your grade book, on an index card, or on a reward chart. Each day should start over fresh.

“Make sure that your procedure for marking and recording student behavior is not time consuming or distracting.”

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Classroom Management

The “Red Notebook”

In the front of the notebook set up a page with each rule numbered. Then, fill the notebook with pages to record student behavior. The heading on each page should include: Student name, Date, and Rule Broken. When a student misbehaves, the teacher asks the student to sign the “Red Notebook.” The student must get up, walk to the notebook, and fill in their name, date and the rule they broke. This places responsibility on students to record their own infractions. A variation is to put the notebook on the student’s desk for him/her to fill out and then pick it up later as you are walking around the class monitoring.

“Every day should start FRESH with no mistakes in it.”


You may want to clean out the notebook and start over each grading period so that it does not get overwhelming. However, DO NOT throw away the old pages. They may be useful in later problems, especially if the school is in court or taking serious action against a student.

Clearly State the Expectation

With all of these methods, be sure to clearly state which expectation the student did not meet. Many times students, especially middle school students, will not be aware of what they have done.


Paul gets up during your direct instruction to sharpen his pencil.

You should say to him, “Paul, are you in your seat ready to learn right now?”

He should know that he is not.

“Please sign the Red Notebook. Remember, I EXPECT you to stay in your seat and be ready to learn while I am teaching. This is rule number 2.”

“Each behavior whether different or the same should be addressed.”

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Using Rewards

We all know that discipline programs based completely on consequences or punishments are not effective in modifying student behavior. However, there is currently a debate about reward based programs as well. Some researchers contend that rewards can be equally as harmful.

Our belief is that rewards can be used as a motivational tool to help students begin to modify their behavior. As students begin to meet your expectations on a consistent basis, you should rely less and less on rewards as a tool. Remember that students who are actively engaged in their learning do not need outside stimuli such as rewards for motivation. They are motivated by the desire to learn.

For example, in the movie Dangerous Minds, Michelle Pfieffer’s character walked into an extremely hostile and volatile classroom situation. She wanted to use positive measures to change student attitudes, and began a reward system for classroom participation. As her students began participating more in class and were more engaged, she slowly reduced the number of rewards passed out until finally students were participating because they were truly interested and were intrinsically motivated to learn.

The same should apply to you. If you find yourself in a rough classroom situation where drastic measures are needed, yet you want to foster a positive environment rather than a negative one, a reward based program is the perfect place to begin. As your students’ behavior begins to change, you want to wean them off of the rewards until they are participating and behaving because THEY want to, not because you are paying them.


Use sporadically throughout the day, week, month, year

Don’t rely on rewards in place of good classroom management

Work your way towards students who are intrinsically motivated through engaging teaching strategies

Be fair in giving out rewards - each student should have an equal chance

“An effective teacher seeks to modify student behavior by focusing on positives rather than negatives.”

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Classroom Management

Discipline Programs

Self Manager Program

One discipline program that has been used in Richardson, Texas is the Self Manager

Program. With it, students must go 10 days without a mark of any kind. When they reach 10 days, they are given an application that each teacher must sign. The application is turned in and the student is given a button with their name and picture on it. This “Self-Manger Badge” gives the student extra privileges. The school and each teacher decides on various rewards to happen weekly, monthly, or each six weeks. If a student receives three marks in a one week period, they lose their badge. However, they can earn it back after 10 days with no marks.


VIP Program

Students in Middle

School who make the

A Honor Roll, or who make all A’s in conduct for every class are given VIP badges.

These badges give students extra privileges. They may use their badge as a hall pass, may go to the library or computer lab during lunch, and have other rewards given out by individual teachers.

Top Ten

Create a chart for each grading period with student names written down the side and dates written across the top. Each day, record either the number of the rule(s) broken, or place a star or smiley face next to every student’s name. When a student acquires ten stars or smiley faces on the chart, the teacher provides a reward. The stars do not have to be 10 in a row, just

10 total. Once a student has received their reward, the process begins again. A fun way to publicly honor students receiving their

Top Ten reward is to have a ceremony every Friday for those who earned their Top Ten that week.

Primary Idea:

Tape library pockets on each student’s desk. Give each student a popsicle stick. Write the student name on the back of the stick.

Everytime a student gets a sticker, they put it on their stick.

When they receive 10, students can “shop” in the treasure chest

(a chest of dollar toys, small craft projects, pencils, stickers, etc.). To keep track of behavior, paint a yardstick in three sections - green, yellow, and red. Mark the consequences

(warning, time-out, etc.) When students misbehave, they move the clothespin with their name on it to the next level. If students redeem their behavior throughout the day, the clothespin can be moved back to green. Students who are still on green receive a sticker for that day.

Thank you to Erica Kruckenberg,

First Grade teacher,Prosper ISD for sharing this idea with us!

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Classroom Rewards

Weekly Top Ten

Every Friday before lunch announce students who earned their ten stars/stickers during that week. Students are given a reward during that time.

Bonus Points

Use the bonus point coupons in the back of this chapter and add them onto homework/ project or test grades. Use coupons in denominations of 1’s and 5’s.

Red Tickets

Buy a roll of red, green, or other brightly colored tickets from a teacher or office supply store. Hand these out for participation, etc. Students write their names on the back and put them into a canister for a weekly drawing.

Mascot Coupons

Use school “mascot” coupons, or create your own to give to students for the following: 1st done with morning assignment/sponge activities, parent signatures on binders, life skills shown in class, or best organized binder.

Class Leader

Give this award to the student who has shown the most improvement during the week.

Explorer of the Month

Award this to the student who has shown the most effort. Invite the student(s) to eat a special lunch with you. Also, take their picture and post it on a special poster on the bulletin board or hallway.

“You will be surprised at

Student Rewards

how well your students respond to even the smallest reward for a job well done.”

Special pencils

Special lunch with the teacher

Homework passes

Special helper


Treasure chest with goodies



Children’s Books

Free computer time

Button or badge

Small prizes from the dollar store

Ice cream bar

Free library time

Food coupons

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Attitude is Everything!

Classroom Management

How true! Attitude IS everything! The attitude you show your students on a day-to-day basis will dictate the type of classroom you have. If you show each and every one of your students respect, then they will show you respect. Intermediate and especially middle school students are highly motivated by the concept of respect. Yet, how do we show our students that we respect them?

Here are some tips:

When a student misbehaves, take them in the hallway and discuss the matter with them privately. Use a tone of voice you would use when speaking with another adult.

For example:

“Julie” insults “Suzy” . You might say to her, “I don’t understand why you would insult Suzy. Please tell me what you were thinking.” Then discuss her feelings and express the importance of not hurting the feelings of others.

Address your students as Ladies and Gentlemen. You would be surprised at how they will act according to the way you address them. If you insist on calling them boys and girls, OR children, that is exactly the way they will act. Do you enjoy being patronized? Think about it.

Treat them the same way you want to be treated by your peers. Your students will meet the expectations you set for them both mentally and behaviorally.

When the class as a whole is being loud, do not yell over them. Simply wait and your silence is more powerful than your screaming. Often a look, or quiet statement of, “I’m waiting,” will be enough.

When you are trying to maintain classroom discipline, there are a few things you should definitely not say to your students.These statements are clear indicators that you have lost control.

Things NOT to say:

I really mean it this time!

I’m serious!

I really will... if you don’t straighten up!

How many times do I have to ask you to …?

I’m getting angry!

You better not… or I’ll …!

Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

You make me so mad!

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Bag of Tricks

Remember, all communications you make with students must be made thoughtfully with wisdom and discretion. You have to know your students and your limits with each child. Be aware of your boundaries when using these “tricks”. Remember, your ultimate goal is to create a positive classroom environment based on mutual respect. These are quick tips to help you get started in managing classroom behavior.


Use a quiet signal when the class is loud or not paying attention.

-Simply raise your hand and wait. At the beginning of the year you need to explain this signal to your class and practice several times. Be consistent in using it. DO

NOT raise your voice over the class. EXPECT SILENCE from the class. Wait until EVERYONE is silent. When explaining the quiet signal, you may want to say, “When I hold up my hand like this, I EXPECT everyone to stop what they are doing, get silent, and look at me.” Then follow through. You might also use chimes or a small bell as a signal.


Crazy Word -

Discuss with your class a “code” word you can use to signal that you want their attention.

Whenever you call out this word, students should stop what they are doing, get silent, and look at you.


Stand silently in front of the class and give them “THE LOOK” (this is discussed later)


If they do not get quiet, simply make a statement such as, “I’m waiting,” or, “Excuse me,” or ask, “Why am I standing here?” then fall silent again. Students will quickly get the point and quiet down. The more you scream or raise your voice, the louder the class will get.

Teacher Testimony

I once had an Assistant

Principal who felt that she was helping me with my classroom discipline by telling me to add to my “Bag of Tricks.” I had several problem students that year and needed some advice - Specific

Advice! Just some quick tips to use and remember when dealing with problem students would have been so helpful!


When your students begin acting irresponsibly, take

away privileges. -

Explain to them that as long as they act like ladies and gentlemen, you will give them responsibilities. However, if they are going to act immaturely, do not hesitate to take away privileges.


Walk around the classroom at all times so that you are in position to get close to a student who is not behaving and can quickly correct behavior.


Give the student a direct look or tap the student’s desk with your finger and shake your head that what they are doing is not acceptable.


Sit a problem student close to you

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My first year of teaching I had a seventh period class with 15 boys and 8 girls. Of those 15 boys, 9 of them were placed in the

Adaptive Behavior

Class for Emotionally

Disturbed children. I had one student try to jump out of the window. One brought a gun to school hidden inside of a teddy bear. One student galloped around the room neighing like a horse every day. One student wrote foul language on every book I owned in the classroom. I also had two warring gang members who threatened each other during class.

These were sixth graders.

My point? I survived and am still teaching!

Classroom Management


Write a behavior plan that focuses on rewards rather than punishments


Have a parent conference


Call the parents consistently


Write up behavior in their file for future reference -

Keep all notes written by students and by yourself for documentation purposes.


Practice “THE LOOK”

- Think about the one teacher that you didn’t dare to cross. How did he/she look at you when you misbehaved? Practice that look. Watch other veteran teachers in your school give “THE LOOK.” Once you get good, you can give “THE LOOK” to kids in the mall and have them stop what they are doing - even if you don’t know them at all!


Practice the “Tone of Voice” -

This is the same as “THE LOOK.”


Make comments -

A good comment is, “I like how John is reading quietly and not playing around.” Then, if you want to, you can give John a Homework pass or small piece of candy.


Do not argue with students -

When a student is arguing with you and yelling at you, simply say to them, “I do not have to be treated like this. I am not talking to you right now. When you have calmed down and wish to talk reasonably, then I will discuss it.” Then turn around and walk away. You may have to be more aggressive and put your hand out to stop them.


Stand your ground

- Remember, you are the adult. Sometimes students who are taller or bigger than you are can be scary. Do not let them feel fear from you. Fear can be sensed and you will be taken advantage of.


Take your own time out

- When you feel yourself losing your temper, leave the room and take a quick time out for yourself. It is okay to ask an administrator or an off duty teacher to watch your class while you calm down.


Separate the ringleaders

- Find the ringleaders and send them to different classrooms with either current class work, or an assignment which reinforces their understanding of good behavior and the lifeskills.


Send a guide

- If you doubt that a student will go where you send them, send a reliable student with them as a guide.


Don’t get in a power struggle

- Ask yourself – Is it important that I fight this or that I win this battle? Sometimes a power struggle is just not worth it.

Refuse to argue or fight, and instead, turn your back to the situation.

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Use a calm voice at all times

- As soon as you lose your cool, the student has won. If you feel yourself getting upset, simply count to 10. Another good way is to remember - You are the adult and should act maturely.


Refuse to yell

- Don’t argue with a student and refuse to listen to whining or crying. Repeat that you will be happy to talk to them when they have calmed down.


Follow your consequences consistently

- This will really help in the long run and helps build trust between you and your students.


Send students to the office ONLY as a LAST RESORT! -

Once students know that you will bow out and let the principal or counselor handle the problem they will push every button you have so that they are sent out of the classroom.


Follow through with your stated consequences both written and verbal

- However, think about this — is your problem student TRYING to be sent out of the classroom? Don’t give them the satisfaction. Also, think before you blurt out a specific consequence such as, “If you don’t stop hitting her, I’ll

_____.” Be sure the consequence is one you are willing and able to do.


Do not take it personally!

- Students will say lots of things that may hurt your feelings. Don’t let it.

They may be simply trying to get your goad. Just ignore it and get on with your life.

Primary Ideas:

Get the Wiggles Out.

You cannot expect Kindergarten students to sit for long periods of time. Ten to fifteen minutes is the most you can expect at the beginning of the year, and fifteen to twenty minutes toward the end. It becomes obvious when the children can’t sit still another minute. When that happens, here are a few strategies to use:


Stretching Exercises - Spirit Fingers (wiggling fingers), Stretch up high, down low, etc. When teaching writing, you can have students stretch up to the skyline, out to the guideline (arms to the side), and down to the grass line. This reviews letter formation basics.


Math Calisthenics - Chair sits, jumping jacks, or jump straight up and down counting by ones, fives, or tens.


Breathing Exercises - Getting oxygen to the brain is a way to increase brain development, so students should take five deep breaths yoga style. Hands up as we breathe in, and Hands out when we breathe out.


Alphabet Boxing - Use Dr. Jean’s song Alphabet Boxing from the “Is Everybody Happy” CD.

Run around the room - Students run to an object that starts with whatever letter the teacher calls out and freeze when the bell rings.

Thank you to Jennifer Vonderahe,

Kindergarten Teacher, Frisco ISD, for sharing these primary ideas with us.

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Classroom Management

Clipboard Monitoring

1. Using a spreadsheet program such as Excel, Lotus, or ClarisWorks, create a

spreadsheet. Down the side, allow for student names. Across the top put one rule

or work habit in each box. Leave a couple of boxes blank so that you can write in

the concept or skill for the day that you want to observe.


Student Name


1. Stay in Seat

1 2 3 4 5

2. On Task During

Group work

1 2 3 4 5

3. Cooperating wih others


1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5

ASHLEY 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5

2. Use a system of numbers to help you keep track of infractions. Make sure there is

enough space for comments as well if necessary.

With rules, each number represents the number of infractions

With concepts/skills, you write the skills in the blank columns and underneath, each number represents the level of mastery

5 = Excellent, 4 = Good, 3=Fair, 2=Poor, 1=No Mastery

3. Place a week’s worth of spreadsheet forms on the clipboard so that you won’t have to

remember each morning to put a new sheet up.

4. Make enough copies for several weeks. There should be one spreadsheet per day.

Label the date at the top of the spreadsheet before using it so that you’ll know which day

it refers to.

5. Be sure to use the clipboard to record good behavior and to make comments about

students who go above and beyond what is expected of them. This will help you when it

is time to write progress reports or report card comments. It will also help you if you ever

have to recommend a student for an honors position or award.

6. File these sheets in a three-ring binder in chronological order. Use tabbed dividers to

separate each six weeks or grading period. Why a binder? Well, a binder keeps all of

the papers together in one place with no fear of losing them. Also, it is easier to flip

through pages in a binder than it is in a manila folder.

7. Be sure to document behavior disruptions, the student’s folder at the end of the

week so that you won’t have to bring a ton of extra papers to a parent conference. If you

are in a huge hurry, you might just make a copy of the form to put in the students folder.

Just be sure to blank out other student names before putting it in a particular students


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DATE:_______________________ CLASS:_______________________

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Classroom Management

Page 92

Morning Procedures

1. Check Mailbox

- Get out graded papers and put them in Binder.

- Get out necessary folders

2. Get supply box and ready your supplies.

- Sharpen your pencil

- Get your book out

3. Copy homework in your Academic Calendar.

4. Copy Word of the Day in Vocabulary section.

5. Write your journal entry.

6. Be ready to share.

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Page 93

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Classroom Management

Page 94

Writing & Reading Workshop


1. Get your writing folder, reading folder, and novel from your


2. Be ready to take notes.

3. When writing, write quietly for the entire 20 minutes.

-respect each other’s need for quiet

-conference outside or in centers

-respect each other as authors

4. When reading, quietly get your book and reading folder, and find a place to read.

-read silently

-respect each other’s need for silence

5. When time is up, record what you have done in your reading log.


-author’s name

-title of book

-number of pages read

-a short summary OR complete the reading response on the board.

6. Put folders and book back in your mailbox.

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End of the Day Procedures

1. Put away all materials neatly and clean your table.

Page 95

2. Get your End of the Day Journal out of your mailbox.

3. Open your Academic Calendar.

-check that all homework is written down correctly

-add any new assignments

4. Go quietly to the front of the room with your Journal for Read


5. After Read Aloud, reflect in your Journal:

-skills you learned

-good/bad about the day

6. Wait to be dismissed by table.

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Classroom Management

Classroom Management

Your assignment is to define each of the following words. You must copy the ENTIRE definition!

Respect -

Responsibility -

Integrity -

Discipline -

Cooperation -

Effort -

Honesty -

Perseverance -

Friendship -

Authority -

Attention -

Quiet -

Work -

Organization -

Flexibility -

Initiative -

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Discipline Record

Student Name Date Rule Broken

Page 97

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Page 98

Classroom Management







Cut along the line.

Instructions: Work with the student and/or parent to determine five behaviors you expect the student to perform. Some examples include: stay in seat, use a respectful tone of voice, keep hands to self, take turns when speaking, etc. Then, each day a student exhibits one of these behaviors, place a sticker or initial the box for that day. Reward the student on a weekly basis.

For example:

5 stickers = a special job to do (erase board, line leader, run an errand, etc.)

10 stickers = a homework pass

15 stickers = special lunch with the teacher

20 stickers = computer time/ library time

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Page 99


Student’s Name Date

Student’s ID Number Grade

Teacher Subject


To Parent/ Guardian

This notice is sent to advise you that your child is having academic difficulties.

This Notice is sent to advise you that your child is at risk for failure.

This Notice is sent to advise you that your child’s behavioral conduct may result in disciplinary actions.

Student cannot participate in extracurricular activities due to failure.

Tutorial help:

M T W Th F S


Academic Difficulties

Failure to complete assignments Failure to make up work/ tests Excessive absences

Failure to bring materials to class Poor quality of work

Poor test(s) results Failure to follow directions

Excessive tardies

Lack of effort


Behavioral Misconduct

Talks excessively Ignores correction Disruptive

Distracts other students Displays negative attitude Displays disrespect


Parent/ Guardian is requested to have a conference with the teacher at one of the conference periods indicated below:


Please Sign and Return

1st Choice 2nd Choice

Parent / Guardian Signature Date

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Page 100

We Missed You!

Classroom Management




ate of Absence

You missed these cool activities in class today!



You missed the following

Quiz/ test on:

Journal topic/ Warm up assignment


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Page 101

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

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Classroom Management


As we prepare to take on the many roles of teaching, we must keep in mind the end result.

If we desire a well-disciplined class which is learner centered, it is vital to train our students in our expectations and procedures. Proactive, not reactive, strategies are required to maintain a classroom where students know what is expected of them at all times. Remember, children need boundaries and structure in order to feel safe in their environment. Although they will test and strain these boundaries, children ultimately want to know that they cannot be broken.

When there is consistency in the classroom, trust is built between all members. Where there is trust, respect follows. If we want our students to respect us, then we must respect them as well. This includes setting expectations and being consistent in our requirements.

When everything changes from day to day, students never know what to expect and as a result become excitable, unruly, and sometimes angry.

Good classroom management takes time and effort. It is not easy being consistent and it is not easy always enforcing the expectations set. However, without consistency behavior breaks down and learning does not occur. Thus, effective learning on the part of the student is the result of dedication, preparation, and planning on the part of the teacher.

Additional Resources

Choice Theory in the Classroom by William Glasser, M.D.

Discipline without Stress, Punishments, or Rewards by Dr. Marvin Marshall

Discipline with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Dave Funk

The Bully Free Classroom: Over 100 Tips and Strategies for Teachers K-8 by Allan Beane

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Page 103

Questions for Reflection

1) How would you describe yourself as a leader? How do you think this will translate in the

classroom? Will your style of leadership invoke positive or negative reactions from


2) How would you compare the terms of Classroom Discipline and Classroom Management?

Which is more important for the overall development of a positive classroom environment?


3) How can you justify using class time to train students on classroom management

procedures and practice classroom expectations when these activities may take away class

time spent on curriculum?

4) Why is it so important that you know what your expectations and daily classroom

procedures are before school starts?

5) Debate the pros and cons of using rewards in the classroom. Support your reasons.

Suggested Activites

1) Brainstorm and type out a list of classroom procedures you will want to use with your

students at various times during the day. Think about the beginning of class, end of the day,

transition times, etc.

2) Compose a list of expectations for your students that goes beyond common sense

classroom rules. Think about your “pet peeves”, important life-skills, and daily tasks.

For example:

-How will papers be turned in? Where?

-How will you handle student supplies?

-Do you expect ink or pencil? Do you care if it is purple or green ink?

-How will you handle bathroom breaks?

-Do you expect honesty & integrity in the classroom? personal best? cooperation?

Start a list now and keep adding to it through your student teaching and/or first year. You’ll know you’ve got an expectation when you say to yourself, “My students will never...,” or “I’ll have my students do ...”

3) Plan how you will organize student work. Will you use spiral notebooks, pocket folders, or

a 3- ring binder? How will you label each section of a binder or notebook? Where will

students keep their unfinished work? What do you expect students to keep in their binder?

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Notes/ Reflection on Chapter

Classroom Management

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My planning book is empty and I’m not sure where to begin.

What do I do?

Lesson Plans

While we all learn about lesson plans in our teacher education courses, for some reason it all goes out the door when faced with a blank page for the first time. What do I teach? Where do I start?

How do I organize it? All of these questions run through our head as we stare at either a blank piece of paper or a blank plan book.

This chapter will give you several tips for writing lesson plans and will provide a couple of templates to help you get started.

Type out your lesson plans on regular paper

Teacher stores and schools will often sell/give teachers a plan book. While these books are nice, they do not give you enough room to adequately plan. The most you can fit into those squares is a brief outline of your plans. While this seems easy enough, it will cause you more grief later on.

Type out detailed lesson plans

Your lesson plans need to be detailed so that you will have a smooth, well organized day. This also helps when you have a substitute. With plan books teachers have to rewrite more detailed lesson plans for a substitute to follow. You will save hours by having it already done.

Although it may be a pain to write out detailed lesson plans, it is worth the effort! You will feel more prepared, relaxed and confident each day rather than stressing out over last minute unplanned activities and time fillers. We cannot emphasize enough how vital it is to overplan each lesson! You can always cut an activity, but it is hard to come up with one spur of the moment.

Benefits of having detailed lesson plans:

Serve as a way to keep teachers focused and on target with


Students see the teacher as well-prepared and organized.

Principals and other staff members view the teacher as efficient

and effective.

Teachers have a smooth flowing day.

Page 106

Lesson Planning

As we stated in the previous chapter on classroom management, students can immediately tell when the teacher is not in control due to lack of planning. This often causes behavior in the classroom to break down. Each class period should be planned out from bell to bell. What is the focus activity? What will you do first, second, third? What will the students do first, second, third? Every moment should be planned.

“A wellplanned teacher has a focus activity ready for students to complete as soon as they enter the classroom.”

Focus Assignment

When students first enter the classroom, they need a focus activity of some sort to help them calm down and get ready to start class. This must be done every single day and for every class period

(when changing classes) in order to maintain consistency. When used here and there, students never know what to expect. This adversely affects their behavior. The focus assignment is sometimes called a “bell-ringer”, “warm-up”, or “sponge” activity.

Types of focus activities:

Write in journals

Creative writing activity

Calendar questions

Sentence corrections

Simple review activity

Name the season/day of the week/etc.

Geography questions

Name the state, scientist, explorer

Math problems

Review questions from previous day’s lesson



Bulletin board activities—current events, calendar, vocabulary, authors, birthdays, etc.

Daily Oral Language/ Geography/ Math/ Science

Quote of the Day

While students are completing their focus activity quietly at their desks, you can use that time to call roll, visit with individual students, and take care of other housekeeping items.

Some quick sponge activities can also be used for transitions when students are finished early, when preparing for lunch or recess, or getting ready to go home.

Teacher Testimony

My students all copy their homework into an academic calendar as soon as they walk into my class. Then, while they are all working on their warm-up activity, I go around and check their calendars. I initial each entry that has been copied down correctly. This gives me a chance to say hello to each student and see how everyone is feeling. I can actually diffuse any problems right from the start of class!

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What do you want students to be able to do by the end of the lesson/day? Your objectives should be written in a manner that can be evaluated.

For example: Students will be able to identify the main characters in the story, Charlotte’s Webb.

You don’t want to write objectives that are hard for you to measure student achievement or knowledge.

For example: Students will understand main characters.

First of all, this objective is not specific enough, and secondly, how will you measure student understanding?


What will you do during class time to achieve your objectives?

This may include direct instruction, individual practice, group practice or application, enrichment, and possibly even assessment.

Your procedures should reflect effective teaching practices such as varying learning activities, making connections to the real-world, application of learning, etc. We discuss these issues further in later chapters.

“A wellplanned teacher varies learning activities to help students meet a specific objective.”

After writing out your procedures, ask yourself if the activities are:

Mostly teacher-centered or student-centered

Varied for different learning styles

Actively engaging for students

Helping students meet the objective(s)


Objective: To be able to identify the three layers of the earth.


1) Student groups cut a wedge shaped slice from the peach on their table.

2) Students make observations about the peach and record on paper as a group.

3) Groups share their observations (should be noting different layers)

4) Lesson - Students take notes about layers of the earth in their notebook.

5) Students draw their own planet earth and identify the different layers

6) Students work in pairs to compare/contrast the earth and the peach in a T-chart or Venn Diagram format. (if time) (extension activity)

© 2003

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Lesson Planning


Closure to a lesson is one of those elements that is so important and yet so misunderstood.

In our lives we often talk about needing some closure before moving onto something new. It is the same with lessons. If a teacher spends time and effort teaching a topic, and then immediately switches to a new topic or dismisses students without any kind of a closure, there is a sense of being left in the lurch. We all need a conclusion or summary of some sort before moving on. Here are some tips for providing closure:

Students should be actively involved

Question students about the lesson/ what they learned

Students reflect in their journal about the lesson and share

Ask students how this lesson/topic relates to the real world or to them personally

Use a visual object and/or catch-phrase to sum up the lesson


It is equally important to plan for all of the materials you will need for the lesson and activities. Be very specific and include the textbook, student notebooks, etc.. This will help you know to remind students to bring a particular item(s) that they may not use every single day.

Planning out materials also helps you stay organized in gathering what you need before you teach a particular lesson.


When you plan, you need to know how you will assess student mastery of the objective(s).

In order for an assessment to be valid, it must test what the students have learned. Before you plan a lesson, think about how you plan to assess the objective. Will you use a paper/pencil test? Will you use a class activity? Will you use a project or group assignment? Will you require students to recite information or apply it?

Once you’ve decided how you plan to assess students, then you can check your lesson and activities to be sure that they appropriately prepare students for the assessment. For example, when looking at the sample objective and lesson on the previous page, you might decide that an appropriate assessment would be for students to label the layers on a diagram of the earth. This type of assessment would be valid since students learned and applied the information in a similar manner.

“It is important to plan a closure activity and an assessment when writing lesson plans.”

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Page 109

Tips for Planning

Organize your plans on disk.

If you are using a computer, organize your plans into folders for each six weeks or units.

Then, further organize each six weeks into folders for each week. This way you can place typed handouts, tests, newsletters, etc. into the folder with your plans.


Disk: McDonald 5th Grade

1st Six Weeks (Folder)

-August 6-10 (Folder)

-lesson plans (file)

-spelling test (file)

-reading assignment (file)

-science animal matching (file)

-parent newsletter (file)

-field trip form (file)

Have a chosen planning day.

Choose one day out of the week to write your plans. Wednesday is usually a good day and will give you time to gather materials for the next week. Also, many principals request copies of lesson plans on Fridays. If something unexpected happens on Wednesday, then you still have one day to get them finished. Be consistent with this schedule and plan your time accordingly.

“A wellplanned teacher sets aside one day each week to stay after school and plan lessons for the following week.”

Use a template when planning.

Using a template will help you work out your lesson plans with ease. If you save one week’s plans on a disk, you can simply copy them onto a new file and change as necessary. See sample

templates in the back of the chapter.

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Lesson Planning

Steps of Lesson Planning


What are you required to teach? Look at a scope and sequence or overview of state required essential elements for your subject and/or grade level.

(Use State Department of

Education Webpages)

These steps are for teachers who are beginning the year with no idea of where to start. For those of you who already know WHAT you are going to teach, look at the templates provided later in the chapter.


How can you organize that material into units? Try to make these units meaningful to students. For example, a unit on Nouns is not going to motivate any of your students, but a Mystery unit might. Later in the book we discuss ideas for Language Arts, Math, and

Integrated units that might be helpful to you.


Write an overview for your first six weeks on a calendar. This does not need to be detailed, but should give you an overall picture of what you will cover during that grading period. If you teach several subjects, make a calendar for each subject area. This will be extremely helpful to refer to when you sit down to write daily lesson plans.

“An effective teacher works hard to make lessons meaningful to students.”


Write lesson plans for the first week. In the beginning you may want to go one day at a time unless your principal requires you to turn in your weekly plans. Use the following format:


Objectives - what do you want the students to know or be able to do?

Materials - what do you need to accomplish this?

Procedures - what are you going to do 1st, 2nd, 3rd,etc.?

Assessment - how are you going to know you met your objectives? This may

not occur for several days or weeks into the grading period, but

you need to know what you are going to do.

The following three pages show examples and templates for planning. A sample calendar and daily lesson plan for upper elementary is included. Middle school teachers can use this same format for planning, but change the daily lesson plan to meet their needs.

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Here is a sample calendar with a six weeks overview. A sample lesson plan is provided for the day shaded below. A blank template of each will be in the back of this chapter.


Get to know/

Team Building/



Get to know/

Team Building/



G.T.K./ T.B./ Org.


Design Team


Design Team

Writing Steps




Life Map


(Integrated Science/Social Studies


(Language Arts Lessons)

(Math Lessons)


Magazine Story

Place Value





Sci Fi/ Fantasy


Constellations &


Advent/ Hist.



Constellations &


Rough Draft of


Math Test

(Integrated Science/Social Studies


(Language Arts Lessons)

(Math Lessons)



Rdg. Wkshp.


Tour the Solar



Rdg. Wkshp.

Area &


Figure Distances


Rdg. Wkshp.



Elliptic Orbit


Rdg. Wkshp.

Multiply by 1 Digit

Solar System Fast


(Integrated Science/Social Studies



Rdg. Wkshp.

Multiply by 1 Digit

(Language Arts Lessons)

(Math Lessons)

No School

Intro. Space

Project - choose topic


Mutiplication - 2 digits

No School

Teach Note

Taking/ writing paragraphs

2nd Draft

2 digit practice -

Relay Games

Timeline/ Apollo


Global Response



“The Planets” w/

Patrick Stewart

Global Response

Addition Practice

Field Trip to


(Integrated Science/Social Studies



(Language Arts Lessons)

No math due to trip

(Math Lessons)



Pop-up book


Oral Presentations

Final Copy

(Integrated Science/Social Studies


(Language Arts Lessons)

2nd Draft


(take away vs.



Subtraction with

Base 10

Visual Word


(Math Lessons)


Exploration -

Memorial to

Space Shuttle


Final Copy Due

Book Study

Moon - One

Giant Leap,

Music, etc.

Book Study

(Writing &

Reading Time)

Long Division

Notes & Practice

Long Division

Word Problems

Lost on the Moon activity

Colonization simulation

Space Test

Final Copy Due

(Integrated Science/Social Studies


Book Study

(Writing &

Reading Time)

6 weeks Math

Test (No Long


Book Study

(Writing &

Reading Time)

Long Division - 2 digits into 2/3 digits

Share Stories written

Share Book


(Language Arts Lessons)

Long Division Word


(Math Lessons)

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Lesson Planning

Sample Lesson Plan


To be able to demonstrate the Millions Block

To be able to identify characteristics of a Sci Fi or Fantasy story

To be able to compare/contrast different types of Stars

Materials: Math book, Sci Fi and Fantasy notes on transparency, white paper,

Kids Discover Magazine, Mobius handout, Venn Diagram handout


Math - Math in Space, p. 34-36 (Mobius Loop & experiments)

Rdg. - Read for 20 minutes and list the main events from the chapter/section you read


Words of the Day:

If I could capture a star, I’d...

cluster - a group of similar things gathered closely together universe - all the matter and space that exists

Daily Oral Language: Read the following sentence and circle the proper nouns. What is the rule for proper nouns?

The Sun is a star in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Daily Geography:

a) Name the ocean closest to the Arctic Circle.

b)Which one is farthest from the Arctic Circle?

Daily Math: Write the following numbers in expanded form: a) 758 b) ten thousand five hundred nine c) 2,707










12:50 - 2:30

Announcements, Homework calendar, Word of the Day, Journal

Daily Oral Language, Geography & Math

- Review homework from last night over Thousands place & expanded


- Give notes from page 18 in Math book- into math notebook

- Practice Millions place & assign homework

Bathroom Break/ Go to Specials

Specials/ Planning period

- Reading Workshop - set up folder with paper in middle for responses &

choose novel to read

- Silent reading

- Give notes on Sci Fi Genre and pre-write a sci-fi story

- Give notes on Fantasy Genre and pre-write a fantasy story

Lunch/ Recess

- Read to students about stars from the Kids Discover Magazine &


-Student pairs use Venn Diagram to compare/contrast different types of


- Students create their own Mobius Loop and conduct experiments

(See copied directions)

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Sample Lesson Plan in Actual Format (2 pages)

Page 113

Objectives: To be able to understand Place Value using Base 10

To be able to transfer numbers from standard to numerical form

To be able to write a story as a team

To be able to discuss man’s place within the galaxy

To be able to use a timeline to record historical facts


Base 10 pieces (yellow), long white paper, Timeline copies, Universe video,

black construction paper, small white paper

Homework: Math - Place Value

Rdg. - Read for 20 minutes

L.A. - Write one sentence for each word using it correctly


If you had x-ray vision, what would you use it for?

Word of the Day: galaxy - a large group of stars, planets, gas and dust

Light-year - the distance that light travels in one year - about six trillion miles

Space - the expanse in which the solar system, stars, and galaxies exist,

another world

Daily Oral Language:

Read the following sentence and identify the helping verb. Is this the only helping verb that can be used for this sentence? Why or why not?

All the stars in the sky are part of the Milky Way Galaxy.

(Answer) The word “are” is the helping verb. It is the only possible choice because the noun is plural.

Daily Geography: A) Which ocean is the largest in the world?

B) Which Hemisphere is south of where you live?

(Answer) a) Pacific b) Southern and Western

Daily Math: Write the following numbers in numerical form:

A) three thousand four hundred twenty nine

B) nine hundred forty

C) ten thousand seven

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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Lesson Planning

Sample Lesson Plan, continued



Announcements, Homework Calendar, Word of the Day, Journal


Daily Oral Language


Daily Geography


Daily Math

Introduce/Review basic place value using Base 10 Blocks: a) Create a place value chart - divide long white paper into thirds and make a Ones column, Tens column, and Hundreds column b) Students take out Base 10 pieces - discuss pieces c) Give random numbers to students and have students place pieces in the correct column (assessment activity) d) Continue to practice with students - have students come up with their own numbers (extension activity) e) Then write out numbers in standard form to get ready for homework f) Closure - students write in math journal what they learned today


Bathroom Break/ Go to Specials

10:50-11:20 Reading Workshop - Students read for 20 minutes. They may sit anywhere in the room - No Talking! Teacher either reads with students on an individual basis, or monitors students reading. After the 20 minute buzzer rings, students return to seats to write response in log.

Reading Response: Where will the main character be 20 years from now?

11:25-12:00 Round Robin Writing - Give each table a different topic

-A day at the Beach

-Summer Picnic

-I think my mom is an alien

-A crazy soccer game

-The day the sky turned black -the hungry spider each table gets one topic (on index cards to be drawn), each child has notebook paper, each person starts their own story, say go, wait three minutes and stop, pass the paper to right, read the story and continue it. Do this until you get your story back (approx. 3 or 4 times).

12:00-12:50 Lunch/ Recess

12:50-2:30 Set up Mission Log - White folder - title it Student Log



Middle section -Cover page - (Mission Log, name, teacher & grade), Timeline pages, Blank paper

Students write in the dates on their timeline

Students write in the first timeline event and discuss it



Watch Galaxy film to introduce Galaxy unit

Students make model of galaxy by punching holes in black paper and back it with white paper (use pencil to punch holes)

Assessment will be finished timeline at end of unit


Read Aloud or Journal and Clean up Room

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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Blank Template


Objectives: To be able to

To be able to

To be able to


Homework: Reading. -

Lang. Arts -


Science -

Social Studies-


Words of the Day:

Daily Oral Language:

Daily Geography:

Daily Math:


(note: these times are in half hour blocks, but you may need to individualize your schedule – See the sample lesson plans for examples)















Closure Activity:


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Blank Template (Middle School)


Objectives: To be able to

To be able to




Word of the Day:



Daily Sponge Activity:








Assessment/ Evaluation:

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Lesson Planning

Page 117


Homework for tonight is...Groan, whine, whimper! These are often the responses from our class as we dole out their duties for the evening. Why do we put ourselves through the aggravation of assigning homework only to hear loud protests? Often we only receive a half-hearted effort, if it gets completed at all. Is homework really necessary?

Over the past century our society has gone from the belief that homework is essentially bad to the belief that homework is good and back again. In their book, who’s teaching your children,

Vivian Troen and Katherine Boles trace this transition from the 1900’s to recent times. It seems we have come full circle.

Although ten years ago the consensus was that homework was good, Troen & Boles point out that “parental backlash against the ever-growing burden of homework is clearly spreading nationwide.” Additionally, current research shows that while homework given in sixth grade and increased through high school is beneficial, it is a complete waste of time for students in Kindergarten through fifth grade. (p. 125-126)

“What is the goal of your homework assignments?”

From our experiences in the classroom, we have seen that homework in the elementary grades is not necessary to enhance student learning. During this crucial learning period it is vital to give students time to complete their work in class rather than at home. Why?

Teacher can supervise student work

Students get immediate feedback on their efforts

Teacher can correct misunderstandings and incorrect answers immediately

Students do not repeat wrong information over and over which must then be unlearned during class

Teacher can assess student learning/ acquisition of skills while monitoring students

Student practice of skills/knowledge during class time is a much more effective measure of assessment and/or extension of learning than sending it home where it may or may not be completed by the student.

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Lesson Planning

Assigning homework in moderation can be useful to instill values of self-discipline and responsibility in older students. Homework is effective in helping to build a work ethic in our students. However, it must be done in moderation!

Teachers should remember that when homework is assigned, one student could easily spend hours on the same assignment that takes another student just 15 minutes to complete.

Why do we need to assign 25 two-digit multiplication problems when 5 will show us whether or not students can apply the concept?

Keep in mind the following factors which influence a child’s ability to complete homework:

A chaotic home environment with many children - the student may have adult

responsibilities within the home.

Students who are without parental supervision for most of the time after school hours.

Students living in poverty who may not have a place to complete homework nor the

supplies needed.

Older students who might work after school.

Busy family and extra-curricular lives including sports, church, clubs, community

service activities, and family events.

Must Teach Organization Skills

If you must assign homework due to parental and/or school demands, it is vital that you teach students how to keep themselves organized. It is difficult to keep up with homework assignments for several classes along with the materials needed to complete those assignments.

“It is vital to teach students organization skills to keep track of assignments and due dates.”

Keep an “Unfinished” folder or “Homework”

pocket-folder where students can place work to be done on one side and work

completed on the other side. Label each side clearly.

Train students to keep materials, handouts, and work completed in a specific section

of their 3-ring binder for each subject area.

Train students to use an academic calendar to copy down homework for each class.

Check that this information has been copied down correctly and initial it each day.

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Write out Homework Procedures

Procedures are important to help students and parents know what you expect in regards to homework assignments. Type out your homework procedures and expectations to give to students and parents. One copy should go in the student’s binder and the other should be posted on the refrigerator at home. (An example can be found in the next chapter.)

What homework stays the same each night or each week?

Do you expect parents to sign the academic calendar once a week?

When and where do you expect assignments to be turned in?

What is your policy for absences and late-work? How long do

students have to turn in the assignment? How will their grade be



-Offer positive feedback for students who turn in their work on time.

-Allow students two days for every one day absent to make up their work. Remember, they are now having to complete double the assignments, so cut them a little slack.

-Take off points each day an assignment is late. I usually take off 5 points for each day. Be sure to clearly explain your policy for latework.

-Remind students of missing assignments each day. Many will forget that they owe you the work.

If you must assign nightly homework, make it something the students and parents can do together.

Family reading time where parents or older siblings read to younger children for 20 minutes or longer is a meaningful activity on many levels.

Older students can keep a reading log for accountability.

-Provide before or after-school time to make up missing work or to complete homework with you available for supervision and help.

-Set aside one place in the classroom where assignments are turned in to be graded. Keep this the same all year to cut down on confusion.

-Have parents sign the Homework Procedures/ Policy form to be placed in the students’ binders.

-Do not take away recess as punishment for no homework. This is counter-productive and will cause further stress in the classroom.

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Lesson Planning

Grading Homework

Remember that homework should only be used to instill the values of self-discipline and responsibility within our students. As we discussed earlier, it is not a valid assessment tool for student learning since there are so many unknown variables which can influence completion of the assignment. That being the case, homework assignments can be graded with a system of checks for the level of completion. This holds students accountable for the work, but no more.



(homework completed)


(homework partially completed)

These types of grades might count towards a participation grade, but individually should not account for much of the student’s overall average. In-class assignments and assessments should make up the majority of the student’s grade in order to accurately reflect learning.

“Be sure to check your district or school policy on grading homework before developing your own.”

Defense of No Homework

If you feel that you will have a difficult time defending the decision to not assign homework, whether to your administrator, district administrators, or parents, we suggest that you read the book, The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and

Limits Learning by E. Kralovec and J. Buell for supporting research. Additionally, there are several articles available on the internet which point out the deficiencies in assigning homework which may help you defend this position.


When thinking about homework, keep the following in mind:

Do more work during class time.

Do not assign homework to younger students.

When assigning homework to older students, lighten the load.

If homework is necessary, make the assignments meaningful.

Do not use homework to assess student learning.

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Teacher Observations

Every new teacher will have a formal evaluation sometime during the year. In some school districts and states, teachers are evaluated anywhere from one to four times. Although this is an intimidating procedure, teachers can really use this as an opportunity to show the exciting things they are doing in their classroom. This is also an excellent time to find out what YOU can do to become a better teacher.

When your first observation comes calling don’t panic. It is normal to feel nervous, but there are some simple ways to make sure that you have a successful observation.

“A wellprepared teacher uses detailed lesson plans to stay organized throughout the day.”


Make sure that your lesson plans are detailed so that you feel organized and in control.

Have ALL materials ready and easily accessible for your lesson.

Have a clean desk since most principals will sit there during the observation. (hint: they rarely look in your drawers so you may want to open them and shove everything in)

Warn the kids that the principal will be there to observe the class. Discuss how they should behave while visitors are in the room (since the principal technically is a visitor).

Go over class rules and your expectations for student behavior. Do not tell them that YOU are being

observed to encourage positive behavior on the part of the students.

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Lesson Planning

Make an extra copy of your lesson plans for the principal to take.

You may have a pre-conference to discuss any out of the ordinary situations that may occur in your classroom. This is a great time to give a copy of lesson plans and discuss how your classroom works. A forewarned principal is often more lenient.

Greet your students in a pleasant way.

“Good morning John, how are you feeling today? We missed you on Monday.”

If there is a problem student, the principal may like to see a behavior plan or other disciplinary forms.


Be prepared

Be early

Stay calm - you are not going to get fired today!

Pretend that this is someone just visiting your classroom

Have the principal come into your classroom casually several times before your formal observation. This will help you get used to having them there.

Effective Teaching Practices

There are some effective teaching practices that your principal will be looking for throughout their observation of your lesson. We must stress to you that these are strategies you should be implementing from day one in the classroom! Plan out your strategies and routines in detail so that they will become everyday occurances rather than a “show” put on for your formal observation.



As a student teacher I was anxious about the state teacher assessment tool, and wanted to be sure that I was adequately prepared for my first observation. I asked the assistant principal, whom I had worked with on several occassions, if she would mind observing me. She was happy to oblige and I learned a lot from that first observation. I was still nervous, but it helped that I knew it would not count against me.

Also, during my first year, I asked the assistant principal in my new school if she would visit my room frequently.

This helped me get used to having her in the classroom, and as a result I was less nervous.

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Have a sponge activity for students that leads into your lesson. Make this a fun/ exciting/ interesting activity

-fun facts

-choral read aloud

-fix a crazy paragraph

-math puzzle

State your objectives for the day and go over the agenda.

“Today we are going to…”

“You should be able to…”

Give positive, yet specific feedback.

“Thank you Julie. I really like the way you described the haunted house using excellent adjectives!”

Is your class organized?

Middle School Teachers:

Do your students know what to do and when to do it?

Have a quiet sponge activity that students are working on while you take care of roll, etc.

Be sure to walk around the room and monitor student behavior and participation.

State your objective/ agenda first, then do a fun introductory activity.

Before students work in cooperative groups, ask students what the rules are for group work.

Re-direct students when they are misbehaving. A simple tap on the desk or look will often take care of the problem.

Vary your activities through the lesson. Don’t lecture the whole time. Make sure students participate.

ex: - introduction

- take notes

- practice individually

- group activity

- closure/summary

“A wellprepared teacher develops good teaching habits from the first day of school.”

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Lesson Planning

More Teaching Strategies

Give plenty of wait time when asking questions.

-Count to at least 15 slowly when waiting for student response.

Be cheerful and vivacious when teaching - principals do not like boring blah teachers.

Make sure your information is accurate. Check your spelling and pronunciation of words.

Dress to impress!

Make sure students are on task the entire time.

Do not expect your students to respond positively to changes made in your teaching strategies and style for a single observation.

If you try to do something different from what you normally do in the classroom on a daily basis simply to impress your principal, you will most likely do more harm to your observation than good.

You should be consistent with your teaching style every single day. Do not put on a

“show” for your observation. These are effective teaching strategies you should be doing from the first day of school!

Don’t throw a curve ball at your students by implementing a new procedure they are not familiar with simply to impress your principal.

It will back-fire on you.

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Detailed lesson planning is one of the major keys to a successful classroom. Without it teachers are unprepared and unorganized which causes students to be unruly and disruptive.

Rather than broad topics in a small box, lesson planning encompasses so much more. It involves thinking through objectives carefully, developing engaging activities to motivate students and enhance the lesson, and creating meaningful assessments of knowlege learned.

To use an analogy, lesson planning is the jar that contains our methods for teaching students.

When used properly, everything flows out smoothly into each container. Without it, our ideas and strategies have no guidance and spill hapazardly around the room.

Additional Resources

Daily Planning for Today’s Classroom: A Guide to Writing Lesson and Activity Plans by Kay Price and Karna Nelson

The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits

Learning by E. Kralovec and J. Buell

Questions for Reflection

1) Why do you think it is important to write out detailed lesson plans for each day instead of simply writing “fractions” in the planning book?

2) Do you feel it is importnat to have a focus assignment for every single class? Why or Why


3) What is your opinion of giving students time in class to do assignments rather than as homework?

4) How can you prepare yourself and your class for a formal teacher observation?

Suggested Activites

1) Following the guidelines within this chapter, create your own lesson plan template on the computer to use for your classes. Organize a disk or CD with folders for each six weeks of this or an upcoming school year. Inside those create folders for each week (ie - August 5) to hold lesson plans. Create a separate folder to hold your template.

2) Brainstorm your homework procedures/policies and type out for students & parents. If you choose a “No Homework” policy, write a letter to parents (and administrator) explaining your reasoning. Pull in outside resources to further support this decision.

3) Brainstorm a list of possible warm-up activities (focus assignment for beginning of class) for each subject you teach. Type them and place them in a manila folder labeled “Warm-Ups” to use when needed.

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Notes/ Reflection on Chapter

Lesson Planning

The First Day

The first day of school is starting soon!

Where do

I begin?

The first day of school is the most important of the entire year.

You can make or break your classroom environment on this day.

The climate of the classroom should be one of mutual respect and understanding between the teacher and students. You want the students to go home with a feeling that the year will be fun as well as challenging, but also have a clear sense of your expectations.

This chapter will contain several tips for getting off to a good start as well as examples of how to run your first day.

What to expect

The first day of school will be hectic, even chaotic in a way, but your goal is to have “organized chaos” through planning. Be prepared for lots of things happening in your classroom all at once:

Parents asking you questions and visiting with other parents.

Parents and students who are lost and may be asking you for directions to another class.

Administrators and other school staff popping in to ask you questions, informing you of new procedures, or getting a head count.

New students arriving who are not on your class list.

Students seeing friends and buzzing with excitement.

This chapter should be used in combination with the Before

School Starts chapter and the Classroom Management chapter. It is vital to have classroom organization and structure set up before students ever arrive. You want to be prepared with classroom routines and procedures, so you can begin training students from the first day.

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The First Day

Prepare seating assignments and/or have grouping arrangements ready.

Being prepared with a way to seat students as they arrive shows planning and organization on your part. It sends a positive message to both parents and students that you know what you are doing and that you have certain expectations from the start.

Some teachers plan out where they want each student to sit and provide name tags on each desk. The draw-back to this method is that there will be students who do not show up, and others who arrive although not on your class list. What will you do if a student does not have a seat prepared for him/her? This could cause hurt feelings.

We prefer to sit students randomly during the first week or so of school. This will give you a good idea of who should and should not be sitting next to each other as you develop your class seating chart. Additionally, it is easier to have a general note of welcome ready at each spot which will be appropriate for all circumstances.

Some strategies are listed below.

Cut up and laminate several different colored squares.

Each color should represent either a table or a row of desks.

Have enough of each color squares for the seats at that table, or in that row. Tape one colored square to each table or on the first seat of each row. When students enter the classroom, greet them and have them pull a square from a bag or basket. They then locate a seat for that color. This is an organized way of seating students, yet it is random and does allow for some choice. It is also less time consuming as students enter the room.

“A wellprepared teacher knows how they plan to seat students on the first day of school.”

If you are working with tables or groups of four, another fun way to seat students randomly is to use the four suites of playing cards, or numbers. This works the same as the colored squares.

“Welcome students to your class with a note at each seat along with a peppermint or pencil.”

Expect for extra students to show up that are not on your class roll. Be ready for this scenario when you are planning your seating arrangements. Have extras for everything you do on the first day. Also, you may have students who do not show up that day, and may or may not show up later.

Just be prepared for this.

Primary Idea - Use the same idea as above, but cut out shapes for each table or use the die-cut machine to punch out animals, stars, etc.. Laminate the shapes/ die cuts so that they can be used all year long.

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Have a short, fun, and easy assignment ready for students as soon as they walk in the classroom.


Name plates - Give students short pieces of white paper and instruct them to create a name plate. It must be colorful, creative, and fill the entire page. The students may use a theme such as favorite things or family. Have the instructions written on the board or overhead. (Have crayons & paper ready on the table/ desk.) This is a great, colorful way of decorating the classroom.

Hang them up as students finish or laminate them to hang up the next day.


Journal topic - Write a fun and interesting journal topic on the board or overhead and have students write and illustrate.


Student fun facts sheet


Crossword or Word search puzzle about you and the school


A welcome packet which could include a student information sheet, a puzzle, a fun story to read, and a page to color

You want to have students busy and engaged while you chat with parents and take care of housekeeping duties. Otherwise you will get off to a bad start.

Be prepared for primary students who may cry or act very shy on the first day as Mommy tries to leave them in the classroom.


Coloring pages work well for younger students as do wooden puzzles and books. Primary teachers may want to have several activities ready to be used on each table.

Have all lesson plans and materials ready for the day. Don’t forget to use your

Day of the Week Folders!

Know where you want students to put their supplies.

Do you want each item stacked separately?

Do you want certain items and have the kids keep others?

You can also ask students to hold on to their supplies until later in the day/class. Just make sure to decide this in advance so that you are consistent.

You should have received a supply list for your grade/ team before school started. If you don’t have one, go ask for it before the first day.

Some common items found on school supply lists:

Packs of paper

3-ring binder

Pocket folders

Spiral notebook


Box of tissues

Construction paper

Colored pencils





Graph paper

Manila folders

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The First Day

Planning for the First Day - What do I do?


Be sure to alternate your class time between formal procedures, expectations, and fun team building or ice breaker type of activities.


When presenting your teacher introduction, be energetic, but not too informal or familiar with students. Show them your firm side, so they do not get the impression that you are ALL about fun and games.


While you want your students to like you, you do not want to be their best buddy!

Teacher Testimony

“My first year of teaching

I didn’t realize how much my tone of voice influenced the way students responded to me. Although I had gone over the class rules with them several times throughout the year and trained them in my procedures, I was still having trouble with certain students ignoring my directions or acting familiar with me. Then I heard myself on a recording, and realized that when I speak I have a very soft and timid sounding voice. No wonder they weren’t taking me seriously. That summer I practiced using a more forceful voice. I used the tape recorder to help me analyze my voice, and could really tell a difference by the end of the summer. The next year I felt that my students showed me more respect because my tone of voice demanded it.”





This is a good time to discuss your personal standards. “I believe in doing your personal best.” “Character counts!”

“Honesty and integrity are traits that I value highly.”

Decide for yourself how much information you want to reveal to the students before the first day. The students may ask you questions that you are not prepared to answer. Practice how you will respond to inappropriate questioning.

Do not tell the students that this is your first year teaching. The students will immediately feel an upper hand! Tell them that you have taught __ grade in the past and that you look forward to this year as being one of the best.

Have a poster or overhead that lists the daily schedule and explain it.

Students like to know what to expect in the flow of the day.

This will deter them from asking you the whole morning long,

“When is lunch?” or “What’s next?” Additionally, if you get questions such as these, it takes less class time to say, “Look at the schedule.”

Middle School teachers can help prevent this question by writing the class agenda on the board for students to follow.

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When presenting rules and consequences speak clearly and firmly.

Your tone of voice and attitude are crucial at this point.

Pause after every expectation/rule, and look each student directly in the eye. Do not go on to the next expectation until you have looked at each and every student. This sends the message that these expecations are not to be taken lightly.

You need to set distinct expectations and leave no questions about discipline unanswered.

Make sure your rules and consequences posters are displayed where all students can see them. Also, make sure the writing is large enough to read from anywhere in the classroom. Most districts have a media center where you can take your typed up rules and consequences to be enlarged to poster size and laminated.

It is important to have the students complete an activity where they will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of each rule and consequence.

For example:

Have the students work in groups to create a visual poster or a skit showing a specific rule and/or consequence, and have them present this to the class. All groups should present!

Pausing after an important statement sends a powerful message to students that they had better pay attention to what you are saying.

Direct eye contact completes that feeling of seriousness. You’ll find that if you pause long enough, everyone will lift his or her head to look at you. In a world where we are bombarded by noise, silence gathers attention.

We discussed setting expectations for students in detail within the Student Discipline section of the Classroom Management chapter. Take some time to review that information and apply it to your first day of school lessons.


Take time to train students in expectations and procedures.

Expectations are not just class rules, but also life-skills to be

exhibited in the classroom

Demonstrate the “why” behind different expectations for visual


Introduce the concept of “My time” vs. “Your time”

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The First Day

Throughout the day you want to have several fun team building and ice-breaker activities. These should be structured and organized activities, not a free for all. Make sure to have clear instructions for each activity.

Students feel appreciative when you display their work.

Have them do activities on the first day that you can hang up in the classroom or hallway right away. This is a great way to show the students that you value them and their work.

Prior to the students leaving your classroom for any reason, you need to explain hallway rules and procedures.

Prior to lunch and/ or recess, be sure to go over any cafeteria and playground rules. This will save you if a student misbehaves on the first day. You can tell your principal that you already explained the rules!

Displaying student work on the very first day really goes a long way to showing students that they are valued. While this may not seem like much to you, our students want to know that we value the work they do in the classroom.

Younger students especially like to see their work posted on the walls for everyone to see.

Have the students fill out a student information sheet with all necessary information. A sample is included in the back of this chapter.

Go over your procedures and expectations with the students. It is helpful to provide them with a copy to take home! This will include homework expectations, daily assignments, quizzes and testing information.

On the following page is an example of a list of procedures for an intermediate classroom. Notice how EVERYTHING is listed so that students and parents know exactly what is expected each day. Parents can put a copy on the refrigerator.

Primary teachers may want to use a calendar format rather than listing out procedures and regular assignments. A list can be overwhelming and shouldn’t be used with younger students.

“It is a good idea to have your homework procedures and policy typed up and ready to send home with students.”

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Homework: Read for 20 minutes and write a response in log

Vocabulary sentences – Due Thursday

Other homework written in calendar


Tuesday envelopes go home with information from the school and grade level. Look for parent newsletter from grade level and progress report every three weeks.

Homework: Testing skills practice

Read for 20 minutes and write a response in log

Vocabulary sentences

Other homework written in calendar


Tuesday envelopes returned with parent signature

Testing skills practice due from previous week

Homework: Read for 20 minutes and write a response in log

Vocabulary sentences

Other homework written in calendar


Vocabulary homework due

Homework: Read for 20 minutes and write a response in log

Study for vocabulary test

Other homework written in calendar

Parents check over and sign student binder


Spelling and vocabulary test

Teacher checks binder – parent signature and reading response log

Depending on how you plan to implement homework, your policy and procedures page may not be as lengthy as this sample.

A plan such as this one does help everybody remember what is expected each day.

*This is for a 5th/6th grade class. Modify as needed. Younger students may not have homework as part of these procedures.

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The First Day

Checklist for the First Day

Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to start your first day!

I know how I am going to seat my students when they first walk in the door.

I know how I am going to greet students and parents when they arrive to the classroom.

I have a short note welcoming my students along with a pencil, peppermint, or other small token on each desk. (Remember, you don’t have to write names on these notes)

My board is set up with the date, my name, an agenda for the class/ day, and opening assignment instructions.

My lesson plans are written out in detail and are where I can get to them easily.

My class list(s) are with my lesson plans.

My attendance sheet(s) are with my lesson plans.

I know what students are going to do with their supplies when they bring them to me.

I need the following materials for today:

The materials are out and ready for students to use.

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Sample Lesson Plan for the First Day

Intermediate Elementary

Objectives: To become familiar with rules, schedule, and procedures

To be able to work with others in a team situation


cut white paper, crayons, student information sheets, schedule, class procedures, rules, Themes and units, regular sized white paper & construction paper, progress report, welcome letter, “If You Were” handout


8:00-9:35 Students come in and work on nameplates – create a nameplate on a small piece of white paper. Be creative using crayons and lots of colors. You can use a theme such as favorite things to decorate it, or just make it colorful. Make sure that your first name is very clear – no white spaces. Name should be large.

While students are doing activity you need to: roll call, take up supplies & check off on student list

Teacher introductions

Introduce and practice the quiet signal

Name game – students get in a circle. 1st person says name, 2nd repeats name & says own name. Go around the circle. Teacher should be last and should say everyone’s name.

9:35-9:45 Quickly go over line/ hallway rules with students

Bathroom Break/ Go to Specials

9:45-10:30 Specials – Art, Music, PE rotation

10:35-10:50 Simon Says – after playing, discuss objectives of the game – listening skills and following directions

10:50-12:00 Review school rules, discipline policy, reward system, and consequences

Student groups create a written and oral presentation of one assigned rule telling what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Presentation can be a simple discussion or a skit.

12:00-1:05 Bathroom Break/ Lunch/ Recess

1:05-2:30 Student presentation of rules

Introduce the year-long theme and six weeks units/ Lifeskills

Object activity – write down the first object that comes to your mind when you think of yourself – draw that object. What does it reveal about you?

2:30-2:55 Clean up

End of the day journal – First day jitters/ Go home

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The First Day

Middle School - Sample Lesson Plan

Objectives: To be able to know everybody’s name

To be able to understand the classroom policies and procedures

To be able to share orally


white paper, index cards, classroom policies and procedures


5 min.

Journal entry – Do you really know who your teacher is? What if he/ she is an alien? Write about his/her true identity.

While students are working you should – call roll, and do other opening day procedures

5 min.

10 min.

10 min.

10 min.

5 min.

Teacher introductions

Name game – students get in a circle. 1st person says name, 2nd repeats name

& says own name. Go around the circle. Teacher should be last and should say everyone’s name.

Student information cards name, address, phone number, parent’s names, birth date, class schedule

Classroom policies and procedures


Middle School teachers should spend the first few days getting to know students, and training in classroom procedures.

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Get-to-Know Activities

Here are some activities you can do during the first few days/ weeks of school:

Name Game

Students get in a circle. 1st person says name, 2nd repeats name & says own name. Go around the circle. Teacher should be last and should say everyone’s name.

Picnic Basket

Tell students that you are going on a picnic. Say your name aloud and one or two items that you are taking with you on the picnic.

For example, “My name is Julie Rogers and I am taking Jam.”

Then ask students, “Who wants to go on the picnic with me?”

Students raise their hands and tell their name along with an item.

The item MUST start with the same letter as their name, but do not tell your students this. They should discover it for themselves. Tell them they cannot go on the picnic if they bring the “wrong” item, but they can try again.

Scavenger Hunt for Signatures

Students use the sheet found in the back of this chapter and walk around the room trying to find other students to fit each description.

When they have found someone, they need to get that person’s signature in the box.

“Remembering student names on the second day of school goes a long way towards building a positive relationship with students.”

One way we show students that we value them is by remembering their name. The Name

Game is an excellent way to help you remember student names from the first day of school. As the students go around repeating the names, you do the same. Silently mouth along with each student during their turn. As you silently say each name, look clearly at the student for name/face recognition. By the time it is your turn, you will have said everyone’s name several times in your head and should have no difficulty in remembering on the following day.

This method has actually been published in

Reader’s Digest as a way to help people better remember names.

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The First Day

More Get-to-Know Activities

Star Activity

Students use the star found in the back of this chapter and fill in each point with their own answer. Then, they walk around the room to find another student with the same answers. If they find someone, that person needs to sign the back of that particular point.

Back to School Bingo

Similar to Scavenger Hunt. See the sheet in the back of this chapter.

M & M Game

Pass around a large jar/ can filled with

M&M’s. Instruct students to take some as it comes around. Then, after everyone has taken some M&M’s, they must tell one fact about themselves for each M&M they have

BEFORE they eat any!

“The first few weeks of school you will need to spend time developing a cohesive class, where students know and respect each other.”

Partner Interviews

Students pair up, or are paired up with someone they do not know. With the class as a whole, brainstorm five or six questions to ask. Students then interview each other using index cards.

When everyone is finished, each person must stand up and introduce their partner to the rest of the class and share the interesting new facts they learned about their partner. This activity is one used often in a middle school setting.

Groups Activity

Students brainstorm 2 to 3 minutes and list all of the different “groups” they belong to. These groups include any and every way students might categorize themselves. For example, they might be a daughter, son, Texan, shopper, friend, pianist, student, babysitter, little sister, big brother, etc.

Give examples of groups you belong to in order to help students begin their brainstorming.

Once everyone has created their list, go around the room and allow each student to introduce him or herself and share the groups on their list. Ask students to listen for items that are similar on everyone’s list.

This is an excellent activity to jumpstart a discussion about tolerance of others, accepting differences, and focusing on our similarities (ex: we are all students) as ties to friendship. It is also a great way to help us identify strengths and talents within our class.

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Rainy Day Games


Twenty Questions

In this game the teacher (or one student) thinks of an animal and the other students must ask “yes” or “no” questions until they guess the animal. The students raise their hands an take turns guessing.

If the students do not guess the animal after asking 20 questions, then the teachers wins! Examples of questions: Does this animal live on the African Continent? Does the animal have hoofs?


Eye Spy

The teacher (or one student) locates something in the room, but does not let the other students see what he/she is looking at. Then the teacher says, “I spy something that is

_______.” You can give a color or other description. Then the students raise their hands and take turns guessing what the object is!


Four Corners

The teacher selects two students to be in the middle of the classroom. One will be the caller and one will be the counter. The caller closes his/her eyes and the other students all separate into the four corners of the classroom. The counter watches and counts to give the students time to get to the corner of their choice. If any students are not to a corner by the slow count of

10, then those students are “out” and must return to their seat. Then, the caller will yell out a corner of the room, such as “corner number 3!” All of the students in corner number 3 would then be “out” and have to return to their seats. The counter again counts to ten, and the remaining students all go to the corner of their choice. Once all but four of the students have been called out, for each additional turn, each student must go to a different corner. This continues until only two students are left. These students become the caller and counter.


Assumption Game

Students work together as a class to try to figure out “what happened” or “why” by asking yes or no questions.

For example,

“A man on his way home saw the masked man coming towards him so he turned and ran.


Students might ask, “Was the first man scared of the other man?” You have to answer yes or no. “No” answers are just as helpful as “Yes” answers. For example, if the answer is, “No, the man is NOT scared” then students do not need to ask if he is a burglar, etc. There is no limit to questions unless you want to set one.

(The answer to the example is that it is a baseball game. The man is running to home plate and the catcher is coming towards him with the ball.)

You can make them up yourself, or have students create them and share.

** This is a great activity to develop critical thinking skills. You can get these kinds of scenarios in books with logic games.

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The First Day


Seven up

The teacher selects seven students to go to the front of the room. All of the other students remain sitting in their seats, put their heads down on their desks, close their eyes, and put their thumbs sticking up. The seven selected students then go around and put seven thumbs down. After all of the seven thumbs have been put down and the seven students return to the front of the room, one of the seven students (or the teacher) yells, “Heads up – Seven up!”

The seven students whose thumbs were tagged all stand up. These students then take turns trying to guess which of the seven students at the front of the room put their thumb down. If they guess correctly, they go to the front of the room and replace the person who had picked them. If they guess wrong, they sit down.



This is a great counting game that is easy to play. You need to divide the kids into groups of four. Each group should have three dice. Players in each group pair up (sitting opposite of each other). Each pair needs to count the number of “sixes” they roll together. To start the game, choose a HEAD table of students. This group rings a bell to signal the start of the game. All tables play at the same time. Each student around the table rolls the dice. If they roll a “six”, that pair marks it on an index card. Players keep rolling until one pair at the HEAD table reaches 24 “sixes.” They must roll EXACTLY 24 or else start over .Then they ring the bell for everyone to stop. At each of the other tables, each pair who rolled the most “sixes” wins. The winners stay at their table and one moves to the seat to the right. The others move to another table. Now each student should have a new partner whether they moved or not. Students who won a game punch a whole in their index card.

Then, the game begins again when the bell rings.

(You need to set a time limit on playing) Prizes can be awarded to students who have won the most games

“Help students get to know their group members by doing

and the least games. A BUNKO is when a student rolls three “sixes” and should be marked on the index card.

The student with the most BUNKO’s gets a prize.

different Team Building


Team Building Activities


If You Were

In this activity the students all answer the questions and then share them with the class. This is a great way to get to know each students’ personality!

Sample questions:

If you were a car, what kind of car would you be?

What kind of animal are you like when you are angry?

If you were a bug, what kind of bug would you be?

Name something that always makes you smile.

If you could be like any other person, who would it be?

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Chicken Hawk Game

(from ROPES)

1. One person is the chicken hawk. Everyone else is a chicken.

2. The chicken hawk tries to tag chickens. Everyone must stay in the boundaries.

3. When a chicken is tagged, he/ she must stand on one leg and flap wings and say, “Help me! Help me!”

4. A chicken may be untagged when two or more chickens hold hands in a circle around him/ her and sing “Happy Birthday”

5. The chicken hawk may NOT tag any chickens who are in a circle, holding hands singing

“Happy Birthday”

6. If all the chickens are tagged, the chicken hawk wins.

7. If the chicken hawk CAN’T tag ANY chickens, the chickens win.


Answer: If all the chickens get in a huge circle holding hands and sing “Happy Birthday”

It is important that the kids work together to try to solve this together. Do Not give them the answer, but let them figure it out on their own. It will take a while before they get it and you may have to stop the game periodically to repeat the instructions. If it goes on too long, you may want to start giving hints. This game has instructional value because the kids learn that they have to listen to each other and work together to solve the problem.

Paper Plate Game

(From ROPES)

1. Place the nine paper plates in a row

2. Each team of four students stands on the four plates located at each end of the line.

One empty plate should be in-between the two teams.

3. One team is from Jupiter and the other is from

Mars (or you could make it two cities, two cultures, or two indian tribes). Tell the teams that

there is a bridge between the two planets and they have to cross the bridge to get to the other side. If they fall off the bridge, then they are sucked into the voidless vacuum of space.

4. The goal of each team is to change places with the other team. They may NOT step off the plates.


1. Stay on the plate. If your foot touches the floor, everyone starts over.

2. You may jump around one person at a time. You may only jump around people on the other team (NOT


3. You must go from your space to an empty plate. You may step forward onto an empty plate.

4. When your team gets stuck (no one can move), you have to start over.

5. First team to finish wins and must show the other groups.

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The First Day

Answer to Paper Plate Game


Label each team A1-4 and B1-4.

A1 steps forward

B1 jumps A1

B2 steps forward

A1 jumps B2

A2 jumps B1

A3 steps forward

B1 jumps A3

B2 jumps A2

B3 jumps A1

B4 steps forward

A1 jumps B4

A2 jumps B3

A3 jumps B2

A4 jumps B1

B1 steps forward

B2,3, and 4 all jump one space

A1,2,3 & 4 move into final place

Draw an Alien Activity

Break students into groups of four.

Have each student select a different colored marker or overhead pen.

Give each team one transparency or large sheet of white paper.

Students are to draw a team alien without talking.

Each student must use only the marker they have chosen and may not switch colors. Set a time limit for this activity. Two to five minutes is a good limit. Directions for students are in the back of this chapter.

This activity is designed to show students the importance of EVERYONE working together and communicating with each other. You will notice that some colors are used more than others. Lead students to the idea of team roles. There are leaders and followers in every team.

Who are your leaders? Which colors were not used at all or were used very little? These are students who need to be encouraged by the group to participate.

Design Team Activity

Break students into groups of four. Choose what you want students to design according to your unit or theme. Our theme was space, so we had students design their ideal spaceship or space station. It is nice to offer students a choice of two or three designs. Another idea might be to design the perfect classroom, cafeteria, gym or playground. Students need to work together as a team on this project. Make sure you give them lots of time to brainstorm, sketch and do a final copy.

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Page 143

People Scavenger Hunt

Find someone in the classroom for each phrase below and have them sign on the line.

You may use each person’s name only twice.

New to this school this year

Has on something red

Has an older brother

Has a younger sister

Was born in September

Read a book this summer

Has a dog for a pet

Went swimming this summer

Has blue eyes

Can play a musical instrument

Walks to school

Went on a vacation trip this summer

Has visited a foreign country

Has visited at least five different states

Has exactly seventeen letters in entire name

Is the youngest in their family

Knows how many centimeters are in a meter

Has brown hair

Is an only child

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The First Day

Page 144

Desert Survival

You are on an airplane that is forced down in the Sahara Desert in

North Africa. The plane is off course. It was traveling at 200 miles per hour and lost radio contact 5 hours ago. All passengers are okay.

There is no guarantee of a rescue, nor of continued survival. It is a 3 day journey north, to a city.

As a group, you must choose the items to take with you. Only 7 of the

20 items can be chosen to help your group survive the desert trek.

Your group must be ready to tell why the seven items were chosen.

Desert Survival Box

a hand mirror a parachute a pencil

1 book of matches

2 cans of coke scissors an electric fan

1 tube of toothpaste a 10 dollar bill

1 school math book a long sleeve jacket an umbrella a safety pin

T.V. guide nail clippers a compass a portable radio

1 jar of spinach a hunting bow and 1 arrow

1 box of saltine crackers

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Page 145

All About

My Favorites


Kind of Book:

T.V. show:



My Interests


Places I’ve traveled:

Future occupation:

My Wishes

Where I’d like to travel:

My one wish for me:

My one wish for the world:

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The First Day


Dear Parents:

Hello! I am so excited to have your child in my class this year! I feel confident that we will have a terrific year full of learning and fun! I look forward to talking with you throughout this year.

Communication is very important to me, so please feel free to ask any questions and express any concerns or ideas you may have regarding your child. Your child’s education and well being is my #1 priority this year. I want to work together with parents and students to make this year a success for all of us!


Name of child

Name of parent/ parents

Daytime phone

Evening phone

Explain any special interests, sports activities, and hobbies your child has:

List any allergies your child has toward foods, or other products:

List any medications your child is currently taking:

Are there any special notes or comments you would like to make?

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Student Information Sheet

Page 147



Mother’s Name:

Father’s Name:

Guardian’s Name:

Brothers or Sisters:


Work phone

Work phone

Work phone




Your Birthdate:

Age, as of today:

What is your favorite...



T.V. show:

In my spare time I like to:




I collect:

I enjoy playing:

I like to read:

Do you have any special talents and interests? If so, what are they?

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The First Day

Back to School BINGO

Try to find classmates to initial each square. Try to get five in a row (across, down, or diagonal). If you want a REAL CHALLENGE, try filling the whole box!

Read more than five books this summer.

Moved into a new house this summer.

Flew on an airplane this summer.

Has traveled to a foreign country.

Has visited five or more states.

Likes to play soccer.

Has a younger sister.

Has visited



Has a dog as a pet.

Plays more than one sport.

Is wearing a watch.

Has exactly 15 letters in their full name.


Has a four digit house number.

Has blue eyes.

Has a bike.

Earned perfect attendance last year.

Will celebrate their birthday this month.

Has relatives in other states.

Can play a musical instrument.

All of their grandparents are still alive.

Has relatives in other countries.

Has an unusual pet.


Honor Roll last year.

Was born in June.

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Back to School BINGO

Try to find classmates to initial each square. Try to get five in a row (across, down, or diagonal). If you want a REAL CHALLENGE, try filling the whole box!

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The First Day

Instructions for Draw an Alien Activity

In your teams, have each person select a marker. Using only your own color and with no oral communication, create a team picture of an alien creature on your blank paper.

Once your illustration is complete, discuss your handiwork and name your creature.

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Star Activity

Page 151

Favorite Song

Favorite Movie

Favorite Type of



Favorite Famous

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The First Day


Although the first day of school is often hectic, it is vital that you set the proper tone. If students see you flustered and unorganized, they will store that picture of you in their heads for the rest of the year. Following expectations and staying organized will not be a priority to your students because of it. However, if students see before them an organized teacher who knows exactly what will happen first, second, and third, they will be more likely to develop into a well-disciplined class.

Remember that your tone of voice and posture affect how students view you as a teacher.

Be firm when going over expectations, but also let students see your unique personality. Take the time to get to know your students and to train them in what you expect to happen within the classroom. In essence, the first day is a time for you to “set the stage” for the rest of the school year.

Questions for Reflection

1) Why is the first day of school so important?

2) How do you think having a poster clearly visible with the daily schedule listed will help you? Why should you go over this schedule at the start of class?

3) Why do you think it is important to alternate between giving information about class rules and procedures, and fun get-to-know or team building activities?

Suggested Activites

1) Decide how you will sit students randomly. Create the squares, shapes, cards, or other objects you plan to use. Laminate these and place them in a ziplock bag for use on the first day of school. (Pre-service teachers may want to keep these in their 3-ring binder along with other classroom materials)

2) Brainstorm three different activities that you might ask students to complete as soon as they walk into the classroom on the first day of school. Be sure that each activity is age-appropriate and can be completed individually by each student with little to no help from the teacher.

3) Write out detailed lesson plans for the first two days of school. Be sure to include the objectives, materials, and procedures. Under procedures, list each item along with the directions or your comments/reminders in an outline format. When you get your daily/class schedule, you will be able to plug those items into different time slots. See our sample plans in this chapter and the Lesson Planning chapter.

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Parent Communication

I know I need to talk to parents, but I don’t know how!

The concept of parents as partners is not a new one, and we don’t believe it is one that teachers disagree with in general. Rather, it is difficult to know when and how a positive partnership can begin with parents. Many teachers, especially new teachers, may feel insecure or awkward when communicating with parents and thus try to get away with as little interaction as possible. This attitude of minimal contact is one that will ultimately hurt the student.

As educators, we have a responsibility to involve parents because of their fundamental rights. However, it is also to our great advantage as well as the student’s to involve parents. Recent research documented by Fuller and Olsen in their book, Home-School

Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families, shows that family involvement has a profound effect on student success in both academic achievement and behavior. Students who have highly involved parents are more likely to be well-adjusted and successful than those whose parents are not involved in their school life.

What do I do?

Key to Success: Act Early and Often!

School + Parents = Success

What happens when parents get involved in their child’s education? Grades go up and behavior improves, too! Parent involvement does make a difference.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

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Parent Communication

Starting Off On the Right Foot

Before school even begins, start communication with your students and their families by sending introductory postcards or notes. The students enjoy getting these postcards, and start the year off with a positive attitude toward their teacher! The parents think that you are really special and organized, just because you did that simple task!

For an example of a welcome note, see the Before School Starts chapter.

Call the parents within the first two weeks of school. Call early, before you have to call with bad news on some students! Always have positive and encouraging things to say about their child! Tell the parents you are excited to have their child in your class and that you look forward to a great year. Ask them if they have any questions or comments. (They are usually so excited and shocked that you called that they rarely have any serious or indepth questions.) Tell them that you want to have open communication lines with them and you hope you can depend on their support! This gets the year off to a wonderful beginning, and you’ll have future successful phone calls (even if there is a problem to report)!

Hello, Mr./Mrs. ________________

I am so excited to have ________________ in my class this year. He/she seems to really ____________________ (positive comment). We are going to be doing some interesting learning activities this year that I think _____________ will enjoy.

If the child is already exhibiting negative behavior, this is the prime place to mention it.

(See the list of ways to discuss behavior problems, so that parents are not defensive or offended, later in the chapter.)

[ I did want you to know that I have noticed _______’s tendency to

______________. Have you had experience with this in previous years or have anything to add about this type of behavior from your child? I know that together we will be able to solve this problem and make this a successful year for

___________. ]

I wanted to let you know that I am hoping for open lines of communication between us, so if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call me right away. My planning/ team time is from ________ to ___________ every day.

Before we hang up, do you have any questions or comments about your child for me right now? It was great talking with you and I look forward to working with you and __________ throughout this year.


Ask your mentor if you can listen in on some of his/her parent phone calls to hear first hand how they handle different types of situations.

You might also ask them to listen to your conversations in order to offer constructive feedback on ways you can improve.

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Teacher Testimony

Keeping Parents Up-to-Speed

In order to help their child, parents need to have the whole picture of what is going on in school. Their only reliable link to this information is you, the teacher. How can you relate to parents what is going on with their child in the classroom? Here are a few you can try:

Warm Fuzzies

Academic Calendars

Progress Reports


Warm Fuzzies

Send short notes of praise or

“job well done” home with the student. This only takes a few seconds on the part of the teacher, but can make a world of difference for the student and parent. Students feel appreciated and rewarded. Parents feel proud, happy, and thankful that the teacher is dedicated and paying attention to their child.

Even older students benefit from this type of attention. Many businesses have started using this type of praise and motivation with their employees to raise morale and satisfaction with their job. It is well-known that people like to be appreciated.

Our students are no different.

Progress Reports

I started sending home bi-weekly progress reports throughout the year to try and keep parents better informed about their child’s grades, behavior, and work habits. The regular progress report sent home once before report cards just wasn’t cutting it for me. To make my life a little easier, I used a form that was more of a checklist and made a master copy with each child’s name on one.

Then, I copied two per child for each six weeks and kept these in labeled manila folders with the date to be sent home. The night before,

I just checked off the appropriate boxes

(good, fair, needs improvement), filled in grades for failing students, and they were ready to go. I made copies to keep in each student’s folder for my own records. These really came in handy during conference time.

Another great way of informing parents about a student’s progress prior to report cards is the progress report. Most schools require you


If you are concerned that certain parents may not be receiving the progress report from their child, mail it home with return receipt. The parent must sign for the letter and you will get a receipt in return showing their signature. Keep this in your files for future reference.

to send one of these home at the mid-term period for students who are failing. Other schools require progress reports to be sent home for everyone regardless of their grades. Some schools don’t require them at all! Whatever the school requirements, we suggest that you send home a report at least once before the report card. The more reports you can send home, the better, especially for students who are in danger of failing.

We know that this may seem like a tremendous amount of work to keep up with, especially to new teachers who are already overwhelmed. However, we also know from personal experience that sending out progress reports will save you the grief and hassle of dealing with angry parents.

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Parent Communication

Academic Calendars

An academic/homework calendar can work as a wonderful two-way communication between you and the parents. Having the students fill out their own calendar each day is also an excellent way for them to be held accountable for their class and homework assignments.

This calendar should be kept in the front of each student’s binder.

Plan class time each morning or afternoon to write in homework assignments, upcoming events, etc. into the calendar.

Be consistent in your use of the calendar. This will be helpful during parent conferences.

For example, a parent may be upset because he/she “wasn’t aware” of the assignments due,

simply say, “Did you check the academic calendar? All of our assignments are written there and initialed by me each day for accuracy.”

This is a life-skill you are teaching. Be systematic about it.

Leave 5 minutes at the start of class or before the end of class for students to copy assignments.

Require parents to read and sign the calendar at least once a week. Check that they have signed it.

Encourage parents to make their own comments in the calendar as a way to communicate with you.

Check calendars each morning. Be sure you read the comments so that you can respond appropriately and in a timely manner.

Assist special needs students with filling in the calendar. You might assign a “buddy” to help them copy the information as needed.

Remind parents that the academic calendar is a tool to help them monitor their child’s homework and other assignments such as projects and tests. There is no excuse for either parents or students to say they were not aware of an assignment/test when the calendar is used properly.

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In our classrooms, we send home a weekly newsletter. If this is your very first year of teaching maybe a bi-monthly or monthly newsletter would be more manageable for you. A newsletter is an excellent way of keeping your parents informed of:

Classroom activities

Units/themes of study

Upcoming events and field trips

Important due dates for projects and tests

Keep them up-to-speed on the latest learning strategies

Give parents tips on creating a good learning/study environment at home

Tips for Helping Parents Create Good Study Habits at Home

A few of our families come from backgrounds where they did not grow up with a good study skills, and don’t know how to help their children establish them. As educators, we can do a lot to help parents help their children. By giving tips, advice, and strategies in quick increments that are not too overhwelming for parents to absorb and enact into their daily lives, we are educating parents and making our jobs as teachers easier.

Here are some tips you can include in your newsletters to

“train” parents on how to create good and effective study habits

for their children. Be sure to only put one or two tips per newsletter in order to keep parents from being overwhelmed. Feel free to rephrase these in your own style.

Stress to your children that you are a team player in their school life.

Your role is to help them be better students. It is important for your children that you create an environment where your child can study and do homework with few interruptions and distractions.

Schedule a time to complete homework when it is appropriate for both your child and the rest of the family. Routine is important for children, as they feel more balanced and comfortable when there is a routine for the day. Don’t expect children to sit and work quietly on homework during a chaotic time in the house.

Create a newsletter template on the computer that you can use over and over. Simply cut out the parts that no longer apply and insert the new events and information.

Use the information you receive at staff developments to keep parents up-todate on the latest teaching and learning strategies.

Explain in plain language to help parents better understand why you are using these

“new-fangled” ways of teaching.

Send a copy to your principal, assistant principal, counselor, and department/ grade-level chair so that everyone is on the same page.

Plan a “calm,” “settle down,” or “quiet time” for the family every day. Parents can be reading, folding laundry, working on the computer, etc., but the TV and phone should be off limits during this time. This will send your children the message that we all need time in a quiet environment.

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Parent Communication

More Tips for Parents to Include in your Newsletter

Help your child set up an area where he/she can study. This does not necessarily have to be their bedroom. Some children do better when Mom or Dad are nearby and would w o r k well at the kitchen table. If younger siblings offer too much distraction, send them to their room or another room for “quiet time”. Another option would be to allow your child access to your room as a quiet place to study, if appropriate. Decide upon one location and consistently use it as a place to work and study.

Don’t complain about your child’s homework in front of the children. If you have a comment or concern about homework or academic requirements, please call your child’s teacher later.

You have a huge impact on how your children view school and their teacher; don’t let it be a negative one. You may be undermining the ability of the teacher to do his/her job.

Parents need to keep in mind the goal of homework. It is an opportunity for older students to have additional practice in skills learned throughout the day as well as a discipline building activity. Homework gives your children the opportunity to work independently, develop responsibility and self-discipline.

Don’t do the homework for your children. Some parents may get carried away and want to do the project so that it is “done right.” Doing your child’s work for him/her may hamper their comprehension of the material and interfere in the teacher’s reasoning behind the assignment. Offer your help as a guide and advisor. Ask questions that will help the student come to their own conclusions about the assignment. If your child is having extreme difficulties, call the teacher and ask for extra tutoring before or after school.

Make sure that your children are eating well. Just like our cars cannot run without fuel, the human brain cannot run without food. Even just one missed meal can affect a child’s behavior and learning. Please make sure that your children come to school well-fed and fueled up for the day.

Other Study Tips:

Parents should check each evening that the homework listed in the calendar has been completed.

Help student put completed work into appropriate section of binder or

“finished” side of folder.

Check off each assignment in the calendar as it is completed.

Have snacks readily available to help keep the brain going during work time.

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September 1, 20__


In math this week we are practicing word problems using division and we will also be learning the steps in long division by two digits. In Social Studies/Science we are studying the layers of the earth as well as history of the earth as a planet. Students will be illustrating a timeline of earth’s history and will choose one event to write a story about. In Language Arts we are exploring figurative language through poetry. Near the end of the week the students will be creating their own poetry anthology of their favorite poems.


John B. Student - September 3, 20__

Julie R. Student September 4, 20__


Thank you to all the parents who volunteered to go on our field trip to the planetarium. We appreciate your support.


September 22, 20__

September 29, 20__

Poetry Theater presentations

Long Division Math Test


On October 6, 20__ we will be making volcanoes in class. For this project we need baby food jars, model magic, baking soda, vinegar, and food coloring. We need these items by the last week in September. Thank you!


Sequencing is an important skill. We will be focusing on sequencing throughout the six weeks. To help your child practice their sequencing skills, read with them each night. Have your child tell you what happened in the correct order, or ask them questions like: What happened first? What happened next? What happened last? Another way to practice sequencing is to have your student put tasks or chores in order of what should be done first to last.

“An effective teacher communicates with parents consistently throughout the year so that everyone is on the same page.”

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Parent Communication

Calling Parents

We would love to go through the whole year with no discipline problems or lack of study habits on the part of our students, but this is an unrealistic dream.

There comes a time in every first year teacher’s life when a problem with a student arises, and must be handled with a parent phone call.

Don’t procrastinate, but call immediately! Follow these steps for a successful parent phone call.


Decide in advance what is to be discussed. Write it down in bulleted format as a reminder.

Gather information and documentation to support your purpose for calling. (Grades, behavior records, health records, notes from the parents, student work can all be helpful.) You should already have a folder for each student with this information included.


Begin with a positive comment before stating anything else!

“A wellprepared teacher thinks through a parent phone call before making it and has student information easily accessible.”

Always tell the parent that you and the family need to work together as a team for the best interests of their child. Tell the parent that he/she is the most important person in that

child’s life, and it is in the child’s best interest if the parent and teacher work together.

State your reason for calling in specific terms:

I need your help in…

Let’s work together to solve this problem I am seeing,

which is….

When appropriate, offer the parent assistance in disciplining their child, and/or helping their child.

Checking their homework assignment calendar every

night and checking for completed homework

Instituting a behavior checklist at home and school

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Offer a consequence when possible for the behavior if not improved (detention, poor grades, office referral, etc.).

“If ____________ does not ______________, I will have no choice but to

______________. Please let’s see if we can’t try to solve this problem as soon as

possible, so we can move on with a terrific year.

Before hanging up, summarize the conversation and reiterate any agreement that you came to. End the conversation on a positive note by trying to mention something the student did well that week!

Always follow up a parent phone call with a note acknowledging your conversation, reiterating any solution strategies, and thanking them for their time and support.


Keep diligent records of EVERY parent phone call! See sample of phone conference document at the end of the chapter.

You may want to keep a copy of the phone record in your student information folder, OR you can keep index cards on each student.


index cards - Set up a 5 x 7 index card for each student. Include the student’s name, address, birthdate, parent’s names, and phone numbers. Under this information, keep a record of parent contacts with dates and comments. Whenever you are ready to make a phone call, simply pull the index card and take it with you.

Using index cards is an easy way to keep student information and parent phone records in one place.

Another way is to use manila folders and staple a parent phone log on the inside.

Simon, Paul

2211 St. Andrews Place

Wonderful, CA 34598

Martha Simon (H) 456-9089

Peter Simon (H) 456-9089

(W) 329-0897

(w) 289-7658

5th Period


2/1/97 called re: no homework — spoke with mom, she will begin checking academic calendar & will sign every night. I will check in the morning that it was signed.

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Parent Communication

Assertive Phrases

Some of these assertive phrases may be inappropriate if used unwisely or without discretion.

All communications you make with parents, both oral and written, must be made with

wisdom and careful consideration.

I am very concerned for your child’s well being, and I wanted to make you aware of what I am noticing.

I understand your point and/or feelings…how can we work together to solve this problem?

It is in your child’s best interest that we work together to solve this problem.

Your child needs your help.

I need your support.

You are an important influence on your child. Your involvement is crucial for his or her success.

When students do not follow the rules/expecations, it is their responsibility to pay the consequences.

If this problem isn’t solved now, it could lead to greater problems later on.

I need you to take stronger disciplinary action at home.


When talking with angry or frustrated parents, the best course of action is to let them vent their emotions at the beginning of the conversation. Take notes so that you can verify their concerns after they are finished. Next, explain that you want what is best for the child and that your job is to help this child do well in school, not fail. Ask the parent if that is their goal as well. If they answer yes, then say, “We want the same thing for

(the child), so how can we work together to help him/her?”

I want to help your child improve, but we need to work together, not against each other.

We need to talk together face to face in order to determine the best way to help your child. When can we meet?

Remember, your goal is not to get into a battle with the parents, to make them angry, or to sound superior to them – you just want them to realize that you need their help and support!

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Communicating with Parents

There are some words and phrases that will not elicit a good response from parents – Try using statements that are less threatening instead.

Before using a strong or harsh word, rethink that expression and state your case in a more pleasant way.

Remember, not only are you trying to help the child, but you are also a representative of your school and district. It is imperative that you be professional in all communications with parents and other community members.

Negative Phrases

Poor study habits

Dirty/ Smelly

Irresponsible choices

Wastes time

Rude or mean




Sloppy work






More appropriate Phrases

Not meeting her potential

Is not using proper hygiene

Can learn to make better

Needs to use time wisely

Inconsiderate of others

Capable of more when he tries

Not meeting his potential

Disturbs the class

Depends on others to do his

Should try to be neater

Does not like to share

Takes objects without permission

Insists on having her own way

Difficulty in working with others

Tries to get constant attention

“An effective teacher understands that each child is very special to their parents.

Thus, they use diplomacy at all times.”

Using the wrong phrase with parents can really bomb!

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The Parent-Teacher Conference

Parent Communication

Many teachers and parents worry about conferences. This shows in the fact that so many parents never show up for a scheduled parent-teacher conference.

Teaches may feel nervous or fearful. This is normal, no matter how effective of a teacher you are!

Parents often feel uncertain and have mixed emotions about meeting with their child’s teacher.

Parents may want to please the teacher and make a good impression, but also want to express their concerns or frustrations.

“Always start a parent meeting with an open smile and welcoming attitude.”

Many parents have a hard time saying what they really think and are timid, but some parents are extremely defensive and overbearing.

A good start to every conference is a warm and welcoming greeting along with a smile!

Whatever the type of parent that a teacher may be dealing with, teachers should always have the same goal in mind.

The objective of every conference should be to develop a working partnership with the parents, so that the child’s best interests and learning is everyone’s focus.

You want to put the parents at ease by letting them know that your only goal for the conference is to build a positive relationship with them in order to benefit their child.

“Remember that some parents are fearful of the school because of their own past experiences.

How can you help them overcome their fears?”

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Preparing for the Conference

Decide in advance the purpose of the conference. Make notes to yourself of what is to be discussed.

Learn about the home environment as much as possible to avoid uncomfortable topics or saying the wrong thing. If the child’s father is dead, you don’t want to ask, “Where is Suzy’s dad today?”

Collect information and documentation on the student, such as grades, your grade book, student work, behavior records, tardy slips, absent notes, and health records. You should have a student folder with all of this information together, but you may not want to bring everything you have compiled on this student over the year. Be selective, only bring what is necessary and could be helpful during the conference. Planning is a huge part of preparing for a conference!

Teachers look professional and organized when ready with student records and an agenda for the conference.”

Be organized with materials ready before the parents arrive.

Prepare a plan or agenda for the parents to follow along. It takes pressure off of the parents if they know what to expect. The parents and teacher can make notations on the agenda. Write down any plans that were decided upon. See the sample agenda prepared for you at the end of the chapter.

Some teachers meet in their own classrooms, others arrange to meet in the library, principal’s office, or school conference room. Prepare the setting by having adult sized chairs available for both parents, and arrange for comfort and privacy.

Parents have busy lives, too! Send home a reminder note to parents with the date, time and location of the conference. You may want to have a tear-off portion of the note where parents can jot down questions and concerns they’d like to discuss with you, and send it back to school with their child, so that you can be even more prepared!

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Teacher Agenda

Parent Communication

1. Greeting – Smile and welcome the Parents. Introduce yourself if this is your first meeting.

Thank the parents for coming.

2. Start with a positive or encouraging comment about their child.

3. Explain the objective and purposes of the conference, and why you felt it necessary to meet in person. (You can better share work samples, etc…) Provide the parents with their own copy of the conference schedule/ agenda.

4. Ask the parent for their observations and/ or feelings about their child.

5. Provide your observations and concerns. Be specific on how you feel the student could make improvements.

6. Review the documentation that you have gathered for the conference.

Student work samples

Grade book

Discipline/Behavioral Reports

Any special education forms or referrals

Scores and reports from standardized testing

Any input provided by other teachers that work with this student

7. Ask for parental input, questions, and/or concerns.

8. Discuss ideas and develop a strategy for student improvement.

Write down any plans on the agenda.

9. Plan a timetable for expectations of improvements made, and plan for a follow-up conference to discuss the results of the first conference.

10.Closure - Summarize the conversation and reiterate any agreement that you came to.

11. Thank the parents again for their cooperation and try to end on a positive note.

“Make sure you state facts and have documentation to back up your statements.”

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After the Parent Arrives:

Having a successful conference can be an obtainable goal. Here are some suggestions for after the parent arrives.

Start with a friendly greeting and a smile. Thank the parents for making the effort to come, and show a pleasant, relaxed attitude. Try to put them at ease and make them feel welcome.

Begin with a positive statement about their child!

For example:

“I am delighted to have Suzy in my classroom. She is a joy!”

Ask how the parent is thinking and feeling about their child’s behavior, progress, and/or grades. It helps you to understand the student’s behavior if the parents’ attitudes are known.

Share observations about the student. Ask for parent observations and compare with yours.

Listen to what the parents say and respond to their comments. You do not have to control every discussion.

Discuss ways both you and the parents can help the student to improve.

Make sure to have documentation in order to demonstrate your concerns. If the child has been having problems with grades, show the parent some of the student’s work (or lack thereof), or maybe show them a negative pattern that is forming in your grade book. Do not make generalized statements,

“State the facts, Ma’am!”

Do not interrupt the parents while they are speaking. This often makes them feel defensive.

Wait until they are finished speaking before you begin.

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Parent Communication

Communicating Good News

Some students are just SO wonderful that there really is no need for a discipline related student or parent conference EVER. However, you still want to stay in communication with the parents and let them know of their child’s progress. Parents of good students really want to know how their child is doing. The following is a sample letter that you could send home to mom and dad at various points throughout the year.

November 25, 20__

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parent,

I am pleased to inform you that Joy continues to be a well behaved and dedicated student. It is certainly a pleasure to work with a child who consistently follows the rules and cooperates with both adults and other students. Joy demonstrates a high level of effort in her class work, and shows a positive attitude toward learning.

If you have any questions and feel the need to further communicate with me regarding Joy’s school work, please don’t hesitate to call or schedule a conference. Otherwise, I just wanted to let you know how proud I am of Joy’s progress this year. I appreciate all of your work in helping Joy become a responsible student. Thank you!


Mr./ Mrs. Teacher

“Don’t forget to report the good news too!”

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Middle School Teachers and Student Conferences

Often Middle Schools work in Teams who will use their team planning time to conduct student or parent/student conferences. These steps for conferencing will work well for students as well as parents. Also, the previous agenda will work for student conferences. It is important when working with older students to give them input in a parent/ teacher conference.

This builds their self-esteem and will motivate them to change their behavior. Simple threats of conferencing with parents DO NOT motivate older students.

Working up a Behavior Plan

In our section on student discipline we have included a sample behavior plan. This plan is often helpful to bring to a conference, or to complete during the course of a conference when deciding upon a plan of action.


Behavior plans are a means to correcting student behavior, not punishment.

Students and parents will be motivated to follow this plan if they are allowed to participate in the creation of it.

“A behavior plan often works well with older students!”

Open House

Most schools have an open house within the first month of school. This is a great opportunity for you to meet, greet, and welcome your students’ families into your classroom. Students are often very excited about this event, as they love to show off their work, let their families see where they sit, and explain some of the activities they do throughout the day.

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Parent Communication

For teachers, this seems to be an exhausting process since you have taught all day long, and then have to return to the school that evening for a few more hours. We would like you to have a good attitude toward open house, since it will be inevitable. It can really help make your year a great one, if you know some of the secrets.

Elementary School

Do not sit behind your desk! Stand at the front of the room, walk around, or sit at a conference table easily accessible by parents. Look interested and excited that they are there. You want to present a welcoming feeling for parents. When parents feel like they are welcome in your classroom, they are less likely to question your teaching throughout the year.

Have the students be guides for their parents on the night of open house. Spend some time in class the week before preparing for it. Along with student work displayed on the walls and bulletin boards, have student projects and papers collected on the students’ desks, so they can teach their parents about class activities by looking through their collection of work without the teacher present.

In elementary school, do not plan a specific or scheduled activity for parents and students.

Most families will be drifting in and out of your room, and may stay for an hour or just float in for a few minutes. Don’t frustrate yourself by trying to have a teacher directed and planned activity.

Have puzzles, math games, flash cards, logic problems, science experiments, reading games, etc… out on tables and student desks. Have instructions laminated and placed with the activities. This way, the students and parents can be engaged without your direction. Make sure the students are aware before they leave school on the day of open house, that they are responsible for entertaining their parents and demonstrating their own work!

Some parents may ask general questions about their child,

for example: “How is Suzy doing so far?”

You could answer that question by saying, “She is a joy to have

in class, and very energetic. Be sure to take a look at Suzy’s work displayed on her desk, and this should help demonstrate the quality of student she is!”

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Do not hold parent-teacher conferences during open house!

Conferences should be done privately, not when other parents and students are wandering around. If parents press you about answering specific questions, ask them if they would like to schedule a conference and write it down on your calendar that night to show them you are serious about conferencing. Explain to them that you cannot discuss specific aspects of their child’s behavior and/or grades while other people are around.

Middle School Open House/ Report Card Night

In middle school, plan to have fifteen to twenty solid minutes to inform parents of your classroom policies and expectations.

A planned activity is not necessary, however, you do not want to talk AT your parents. Make your speech fun and interesting, as well as informative.

Have student work displayed around the room and in the hallways for parents to admire. Unlike elementary school, it is impossible to display student work on their desk, as you have 150 students.

A middle school open house is often scheduled so that parents follow their child’s schedule. Each session will last no more than 20 minutes. You will have two sessions with no parents due to your planning and team time.

Use this time to catch up on work, since the night will be very long!

At various times during the year the school may hold additional open houses which are geared toward parent conferences. Have your grade book and the most recent grade assignment with you. Be prepared for a long line of parents. Keep your comments short and precise.

Teacher Testimony

“It took me several years to get used to not answering parental concerns at length during

Open House. It is extremely frustrating to spend the entire time talking with one or two parents and leave with the feeling that you didn’t get to speak to the parents who really needed it. Finally, I realized that we all suffer when one or two sets of parents dominate our attention during an Open

House situation. I’ve started using brief summary sentences with parents and if they press me further, I pull out my calendar and say, “I understand that we need more time to discuss these issues than what is available right now. Let’s go ahead and set a time when we can meet in private. I don’t feel comfortable talking about these issues in front of other parents and students. Or I say, “I’m sorry, I can see that you really want to talk with me at length about your child’s progress, but with everyone here my attention is distracted.

When can we schedule a time to meet in private?”

This helps me to exit from a lengthy conversation without offending the parents.”

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Parent Communication

Grade Level Meetings

Your school may want you to have a grade level meeting with all of the parents. This is a great time to inform your parents about the policies, procedures, and expectations of the teachers in the grade level. This is for parents only and is more formal than the open house.

Also, some schools may hold this type of a meeting in lieu of open house. Here are some tips to running a smooth meeting.

Have an agenda prepared.

This can be a simple outline of the topics you will be discussing. An agenda will help keep you organized in your thoughts and will keep parents from changing the subject. A good way to keep from making unnecessary copies is to make a transparency of the agenda so that everyone can see it.

“Parents will appreciate a smooth meeting that answers their questions

BEFORE they have a chance to ask them!”

5th Grade Meeting Agenda





Welcome and Introductions

Discipline Program rewards absence policy

Field Trips

Planetarium Symphony


“Warm-Ups” Math Language Arts




Procedures - homework/calendar


Student binders

Types of grades

Progress reports



Field Trips

Room parents


Wish List

During Open House, you may want to have a fun way of requesting both help and supplies from parents. One way is to make an Apple wish list. You can write what you need on cut out apples and ask parents to draw two apples from either a basket, or a tree that you have made. This means you need to put thought into activities, experiments, and field trips you’ll be doing throughout the first semester BEFORE Open House. Another thing you can do if you don’t know what you’ll be doing for the year is to keep the wish list basket or tree up in your room and add to it throughout the year. Let parents know that new items have been added in your parent newsletter so that they will stop by and pick a few more.

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Parent-Teacher Conference Plan

Please feel free to make any notations on the agenda.

1. Objective and/or purposes of conference

2. Parents share any observations of the student they feel are important and that relate to student work and behavior at school.

3. Teachers provide observations, review documentation and share any concerns.

4. Parents and teachers discuss possible strategies for improvement.

5. Parents and teachers decide on a plan of action.

6. Closure

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Parent Communication

Parent Phone Record

Student’s Name

Date Call Completed

Subject (s)

Parent’s Name

Telephone Numbers (Home)

Purpose of Call

Matters Discussed:


Plan of Action:

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Conference Request Form


Student’s Name


Dear Parent(s):

It is important that we have a conference regarding your child’s:



This conference has been scheduled for :


Date: Time:


If you have any questions, or need to schedule for a different time, please call me at

I will be at the conference. My questions and/ or concerns are:

I cannot make this scheduled conference. A better time would be:

Parent Name:

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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Parent Communication

Parent Notification of Student Conference


Dear ,

This note is to let you know that my teacher and I have had a conference and we have decided that I need to improve in the areas checked below. If I improve my behavior, it will not be necessary to schedule a parent conference at this time.

Poor attitude

Showing respect for other students

Showing respect for adults

Knowing when to talk and when to listen

Staying in my seat

Behavior in the halls

Behavior in the restroom

Courtesy when teacher is talking with a visitor

Good manners in the cafeteria

Following guidelines of lunchroom behavior

Getting assignments in on time

Using time wisely

Good sportsmanship

Playground P.E. Classroom

Please sign to show that we have discussed this note. This will be in your classroom file.


Teacher Parent

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Missing Assignments

Original Due Date:

Parent Signature:

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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Parent Communication

Parent Communication



Today, was tardy to class.

was unprepared for class.

no pen/pencil no notebook no textbook did not have his/her assignment or homework



This is the second occurrence of this problem. If the problem persists, I will call you.

Please sign this note and return it to school tomorrow. Thanks for your cooperation.




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In reading this chapter, we can see that parent involvement is vital to student success.

Research shows us that students who have actively involved parents are higher achievers in school. They cause fewer behavior problems and are more engaged in school activities. It is vital to develop a working partnership with parents throughout the school year. This cannot occur without some time and effort on the part of the teacher.

Be sure to call parents regularly from the first week of school and throughout the year. Ask parents to offer their perspective. After all, they know the child much better at this point than you do! Keep parents informed of what is happening in the classroom. Regularly ask for volunteers to read and work with student groups, or utilize parents as guest speakers.

Whatever tools you use, be sure to keep up constant communication with parents to help ensure student success.

Additional Resources

ABC’s of Effective Parent Communication by Dyan Hershman and Emma McDonald

Home-School Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families

By M. L. Fuller and G. Olsen

How to Deal with Parents Who are Angry, Troubled, Afraid, or Just Plain Crazy by Elaine McEwan

Questions for Reflection

1) Why should we strive to have positive relationships with parents?

2) Why is it so important to keep parents informed about what is happening in the classroom?

3) What are several ways to keep parents informed about classroom events and activities?

4) How do you plan to implement two-way communication between you and parents throughout the school year?

5) How will you use the academic calendar as part of your classroom?

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Parent Communication

Suggested Activites

1) Design a template for your classroom newsletter to send home to parents.

2) Create a series of paragraphs explaining current teaching strategies used in the classroom.

Be sure to use plain language. Explain what the teaching strategy is and why it helps students learn better. Each strategy should be explained in one to two paragraphs that can be implemented into your parent newsletter.

3) Design a series of note-cards or postcards on the computer with “Warm Fuzzy” sayings or other statements of positive feedback. Print and copy on colorful cardstock paper. Cut into individual cards and file into manila folders. Now you are ready to pull out a “warm fuzzy”, sign it, and give it to a student.

4) Begin brainstorming a wish list of items you would like to have in your classroom. This should be everything you want in your ideal classroom. When you enter your own classroom, check off those items that you already have available. Now you have a list ready to offer parents.

Notes/ Reflections on Chapter

How can

I teach and/or implement essential reading and writing skills in my class?

Reading and Writing

Across the Curriculum

The skills of reading and writing are such an important part of every classroom. Whether you teach the actual subjects of English and Reading or not, these skills are vital in all aspects of learning and life. Without the ability to read and write, students cannot function effeciently and successfully in the world, not to mention those oh-soimportant standardized tests.

While most of us will admit to the importance of these skills, there are many teachers who feel that the teaching and practicing of reading and writing is solely the domain of the Language Arts teacher.

This is absolutely not true. With the current crisis in student achievement and the recent Leave No Child Behind Act, more than ever it is important for every teacher in the school to incorporate reading and writing skills in the classroom and across subject areas.

The goal of this chapter is to help prepare all teachers to be able to implement these vital skills in their classroom. The majority of ideas presented in this chapter can and should be utilized by all teachers, no matter what subject is taught. We owe it to our students to help them become better readers and writers. So, now, how can we prepare ourselves to either teach reading and writing, or integrate these skills into our lessons?

Set up a Reading Corner

• Choose one corner of your room to be dedicated to reading. It

doesn’t have to be huge, just a space big enough for two or

three kids to sit comfortably. However, if you have a nice big

room, make your corner as big as you like!

• Partition it off a little from the rest of the room to make it seem

like a special quiet place.

• Books and other types of reading material are an important part

of a reading corner and should include non-fiction as well as

fiction. Be sure materials is available for a wide variety of

reading levels.

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What should be included?

• How-To books

• Fun Facts books

• Magazines

• Newspapers

• Historical Fiction

• Non-fiction books related to subject

• Student publications

• Poetry books

“A wellprepared teacher has a variety of reading material for student use in the classroom.”

Magazines, How-To books, and other nonfiction books provide great sources of information for in-class research.

There are several wonderful books put out by Scholastic and other educational publishers on Science, Social Studies, and other subject area topics. Check out

Scholastic’s webpage: or to browse for good non-fiction books to include in your reading area.

• Bookshelves will serve two purposes:

•They hold books (duh)

•They make great partitions

• Make the corner seem inviting to students.

• Add pillows and a beanbag

• Add chairs or even a small couch (if your room is big enough for it)

• Add small lamps or floor lamps. This will give your students the impression of a cozy

reading place. Not everyone has room for these nice extras, but if you do - go for it!

• Put down carpet squares if your room isn’t carpeted.

Teacher Testimony

I really wanted to set my reading corner apart from the rest of the room, so I pulled in a comfy rocking chair, some bean bags, colorful carpet squares, big pillows, and a floor lamp.

There was no window near my corner, so I created a window out of butcher paper and “hung” curtains to make it seem homey. I also stuck a big palm tree way in the back of the corner. All of my kids enjoyed that corner and I often used it for more than just reading.

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Getting the Materials

You may say, okay that sounds fine and good, but where do I get this stuff, and how do I get it without spending money I don’t have? Here are some tips:

Gathering Books


Hold a book drive.

• Make it a contest between either your students or your


It is important to check each book donated for appropriateness and unwanted marks.

• Send home a letter to the parents explaining what you

are doing and why you are doing it.

• Ask for both fiction and non-fiction reading material.

Teacher Testimony

One year I got several adult books that were not appropriate for middle school students to read.

Also, a few of the books had bad language written either on the cover or on the inside pages. I’m glad

I checked before placing them on my reading shelves!

• When students bring in their books, have them write “Donated

By:” and their name on the front cover.

• Another option is to create book plates using large labels on the computer. You can print these with the student information or have students write their information in the appropriate places. This helps make your students feel an important part of your reading center.


Book Clubs

• Scholastic and Troll book clubs often send out magazines to teachers. If you do not receive any within the first month of school, go online to their websites and request the book orders magazine.

Encourage your students to order.

“Don’t forget about

Public Library Sales and

Garage Sales for lowcost books!”

• Free Books. Oftentimes the book clubs will offer free books for every so many

dollars spent. Let students help you choose some for the

classroom library.

• Bonus Points. When students order, you get bonus points. You can use these

bonus points to get books for your classroom library.

• Teacher Specials. Book clubs also offer teacher specials where you can get

packages of books for lower prices. Take advantage of

these deals!

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Finding Bookshelves

1.) Ask the school custodian.

These school staff members can be a wealth of knowledge about furniture resources!

2.) Ask the school librarian.

Sometimes the librarian may know where an extra bookshelf is, or may be able to order one for you.

3.) Use old encyclopedia carts.

Old encyclopedia sets used to come on little carts. Use one of these to hold books.

4.) Use your old crates from college.

They usually stack well and don’t look bad in a reading corner.

“Try to think out of the box when looking for potential bookshelves!”

Pillows, Beanbags, etc.

1.) Salvation Army/ GoodWill

You can get lots of things at the Salvation Army or GoodWill store without spending a lot of money. Look there for a couch, stuffed animals, bean bags, pillows, etc. I once bought a couch for $35.00 and simply covered it with a clean sheet for my reading corner.

2.) Fabric Store

If you know how to sew (or know someone who does), try buying some scrap material and stuffing. Also, the end of any bolt of fabric is cheaper than when it has to be cut to a specific size.

This is great for pillows of all sizes. You may even be able to make a bean bag out of scrap cloth and packaging styrofoam chips.

3.) Donations from Wal-Mart

Ask for torn or worn out pillows, end of season stuff, etc. If you tell them you are a teacher, they may help you out with donations.

4.) Donations from Carpet stores

You can get old carpet samples from carpet stores. They are usually thrown away and sometimes the manager will give them to you for FREE.

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Managing the Reading Corner

Now that you have everything set up and ready to go, how do you manage it?


1.) Set up a check-out system

• Use library check-out cards and folders. Your librarian can order some for you and

charge it to the Language Arts department or to your grade level budget.

• When checking-out a book, have students fill out the card from the back of the book

and place it in an index card box behind the letter of their last name.

• Appoint a student librarian to replace books in the shelves, or have students do it


• Make sure you put the price of the book on the card so that if a student loses a book,

they can pay for you to replace it.

“Having a system in place for organizing and managing the reading area makes things easier.”

2.) Organize the books in some way

• Use color coded dots and write out a key where it can be clearly seen. For example, a

red dot may mean science fiction, or a blue dot is a mystery book.

• Set aside each shelf for a different genre. However, if you do this, you must make

sure that students are familiar with different genres.

• Keep a separate section of non-fiction books.

• Put books in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Be warned - this is difficult to

maintain unless you have a student librarian to help you.

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Use of the Corner

1.) Rotation

Have a rotation schedule for students to follow when deciding who gets to sit in the reading corner. Otherwise, you are going to have chaos on your hands with everybody fighting or racing to sit in the corner. (Even the big kids do this!) Alphabetical or table groups is the easiest way to arrange a schedule.

2.) First come, first serve

This is a very dangerous way to decide who sits in the corner because everyone will race to get there first.

3.) Reward system

Reward students who have good grades, good behavior, or who have improved by allowing them to sit in the reading corner. Be careful with this method and watch for inadequacies. Some students may never get to use the reading corner if you use it in this manner.

“I’m not a Reading teacher, so why should I have a reading corner?”

• Quiet time area

• Access to books

• Student research

• Enrichment of content

• A place for students who are finished early to read

Teacher Testimony

One way I use my reading corner is as a quiet place where angry or frustrated students can calm down.

I start out the year by reading the book,

Alexander and the

Terrible, Horrible, No

Good, Very Bad Day.

Then I explain to my students that when we are having a horrible day, for whatever reason, it keeps us from learning properly.

I encourage them to let me know when they need to cool down, and I send them to “Australia” which is my reading corner with a palm tree in it.

Monitoring Students

1.) Clipboard

Walk around and use the clipboard to help with observations. Keep notes on who is doing what during reading time. For more on this technique, see the Assessment and Classroom

Management chapters.

2.) Reading Logs and Responses

Have students keep a reading log with daily responses to their reading. Students should record the title of the book, author, and number of pages read each day before completing their response.

A page of reading response questions is included in the back of this chapter.

Use Bloom’s

Keywords to help you develop reading responses on a variety of levels.

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Reading Instruction

Is giving students time in class to read enough for reading instruction? Absolutely not!

Students need more than just books. What kind of instruction do we need to give them?

Below are a few ideas on what and how you can teach your students important reading skills.

Teach Reading Skills and Concepts

A good way to start reading instruction is with a new skill or concept every week or two weeks. On Monday, work through this lesson cycle with your students to introduce and practice a new reading skill.

1) Mini-lesson

“Reading books is not the same thing as reading instruction.”

These should be no more than 15 minutes long. Nancie Atwell, in her book In the Middle, gives some excellent examples and ideas for mini-lessons. Basically you want to go over the facts of the skill you are teaching and model it for students. You might want your students to copy down the information in a binder or spiral notebook as notes to study or to use for reference at a later time.

2.) Practice

The basal reading series that your district has adopted mostly contains short stories and excerpts from novels. These are perfect for reading in class to practice the skill learned during your mini-lesson. If you feel that the reading basal is not a good source of real life writing, you may want to browse the internet for good short stories or use short children’s books.

3.) Writing Activity

It is important to do some sort of a writing activity where students either use a particular reading skill or write about the skill. Have students write a letter to the publisher explaining why a particular reading is a story rather than informative text. Another idea is to have students write the main idea of a reading passage or write predictions for a story.

4.) Assessment

As with any type of lesson, it is important to assess student understanding and application of reading skills taught. You can evaluate student knowledge through book studies, in-class assignments, or tests.

If your state has a mandated test, such as the Texas TAKS test, use the practice samples to assess student learning of a particular reading skill.

If you implement these throughout the year, think of how better prepared your students will be when it is time to take the real test!

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Reading in Class

Students not only need to learn reading skills and concepts, but they should be able to apply these skills in class. Here are some different strategies for reading both literature and nonfiction, including subject area textbooks.

1.) Read Aloud

2.) Partners

“A wellprepared teacher uses a variety of in-class reading strategies with students.”

The teacher reads out loud to the class modeling good reading skills such as tone of voice, inflections for questions or exclamations. This is also an excellent time to model what you are thinking as you read. For example, you may stop at a passage and ask yourself out loud, “Now I wonder why the author had the character do that?” This shows students that you are not only reading, but thinking about what you are reading as well. You are now modeling active reading for your students.

Assign two students to read together as partners. The best way to do this is to partner a strong reader with a weaker reader. This also works really well between grade levels.

With older students, have some of your weaker readers pair up with a first or second grader. They will see success in their reading with the smaller children.

3.) Small Groups

Assign students to literature circles. You can have each circle reading the same book, or a different book. These groups read and discuss questions about their book together and then report to the class as a whole what they have discussed.

• Be sure you provide specific guidelines for student led group discussions. Use

Bloom’s Keywords to help you develop questions on a variety of thinking levels.

• Always go over your expectations for group work before beginning literature circles or

student discussions. “What does team-work look like?” “What does a good

discussion look like and sound like?” “What size voices do we use when working in


Teacher Testimony

One of my teacher interns reminds her students of the acceptable voice level in this manner, “Everyone whisper,

‘Hello Mrs. K.’” pause “Right. The noise in this room should not be any louder than what we just heard.”

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Implementing Literature Circles/ Literature Groups

Setting up literature groups can be very confusing and hard to manage. How can we effectively prepare to implement literature groups in our classroom? Below are several different strategies and tips to help you get started.

1.) Assign a group of 4 or 5 students to a particular book.

These groups are often heterogeneous, containing students at a variety of reading levels. You can have the students choose their own book to read as a group, or they can choose a book from several that you have picked out, or you can choose the book you expect them to read. The novel read in literature group can relate to a topic studied in Science or Social Studies, or might be a particular genre that you are studying.

• Each group either reads the book together aloud in class or assigns particular chapters to be read each evening. Then, during class time, students discuss the chapter.

• Another option is to provide statements about characters or events within the story for students to either prove or disprove. Have students go around the circle and either agree or disagree with the statement. Require students to state their reasons and provide specific quotes or events from the story to support their position.

Example: Charlotte is a nosey spider who should mind her own business.

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

(Using Charlotte’s Web)

• It is important that you provide students with guiding questions to use during discussion. Each person should record the answers to discussion questions.

• Groups can also create small products to show their comprehension of the story.

These might include a storyboard of events, an illustration of the setting, a timeline, a pop-up book with information, etc.

As we stated earlier, it is vital that you remind students of class procedures, your expectations, and how to work together as a group every time.

This should be done before students get together in their groups. When you begin to see student discussions that do not meet your expectations, model exactly what you want to see.

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2.) Teacher-led Literature Groups

Another option is to break students into smaller groups by ability level. Literature groups are a great way to practice decoding, comprehension, and other reading skills. Once again, each group should be assigned or allowed to choose a different book to read. Students are assigned chapter(s) to read and gather during class time to practice reading and to discuss the book with the teacher.

• Students keep books in a large plastic ziplock bag which can hold the book and any products, responses, etc. for discussion.

• Assign students either a guiding question for them to answer as they are reading a chapter, or a reading response of some sort to have ready for discussion. Sample responses can be found on pages 245 and 247.

• Use an index card as a bookmark. Have the students write down the assigned chapter to read for that evening along with the date. This will keep a good log of reading assignments.

Thank you to Carol Loper, 3rd grade teacher, Prosper ISD, for sharing these ideas with us!

Assign meaningful seatwork for students not reading with you.

This can include practice work for a specific skill/ concept taught earlier, finishing other assignments, individual work in thinking/learning centers, individual research projects, etc. The work should require little to no help from you and should be done quietly.

Managing Teacher-Led Literature Groups

How do I manage working with one group of kids while the rest are still there?

• Train your students in classroom procedures and

expectations. All of your students should know exactly what

to do each day during Literature Group time.

Generally you expect your other students to be working quietly on seatwork while you are reading with each group. This will not happen without training. In the beginning, you will find that you are interrupted frequently to quiet the class or get them focused on their assignment. This is the time to assign rewards or consequences to help reinforce the expected behavior. The goal is for students to do what is expected of them without the need for rewards or consequences. You should get to a point where all you need is a look or to ring a small bell to remind students that they should be working quietly. This is not the time for groupwork activities for the rest of the class.

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“A wellprepared teacher plans out a routine and procedures for reading group time.”

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What do I do with the group I’m working with?

Determine how much time you want to spend with each group. Do you plan to work with 1 group each day for 20 or 30 minutes? Do you plan to work with 2 groups each day for 10 or 15 minutes? This decision is the first step towards preparing for how you will spend your time.

Next, break up the allotted time into 5 or 10 minute segments:

• 1 segment of the allotted time for students to read to you

• 1 segment for basic comprehension questions

• 1 segment for higher level thinking and discussion about the


What activities can I use to jumpstart discussion or enrich student learning?

• Students create a storyboard that shows the major events

happening within that chapter.

• Students create a timeline that shows the major events

happening within that chapter

• Students keep an index card for each character. As they

read, students are to write down different traits for each

character. This could be extended to include relationships

between that character and others as well as any changes

that occur to the character over the course of the story.

• Use agree/disagree statements to jumpstart discussion.

Students must support their opinion with reasons and with

quotes or events from the story.

Internet application

When students come across a concept that is new (they have no prior knowledge about a concept (ex: sailing terms, rabbits vs.

hares, a particular culture, etc.), utilize the internet to help extend their knowledge.

• Help students make a list of keywords related to the

concept for an internet search (ex: schooner, rigging, etc.).

• The group can use the classroom computer to search for


• Students can print out information and share their new

knowledge with the rest of the class (mini-research).

Two great search engines for kids are Google

( and Ask Jeeves


Students can type in a variety of combinations of their keywords until they are able to locate relevant information.

Older students can do this on their own, but younger students will need to do this activity with the teacher.

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Whole Class Reading Strategies

There are several different methods for reading a passage as a whole class. These can be used in any subject area.

Choral Reading

Students all read together out loud. A variation on this is to assign each student a different sentence. Have each student read their sentence in turn. Another way to do this is to break the students into groups and have assign each group a different passage to read aloud. Lastly, you could assign half the class to read every other paragraph.

Reader’s theater is just one way you can integrate the required curriculum element of theater into your classes.

Oral Reading

Students take turns reading aloud. The following techniques are fun to use:

Popcorn reading requires students to read anywhere

from two to 8 sentences aloud. When they are finished,

they call on another student to pick up where they left off.

If the student does not know where they are in the

passage, they must stand up for their reading portion.

Pass the Ball reading is where a student has a squishy

ball or wadded up piece of paper. When they are through

reading their paragraph, they “toss” the ball lightly to a

student of their choice to continue the reading.

Creating a script from a textbook chapter to read aloud in class is another way this skill can be integrated.

A third strategy is to have students act out the main events or main idea of the passage they are reading.

Reader’s Theater

A technique where students sit in the front of the room and are each assigned a character. One student is the narrator. While reading a story, each student reads the dialogue spoken by their character and the narrator reads the rest of it. You could also assign several narrators.

• Variation: Break students into groups. Assign each group

a section of the textbook chapter or novel chapter.

Student groups take the text and turn it into a script to be

read the following day. Make copies of the scripts, assign

parts, and begin reading.

Once again, these ideas are not just for Language Arts classes. How can you integrate theater into other subject areas?

Primary Idea:

Get a class set of those plastic Halloween fingers from any party store or Oriental Trading Company. Have young children wear these “pointer fingers” to remind them to point to each word as they read.

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Individual Reading Time

This may be called Silent Reading time, D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read), or another name by your school and district. The idea is for students to quietly find a place in the room to read on their own to encourage the enjoyment of reading. Students often enjoy this time, especially if you dim the lights and play some soft piano or classical music. Allow your students to sit anywhere they want so that they will be comfortable and motivated to read.

Writing Activities with Reading Passages

Use writing activities to enhance reading. Whether you teach

Language Arts or another subject area, reading and writing go hand in hand. We often write about the things we read and we read what someone has written. It is hard to keep the two separate.

Here are some ways you can use writing activities to enhance student reading in your class.

Reading Logs

Have students keep a daily record of what they read in and out of class. You could also give students an easy to fill out log sheet to help you keep track of what they are reading and how much they are reading.


Teach students the different genres and have them write their own stories using the critical attributes of mystery, horror, science fiction, fantasy, fairy tales, adventure, fables, historical fiction, or biography.

Dialectic Journals

A professor at Emory

University in Atlanta, Georgia used to make her students keep dialectic journals to enforce “active” reading.

Students fold their paper in half and draw a line down the middle. On one side they write any words or quotes from their book that captured their attention. On the other side, students write what they were thinking while they read that word or passage. This helps them track their train of thought through reading. A sample dialectic journal is provided in the back of this chapter.

You might use this with younger students using a combination of words and pictures. Perhaps the words they record from the story are their vocabulary words.

“A wellprepared teacher brainstorms ways to incorporate writing activities to enhance student reading in class.”

Primary Idea:

You could model the dialectic journal concept to students by using the whiteboard or chart paper while reading a fiction or non-fiction story. This helps model active reading for younger students.

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Reading Responses

Have a question ready for students to answer about their reading for the day. Students can record this in a journal of some sort. Collect these responses every week or every couple of weeks so that you can record participation grades for your individual reading time.

The reading response journal/log is also a perfect opportunity for students to practice various reading skills. Instead of always asking for a summary of the pages read, you could have students do one or more of the following:

• Create a storyboard showing at least 4 major events

(events which impact the outcome of the story or impact other characters) from the pages read.

Create an illustrated timeline showing at least 4 major events from the pages read.

What were the pages mostly about? What are some specific details that support this main idea? Support the main idea with words, phrases, and actions from the story.

Write down the page numbers where you found these details.

Describe two or three different cause & effect patterns within the pages you read.

Use the reading skills listed in the next couple of pages to create your own responses.

Also, using

Bloom’s Keywords make creating reading responses a piece of cake!

Write down 2 fact statements and 2 opinion statements from your reading.

What do you think will happen next in the story? Why? Support your reasons with quotes from the book. Include page numbers.

What events in the story caused your character to react in an unusual manner? What events in this part of your readinghave caused an unusual reaction? If none, why?

What events are affecting your character, and in what way is the character affected?

Compare and contrast the reactions of 2 different characters to the same event, or compare and contrast 2 characters from your story.

“This type of assessment helps prepare students for state tests such as the TAKS (Texas

Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).”

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Graphic Organizers

After reading a passage, novel, or non-fiction book/textbook in class, have students fill in a graphic organizer. Graphic organizers are great to reinforce main idea, sequencing, compare/ contrast, fact/non-fact, and many other skills.

Additionally, if you decide that you want to extend the reading into an essay or other written product, a graphic organizer is a great pre-writing activity. Several different types of graphic organizers are available in the back of this chapter to help you get started.


Students draw a circle in the middle of their paper and write the title of the book in that circle. Then, they draw other circles off of the main one for each chapter, and write the main idea for one chapter in each of the smaller circles.

Mind Mapping

This is exactly the same as webbing, except that students use pictures/ illustrations instead of words.

“Graphic organizers can be used to organize information from non-fiction reading in other subject areas.”


Students can draw boxes down their paper, or number their paper 1-10. Have them put events from the book in order within the boxes.


Students make a chart out of their paper by drawing a line across the top and one down the middle of their paper (forms a T-chart). Students can use this kind of a table for comparing/contrasting, advantages/disadvantages, pros/cons, or fact/non-fact.

Venn Diagram

The Venn Diagram is a great way to organize compare/contrast information. Students draw two overlapping circles (a small portion is overlapping). In one circle write traits of one object. In the other circle write traits of the second object. In the overlapping section

(middle), write traits that the two objects have in common.


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Reading Skills to be Taught and Practiced

The following are reading skills that should be taught in reading and practiced in every single class. If you do not specifically teach reading, it still should be relatively easy to integrate either a review or use of these skills in your class. The best way to help your students recognize that they use these skills on a daily basis is to use the vocabulary and point them out in your own lessons.


“What was the sequence of events that caused the Civil War?”

“We just identified a cause and effect. That is an important reading skill.”

• Identify main idea

• Summarize a passage

• Distinguish fact from non-fact

• Sequence events

• Identify supporting details in a passage

• Determine word meaning (vocabulary)

• Determine cause & effect relationships

• Compare and contrast ideas

• Make observations and analyze issues within a passage

• Locate specific information in a passage

• Use graphic sources to help interpret reading

When planning out lessons, think about ways you will incorporate vocabulary, textbook reading, and reading from other sources to enhance student learning. As you write your objectives, be sure to include the reading objectives that will be used in the lesson.

• Make generalizations and draw conclusions from a


• Identify purpose of a text

• Making predictions


Students will be able to identify key vocabulary terms within the text.

As you read these objectives, ask yourself, how many of these am

I already doing without being aware of it? How many Science and

Social Studies teachers, for instance, require students to locate facts from the textbook? Sequencing is another commonly used skill in Math, Science, Social

Studies, Music, Art, and PE classes.

“Well,” you may ask, “since I’m already reinforcing many of these skills in the classroom, what more is there?” Awareness on the part of the teacher is the first step. However, we must also make our students aware that these skills are not just practiced in their Language Arts class, but that they can be applied in all areas - academic and real life.


A Science teacher has a lesson on electricity. Before the textbook reading, the teacher introduces important vocabulary terms. At this time it would be very easy to incorporate a short discussion on how the prefix or suffix of a word gives a “clue” as to the meaning of the word. This little bit of

“reading instruction” doesn’t take long, but now two reading skills have been emphasized in a science class. To take it a step further, the teacher could also point out how using prefixes and suffixes help determine word meaning in everything they read from technical VCR manuals to advertisements. In the course of a few minutes within a lesson, the Science teacher has reinforced reading skills, applied it to their curriculum, and applied it to the real world!

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Ideas and Strategies

Below are some practical ways you can incorporate reading strategies into your classroom, no matter what subject you teach. Think about how you can use the different activities within your specific curriculum.


Introduce vocabulary terms before beginning a unit or lesson. Discuss how the root word, prefix, or suffix offers a “clue” to the meaning of the word.


Have students guess the meaning of a list of words on a sheet of paper. Next to their guess, ask them to write down the

“clue” that helped them determine the meaning. Next, pass around a handout that gives students the correct definition of each word along with the “clue” or “clues.” Allow students to share their meaning and “clue” for each word, then share the actual definitions. To add an element of fun to the activity, offer peppermints or red tickets (incentives) for students who get the definition correct. You could also offer a prize to the student with the most creative definition, logical reasoning, or creative

“clues” for each word. This will encourage students to take risks in guessing the meaning and show them that you reward effort as much as correctness.

“If every teacher in the school makes an effort to point out and reinforce the reading skills used in their class, the effects will multiply and we will see a surge in fluent readers!”


Create a word-wall for important terms. You can keep the word wall up all year, or change it for each unit of study.

Another option is to create portable word walls for each unit using tri-fold display boards. These can be moved around the room easily or folded up and put away when not needed.

Upper-level teachers may have one board for each class they teach. A permanent word wall might include terms that are needed all year while portable word walls would show the important terms for a specific unit.

A word wall is easy to create. Simply divide a section of your classroom wall or the display board into rows and columns to show each letter of the alphabet. You might need several rows to accommodate all 26 letters. Then, using Velcro or sticky-tape, place a laminated card with each letter in the appropriate column/row. As new terms are introduced, write them on laminated construction paper or cardstock and stick them under the appropriate letter. Older students could keep a vocabulary notebook with a “word-wall” of their own inside.


Clap the syllables of each new word to help students remember it. Another way to help students remember a word is to either rap it or sing a song with it. A neat site that has more information about singing to remember words is Jazzles:

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Reading a Textbook

Use reading objectives to help focus the purpose of student reading.


(Locating information from a non-fiction reading)

Create a scavenger hunt of questions for students to answer when reading through a chapter or subchapter of a textbook. Students can work in groups or pairs, reading aloud (quietly) and helping each other locate the answers, or they can work individually. A scavenger hunt is also a fun homework assigment.

An alternative for older students: Have students read through a subchapter or section of the chapter as a group. In pairs, or individually, students create their own scavenger hunt questions.

Compile the questions for the entire class to complete. The

Scavenger Hunt activity also works well for a take-home assessment activity.

“Use a variety of reading techniques. Students get bored doing the same thing every day.”

Activity: (Sequencing)

There are several good sequencing activities that you can use in the classroom. We discussed a few earlier in this chapter in regards to reading groups. Additionally, when learning a scientific procedure or math equation, students can write out the steps to completing the procedure/solving the problem. Another idea is to then write a

“How To” essay explaining the specific steps.

When reading about a historical era or events, students can create an illustrated timeline to show the correct sequencing of events. Another fun way to present a sequence is through a storyboard.

When presenting a new activity, have students do the work as a class the first time to model and answer any questions they may have. In the future, allow them to work in groups, then in pairs, and then individually.

After students read a chapter about a scientific procedure, math equation, or historical time period, give students (or student groups) an envelope with the events, steps, etc. typed on slips of paper. Have students close their books and put the events/steps in correct order. Students can paste or tape their strips on colorful construction paper or on butcher paper as a class.

Activity: (Fact/Non-fact)

After students read a chapter or section in their textbook, have students create two to four statements. Two of the statements should be true and two should be false, but not outrageous. For example: a) Whales are mammals (T/F). b)Whales are related to fish (T/F). Students will have to have paid attention both to write the statements and to answer them correctly. Encourage students to try to “trip up” the rest of the class with their statements. This will motivate them to read and listen more carefully.

This gives students the opportunity to help each other and learn from one another before applying what they have learned on their own.

Activity: Word of the Day

Write a word of the day on the board for students to read and memorize. Before reading the chapter, say the word aloud with the class. Have the class say the word aloud together. Instruct students to keep an eye out for this important word during reading. You can do several different activities with this word of the day.

a) Whenever students see the word while reading aloud, the

class shouts out the word of the day b) Students raise their hand whenever they see the word of the

day and receive a red ticket c) Students clap their hands twice whenever they see the word

of the day.

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Sample Lesson

The following is a sample lesson written by a P.E. teacher to integrate Reading and Writing skills into his class.


Students will be able to use note-taking skills to read and research about Olympic


Students will be able to use reading strategies of selecting main idea, sequencing, and

finding supporting details throughout note-taking.

Students will be able to identify steps to becoming an Olympic athlete.

Students will be able to write a formal business letter


Video clips of Olympic Athletes, TV and VCR, Books and other print resources

(magazines, etc.) on OIympic athletes and the Olympic games, Computers with Internet and

CD-Rom Access, Encyclopedias, Paragraph on transparency to use to teach note-taking skills, clear transparencies to practice note-taking format, Index Cards, Transparency of proper business letter format for example of letter writing, paper and pencils (students)

“A little thought and creativity can go a long way towards integrating Reading and Writing strategies in other subject areas.”

Anticipatory Set/ Attention Getter:


Show the students video clip, “Highlights” of Olympic athletes. Most of the footage is of athletes participating in Olympic games. Some are performing their sport during the Games throughout the ages, some are in training, some are receiving medals, and others are in commercials for Nike, Gatorade, etc.

2. Discuss and brainstorm with students the following:

“What does it take to become an Olympic Athlete?”

Begin a K-W-L chart to record “What we know” about becoming an Olympic athlete. examples

(hard work, dedication, ability, money, etc.)

Thank you to Juddson Smith, P.E.

Coach, Plano ISD, for sharing this lesson plan with us!

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Continuing Instructional Procedures:

3. Review the KWL chart. Have students brainstorm questions to put in the “Want to Know” section. Examples:

How do they get to the game? How do they get the money to train?

4. Explain objectives to students - to research information and take notes on how they might become an Olympic athlete, then to write a formal business letter requesting help in their steps to obtaining their goal - a Gold Medal!

5. Mini-lesson on Note-taking (see pages 295 & 296 in Survival Kit for New Teachers)

-give specific notes on note-taking

-practice with transparency of paragraph

-show students how to use the index-card with title, author, and page source at the top and notes in the middle.

number(s) of

6. Students begin researching information individually and in groups on how a person becomes an Olympic athlete. Students should be recording the source information and taking notes on index cards.

Closure for Day: Have students tell me different steps for taking notes from a source. Ask students to tell one new thing they learned about the Olympics today.

Homework: Tonight think about which Olympic Sport you would like to participate in. Pretend you have mastered the sport and are ready to go to the Olympics. We will use this in tomorrow’s lesson.

(continued lesson on Day 2)

Anticipatory Set (Day 2)

1. Read a silly (appropriate) letter from “Letters from a Nut” or a silly letter asking for donations. Ask students -

How do you think a business would respond to this letter? If you were in charge of donating money, would you give this person any?


2. Put transparency of proper letter on overhead. Discuss with students. Identify the parts of the letter (heading, body, closing) and go over expectations for activity (what I expect your letter to look like)

3. Students write 1st draft of letters.

Check for Understanding

-Monitor student work as they are researching and observe. Help as needed.

-Ask students to share their information periodically while monitoring.

-Monitor students while writing letters. Help as needed.

-Have students read letters aloud before writing final draft. Student correct errors as heard.


Have students each go to the chart and fill in one item they learned about becoming an Olympic Athlete. Read them and discuss.

Assessment of Learning:

-Collect notes taken during research -- did students follow the correct format? Evaluate student understanding of

Main Idea and Supporting Details (TAKS skills) through notes.

-Use Rubric to grade the final draft of student letters. Grade content, correct knowledge, creativity, and neatness.

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Reading Novels in Class

It is very hard for students to sit still during an entire 50 or 90 minute class either reading or listening to someone else read. To keep students engaged during the entire class, alternate between reading, discussion, and written activities.

You may be tempted to either read the assigned novel every day or play a CD of the novel being read aloud. Not only is this incredibly boring, but it is not engaging students actively. It is important to stop at various times throughout the reading to check for understanding, discuss unfamiliar vocabulary, and relate the story to the students’ lives.

Whenever teaching a novel, be sure to read it ahead of time and think about ways you can relate it to the students.

Look up information on the internet about the time period

when the novel is set to look for fun or interesting facts.

Compare and contrast the life and times of the character

with that of the students.

Bring in maps to integrate Geography skills and to help

students determine location in relation to where they live.

Look up information on the author to help students

understand why he/she may have written the book

Example: Charles Dickens lived during the

Industrial Revolution. He often wrote about the poor living conditions of the time through fictional stories. What kind of story plot might your students use?

“A wellprepared teacher reads the novel before planning lessons in order to integrate their own experiences and knowledge into the discussion.”

How can you integrate information learned in other subject areas?

Example: My Brother Sam is Dead is set during the American Revolution. This is a perfect opportunity for integrating a little history into the lesson.

“Lesson planning for novel studies is more effective when the teacher has done some prior reading and research.”

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Ideas and Strategies

Activities done throughout the reading are more effective as teaching tools than when given after students finish reading the novel. Below are some different activities to use while reading.

Activity: Paper Bags

Running out of ideas?

Take a look at the

Motivating Students chapter later in this book. Could you adapt any of those ideas to use as an activity with your reading assignment?

Use plain brown lunch sacks for this activity. Have students draw an image from the chapter or pages read that stood out in their mind (ex: the deep red brick house was imposing and seemed to Jack that it was frowning slightly at him). The image could also be a scene from the book, the setting, or a character from the novel or story. If you are reading a textbook, the image might be a famous person or event described in the passage, or a rendering of the concept being described in a textbook or non-fiction reading.

Students put other information inside the bag. Activities might include:

• main idea of the chapter/novel

• outline of the problem and solution

• timeline or storyboard of events

• character cards with basic information

• description of the procedure or events

• vocabulary words

• drawing of plot events

• explanation of skill or concept

• real world application of skill

You can also create additional activities using the Bloom’s Keywords in the back of this chapter.

Activity: Venn Diagram

Use this graphic organizer to compare/contrast different characters, events, etc. within the story.

Require students to support this information from the text, referencing page numbers. (ex: Where exactly does the book say or show that Charlotte is generous? -using Charlotte’s Web)

Activity: Letter Writing

Integrate two different skills with the letter writing activity. Have students write either an informal or formal letter to a character from the novel (or a person from the textbook) explaining his/her predictions about upcoming events or the outcome of the story. Students could also use the letter to draw conclusions about the novel or about characters within the novel. A letter is a fantastic forum for applying any of the reading skills mentioned earlier in this chapter.

Activity: News Articles

Apply student comprehesion of the novel or textbook reading through a news article. Have students use the reporter’s method of the 5 W’s (who, what, where ,when, why) and 1 H (how) in analyzing the novel. Turn these “facts” into a news story complete with headline. This is a great activity for both novels and in-class textbook reading.

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Using Journals in All Classes

Journaling is not an activity set aside just for English teachers. The journal is one of the best ways to assess student learning after a lesson as well as a great way to provide one-on-one feedback for each student. Here are a few tips to help you implement journals in your classroom.

Provide Structure

Students need structure to feel comfortable with any assignment. This includes the journal.

Simply asking students to “write down what you’ve learned today” won’t work. An unstructured journal topic such as this leaves students feeling flustered and abandoned. They will spend the entire five minutes asking themselves and you, “what are you looking for? what should I write? How much is too much or too little? Where do I begin?” After a few seconds their brains overload and they go into self-preservation mode. This turns into the usual answer of “I don’t know” or “Lots of stuff.”

Instead, when planning your lessons, use your objectives or key elements to form your journal topic. The topic question or statement should directly relate to your lesson and should be easy to answer within a five minute time limit.


Explain briefly how you would figure the sales price of a $20 pair of

jeans with a 15% discount. (used after a percentage lesson)

What affect did the environment have on where early people settled and

the type of home they built?

What are the three branches of government and which is your favorite?

Explain your reasons.

Have Expectations

Students also need to know what you expect of them. Have your expectations written out in detail for the journals. Think about the following questions as you decide.

“A wellprepared teacher knows exactly how he/she plans to use journal writing and plans accordingly.”

•What is your goal for the journal each day? What is the


•How much do you expect students to write?

•What kind of grade will they receive for their journal?

•What do you expect in terms of spelling, grammar, etc.?


I expect my students to write at least three sentences each day. Their journal entry must stay on topic and answer the question posed. I expect complete sentences and correct spelling. The journal is a way for me to check student learning each day and is also a way for me to talk with each student individually. If a student has something to say to me that they don’t want to voice out loud, they may write it in their journal AFTER they have answered the question, OR before class the next day. Students will be given a participation grade for the journal once a week.

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Teacher Testimony

I used spiral notebooks for my student journals and kept each class’ in a plastic crate. At the beginning of each class period, I pulled out the journals for students to grab as they entered the room. This was one way I checked for student absences. I looked to see which journals were still up front, checked to see whether the students were actually in class and marked the rest as absent. It worked pretty well and took less time than calling the roll.

Have a Procedure

It is important that you have a journaling procedure for your class.

Students need to know exactly what to do for this type of assignment.

Example: (used at the end of class)

• Put away all materials

• Clean area around desk

• Take out journal

• Write journal entry silently until bell rings

You must get your journal from the table before class starts each day.


Don’t freak out about grading journals every day with a specific number grade. The participation grade doesn’t need to be more than a check, check-plus, check-minus, minus, or a “0”. It is quick to give out and easy to record. However, it does show students that you are reading their journal and that they are being held accountable.

At the end of the week or every couple of weeks, review their journal entries as a whole and determine a letter grade at that time,

“Your attitude affects whether or

Provide Feedback

not journals will be a valuable teaching tool in your classroom.”

Students really want to hear what you have to say. They look for your feedback every day.

Be sure you have one or two things to say to each student in their journal. It doesn’t need to be much, but at least once a week be sure that you offer detailed comments in their journal.

Don’t be afraid to use your pen and correct mistakes. If no one ever corrects student mistakes, how will they learn? If you see a grammar or spelling error, correct that as well. The more students are held accountable for their writing skills, the more they will improve. An employer in the real world will judge every piece of writing received from an employee, even informal notes.

Use this as one-on-one time. Have you noticed something particular about one student?

Take some time to write them a note and ask about the situation, or just let them know you are available to talk if they need it. The journal can serve more than just one purpose, and students really respond to the teachers who take time to learn more about them as a person.

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Evaluating Student Reading

Now that you have your students reading and practicing vital reading skills, how are you going to evaluate what they know and don’t know about the book/information they read?

Whether your students read individually or as a class, you must determine three things:

1) Did they read? How much are they reading?

2) Did they understand what they read?

3) Can they think critically about their reading?

The following assessments will help you answer those three questions:

1.) Book Study

Create a book study with several assignments designed to test various reading skills. For example, you might ask students to write a one page summary, create a diorama of the setting, make character trading cards, or write a poem about the main character. It is important to give students choice, so out of five activities, require students to complete three or four. It is also important that you give the book study to students up front so that they know what will be required of them when they finish reading the book. Two sample book study activities are included in the back of this chapter. Also, using the Bloom’s Keywords found in the back of this chapter will help make Book Study activities easy to create.

2.) Dialectic Journals 3.) Reading Responses

Want to assess how much students are reading? Collect the reading logs to determine how much each student is reading during class and at home.

Collect your students’ dialectic journals and grade them. This is an excellent assessment tool since the students must write down their own thoughts and feelings about the story. It will give you a good indication of whether or not they understood what they were reading.

Collect the reading responses every two or three weeks for grading purposes. These will show you what your students are getting out of their reading time.

“Help students become familiar with the format of your State’s assessment tool. Format your formal tests to look and act like the

‘real deal’.”

5.) Formal Tests

You can give a formal test to see which reading skills students have mastered. Set up your formal tests so that they are similar to your State mandated test. This will provide your students with additional practice in that particular format. The more familiar students are with the format of a high-stakes test, the better they will perform.

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Sample Reading Program

Here is just one way how you can set up a reading program in your class. It certainly is not the only way, but please make sure that you take the time to think through the details of how you plan to implement reading in your classroom.

“A wellprepared teacher thinks through the details of how they plan to implement a reading program in their classroom.”

1.) Structure at least 30-45 minutes a day for your Reading


•10 to 15 minutes to introduce or review skill/concept

•20 minutes for reading practice - either from the textbook to practice the

skill, OR students read own novel silently

•5 to 10 minutes - Reading response (usually focuses on skill or concept)

Share a few in class

•5 minutes - Clean up

2.) Student requirements

•Students read at least one novel of 100 pages or more each six weeks

(adapt according to grade level and student abilities in class)

•Students read every night for 20 minutes and complete a reading log

•Students complete one book study for one novel each six weeks

•Students keep a journal with reading responses done in class

3.) Incentive programs

•Set a goal and keep track of pages read for a special prize at the end of

each six weeks and the year

For example: Goal is 10,000 pages as a class for the year.

If students reach the goal, you’ll have a pizza party.

•Keep track of pages on a chart with colored dots or on a race track - hit

certain goals of minutes or pages and get different prizes.

For example: 250 pages = sticker pages

600 pages = bookmark

•Students write down books and pages read on die cut shapes and post in

the room and halls.

•Award the student with the most pages, one with the most minutes spent

reading, and one for most reading improvement each six weeks.

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Writing Instruction

In this section, we are going to discuss the different writing modes and give you some ideas on how to use these modes in your class. For more detailed instruction on the Writing

Workshop method, read Nancie Atwell’s book In The Middle. It will give you a structured program for teaching writing. Our goal is not to teach you how to be a writing instructor, but to give you some more ideas on writing in your class.

The Writing Process

The writing process is the series of steps that a person uses when they write. Teaching children these steps can help them to think more about their writing rather than just slopping something on paper. It also teaches them that writing is a process that takes time!


1. Pre-writing:

Putting thoughts on paper informally. Students can use: jot list, brainstorming, webbing, journals, free-writing.

2. 1st Draft:

This is also known as the rough draft. Students put earlier thoughts into paragraph form.

3. Peer Response:

Students read their papers aloud to a partner. The partner makes notes on the following questions: What did you like about the paper? What questions do you have?

Post the basic writing process steps on a poster where it can be clearly seen by all students.

4. Revision:

Students Add details, Remove extra words and phrases,

Move words and phrases around and Substitute blah words for exciting ones (ARMS).

5. 2nd Draft:

Students write a neat copy of their paper.

6. Proofread:

Look for and correct grammar and spelling mistakes.

“Teaching students the writing process makes them think more about their writing.”

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Thank you to Michelle

Vaughn, 4th grade teacher, Frisco ISD for sharing this idea with us!


• Take each step of the writing process and write it out in bold letters

on a thick paper plate (Dinnerware).

• Get a bag of clothespins and write a student name on each pin.

Students can decorate these if you want them to be colorful.

• Post the plates in a circle around the words “Writing Workshop” on

a bulletin board or classroom wall.

• As students work through the steps of the writing process, have

them move their clip to the appropriate paper plate.

“A wellprepared teacher knows how he/she plans to monitor individual student progress when using the Writing or Reading

Workshop method.”

• Students move their own clips based on where they are in the

writing process with their story or essay.

• Students may move between steps 2 through 4 several times before

getting to the last step of Final Copy

• This offers the teacher a quick way to check on student progress as

well as to redirect students who may be off task.

The Writing Process






Final Copy

Writing Modes

•PERSUASIVE/DESCRIPTIVE - (a.k.a. persuasive essay)

Students must make a choice and convince an audience with reasons.

•INFORMATIVE/CLASSIFICATORY - (a.k.a. compare/contrast essay)

Students must discuss likenesses and differences between two objects, persons, or ideas.

•INFORMATIVE/DESCRIPTIVE - (a.k.a. descriptive essay)

Students must describe an object, picture, or event for an audience.

•INFORMATIVE/NARRATIVE - (a.k.a. how to essay)

Students must write a sequence of steps on how to do something for an audience.

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Ideas for Practice Essays

• Tell how your shirt is different from your partner’s.

• Tell how SimCity and SimAnt are alike and different.

• Tell how flowers and trees are alike and different.

• Tell how you and your mom think alike and how you think differently.

(Let students choose another topic or suggest something like musical tastes — that should keep them going for a bit!)

• Compare and contrast the respiratory and circulatory systems.

• Compare and contrast sailboats with ocean cruisers.

Compare and contrast the British soldiers and the Colonists soldiers.

• Tell how subtraction and division are alike and different.

• Tell how the hero and villain in your story are alike and different.

• Tell how one problem solving technique is different from another.

• A fun way to organize a compare/contrast essay is to use colored index cards.

Use yellow, green and blue index cards. Write information about one object on the yellow cards. Write information about the other object on the blue cards.

Write their shared characteristics on the green cards. This provides excellent visual organization.


Topic sentence that tells what is being compared and contrasted.

Classificatory vocabulary (on one side, however, on the other side,

unlike, like, similar to, different from)

Transition words (first, second, third, instead)

Expanded sentences (She was pretty and she was smart)

Interesting adjectives (can you picture the difference between the two


Advanced vocabulary (did the student think of using a thesaurus?)

Adverbs (usually and especially are common here)

Specific examples to support thoughts

When doing a

Compare/Contrast essay with a novel or when using sources for information, be sure that your students support their statements with a citation of the page (page #) or source (book, page #).

We need to teach our students from the very beginning how to support their opinions with information from the story.

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Ideas for Practice Essays

Should girls be allowed to play on the football team?

Should students wear uniforms to school?

Should students be allowed to use a calculator on math tests?

Should students provide their own art supplies?

“Use Mini-persuasive writings to help students practice giving SOLID REASONS for their position!”

Any concerns in the local or global community such as rainforests, oil spills, garbage dumps, cold war, etc.

Any concerns in the school

This is the hardest purpose/mode for students and the one they are not given enough practice with. Mini-persuasive writings may help students be able to give solid reasons for choices.


Give a checklist to students that shows what elements you expect to see in their persuasive essay.

Students need to know what is expected of them.

Also, you can use the checklist to help you with the grading process.

• Position Statement

• Introduction

• Three clearly stated reasons

• Specific examples under each reason

Elaboration phrases (as well as, one example, for instance,


• Persuasive vocabulary (obviously, clearly, noticeably, stands to reason, unmistakably, evidently, glaringly, plainly, needs no explanation)

• Transition words (therefore, in conclusion, for example,

nevertheless, another)

Interesting adjectives

• Specific verbs

A graphic organizer and grading checklist are included in the back of this chapter.

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Ideas for Practice Essays

• Use objects from a particular time in history.

• Use objects from a particular area in science.

• Use geometric figures

• Historical or famous people

• Characters from a book

• A day in their life or in someone else’s life

• An embarrassing event

• An alternative setting for a book


A topic sentence that tells the reader what is being described.

• Location words (up, down, below, above, next to, left, right, behind, in front of, beside, around)

Time words (first, second, then, next, after that, finally)

• Interesting adjectives (radiant, sparkling, streaming, graceful, tinkling, delicate, gentle, ridged, cuddly, glistening)

• Interesting verbs

• Specific examples - elaboration

Use of the 5 senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound)

Comparisons to other objects (closer to, farther from, bigger than, smaller, brighter, etc.)

• Use of adverbs (slowly, quickly, intently, softly)

Fun Descriptive Activities:

• Give students peanuts or apples and have them describe theirs so that another person can pick it out. Take up the essays and pass them back randomly. Who can choose the correct peanut or apple from the description?

Put students together. Students should be sitting with their backs to each other. One partner reads their description of an object and the other partner draws the picture of the object.

• Put an unknown object in a bag and have students describe it by touch only. Who came the closest? Why?

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Bloom’s Taxonomy Keywords

We want to encourage higher level thinking skills in all areas of our classroom. What better way than to use the Bloom’s keywords to help develop reading discussion questions, reading responses, and writing activities. Use the keywords below to create responses on a variety of reading responses.


define list identify describe match located


explain summarize interpret rewrite convert give examples


compare contrast distinguish deduct infer categorize


create suppose design compose combine rearrange


demonstrate show operate construct apply illustrate


judge appraise debate criticize support

“Increase critical

Sample Questions: Charlotte’s Web

thinking skills by

• Identify the main character(s).

• Describe the setting of the story.

• Explain why Charlotte is helping Wilbur.

• Give examples of how the other animals felt about


• Show how Charlotte used her web to help Wilbur.

utilizing higher levels of Bloom’s

Taxonomy when creating reading responses.”

• Compare Charlotte with Templeton.

• Predict what you think will happen to Wilbur in the future.

• Compose your own message that Charlotte could use to help Wilbur.

• Design a web with a message for the farmer.

• Is Templeton a helpful character? In a paragraph, criticize his actions.

• Should Wilbur have taken Charlotte’s egg sack back to the farm? Why or why not?

Support your reasons.

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Starting Your Language Arts Program

This is an overview of lessons to begin your year in Language Arts. It could be used by a teacher in a self contained classroom, or by two teachers (one for Reading and one for

Writing/English). With a two teacher team, the lessons would not take as long because students could do the writing assignments during one period and the reading assignments during another. The individual lesson plans are listed on the following pages.


Writing Steps

Writing Process


Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

Tuesday Wednesday

Pre-writing Notes

Pre-writing practice

Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

Real Life Writing


Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

Science Fiction



Science Fiction

Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

Fantasy Genre


Fantasy Story

Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

Drafting stories

(Draft 1)

Choose any


Reading Time

•Peer Response

(Choose 1 story from Drafts)

•Reading Time

Drafting stories

(Draft 2)

Choose any


Reading Time

•Peer Response

2nd Day

•Reading Time

Adventure Genre


Adventure Story

Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

•Drafting stories

(Draft 3)

Choose any


•Reading Time

•Students Revise stories

•Teacher Feedback

•Reading Time


Mystery Genre


Mystery Story

Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

•Drafting stories

(Draft 4)

Choose any


•Reading Time


Horror Genre


Horror Story

Read Aloud:

The PageMaster

Historical Fiction



Historical Fiction


Watch movie:

“The PageMaster”


Biography Genres



Movie: “The


•Drafting stories

(Draft 5)

Choose any


•Reading Time

•Students Revise stories

•Teacher Feedback

•Reading Time

Write 2nd Draft

Teacher Feedback

Reading Time

2nd Draft Due

Work on Book


Edit Content of


Work on Book


Proofread for grammar

Work on Book


Write Final Copy

Work on Book


Final Copy Due

Book Study Due

*Note -- The PageMaster is a children’s book about a boy who “meets” 3 different genres (Fantasy, Horror, and Adventure). A quick search on should help you locate a copy of this book. It should also be in most elementary school libraries.

The book is also a movie and can be found in the Family Section.

© 2003

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Page 214 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum



Writing Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to organize a writing folder to use for Writing Workshop

To be able to determine the steps each student follows when writing

To be able to identify and follow the writing process steps


white paper, writing process notes, markers, pocket folders (students bring)


1. Set up Writing Workshop folder by labeling:

- front pocket - prewriting/ drafts

- middle - fill with paper and label the following pages:

(1) My Stories - Students write the title of each story they write on these pages

Final copies of stories are either placed in a portfolio or behind

this page

(2) Writing Checklist - set aside three or more pages - Students write in

grammar rules they learn during Daily Oral Language on

these pages

(3) Rest of the paper is for notes give throughout the year

-back pocket - works in progress

2. My Writing Steps - Pass out white paper and markers to students. Have each student think about and write down the steps THEY use when writing. (These steps do not have to be the writing process) Have a few students share their “writing steps”.

3. The Writing Process - Give notes to students*

*Copy notes from the back of the chapter and make a transparency.

John’s Writing Steps

Get Snacks

Get Paper and Pen

Turn on Music

Sit at Desk

Start Writing

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Page 215

Reading Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to organize folder for Reading Workshop

To be able to follow book check-out procedures

To be able to listen and respond to a story focusing on the main character


pocket folder (students bring in), book check-out procedures,

The PageMaster by Christopher Lloyd


• Set up Reading Workshop folder:

Put 25 sheets of paper in the middle

(This paper is for students to keep their reading logs & responses)

• Go over your book checkout procedures

• Begin reading The PageMaster aloud

• Students write a responseDescribe the main character


Writing Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to prewrite using various methods


prewriting notes, list of fun/ interesting topics, timer


Discuss and have students copy prewriting notes

Practice each type of prewriting - spend 5 to 10 min. on each type (free-writing, webbing, jot list, mind-mapping - with a variety of topics)

(Use the entire class period)

Reading Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to listen and respond to a story focusing on character relationships


The PageMaster, Reading response


• Review The Pagemaster from yesterday

• Read The PageMaster aloud to students stopping to check for information and discussion

• Reading response –If you were the main character’s best friend, what advice would you give to him/ her?

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Page 216 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


Writing Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to write a story using real life experiences

To be able to create a lifemap of important events


“real life” story, object to go with story, large white paper, markers, crayons, or color pencils


• Read a story to students - This should be a story that YOU wrote from your own life experiences. Bring in an object or symbol that represents your story.

(If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then use the story in the back of this chapter and bring in a “yellow” stuffed dog.)

• Discuss the story with students. Did you like it? Were you surprised by the ending?

Discuss the fact that real life experiences make a story better because we add so many details.

• Show students your object and explain to them that the story you read was a real life experience.

• Pass out large sheets of white paper to students. Have them create a “road map” of their major life events with illustrations. Instruct them to be creative and colorful. (Have students finish for homework)

Reading Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to listen and respond to a story focusing on relationships between characters


The PageMaster, reading response


• Read The PageMaster aloud to students. Stop throughout reading to check for understanding and discussion

• Students complete a reading response - Choose one of the characters in the story.

If you were that person, how would you act towards the main character?

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Page 217


Writing Workshop:

Objectives: To be able to prewrite for a mystery

To be able to draft a mystery


(students should have learned about mystery critical attributes previous to this lesson in Reading - See Below)


• Students prewrite and begin drafting a mystery story

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

Reading Workshop:

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of a mystery

To be able to listen and respond to a story focusing on the character**

To be able to identify the problem and solution in a story


notes on mystery, The PageMaster, reading response


• Discuss and have students copy the notes on mystery

**note: You could have students read a short mystery and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

• Continue reading The PageMaster

Students write a reading response:

What was one of the problems faced by the character?

How would you have solved the problem?


Writing Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to prewrite a horror

To be able to draft a horror

Materials: (students should have notes on horror from Reading) - See Below


· Students prewrite and begin drafting a horror story

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

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Page 218 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

DAY 5 Continued...

Reading Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of a horror

To be able to listen and respond to a story focusing on the setting


horror notes, The PageMaster


Discuss and have students copy the notes on horror

**note: You could have students read a short horror story and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

• Continue reading The PageMaster

• Students write a reading response: Describe the setting of the story.


Writing Workshop -

Objectives: To be able to prewrite science fiction

To be able to draft science fiction

Materials: (students should have notes on science fiction from reading)


• Students prewrite and begin drafting a science fiction story

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

Reading Workshop

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of science fiction

To be able to listen and respond to a story in regards to characterization


science fiction notes, The PageMaster


Discuss and have students copy the notes on science fiction

**note: You could have students read a short science fiction story and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

• Continue reading The PageMaster

• Students write a reading response:

What season is the main character most like? Why?

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Page 219


Writing Workshop

Objectives: To be able to prewrite for a fantasy

To be able to draft a fantasy

Materials: (students should have notes on fantasy critical attributes) See Below.


• Students prewrite and begin drafting a fantasy story

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

Reading Workshop

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of a fantasy

To be able to listen and respond to a story focusing on characterization


fantasy notes, The PageMaster


• Discuss and have students copy the notes on fantasy

**note: You could have students read a short fantasy story and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

Continue reading The PageMaster

Students write a reading response -

Imagine the main character ordering a meal in a restaurant. What kind of meal is it?



Writing Workshop

Objectives: To be able to prewrite an adventure story

To be able to draft an adventure story


(students should have notes on adventure) See below


• Students prewrite and begin drafting a adventure story

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

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Page 220 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

DAY 8 Continued...

Reading Workshop

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of adventure

To be able to listen and respond to a story in focusing on characterization


notes on adventure, The PageMaster


• Discuss and have students copy the notes on adventure

**note: You could have students read a short adventure story and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

• Continue reading The PageMaster

Students write a reading response

How would it change the story if the main character lived in another country?


Writing Workshop

Objectives: To be able to prewrite a historical fiction

To be able to draft a historical fiction


(students should have notes on historical fiction from reading) See Below.


Students prewrite and begin drafting a historical fiction story

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

Reading Workshop

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of historical fiction

To be able to listen and respond to a story in focusing on characterization


notes on historical fiction, The PageMaster


Discuss and have students copy the notes on historical fiction

**note: You could have students read a short historical fiction story and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

• Continue reading The PageMaster

• Students write a reading response

Which character in the story are you most like? Why?

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Page 221

DAY 10

Writing Workshop

Objectives: To be able to prewrite an autobiography and biography

To be able to draft either an autobiography or biography


(students should have notes on auto/biography from reading) See Below.


• Students prewrite and begin drafting an autobiography and biography

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on prewriting

-15 to 20 minutes should be spent on drafting

Reading Workshop

Objectives: To be able to identify the critical attributes of an auto/biography

To be able to listen and respond to a story in regards to characterization


notes on auto/biography, The PageMaster


• Discuss and have students copy the notes on autobiography and biography

**note: You could have students read a short biography or autobiography and then identify the critical attributes on a chart instead of reading The PageMaster

• Continue reading The PageMaster

• Students write a reading response

Which character is most like the planet Mars? Why?

DAYS 11 - 25

Writing Workshop:

Students choose 1 of the stories from their pre-writing and/or drafts to finish. Then students follow the writing process as outlined on the calendar. Notes for each step in the writing process are included in the following pages. Use the notes to teach students BEFORE they complete that particular step. Also, make sure that you model each step for your students so that they know what YOU expect of them.

Reading Workshop:

Students choose 1 genre to read. From that genre, students choose one book of 100 pages or more to read individually. Then students read their book and complete the book study found at the end of this chapter as outlined on the calendar. You may want to read several different stories from the genres studied and have students identify which genre is being used.

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Page 222 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


The Writing Process

1) Pre-writing - Gather ideas for a story or essay

2) Rough Draft - Write ideas into a story or essay (sloppy copy)

3) Peer Response - A friend/ partner reads the story and responds to it

4) Revise - Change the story to make it better

5) 2nd Draft - rewrite the story neater

6) Revise again - Check the story for spelling and grammar mistakes

7) Final Draft - Proofread the story and write/ type a final neat copy

3 Kinds of Writing

Real - You choose who you write, what you write, and how you write.

Quasi-real - You get to choose either what you write or how you write, and the teacher chooses the other.

Used to enhance knowledge of specific modes of writing.

Practice - You get no choice.

The teacher chooses what and how you write for practice purposes.

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Page 223

happy day frustration wishes teachers vacations skiing parents fun spots chores

1st day of school a daydream hero movies famous people homes recycling embarrassing moment


anger loss space lunch cars bowling bedroom games money aliens favorite things

TV shows sports food family rainforests injury a nightmare favorite person songs superstars pets pollution volcanoes sad day joy beauty friends pencils ocean/beach little sibling favorite place bored jobs

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Page 224 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


Pre-writing - the process of gathering ideas

There are 5 types of pre-writing:

Freewriting - write without stopping - don’t worry about spelling or

punctuation, just write!!!!

Jot list - list everything that comes to your mind about a topic

Webbing - use your topic and write down all ideas in a web

Mindmapping - just like a web except that you draw pictures instead of writing the ideas

Looping - after freewriting, pick ONE important idea, circle it and use it to start the next freewriting exercise

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Page 225



Read your own story out loud to one or two partners.

Speak clearly

• You may correct mistakes you see as you read your story.

• While you read your story, your partners should be taking notes by filling out the following form:

I think this story is about ________________________.

What I especially liked was ______________________.

I was wondering _____________________________.

Write down ALL comments made by the listeners on the margins of your story.

Underline things the listener especially liked.

• Write down all questions in the margins.


Listen to the story carefully

• While you are listening, jot down specific words, phrases, or other things that you liked or were confused about. Write down questions about the story.

After the writer has finished reading the story, tell him/her your comments out loud. DO

NOT simply GIVE the writer your sheet - tell him/her what you thought about the story.

When the first person is finished reading and all comments have been made and written down, it is the next person’s turn.

(Adapted from Global Response presented duringSpring Branch Writing Project, 1993)

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Page 226 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


A - Add details to your story — use a caret ^ to add stuff

R - Remove words, phrases, or sentences that are not needed strike out words words you don’t need

M - Move words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs around — circle you want words or phrases to move

S - Substitute exciting words for boring words

Cross out the word and write the change on top

evil ex: bad

Try to answer any questions asked by other

students or the teacher.

You may need to revise your story more than once.

A revised paper should look messy with arrows,

carets, circles, etc.

(Source: Spring Branch Writing Project, 1993)

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Page 227

A Golden Puppy

By: Emma McDonald

A golden puppy sat on my bed. She was small and had floppy ears. Her eyes were amber and looked full of wisdom. Her tail was only a white nub, too small to really be called a tail.Sitting on my pillows, she was surrounded by dozens of stuffed animals. She lay on a round cat pillow with fishing wire whiskers poking out. Next to her lay a fluffy black knit terrier with white buttons for eyes. Cats, dogs, frogs, and fairies attended the little golden princess. My father gave her to me for my birthday and I named her Puppy. The name was not very imaginative, but it suited my purposes. From the first day I held her in my lap, she and I became inseparable. Every night she slept by my side and was always on my pillow when I woke in the morning. She was a great defender, confidant, and friend.

Then, when I was about twelve years old, something happened to her. We went to sleep as usual. I was snug under my covers and she was lying next to me. I went to sleep a happy girl. The next morning I woke up early, ready for another day of adventures. I hopped out of bed and quickly got ready. As I was dressing, I noticed something unusual. Puppy was not on my bed. I lifted the bedspread and peered underneath. All I could see were dust balls gathering like tumbleweeds. She was not under my desk either.

Finally, I ran downstairs to where Mom was making breakfast. I asked her in the calmest voice I could manage, “Mom, have you seen

Puppy?” She looked at me puzzled, “I haven’t seen her dear. She was with you when you went to bed last night.”

For the rest of the day I looked for her everywhere imaginable. I looked under the bed and through all of my drawers. I threw everything out of my closet and searched through the mess of toys, clothes, and junk to find her. I rummaged through the bathroom and the guest bedroom, but to no avail. She was nowhere in the house. I even demanded that my brother return her. It would be just like him to steal her while I was sleeping (as a prank), but he just looked at me with a blank look on his face. I looked in the washroom to see if my mom was washing her. She wasn’t. I looked outside on the porch and through all of our toys and games in the den. The house looked like Kansas after a tornado. Although I searched the entire house, I never found her. Puppy was gone forever.

Later in the week my brother began grinning impishly. What a little devil! I knew he wanted to get back at me for telling on him about the peanut butter sandwiches behind the refrigerator. I would not let him have the satisfaction of winning this one! I completely ignored him. Every time he saw me he grinned as if he knew something I didn’t. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Thinking he had

Puppy I ran into his room. He followed me with that stupid grin. I don’t think he realized what he got himself into. The grin slowly faded as

I trashed everything he owned while looking for her. Once his room was torn apart, he admitted that he never had her.

Time wore on and I began to think more about starting school than looking for Puppy. School started in August and I began a whole new set of adventures as a teenager. I met new friends and found new treasures to explore. All of my stuffed animals had been relegated to the shelves in my closet. I was too old to play with them anymore. I was too busy being grownup with my friends to think of my little golden puppy. Still, at night, my heart ached just a little. I wondered where she could be and what might have happened to her.

Would I ever see her again?

My days went on as usual and every now and then my mom would ask if I had found Puppy. The answer was always the same,

No. Ballet lessons, soccer practice and piano lessons were filling my weeks and time flew by. After a while I completely forgot about her.

Three or four months later we moved my bed out to paint the walls. My mother had promised me a mauve and blue room to establish my place in the teenage world. As we took off the sheets, I pushed the bed out a lot more than usual. Some sort of thump sounded against the floor and I thought it was a picture that had fallen. When I bent down to pick it up, I saw her.

Puppy was lying on the dust filled carpet behind my bed. As I slowly picked her up, I turned her over in my hands and gazed into her shiny glass eyes. Detached from my emotions, I wound the music box, listened to the lullaby it played and smoothed down the old yellow fur while watching the silver key turn around in circles. It was like reacquainting myself with an old friend. I felt her ears and her knobby little tail. It was nice to see her again. I couldn’t believe that all this time she had been stuck between my bed and the wall, unable to cry out for help or rescue.

As I stood there looking at her, my mom called me to move the bed out some more. I showed Puppy to Mom and smiled. She smiled back at me and then motioned for me to join her. Sighing, I carefully put Puppy in the closet with the rest of my stuffed animals. It was time to move on.

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Page 228 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum



Imaginary creatures – fairies, elves, dwarves, dragons

Royalty – kings, queens, princesses, princes

People with powers – wizards, witches, etc.


An imaginary world

Medieval times – castles, primitive setting


Usually good vs. evil

Has lots of magic

Seems innocent

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Page 229


Regular people

Spacers – pilots, captains of space ships, people who live in space, etc.




Space – on a ship, moon, or other planet colony, or space station


Other planets in space


Usually good vs. evil

Take over by aliens or robots

High technology

Can be the plot of another genre – ex: adventure or mystery

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Page 230 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum





Suspects – family members, servants, business associates, friends, strangers

Police or inspectors




Usually a crime of some sort – murder, theft, missing person, kidnapping

Clues given throughout the story to help the reader

Always a motive behind every suspect

MOTIVE = a reason to commit the crime

Suspenseful – never really know who did it until the very end

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Page 231


Evil person – madman, wicked scientist, etc.

Ghosts, monsters

Good person – hero or heroine


Old houses – haunted or otherwise occupied


Dark – late at night and early morning

Deserted towns


Usually good vs. evil

Suspenseful – sudden twists in the plot

Often scary

Gruesome details – blood, gore, people dying

Twilight zone

Evil supernatural events occur

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Page 232 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum




Thrill seekers

Ordinary people

Police, firemen, emergency technicians


Nature or wilderness

Large city

Lots of traveling between places



Sport or adventure of some sort – something bad happens



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Page 233




Famous people from history

A friend of the famous person

People from the future

Relative of the famous person


A famous event or place from history


An event from history or events from history

Usually told from a different point of view

Based on partial truth

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Page 234 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


Autobiography – A story about someone’s life written by that person

Biography – A story about someone’s life written by another person


The person about whom the book is written

People associated with that person


Wherever that character lived, worked, and traveled


There is usually not ONE problem and solution

Sometimes there is not any problem and solution

The story is about the person’s life and the events that happened to him/ her

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Graphic Organizer for Persuasive Essay

Position Statement:

Page 235

Reason 1: Elaboration:

Reason 2: Elaboration:

Reason 3: Elaboration:

Conclusion: (Restate your opinion and three reasons)

ELABORATION: Each point should be elaborated with either:

-a story illustrating a specific example -a quote -statistics/data

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Page 236 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


Does the paper have:

Position statement


Three clearly stated reasons

Specific examples under each reason

Elaborative phrases

(as well as, one example, for instance, additionally)

Persuasive vocabulary

(obviously, plead, visible, distinct,

confidence, sincerely)

Transition words

(therefore, in conclusion, for example, nevertheless,



Interesting adjectives

Specific verbs

Other comments:

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Graphic Organizer for Comparison/

Contrast Essay

Page 237




Be sure that you have an equal number of entries for each side so that your essay will not be lopsided. Also, don’t forget to write in the page numbers from your text/story where you found words or events to support these characteristics.

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Page 238 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum



Does the paper have:

Topic sentence that tells what is being compared and contrasted — specifically

Classificatory vocabulary (

Merits, favorable, fitness, drawbacks, advisable, etc.)

Transition words ( one, second, third, instead, finally


Expanded sentences ( complex or compound


Interesting adjectives (

Can you picture the difference?)

Advanced vocabulary (

Did the student think of using a


Adverbs (

Usually and especially are common here


Specific examples to support thoughts (

Passing the test takes studying or great amounts of luck


Other comments:

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Page 239



Object 1:

Adjectives: Location:

Object 2:

Adjectives: Location:

Object 3:

Adjectives: Location:

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Page 240 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum



Does the paper have:

Topic sentence that tells what is being described

Location words ( up, down, below, above, next to, left, right, behind, in front of, beside, around.)

Interesting adjectives ( radiant, sparkling, streaming,

graceful, tinkling, delicate, gentle,

ridged, cuddly, glistening


Interesting verbs

Specific examples – elaboration

Use of the 5 senses (

Did they describe how it smells, looks, feels, tastes, sounds?


Comparisons to other objects (

Is it larger or smaller, thinner or fatter than something?


Use of adverbs

Other comments;

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Page 241









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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 242 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum



Does the paper have:

Topic sentence that tells what is being done or made

Creative adverbs ( usually ends in –ly


Specific examples ( materials, techniques


Interesting adjectives (

Describe persons, places or things —

can you see it?


Interesting verbs (

Not run — sprinted!)

Phrases and clauses (

Begin with which, that or who


Other interesting vocabulary (

Use content specific vocabulary and avoid “baby talk”


Time order words (

First, second, next, then, last


Other comments:

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Page 243

Beginning Book Study

Each six weeks you will be required to complete a book study. During this book study you will read a novel of at least 100 pages and complete the activities below. This project is due . If you read more than one novel of 100 pages or more, you may choose one of the books to use when completing the activities below.

1) Illustrate a scene from your book

on the front of a lunch sack (paper bag) with the title and author’s name.

2)Write a summary of your book.

Make sure you include the title, author’s name, and the number of pages you read. The summary should be at least one page long.

Remember, a summary includes the main idea with some details from the book.

3)If you could give this book a

different title, what would it be?

Write your title for the book and why you think it should be named that on a slip of paper and put it in your bag.

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Page 244 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum


During this unit, you are to read a novel. After you have finished the novel, you will be responsible for completing the following activities.

This book study is due .

1) Write a summary of your book. Make sure you include the title, author’s name, and the number of pages read. Remember, a summary is the main idea and some details. Focus on major events which affect the characters and/or story.

2) Choose five new and interesting words from your book. Create a small vocabulary book. On each page, write the word in bold letter, the definition, your own sentence using the word correctly, and draw a picture of the word in a way that helps you visualize what it means. Try to think of creative ways to make your book!

3) Create a map of the important locations in your novel. Use a key with symbols to explain your map.

4) Project: Choose one of the following, or have your own idea approved by me.

a.) create a game based on your novel b.) write a play script based on a scene in your novel c.) make a mobile depicting the characters and setting d.) act out a scene from your novel e.) write a song based on your novel f.)

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Page 245

Reading Responses




What made you like/dislike the main character?

What animal is the main character mostly like? Why?

Choose one of the characters to invite to a party. Which one did you choose and why?









Would you be friends with the main character? Why or why not.

Describe the tone of the story.

Describe the mood of the story.

How does the weather in the setting affect the story?

What would happen to the story if the setting were 1000 years into the future?

What would happen to the story if the setting were 250 years in the past?

How might the setting be different if this were a different genre?

If you were the main character’s brother or sister, what advice would you give him/her?



How might you describe the main character to a friend in a letter?

What problem did the main character face? How would you have solved it differently?


Which planet is the main character most like? Why?


Which character would you like to be? Why?







If you were one of the characters in this story, how would your life be different from the way it is now?

Describe the relationship the main character has with the other characters in the book.

Write about one funny thing that happens in the story.

How would you end the book differently?

What happened in the story that made you feel angry? Why?

Write about one sad thing that happens in the story.

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Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum Page 246



I would be mad if my mom ignored me all the time. This woman sounds totally selfish!

I guess as long as they could sew and talk, it didn’t matter if they knew anything else.

What a waste.

She sounds like an 18th

Century version of a couch potato. How boring to sit all day without TV. How did they do it? I don’t think I could just sew all day long. I bet she gets fat because she sits all day.


“To the education of her daughters, Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had no time for such cares.”

(Mansfield Park, p. 17)

“She was a woman who spent her days in sitting nicely dressed on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework…”

(Mansfield Park, p. 17)

I totally can’t imagine sitting around basically doing nothing. Did all women do this?

“...of little use and no beauty…” (Mansfield Park, p.


No brain and no beauty? How did she ever get married in the first place?

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Page 247

Responding to Our Reading

After reading the chosen fiction or non-fiction selection/ chapter, use the following discussion/question starters to further enhance student learning. Be sure that you use at least one starter from each level listed below to ensure the students are using higher level thinking skills. These starters can be written on a transparency for students to respond to their reading or for a group discussion.


Define words from the reading that were unfamiliar to you.

Identify three major events, concepts, or characters presented in the reading.

Describe the setting of the story or event, OR describe the concept from the reading selection.

Locate three facts/details from the passage read. Locate a place from the reading on a map.


Retell the event/story/concept from the reading.

Summarize what you just read with the main idea and some supporting details.

Give examples of...

Explain how...


Predict what will happen...

Demonstrate how...

Construct a model of..., character traits of...

Apply this reading to your own life.


Compare and Contrast ...

Make a T chart and categorize elements from the reading

What can we infer from this reading? about this character?

Distinguish one aspect of the character, event, concept from another


Compose a letter...

Design your own...

Create a new product that solves a problem from the reading

Suppose you were in the situation we just read about, how would you react?


Debate two sides of the issue/event in your reading

Appraise the usefulness of a concept/issue/event from your reading

Criticize a decision made by a historical figure or character from the reading

What is your opinion? Support it with details from the reading

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Reading and Writing are not just skills that have importance in Language Arts classes. They are skills that impact student lives daily and must be practiced in ALL subject areas. The more students are surrounded by and practice reading and writing, the more proficient they will become.

Even our pre-school and Kindergarten students should be enveloped in literacy-rich classrooms each and every day. The more we encourage the use of reading and writing skills in all of our subject areas, the more our students will begin to see the importance of the written language in their lives. Many students may come to believe that these skills are only necessary during

Language Arts, especially if that is the only time we point out the use of them. It is up to us to teach our students reading and writing skills during Language Arts and then apply those skills

(pointing out each skill and how it is being used) in every subject area taught. It is vital that we model the importance of reading and writing skills throughout the day. Just think what can be accomplished when students are actively reading and writing all day long!

Additional Resources

In the Middle: Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents by Nancie Atwell

Classrooms that Work: They can All Read and Write by Patricia Cunningham and R.L.


Primary Literacy Centers: Making Reading and Writing Stick by Susan Nations and Mellissa


Never Too Early to Write: Adventures in the K-1 Writing Workshop by Bea Johnson

Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8 by Stephanie Harvey

Questions for Reflection

1) Why is it important for specific reading and writing skills to be integrated in all curriculum areas?

2) What purposes can a reading corner serve in other subject area classrooms?

3) Do you foresee e-books and/or the computer as part of your reading area in the future?

Why or why not?

4) How do you plan to ingetrate writing activities that encourage higher-level thinking skills into your lessons? Brainstorm specific examples.

5) When reading a required textbook chapter, how might you incorporate various reading objectives? Why is this important?

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Suggested Activites

1) Develop a plan for creating your own reading corner. Think about the following aspects: a) What types of reading materials will you include?

b) How do you plan to obtain this reading material?

c) What method(s) will you use to determine who gets to use the reading corner?

2) Using a children’s book or some other reading currently used in your classroom or student teaching, create a series of reading responses using Bloom’s Keywords.

3) Give three examples of writing activities that can be used in any subject area and explain the purpose of each.

example: Dialectic journal with textbook reading encourages active reading.

4) Plan out in detail how you will implement literature circles/groups in your classroom.

Assume you have 45 minutes each day for reading. Think about the following: a) How will you structure your literature group time?

b) What will other students be doing?

c) How do you plan to redirect student behavior while working with a group?

d) What products/ responses will you use to enhance and assess student reading?

If you do not teach reading, brainstorm ways you can integrate the literature group concept into your classroom.

5) Write out your expectations and procedures for journaling in your classroom. (See pages


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Notes/ Reflection on Chapter:

Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

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Implementing Math

There are so many ways to teach math skills

Math is often the subject that new teachers struggle with the most. How do you motivate students to learn their math? Does math always have to be boring? How do you make math interesting, fun, and integrated with other subject areas? These are questions that we struggled with our first years of teaching. To help you get started, we have outlined a step-by-step strategy for teaching math conceptswithin this chapter. We hope you will find it helpful.

Where do

I start?

Before you start teaching math, you must determine what is required by your district and state. Consult with a master teacher in your school to get the district philosophy on teaching math, the scope and sequence for your grade-level, and the standardized testing requirements. Then, tackle the math textbook, released standardized tests, and your other subject themes to develop a plan for teaching math concepts. You do not have to follow the textbook page by page! Teach math how it makes sense to you!

First, we would like to offer you some easy tips that you can try throughout the year to make teaching math more fun. This is just a small sampling of ideas. There is no way we could mention EVERYTHING that teachers can and are doing for math instruction within this chapter.

You will learn of more interesting things to do with math the longer you teach and the more exposure you have to other teachers! The following are some key points to keep in mind when teaching math:

Integrate Math with other subject areas

Use practical/real world applications

Page 252 Implementing Math

Integrating Math Concepts With Other Academic Areas

Integrate math concepts into other subject areas through maps, tables, graphs, measurement, cooking, banking, logical thinking, etc... Many math concepts can be taught during history, economics, science, language arts, music, and geography. The possibilities are endless!

Have students calculate distances on a map using the scale and a ruler. This is a great exercise in fractions, as well as multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction skills.

Have students work with music notes, rhythms, and scales to practice counting and patterns.

“Creating bar graphs, pie charts, and line graphs is a fun way to connect math skills to social studies and science!”

Creating bar graphs, pie charts, and line graphs is a good

way to connect math skills to social studies and science.

You could have students make a line graph and chart the growth of their plant in a science experiment.

Students could use a pie chart to represent any number of historical trends, such as the percentages of national origins of the people living in the first Thirteen Colonies.

Tables are a great way to organize information for research projects.

Teach coordinate graphing while studying latitude and longitude

on maps.

In Health, students study and compare health statistics.

Teachers can write to any number of organizations to get

statistics: government offices, American Heart Association,

National Cancer Society, etc.

Have students calculate their weights on different planets while

studying space.


Population of the Colonies





While studying different countries, have students exchange currency. This is a fun, but tricky

way to practice multiplication, decimals, and working with money.

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Using Children’s Literature

Use children’s literature as a springboard to teach math. Bob Krech, author of Meeting the

Math Standards with Favorite Picture Books, offers some fantastic ideas for teaching math in motivating ways.

Some examples of good books to teach math shared by Krech include:

How Much is a Million?

Counting on Frank

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table

Use Games to Teach Math Skills

Teach math through fun activities and games. Don’t be afraid to let the students play and have fun. They are still learning and practicing!

Cooking teaches measurement and fractions. Ask the students to double or half a recipe. This can teach equivalent fractions.

“Many board games, such as

Monopoly, use math skills.

When teaching measurement, have a “Scavenger

Hunt” for objects of different sizes around the classroom. You could do this in metric or standard units of measurement, or both, if you were comparing the two.

How can you use different board games in your lessons?”

When it is time to teach coordinate graphing, the students could practice with various kinds of art projects that require grids, such as cross stitching. You could also play “Location Race” by using maps with grids or latitude and longitude.

Have students go shopping at their favorite store and pick out items for purchase. They can write down the amount of the item, any sales (25% off), and ask the salesperson about tax.

Students can bring this information back to class where you can use it to teach percentages, adding or subtracting decimals, estimating, etc.

Have students plan a fun trip to the destination of their choice, including keeping a budget, finding distances on a map, determining the time it takes to travel certain distances, currency exchanges, etc..

There are many games that require math skills including card games, dice games, Dominoes,

Monopoly, Life, and others. Also, games such as MasterMind teach logical thinking skills which help with math concepts.

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Math with Holidays and Special Events

Create math problems and projects that relate to holidays and special events throughout the year!

Word problems are a great way to do this! Again, only your imagination and creativity can limit you! The possibilities are numerous!

Examples of Word Problems Using Holidays and Special Events:

*During Halloween, pumpkins are usually marked up in price at least 50% due to the demand for them. If in August a pumpkin that weighed 15 pounds costs $8.00, how much would that pumpkin cost on October 31 st ?

*Last month Julie attended 4 Professional football games. The tickets cost $44.75 each. She even got to see the Green Bay Packers play the Dallas Cowboys! How much did she spend on game tickets?

*At the grocery store in which Bobby shops, turkeys for Thanksgiving cost $1.89 a pound. If Bobby buys a 10 pound turkey, what will it cost?

*Kelly loves to make new friends. She has made 4 new friends a year for 5 years in a row. If Kelly received two flowers on Valentine’s Day for every new friend, how many flowers did Kelly receive?

Notice: Some of these word problems have extraneous

information. (Information not needed to solve the

problem!) This is an important lesson to teach

students, as these types of problems often occur

on standardized tests.

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Fun day-long math projects centered around a holiday theme can spark interest!


Spend the day studying the mathematics of a pumpkin.

Measure the circumference and diameter

Estimate how many seeds will be inside

Bake pumpkin pies for the whole class

In making the pies, the measuring cups are a great way to explore fractions, and then the pies themselves can be utilized for a fractions lesson!

Tip: Make sure to plan in advance with the Cafeteria Staff and your principal before you plan this

“pie making” adventure!

Use Familiar Names and Funny Stories to Teach Skills

When giving math notes and word problems, add excitement to your lessons by using:

Students’ names

Making up funny stories/situations

Including objects, famous people, and ideas that motivate the students.


Sports and Sports Celebrities

Popular Toys

“In-style” Clothes and Trends

Popular Celebrities

TV Shows and Cartoons




Many students love hearing their name, or better yet, your name, in math word problems.

This simple little act can make boring word problems turn into fun activities. Do you have a favorite hobby that would work well in a math word problem? Use real-life events to make word problems meaningful for students.

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Math Teaching Strategy

We would like to share with you the way we taught math concepts which takes various theories on the best ways to teach math and combines them. This strategy has several stages where the teacher guides the students with the end result being student learning. We love using this strategy because it teaches to several different learning styles found in the classroom.

This is the first stage of teaching a math concept. The teacher introduces the new concept

Step 1: Visual and Tactile Learning - Concrete Models

using manipulatives, models, diagrams, patterns, games and/or student movement and involvement. This stage encompasses the “hands-on” approach to teaching math.

Concrete models let children understand abstract ideas. We need to teach students to understand how numbers and relationships work – not just throw rules of mathematics at them! Models allow students to have a visual picture, which can enhance comprehension.

It is important that in this stage you are consistently asking the students questions, and guiding them in their learning.

“Students need to understand each concept learned so they can build their knowledge of basic math skills.”

Examples of “guiding” questions to ask:

What observations can you make?

Compare and contrast these models.

That is a good way to show this problem, try to find another solution. There is more than one way to solve a problem.

Can you explain how you solved that problem?

Explain your reasoning.

What were your thought processes while you were working on that?

What will you do next?

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More tips to use during the “hands-on” phase:

This is a very thought provoking stage where students need to use their brains in a way

they may have never done before. Asking probing questions and having students make

observations is the key to this stage. It will not feel comfortable for some students at first,

as some prefer paper/ pencil activities, but all students benefit from concrete models.

Don’t rush to correct students if they are not solving

or demonstrating something correctly. Wait a few

minutes to see if they can figure it out on their own. If

you see that they are not anywhere near the correct

answer, help them get back on track.

“Encourage curiosity, logical thinking, and expression of ideas.”

Encourage curiosity, logical thinking and reasoning, and

expression of ideas. Allow students to verbalize their ideas

and share with the class.

Encourage students to share what they discover with each

other. Students often learn more from their peers than from

the teacher!

Concrete models do not have to be expensive, use what you can find at home or in the school. Food always works well to motivate.”

Manipulatives, and/or concrete modeling does not have to

be expensive or fancy. Use common household items and

things found in school such as: egg cartons beans coffee stirrers

Lego’s fruit straws cheerios students

M&M’s plastic animals popcorn blocks

Be sure to allow time for reflection of the student learning

experiences before leaving this stage of teaching a math

concept. If using rotating centers with math manipulatives,

give students two or three minutes before switching to write

their findings, describe what they did, etc., in their math


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Here are some examples of how you can use concrete modeling in your classroom:

If you are introducing decimals, let children work with play money. Ask them probing questions about the value of a dollar in comparison to 20 cents, 7 cents, one dollar and 50 cents. Have them demonstrate equal values, using different money pieces

(3 dimes = 30 pennies = 6 nickles)

When teaching greater than and less than signs, have students participate in the lesson by having several students stand at the front of the room. More students should be standing on one side than on the other. Either the teacher or another student is a “hungry alligator” in the middle. Which side would the alligator want to eat? The most people of course! So the big open alligator mouth always faces the biggest number.

Teacher Testimony

As a Kindergarten teacher, I used the “alligator” idea to help my little ones understand the concept of greater than/ less than.

Each one loved to be the alligator and wanted to “gobble up” as many people as possible. I would stand back and count each side of the room. Then I would ask the “alligator” which side do you want to eat? They, of course, would always pick the bigger side. “Yes,” I say, “when we have two groups of numbers, the alligator always wants to eat the larger number.” Then we would practice on paper what we did as a class. I think the parents were really impressed that their little ones learned this concept so easily!

If you are teaching multiplication principles to younger students, use color tiles, rainbow cubes, dried kidney beans, or anything that can be used to count in large numbers.

Lead the students to discover that 3 x 5 = three groups of five. Count (or add) them all up and they equal 15! Practice this concept many times before moving on to the mathematical symbols.

3 groups of 5 equal 15 total pieces

5 groups of 3 equal 15 total pieces

Students can actually see how multiplication works to support the facts they must learn.

“Play money is a great way to introduce and discuss concepts such as decimals and reasonableness.”

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If you are introducing equivalent fractions, bring in egg cartons and cotton balls. Have the students show you 6 out of 12, and then have them tell you how much of the egg carton is full?

They should say half! This will prompt you into a discussion of how 1/2 = 6/12! You can then ask the students to divide the carton up into 3 equal parts using yarn or markers. This allows you to discuss thirds.

Think about using oranges when teaching fractions. Peel the orange and talk about how the whole orange is broken into sections. As you separate the segments, have students count them aloud and then record the total number of segments. Give students different segments and talk about how the students have two-tenths, four-tenths, and five-tenths. Which student has more of the orange?

Another way to help introduce and/or conceptualize fractions is

by cutting up drinking straws into equal parts. Oranges, egg cartons, straws, and any type of candy is a fun way to teach division as well. What other types of food can you use to teach math concepts?

Don’t just stop using manipulatives with older students. You can still introduce math concepts with models or manipulatives. If youare teaching geometry, you can use pattern blocks (different colored and sized blocks that form varying geometric shapes). Have students explore the many different sides and angles, teach perimeter with them, find equivalent shapes, etc.

Tips for Using Manipulatives in the Classroom

Monitor student behavior by walking around the room the entire time they are exploring and figuring with manipulatives.

While monitoring, ask probing questions to check for understanding.

Let students explore with the manipulatives prior to starting your lesson. Let them play before you expect them to listen.

Otherwise you will find that they are still playing, and not listening.

Actually, allowing students to explore is a learning experience in itself.

Listen to students and how they discuss and interact with one another regarding their observations of the manipulatives. This can be a great springboard for your discussions.

Provide a time for students to record their thoughts into a journal.

Set clear directions and expectations for students when working with manipulatives, or any time students work in groups.

Review these expectations before you start the lesson or activity every time!

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Primary Ideas

When looking at attributes of shapes, colors, etc., use plastic hoops or baskets to sort items with similar attributes.

For each shape, ask students to find as many of that shape in the classroom as possible. For example, with rectangles students can find them in the windows, whiteboard or teacher’s desk. Squares would be student desks or a book perhaps. Have a “treasure hunt” to find different shapes in the room. You could also do a scavenger hunt that asks for one of each type of shape.

A fun way to teach time is through literature. There are several books available for young children to help them learn about time. Additionally, you can find manipulative clocks where young children can actually move the hour and minute hands to create a specific time. Use these clocks in conjunction with reading one of the following stories:

Bunny Day: Telling

Time from

Breakfast to

Bedtime by Rick

Walton and Paige


Pooh’s First Clock inspired by A.A.


Time for Tom by

Phil Vischer

Have a mystery bag as a learning center. Inside different bags are mystery shapes. Students must feel the shape without looking at it, guess the shape and draw what they felt. This is a great tactile activity for kids who learn kinesthetically.

Play games such as snap to match shapes or fruit salad with shapes instead of pieces of fruit.

Use bread and shape cutters to have them make different shapes. You could also do this with cookie dough and let the students decorate before baking them. Edible shapes are fun! You could also do this with playdough - but please don’t let them eat it!

Surround your students with literature about shapes.

Make a book about shapes with them involving their own photos, drawings, and writing.

Go for a walk around the school to find shapes, colors, etc. The real world provides so many wonderful aspects of math in things to count and observe.

Use beads and blocks to help them understand the concepts of units, tens, hundreds, etc. Montessori schools use these types of manipulatives and they are quite successful.

Thank you to Tracy Paul,

Kindergarten Teacher, for sharing these ideas with us.

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Step 2: The Math Notebook

This is the second step in teaching math concepts. In this stage, the teacher moves from concrete models to the more abstract method of teaching math using symbols. This can be used from 2nd or 3rd grade and up.

This is the more traditional way of teaching math by giving notes on how to solve a problem, and allowing the students to practice in abundance.This method has been used for decades, and the children will continue to be exposed to this type of teaching for the rest of their school career.

Yes, we believe that giving notes and practice, through paper and pencil activities, is still important! As long as this method is used in conjunction with the visual tools and real-life applications of math, the notes and practice part of teaching is vital.

The Math Notebook Details:

The Math Notebook or Math Spiral is the center focus of this stage. Each student will have their own math notebook, which is to be separate from their student binder.

Set this up at the very beginning of the year, and be consistent in using it all year long. You may choose to have the students use a thick spiral notebook, or a three-hole pocket folder with notebook paper inside.

This notebook is for math notes and practice only.

“An effective teacher gives students clear and precise notes for every math concept taught so that students can refer to this information throughout the year.”

Encourage your students to take these math notebooks home with them every night to use as a guide in solving homework problems. Often your notes will be more helpful to them than the textbook.

This notebook is also an excellent reference for parents. By seeing how you have taught the skills, they will be better able to help their child with homework, if given.

Teacher Testimony

After using the math notebook idea for a couple of years, I was so pleased when a few of my students from the previous year came by to thank me. They told me that they were still using the notes I gave them in 5th grade to help them with their homework. It turned out to be a resource that they kept and continued to use!

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Once you have introduced a math concept with concrete models and exploration, the students are now ready to move into solving problems using symbols.

For some students this will come as a relief, as they are more accustomed to being given the steps in how to solve a problem and working out math problems on paper. Other students find this method boring and not as easily understandable.

Students need to understand that both of these stages in teaching math are equally important.

Give step-by-step instructions in the notes on how to solve each math problem. Use abundant examples of problems solved correctly.

Provide opportunities for independent practice problems in their notebook, after you have given notes and done several sample problems as a class. Always correct practice problems in their notebook as a class before moving on! This way they are not mislead and use incorrect information when doing homework.

The students should have a table of contents at the beginning of their notebook, and they should make an entry into this every time a new concept is taught.

Monitor the students and insist that they copy everything down into their notebook. This is not a selective exercise, where the students copy down what they want to. They copy everything, so you know that they have all the steps and notes.

The math notebook is much more successful in teaching a concept than just using the textbook, even if you get your notes from the text. You can always add information and steps to help your students learn, because you know what your students need more than anyone!

When giving math notes, using an overhead projector is easier than writing them on a chalkboard. Often times, I would prepare the notes ahead of time and then reveal the transparency to the students a little bit at a time.

“Provide any mathematical rules they need to be aware of in the math notebook for easy reference.”

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Step 3: Practical/ Real World Applications

Once you have taught the students the concept and skills necessary to solve a type of math problem, you must make that skill meaningful for them! The students need to be capable of applying that skill in real life. This sounds harder than it really is. The key to this section is “word problems!” Word problems offer real life situations and the students must be able to solve the problem using the skills and concepts that you taught them. This keeps your math instruction from dealing with rote memory and actually forces the students to use reasoning and their newly acquired skills.

Tips for Real World Math

Bring grocery store ads, department store ads, sales catalogs and mail order catalogs to class. Make up questions or word problems so that the students have to use these items to solve your problem.


Applyling multiplication with decimals and practicing

working with percentages -- Find something that

you would like to buy and pretend that the store is

having a 25% off sale. Calculate the new sales

price of your item. Now add 8.25% sales tax.

What is the total price? How much money, in

whole dollars, will you have to take to the store in

order to buy this item? (25, 30, etc.)

Applying addition and subtraction -- If you buy

five apples for your teacher, on sale for 25 cents

each in the grocer’s ad, how much will your total

price be? How much change will you have if you

pay with a $10.00 bill?

Changing types of measurement. What if those

same apples were shown as $1.99 per pound?

How would students figure the cost of five apples?

“Use real world scenarios such as grocery shopping, cooking, figuring the tip for dinner, sales tax, etc. to apply math skills and motivate students.”

Have students plan a fun trip to the destination of their choice and figure the costs, mileage, etc.

Let older students plan a class party given a certain budget.

Have students design and build an invention or object using a variety of materials.

They will need to use correct measurements in their design and apply those measurements when building their object.

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Solving Math Word Problems

When solving a word problem, it is important to follow the steps needed to find the correct answer:

Read the question - Make sure to read the whole question from beginning to end. Don’t assume you know how to solve the problem without reading the entire question.

1. Re-read the question and Box key words. Some key words are:



How much


More or Less

How many




2. Underline the question part of the problem.

Think: What are they asking for?

3. Determine the operation needed to solve the problem and write it next to the question.

4. Cross out extraneous information - this is information that is not needed! Don’t let them

fool you!

5. Circle the numbers needed to solve the problem.

6. Write a number sentence next to the problem.

Example: 58 - 9

7. Solve the problem showing all your work.

8. Write the solution sentence.

Example: 58 - 9 = 49

There are 49 white doves left in the sky.

9. Check it! Is it reasonable? Does it make sense?

If Multiple choice test:

Locate the answer in the answer choices.

Determine why the other answer choices are Not Correct.

Circle the correct answer. Bubble on the answer sheet.

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Sample Problems

1) Josie went to a bird watching festival on Sunday. There were 200 people at the festival.

The music started and 58 white doves flew into the sky. Nine of the doves flew into a nest in the tree. How many doves were left flying in the sky?

258 people 67 doves altogether

49 doves were left 209 doves were in the sky

2) The teacher received flowers for her birthday. She got 64 yellow flowers, 21 white flowers, and 17 red flowers. How many more yellow flowers did she have than white flowers?

102 85 60 43

3) The zoo had 2 beautiful peacocks and 6 zebras. Each peacock weighs 21 pounds. What is the total weight of the two peacocks?

8 pounds 11 pounds 42 pounds 19 pounds

4) It took Chad and his mom 4 weeks and 2 days to sew some shirts. How many total days is this?

28 days 30 days 8 days 22 days

5) A teacher had 22 students in her class. Five students made the honor roll. The teacher wanted to give each honor roll student the same amount of bonus points. She had 55 bonus points to share equally among her the honor students. How many will each student get?

110 275 11 5

6) Sea World opened in Houston, Texas in 1989. Today, Sea World has 45 dolphins, 18 sea lions, and 2 killer whales. How many sea mammals does Sea World have altogether?

63 65 47 20

7) It takes Jill and her mom one hour to water the plants in their garden. Each day of the week for 7 days they water the garden. How many minutes does Jill water the garden in 1 week?

420 minutes 60 minutes 49 minutes 7 minutes

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Sample Math Lesson

The following is a short example of how to teach a math concept, using all three steps of our math strategy.

Graphing Lesson


To teach students the concept of a graph

To teach students the four main types of graphs

To teach students how to read and interpret different kinds of graphs

To teach students how to create their own graphs.

This lesson should be taught over several days. You cannot cram the whole lesson into one hour!

Step 1: The Concrete Model

Birthday Graph

Have every month of the year written neatly on 12 separate, rather large, sheets of paper. Have this done before the lesson.


Do not tell the students what you are doing before you begin your lesson.

Lay out all of the months of the year in order with some space between them, about 6-12 inches, on the ground in the front of the classroom, in the hallway, outside or on the parking lots.

Have the students get in a line in front of the month their birthday falls. When they are in straight lines, have them remove their shoes and leave them in their place. Have all students stand back behind the pictograph and observe.

Ask them if they know what they are looking at? (A pictograph)

Have students draw the pictograph neatly on a piece of paper. They will need to sit on the floor where they can see it and they will not be able to put their shoes on yet.

Have the students put on their shoes, clean up the papers, and have students return to their seats.

Once all students are in their seats and have their drawn pictographs in front of them, have all students look at their graphs to discuss:

What does each pair of shoes represent?

What observations can we make by looking at this pictograph. Make them give specifics!

Which month has the most birthdays in our class?

Which month has the least?

How many months have no class birthdays?

How can you tell?

“The Birthday graph gets students personally involved with creating a pictograph!”

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Step 2: Math Notebook Notes

Teaching the concept of Graphing

Give general information about graphs (Notes):

Discuss, show samples, and give notes on different kinds of graphs

~ Bar graphs, pie graphs, line graphs, pictographs.

Sample Notes:


Graphs represent data that has been collected.

Definition of a Graph – A visual tool that makes it easier for us to see information.

4 Kinds of Graphs:

Pictograph – uses pictures instead of numbers and it uses a key

*Example: 1 pair of shoes = 1 person

Bar Graph – shows us information by the height or length of the bars

*Show a sample! Draw a quick sketch of one with the students for their notes.

Pie Graph – also known as a circle graph. Shows how information is divided into parts of a whole.

*Show a sample and draw a pie graph with the students in their notes.

Line Graph – uses dots and lines to show how things change and compare.

*Show a sample and draw a line graph with the students in their notes.

Compare the different kinds of graphs and how they represent information differently. Are some graphs easier to read? Why? Would some types of graphs be better for representing certain types of data? Talk about specific examples.

There is an excellent book on maps, charts and graphs that would be helpful in teaching this graphing unit.

The book is: Maps, Charts, Graphs, and Diagrams: 1990 Teacher Created Materials, Inc.

You can make sample graphs on the computer using a spreadsheet program (like Microsoft Excel), or you can find graphs in newspapers, magazines, social studies and science texts. Show these graphs to the students and discuss them during your note giving.

Demonstrate how to use graph paper and make a sample graph as a class.

Assign Homework: To transfer the pictograph of class birthdays into a bar graph on graph paper.

“Keep students organized by having them fill out the table of contents in their Math Spiral

BEFORE you give notes.”

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Step 3: Practical Application

Studying graphs and their use in real life.

Collect graphs from newspapers, magazines, and books. Copy them and give samples to students to examine and discuss.

Ask the students to interpret and/or compare the information shown in the graph.

Finally, have the students gather information of some sort and create their own graphs.

Give a choice of graphs to create, but explain to the students that the kind of graph they choose must match with the type of information they are trying to represent.

Make sure the students consult their notes and samples for help in creating their own graphs.

“This graphing lesson can be applied to both

Science and

Social Studies.

Your textbook for these subjects probably has some activites that use graphing.

Can you link them together?”

Have students compare the birthday results in different graphs. Which graph best represents the information so that we can understand it?

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Sample Notes Page for Math Notebook

Adding Whole Numbers

Step 1

Add the Ones/Units.

If total equals ten or more, write the “tens” unit at the top of the Tens block (Regroup)

Step 1

Th H T O


1 3 4 2

+ 7 8 9


Step 2

Add the Tens.

If total equals ten or more, write the “tens” unit at the top of the

Hundreds block (Regroup).

Step 2

Th H T O

1 1

1 3 4 2

+ 7 8 9

3 1

Step 3

Add the Hundreds.

If total equals ten or more, write the “tens” unit at the top of the

Thousands block


Step 4

Add the Thousands.

Write the total number under the Thousands, and if necessary the Ten-Thousands block.

Step 3

Th H T O

1 1 1

1 3 4 2

+ 7 8 9

1 3 1

Step 4

Th H T O

1 1 1

1 3 4 2

+ 7 8 9

2,1 3 1

“A wellprepared teacher has a plan ready for teaching math skills throughout the year.

How do you plan to organize your math lessons?”

Step 5

Rewrite the total.

Step 5

Answer is 2,131

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Implementing Math


Teaching math is much more than just skill and drill. If we want our students to thoroughly understand and be able to apply these skills, it is vital that they know the “whys” behind different concepts. Using manipulatives helps students begin with concrete visual examples that can be applied to the abstract number equations. A math notebook will help keep students organized and offer an easy reference manual throughout the year. Lastly, we need to help students understand how they will apply these skills to their lives in the real world. These types of real world activities are not only motivating, but also vital to completing the learning process.

Additional Resources

Maps, Charts, Graphs, and Diagrams by Teacher Created Materials

Meeting the Math Standards with Favorite Picture Books by Bob Krech

Writing in Math Class: A Resource for Grades 2-8 by Marilyn Burns and Susan Ohanian

Questions for Reflection

1) What are some different ways you can incorporate math skills into other academic areas for your grade level?

2) Brainstorm a list of games that you could use to teach different math skills. Be sure to list the skill(s) used in each game.

3) Why is it important to use manipulatives before teaching a math concept?

4) What is the purpose of the math notebook? Would this activity be appropriate for your grade level? Why or why not?

5) What are some reasons for using real world situations to apply math concepts?

Suggested Activites

1) Take one required math objective and plan a lesson/unit using the strategy outlined in this chapter. This lesson/unit most likely will have to be broken up over several days. Do not try to cram it all into one individual lesson.

2) Set up a spiral notebook as described in the Math Notebook section of this chapter. As you plan for each math lesson, work out how you will break down the skill/concept into a step-bystep plan for students to follow. By the end of the year you will have your own math notebook ready to use for planning next year!

Brain-Based Classroom

Creating a learning environment where students are motivated to learn and collaborate with one another should be our ultimate goal. How can we accomplish this?

I want to have a brainbased classroom!

• We need a solid base of knowledge and

understanding of the actual content we teach.

• We need an understanding of human nature.

• We need an understanding of how the brain learns


1.) Knowing Our Content

Why? Well, the more knowledge we have about a particular event, concept, or skill, the better we are able to teach it. The wealth of information stored away in our brains through study and experiences makes it possible for us to expand upon the basic information presented to students in textbooks.

Where do

I start?

Could we teach a subject straight from the textbook and cover the required objectives? Probably. Would it be considered effective teaching that will follow the students throughout their lives? No way. Knowing your subject materials brings with it the confidence that you know what you’re talking about. You’ll be able to share stories and fun facts that add depth to student learning. And, you’ll be better prepared to help students apply this learning to their lives and the world around them.


A class is reading a chapter in Social Studies about the early United States government and the first president.

Teacher A:

After students read the chapter, the teacher discusses the information from the text and assigns a worksheet with various questions to assess comprehension of material read.

Teacher B:

While students read the chapter, the teacher stops at various points to check for understanding. When students read about the first president, the teacher pulls out two white squares the size of teeth and passes them around the class.

When students ask about the squares, she tells them, “How do you think George

Washington may have used these?” Students brainstorm and they discuss the possible uses. The teacher then goes on to tell them that George Washington actually wore false teeth. Students are then encouraged to look on the internet for other interesting facts about the U.S. founding fathers or early presidents.

Which lesson do you think students will remember and retain?

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Look at the example for Teacher A. Did this person discuss the history of U.S. government?

Yes. Did they cover a required objective? Yes. Will the students remember this information?

Most likely not.

Kids Discover

Magazine is an amazing source of interesting information, fun facts, and great photos on a variety of topics including

Science concepts,

Famous People,

Historical Events,

Current Events, and World

Cultures. Check the school library to see if they subscribe to this magazine.

Look at the example for Teacher B. Do you think that using the fun fact and concrete object of the false teeth grabbed student attention?

Definitely! Additionally, the extension activity is motivating for students and encourages further thinking on their part. This type of lesson is likely to be remembered by students for years to come.

Taking information about a famous person and relating it to students’ lives helps make that person real to them. Getting students actively engaged in a discussion about the pros and cons of wooden teeth will stick in their mind and will stay with them longer than a two sentence or two paragraph statement about George Washington from the textbook.

Staying Knowledgable

How can I be sure that I am able to extend and enrich student knowledge on topics/concepts that I don’t know much about or understand?

“Other types of professionals must stay well-informed of content for their field as well as current practices, and so must we!”

1) Read and Keep Reading

-biographies -science journals such as Discover

-historical events -non-fiction books

Non-fiction books and magazines can be very interesting and sometimes fun to read. Remember, the more you read, the more you know!

2) Research

As you do your lesson planning, write down key words from

the textbook and/or other resources from which you plan to


Use those keywords to do an internet search for information

- type in “fun facts” along with the keyword(s) to see what

comes up in your search.

How is this skill/concept applied in the real world?

When do you have time to read all of this? Try one or more of the following:

-in the bathroom

-while taking a


-while walking on

a treadmill

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Example of real-world application:

Last year my husband and I were remodeling our bathroom when he found that he needed to enclose a vent at an angle. Neither of us knew how to figure out the measurements to cut the 4 X 4 board. So, I turned to the internet, went to Ask Jeeves ( and typed in “How do I figure the measurements to cut an angle?” and “construction.” The information we needed was right there. Needless to say, we found that we need the

Pythagorean theorem. This is a real world application of geometric skills. You could also type in “real-world geometry” (or any other skill) and get plenty of information to help you when planning lessons.

3) Do the following before planning lessons.

Practice the math skill to be taught

Read the chapter or selection you plan to use in class

Practice the experiment

By doing these things BEFORE you plan out your lesson, you’ll find that this helps you prepare for potential questions, glitches in procedures, problems, and misunderstandings that might occur during the lesson. It will also help you know what to expect when you actually present the lesson with students.

Veteran teachers have the benefit of having taught the skill or experiment in previous years and as such know what they are doing.

As a new teacher, much of your planning time should be spent in gaining that knowledge and experience with the concept.

“A wellprepared teacher reads content and practices skills when planning lessons.”

2.) Understanding People

Why do teachers need to know about human psychology? Well, the more you know about human behavior, the more you will be able to motivate students to want to behave and learn in your class. Take some time to review the concepts you learned in your psychology course and brainstorm ways you can adapt your own behavior to create positive relationships with your students.

Each student in your class is a unique individual who has specific needs. It is easy to forget that fact when dealing with a classroom full of faces. We can get caught up in curriculum, deadlines, grades, accountability, and forget that we hold in our hands the fragile psyches of children who often need more than just good grades to help them bloom into successful adults.

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Know your Students

1) Get to know your students as individuals.

2) Be flexible and know that you can’t react exactly the same to

every situation and every student.

3) Be understanding.

Look further into what may be causing the problem rather than immediately assuming the child is a troublemaker or is

“out to get you.”

4) Take the time to talk with students.

Don’t make assumptions, but rather talk out the problem, assist with mediation between students, or just take time to talk with the student about life in general.

“An effective teacher takes time to get to know students as individuals.”

Boys in today’s classrooms

In talking about human psychology and meeting individual needs, I want to bring up a topic that may cause some controversy - Boys. Most classroom teachers, being female, do not understand boys and how they operate. They find themselves at a loss in trying to help these boys find a place within the classroom.

For the longest time girls have been a major focus in teacher training because they were often being left out of class discussions. The goal was to help our girls become more assertive in the classroom and receive the attention they deserve. This has been an issue of concern in the past and is currently being addressed.

The following information is not in any way intended to propose that we stop encouraging our girls to be successful in the classroom, only that we need to understand our boys so that they can also see success.

Psychologists and social scientists are warning our society that we are in the middle of a major crisis among boys. We can see this ourselves when we look at the number of boys commiting horrifying types of violence in our schools. So why are we addressing this issue here? We feel that the more you know about the types of behavior you are likely to see from boys, the better prepared you will be and the more effective you will be as a teacher.

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Dr. James Dobson, in his book Bringing Up Boys, states that understanding how boys are “hard-wired” is the first step. Let’s take a look at the information he provides.

1) Higher levels of Testosterone (T) in boys cause

traits of high risk including physical, criminal and

personal risks. The more (T) in a person, the more

risky behavior is exhibited.

2) Boys have lower levels of Serotonin, the

hormone which calms the emotions. This hormone

also facilitates good judgment.

3) Boys have a large amygdala which is the fight/

flight part of our brain. It does not think or reason,

but puts out a chemical that causes a “knee-jerk”

reaction which can lead to violence in some


Taking away recess from boys will only increase your frustration level.

All of these elements are the backbone for why boys generally engage in risky behaviors including acting out in class, wrestling with other boys, and a seeming lack of common sense.

Does this mean that your boys are a hopeless case? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that we must understand the need of most boys to be physically active. We also need to have an understanding behind the cause of often irrational reactions by boys to events and people in the school. For example, boys are much quicker to “shut down” when in a controversial situation with a teacher.

Teacher Testimony:

“One of the boys in my room was very active and had difficulties with prior teachers in the school. He was brilliant, but often caused disruptions because of his need for movement. I moved his desk to a place where he would not distract others, and let him stand or wiggle while working. This gave him the outlet he needed.

The year before he had been in and out of the

Principal’s office all year long. The year I had him, he went to the Principal’s office maybe two times all year. His parents were pleased with the progress and he was able to be a positive member of my class.”

What can I do?

1) We strongly recommend that you read Bringing Up Boys by Dr.

James Dobson, The Wonder of Boys by Dr. Michael Gurian,

or Raising Cain co-authored by Dr. Michael Thompson. All are

excellent books on understanding and helping boys.

2) Keep in mind the strategies for knowing your students that we

discussed earlier in this chapter.

3) Provide opportunities for your active boys to move around or

wiggle. You would want to seat them in the back of the room

where they cannot distract others.

ex: let them stand, wiggle a leg,

bounce up and down, use squeezy balls while working, etc.

4) Provide a place where students can calm down until they are

ready to join the class. I used my reading corner as “Australia” for

them to get away.

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How do I deal with angry or difficult students in my class?

There are different reasons for angry or difficult students.

• picked on by other students

• assumes he/she will always get in trouble (from past experiences with teachers)

• issues at home

• feels no one likes/appreciates them

• feels the need to “prove” they are tough

• feels stupid

• doesn’t trust the teacher because of past experiences

“The more we get to know each of our

Steps to Determining Root of Problem

students, the better we can help them to be successful.”

1.) Identify the specific behaviors exhibited by the student.

2.) Is this happening in just your class or in other classes as well?

3.) Is this behavior recent (past few days or months) or has it been going on for several years?

If behavior has changed recently:

-you’ve seen a change in behavior/attitude

-student was not behaving this way last year

Then ask:

Has something happened recently to the student either at school or home?

-bullied -family issues -changes in family life

-a recent move -a friend moved -death in family

These types of events can affect a student’s attitude and behavior resulting in a shut-down in the classroom.

4.) Once you’ve identified the cause of the change in behavior, work towards a solution

“Sometimes all it takes is a kind word or “I believe in you” to turn an angry or difficult student around.”

Offer a place for students to go to calm down. They may

rejoin the class when they are ready.

Talk one-on-one with the student to determine the cause of

the anger or problem. Talking out issues is oftentimes

enough to help the student build a sense of trust in you.

Allow students to talk to the counselor.

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If the student’s behavior is long-term, begin to work with parents and the counselor to resolve the problem.

• Be flexible rather than overly rigid.

• Offer a place for the student to calm down every time he/she

is angry or frustrated and allow them to rejoin the class

when they feel ready.

• Encourage positives shown by the student.

• Utilize leadership qualities within the student and use in a

constructive way to help you. “I could really use your help as

a leader in my classroom.”

• Talk with the student instead of making assumptions.

• Slow down and take your time when working with the

student. This shows you care.

The more time spent=building trust=building respect

• Many angry/difficult kids are ignored, yelled at, and/or

demeaned at home. They need something better from you if

you want their cooperation.

• Implement a non-threatening environment in your classroom.

3.) Understanding How the Brain Learns

Studies done by researchers show us that there are certain elements which increase students’ chance of learning. We’re going to use a very simplified explanation and application to the classroom, but in order to fully understand how the brain learns best, we strongly suggest that you read authors including Eric Jensen, Howard Gardner, Leslie

Hart, and Susan Kovalik. We have listed several different books in the back of this chapter as additional resources for your review.

The first element of a brain-based classroom is a non-threatening environment. What is a non-threatening environment and why is it so important that our classrooms be this way? An environment is nonthreatening when students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and dreams with the teacher and also with other students. We want to strive to have an atmosphere in the classroom where no one is judged by anyone else. Every idea is welcomed, no one is ridiculed, no one is fearful of overly harsh punishments, and no one is put down.

Our classroom should be a place where students can make mistakes and still be cherished.

Teacher Testimony

One year I had a 5th grade student who was the angriest child I had ever seen. He was in complete shut-down. The merest hint of another kid touching him would result in a total melt-down. I looked in his Cumulative folder and saw that he had been a problem since the first grade. He was in

Special Education, but for

Speech reasons only.

However, he kept telling me, “I can’t do that. I’m stupid.” After talking to the mom, who threw up her arms in exasperation,

I decided that extra care was needed with this one. Whenever I saw him get angry, I would let him go to the quiet corner to calm down. When possible, I would go and talk with him about whatever had happened.

After a while he began going to the corner less and less. One day, I saw him doing some of the more complicated math problems with ease. I said to him, “Boy, you sure are smart. Look at what you can do!” He simply beamed. I told him this over and over. By the

Winter Holidays it was like I had a totally different child in my class.

You know the best part?

Last year he graduated in the top ten of his high school class. I was so proud of him!

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As teachers we can create a non-threatening environment by:

• Insisting upon positive life skills.

kindness, cooperation, team-work, flexibility, friendship, integrity, honesty, dedication, loyalty, etc.

• Character education is an additional way to create a positive classroom climate.

• Do not stand for bullying, teasing, gossiping, and other negative behaviors in your


• Implement your consequences and defend those students being hurt by others. Show

that you will not tolerate it.

Of course, all of this is well and good, but if you do not practice what you preach, you will never have a non-threatening classroom environment.

Why is this so important? Remember that amygdala we mentioned earlier in the chapter? When our classrooms are full of negativity and hurtful behaviors from either the teacher or students, the amygdala kicks in and student learning shuts down. Let’s take a look now at how the brain operates.

The Triune Brain

Simply put, the brain is made of three parts. This is called the “Triune Brain.” There are technical terms for each part, but I use more simplified terms to explain this concept to my students. The terms in parenthesis come from Leslie Hart in his book Human Brain and Human Learning.

1. The “Thinking” Brain - (Neomammalian)

This is where we learn, store, and retrieve knowledge. Our memories are housed here as well as our creativity.

2. The “Regulating” Brain - (Paleomammalian)

This part of our brain is much smaller and somewhat below the thinking area. This part of our brain takes care of all our bodily needs such as eye blinking, swallowing, digesting, heart beating, eating, etc.

3. The “Reflex” Brain - (Reptilian)

This is the smallest part of our brain (the amygdala) which resides just below the regulating brain and just above our spinal cord. This is the control of our emotions, as we discussed earlier. The “fight vs. flight” reflex is exhibited through this part of our brain.

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I like to explain this to my students so that they will better understand how they learn and why sometimes it seems so hard for them to learn.

Are students only thinking of food?

There are several things that can keep us from using our “Thinking” brain. For example, if we are starving because we haven’t eaten anything all morning, our brain downshifts into the “Regulating” part and all we can think about is our hunger. No learning can take place because every thought we have revolves around food.

Another strong example is anger. If someone makes us angry, our brain downshifts to the “Reflex” part, and all we are able to do is be angry. All of our thoughts revolve around our anger. No learning can take place while we are still emotional. This goes for all emotions including joy and fear.

Take a moment to think about a time someone made you really angry. Were you able to think straight? Often this is how people describe a haze of anger. How can our students learn if their thoughts are consumed by hunger, bodily needs, anger, or other emotions?

Also, how can we teach well if we are consumed by those same things?

Let’s apply this theory to the classroom. What would happen if our students walked into a classroom where they were constantly picked on by other students, ridiculed or belittled by the teacher, and punished for every little mistake they might make. Can learning occur in this classroom? Definitely not! Students will enter the room and

Anger inhibits learning immediately downshift to their “Reflex” brain so that they are better able to protect themselves from possible harm, be it physical, emotional, or mental.

Now, what about a classroom where chaos rules? Before long, the teacher is the one who becomes fearful. The entire class is spent with the teacher operating in survival mode. No quality teaching can take place when the teacher is spending every minute using his/her

“Reflex” brain.

Does chaos rule?

One last application of this theory is in the school itself. It is important for administrators to create the same type of nonthreatening environment for his or her teachers. When teachers are fearful for their job, ridiculed or talked about by other staff members, or not allowed an open exchange of thoughts and ideas, they are not able to be effective teachers. Every thought and concern is focused on their situation within the school and therefore is not focused on teaching, where it should be.

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Teach Students about the Triune Brain

At the beginning of the year, explain to your students the concept of the Triune Brain. Give specific examples from your own life of when you have “downshifted”.

For example: “When I was taking the GRE exam, I arrived very early and brought a book to read while I waited. Although the test had not yet been passed out, a test-monitor came by my seat, snatched the book out of my hands and threw it on the floor near the opposite wall. “No outside materials aloud,” she harshly told me. Well, let me tell you, I was so angry that I couldn’t think of anything else except for that woman for a full fifteen minutes or more into the test. I couldn’t concentrate on the test until I had calmed myself down.”

This is a perfect time to explain to students the implementation of the other ideas presented in this section. I discuss at length my expectations for student use of these privileges and freedoms along with the consequences if they are abused.

Keep Healthy Snacks Available.

To help students stay in their “Thinking” brain, I keep a huge jar of pretzles, goldfish crackers, or some other healthy type of snack available for everyone. If a student comes to me and is hungry for whatever reason, I let them grab a handful of crackers to help ease that hunger.

“A wellprepared teacher plans how to implement brain-based strategies in their classroom and determines expectations for student use of freedoms.”

Clear Transition from Play Time to Work Time

When the class is having a lot of fun and everyone is joking, it is necessary to make a deliberate stop and point out to students when

“play time” has stopped and “work time” has begun again. This can be done by saying something like, “Well, that was fun.” (pause) “Now it’s time to get back to work. Everyone focus on...” Most students have trouble moving from play to work without this transition help from the teacher. Too much excitement can inhibit learning as well.

One way to transition students and re-focus their attention is to say,

Allow Students some Freedoms

“Look at the ceiling.

Look at the floor.

Look at me.”

Thank you to Kim Arthur,

Frisco ISD, for sharing this idea with us!

When students need to use the restroom, I allow them. All they have to do is let me know they are going (not during my instruction of course) and sign out. When they return, they sign themselves back in. This allows me to keep track of where and when everyone has gone. I feel that this shows students more respect than demanding that they ask permission to leave when “nature calls.” However, if students abuse this freedom, there are consequences.

(See “My Time”)

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A brain-based classroom is one where collaboration between students and teacher occurs on a daily basis. It is a place where everyone feels comfortable working and sharing ideas with one another. Can it really occur in the real world of teaching? You bet! We’ve been there and have experienced it ourselves. However, it is up to the teacher to create this type of an environment through their knowledge and actions. By being life-long learners ourselves, we foster a love for learning in our students. How? By reading and researching all we can about the concepts we teach, our students see our own desire to learn more. Additionally, when we take the time to get to know each of our students as individuals, they begin to trust and respect us as their guide.

Lastly, when we understand how the brain works, we can better meet student needs. When these needs are met, learning takes place every single day, which, after all, is our ultimate goal.

Additional Resources

Multiple Intelligences: Theory into Practice by Howard Gardner

The Unschooled Mind by Howard Gardner

Brain Based Learning by Eric Jensen

Human Brain and Human Learning by Leslie Hart

Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson

The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian

Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson

Questions for Reflection

1) Why is it important for you to be knowledgable in your content area?

2) Why should you get to know your students? How will it help you as a teacher? How will it help your students?

3) How does knowing about the Triune Brain affect your teaching style and your classroom?

4) What can you do to encourage a non-threatening environment in your classroom?

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Brain-Based Classroom


1) Take one concept you will teach this year

(see your State Standards or the district/school curriculum)

and learn as much as you can about it through research. How can you relate this concept to students’ lives? Develop an introduction that will “hook” students and one activity that will make this concept come alive for students.

2) Develop a plan for how you will make your classroom a brain-based learning environment.

3) Do some further research on boys in the classroom or students with anger issues. Develop a list of strategies you can use to help these students be successful in the classroom.

Notes/ Reflection on Chapter


Teaching Strategies

Another aspect of the brain-based classroom is engaging students in their learning. We want students to be active, not passive participants in the learning process. What exactly does it mean to be active versus passive?

Take a look at the learning pyramid below to see the average retention rate for different styles of teaching. Which of these encourage passive learning through listening or watching and which encourage active learning through doing?

I want to keep my students actively engaged in class!



Textbooks, Etc.


Demonstration/ Modeling

Average Retention Rate

5 %

10 %

20 %

30 %

50 %

Discussion Group

75 %

How do I begin?

Practice by Doing

Teach Others/ Immediate Use of Learning

90 %

NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science, 300 N. Lee Street, Suite 300,

Alexandria, VA 22314. 1-800-777-5227.

Students need to be actively manipulating information through a variety of activities in a brain-based classroom. Being actively involved is motivating and you’ll find that students won’t want to leave your class because they are having so much “fun.” Can you imagine a classroom where students are being challenged to think at higher levels, create products that demonstrate and apply their learning, and teach others what they have learned? This is what a brain-based classroom looks like. Let’s start by taking a look at higher level thinking skills.

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Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills includes:







Knowledge is the lowest and most basic skill while evaluation is the highest cognitive skill.

Our students should be assessed using each of these cognitive levels. This helps our students to stretch and challenge their critical thinking skills rather than always testing basic facts.

Below are some terms you can use to help you create different types of activities:


define list identify describe match locate


explain summarize interpret rewrite convert

give example


compare contrast distinguish deduct infer categorize


create suppose design compose combine rearrange


demonstrate show operate construct apply


judge appraise debate criticize support

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“Increase critical thinking skills by utilizing higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy”

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Here are some sample activities for each level in Bloom’s:


Define the following vocabulary

Identify the main characters

List the properties of a gas

Locate England on the atlas

Describe the scientific method


Retell the story in your own words

Give an example of how the main character is a hero

Explain how a gas is different from a solid

Explain how an island is born

Give 5 examples of mammals

“Use Bloom’s taxonomy to help you assess different levels of student learning.”


Predict what will happen in the sequel to this book

Demonstrate how a liquid becomes a solid or gas

Demonstrate how a volcano can create an island in the ocean

Show how to cross the street safely


Imagine that the villain and hero are friends. What might happen in the story because of this?

Suppose we breathed liquid rather than a gas (air), how would our lives be different?

Design your own island using three different land features

Design the front page of a newspaper that might have appeared in Great Britain in the year 1100


Choose an issue from the story to debate

Which is better to breathe, solid, liquid or gas?

Support your opinion

Using what you know about landforms and tectonic plates, criticize or support the notion that

California will one day “fall into the ocean”

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Team/Group Activities

Another aspect of the brain-based classroom is cooperative learning. Working together as a team is an important skill students will need throughout their lives. Also, when students work together as a group they learn from one another.

Although we may not see some of the benefits immediately, our students are learning important social skills. They are also learning different ways to think and respond to situations by observing the others in their group. If handled properly, group activities not only motivate students, but also enhance student learning.

“The workplace is becoming less isolated with workers behind partitions and more a dynamic system of people working together in teams.”

Team Roles

It is important to discuss team roles with your students so that they each know what is expected of them. In the beginning you will need to model what you expect each “role” to look like and sound like. Just telling students, “Okay, you are the leader” does not teach them how to be a leader. Instead model what the leader of a group might say and do.

Are you looking to get students actively involved in a lesson? Try putting them together in a group to become

“experts” of a section in the chapter or to create a product using the skill/concept you just taught.

Example: (leader) “We are supposed to read this chapter and respond using the questions on this sheet. Why don’t we break up the chapter and each read a section aloud. Who would like the first two pages? (etc.)” ... when getting off task leader might say, “I think maybe we are getting off topic. Who is supposed to read next?”

Primary Teachers -- Give the students some simple guidelines for each role. You might even “script” out what they should say to help train them in this role. Your goal at this point is to begin training students for each role within the group.

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Before every group activity, have students review the roles and rules of working as a team.

Leader - The person guiding the group. This person begins

discussion and leads the team in the activity. They

also redirect when the group gets off task.

Recorder - The person who writes down the specifics of the

activity, takes notes, etc.

Reporter - The person who presents information to the class.

Materials - The person who gather necessary materials.

TimeKeeper - The person who watches the clock and makes

sure the group meets their deadline.

(These roles are taken from different Learning Group Models)

Strategies for Successful Teaming

Have guiding questions and activities to help students know

what to do. Remember, you are the overall guide and facilitator of

this activity.

Constantly monitor students. We use the Clipboard Monitoring

method mentioned in the Classroom Management chapter. A

simple spreadsheet on a clipboard will help you keep track of

student behaviors and academic progress.

Using bonding type activities at the beginning of the year, or

anytime you change groups, to help students work better as a

team. We have several activities listed in the First Day of School

chapter that you could use for this purpose. Additionally, you

might look up information on ROPES activities which are

designed to build trust between groups of people and

emphasizes problem solving skills.

Use Bloom’s

Keywords to help structure group discussions or group activities.

We sometimes use a concept called

“Cube It” shared with us at a G/T training.

The idea is to take a box, cover it with colorful paper, and put the keywords for each level on each side of the box.

Give one cube to each group of students and have them create their own questions or activities based on one or more of the keywords listed on each side.

You could tell students to “Cube

It” and have them do one question/ activity for each level.

Or, you could assign a level to the student groups depending on what you wanted them to do.

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Teaming Strategies Continued...

Remember, your students will not do this perfectly the first time.

It will take constant practice before they become adept at working together as a group.

Remind students before group activities what your expectations are.

Take some time to model what you want to see and hear, not just one time, but throughout the year.

Example: “We had some problems during group work today. Let’s remind ourselves of

what group work looks like and sounds like.”

Please don’t think that you can say to your students, “Okay everybody. Get into groups of four and discuss the implications of war on a new country,” and they’ll do it. Oh no, not by a long shot.

You probably won’t even be able to get them to do a simple activity such as illustrating a concept just taught.

You have to show them how to work together, or how to guide and participate in a discussion.

It is a lot of work on your part, but you’ll find it is so worth the effort in the long run! Just stick with it and keep reminding your students what is expected of them. Before you know it you’ll have students actively engaged in their learning rather than bored to tears.

Grouping Strategies and Ideas


With this strategy, have students take a minute to think about the topic or question you have posed. Then have them share with a partner or neighbor. After a few minutes of sharing, have the pairs choose another pair and share again as a larger group. This activity gives students a chance to think both independently and gain new ideas from others.


This strategy calls for small groups of two-four students. Each small group becomes an “expert” either with reading a selection, with research, or with a partiuclar skill or concept. Every group is responsible for a different passage or concept.

The second step is to have one “expert” from each group get together in new larger groups and share their information with each other. This activity helps make an otherwise boring assignment exciting and different. It also allows students to see how others work and it keeps them moving.

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Group to Individual

Anytime you are presenting a new skill or concept for students to manipulate, work through an example as a whole class. Next, have students do the activity as a group. Then, have students do a similar activity with the skill in pairs. Lastly, have students show application of the skill/concept as individuals.

This strategy allows students the opportunity to practice the skill or concept several times and gather input from other students before having to show comprehension and application on their own.

Any Activity to Enhance Learning

Pretty much any activity that engages students actively in their learning can be done as a group. Below are a few ideas to jumpstart your thinking:

Games - Playing board and other types of games such as

Scatergories, Mastermind, and

Monopoly encourage thinking skills and require students to take turns

“A wellprepared teacher uses a variety of teaming strategies so that group work does not become as dull as lectures.”

Scavenger Hunt - Students read through a chapter or part of a chapter and work together to create scavenger hunt questions for the class to answer.

Scripts - Students work together to turn a historical event or a story into a play. Students could work together to explain a concept or skill through a skit or play. I always require a written out script to show the different reading parts.

Sequencing/Timelines - Have students work as a group to put items, events, or specific dates in order. Using large sentence strips, write one item or event on each. Give each group a packet of these strips to put in order. This is an excellent enrichment activity that applies the reading skill of sequencing and can also be used to introduce a “How To” written essay.

Round Robin - The Round Robin is a fun writing activity that can be used with any topic or concept. Give each group of students either a topic or sentence to start. Each student writes the sentence on their paper and continues to write for three to five minutes. When time is up (use a timer), students pass their paper on to the next person who then continues the story/writing.

Once each paper has made it around the circle, have students read the results!

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Discovery and Experiential Learning

Another aspect of the brain-based classroom is discovery, or learning through experiences.

Students learn best when they experience something and add that experience to their knowledge base, or schema. Science and Social Studies provide excellent opportunities for this type of learning. Instead of telling students about the Civil War, take them to see a reenactment of a battle. If a student asks a question about whales, have them research the answer for themselves and share it with the class.

“An effective teacher teaches students

HOW to learn so that they can become life-long learners.”

Allow your students to find and experience the knowledge for themselves. If that seems the easy way out to you, you are wrong!

From an outsider’s point of view it may seem as though the teacher is doing nothing. However, students need guidance and encouragement to find the right answers. Some students need that extra push to do more than just what is expected of them. Your job, contrary to popular belief, is not always the purveyor of knowledge. It is also to guide your students and teach them how to gain that knowledge for themselves.

Here are some ways of allowing students to discover knowledge for themselves:

Expert Advice

This is a slight twist on the Jigsaw teaming activity we mentioned on the previous page. Break your students into groups of four or five. Assign each group a subsection of the unit and/or chapter from the textbook. Instruct your students that they have _____ (minutes/hours/days) to become an expert on their section/ concept. They need to read the section, discuss it, and be prepared to teach it to the rest of the class.

Encourage them to ask questions of each other and you. Also, their presentation should be creative. Then hold EVERY student accountable for the information presented through a test or other assessment. You will be surprised at how motivated students are to read when THEY are the ones who have to teach everyone else.

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Independent Study

Have each student choose one concept/ person/ idea related to your unit to research. Create a checklist for them to follow. Have them write a research paper, create a visual, and present the information to the class. Hold students accountable through an assessment over the information presented.

“The gift of knowledge is often not appreciated unless it has been earned!”


Pose a question to your class and discuss it. Help them to discover the information through questions and discussion. For example, you might ask your students, “I wonder why George

Washington was elected the first president?” Then guide them through a discussion to help them discover the answer. This is a wonderful way to encourage questioning skills that will help in student research.

Use objects to jumpstart “I wonder” questions. Pass around an object and ask, “I wonder what this is used for?” Encourage students to come up with their own “I wonder” questions about the object.

When students ask a question about a particular topic, or ask a “why” question, help them use the internet to discover the answer for themselves. Then they can share their newfound information with the rest of the class.

Take students on an exploration walk. This is a perfect time to ask “I wonder” questions about the world around them. Your “I wonder” questions do not even need to stay within the confines of nature and the environment. Is there construction going on nearby? As you pass by ask, “I wonder why they are ...?” This may spark some interest in students to research further in order to answer your question. With construction questions, students could learn more about math and science in their quest for knowledge.

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Don’t just discuss a question or concept, experiment. Are you discussing Egypt and the Nile? Try an experiment showing how the

Egyptians were able to use the floods to their advantage in farming.

Discussing space exploration? Experiment with balloons to show how a rocket works. Discussing plant life? Have students design and plant their own garden.

AIMS has some wonderful experiments that are easy and can be connected to all subject areas. The Ranger Rick Big Book Series also come with neat ideas for experiments.

Scholastic and Teacher Created Materials also have some fantastic books available of kitchen table experiments that could be done in any classroom.

Get your students doing, not just reading!

The internet is an excellent source to look for experiments you can do with your students. When doing a search be sure to type in

“student experiments” and the keywords of your topic.

You might also try

Yahooligans when searching.

Children’s Stories

Have students read a chapter from the textbook and rewrite it as a children’s story. It must be from one person’s point of view (ex: Caesar‘s story about the fall of ancient Rome) and should include all of the important information from the chapter. Have students share their stories. You could even have them share their stories with younger grade levels.

Children’s stories are also a great way to introduce a unit and make connections between literature and the subject area. Getting ready to learn about the human body? Why not read the book Dem Bones? You could incorporate music into the learning. Primary students especially love the combination of stories and songs!

There are such a plethora of children’s books that reach across all subject areas. Not sure what you are looking for? Do a search through Amazon or another online bookstore with the concept as your keyword. With Amazon you can go to the Children’s Books section and then browse only in that area. You’re sure to find what you need!

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Research Projects

In this “information age” research skills are some of the most important and useful tools we can give our students. These skills should be taught and practiced from first grade all the way up through high school. Children are naturally curious about the world around them, and what better way to learn than to discover the answers to questions through research?

“Oh, no,” you may say to yourself, “my kids aren’t ready for research.” Perhaps you are the one who is not ready. For those of us who remember 20 page writing assignments, the word research can have a very negative connotation. However, research can be as simple as looking up the answer to a question.

Here are some tips to help you along:


Start out simple and easy.

In primary grades, simply have students use books, their parents, other teachers, and the computer to find the answer to a question.

With older students, have them use primary and secondary sources to find the answer to a question relating to your topic of study. Require a paragraph and a creative product such as a pop-up book or diorama.


Take it step by step.

When you do your first research project, take the students through the process step by step. Model each step for them as a class and then allow students to complete that step for their own project.

One way to help students get comfortable with research projects is to do the first one as a group project, the second one as a partner project, and the last one, or next ones, individually.


Allow student choice.

Choose a timely and global topic, but then allow your students to choose the specific area within that larger topic. For example, you may choose the topic of animals, and your students each get to choose the animal they want to learn more about.

The library and librarian are excellent resources. Be sure to talk with the librarian before you begin planning a research project for your students. Know what is available and how you can use the library.

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Determine ahead of time what you expect.

What elements do you expect in the project? Do you want a written part, visual, and an oral presentation? Within each of these, what do you expect? Is this to be a group or individual project? Can the written part be creative like a story or skit, or do you expect a formal essay of some sort?

“No matter what time of year, projects are a great tool to use in the classroom.

Students are excited to learn and enjoy the collaboration.”


Create a checklist for students to follow.

Make sure you include every aspect that will be assessed.

Include directions for the project at the top of the page. You can make the checklist as specific and detailed as you feel your students need.

I use mine to show students the steps to follow when completing their project as well as tasks and products to be done for each section. Some students need a lot more structure than others.

You might even consider including due dates for completion of each section.


Teach students how to write the formal paper, if required.

When it is time for students to write their essay, it is important to go through the process with them step by step, especially the first couple of times.


I teach students how to write an introduction in class. Then, that night they are required to write an introduction for their paper. The next day I read and help students revise their introductions. We follow the same process for the body and conclusion of the paper.

It really helps students to go through the process one step at a time, especially if this is their first formal paper.


Monitor students constantly.

This is not the time to sit behind your desk. Monitoring is not difficult as long as you are prepared. Use the Clipboard Monitoring form found in the Classroom Management chapter to help you keep track of who is on/off task and who is having trouble with the process.

In our opinion, students should be required to complete at least three research projects each year. As students get into upper grades, the requirements should become more stringent. This will better prepare them for college and vocational school where research is a common learning tool.

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Teaching Note-taking Skills

In order to be successful at research projects, our students need to be taught how to take notes from a source. Even the youngest can be taught through modeling. Although you may not ask a Kinder or first grade student to copy down notes, modeling the skill during a non-fiction reading begins building a schema for note-taking.

The more this vital skill is taught in Elementary and Middle school, the better our students will be at note-taking as they progress through each grade.


Introduce with Big Books


1) Small chunks of information

Each page usually has only one paragraph or two of information.

2) Large print

The large print makes it easier for students to see when reading as a class.

3) Variety of topics

Ranger Rick puts out a series of Big Books that are

Science and Social Studies related. These are very informative, can be easily used to connect to the current topic being taught, and have fantastic pictures.

Primary teachers

can Model notetaking skills for the whole class on an overhead transparency or a large sheet of butcher paper.

We want to build those dendrites in the brain that are associated with this concept.

Continually practice note-taking skills as a whole class with the teacher writing information in outline format on a transparency. This simply helps reinforce the idea of what you expect students to do when they read non-fiction.



• Write the title/general topic of the book as your main heading or


• Read each page (including the picture captions) carefully.

• Ask students to tell you what that page was mostly about (main


• Write the main idea as your subheading on a transparency or

butcher paper.

• Ask students for details from the page that support the main idea.

• Write these as one or two word details under the subheading.

• Make sure you show the student the pictures and discuss the

information in each caption. Is it necessary or extraneous?

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• a medium sized star nine planets orbit

-Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn,

Uranus, Neptune, Pluto provides light and heat •


• Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars


-mostly rock closest to the sun short orbits

Have students apply this knowledge of note-taking skills when researching and taking notes from a source, including the internet. Instruct them to take notes exactly as they have practiced in class. When students begin taking notes in this manner, using only one or two keywords for each detail, you’ll find that they are not able to plagarize from the source. You may even want to practice taking notes from an encyclopedia or other non-fiction book to help students make the transition from simple paragraphs to more complex source material. Don’t forget to have them write down the title of each source at the top of their notes.

Here is a set of instructions you can give to older students to help them during the research/ note-taking process.

Instructions for Taking Notes

1. Read each paragraph - does it contain information you need?

-if yes, go on to #2

-if no, read the next paragraph

2. What was that paragraph mostly about?

- Write the main idea on your paper

3. What are the details in this paragraph?

-Write the supporting details in one or two words as bullets

under the main idea

-Limit 3 words for each bullet

4. Read the next paragraph

**Remember, you do not need to copy EVERYTHING down. Taking notes is the art of pulling out only the information you need.

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Making Connections between Subject Areas

Another effective teaching strategy is integrated study. This section will offer some of our thoughts on why you should integrate as well as some suggestions for your classroom. Most of these ideas come from Susan Kovalik’s ITI for the Classroom. Another excellent resource for integrating is a book entitled The Way We Were, The Way We Want to Be by Ann Ross, written for middle school teachers. Both of these are excellent resources to have in your library!


With everything we are supposed to teach each day it often seems as though we can never fit it all in. However, by integrating subject matter, concepts, and skills, not only can we cover everything we need to, but we can also help our students make important connections in their learning.

“An effective teacher helps students see connections across their learning.”

Integration is the connection of several subjects under a topic or theme of some sort. Brain research shows us that students learn best when ideas are connected across subject areas. As adults, we know that science cannot be separated from math, and that social studies concepts are closely linked to both language and science.

How then can we ask our students to learn in isolated compartments for each subject? In doing so, we push students farther back rather than leading them forward in their studies. One way we can work towards making connections is through thematic units. Susan Kovalik, in her book ITI for the Classroom, states that themes should be motivating to students and relate to the real world.

“Making connections in learning encourages higher level thinking and is supported by brain-based research.”

Getting Started

1.) Start with a topic of study required for your grade level

-Science and Social Studies are the easiest to use as a

starting place

2.) Brainstorm skills/ objectives usually taught for that topic

3.) Brainstorm connections with other subject areas

-find the common links in skills/concepts (ie - graphing is a

skill used in math, science, and social studies)

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Let’s say that you have an upcoming unit on Volcanoes. You would first want to list skills and concepts to be taught for the topic. Next, you would brainstorm Social Studies, Math and Language Arts connections with volcanoes. Some of your ideas might include:

“Can you think of any ways to incorporate art or music into this unit?”

Have students locate volcanoes along the Ring of Fire using latitude and longitude (Social Studies). This could even include a video about the Ring of Fire.

Students can read about or research famous historical events surrounding volcanoes such as Mount St. Helens or Vesuvius

(Language Arts and Social Studies).

A study of landforms could also arise since many mountains began as volcanoes. In addition, students can learn how new islands are created (which goes well with the Ring of Fire study).

With the study of islands, students can also learn mapping skills.

Those skills can be applied by creating their own “island” and using graph paper to create a map of cities, rivers, etc. on this island (Social Studies).

Additionally, there is a very definite sequence to what happens when a volcano erupts and how it creates an island over time.

This works well for including the reading concept of sequencing


Students can also study the geometry of volcanoes by discussing cones and triangles. Students can also study how seismic instruments work to measure pressure, etc. (Math).

Use a Graphic Organizer when Planning








Tectonic Plates

Layers of the Earth

Creation of new land

Effects of pressure

Environmental changes



Sequencing of events

Research - note taking

Descriptive Mode

Non-fiction reading


Latitude & Longitude


Mapping/using a grid

Ancient Romans - Italy

Mt. Vesuvius

Current Events

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Start Small

If you jump in with both feet, you will more than likely meet with disppointment. Not only does it take a while to get used to a new idea, but it also takes some time to implement a new type of strategy in the classroom. Just like our students, we all have different ways of learning.

Some of us need to go for the gusto, but others need more of a trial period before being ready to undertake a project like this. Integrating takes experience and it takes logical thinking. It works best when you have two or more teachers working together to brainstorm the connections and make them work in a lesson or unit.

For those of you who read the above tips and examples and thought immediately, “That is way too much work for me right now,” please understand that you do not need to start out so big. You are probably already integrating without even realizing it. Every time you use a teachable moment to help students reach an understanding, whether it relates to your subject matter or not, you are integrating.

Here are a few ways to start out with small steps:

When reading a story or novel, incorporate history from the time period used in the setting.

Provide students with a timeline of interesting events that occurred during the time the author either wrote the novel or during their lifetime. A neat way to do this might be to create a “In the Year Of” poster that shows prices of everyday items, popular music, famous people, etc.

Point out cities and countries on the map for authors, story settings, famous scientists or mathematicians.

Point out ways the environment affects a story, historical event, or world culture. This includes landforms, temperature or seasons, climates, and/or animal and insect life.

Use timelines to show other events happening at the time of a scientific discovery.

Use research projects in Science and Social Studies to study a topic in further detail.

When teaching a concept/skill in Math or Science that has a practical application, try to either show or discuss these with students.

How can I integrate if

I don’t know what I’m supposed to teach?

Every State has a

Department of Education website where they post important information including the State

Standards. These standards are what the

State expects students to learn in each grade and subject area.

1) Print out the State

Curriculum Standards

(may be called something different) for the grade level and subject areas you will be teaching.

2) Scan each subject area for skills that are duplicated. For example, the skill of graphing shows up in Math,

Science, Social Studies, and Reading.

3) Look for a Science or

Social Studies topic that can connect skills/ concepts from the different subject areas.

4) Use the advice in this chapter to begin developing an integrated unit.

Remember - you don’t have to start out with a full-blown integrated unit.

Try starting with small steps so that you will not be overwhelmed.

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Unit used with 5th Grade Students

5th grade Science - Environmental Science - Biomes, Environments, Habitats

5th grade Social Studies - Geography of the United States/ Native Americans

Theme: Trekking Across the United States

Topics of Study:

West coast to East coast — tracking the natural movement of early peoples across North America

Eastern Pacific tribes

-coastal environment/habitats/weather

Southwestern tribes

“An effective

-desert environment/habitats/weather

Plains tribes

-grasslands environment/habitats/weather

Eastern tribes

-forested environment/habitats/weather

teacher keeps a balance between basic skills instruction and integrated thematic units.”


• graphing - Math

• collect current data on precipitation & temperature from each geographical area and graph —Science/Math

• compare/contrast regions — Language Arts (essay)

• discuss effect of environment on Native American culture for each region — Science/Social Studies

• compare/contrast Native American cultures - S.S./ Lang. Arts

• Native American mythology — compare/contrast stories -

Lang. Arts

• environment of each region - Science/ S.S.

• habitats found in each region - Science/ S.S.

• food chain - Science

• energy cycle - Science

• timeline of settlement of early peoples - Social Studies

• research various Native American tribes - Social Studies/

Lang. Arts

• group presentations of research - Social Studies/ Lang. Arts

Notice that basic Math and Language Arts skills are not included in this integrated unit. We believe that there must be a fine balance between basic skills and integration. We used our daily oral language, daily geography, and daily math to practice these basic skills. We also tied this practice into our integrated lessons. In addition, we added in a “skills” time into our day for math, reading, and writing. An example of an integrated lesson plan can be found on the next couple of pages.

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The next two pages contain a sample lesson plan that utilizes integration throughout the day.

Monday, October 21, 20__

Objectives: To be able to average a group of numbers

To be able to create a poetry book using original poems

To be able to complete a book study for a novel

To be able to explain how a habitat, ecosystem, and environment are different and how they are related


Science book, notes on averaging, large white paper, color pencils


Imagine that you live in a forest. Describe everything you see: animals, plants, weather.

Homework: Rdg. - Read for 20 min./ Write a response from questions in log

L.A. - Write one sentence for each vocabulary word

Math - Practice averaging/mean

Words of the Day: ecosystem - a community and its nonliving environment community - all the populations in one ecosystem population - all the organisms of one species that live in a certain place

Daily Language:

Locate the commas used in the following sentences. Explain the two different comma rules used.

Ecosystems can change constantly. They comes in all sizes, and can exist in a puddle, log, ocean, or forest.

(Answer) Commas are used to separate items in a list. A comma is needed before the

“and” in this sentence because it is a compound sentence.

Daily Geography: What sea surrounds Jamaica?

What city is 23 degrees S latitude, 43 degrees W longitude?

(Answer) a) Caribbean b) Rio De Janeiro

Daily Math: Estimate the following to the nearest hundreds place:

A) 790 + 3,756 + 2,345 B) 490 + 5,645 + 8,205

C) 608 + 6,457 + 10,790

(Answer) A) 6,900 B) 14,300 C) 17,900

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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Copy homework into calendar, Copy Words of the day

Write in Journal


Daily Oral Language - Students complete & go over in class


Daily Geography - Students complete & go over in class


Daily Math - Students complete & go over in class

Introduce averaging with word problem —

• Mrs. Hershman went on a shopping spree last week. Monday she spent

$20.00, Tuesday she spent $30.00, Wednesday she spend $40.00 and

Saturday she spent $50.00. What is the average amount of money she spent last week?

Give notes in math spiral on average/mean

Do a few practice problems in the spiral

Practice with page 95 in Science book – use the diagram of the average number of ants in a particular ecosystem to calculate the total ant population.


Bathroom Break/ Go to Specials

9:55-10:45 Specials - Art

10:50-11:20 Reading Workshop - Students complete predictions for main character for Book


11:20-12:10 Writing Workshop - Students continue working on poetry book

12:10-1:00 Lunch/ Recess


Brainstorm with the students things they might find in a forest environment: pond, fish, bushes, trees, birds, small animals

• Discuss and take notes on ecosystem and difference between habitat, ecosystem, and environment (Use Ecosystem Diversity sheets)

Students create a visual as a group to show their understanding of the difference between a habitat, ecosystem & environment, AND how these

• three are related.

Group presentations


Read Aloud - Flight of the Sparrow - poem

Review Homework

• Clean up

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Here are some samples from integrated units that we did for 5th & 6th grade to give you some idea of how to organize your units of study. The first unit is more detailed to show you how we categorized the concepts taught.

5th Grade

Yearlong Theme: Exploring Our World

1st 6 weeks - The Outer Limits -

Topics - Galaxy, Solar System, Moon, Space Exploration


number line place value basic operations


galaxies constellations solar system gravity moon spacecraft/ exploration probes

Lang. Arts

news articles science fiction narrative (mode)

Social Studies


Space Exploration (history of)

Modern American history



Attributes of a story - setting, characters, plot

Main Idea

2nd 6 weeks - Our Island Earth -

Topics - formation of earth, volcanoes, islands, rainforests

3rd 6 weeks - A New World -

Topics - Native American tribes, ecosystems

4th 6 weeks - Across the Ocean -

Topics - ocean life, exploration of Americas

5th 6 weeks - Westward Bound

Topics - colonization, growth of America, government, westward expansion

6th 6 weeks - Exploring My Own World

Topics - family, self, 50 states

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The following unit was created for a Social Studies/Language Arts class.

6th Grade

Yearlong Theme:On My Own

1st 6 weeks - Knowing Myself

Unit One - This is the Real Me (2 weeks)

Knowing myself mentally: student information, learning styles inventory

Knowing myself emotionally: individual values & morals, emotions and the way they affect different people

- Last Summer with Maizon

Knowing myself physically:physical appearance, describing people, adjectives, physical skills

- “Cecilia Dowling”

Prewriting skills: jot list, hot topic list lifemap, freewriting, looping, brainstorming, mind mapping,

Reading skills: poetry - “Cecilia Dowing” details - Last Summer with Maizon

Individual novels

About the author

Unit Two - My Heritage (2 weeks)

The Great Ancestor Hunt - Trade Book (Begin reading before unit)

The World in the Classroom: Map skills, identifying cultures and countries

Family: family tree, prefixes, suffixes and root words,

- Child of the Owl

Traditions: family customs, personal narrative, parts of a book

- Opera, Karate and Bandits

- “Fiddler On the Roof”

Unit Three - My Goals (2 weeks)

Personal: Resolutions, friendly letter, main idea, setting goals

- Brother to the Wind

Professional: setting goals, actions have consequences

- Guest Speaker on Careers

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2nd 6 weeks - Finding My Place

Topics - Continents, map skills, early man, family, communication

skills, Early settlements, timelines, ancient civilizations, climates

3rd 6 weeks - Applying Myself

Topics - Resume, Biographies, charts/graphs, population, government, economics, the

“How To“ essay, interviewing,

4th 6 weeks - Improving My World

Topics - Inventions, persuasion, cause & effect, nonfiction, exploration of world, ocean,


5th 6 weeks - Dealing With Others

Topics - Relationships, cultural borrowing, trade routes, economics, conflict/resolution,

war, holocaust, governments, advantages/disadvantages, heroes

6th 6 weeks - I’m All On My Own

Topics - Survival skills, critical thinking skills, freedoms & responsibilities, spread of

democracy, world geography, environments

Middle School Teachers

Integration is not an impossibility in the middle school. If you are truly interested in integrating subject matter, there are several ways to go about it.

• You and your team members need to agree that integration is the best thing for your students.

• Share the different skills and topics that will be taught throughout the year.

• Work together to determine a yearlong theme and subsequent six weeks themes.

• Planning together will make integration much easier for everyone.

• Each class will cover a part of the lesson for the day.

For example:

If you were doing a mini-unit on volcanoes, each class would build on the others.

• Science would discuss how volcanoes are formed and would experiment with volcanoes.

• Social Studies might plot various known volcanoes on a map of the world and study latitude and longitude.

• Language Arts might read about some historical volcanic eruptions such as Vesuvius or Mt.

St. Helen’s and may write a How To essay on making a model volcano.

• The art teacher could be a part of this unit by actually allowing students to make a volcano (or it could be done in another class).

• Lastly, Math might be able to study cones, ratios, percentages, and probability.

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Learning Centers

Another way of enhancing your instruction is through learning centers. Upper elementary and middle school teachers often do not utilize the learning center for the following reasons:

• Takes up too much room

• Takes too long to create and organize

• Takes too much effort to monitor

• Takes too long to evaluate students

In our classrooms, we finally found a way to utilize learning centers so that they were not a burden, but instead were a helpful tool.

Thinking Centers

Students use the thinking center when they are finished with a class assignment and have nothing else to do. We also used it as a reward. Here is how you set it up:



1) Create a “thinking folder” for each student with a manila folder

2) Place these folders in an easily accessible place

3) Copy logic puzzles, think-a-grams, and other word puzzles, glue them on colorful construction paper and laminate them

4) Separate puzzles by type & place them in clearly labeled manila folders

5) Write the directions for the center on the manila folder

6) Place vis-a-vis pens in a can on a table

7) Students choose a puzzle, complete it and write the answer on their own sheet of paper.

8) Then they put their paper into their “thinking folder.”

9) Lastly, have students wipe the original puzzle clean and put it away.

• Students can work these puzzles at their own seat which means that you don’t have to have a whole “center area” prepared. All you need is a spot to keep the puzzles.

Every three weeks check the folders & grade the puzzles.

• Give students extra credit for correct answers and feedback for wrong answers to help them do better the next time.



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Rotating Centers

Another fun idea for learning centers is to use rotating centers. Set up each center on a table/ group of desks. Separate students into rotation groups. Each group works on a center, then at a pre-determined time, rotates to a new center. The only problem with this type of rotation is that some students finish more quickly than others and may become behavior problems.

A variation on this type of center is to create a checklist and allow students to work at their own pace. Each student visits each center when he/she needs to. For management purposes, set limits as to how many students can be at each station.

In order for this to work, you must MONITOR, MONITOR,

MONITOR! Have your clipboard in hand and be ready to help students, note hardworking students, and mark behavior problems. Have an alternative activity ready for those students not mature enough to handle this type of assignment.


• Type/ copy directions for each center

• Paste directions on colorful construction paper

• Laminate directions

• Set directions and materials on each table/group of desks

• Pass out checklists to students

• Students record data/answers on their own paper

• Students turn in their checklist, answers & any products they

made in a manila folder to be evaluated.

• Evaluate the centers using the checklist. Give each activity a

score of 1-4 and then average the scores to determine the overall


1 = 65 2 = 75 3 = 85 4 = 95

(See the Assessment chapter for more information about Rubric scoring)

“A wellprepared teacher plans structure and guidelines to help students get the most out of labs or rotating centers.”

The center activities are from the Ranger Rick Big

Book, Whales.


_____ How Does Salt Water Help Keep Whales Afloat?

_____ How Big Are Whales?

_____ What Keeps Whales Warm?

_____ What Helps Keep Whales Afloat?

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Field Trips

Field trips are important discovery learning tools. They provide hands-on learning for students and serve as a great way to get children to experience the community around them.

Students love field trips! Think about all get to go somewhere exciting and it gives you a break from your daily routine.

Field trips also provide wonderful educational opportunities for students and teachers alike. However, without planning and organization, field trips can be a nightmare for teachers.

A large part of this planning process is soliciting parental support in the form of chaperones. Most museums, theaters, and other cultural places require a small student to teacher ratio of 5 to 1 or

10 to 1. When you have a class of 30 or more students, this means that you’ll need several adult volunteers to help.

“A wellprepared teacher plans ahead and in detail for all field trips.”

Helpful Tips

The number of chaperones you will need depends on -

• your class size the type of field trip (inside vs. outside) the number of students requiring special attention

• The more chaperones you have, the lower the student to adult ratio. Smaller groups give parents/ volunteers greater control over their charges.

• Whenever you go on an inside field trip, you want lots of structure and control to maintain a quiet and non-disruptive environment.

Sign up parent volunteers well in advance of your trip.

“Remember to get your lunch count in early. The cafeteria staff must make sack lunches for your students AND lunch for the rest of the school. They have a lot to do!”

• Notify other teachers in the school of the dates and times for your field trip.

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• Notify the cafeteria if you will be out during lunch time. This helps them better prepare for lunch that day. Also, you may have several students who need a sack lunch from school.

A lunch count needs to be done at least 2 weeks before your trip.

Put in a request for a field trip to your principal as soon as you begin your initial planning. All field trips must be approved by the principal.

Have a clear educational objective for your field trip. Why are you going? If it is just for a free day or to give students a break, the trip probably won’t be approved.

Be ready with some sort of a scavenger hunt or focus questions for adult volunteers to use with their groups to help make the most out of this great educational experience.

When signing up parent volunteers, write down their names on your calendar so that you can remember to call them with reminders.

Organize and write down your expectations of both students and adult volunteers during the field trip. Give each adult leader a clipboard with the following information attached:

Their assigned bus

A list of students in their group

Teaching tips for the trip questions volunteers should ask students during the trip topics that need to be discussed during the visit special exhibits for students to focus their attention back up procedures for supervising difficult students

Give each adult a clipboard with important information for the field trip.

Have each student bring a clipboard or pocket-folder to hold focus questions, scavenger hunt, or some other type of activity.

Teacher Testimony

“I remember the first field trip we ever took. My Mentor planned like a crazy person and I thought she was going a little overboard. The entire grade level was going to the city art museum as part of a unit we had planned. What struck me, about half-way through the day, was how loud and out-of-control the other classes were. The teachers looked harried and ran from group to group. Meanwhile, my class and my Mentor’s class were looking at the art, filling out their scavenger hunt on their clipboards, and staying pretty much engaged (with the usual exceptions). Parent chaperones were using their own clipboards, helping students when needed and I was able to stick with my group of students. It was nice not feeling as though I needed to run from group to group to help the chaperones know what to do or where to go. I guess my Mentor wasn’t so crazy after all.”

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All of this takes prior preparation and planning on your part. Visit your destination ahead of time so that you can prepare this information for the field trip.

Have name tags ready for everyone. This helps the volunteers know the students in their group AND the other adults in the group.

If you are taking a large group of students, assign each small student group to a specific bus.

Determine how many groups will fit on each bus. Create signs

(Bus #1, etc.) to place in the front passenger window of each bus.

This will help keep confusion to a minimum.

Thank the volunteers for joining you even BEFORE the field trip begins.

Ask volunteers to arrive 15 minutes before the departure time to receive instructions.

Have signs made up for the buses (especially when taking a large group) so that students can easily identify their assigned bus.

Get several large plastic tubs on wheels to hold lunches. I like to have one for each group, but some people simply have one for each class.

“Ask volunteers to arrive early so that you can go over field trip information.”

If you or the school can’t afford to get these types of tubs, gather several large empty boxes to use. They aren’t as easy to get from the bus to the eating area, but they do work to keep lunches together.

Visiting a field trip destination ahead of time does not have to be drudgery.

Take a date, a friend, or a member of your grade level and enjoy the outing.

Just be sure to take a little notebook and jot down questions/ideas for a field trip activity.

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Field Trip Permission Form

Page 311

Dear Parents,

We are taking a field trip to __________________. For the students’ safety and wellbeing, it is important for you to know where we will be going and the purpose of this trip.

Please note the following important information about our upcoming event.





Please fill out and sign the form below. Detach the bottom portion and return it to me in the next couple of days. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at school during my planning period, or leave a message with the school secretary for me to return.


I, to attend the field trip to

give my permission for

I will send a lunch for

My child has the following special needs to take into consideration


purchase a school lunch

Parent Signature: Date:

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Field Trip Instructions








(including rotation schedule of exhibits if necessary.)

Please be sure to ask your group to

think about or discuss the following:

Be sure to visit the following places/ exhibits:

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A brain-based classroom is also one in which students are actively engaged in the learning process. Human beings naturally have a sense of curiosity about the unknown. Unfortunately, the isolated nature of traditional lectures and textbook reading has a tendancy to squelch that curiosity.

Students become bored and refuse to learn. We hope that this chapter has inspired you instead to use cooperative learning tools such as discovery learning, integrated content, and learning through experiences to foster life-long learning within your students.

Additional Resources

Learning Thru Discussion by W. M. Fawcett Hill

Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen

Integrated Thematic Instruction by Susan Kovalik

The Way We Were, The Way We Can Be by Ann Ross

Synergy by Karen Olsen

Questions for Reflection

1) Why is it important to keep students actively engaged in the classroom rather than

passively listening?

2) What are some different ways you can keep your students actively engaged?

3) How might you implement discovery or experiential learning in your classroom?

4) Why should you consider using research projects throughout the year rather than just once

a year?

5) What is your opinion of integrating subject areas? Is this something you might implement in

your classroom? Why or why not?

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1) Take a chapter from a textbook you currently use in the classroom. Develop 5 different

activities that will keep students actively engaged

2) Create an activity/project for an upcoming unit or lesson using the Bloom’s Keywords listed

in this chapter.

3) Develop a one-day integrated lesson based on either a children’s story or a required

science or social studies topic for your grade level.

4) Create 2 or 3 different “portable” learning centers to use in your classroom. Centers should

be age appropriate for your grade level. Take time to make these ready to implement in the


Notes/ Reflection on Chapter

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How do I assess my students so that their abilities and progress are accurately reflected?


Not sure of what to do to assess, or evaluate, your students’ abilities and progress?

Don’t worry. This chapter will give you a clearer understanding of assessment and will provide ideas that you can use right away.

Not only is it important to have a philosophy of assessment before you begin the year, but you also need some practical know-how.

Throughout this chapter, we will provide you with various assessment strategies, grading techniques, and practical ideas for your gradebook to help you prepare for assessing your students.

First, you need to realize a few things about assessment.

• Even experienced teachers have to continually check their

assessment techniques. By doing this, effective teachers

make sure that their assessment is a reliable and valid tool

to show student achievement.

• Proper assessment can be a challenge.

• It is important to vary and adapt assessment tools to fit

different learning styles and instructional needs.

“An effective teacher continually

re-evaluates his or her assessment techniques.”

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Philosophy of Assessment

Here are some tips to help shape your philosophy on student assessment:

Assessment is so much more than just assigning a letter grade. It should provide teachers with detailed information to share with parents.

Proper assessment throughout the school year will:

Measure the progress a student has made

Show students’ strengths and weaknesses

Allow a teacher to check for understanding

By varying the ways we measure student achievement, we can tap into different kinds of learners and accurately represent student progress and achievement.

For example

If a student has difficulty with writing and every single method of assessment in a Social Studies class is an essay test, what kind of grades do you think this student will get in social studies?

If, however, you vary your assessment tools and give an oral interview or observe the student discussing concepts with other peers, then that student has a chance to really show you what has been learned! This student may be able to tell you the entire history of the Civil War if you asked him, but when he has to write it down, he fails and receives a poor history grade. Is that a fair assessment of his historical knowledge? This is an important issue for teachers!

“An effective teacher uses a variety of assessment methods to get an accurate measure of their abilities.”

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Know what you want to do for assessment before you present your lesson.

Are you going to have students create a timeline of important dates during the

American Revolution? Then you need to teach your lesson or give students notes in a timeline format.

Essay questions require a classroom discussion where students can express their thoughts and opinions.

“Your lesson should reflect the type of assessment tool you use.”


If a student does not understand what the teacher’s expectations are, it will be difficult to get a true picture of what that student has really learned.

Do you expect your students to be able to compare and contrast fractions with decimals? Make sure that students know this. Students cannot meet your expectations if you do not tell them what they are.

“Let students know what you expect ahead of time.”


Directions for any evaluation should be clear and precise. When students are confused, they cannot show their knowledge of the skill or concept being assessed.

Use simple language and sentences. Too many compound or complex sentences will cause your students to bog themselves down in your instructions.

Teacher Testimony

My second year of teaching I had one student in particular who was a concern. It seemed that he could not pass any test that I gave him. However, I knew that he understood the content because of discussions we’d had in class. After a while, I gave him some oral examinations to see how well he would do. He passed every time. This student had a hard time getting the information from his head onto paper. Had I not ever thought of varying my assessment for him, he would not have passed my class.

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Alternative Assessment Tools

There are a variety of ways to assess student work and learning. A common dilemma among first year teachers is how to find different ways to assess students other than paper and pencil examinations. Here we have provided for you different ways you can evaluate your students’ learning. You may not use every method, and you may vary your assessment tools with each class and/or each student. You will make these decisions once you get comfortable in your teaching. Whatever methods of appraisal you choose, just be sure to use a diversity.


“Your lesson should reflect the type of assessment tool you use.”


Teachers can observe students in various situations and can keep records for grading purposes.

Most teachers think that grading has to be done on paper. This is not true! In your grade book, you can give many different grades, such as participation and discussion. These kinds of grades often help students who do not normally perform well on written assignments.


You are the teacher and should be evaluating your students constantly. How can you

do this?


Walk around the room -

If you walk around the room, you can more accurately observe students without them necessarily knowing that you are grading them. Students often freely share their knowledge when they are not intimidated by the pressure of getting graded!


Observe students in cooperative group discussions -

Are they participating? Are they showing knowledge of a concept or comprehension of a reading passage by the comments they make in a discussion? Are the students correctly using a skill that was taught?

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Keep records of behavior & participation -

If you are grading based on observations, YOU MUST KEEP ANECDOTAL RECORDS! Written records of observations, behavior, and social skills provide tangible evidence and explanation of grades for the teacher, parents, principal, and other teachers.

Clipboard Cruising is one way of keeping records on observations of each student. Have one clipboard for every subject (Math, Language Arts, Social Studies…)

Make up a large index card for each student, and tape the top of the cards vertically along a clipboard in alphabetical order, so that you can easily flip through them. For each observation, date the entry and make a short, but detailed statement of what you observed. You do not have to make a record of each student every time! Just record noticeable observations on that day. You’ll want to replace the index cards each grading period, and put the old card in the student files.

We have another example in the Classroom Management chapter with a spreadsheet that is also effective in the classroom.



Suzy Smarts – Social Studies

Great discussion and reasoning of why the

Southern Confederacy was fighting to preserve their way of life. Logical thinking and specific examples used!

“A wellprepared teacher keeps records of observations to help assess academic learning and as documentation for parent conferences.”




Provided few specifics – conference with Suzy about reading requirements.

Excellent work on timeline project, showing knowledge and comprehension of material – good improvement since conference!

Showed excellent discussion and critical thinking skills today, as she worked with her group to finish the presentation assignment on the 13th Amendment. Great participation!

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Student Reflection

When students are asked to reflect on their own growth and knowledge of a concept or theme, it forces them to take reponsibility for their own learning. Students create their own meaning instead of memorizing and regurgitating information, which provides the teacher with a clear picture of what the student actually learned and internalized. You might use this assessemnt tool after students read a book or passage, after students have studied a unit, or with student projects.

“A Mind Map is an excellent assessment tool for students who like to draw.”

Clear and Unclear Windows

This is another variation of student reflection. In this format, students fold their paper into two or more sections. They label half of the paper as clear windows, and the other half as unclear windows.

In the clear window boxes, the students write what they have learned and understand about a topic, reading, or concept. In the unclear window boxes the students write about the concepts that they do not understand or where they need clarification. This is a great resource for teachers as they can shape future lessons to accommodate for unclear windows.

Semantic Web or Mind Map

This is a fabulous method of assessment as well as a great way to teach students how to organize information. Students need to learn how to make connections and find relationships among varying facts and concepts. The students place a main topic in the middle of the paper, and then branch off with related details. Each branch then might have another branch off of it and/or connecting that fact or statement with another detail. This can be written or drawn. Using this as an assessment really shows the teacher how a student’s knowledge is organized in their brain, or if they don’t understand a concept at all.

As with all of these different types of assessment, it is important that you model for students what you expect to see when they turn in their work. Model how they would create a mind-map around a specific concept or skill.

“I learned...” Statement

This assessment can be used after a short activity, such as a lesson or film, in order to measure whether or not the teacher’s objectives were met. It could also be used as a culmination to a large thematic unit in place of the dreaded unit test! In the “I learned...” statement, the students simply express what they have learned either orally or by writing the sentences. It is best to narrow this assignment to five or less statements so that students are forced to prioritize the information instead of throwing out trivial little facts. This is another assessment where Bloom’s

Keywords can come in handy.

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Summary Statement

This is longer and takes more depth than the “I learned” statements. The students are asked to summarize what they have learned in a coherent paragraph. This may also be an oral or written assignment. A summary should require the students to make connections among the various facts they learned instead of simply stating isolated data. This type of activity requires higher-level thinking skills on the part of students.


Oral interviews can be held with individual students on any topic to see how much a student learned, or to check for understanding.

The interview should be short and last no longer than five minutes.

The questions should include a range of lower level to higher level thinking. The lower level questions will provide opportunities for success and build student self-esteem. The higher level questions will allow you to assess student reasoning ability. Teachers should take notes during the interviews for grading and record-keeping purposes.

Pizza of Knowledge or Ice Cream Review

“An effective teacher periodically checks for student understanding throughout a lesson or a reading.”

This assessment technique is good for measuring overall knowledge of a concept. Talk with your students about what is needed to make a good pizza. How many ingredients and toppings are needed? Next, discuss the fact that every concept has a few basic elements that are needed to “sum up” that idea. These make up the base, sauce, and cheese. There are also additional details that help us better understand the concept, which become the toppings of the pizza.

At that point, either as a whole class or in partners, have students decide the basic ingredients for their pizza and write those on the base. Next, the teacher decides how many toppings are required to check for understanding. Students can then decide which “toppings” represent information to make up their Pizza.

For example: Build your Pizz of Knowledge on the concept of World Climates. You must have at least six toppings. The students draw a large pizza and decide what their toppings represent.

Pepperoni may represent the desert climate, Sausage might be the Savanna, Green

Pepper is the Rainforest, etc.

Now of course, you don’t just want one piece of pepperoni on your pizza, so written on each

“topping” is one detail about that climate. A student may have three pieces of pepperoni representing “Desert” with “dry”, “sandy”, and “cactus” written on them. This helps the teacher to see that the student is able to name some of the climates in the world as well as describe a few details about each. Try this same idea with Scoops of Ice Cream and see what happens!

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Visual/Pictoral Assignments

Visual learners can often express their knowledge beautifully through many different types of artistic and creative assignments.

Here are some great examples of visual assessment tools: Illustrations to go with writing and to show comprehension of material, pictures with captions, cartoon drawings, murals, mobiles, dioramas (shoe box scenes), students creating their own maps, charts, graphs, posters, travel brochures, and mind maps. There are several different activities of this nature in the Motivating Students chapter which can be used to assess student learning.

K-W-L Chart

Prior to a lesson or unit have the students create their own KWL chart. Students fold their paper into three sections. Label each section

K, W, or L. The students complete the K section (what they already know about the topic), and the W section (what they want to know about the topic) prior to the lesson or unit. At the end for an assessment, the students finish the L section (what they learned about the topic). In primary classes, this chart can be done on large butcher paper as a class. Then you can use individual interviews to determine each student’s answer for the L section. After the interviews, put student answers on the chart and discuss them as closure to the unit.

“Use writing assignments such as journals, travel brochures, poetry, and research assignments as meaningful assessment tools.”

Checklist of Objectives

When students have a lengthy assignment, a helpful tool for teachers to evaluate student progress is to have the students fill out a checklist. When students are given time to work on the project in class and you don’t want to grade in depth until the final project, you can ask to see the student’s checklist along with corresponding work. That way a brief glance shows you whether or not a student is on track. An easy grade can be given at this point for effort and progress, or completeness of that particular section. Earlier we discussed how Bloom’s keywords can be used to create a checklist so that students are required to use all levels of thinking.

See our example on the next page.

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Native American Project

____ 1. Identify, locate, and illustrate on a map the area(s)

where your tribe lived. (Knowledge)

____ 2. Explain the culture and daily life of your tribe.


____ 3. Construct a visual teaching tool to demonstrate the

lifestyle of your tribe. (ex: diarama, model, poster, video)


____ 4. Compare and Contrast your tribe with another tribe

when looking at food, dwellings, religious ceremonies,

and geographic location. This will require you to

communicate with one other group. (Analysis)

_____5. Organize a presentation that incorporates all of the

information you have gathered about your tribe in order

to teach others. (Synthesis)

____ 6. Determine how well your tribe would be able to survive

in America’s modern environment. (Evaluation)

“Using Bloom’s

Keywords will help you develop projects that require students to use higher level thinking skills.”

Student Evaluations:

Evaluate your group on the following:

___ Cooperation within the team

___ Individual participation

___ Information gathered

___ amount

___ elaboration

___ correctness

___ Visual teaching aid

___ creativity

___ accurate

___ best quality

___ use in presentation

___ Presentation

___ individual participation

___ clearly spoken

___ loud voices

___ creativity

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Portfolio Assessment


Many teachers do not rely on portfolios when assessing students because they are confused about what a portfolio is and what it should be used for. Do we only use the best student pieces or do we put both “good” and “bad” work in to show improvement? Also, how do we grade the portfolio? If the work is already graded, do we grade it again? The following is a brief “How To” on portfolios.


Decide what your goal is. What is the purpose of the portfolio?

What is unique about you and your students? Your goal should reflect your classroom and your students. Some possible goals might include the following:

Student Improvement

Mastery of Certain Skills

Amount of learning occurred

Collection of student work

*Remember that your goal should reflect you, your classroom and your students.

“A wellprepared teacher has a goal in mind before using the portfolio as assessment.”


Before using portfolios, you need to decide how you will grade them. Once again, what is the pupose of this portfolio? Assessment of the portfolio is closely tied to your goal.

Quality of work in the portfolio

Amount of work in the portfolio


Knowledge of skills

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The easiest way to assess a portfolio is on a rating scale. The rating scale must also reflect your goal. You must decide for yourself what you are looking for in each portfolio entry, or in the portfolio as a whole, and then create a rating scale to reflect that. For example, let’s say your goal is to show the amount and quality of learning that has occurred over the semester. You might evaluate each entry as Correct (mechanics), Complete (information), and Comprehensive

(thought provoking) with the student receiving a score of 1-4 in each area:

1 = not at all 2 = somewhat 3 = mostly 4 = entirely

The scores then would be added up to give a grade for the entire portfolio.

Ask another teacher to help you assess the portfolios in order for them to be a reliable form of evaluation. Why? Well, we often grade according to the student. If the work in the portfolio is absolutely terrible and not up to standards, but we know that this is the best the student can do, then we might be more lenient on our rating scale than another teacher who doesn’t know the student. Thus, the impartial evaluator helps to make the portfolio a much more reliable and accurate form of assessment. The two grades can be averaged and used as the grade for the portfolio.

“Before you use portfolios, you need to decide three things:

What are your goals?

How are you going to assess it?

How will you involve your students?”

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Student Involvement

Student involvement is a very important part of the portfolio process. After all, it is the students we are evaluating. There are three main components to student involvement.

Student reflection on portfolio entries is an important part of the process.

However, it is important to remember that student reflections must be done in a timely manner. If you wait until the end of the year to do reflections, most students won’t remember what the assignment was for in the first place.


Understanding -

It is very important that students understand what the portfolio is, your goals, your rating scale, the pieces you want included, and how it will be used. This needs to be explained at the beginning of the year. If you wait until the end of the semester, your students will not be as involved with the portfolio and you will not get a true reflection of their thoughts and feelings about their work. If your students understand what is required of them, they will be much more likely to create what you want in a portfolio.


Choice -

Choice is an extremely important aspect of the portfolio. There are some pieces that you will want them to include so that you can accomplish your goal, but there should be some entries that express and reflect the student’s personality and preferences. You may be able to give students some choice even in the work you require, but it is absolutely vital that your students be allowed to choose work that is a reflection of them or their progress whether it is bad or good.

Reflection -

Students should write a reflection of their thoughts and ideas about each portfolio entry. You may want to ask students to write why they chose to include certain pieces, or how they felt about an assignment. These reflections will give you an even clearer picture of the student’s work, learning, and progress throughout the year.

Another important aspect to reflection is a discussion between teacher and student of each piece and reflection in the portfolio. Some sort of dialogue needs to occur between student and teacher so that a clear understanding of the portfolio occurs. The student and the teacher should be able to explain each entry.

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Sample Portfolio Outline

An outline of details regarding how you plan to use the portfolio will make things much easier for you in the long run. It will also help you to remember what you decided at the beginning of the year. Below is a sample portfolio outline for a Language Arts class. It is not absolutely necessary that you produce an outline with the same detail, but it does help.




To show the amount of learning that has occurred over the semester.

The focus will be on the reflection statements for each entry since most of the work has already been graded.


Students must include one narrative, two expository (how to; compare/contrast, etc.), journal entries, and three poetry pieces. In addition, students must choose 5 other assignments from class to put in the portfolio.





Student choice of 5 assignments should show what they have learned over the semester. These entries can be both good and poor work samples. Students must write a reflection over each entry. The reflection should express the purpose of the entry in the portfolio, the skill(s) it shows accomplished (or working on), any thoughts or feelings about the entry and why they put it in the portfolio. Before the portfolio is evaluated, the student and teacher will have a conference to discuss the entries included and the portfolio as a whole.

Each reflection/entry will be evaluated as being Correct (mechanics),

Complete (information), and Comprehensive (thought provoking) with the student receiving a score of 1-4 in each area where 1 = not at all; 2 = somewhat; 3 = mostly; and 4 = entirely.

Two teachers will score the portfolio. One teacher will be myself, the main instructor, and the other teacher will be one who is not as familiar with the students. These two scores will be averaged and used as a final grade for the semester.

This portfolio will have content validity because it measures the student’s awareness of what was taught in class. Students reflect on what they learned through each experience or project done in class.

In the back of this chapter is a conference sheet and grading sheet you can use for your portfolios.

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Once you have an assessment tool, how do you grade it?

So far in this chapter we’ve discussed different methods for assessing students, but we haven’t talked much about grading. Here are some tips that should help you when actually grading students.

Organize your grade book.

There are several ways you can do this.

1) Set aside six pages for each subject plus attendance (one for

each grading period). Group all of the subject pages together.

Attendance - pages 1-6

Reading - pages 7-12

English - pages 13-18

“Use stick-on tabs to mark different sections in your gradebook. It makes life so much easier!”

2) Set aside pages for attendance and each subject you teach. Then, create six “groups” of

these pages (one for each grading period).

1st Six Weeks: Attendance, Reading, English, Math, Science, Social Studies - pages 1-6.

2nd Six Weeks: Attendance, Reading, English, Math, Science, Social Studies - 7-12

3) Set aside seven pages (1 for each six weeks period, plus 1 for attendance) for each class period (Middle School or departmentalized elementary schools).

Use stick on tabs (these can be found at any office supply store) to mark different sections in your grade book. This makes finding a particular subject or class period easy to find.

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What grading scale are you going to use?


You can grade using a 100 percent scale. Out of 100 percent, how many did the student get correct? For assignments/tests that do not meet 100 points, use a grading tool that can be bought at any teacher store. It will automatically determine the grade by the number of items on the assignment/test.























100 98


100 520/ 6 = 87

547/ 6 = 91

98 100 554/ 6 = 92


You can grade by a point scale. Out of 25 points, how many did the student get correct? Write this as a fraction (20/25). Divide the top number by the bottom and get a decimal. This is the student’s grade.

For example: 20/25 = .8 which would be an 80. In the grade book you can simply record the number of points the student got correct and do the division at the end of the grading period.

“A wellprepared teacher thinks through how he/she plans to record student grades before school starts.”


Julie 18

Robert 19

Grace 20





















T.pts./Out of Avg.

135 / 160 84

122/ 160 76

139/ 160 87

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Grade subjective assignments according to a rubric.

Decide what skill(s)/objective(s) you want the student to show

Write these down in a checklist format

Grade each skill/objective on a scale of 1 to 4 where

1 = poor, 2 = fair, 3= good, and 4 = excellent

Average the numbers to get a total score for the assignment.

Final scores should look like this:

1- = 60 1 = 65

2+ / 3- = 80 3 = 85

1+ / 2- = 70

3+ / 4- = 90

2 = 75

4 = 95


4+ = 100

Diorama of American Revolution

3 Scene from American Revolution

3 Correct Information

4 Complete sentences used on

index card

3 Colorful


2 Creative

3 Neat

18 Total Points = 18/ 6 = 3 = Grade 85

























It is important to use a rubric when grading subjective assignments so that you don’t end up comparing students which is completely unfair to everybody.

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Grading Writing Assignments

Technically writing assignments are subjective, but as those of you who end up teaching

Language Arts will see, it is one of the hardest areas of grading. Here are a few tips to help you with this challenge:

Use a rubric like the one above. Grade only the skills you have already covered in class.

Use an overall rubric. With this students will receive one grade for their entire paper. A sample overall rubric is provided in the back of this chapter. Also, your district, school, or perhaps the state, may have developed a writing rubric that they expect you to use. Ask other teachers or the Language Arts department chair for this information.

“Giving students two grades

Give students two separate grades for their paper. One for content and one for mechanics.

on writing assignments allows them to see specific feedback on their grammar skills versus the content.”

When giving two separate grades on writing assignments –

The content grade can be a 1-4 on the ideas expressed and how well they followed the writing mode. The mechanics grade can be on a scale of 1-100 with one point or 1/2 point taken for each grammar error in the paper. You can then average the two grades, OR keep them separate for your grade book. Be sure you are grading grammar learned previously. Correct the mistakes, but do not count off for rules not yet taught or learned in a previous grade. How do you know? Check with the students’ teachers from the year before.

Teacher Testimony

It really concerned me as I was grading student work that they were receiving a grade that reflected their effort as well as the grammar skills demonstrated.

During my student teaching, my cooperating teacher told me to grade one and then judge the others according to that first paper. They would be either better or worse. In my mind that is not acceptable. It does not take into account the individual differences of my students. In the end I decided to give students two grades, one for grammar and one for content. This way they are able to see some success and get the constructive feedback they need to improve. With an overall grade, students do not receive the specific feedback in either grammar or content to become better writers.

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Modifying Grades

Once you get into the classroom, you will see that not all students are equal and that some of your students can not be graded on the same scale as everyone else. These students usually have an I.E.P., or Individualized Education Plan. How do you grade students like this? Well, most states have laws that require you to modify for your special education students in one way or another. The one thing you must remember is that the student’s I.E.P. will outline exactly how you must modify for that student. These modifications must be followed exactly as they are written on the I.E.P. It is the Law! However, some I.E.P.’s will be written to provide the teacher some flexibility. In this case, some teachers modify the lessons and tests while others will modify the grading scale.

For example:

Let’s say that one of your students has an I.E.P. that states they should have only fill in the blank and multiple choice items on any tests they take. Also, they must get 75% of the items correct. You, however, have a test that includes an essay question. What do you do? You need to cross out the essay question and then grade the student’s test. Once the student has a grade, refer to your modified grading scale (in the back of this chapter) to determine the grade for your gradebook. If the student scored a 76 on the test, then they would receive an 81.

Testing and Test Anxiety

Whether or not you agree with standardized tests as a valid assessment tool for student performance, they are here and it doesn’t look like they will be going anywhere for a while. In fact, it seems that the public is leaning more towards these types of tests than they ever have before. What does this mean for us and our students? Well, basically it means more stress.

We are stressed out because, for many of us, our jobs are directly affected by how well our students perform on these tests. Some of us feel the need to “teach to the test” while others take a “back to the basics” approach with students.

One factor that is not often discussed, though, is student test anxiety. I believe that low student scores are often a result of fear and frustration rather than lack of knowledge. This is especially true of our border-line students, or the students who are on the verge of a passing score.

Just imagine yourself in their place. You know how to work multiplication word problems. You’ve

done it a hundred times in class and most of the time you pass with an average grade. Then a test is placed in front of you. You are told that this is a very important test, and that how well you score will determine what you have and have not learned. You might even be told that this will effect whether or not you go up to the next grade level. Now you are getting nervous and your palms are sweating. You have butterflies in your stomach. You think that you can do this, but you aren’t quite sure. The more you think about it, the more nervous you get. Suddenly all you can think about is how nervous and/or scared you are. The teacher announces that it is time to open the test booklet. You see the first question and your mind goes blank.

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Have you ever experienced that same sensation? I know I have, both as a student and as an adult. This is test anxiety. It is a fear that, as we mentioned in the previous chapter, causes your brain to downshift to a lower “gear.” When going through test anxiety, it is virtually impossible to concentrate on working through individual test questions.

Here are some tips you can use to help your students deal with their test anxiety.

Understanding How the Brain Works

It doesn’t take long to teach your students how their brain works. No matter how old or young, your students should be able to understand the basics. In a previous chapter we discussed the theory of the Triune Brain. Here is just another way you can use this research to help your students.

Explain the basic theory to your class. Be sure to put it into terms they can understand.

Discuss/Brainstorm different events that can cause them to shift from their “thinking” brain to one of the smaller sections of their brain. These might include being hungry, having to use the bathroom, fighting with someone, being angry, being frustrated, being tired, being afraid, etc.

Work out with students ways to overcome these stumbling blocks during a test.

Prepare, with your students, a classroom environment that will help them stay in

“thinking” mode throughout the test.

Create Favorable Testing Conditions

Have healthy easy snacks, high in carbohydrates ifpossible, available for students in the classroom. Always approach this as both a necessity and a privilege for students.

Be sure that you explain your expectations regarding food in the classroom in detail.

When students understand why food is available and your expectations, they will be less likely to take advantage of the situation. Goldfish crackers, triskets, apple slices, trail-mix, and popcorn are good snacks for testing days. Be sure that you have disposable bowls and napkins as well.

If you teach younger students, or have a morning testing class, provide a small breakfast. You might offer muffins and juice or a ready-to-eat fruit.

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Be sure the lighting in your classroom is adequate. If not, bring a few lamps from home to add more soft light. Also, check the temperature of the room. If the conditions are too cold or hot, students will be more concerned about the temperature than the test. Lastly, are students moderately comfortable? You don’t want things too cozy, but if a large student is crammed into a small desk, his/her brain will not be on the test.

Explain restroom procedures to students. Make sure they understand that they are not required to “hold it,” but that they need to give you a signal. Some teachers like to give each student a small piece of colored construction paper folded in half. The student places this card on their desk to signal the teacher when they are in need of assistance, a snack, or a restroom break. You might want to laminate these cards and use them all year long.

Encourage students to eat a good meal and get at least eight hours of sleep the night before a big test. This will help students arrive to school rested. Also, you want to encourage students to arrive a little bit early so that they do not feel rushed before taking the test.

Teach Students Calming Exercises

What do you do with a student who has severe test anxiety or who clams up suddenly during a test? Here are the steps you can teach your students when they are feeling nervous or tired during a test.

1. Close your test booklet and place your answer sheet in the middle of the

booklet (or turn the test over).

2. Close your eyes.

3. Imagine yourself in your favorite place - somewhere quiet where you feel

calm and relaxed.

4. Slowly count to ten or take several slow deep breaths.

5. Don’t think about the test, but try to keep your mind empty/ calm (in other

words, don’t start thinking about what you are going to do later in the day).

6. When you feel ready, open your test booklet and begin again.

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

How can students know when they need to take a breather?

I’m feeling sick to my stomach/ butterflies/ anxious.

I’m thinking about everything except the test.

I’m feeling frustrated.

I’m feeling angry at someone or something.

I’m blanking out on each question.

I’m tired.

I’m hungry.

I’m thirsty.

I have to use the restroom.

Brainstorm additional “clues” with your class.

You’ll be surprised at how many they come up with during your session.

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A Writing Rubric


Correct purpose, mode, and audience

Elaboration for each point and in each paragraph

Consistent organization

Clear sense of order/completeness

Smooth flow - almost no grammatical errors

Correct purpose, mode, and audience

Moderately well elaborated (a few points/paragraphs)

Somewhat organized

Clear language - few grammatical errors

Correct purpose, mode, and audience

A little elaboration (one point/paragraph)

A few specific details

Lists items rather than describing them

Gaps in organization

A lot of grammar and spelling errors

Attempts to address the audience

Brief/ vague

No elaboration at all

Off topic/ thoughts wander

No organization

Wrong purpose/mode

Grammatical errors make it difficult to understand

Off topic

Blank paper

Foreign language

Can’t read the paper

Copied the prompt (nothing else)

Profane language

One paragraph written, but no more

For Texas teachers, an updated thorough writing rubric for TAKS can be found at

We suggest that you use that particular rubric when grading writing to help students better understand the process. In fact, we highly recommend the TAKS writing rubric to all teachers.

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman






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Portfolio Conference Sheet


Student Name

Teacher Name


Directions: Make comments about the discussion under each entry of the portfolio.

Title of Entry


Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.








Page 337



Description of Entry Complete (1-4) Correct (1-4)



Comprehensive (1-4)



The grade is marked in the smaller box with comments in the larger box.

Each student should have a reflection of about 5 to 10 sentences for each entry (upper elementary).

This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 338






64 = 89

63 = 88

62 = 87

61 = 86

60 = 85

59 = 84

58 = 83

57 = 82

56 = 81

55 = 80


75 = 100

74 = 99

73 = 98

72 = 97

71 = 96

70 = 95

69 = 94

68 = 93

67 = 92

66 = 91

65 = 90



54 = 79

53 = 78

52 = 77

51 = 76

50 = 75


69 = 89

68 = 88

67 = 87

66 = 86

65 = 85

64 = 84

63 = 83

62 = 82

61 = 81

60 = 80


80 = 100

79 = 99

78 = 98

77 = 97

76 = 96

75 = 95

74 = 94

73 = 93

72 = 92

71 = 91

70 = 90




59 = 79

58 = 78

57 = 77

56 = 76

55 = 75

Modified Grading System Grading Scales

74 = 89

73 = 88

72 = 87

71 = 86

70 = 85

69 = 84

68 = 83

67 = 82

66 = 81

65 = 80

64 = 79

63 = 78

62 = 77

61 = 76

60 = 75


85 = 100

84 = 99

83 = 98

82 = 97

81 = 96

80 = 95

79 = 94

78 = 93

77 = 92

76 = 91

75 = 90




79 = 89

78 = 88

77 = 87

76 = 86

75 = 85

74 = 84

73 = 83

72 = 82

71 = 81

70 = 80

69 = 79

68 = 78

67 = 77

66 = 76

65 = 75


90 = 100

89 = 99

88 = 98

87 = 97

86 = 96

85 = 95

84 = 94

83 = 93

82 = 92

81 = 91

80 = 90




84 = 89

83 = 88

82 = 87

81 = 86

80 = 85

79 = 84

78 = 83

77 = 82

76 = 81

75 = 80


95 = 100

94 = 99

93 = 98

92 = 97

91 = 96

90 = 95

89 = 94

88 = 93

87 = 92

86 = 91

85 = 90

74 = 79

73 = 78

72 = 77

71 = 76

70 = 75



49 = 74

48 = 73

47 = 72

46 = 71

45 = 70

44 = 69



54 = 74

53 = 73

52 = 72

51 = 71

50 = 70

49 = 69



59 = 74

58 = 73

57 = 72

56 = 71

55 = 70

54 = 69



64 = 74

63 = 73

62 = 72

61 = 71

60 = 70

59 = 69



69 = 74

68 = 73

67 = 72

66 = 71

65 = 70

64 = 69

Source Unknown

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Page 339

Mid-Term Progress Report

The grades below reflect your child’s grade mid-way through the current grading period.

Student’s Name



Social Studies

Language Arts


Foreign Language


Low grades on homework

Does not complete assigned work

Poor homework/ study habits

Does not pay attention in class

Does not make up missed work





I have seen my child’s mid-term grades.



This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

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Page 340 Assessment

Weekly Progress Report

Student Name


M.E. N.I.


Completes assignments on time

Follows directions readily

Uses time wisely

Contributes to activities/ discussion

Works neatly and carefully

Works Independently


Follows school/ class rules

Respects authority

Considerate of peers

Cares for school property

Is self-disciplined




Social Studies




EE = Exceeds Expectations ME = Meets Expectations



NI = Needs Improvement (Developed by Spring Branch ISD Summer Program)

Parent Signature

If you have any questions, feel free to call me at

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman





Missing Assignments

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Parent Signature:

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In order to be effective, we must think about how we will assess students in the early stages of lesson planning. The fact that many of our classroom activities can be used as a way to assess student learning is a time saver. However, if we do not take this into consideration, we could find ourselves trying to evaluate students in a manner that is neither valid nor reliable.

Always be sure that your assessment matches what you have taught and that it addresses different learner needs. This can be done by varying the type of activities you use. Also, take into account your special needs students, and determine ahead of time how you plan to modify assessments so they are valid. In short, student assessment should not be an after-thought to lessons, but rather a pre-planned effort in order to effectively evaluate learning.

Additional Resources

Classroom Assessment: What Teachers Need to Know by W. James Popham

Rubrics for Elementary Assessment: Classroom Ready Blackline Masters for K-6 by Nancy Osborne

Great Performances: Creating Classroom Based Assessment Tasks by Larry Lewin and Betty Jean Shoemaker

Classroom Assessment for Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Settings by Cathleen Spinelli

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.


Questions for Reflection

1) Why do you think it is important to develop a philosophy of assessment?

2) How can you be sure that your assessment accurately represents student achievement and progress?

3) In what ways can a portfolio be used in the classroom? How would you use a student portfolio as an assessment?

4) Why should teachers be concerned with the issue of test anxiety?

5) What are some strategies you might implement to help overcome test anxiety?


1) Develop your own philosophy of assessment within one or two paragraphs.

2) Develop your own grading policy to use with your students.

3) Describe how you plan to set up your gradebook and the type of grading scale you plan to use.

4) Choose four different assessment strategies from this chapter and explain how you plan to use them in the classroom. (Example: I plan to use the mind map to assess student learning

of the concepts discussed within a history textbook chapter.)

5) Write a letter to your administrator supporting your decision to implement different strategies that will help students overcome test anxiety. Use additional sources of information and research to back up your position.

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Notes/ Reflection of Chapter

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Motivating Students

Some of my students are not excited about learning!

What can

I do?

One of the most difficult aspects of teaching is motivating students. In fact, William Glasser, in his book entitled Choice

Theory in the Classroom, states that trying to teach students who do not want to learn is impossible. In our own experience, the upper elementary through high school student is especially challenging in this area. Add to it the fact that you will most likely have students from a lower socio-economic background, where survival is more important than learning, as well as students with learning or language difficulties, and you have a challenge.

Remember, the more engaged your students are, the more they will be motivated to learn. Engaging activities are ones where students must manipulate the information, skill, or concept in a variety of ways. This can include working in teams, discussion, projects, research, or creating a product of some sort as we discussed earlier.

Take a few minutes to think about classes that you’ve attended throughout your lifetime. Which ones do you remember as positive and motivating experiences? Which ones were so boring that you spent every minute counting the seconds until it was time to leave? Generally classes where the teacher or professor lectured at students or required students to do meaningless work, busywork, or repetitive tasks are the most boring. Classes which get students actively involved in discovering their own learning, interacting with each other, and encourage respect between the teacher and students are the most motivating. Look back at the

Brain-Based Classroom and Strategy chapters for more detail about these motivating attributes.

Additionally, it is important to be prepared with a variety of activities that will engage students in their own learning. If a lesson seems to be faltering or you notice a glazed-over look in the eyes of your students, smile a big smile, do a little dance, and pull out something different to capture their attention. Have you been doing all of the talking and action for the lesson? Think quickly how you can get students involved instead.

In this chapter we will share additional easy-to-use strategies to help you engage and motivate students. These can be referenced when planning lessons, or in many instances, used at the spur-of-the moment when you see that glazed-over look.

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Motivating Students

is for Atlas

Having students research using a world atlas is a great way to teach them about Geography and other fun facts of countries around the world.

Pick out a different latitude and longitude for each student to locate. Have them look up information about that city/town/country including average temperature, precipitation, foods, dwellings, customs, etc..

When reading a story or novel, have students find the city/town/country of the setting on a map. Discuss where it is located in relation to where the school is located. Older students can determine the latitude and longitude to practice

Geography skills.

Discuss the culture, environmnet, and weather of the area. How does this affect the story, if at all? Is the setting a true representation of this actual city/town/country?

If the story has a make-believe setting, where is the author from?

Does the story reflect the culture and weather of the author’s hometown?

Identify historical events on the map.

Identify place of birth/residence of different Scientists, Mathematicians, Artists,

Musicians, Sports Figures, Famous People, etc.

How did the culture, history, geography, weather of where they live(d) affect them?

Have students create their own city/town/country. Students exhibit Geography skills by drawing a map. Be sure they include important elements such as the Legend/Key, landforms, a grid system, etc.

Teacher Testimony

One fun activity our students enjoy is our Volcano Island unit.

First we study about volcanoes and how they often form islands.

Then we make volcanoes in class and do the fun “explosion” with vinegar and baking soda. Then students create a “foot island” by tracing their foot on white paper. Students turn their footprint into their very own island country complete with cities, a capitol, different landforms, roads and railroads, and any other element they’ve studied in Geography and mapping. We have our students create their own legend and grid system for their map.

Atlas Race - Have students race against one another to locate various places on the earth using an atlas. Start with the entire class. Play five games as a class to get five different semi-finalists.

These students then play two rounds to determine the finalists.

The last two players play one round to determine the

Champion for this game.

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A is for Alien

After teaching students a concept, checking for understanding can be fun when you have them write out an explanation to an alien from outer space. You might even use a fun picture on the computer presentation station or overhead to give them a picture of their alien.

This is also a great way to review a previous skill and can be used across the curriculum.

Examples: Explain to your alien how to multiply two-digit numbers.

Explain the Scientific Method to your alien.

Explain how flowers grow to your alien.

is for Books

Children’s books are an excellent way to introduce units and lessons. Everyone loves to be read to, even if older students won’t admit it! If you’re not sure how you can introduce a particular concept or skill, see if you can find a children’s book that can be used as a jumping off point for your lesson. and other online bookstores are a great way to search for books. With their search engines, all you need to do is type in the keywords in the children’s books section and many titles should pop up for you to browse. Here are a few ideas:

Dem Bones - Skeleton/ Body Unit

My Body - Body Unit

The Real Story of the 3 Little Pigs - Point of View

Once Upon a Time - How to write a Narrative

Sidewalk Math - Real Life Math

Brown Bear, Brown Bear - Patterns

UFO - Point of View

Thumb, Thumb, Fingers, Drum - Ryhming

Mr. Brown Can Moo - Onomatopoeia

Math Curse - Real Life Math

Stellaluna - Bats

B is for Brainstorming

Brainstorming provides students an opportunity for input in class decisions and class discussions. It also offers a way for students to voice out loud what they already know (or think they know) and generates ideas for everyone to think about. Brainstorming is an excellent pre-writing strategy as well as a way to stimulate thinking when beginning a new concept. Jot lists can be done independently and then shared with the group. Be sure that each and every idea is valued and none ridiculed. It does not matter how impossible an idea might be, during brainstorming everything is to be included. We want to encourage our students to think “out of the box” rather than all conform to one way of thinking. You can use brainstorming to:

Generate writing topics


Generate questions for interviews or research projects

Generate questions to ask guest speakers

Generate a list of items to look for when on a field trip

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Motivating Students

is for Concept Boards

Students love to share and displaying their work is vital. A fun way to encourage this is by allowing them to create tri-fold concept boards. They are great when you are working on experiments in science or doing book reports. Concept boards also come in handy when reviewing previous skills, and parents love seeing them displayed for curriculum fairs and parent nights.

Concept Boards do not have to be huge. Students can create mini tri-fold boards out of 1/2 or even 1/3 of poster board. Once they’ve cut the posterboard in half or one-third, students need to fold the remaining portion into three sections. Now you have a ready-to-use mini concept-board!

Create mini-centers using the same concept outlined above. These can be easily sorted and taken to a student’s desk when they are ready to work on it. Use a plastic crate and hanging folders to organize the centers by category for easy student access.

D is for Drawing is for Dioramas

Have students draw about a topic before reading or writing about it. This helps focus students on what they are about to learn. It is also a great way to encourage students who do not feel successful when reading or writing.

After reading or learning about a new concept, have students show what they’ve learned by making a diorama, or shoe-box scene. Using a shoe box, have students create a 3-D scene using construction paper and other materials such as grass, twigs, plastic figures, fishing wire, etc.. On the outside, students should write a short paragraph telling about the scene or explaining the concept.

Utilize the mind-map strategy. The mind-map is very similar to webbing except that students draw pictures instead of only using words. Each thought or idea branches off of the main topic. This can be used in all subject areas to show relationships between ideas, events, people, etc.

Utilize the story board strategy. Have students fold their paper into four to six squares, depending on age level. They then illustrate the sequence of events on the story board. This could be used to show the sequence of a story, historical events, steps to solve an equation or steps in a particular skill. The story board is also a great way to pre-write for a “How To” essay.

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When students work together in teams, they are motivated to learn. Student talking becomes more meaningful as they discuss what must be accomplished. Additionally, working in teams gives students some time in class to socialize which means they will be less likely to disrupt your lesson. If they know there will be time later when they can talk, they will be quiet and pay attention when necessary.

is for Everybody

Get everybody involved by using pass-along stories, or round-robin stories.

Each student will write one beginning sentence on their paper. They then pass their paper on to the next student who adds another sentence or two continuing the same thought. The paper is passed around the table or down the row until everyone has had a turn adding to each story. This is an excellent way to teach the importance of staying on a topic and learning about fluent story lines.

The round robin concept can also be used when solving equations. Have each student solve step one of an equation and pass it along to the next student. The paper continue to rotate until each problem is solved.

Another use for the round robin concept is with a sequence of events.

Involve everyone in a class discussion by writing a question or thoughtprovoking statement on the board. Have each student write their example/ thought/answer/idea on the board under and around what you have written.

Have different colors of chalk available for students to choose. This is a great way to jump-start a discussion. This idea also works well with graphic organizers. Have students write their answer inside a graphic organizer posted on the board or large butcher paper.

is for Fun

Don’t be afraid to have fun and laugh with your students.

Fun is an important need of all human beings. Once you have established work time vs. play time, enjoy humor in your classroom. Share a joke or funny story with your students and encourage them to share some with you.

F is for Freedom of Expression

Provide your students with lots of options. Every child, just like every adult, is better at one medium than another. Let them try their hand at writing music lyrics, poems, raps, and plays.

Set up an area with odds and ends, paint, posters, etc. so that they can create puppets, collages, and other artisitic endeavors. They will love the chance to explore their creative side.

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Motivating Students

is for Games

Using games is a great way to teach teamwork. There are many new and old games that involve skills we teach in school. Monopoly and Backgammon involve the problemsolving skills we like to encourage, while Scrabble promotes vocabulary and spelling. There are even junior versions of games for primary and elementary students. Many board games designed for young children are available and help teach skills such as taking turns and being good sports when winning and losing as well as academic skills. Other fun games that also stimulate the brain are Scatergories and Mastermind.

You can become a game creator as well. Our students love to review for tests by playing bingo, overhead football, and jeopardy. is a great way to introduce online games to your students that challenge their thinking. It has a great resource for teachers as well.

G is for Getting to Know your Students

The more you know your students as persons, the better you will be able to relate to them. Each child in your class is a unique individual with their own personality, their own wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. Do you really know them as a person or are they just another face to you? Our students are often motivated to work harder for the teachers who take time to get to know them on a personal level and show that they care. This is often done in primary grades, but as students get older, it happens less frequently.

Students also love to create their own game.

This type of activity really forces them to use higher level thinking, although they never realize it! Have students make up a game using information they’ve learned. How will they teach others the skill and/or knowledge they’ve learned through their game? Is this a review type game or a teaching type game.

Stress the importance of clear and precise instructions.

is for Happy Sack

Whenever a student practices a random act of kindness, the recipient of the kindness writes the deed down on paper and puts it in the happy sack. Every week on a designated day the teacher reads all of the kind acts collected in the happy sack. This really encourages consideration and friendship among the students. A variation of this for older students is to use a Warm Fuzzy box or a Kool Kids box.

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The Important Book written by Margaret

Wise Brown follows a fun pattern. This pattern can be used by students to explore any concept or problem. It is a circle book where the ending is the same as the beginning. It follows this pattern:

___________ is important because...

It is...

It is true that...

It is true that...

It is true that...

It is also true that...

___________ is important because...

How could you use this pattern to explore or assess a concept in your class?

is for The Important Book

Begin by reading the book aloud to students and have them use the pattern to write about colors, shapes, or some other simple concept. You can also use this pattern to write about any concept learned in class.

is for Jobs

Have older students apply and interview for any class jobs you might have available. This will help students practice for the real world and will motivate them to do an extra good job when they know they might get “fired.”

Change your jobs each semester so that other students have a chance to apply and interview. Having class jobs is extremely motivating because students love to be valued as a helper.

Do you have a particularly challenging student? Often our worst troublemakers are actually our best leaders. Capitalize on those leadership qualities and put them to work for you. This student may simply need someone to believe they are more than what they believe themselves to be.

“I noticed that many of the students in this class look up to you. That shows good leadership qualities. I could use a leader like you to help me...”

Being asked to help with an important and meaningful job can often turn these students into your biggest allies.

J is for Journals

Writing out information often helps students conceptualize information and place it in their long term memory. For example, think about how you would write out an explanation of “3 x 5.”

Journals can be utilized in all classrooms. In fact, a famous gymnast, when teaching his students, has them keep a journal of their work-out to solidify in their minds what has been done and what needs to be done. Journals can also be done in fun shape books that relate to a particular unit. We discuss additional ideas for using Journals in all subject areas in the

Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum chapter.

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Motivating Students

is for K-W-L

KWL stands for Know-, Want to Know-, Learned-, and is written across the top of a chart, chalkboard, or paper. Students fill in the first two sections as a class before a new unit or concept is learned. The last section is completed at the end of the unit or lesson.

With primary students this can be done orally or as a class using large sheets of butcher paper.

K is for Kush Ball

Reading aloud from a textbook can be fun when you use a kush ball or other type of soft ball. Have students choose who is next to read by lightly tossing the ball to another student. It is VITAL that you go over your expectations and consequences for off task behavior before you begin this activity.

A variation on Kush Ball is to have students stop in the middle of a sentence or paragraph.

The next student must start at the EXACT place the last student left off. This should be approached as a game, not a punishment-based issue.

is for Life Size

Students love anything different from paper and pencil activities, so give them a large piece of butcher paper and markers and let them make life sized timelines in History, graphs in Science and Math, solve problems, create storyboards, or brainstorm ideas. Another fun activity is to trace their body when studying Health.

Hang them around the room to create stimulation for your visual learners.

L is for Letter Writing

Writing letters to the President, Governor, local Congressman or Senator, or to other famous figures, is extremely motivating to students. Many addresses for government officials and businesses can be found in the almanac and on the internet. This is an excellent way for reviewing both friendly and business letter formats with students. Not only do they have a real audience, but also have a variety of topics to write about. This can also be used as a tool for assessment since students have to know the subject in order to make a coherent letter.

Everyone will be excited when they receive a reply letter in the mail.

For older students, there is an excellent book called “Letters from a Nut” (will have to edit some of the material for appropriateness), that uses letters written in a serious format to poke fun at the world. The author has written letters to actual businesses with either a compliment or a complaint and has published the return letter. This book is a fun way to introduce writing letters to businesses to either compliment or complain about a particular product or service.

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is for Mobiles

Mobiles are a fun way to display information.

Students can make mobiles of atoms, story settings, and timelines. Require written explainations of the mobile. This is great for visual learners and can be used as an assessment tool. We’ve used everything from coat hangers to dowel rods to make mobiles.

Students can be creative in what they decide to hang when representing a concept.

M is for M&M’s

The M&M game can be used not only as an ice breaker, but also to review or test knowledge in various areas. Pass around a jar of M&M’s and instruct students to take some.

After everyone has taken some, have students tell you a fact, or give a math problem for each

M&M they take. This is also a great way to review for a test or as a unit culmination. AIMES, a teaching tool, also has a great math activity using M&M’s as part of a graphing lesson.

is for Note Writing

We are forever picking up notes in class, so it is time to use this time worthy tradition by encouraging students to write informal letters for information, send birthday notes to a classmate, or even write notes to their parents about their day.

With computers and specialty paper, it is easy to create personalized note cards to give to students. At the beginning of the year you could use Microsoft Publisher or any Card Maker program to create a variety of cards with different messages on them. Then, throughout the year, pick a card and personalize it for the student.

Everyone likes to get a card that shows someone is thinking of them. If a student seems sad all day, give them a “Cheer Up” or “Hang in There” card. Don’t just make cards to show appreciation for hard work and improvement, but think of other situations where a personal card would make a difference to a student. If you make up a wide variety of cards with different messages, then you can just write in, “Dear_____,” jot a quick note, and sign your name. If you have a few minutes, then write more.

Don’t get so caught up in the day to day business of teaching that you forget your students are people with feelings and needs.

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Motivating Students

Teacher Testimony

In one of my Gifted/Talented training seminars, the presenter gave us all boxes and asked us to decorate each side with different colors of construction paper.

Then we placed one Bloom’s Taxonomy level along with the keywords on each side. When working with students, we can toss the box on each table and ask them to “Cube It”. After a lesson or unit, students complete one task using each level found on the cube.

All of my kids really enjoy this activity, not just the gifted ones.

is for Octagon

Octagon, squares, stars, and other shapes make learning fun. Use various shapes to help students see similarities and differences, categorize items, or order concepts. For example, a triangle is an excellent way for students to visualize hierarchies.

A variation on this activity is to make these objects 3-D and place instructions or questions on each surface.

is for Poems

O is for Open Sharing

Allowing students to share in class helps create a positive learning environment and makes students feel important. Have them share what they have written or learned. Encourage students to relate their learning to their life. Have they ever been in a particular situation described in the story or event? Have them share relevant experiences. Younger children especially love to share their own stories as a way of making learning meaningful for themselves.

Poems can be written about seasons, historical events, and even math. The more they write, the better writers they will become.

A Bio-Poem is a fun way to show knowledge about a historical figure or concept.

The pattern is:

Line 1: Person’s name/ Concept

Line 2: 2 adjectives to describe

Line 3: An action phrase with an -ing word

Line 4: An action phrase with an -ing word

Line 5: An action phrase with an -ing word

Line 6: Wrap up word or phrase that is a

synonym for line one

A Name poem, or anacronym poem, is another type of poem that works well in describing concepts or famous figures.


Abraham Lincoln

Honest and just,

Fighting a bitter war,

Leading a broken nation,

Living on through time,

A Man for the Ages.


Hot and Fierce,

Spitting out ash and rocks,

Spilling out lava,

Covering everything in sight,

New land is formed.

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P is for Paper Bags

Students can use paper bags as an alternative to routine paper/pencil tasks. Fill the bags with flash cards, sequence strips, or character traits. Decorate the outside of the bag and put in exciting events from history, a script for a skit, events of a novel, etc. Students can complete the activity found within the bag.

Students can also put their work inside a paper bag and illustrate the outside. The possibilities are endless! When using paper bags as part of a project, be sure to use a checklist so that students know exactly what is expected of them.

is for Quotes

As students make profound, or humorous statements, have them write these down and display them on a bulletin board or walls of your classroom. What a great way to let students know that what they say is important!

This is a great way to jump start an activity with student groups. Have them predict what the activity will be based on the outside of the bag. Encourage student cooperation with paper bags. If each group has one or more items another group needs to complete their task, they will need to cooperate with one another in sharing and exchaging needed information.

P is for Pop-Up Books

Pop-up books are such a fun way to publish student writing. When students are writing one or two paragraphs to answer a research question, have them publish their information in an illustrated pop-up book. Students simply fold a piece of construction paper in half for their book. The title should be written on the front and an “About the Author” on the back along with illustrations. Inside, have students write their paragraph(s) on the bottom half of each side and illustrate the top. A pop-up image can be created by folding a small piece of cardstock or construction paper in an “L” shape and pasting it on the page. You might also ask your art teacher to help you with other ideas for creating pop-up images.

A variation to this activity is to have a quote of the day or a quote of the week from different famous figures. Use the quote as a springboard for your discussion that day or week.

For example, a music teacher might use, “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of the dream,” by William

Shakespeare. Students can interpret what they think this quote means.

Another variation for quotes is to have students finish the quote. Provide students with the beginning of a famous quote or saying and have them finish it in their own words. You’ll enjoy reading the results as will the parents!

Afterwards, discuss each quote and its meaning with students.

The internet is an excellent source to find books of quotes or even websites full of quotes ready to be used.

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Motivating Students

is for Remembering

Students are motivated to work for people who care about them. Remembering their name after the first day of school is one way to show that you care.

Play the Name Game or another type of game that will help you remember each child’s face and name together. You’ll see their face light up, no matter what age, when on the second day you say good morning to each along with their name.

Birthdays is another area where students want to be remembered. Celebrating another year, another milestone is important in our students’ lives and for some of them it may be the only time that they get any personalized attention.

Celebrate birthdays as often as you can. A birthday card, a cupcake with a candle, or any other simple act goes a long way with students.

Another fun way to celebrate is with a birthday bag.

During the first week of school have students each decorate a paper bag. They should not write their names on the bag. Then, throughout the year, pull out a bag at random and have the other students write short, fun, positive birthday messages to the birthday boy or girl. Place the messages, some candy, a bookmark or sticker page into the bag. At lunch, everyone can sing “Happy Birthday” and you can present the birthday bag to the student. This can be extremely motivating since many of our students may not get a formal birthday party and in some instances their birthdays go completely unnoticed by everyone else.

R is for Research

Have students research more often and less formally to establish a love of searching out answers. Research does not have to be massive, but can be an easy quest for knowledge.

Assign mini-research topics using a variety of resources. Let students research information to answer questions they may have on a particular topic. Make it as non-threatening as possible so that students will enjoy seeking information and reveling in the success of finding it.

Remember, research can be as simple as finding the answer to a question. When a student asks, “Mrs. ...., why does a hummingbird move so fast?” encourage that student to discover the answer through books, pictures, videos, and the internet. A great answer to the question above would be, “I don’t know, why don’t we find out?” Then help the child learn how to find answers. Don’t make them wait, if you can. Immediately satisfy that need for information and you’ll be teaching a life-long learning skill!

Most States now require that even our primary students engage in some type of research!

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Have students make books cut into shapes that fit the current theme or topic of study. Shape books are lots of fun to make and easy too! Just punch holes in the tops or sides and thread with brightly dyed year or O-rings.

Shape books can be used as journals, to hold illustrations, timelines, or even to complete daily assignments.

is for Shape Books

S is for Spelling Games

Review for spelling and vocabulary using fun games. One is Spelling Bee Basketball. Have all of the spelling words on little strips of paper in a cup or basket. Break the students into two teams. One student picks a word out of the basket and reads it to the next student who must spell it. If they spell the word correctly, then that student gets to try and make a “basket” with the basketball and a trashcan. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Another fun game is the Spelling Bee Race. Group students into four or five lines. Call out the word and have students race to the board to spell it. Whoever spells the word correctly first wins that round. A variation on this is a spelling relay where each student writes one letter of the word for their team. The first team to correctly spell the word wins that round.

S is for Sentence Strips

Sentence strips have a variety of uses. Write different sentence parts on various strips and cut them to size.

Have several different nouns, verbs, connecting words, prepositions and/ or prepositional phrases. Mix them all up and have students create their own sentences using the different parts.

For younger students you might want to color code each part of the sentence so that they can self-check to see if they have a correct sentence.

You can use this same concept in just about any class. Use strips of paper to organize or categorize information into a

T-chart, timeline, Venn Diagram, or any other graphic organizer. Type out statements, words, ideas, etc. and cut them into strips. Have an envelope or baggie with the strips ready for each student group. Students then work together to put information in correct order or correct category. They can paste their final product onto construction paper or a large sheet of colored butcher paper. This activity helps students mainpulate information in a variety of ways.

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is for Transparencies

Motivating Students

To add enthusiasm to your class, divide students into teams and let them solve problems or answer questions on an overhead transparency.

Students can then share or explain this information to the class.

During a class discussion, allow students to come to the overhead and write their answer or idea using colored Vis á Vis pens.

T is for True or False

Reviewing facts in class can be fun using the game True or False. Have student groups work together to create three to five statements regarding a recent lesson that are either true or false. Have the groups go to the front of the room to share their statements. The other students in the room then decide whether each statement is true or false.

Students really enjoy this game because they have a chance to “trick” other students with their statements. It works great as a review because you can stop after each statement and discuss why it was or was not true.

is for Unwrapping

U is for Underlining

Give students special colored pens, pencils, or highlighters when they have to underline a reading passage. Another fun way to use underlining is in teaching the parts of speech. Have students use a different colored pen or pencil to underline each part of speech in a sentence. This is a great group activity where each team member has a different colored pen. They must work together to identify the parts of speech in a sentence.

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Students describe a famous person, place, or concept on a sheet of paper.

Encourage creativity with illustrations and/ or objects that help represent the information. Have students put their information in a box, wrap it up, and exchange their “gift” of knowledge with another student.

This can also be used for sensory activities where the student unwraps the

“gift” blindfolded and tries to predict what it is by using their five senses.

is for Learning Vine

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Make a vine of butcher paper or construction paper and string it across the room or down a wall. Have students add “flowers” or “leaves” to the vine with facts from your unit. At the beginning of a new unit, take down the old leaves and flowers to make room for new ones.

You could also use the vine as your word wall or to teach parts of speech.

V is for Vacation Brochure

A brochure is a great way for students to show their creativity. They can use it to market a

“time travel” vacation. Students design the brochure to convince people to travel back to a specific time period in history. Who will they see? Where will they go? What will they experience?

Have students plan a trip to anywhere in the

United States or the world. What will they see?

What route will they drive? How many miles is it?

Will they need to fly? What is the cost? Where will they stay? Math concepts are integrated by figuring the cost of gas/travel, and setting a budget for food, lodging and attractions. How much will the total trip cost? For older students, how long will each leg of the trip take when traveling x miles an hour?

Also, if they were able to save x dollars each month, how long would it take them to save up for the trip?

When students are studying a new math concept, have them make a travel brochure to “Problem Solving Land” with tips on how to solve this type of math problem.

When studying world cultures, have students make travel brochures to convince people to travel to different countries.

When studying any concept, have students create a travel brochure to visit the “Land of ...”

(atoms, volcanoes, baseball, etc.) in which they explain information about that particular concept.

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Motivating Students

is for Walkabout

The Walkabout is a type of research adapted from a traditional practice of Aboriginal Australian tribes in which adolescents are sent alone into the outback for several months to prove their readiness for adulthood. Dr. Maurice Gibbons, in his book, The Walkabout, Searching for the

Rite of Passage from Childhood and School, adapted this practice into a form of real-life teaching to help students want to learn.

The Walkabout is a year-long project in which students explore one topic of interest to them.

Students must go on an adventure, create something unique, research one aspect of the topic, do a community service, and show professional skills attained. Pictures, journals, and information gathered for each section are organized into a 3-ring binder and presented to a panel of teachers, peers, and parents at the end of the year.

Teacher Testimony

I’ve done the walkabout project with my sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students and it has been a huge success! One student decided to do her walkabout on being a veternarian. She volunteered in a Veternarian clinic, interviewed the Veternarians, researched information about stray animals, worked in a pet shop, and learned how to properly bathe and dip animals . She used a journal and pictures to present her efforts and during the presentation demonstrated how to wash and dip a cat. All of my students were excited to show the new skills they had learned through this project!

Have students do their assignments on extra large or extra small pieces of paper.

This makes boring, repetitive type tasks more fun. Another way to spruce up their work is by providing them with brightly colored paper or index cards.

is for X-tra Small or Large

X is for “Excellent”

Praising students is an excellent way to motivate them. When they share an answer with the class, thank them. Say, “Excellent answer!” or “Excellent effort!” You will be surprised at how many more hands will begin to go up when you do this.

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is for Yarn

Younger students can use yarn to practice letters and match objects. Older students can match terms and definitions. Yarn is also a handy way to measure circumference and to compare fractions. Yarn can be a miracle motivator!

Y is for Yard

We’re talking about the school-yard here! Take students out and about on beautiful days.

Walk around and pick up different kinds of leaves, look at trees and roots, pick up rocks to identify, or notice different cloud shapes. There is so much for us to learn from our world that we should take advantage of it and spend some time outdoors. Who says that all learning must occur inside buildings?

Take some time to play team-building games outside or use chalk to do sidewalk math. Have students make butter, bricks, or other objects that reinforce your topic of discussion. Measure the distance from the sun to each planet with chalk, or have student groups use their bodies create “live” mini solar systems with “planets” rotating around the “sun.”

Go outside to write poetry or stories and let the great outdoors inspire your young writers and artists. There are so many different ways that you and your students can enjoy the outside world and learn at the same time!

is for Zooming In

Have students take a broad topic and “zoom in” on one tiny detail to explore fully. For example, when studying a culture, focus on hairstyles or clothing. It is also easy to “zoom in” in science by using microscopes and magnifying glasses to write about what students see.

Z is for Zest

Add zest to your classroom by participating in the activities you require of your students.

They will love to see your product and will be more motivated to put time and effort into it when they see how much effort you put into yours. This is an excellent way to model your expectations as well as a way for you to enjoy being with your students.

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Working with Special Needs Students

This section is in the Motivating Students chapter because oftentimes these are the hardest students to motivate. Mainstreamed students include Special Education and ESL (English as a

Second Language) students. As teachers we know that our job is to teach ALL students regardless of their inherent ability. However, we also know that there are some students who are harder to reach for whatever reason. This section contains tips that will help you find a way to cope with the varying abilities of your students.

Special Education Students

The Special Education teacher comes into your room a few days before school begins and tells you that you have a few students with special needs. What can you do to accommodate them?

Do not treat these students any differently than the others.

Pair them with someone in your class who is patient and willing to help.

Read each I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan). If you don’t understand it, ask your Special Education teacher to explain what that particular student needs. It never hurts to ask for help!

“Do not hesitate in asking the


Education teachers for help!”

Remember, you are required by law to follow each I.E.P. exactly when modifying for the student.

If you do not feel comfortable modifying tests or assignments, ask your Special Education teacher to help you.

Get textbooks that you can highlight. Some I.E.P.’s request this. Your Special Education teacher will know where to get them or may have some you can use.

Modify tests BEFORE you hand them out. It only takes a few minutes to cross out or highlight sections for the student to complete. Don’t embarrass the student by making them wait while you modify the test or assignment right at their desk.

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Find out if your school has a walk-in room, resource room, pull-out room, or other place where you can send Special Education students for help.

Get to know your Special Education teacher. He/she can really help you out of tricky situations!

Find out if your school has an adaptive behavior classroom or some other place for emotionally disabled students.

Do not tolerate jibes or funny remarks about Special Education students by others – even other teachers!

Answer the questions on the referral paperwork the best that you can.

Read to and with these students every day, even if it is only for a few minutes. That extra time reinforces that they are worth your attention.

Do not make a big deal about Special Education students leaving your class if they go to a resource classroom.

Be prepared for pages and pages of referral forms! Ask for help with these forms if you need it. Be aware! Referrals can be anywhere from five to fifteen pages long.

Be aware that the referral process can take a VERY LONG TIME with lots of paperwork and meetings in between.

Try not to lose your temper and if you do, apologize. Kids understand that everyone has bad days.

Be Patient!

Find out what that student is interested in and use it!

Be prepared to explain the concept or lesson in a different way for them.

Be sure to attend all ARD (Admission, Referral, Dismissal) meetings prepared with your gradebook, samples of student work, and possible recommendations from what you observe in the classroom.

“Take the time to find out what interests each student and use that to help motivate them.”

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Some students need to move to learn. Allow an active student to sit in the back and move around a little, as long as he/she doesn’t disturb anybody.

Find out how that student works and be flexible! If a student needs to draw to listen, then let him/her draw.

If you don’t feel comfortable with modifying tests and assignments, you also have the option of modifying grades for Special Education students. (See the back of the Assessment chapter)

Trust your gut instinct!

Don’t get discouraged! It is hard when you know a student needs help, but they don’t qualify according to the state requirements. Do what you can.

Keep your eyes open for students who need help and are not getting it. Not everyone needs

Special Education resources. Check it out first to make sure that the student is not just goofing off.

Don’t try to fill out a referral form alone for the first time! Find a veteran teacher or the Special Education teacher.

Ask about other programs, such as tutoring and Big Brother/

Big Sister, that might help your student.

“Keep your eyes open for students who need special help.

Have documentation of any behavior and/or academic problems the student has exhibited in your classroom.

If your student does not qualify for special education services, but you still feel they need extra help, discuss a 504 plan or speech referral with your special education teacher.

Do you see a discrepancy between their intelligence and their abilities?”

Remember that parents are not always happy about their child being referred for Special

Education services. Many times parents feel that you are simply trying to label their student as “dumb”. Reassure them that you are trying to find a way for them to be successful in the classroom.

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ESL Students

It is frustrating to have someone in our class who can’t understand anything we’re saying.

How do we know that they are learning anything or that they are being successful? This is often the case with our ESL students. Many times students arrive in our class having just entered the country. Others, however, have been here for some time, but do not have a good grasp on the

English language. Whatever the case, we need to be prepared to offer these students a good education. Here are a few tips used by effective ESL teachers that you can use with ESL students in the classroom.

Students with no English language skills

Provide ample listening opportunities

Use mixed ability groups

Create high context for shared reading

Use physical movement

Use art, mime, and music

Put yourself in their shoes to gain perspective and understanding


Restate/ paraphrase

Use Gestures

Explain or define any and all terms used in class.

“Respect an ESL student’s need for silence when faced

Use illustrations and photographs; label items in the room

with a new language.”

Remember, these students are scared and confused and do not understand anything that is going on in the classroom.

Do not force them to talk until they are ready. Respect their silence.

Pair with a student who can fluently speak their language and can help translate.

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Have students create understanding thermometers to help them show you their level of comfort and understanding.

Use heavy cardstock paper for the thermometer.

Cut the page into three sections approximately 4” by

7”. Label the top


Thermometer” and draw a line down the middle. On the right side of the line write “No Clue,” then “Confused,” then “Questions,” then “I get it.” On the left side of the line draw faces to represent these statements. Cut a hole at the top and bottom of the line.

Thread a piece of yarn with a bead.

Next, thread the yarn through the holes so that the bead is on the front of the card. Tie the yarn in back.

Students can move the bead up and down the thermometer to show you how they are doing.

Students with extremely limited language skills

Ask yes/no and who? what? where? questions.

Continue to provide listening opportunities.

Have students label pictures and objects.

Have students complete sentences with 1 or 2 word phrases.

Use pattern books and picture dictionaries.

Try to help them understand what is going on in your classroom.

Pair them with a student who is fluent in English as well as in their home language, if you can.

Build vocabulary in the content areas using visuals and meaningful experiences.

Students with less limited language skills

Ask open-ended questions.

Model, expand, restate, and enrich student language.

Have students describe personal experiences.

Use predictable and patterned books for shared and guided reading.

Use role-play and retelling of content area text.

Have students create books.

Do not assume that the students have the appropriate academic skills.

Teach students academic language – what is a noun, subtraction, etc.

Help students by modeling thinking aloud. Encourage students to only use English then at school.

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Students with fluent language skills

Pair them with another student who needs help.

Use group discussions to help them continue practicing their language skills.

Guide them in the use of reference materials such as dictionaries, almanacs, atlases, and encyclopedias

Provide higher level reading materials.

Have students write their own stories.

“Keep your ESL students involved in all class activities.

Provide realistic writing opportunities.

Provide visuals to help with comprehension.

Publish student writings.

Encourage them to use both of their languages as a translator.

ESL students, just like all of our students, work best in groups.”




No Clue



I get it!

Thank you to Connie

Skipper, ESL teacher,

Garland ISD for sharing this idea with us!

All ESL students

Do not let them use their lack of language skills as a crutch!

Be understanding and flexible with the ESL teachers. Ask for strategies and ideas to help you in the classroom.

If you see that a student needs help and you do not feel that you do an adequate job, send them to their ESL teacher for extra help.

Begin with shortened assignments and gradually increase them as they gain fluency.

Do not make a big deal of students leaving your classroom for their

ESL classes.

Keep them as involved as you can in your classroom. They need to do everything the other students are doing!

Have students do the regular assignment and then modify their grade

if necessary.

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Remember, the more motivated your students are, the more learning will take place. When students are energized and engaged, their minds are like sponges absorbing new information and storing it. This happens so easily when they have a fun activity to connect with concepts learned. Additionally, many of these activities help our Special Needs and ESL students to feel success and enjoy the learning process. Thus, planning motivating lessons is not such a difficult task when you use simple activities like the ones in this chapter to add zest!

Additional Resources

Reading, Writing, and Learning in ESL (2nd Edition) by Suzanne Peregoy and Owen Boyle

Exceptional Lives: Special Education in Today’s Schools (3rd Edition) by Ann Turnbull, et. al.

Motivating Your Students: Before You Can Teach Them, You Have to Reach Them by Hanoch McCarty and Frank Siccone

Choice Theory in the Classroom by William Glasser

Questions for Reflection

1) If you could use one word to sum up how to motivate students to want to learn, what word would you use? Why?

2) Why is it helpful to have quick and easy ways to make learning fun?

3) What are three things we need to keep in mind when working with Special Education students?

4) What are some ways you plan to help ESL students at different levels in your classroom?


1) Incorporate two or three of the strategies mentioned in this chapter into one or more lessons you are currently planning, or describe how you would incorporate different strategies into lessons for particular concepts/skills (ie - Colonization, Oceans, Novel study, etc.)

2) Brainstorm how you would set up a “creative center” in your classroom. What materials will you include? How will you set it up? Draw a sketch of what your area ideally would look like.

Remember, most classrooms are small, so don’t go overboard.

4) Develop a series of notecards on the computer to use with students for praise or encouragement. Print them out and save them to use in your classroom.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Technology in the


My school has really embraced technology in the classroom.

Where do

I start?

To be effective, teachers need to be prepared to use a variety of technological hardware and software when teaching students.

While the computer is becoming a major tool within the classroom, technology comes in all shapes and sizes. Not every school is fully equipped with computers and other types of hightech hardware. This can be frustrating to tech savvy teachers.

Even more frustrating is the fact that many teachers across the

United States are equipped with computer presentation stations and other hardware/software options that they rarely or never use.

There are lots of different, helpful, and motivating ways you can use technology in your classroom to enhance student learning. However, we must stress the importance of attending training provided by your school or district in how to use these tools. A well-prepared teacher strives to stay on top of the latest technology available to them. If we are not familiar with using certain types of hardware or software, we will not use them in the classroom. This hurts our students who need that exposure to help prepare them for life in the new millennium.


Computers have so many different uses in the classroom.

Whether you have a presentation station, one computer for the whole class, or several workstations, computers can be used in a variety of ways to enhance your learning environment.

We are going to discuss both teacher use and student use of equipment and software programs for the computer in this section.

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Teacher Use of the Computer

Presentation Station

A presentation station includes a Television Set, a computer, and sometimes a VCR and internet connection. All of these items are hooked up together so that the teacher can present information from the computer/internet for students to view on the TV. Schools across the country are moving towards this type of setup for teachers to make technology more accessible as a teaching tool.

Computer/TV Hookup Cables

These days computers can easily hook up to the TV through a series of cables which your librarian may have available. If not, Radio Shack and other Computer stores will be able to help you find the correct cables to use.

LCD Panel

These panels will also project information from the computer to a screen, usually the overhead screen. Some schools may have an LCD panel available for check-out through the library. However, the LCD panel does not provide as crisp of a picture and can be hard to see clearly.

Projector Unit

Some schools have projector units that connect to a computer and project the information directly to a screen. These are clear projections, unlike the LCD panel, and can often be used to project other images as well.

Of course, the ideal is that every teacher would have their own presentation station to be able to present lessons using a variety of technology and media.

Okay, now I have the equipment, but what do I do with it?

There are a plethora of fantastic software programs that will help you with lesson presentations, creating forms, developing web pages, contacting students and parents, and more! On the next couple of pages we are going to review some of the different programs you might find useful.

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Power Point

Power Point is a program that is used to present information. The pages can be changed manually with the click of a mouse, or automatically through the slide show mode. You choose how many seconds or minutes you want to pause in-between each slide.

Power Point can replace the overhead transparency when presenting notes, pictures, or information. Simply type your notes, information, or insert pictures onto each page (called a slide). When teaching, either time the slides to automatically switch or use the mouse to click over to the next slide of information. This is a great way to integrate pictures along with information.

You can use digital camera images or clipart. The program includes a nice little collection of clipart that is easy to insert.

Other Uses include:

Post class objectives, the date, homework assignments, or your focus assignment (warm-up, sponge, bell-ringer, etc.). This helps keep your whiteboard or chalkboard open for other teaching needs.

Post Vocabulary or Spelling words for students to copy or look up in the dictionary.

Post your Word(s) of the Day or Quote of the Day

Print the outline version of the slides to use as notes when presenting the lesson. You could also give these to students who were absent or special needs students who cannot copy as quickly.

Review for a test. Create one slide for each review question. Set the time between each slide to give ample opportunity for answering the question before it switches to the next slide. This keeps you free to monitor students while they work and to help answer questions. This method saves on copies and is a great alternative when the copier is broken or the school is out of paper.

Post directions for assignments, lab rotations, or group work.

Have you run out of room on the overhead or whiteboard? Think about posting some of the information using Power Point.

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Word Perfect or Microsoft Word

You can use Word for the same reasons as Power Point. The difference is that multiple pages will not change automatically. Also, you must remember that students can only see what is visible on the screen. With Power Point, once you start the slide show, each slide will adjust itself to fit perfectly to the screen.

Use Word to:

Create and save letters to parents

Create note cards or post cards to give to students

Create tests

Create welcoming letters for parents and/or students

Create forms to use in the classroom

Create checklists for assignments

Create assignment handouts

Create lesson plans

Create lesson handouts

Teach editing skills -- Have students point out mistakes in a typed paragraph. You can

correct the mistakes on the computer while students are watching. You might use a

different color to fix the problems in order for the changes to stand out.


Excel is a spreadsheet program and has many different uses. We highly recommend that you take a course in using Excel to learn all of the different ways it can be used in the classroom.

Here are a few examples:

Graph data or information to encourage higher level thinking with students.

Keep and average grades if your school/district does not have an electronic

gradebook. The spreadsheet will actually calculate the averages for you if you set up

the equations correctly.

Make a spreadsheet to keep track of student work, absences, etc., or to use for the

Clipboard Management techniques we discussed earlier in the book.

Create databases to use for mailing labels

Also, you can use your presentation station to teach students how to use any program through demonstration.

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Microsoft Publisher

With this program you can create multiple text boxes to hold typed information and place them anywhere on the page. You can also insert and place graphics much easier than with

Word. Publisher is a much more versatile program. You can use it to create note-cards, postcards, newsletters, flyers, labels, coupons, brochures, websites, and more with their ready-to-use templates.

Additionally, any document you create can be saved as HTML to upload as a webpage. Publisher is a WYSIWYG (What you see is

What you Get) type of HTML editor. Your web pages will look exactly as you create them on the page. You can make text and graphics into hyperlinks to make your site as interactive as you wish. There is even an option for creating response forms and adding your own HTML code, if you know it.

Here are a few ideas:

Post class information/ newsletters as a website for

parents and students to view

Post tests and assignments for students to complete


Post student work for parents to view

Post your professional portfolio

Can you think of any other ways you could use a classroom website?

Student Use of the Computer

Use the computer(s) you have in the classroom as a

Learning Center for student enrichment.

Computer games are a fun way to teach valuable skills, and they won’t even know they are learning!

Students can use software programs such as Publisher,

Word, and Power

Point to create presentations for the class, write research reports or essays, create brochures, flyers, class newsletters, or websites exhibiting information they’ve learned. Excel can be used to create their own charts and graphs as a way of organizing and intepreting data.

Give students meaningful uses of computer programs as part of their learning and watch them blow you away with their abilities!

Teach word processing skills for writing pieces and projects.

Students can practice or learn to type on the computer.

Use the internet to research information (closely monitored by the teacher).

Email famous figures, experts, and government officials to ask questions related to

units of study.

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CD Programs can extend lessons and units, and can be used creatively for all kinds of research projects.

Educational CD programs are now widely available through Office Supply stores, Computer stores, Teacher Supply stores, Bookstores, and places like Wal-Mart and Target. Most programs cost between three and thirty dollars although some are considerably more costly.

A few good programs for classroom use are:

The Animals – San Diego Zoo

Atlas Pack

Grolier’s Encyclopedia

Guinness Records

Compton’s Encyclopedia

Magazine Article Summaries

Time Almanac

Magic School Bus

News Lines

American Journey – Exploring American History

Where in the World/US is Carmen Sandiego

Reader Rabbit Series

Jump Start Series

More Ideas


Create spreadsheets using mathematical equations

Study and draw geometric figures using Draw or Paint programs

Create graphs, charts, tables and diagrams to represent information

Practice math skills using the variety of math programs available

Example: Speedway Math

Create a website to help other students practice or learn more


Use CD Roms, Software, Internet and Email for research

Create data bases of information

Write research reports and science projects

Use pictures/images from CD Rom and Software programs to enhance science projects, especially for the Science Fair!

Create spreadsheets, graphs, tables, and diagrams for representing data

Create a website to teach others

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Write research reports and complete projects

*The computer has different fonts and images that

can make historical reports look authentic!

Create graphs and charts showing information

Create Maps and Travel Brochures for geography

Create slide show presentations for lessons and/or student


Create a website to help other students practice or learn


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Social Studies

Use CD Roms, Software, Internet and Email for research

Example: Take a “Tour of the White House” over the Internet!

Check with your librarian and/or computer technician on your campus for help with locating software programs and CD Roms already in your school. Don’t run out and buy any programs yet!

See our list of web sites at the end of this chapter for ideas.

Language Arts

Write compositions

Create ‘About the Author’ Pages using the digital camera to

place a picture of the student on the page with their

biographical sketch

Use the computer for Final Drafts or to Publish students’


*Poetry can look beautiful when using the variety of fonts and illustrations from the computer!

Use Print Shop, Draw and Paint programs to illustrate

stories and projects

Create cards for classmates and family

Create invitations for parents to come to events like open


Students can practice grammar and reading skills using

programs in your school.

Create a website to share information or publish written


Teacher Testimony

As a Kindergarten teacher, I sometimes have trouble figuring out how to incorporate technology into my lessons. However, one activity I did after a field trip, as closure, was to have my students each make up one sentence about the trip. I typed out each sentence on half of a page using the presentation station. I did this as a whole class so that my students could see me writing the sentences in correct format. Next, I printed off each sentence (two per page) and asked students to illustrate their own.

Lastly, we gathered each half page together and created a class book about our field trip. It was a fun closing activity that incorporated technology and ended with a product my students were proud to show to everyone!

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Scheduling Computer Time

It is important that each of your students has a chance to work and practice on the computer.

Sometimes teachers tend to only allow their top students to use the computer, because they are usually finished with their work first and already know how to use computer technology. Your goal should be for every student in your class, no matter what learning level, to have a certain amount of time on the computer each week or month…whatever you decide.

Organizing Computer Time in your Classroom…

If you only have one or two computers in your classroom, you will probably utilize your computer(s) daily as learning and practice centers, and often as research centers for projects. For daily use, teachers might let students take turns on the computer instead of their silent reading time or other daily events. You will want to create a schedule or a method of keeping track, so you ensure each student has their fair share of time on a computer.

“Computers are an excellent learning tool!

Every student can benefit from time spent on the computer.”

Notebook method

Each student’s name is written along the side of the paper with days or weeks in a month written at the top. The students must record their time on the computer in the appropriate section. The teacher checks the notebook weekly to verify that all students are taking their turn. Once a student has used their time, they may not work on the computer unless it is approved by the teacher.

Posting a schedule

Each week or each month the teacher posts a large schedule above the computer table, which displays each student’s time slot.

Tips of the Trade: How to effectively utilize school computers!

When working on special projects that need computers for research, be sure to consult with your librarian.

Libraries often have extra computers and printers that can be rolled down to your classroom, or the librarian may allow students to come to the library and work. Your librarian is an excellent resource!

Many school districts issue laptop computers to teachers. When planning special projects, coordinate and reserve the use of teacher laptops to add to the number of computers in your classroom. Give other teachers plenty of advance notice and explanation for what you are doing. Most teachers would be happy to cooperate!

Don’t hesitate to use the computer lab if your campus has one. Teach word processing/editing skills, how to create databases, spreadsheets, graphs… Sign up in advance if you want to use the lab for special projects, as this will often require more time than the standard 30 minutes.

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Other Forms of Technology


Do not hesitate to show meaningful videos, clips and images from videos, commercials, recorded TV productions, DVD presentations and other visual tools in your classroom. You know the old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words!” A visual picture can often capture a student’s interest or help students to understand what you are teaching.


Always preview videos, video clips and computer programs before showing them to your class! It is negligent if you don’t!

Almost any production will allow you to show their piece for educational purposes, although you may be prohibited from using the video for entertainment purposes for your students.

Always have an educational reason for showing any videos.

Always get permission from your principal before showing videos in your class, and be ready to explain the educational value!

Ways to use this technology:

Good Videos for Classroom use:

National Geographic videos on Nature, Geology,Animals, and History

Magic School Bus Videos

Videos of IMAX films

Relevant G-rated movies that tie into your unit

The Nature, Discovery, History, and Learning Channels provide great resources! Watch your

TV Guide and plan to record programs that coincide with upcoming themes!

Cameras/Digital Camera

Take or bring pictures to class to enhance your lessons. Often your life experiences with travel can bring learning to life for students!

Many students have never traveled out of their own city, and have never been to an art museum, arboretum, or any historical monument!

Have students take pictures for special projects.

Pictures can easily be integrated into documents on the computer with the digital camera or scanner.

Example: About the Author Pages – Pictures of the students can accompany an autobiographical paragraph for their writing projects. It gives students the feeling of “being published!”

Integrate pictures into parent newsletters, student projects, etc.

Places like Wolf or

Ritz Camera can now put pictures directly onto a CD as well as prints.

This makes life much easier and negates the need for a scanner or digital camera.

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When doing special projects that require complicated math computations, think about using calculators and adding machines. If your goal is not to assess math skills, but to integrate subject areas where math is involved, why spend the extra time having students do lengthy calculations?

Example: During our space unit, I had my students calculate their ages and weights on each different planet in our solar system. This was a fun project, but would have taken up days of class time had we not used calculators!

LCD Panel or Presentation Station

Depending on the level of technology available at your school, use one of these to show images from the computer screen on the overhead screen or television, so the whole class gets a good view.

Notes for lecture

Teach editing/word processing skills

Show students how to use a particular computer program

Give class presentations

Video Camera

Video cameras are a great tool to motivate students to do their very best. When you video tape them giving presentations of any kind, they are immediately more concerned about their appearance and preparation time. When you show the videos back to the entire class, it is a terrific learning experience!

If you have hightech equipment in your classroom, your principal will expect to see it used when observing to give you higher marks for the technology domain of the professional assessment tool.

Overhead Projector

Yes, this is technology! The use of an overhead can make giving notes, showing statistics, reading aloud, and working math problems so much easier and more efficient than using the chalkboard. You can save notes for absent students, instead of erasing from the chalkboard!

Give it a try, even if you love writing on the chalkboard! It didn’t take me long to make the switch!

Tape recorders/Cassette players

Use this for students to record and give presentations, oral exams, practice speeches, reading aloud, and even for some homework assignments. Almost every student has a tape recorder at home, so it is a great tool the students can use.

This works great for shy students who find it hard to make speeches or presentations to the whole class.

Having your students tape record their work can be fun and motivating!

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Internet Web Sites

There are many interactive internet sites which offer free services for students. These can include review of facts/concepts, games, and other online type programs that are educational.

Be sure you personally review any website before allowing students to view them. In the last few years we have seen an increase in unacceptable adult websites buying expired education domain names. This practice is horrific and can cause major problems. For example, we had a link to a site for lesson plans which at one time hosted fantastic teacher lesson plans. Just recently we checked our links and found that this domain name now leads to an adult-only website. Needless to say, we took that link off immediately. This story is just to caution you to preview all sites before letting students view them.

In the next few pages we have listed some internet sites that you might find helpful in the classroom. We have checked all of these links and updated them. However, as with everything on the internet, there is no telling when site names will change or disappear. Your best bet is to spend some time previewing and investigating these and other sites to be sure of what you will find.

Teacher Resources:

Beginning Teacher’s Tool Box


Teachers Helping Teachers

Tenet Halls of Academia

Education World

Classroom Connect

Busy Teacher’s Web Site

Content Resources:

Color Landform Atlas of the United States

National Geographic

Presidents of the United States


“Remember, always preview web sites before students look at them.

It is important to closely monitor internet use by students.”

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Content Resources Continued:

This Day in History

The History Channel

Yahoo! Countries

World Cultures gr7.html#top

U.S. Government

White House for Kids

The Exploratorium

National Park Service

American Museum of Natural History

Ask Dr. Math

Math Forum

Mrs. Glosser’s Math Goodes

Mathematics Archives

Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics

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Content Resources Continued:

Bill Nye - The Science Guy

The Nine Planets

Science Hobbyist

How Things Work


Magic School Bus

Weather Channel

Cells Alive

San Diego Zoo



Looking for a particular book or books on a particular topic? Try or any other large online bookstore. They have a great database that is easy to search. Once you’ve found the book you are looking for, you can buy it or try to find it at the local libarary.


Do searches for information, interactive sites for students, or websites for teachers using keywords for your topic. String several keywords together for results that will meet your needs.

We recommend the following Search Engines:


Ask Jeeves

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Technology in the Classroom

Technology is an integral part of our society, and therefore should be an integral part of our classrooms. There are so many different ways to incorporate technology into our daily lessons that we really have no excuse not to. It is vital to our students that they have exposure to computers in order to prepare them for the outside world.

Additional Resources

Best Lesson Plan Websites by Karla Spencer

The Busy Educator’s Guide to the World Wide Web by Marjan Glavac

Teaching with Technology: Creating Student Centered Classrooms by Judith Haymore Sandholtz, Cathy Ringstaff, David C. Dwyer

Questions for Reflection

1) Why is it important to attend training for different hardware and software programs and then use those programs frequently?

2) What are some different ways you can incorporate technology in the classroom if computers and other high-tech hardware tools are not available?

3) What are some different uses of the internet as a teaching tool?

4) Why is it so important that we preview websites before using them with our students?


1) Develop one or more class activities or assessments which utilize Power Point, Excel, or

Publisher. Create directions and a checklist for students for each activity you design. The purpose of this activity is to develop activities which can be implemented in any unit or lesson.

2) Create a website using Publisher or another type of editor. This can simply be information about you and your portfolio (to share with administrators), information about your class for parents and students to view, interactive activities for students to complete online, or sharing your ideas with other teachers.

3) Think through how you would use one computer station in the classroom. Write out a plan that can be implemented in the classroom.

4) Think about and list the different ways you plan to use a computer presentation station daily in your classroom.

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.

Career Bound

I’m ready to start teaching in the classroom and need a job.

What do I do?

It isn’t easy knowing what to do when you first get out of college and are looking for a job teaching. For the most part your college should have a career center to help you with your resume and interviewing skills. Your student teaching professor should get you started on a portfolio and dossier to use when applying for jobs. At many universities, and in many cities, teaching job fairs are held during Spring Semester where you can meet with different districts.

However, if your college doesn’t have a big education department you may be left with a feeling of frustration due to a lack of information.

Also, most university career centers are geared for students going into the world of business which doesn’t help you much at all.

Additionally, you may be someone looking to change careers and become a teacher. Although you do not have your certification, most states now have an Alternative Certification Program to help you make the transition. You will still be required to attend teacher training courses and get your state certification, but you are allowed to teach while you work towards that goal. Contact your State

Department of Education to locate different programs available in your state. The US Department of Education website - http:// - lists all of the state departments for your reference.

This chapter is designed to help you understand what public school districts are looking for and how they hire new teachers.

Whether you are a recent graduate or trying to change careers, you will need to find a teaching job somewhere. We hope you will find these tips to be helpful. Please remember that every state is different, so not every tip will be useful to you. Still, it can’t hurt to have some information on your side.

Page 384 Career Bound

The Application

First of all, most school districts have an application that has to be filled out. The best course of action is to decide which school districts you are interested in, call them and ask for an application. It will arrive in the mail between 1 and 5 days within your phone call.

If you don’t know the districts in your area, the college or public library will have Patterson’s

American Education which lists every school district for every state. It is organized by state, city and then districts in that area. Each district has a little blurb about it along with the address and phone number. Don’t forget about private and charter schools as well when putting in applications.


Basic biography information - name, address, etc.

When filling out the application, be sure you have:

It is your responsibility to mail the form, along with an addressed stamped envelope, to each reference.


Schools where you have previously taught

(your student teaching experience will work fine for this area) — name of school, name of district, address, phone number, how long you worked there, and possibly a supervisor’s name.


Other work experience

Be ready to provide References.

Cooperating teacher

Principal of your student teaching school

(if he/she observed you teaching)

A professor in your major subject area

Your student teaching professor/supervisor.

Be sure you know their address and phone number. Also, make sure you tell them that you are using them as references.

Remember: Most districts do not like personal references!

Many districts will want your references to fill out a form. YOU have to get the form to your references AND give them an addressed/ stamped envelope to send the form back to the district.

Sometimes the form is a rating chart and other times there are general questions about your performance. Make sure you choose people who will take the time to fill it out.

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Be ready to answer essay questions.

Some typical questions include:

-Why did you choose to become a teacher?

-What do you feel are your strengths as a teacher?

-What do you feel are your weaknesses as a teacher?

-What is your philosophy of teaching?

-What do you believe is the most important part of teaching?

-How do you incorporate special needs students into your classroom?

-How do you build a positive climate in your classroom?

-How do you incorporate technology into your lessons?

Some questions are more specific in relation to the goals of the district. Answer all of these questions truthfully and as fully as you can. Some districts will only ask one or two questions whereas other districts may ask up to ten questions.

When answering questions about how your classroom works, answer with what you’ve done during your student teaching as well as what you plan to do when you are hired.

Think about the type of Teaching Assignment you want.

Think about your first, second and third choice of teaching assignments.


DO NOT put down something that you are not comfortable teaching. You may be interviewed for that position.

Be aware that districts are often in need of teachers for 5th - 9th grades. Also, many districts are in need of Math, Science, ESL, and Special Education teachers.

Also, think about activities you would like to sponsor such as student council, yearbook, student clubs, or coaching.

“Remember, do not put down any grade level or subject area that you do not feel comfortable teaching.

You most likely will end up teaching that very thing!”

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Page 386 Career Bound

Getting Noticed

You have filled out the application and everything is in order. Now all you need to do is let the principals know you exist and are ready to teach. Getting yourself noticed is one of the first things you need to do. Here are some tips for getting your foot in the door.


Be a substitute teacher in the district where you applied.

If you are in between college and a job, or if you just graduated at an awkward time, subbing is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door.

Call one or more local districts and ask for the Personnel or Human Resources Department. Let them know that you would like to be a substitute. They will give you directions on what you need to do.

When subbing in a building, be sure to introduce yourself to all of the teachers you meet as a new teacher who is subbing for experience. Let them know you are looking for a teaching job.

“Subbing is a great way to get noticed and gain classroom experience!”

It is not enough to just sub, you also need to be excellent in the classroom. Show what you can do. Everyone will be watching how you handle the students, how well you handle the curriculum and/or teacher plans (or lack of plans).

Offer to help during the planning period and ask if you can sit in on planning sessions. Once again, let them know that you are a new teacher and that you want the experience. The other teachers will give you whatever help they can.


Meet the principal

If you are subbing in a school, do everything you can to meet the principal in a positive situation.

Introduce yourself with confidence and offer some positive feedback about the students and the school. Be sure to use phrases you know will catch the principal’s attention and will show you are knowledgeable.

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The Cover Letter

A good cover letter that stands out from the rest can also help get you an interview. Here are some tips for a good cover letter:

Use paper that draws attention, but isn’t too flamboyant.

Florescent green or yellow certainly stands out, but it isn’t professional and it turns decision makers off! A page with school buses all around is cute, but too distracting from the message you want to convey.

Choose one logo to represent you and place it at the top of all letters, resumes, thankyou notes, etc.

Businesses use a logo to gain visual recognition. It will work for you as well. If the principal sees your logo often, he/she will begin to associate that image with you.

Use a colorful folder or envelope when sending your cover letter and resume.

Once again, use good judgment when choosing a color. You want it to be noticed, but not be offensive. Create mailing labels that use the same logo as your cover letter and resume so that it creates a solid image of you. This portrays confidence and organization, both of which are important qualities in a teacher.

Use active voice in your writing.

Active voice portrays confidence which is exactly what you want to communicate to your potential employers.

Keep it brief.

Principals do not have time to read through lengthy cover letters and resumes. You do not need to fill the page to be effective. Think, “Less is More.”

“Your cover letter should briefly introduce you to potential employers.”

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Career Bound

Sara B. Teacher

4000 Teachaway Rd.


Schooltown, USA 89999


HM (999) 444-8888

June 18, 20__

Mrs. Principal

Verifine School

200 Peachy Street

Friendship, TX 78994

Dear Mrs. Principal,

I want to applaud you and the other teachers at Verifine school for your commitment to student learning. I visited your web site and noticed that every teacher in your school has a web page with pictures of students learning as well as a bulletin board for parents to view assignments and upcoming events. I also saw many pictures of you and your teachers actively working with students in the classrooms and hallways of the school. The hallways especially struck me as I viewed student work on bright cheerful walls.

I would very much like to be a part of the Verifine team. As a newly graduated teacher from United University, I believe in team work within a school staff. I firmly believe that teachers and students learn best when actively involved through hands-on learning, discovery learning, and real experiences in a positive and caring classroom environment where trust and respect are valued highly. I can see these same values and beliefs within your school, and feel that I would be a positive addition to your team.

I would like to meet with you to discuss the wonderful work you are doing at

Verifine Elementary school and how I might fit one of the teaching positions you currently have available. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sara B. Teacher

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Cover Letter Elements:

Introduction with positive comments about school

2nd paragraph has university information and teaching philosophy

3rd paragraph requests a meeting

How do you get personalized information about the school?


Log on to the internet and locate the district and school web page. Use the information you find there to write a personalized introduction. If you know the name of the school/district where you are applying, you should be able to do a search using Google or some other search engine to find the web page. Otherwise, you might try locating the school through the State Department of

Education website. These can be found at

Follow up:

You want to follow up the cover letter and resume with a phone call if you don’t hear back within several days after mailing it out.

When you call, simply confirm that the letter was received by the principal. You don’t want to sound too pushy or desperate.

If you still don’t hear anything in a couple of weeks, it is okay to send a follow up note. Be sure to use the same logo and color scheme as your cover letter and resume. If you have a web site, use this second letter as an opportunity to mention it to the principal. This keeps your name in circulation without badgering.

Posting Information on a Website

Another way you can keep your name in front of the principal is to send a follow-up email and offer your personal website. On this website, include a picture of yourself (for name/face recognition), biographical information, your resume, your teaching philosophy, student work (if you have any), parent letters (if you have any), and other important items for the principal to review.

You might even think about posting your teaching portfolio on the website so that administrators can view it at their ease without keeping your original documents. Now the administrator has all of your contact information including your email and website in case they want to contact you or read more about you for a potential job position.

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Page 390 Career Bound

The Resume

Your resume does not need to be extensive, but it should definitely be clear and concise.

Principals do not have a lot of time to read a wordy resume. Only put down the most important information. A sample resume is printed below to give you an idea.

Sara B. Teacher

4000 Teachaway Rd.

Schooltown, USA 89999

HM (999) 444-8888

WK (999) 665-8888


TEACHER UNIVERSITY, Houston, TX - BA, English, May 20__; GPA 3.0

Honors/Offices — Served as House Manager, Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority.

Appointed Sophomore Advisor, Served as fundraising chair, Residence Life



Texas Provisional Certificate— Secondary English, Secondary Reading, Elementary 1-8



Rosewood I.S.D., Rosewood, Texas 200_-200_

- Taught four classes of English and Reading

- Created a six weeks unit on poetry for 8th grade students

- Participated in staff development on 4-MAT lesson planning


LIVSEY ELEMENTARY /YWCA, Rosewood, Texas 200_-200_

- Established, developed and organized after-school program for Livsey

Elementary School.

- Held supervisory position over two counselors.

- Conducted monthly staff development meetings.

- Successfully completed all regulatory state records.

- Responsible for and implemented overall program budget.

- Established interpersonal relations with parents and school.


Proficient with IBM and MacIntosh computers. Proficient with various software programs including Power Point, Publisher, Word, and Excel. Proficient with the Internet and emailing systems. Experienced with Scanners and Networked systems. Type 75 WPM.


Enjoy writing stories, reading, swimming, cross-stitching and playing the flute.

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The Portfolio

A portfolio should be a well-organized presentation of yourself. Although a portfolio is not necessarily a requirement in an interview, having one definitely can set you apart from other applicants. Below are some tips for creating your portfolio and using it to help you get a job.


3 ring-binder

-should be new

-zippered binder keeps loose papers inside and neat

-vinyl binder is okay

-leather binder/ portfolio is not necessary

Use nice paper

-linen paper

-designer paper (don’t use too much of this or else your portfolio will look crowded and

more like a scrapbook)

-a heavier weight typing paper will work fine


-don’t tape pictures to construction paper

-use photo sheets or picture corners to keep pictures on a page

-use binder folders to hold loose papers

Artifacts to include:


Teaching certificate(s)

Recent observation reports (for you)

Copy of degree(s) earned

Sample lesson plans


Letters of accommodation or thanks

Professional Development certificates, if you have any

“Your portfolio should reflect both who you are as a person and as a teacher.”

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Organization of Portfolio:

There are a variety of ways to organize your portfolio. Here are a few that you can consider using:


By artifacts


By teaching standards

Use tabbed dividers and label each section according to the artifacts found within. Some sections might include:

You might want to organize your artifacts according to different teaching standards and/ or responsibilities. Your sections might include:

-Teacher qualifications

-Lessons/ units




-Professional development

-Professional qualifications

-Curriculum and Instruction

-Classroom Climate


-Parental Involvement

-Meeting needs of ALL students (ESL, Special

Education, Gifted/Talented)

“An organized portfolio presents and organized teacher.”

Many states have specific teaching standards listed on their education department web page.

You might also consider using those standards when organizing your portfolio.

Other Portfolio Tips:

Use copies of your certificates and degrees so that you won’t accidentally lose the original.

• Put your portfolio on CD using browser/ web technology. This will help set you apart from other applicants. Also, you can make several copies of the CD portfolio and leave them with each principal as you interview.

• Create a portfolio on a web site. Use a brightly colored manila folder to hold your resume and web site address. This is another way to stand out from the crowd.

• There are many places that offer free web space to post pages as well as have templates

that make it easy to post a website with your information. We also have free webpages

available for teachers to use at:

• Don’t forget to get a free email account as well ( or are two

examples) to give out as a contact. This will keep your personal email account secure.

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The Interview

Your first interview most likely will be with someone in the Personnel Department of the district.

This is a screening interview and it is usually with only one person. During this interview you will be asked very general questions similar to the ones on the application. Some districts use a video interview process while others conduct more of a casual conversation.

In certain places, you may be asked to present a demonstration lesson. If you have a chance during student teaching, you might want to video a couple of different lessons to show during an interview. Having a video tape like this will also help set you apart from other applicants when talking to individual schools. Make several copies so that a principal can keep one for a couple of days, if necessary.

Some interview questions will include:

What is your philosophy of teaching?

How did you reach this point in teaching ( or in your career)?

What makes a good teacher?

What are two of your greatest strengths?

What is your biggest area of weakness?

How do you feel about student retention?

How do you feel about mainstreaming and/or inclusion?

Describe for me a typical day in your classroom.

Describe for me how you would deal with an upset or angry parent.

Describe for me how you would deal with a student discipline

“The District


Interview comes first, then you’ll be contacted by interested administrators.”


How do you incorporate technology in the classroom?

How you do you communicate/ involve parents in the classroom?

If we were to walk into your classroom during (Language Arts, Math, Science, etc..), what would it look like?

·What are some lessons/units you have planned?

“Dress professionally for your interviews!”


Don’t worry about having a smooth, off-the-cuff answer for each question.

The interviewer expects you to be nervous and knows that you might stumble over your answers.

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Do You Know About These Issues?

It is important that you give the impression that you have thought about and are still thinking seriously about the issue. This impression will only come from actually thinking about these types of questions.

Philosophy of Teaching

The interviewer is looking for your beliefs about teaching. There are two ways to go about your philosophy of teaching. One way is to create an educational philosophy. This should be no longer than 2 or 3 sentences at the most.

“A wellprepared teacher has given thought to their educational platform.”


Teachers and students learn best when actively involved through hands-on learning, discovery learning, and real experiences in a positive and caring classroom environment where trust and respect are highly valued.

When developing your philosophy, remember that school administrators are looking for people who emphasize working as a team with colleagues and students, and working to meet the needs of ALL students.

Principals also like to know that life-long learning, parent communication, and working toward school goals are important issues to teachers.

A second way to communicate your philosophy of teaching is through an Educational Platform.

An educational platform is a sheet that begins with the statement I Believe and then lists your beliefs. An example is listed on the following page.

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Teachers should guide their students in learning, not just give information.

The classroom should be student centered, not teacher centered.

Learning should be hands-on. Students learn best through discovery learning and experiences.

A faculty should work together to be better teachers for their students.

A principal should support his/her teachers.

Students should write and read every day for at least 20 minutes each.

Learning concepts should be integrated so that students can see connections.

Math should be a combination of visual hands-on, basic calculations, and word problems.

Students should have lots of experiences with critical thinking skills.

What Makes a Good Teacher?

This is part of your beliefs. Do you believe that a good teacher guides students rather than spouting out information? Does a good teacher have strong communication skills with parents, students and faculty? Include statements about a good teacher in your platform.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Be honest, but also be aware of what the school is looking for. You want to find weaknesses that actually are strengths. For example, you might say, “One of my biggest weaknesses is that I tend to put everything I have into my work. I often arrive early and stay late. Since

I know new teachers often burn out quickly, I need try to take a little time for myself every now and then. This will be hard for me, but I know it will be better for my students in the long run.”

Another area that many principals understand as an area of weakness is integrating technology into the classroom.

Areas that will not be acceptable as your weakness:



Parent Communication

What would your strengths be as a teacher? Below are some examples:

Strong rapport with students

Utilize proactive classroom management strategies

Have a natural flair for delivering interesting lessons

Use higher-level thinking skills and questioning techniques to expand lessons.

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This is the process of holding a student back a grade instead of passing them. There are two basic beliefs.

One belief is that a student should not be held back unless it is absolutely one hundred percent necessary. This school of thought believes that retention is ultimately harmful to a student for the following reasons:

“Before your interview, research the district’s policy on student retention.”

They will be older than the other students

They may lose their self esteem

They will be bored because they’ve already experienced the curriculum

The teachers may harbor some prejudices against them from the previous year.

Tutoring and summer school are held as the best alternatives to retention.

The other school of thought holds that students who cannot do the work required by that particular grade need to be held back another year for the following reasons:

They have already experienced the curriculum and may better understand it a second time.

They will gain better self-esteem because they experience success rather than failure.

They are often held up to the younger members of the class as leaders because of their age.

Educators of this school of thought may feel that retention is not a stigma on a child, but rather offers them a “do over”.

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This is the process of placing special education students in a regular classroom. This process is also known as inclusion. Schools experience a wide range of mainstreaming from totally selfcontained classrooms to totally mainstreamed classrooms. Regular teachers may have students with learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or even physical disabilities along with their other students.

Some educators feel very strongly against the issue of mainstreaming, while others would rather have all students in their classroom. It is important

“Students can always tell how

that you think very carefully about how you would feel to have children of such widely ranging abilities together in your classroom. The best solution is to be open-minded and accepting of whatever students

you feel about them, even if you don’t verbalize it.”

you may receive. Remember, no matter how much you pretend, children can always sense how you feel about them. This is an especially hard question for new teachers who have never been in a classroom. Take some time to imagine how you would run your classroom in the most practical sense.

Typical Class/ Typical Day


If you are an elementary teacher, would you start with math or language arts? How long would you spend on each subject? Would your lessons be hands-on or textbook oriented?

Would you include sponge* activities, vocabulary exercises, or problem solving during the day?


If you are a middle school teacher, think about your subject area. How would you begin the class to get students engaged?

Would you use sponge activities? Would your lessons be handson or textbook oriented? How would you close your lessons?

*Remember, a sponge activity is an assignment ready for students to complete as soon as they enter the classroom.


Observe your cooperating teacher and ask yourself, what do they do that I like? dislike? Then, imagine how you would do it if it were your classroom.

Earlier in this book we discussed some different ways to manage and plan for a successful classroom that you can use as a reference.

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Typical Class...continued

With this question Administrators are looking for the following:

How will students be engaged from the moment they walk in the door?


When students first enter the classroom they get their class materials and pull out their journal.

Before the bell rings students are already in their seats writing about the journal topic.

Career Bound

How will you handle administrative tasks?


While students are writing in their journal, I use my seating chart to take attendance. After I have put it out to be picked up, we answer the warm-up science review questions.

Example of typical day answer:

If you were to walk into my classroom during class, you would see students actively engaged in learning. We would be engaged in discussion of various topics, or students would be working in cooperative lab/group situations with activities that apply and enrich the topic of study. I teach through minilessons rather than lectures as I feel that lectures tend to make students passive learners rather than active learners. I prefer to have students actively engaged in activities that help them discover and apply the information themselves.

“A wellprepared teacher constantly thinks about how their classroom will operate.”

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If you could have the ideal classroom, what kind of technology would you include? Here is a list of some very useful tools for the classroom


Internet access


Video camera

Presentation Station



Digital Camera

Some of you who are more technologically advanced may even know of some other hardware items that would be useful. Discuss how you feel about using these tools in your classroom. How would you use them?

“Remember, a classroom built on trust and respect generally does not have discipline problems.”

Also, remember that most schools will not have these things and you may have to do without. However, principals these days are looking for teachers with that extra technological edge even if their school does not have the necessary equipment.

Student Discipline

What would you do if a student spoke back to you in a disrespectful tone of voice? Would you immediately send them to the office, punish them verbally in class, put a check on the board, or discuss their behavior with them privately? Principals are looking for generalities. In general, do you talk with students and work through the problem, or do you rely on immediate punishment strategies? It is important to think about what we know about human behavior when thinking about this issue. Look over our Classroom Management and Teaching Strategies chapters to help you in answering this question.

Parent Communication

The biggest thing principals want to hear is that you are willing to discuss issues with parents.

The best method is to use a calm voice and to encourage the parent to voice their concerns. After all, you are both interested in what is best for the student. This is not a competition, but a cooperative effort in creating a successful environment for that student. See our chapter on parent communication for more ideas on answering this question.

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Be genuine in the way you answer each question.

Districts are looking for enthusiastic, energetic teachers, not automatons. You may do yourself more harm than good if you write out an essay answer for each of these questions, memorize it and then try to recall it in the interview. Do some serious thinking about each issue and you will find that at the interview it will not be hard to answer the question.

Remember to send a Thank You note to your interviewer.

Usually you will be given a business card by the interviewer with their address and phone number. Reiterate in a thank-you note your interest in working for their district and how excited you were to meet and talk with them.

Once the intial screening interview is over, the next step is to wait.

Unfortunately there is no set time of waiting. Some people who have applied and interviewed early have had to wait several months while others have gotten a job right away. Other people have applied and interviewed closer to the start of school only to find that there are no more jobs left, while still others do the same and get a job that day.

Teachers who are already under contract with the district must be placed in a school before any new hires can take place.

That means that principals are looking at people already in the district for their openings first.

Many principals would often rather have new teachers, but they must still follow the same process.

Then, around early summer, the transfers have been taken care of and schools begin interviewing possible new teachers.

If you do not receive a call by June, do not panic.

Some principals don’t get around to hiring new teachers until the end of July and some even hire up to the day school starts. This does not make the situation easier for you since you need a job, but at least you will go into the whole process with a little prior knowledge about the system.

Keep in mind that most school administrators take off two to three weeks in June or July. You may not receive a call simply because everyone is on vacation.

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School Interviews

Once you are called back for an interview at a specific school, you may see a variety of interviewing techniques.

You may be interviewed by the principal alone.

Some schools have both administrators interviewing.

Other schools interview in a group setting.

By group setting, we mean that several people may be interviewing you including the principal, a couple of teachers and maybe a parent or two. For many people this is the most nerve-wracking, but it can turn out to be better for you.

With a one person interview, you are counting on one person liking you instantly. With a group interview, there are several people who have input, and if one person does not think that you will work out, there may be two or three who think you are perfect for the job. Usually the majority rules.

Before the interview:

Research information about the school. Most districts and schools now have a web page which will tell you their vision and mission as well as show you the various activities going on at the school. By looking through their site, you should be able to determine the issues they feel are important. Address these issues in your answers and in the questions you ask them during the interview.

Put your resume or vita in a bright colored manila folder. Print out a label with your name and phone number to put on the tab for easy reference. If you have a CD with your portfolio or a video of you in the classroom, place them in a bright colored envelope with a label. Be sure that your folder and envelope match so that the principal will know which items are yours.

Don’t use florescent colors.

“Don’t feel pressured to accept the first job you are offered!”

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The questions at the school interview are a little more specific to the school.

Be prepared to discuss why you would be qualified to teach specific grade levels. Do not hesitate to specify grade levels you would feel most comfortable teaching. If you leave it up to the principal, you may end up teaching just about any grade.

During this time, the interviewer will tell you what makes their particular school special or different.

They may ask you how you can contribute to their vision of the school.

Also be ready to explain how you teach certain subjects such as math, language arts, science and social studies. Think about your ideal classroom.


Describe classroom setup (groups, learning centers, tables, desks, display student work, motivating and colorful environment?)


Classroom management philosophy (how would you handle discipline problems, unruly students, exceptionally gifted students, rewards, and consequences?)


Hands-on versus textbook/ worksheet?

“A wellprepared teacher knows the issues that are important to each school when interviewing.”


Typical Lesson (Opening, Meat of Lesson, Closing)

Do you use manipulatives or experiences to

introduce a new concept?

Do you lecture or use questioning techniques to teach the concept?

Do you use student groups and guide them to learning and/or applying the


Do you have them reflect in journals or review concepts in their own words as


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Prepare a list of your own questions for the principal.

These questions should include some of the following:

What is your vision for the school? (long term goals)

What is your philosophy of teaching and learning?

Describe the climate of your school for both staff and students.

In what ways are the parents included and how do they show support for the school?

Please describe the demographics of your school.

How do your grade levels/ departments support each other ? Do you do vertical planning?

How is grade level/ departmental planning implemented in this school?

In what ways does the district provide support for the staff and students in this school.

If you have done some previous research about the district, you might ask something like:

When looking at your website, I noticed that your district emphasizes

___________. How does your school work towards that goal?

Every school is different! There should be a good fit between the school’s expectations and your teaching philosophies.

This is of key importance!

Carefully evaluate the answers the interviewers provide for you and the discussions during the interview session.

Be sure this is an environment you would be comfortable working in. Your philosophies should closely match those of the principal and staff. You may be offered a position right after the interview. Do not hesitate to ask for time to think about it. However, if you feel this is the perfect place for you, take the job right away.

If you leave the interview feeling excited and confident, this would be the right job for you. If you leave with questions or concerns, consider going on other interviews before accepting a position. Be sure to write a thank you note to the principal who interviewed you. You never know what may happen later in your career.

Thank You

Remember to write a thank-you note!

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 404 Career Bound


The hiring process can really be a time of stress and uncertainty. However, you can help yourself in getting a teaching job by standing out from the crowd. Take the time to prepare a good presentation of yourself through your cover letter, resume, and portfolio. Keep in mind the hot issues of concern to principals today and research information about the schools and districts where you interview. Although the teacher shortage in some areas pretty much guarantees almost anyone a job, there are places across the country and world where you must present yourself as a “must have.” Remember the following when interviewing:

Be confident, but not cocky.

If you don’t know the answer to a question right away, ask to have it rephrased. Take a moment to think about it before answering.

Be assertive, but not aggressive. Use your “teacher” voice and mannerisms.

Show enthusiasm for working with students. This will show in your eyes, voice, and body language during the interview.

In short, be a professional in every way from attire to conversationand demeanor, and you will find yourself a bonafide classroom teacher!

Additional Resources

How to Develop a Professional Portfolio: A Manual for Teachers by Pamela Cignetti

The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/ Tenure

Decisions by Peter Seldin

Inside Secrets of Finding a Teaching Job by Jack Warner, Clyde Bryan, and Diane Warner (Contributor)

How to Get the Teaching Job You Want: The Complete Guide for College Graduates,

Returning Teachers, and Career Changers by Robert Fiersen and Seth Wietzman

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 405

Questions for Reflection

1) When applying for a teaching job, what are some ways you can get noticed or stand out in the crowd?

2) Think about your strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. How do you plan to communicate these to a principal when interviewing?

3) How would you improve your weaknesses?

4) Although a group or team interview seems overwhelming at first, why might it work to your advantage?

5) Why would it be a good idea to research a district’s website and philosophies before the interview?


1) Summarize your philosophy of teaching or create your Educational Platform.

2) Compose your cover letter.

a) Choose a school district with which you intend to apply b) Research and become familiar with this district’s vision and unique traits,

demographics, etc...

c) Apply this information for use in your cover letter.

3) Brainstorm additional “hot topics” for education and support your position on each. Think of this as preparation for those unexpected questions you might be asked during an interview.

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 406

Notes/ Reflection on Chapter

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 407


N. Atwell, In the Middle: Writing, Reading, and Learning with Adolescents, (Upper Montclair:

Boynton/Cook, 1987).

P. Cunningham and R.L. Allington, Classrooms That Work: They can ALL Read and Write,

(New York: HarperCollins, 1994).

J. Dobson, Bringing Up Boys, (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001).

H. Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: Theory Into Practice. (Basic Books, 1993).

H. Gardner, The Unschooled Mind, (Basic Books, 1993).

W. Glasser, Choice Theory in the Classroom, (New York: HarperCollins, 1988).

D. Hershman and E. McDonald, ABC’s of Effective Parent Communication, (Dallas: Inspiring

Teachers Publishing, Inc., 2000).

W.M. Fawcett-Hill, Learning Thru Discussion, (Beverly Hills: SAGE, 1986).

E. Jensen, Teaching with the Brain in Mind, (Washington D.C.: ASCD, 1988).

S. Kovalik, Integrated Thematic Instruction: The Model (3rd Ed.), (Village of Oak

Creek: Books for Educators, 1997).

K. Olsen, Synergy, (Village of Oak Creek: Books for Educators, 1998).

V. Troen and K. Boles, Who’s Teaching Your Children?: Why the Teacher Crisis is Worse than

You Think and What Can be Done about It. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003)

Maps, Charts, Graphs, and Diagrams, (Teacher Created Materials, Inc., 1990).

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 408




Absences 70, 100, 119

Academic calendar, 65, 68, 92, 106,

119, 156, 160

Active students, 89, 275

Actively engaged, 60, 67, 74-75, 83,


Alternative assessments, 318-323

Alternatively certified, 18, 383

Angry students, 276-277, 279

Appearance 20, 41, 42

Application, 384

Assessment, 108, 187, 290, 294, 315-


Atlas, 346

Attendance, 65, 71

Attitude, 25, 86


Bag of tricks, 87-89

Balanced leader, 58-59

Before school checklist, 51

Behavior plan, 88, 98, 160, 169

Bell-ringer, 62-63, 92-93, 106, 129, 397

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Birthdays, 266, 356

Bloom’s taxonomy, 44, 194, 212, 284-

285, 287, 321, 323

Books 183, 347

Boys in the classroom, 274-175

Brain based classroom, 60, 75, 271-281,

283, 290, 297, 306, 345

Brain research, 277, 281, 297, 334

Brainstorming, 347

Bulletin board ideas, 49


Calendar, 39

Calling parents 160-161

Calling roll, 65

Check for understanding, 318, 320-322,


Children’s books, 292

Class jobs, 72, 73, 351

Classroom community, 73, 78

Classroom leadership styles, 55-58

Classroom management, 55, 74, 96, 106

Classroom observations, 18

Page 409

Classroom procedures, 60-65, 75, 77, 92-

95, 119, 127, 131-133, 189, 204, 286, 289,

345, 398

Clipboard monitoring, 79, 81, 90-91, 123,

186, 259, 287, 294, 319

Closure, 108

Collaboration, 17, 22-23, 271, 308, 305

Committees, 23

Communicating with parents, 35-37, 65, 88-

89, 99, 153-180, 399, 372

Computer station, 47, 191, 369-370, 376

Concept boards, 348

Concrete math, 256, 262

Consequences, 76, 80-82, 89, 131-132,


Cooperating teacher, 18

Cooperative groups, 123, 132, 140-142,

188,189, 286-289, 318, 349

Cover letter, 387-389

Cubbies, 40

Cumulative folder, 38

Difficult students, 276-277

Dioramas, 348

Directions, 64, 67

Discovery learning, 290-291

Drawing, 322, 348


End of the day, 61, 95

Energetic students, 89, 275

ESL students, 365-367

Excel, 372

Expectations, 75-77, 128, 130-132, 189,

203, 259, 309

Experiments, 292

Eye contact, 60, 77, 131


Daily planner, 65, 68, 92, 119, 156, 160

Daily schedule, 50, 130

Day of the Week folders, 41-42, 129

Debriefing, 19, 78

Dedication, 20

Demeanor, 21

Dictator, 56


Feedback, 19

Field trips, 308-312

Field work, 18

First day checklist, 134

First day lessons, 130

First day of school, 127-142

First day sample plan, 135-136

Flexibility, 26

Focus assignment, 62-63, 92-93, 106, 129,


Free spirit, 57

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Freedoms, 58, 280, 349


Games, 137-142, 253, 350

Gather supplies 34, 41, 129, 183

Geography, 299, 346

Getting noticed, 386

Getting organized, 39, 63, 68-70, 118, 128,


Get-to-know activities, 137-138, 143-151

Girls in the classroom, 274

Giving directions, 64, 67

Grade level meeting, 172

Gradesheet, 373

Grading homework, 120

Grading journals, 204

Grading, 328-332

Graphic organizers, 195, 202, 320, 348


Happy sack, 350

Higher-level thinking skills, 44, 194, 212,

284-285, 395

Hiring process, 401-404

Home visits, 37

Homework procedures, 119

Homework, 76, 117-120, 132-133, 156-158

Human behavior, 273-274, 350, 399


Ice-breakers, 137-138, 143-151

Important book, 351

Integrating math, 252, 255

Integrating novels 201

Integrating reading and writing, 181, 196-


Integrating sample lesson, 199-200

Integrating with the real world, 272-273,


Integrating, 297-305

Interdisciplinary units, 305

Internet, 191, 292, 379-381

Interns, 18

Interpersonal skills, 21

Interviewing, 393-400, 402-404


Journals, 62, 65, 69, 92, 106, 108, 193,

203, 259, 351


K-W-L, 322, 352


Laissez-faire, 57

Laminating 33

Learner-centered environment, 48, 55, 334-


Learning centers, 306-307, 348

Learning pyramid, 283

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Lesson plan samples, 111-116

Lesson planning steps, 110

Lesson planning, 42, 66, 75, 105-125, 371,


Letter writing, 202, 352

Library 31, 32, 184, 185, 272, 293, 375

Life-skills, 131, 156, 278

Literature circles, 188-191


M&M activity, 138, 353

Mainstreaming, 397

Math and literature, 253, 260

Math and technology, 374

Math games 253

Math lesson, 266-268

Math manipulatives, 256-260

Math notebook, 261-262, 269

Math preparation, 273

Math word problems, 254, 264-265

Math, 251-270

Mentor, 22, 31, 154

Mini-lesson, 187

Mobiles, 353

Motivating lessons, 60, 74-75, 271, 272,


Multi-tasking, 55, 64

My time vs. your time, 60, 78, 79, 131


Name game, 137

Newsletters, 157, 159

Non-threatening classroom, 59-60, 277

Note-taking skills 295-296

Note-taking, 295-296

Note-writing, 35-36, 155, 168, 353, 372


Objectives, 63, 107, 123, 196

Open house, 169-171

Organizing filing cabinet, 39

Organizing students 68-70, 118

Organizing the calendar, 39

Organizing the chalkboard, 63


Paper bags, 202, 205, 355

Parent communication forms 173, 178

Parent conferences 164-169, 171

Parent partnership, 153, 157

Philosophy of teaching, 394-395

Pocket folders, 38, 40, 70, 324-327

Poems, 354

Pop-up books, 293, 355

Portfolio assessment, 324-327, 338

Portfolios 70

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Positive classroom environment, 55-59, 67,

73, 74, 87, 127, 277, 345

Power point, 371, 373

Procedures, 60-65, 75, 77, 92-95, 119, 127,

131-133, 189, 204, 286, 289, 345, 398

Professional appearance, 20, 41, 42

Professional demeanor, 21

Professional development, 24, 51, 157

Professional observations, 18

Progress reports, 155, 340-341

Projects, 67, 90, 371-373

Publisher, 373


Questions to ask, 31-34

Quiet signal, 79, 87

Quotes, 355, 371

Reading program, 206

Reading responses, 194, 245, 247

Reading workshop, 61, 69, 94, 193-194

Reading, 181

Real life math, 253, 257, 263

Recording student behavior, 80-81

Redirecting students, 67, 79, 88, 123

Research projects, 291, 293-296, 299, 356

Research, 272, 293-294

Resourcefulness, 26

Respect, 86

Resume, 390

Retention, 396

Rewards, 83, 85, 186, 190

Round-robin, 349

Routines, 61, 65, 75


Rainy day activities, 139-140

Reading activities, 191-192, 197-198, 202

Reading and math, 253, 260

Reading assessment 205

Reading corner, 47, 181, 182-186

Reading forms, 243-247

Reading groups, 188-191

Reading instruction, 187, 196

Reading novels, 201, 299, 346


Sample thematic units, 300-305

School community, 23

School interviews, 402

Seating chart, 65

Sentence strips, 198, 357

Setting limits, 58, 60

Setting up chalkboard, 63

Setting up classroom, 47

Shapes, 260, 354, 357

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Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

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Special area teachers, 23

Special needs students, 156, 332, 229,

362-364, 397

Spelling, 197-198, 357, 371

Sponge activity, 62-63, 92-93, 106, 129,


Staff development, 24, 51, 157

State Departments of Education, 36, 299,


Storyboard, 191, 194, 348

Stress busters, 26, 27, 41, 42

Student binder, 68

Student choice, 60, 293, 326

Student discipline, 74, 76, 81, 84, 86-87,

131, 154, 399

Student folders, 38, 40, 69, 70, 324-327

Student mailboxes, 40

Student talking 78-79

Student teaching, 18

Students actively engaged, 60, 67, 74-75,

83, 107-108

Substitutes, 43-44, 52, 386

Supervising teacher, 18

Teacher portfolio, 19, 373, 391-392

Teacher preparation program, 18, 383

Teacher time vs. student time, 60, 78, 79,


Teacher websites, 35, 373, 389

Teaching jobs, 383

Team building, 132, 140-142, 286, 287

Team roles, 287

Team teaching, 18, 22

Technology, 369-382, 299

Testing, 69, 133, 157, 333-335, 371

Thematic units, 298

Thinking folder 70, 190, 306

Time out, 26

Timeline, 299

Transition times, 66, 280

Triune brain, 278-289, 334

Typical day of school, 397



Taking notes, 295-296

Teacher assessment tool, 18

Teacher binder, 45-46

Teacher observations, 121-124


Vacation brochure, 299, 359, 375

Vertical planning teams, 23

Veteran teachers, 18-19, 21-23, 25, 397

Vocabulary, 197-198, 357, 371

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Wait time, 124

Walkabout, 360

Warm-up, 62-63, 92-93, 106, 129, 397

Welcoming students 35, 36, 48, 65, 122,

128, 154, 372

Whole class reading, 192

Wish list, 159, 172

Word perfect, 372

Word problems, 254, 264-265

Working with veteran teachers 19, 21-23,

25, 397

Writing and technology, 375

Writing assessment, 331, 336

Writing forms, 222-242

Writing instruction, 207, 372

Writing lessons, 213-221

Writing modes, 208-211

Writing workshop, 61, 69, 94, 207-208

Writing, 181, 187, 193



Yard, 361



© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

Page 415

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© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success

Page 416

About the Authors

Emma McDonald and Dyan Hershman, experienced classroom teachers and educational consultants from Texas, are known for their unique teaching strategies and techniques that motivate both teachers and students. Going beyond theories, these educators provide proven practical strategies to help teachers improve student learning.

McDonald and Hershman have worked with and educated both children and adults over the past fifteen years.

Currently, both mentor new teachers and work as Consultants with the Teacher Certification & Preparation

Program for the Region 10 Education Service Center. Their strategies have been featured in Instructor Magazine and have been widely used by both new and veteran teachers. McDonald and Hershman now share their “tools” for success with educators all across the United States. They are well-known for their motivational, positive, practical, and energetic presentation style which inspires and encourages both new and veteran teachers.

About the Publisher

We are an organization of veteran teachers dedicated to helping the beginning teacher be successful in the classroom from the very first day of school.

Our mission is to empower new teachers with effective teaching strategies through resources and support services.

We believe a well-prepared teacher is an effective teacher.

We believe that new teachers who are given the right resources and support will stay in the classroom and make education a life-long career. This is important for our schools, our students, and our communities.


We provide many different services and resources to help new teachers. Learn more about these resources on our website at .


Survival Kit for New Teachers

Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers

ABC’s of Effective Parent Communication

Mr. Tim’s Tips for New Teachers

Website - Free Resources -

Tips, Articles, Inspirations, Recommended books and websites - updated monthly

Ask a Mentor

Professional Development - Book Studies, Links to additional resources

Classroom Resources - Links to books and websites that are content related

Classroom ToolKit - Gradebook and communication tool for students and parents

Classroom Websites - Create a classroom or teacher website

Teacher Preparation - Resources and links for becoming a teacher and getting a job

Community - Email discussion lists and message boards to network with others

Idea Share - A place to share great lesson ideas

Mentor and Administrator Resources - articles and tips for working with new teachers (in progress)

Teacher Trainer Resources - articles and tips for teacher preparation (in progress)

NABT - National Association for Beginning Teachers (partnership)

Staff Development

New Teacher Preparation

Tools for Classroom Success

Reading & Writing Across the Curriculum

Student Assessment: Strategies and Ideas that Go Beyond Testing

© 2003

Survival Kit for New Teachers: McDonald and Hershman

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