survival kit secondary
Survival Kit for New
Secondary Teachers:
Empowering 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 Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators for Classroom Success
© 2003 by Emma S. McDonald and Dyan Hershman
ISBN# 0-9667145-6-3
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.
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, Reta
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:
Being a Professional
Chapter 2:
Before School Starts
Chapter 3:
Classroom Management
Chapter 4:
Lesson Plans
Chapter 5:
The First Day
Chapter 6:
Parent Communication
Chapter 7:
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Chapter 8:
Brain-Based Classroom
Chapter 9:
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Chapter 10:
Chapter 11:
Motivating Students
Chapter 12:
Technology in the Classroom
Chapter 13:
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
Traveling Teachers
Student Sign-out issues
Teaching Assistants
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
Team Building Activities
Parent Communication
First Contact
Progress Reports
Academic Calendar
Parent Newsletter
Calling Parents
Communicating with Parents
Parent Conferences
Open House
Reading & Writing Across the Curriculum
Classroom Library
Literature Groups
Whole Class Reading
Responding to Reading
Integrating Reading Skills
Reading Novels
Writing Instruction
Writing Modes
Bloom’s Taxonomy
Graphic Organizers and Grading Checklists
Sample Bookstudies
Reading Responses
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
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
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
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
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.
Being a Professional
Page 18
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
The more involved
you become within
the school, the more
likely you will be to
garner positive
from other teachers
and perhaps even
one or more of the
• Gather new ideas
• Observe a variety of teaching styles
• Observe different classroom management techniques
• Observe different teacher/student interactions
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 interactions
• 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 observation
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Being a Professional
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.
“Always act
in a
manner no
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
Be professional:
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 differing attitudes about teaching practices, it is
in your best interest to maintain a professional demeanor.
Show up on time.
Dress appropriately.
Maintain consistent
Refrain from gossip.
Be diplomatic.
Maintain a positive
• Be diplomatic “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
• Work to solve problems through mediation and compromise
• 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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Being a Professional
Page 20
Teaching Is Not An 8 to 3 Job
Dedication Means:
• Participating in
• Tutoring after school
• Joining committees
• Calling parents
• Attending school
• Staying after school
to plan
• And more!
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.
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
If you are doing a
hands-on 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
occasion, but not
ones with paint stains
and holes in the
We understand the need for special areas teachers, such as Art,
Vocational, and P.E. teachers, to wear practical clothes, not a 3piece 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?
Appropriate Attire
Although there are many cute styles of clothing available, not all
are appropriate to wear when working in a professional environment
teaching adolescents. 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 (no mini’s)
• Blouses or collared shirt • Teacher vests and ties
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Being a Professional
Page 21
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.
you say and
do reflects
upon your
• 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
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.
√ Acknowledge the experience of veteran teachers even if you don’t
agree with them.
√ When implementing innovative strategies, be prepared to support
your ideas with appropriate background reading and research.
√ 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)?”
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
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
Approaching a situation with a humble and agreeable tone is
more effective than being confrontational.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Being a Professional
Page 22
Collaboration with Others
with other
your abilities
and benefits
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
“Team teaching can be extremely helpful as long as both teachers take an equal
part in the planning and lesson delivery. During my first year of teaching, I teamtaught with a veteran teacher and it was a very positive experience. We were
each in charge of outlining lessons and activities for different weeks. Once a week
we met after school and together used the outlines to write full-scale lesson plans.
During our team-teaching, we each presented the lesson during one class period.
First my mentor would teach the lesson to both of our classes while I monitored/
helped students and observed her teaching techniques. Later in the day, when we
had English I classes again, I taught the lesson while she observed and offered
help to the students. As we became more comfortable with each other, we would
often interject timely comments to further the discussion/lesson. In this way, we
were both teaching and students were getting the benefit of two different
perspectives. At the end of the year I felt that I had learned a lot from my mentor.”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Being a Professional
Page 23
√ 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: Seventh grade teachers and eighth 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” early on as a means for
brainstorming and gathering ideas. This same term is used throughout their
schooling and across subject areas.
√ Participate in other school committees
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 redirecting behavior. All day
you are surrounded by adolescents. When do you have time to be
part of an adult group?
√ Attend school events to show support
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..
√ Working with other Special Areas teachers and paraprofessionals
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 classroom.
Although the regular
teacher is wonderful,
the special area
teachers can offer
specific ideas to make
the lessons more
meaningful for my son.
As a parent, this type of
collaborative effort really
impresses me!
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Being a Professional
Page 24
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
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.
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.
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Being a Professional
Page 25
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.
Encourage Others Around You to Maintain a Positive
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.
“An effective
teacher seeks
ideas from a
variety of
sources and
to use in the
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.
“Attitude can
be infectious,
positive or
negative. How
do you want
to influence
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Being a Professional
Page 26
Resourcefulness and Flexibility
“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!”
Teaching is a profession of constant change and movement. At a
moment’s notice a school-wide 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.
For example: If a Pep-Rally or other type of assembly is called
at the last minute, how will that affect your lesson plans? What
will you require of your students to make up for this loss? Will
you rearrange your plans to compensate? How will this affect
your testing schedule? Also, how does this affect your planning
period and the tasks you have set for yourself to accomplish?
These are just some of the things you need to be prepared to handle.
“Even veteran
teachers have
their moments of
stress, though it
may look like
they have it all
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
“Like a tree,
bend with the
wind. Try not to
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Being a Professional
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.
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,
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.”
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 numbers.
• 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
• A moment of meditation goes a long way towards serenity.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Being a Professional
Page 28
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
by Linda Darling-Hammond (Editor) and Gary Sykes (Editor)
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Being a Professional
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
Suggested Activites
1) Create a 3-ring binder with the following tabbed sections (as
applicable to you):
•Classroom Management •Special Education •ESL
•General Teaching Strategies
•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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Being a Professional
Notes/ Reflection on Chapter
Before School Starts
I just got
hired and
starts in a
couple of
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?
Maintenance request forms?
Any other important papers you might need
(ask the secretary)?
Before School Starts
Page 32
More Questions to Ask...
“A wellprepared
teacher asks
questions and
seeks out
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
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
librarian is
often the
keeper of
supplies and
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 transactions.
• 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 Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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
WARNING: Check to see whether YOU can use the laminator.
Some schools only allow ONE PERSON to run the laminating
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
posters to
save you time
and money.”
Some things you many want to laminate:
√ Posters
√ 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 Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 34
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.
will your
school be
Tubs or crates
Letter trays
Desktop filing
Drawer organizers
Overhead pens
Transparency film
Electric pencil sharpener
Three hole punch
Manila folders
Boarder for bulletin board
Plastic shoe boxes with lids
Office supplies including scissors,tape, stapler, staples,
paperclips,pencils, pens, rubber bands, etc.
“A wellprepared
brainstorms a
list of
needed for
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 Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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 new school year. My
name is Mrs. Jackson, and I will be
your English 101 instructor. I look
forward to meeting you in room 302
on Monday, August 14. Please come
to class prepared with a spiral
notebook, a three ring binder, and
one novel you read this summer.
Also, please don’t forget to bring your
imagination and your brain!
Mrs. Jackson
Other Tips for Communicating with Students and Parents
Don’t forget to translate this letter into another language when
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
“A wellprepared
students feel
even before
school starts”
Keep in mind that
student schedules are
often not finalized
until a day or two
before school starts.
This can make it very
difficult and even
impossible to send a
note or letter home to
every students before
school starts.
If you have a general
letter typed out and
copied, request a set
of labels from the
attendance officer for
the students on your
roster. This will help
speed along the
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 36
Other Options
Instead of sending home a postcard, other ways of welcoming
students before school starts include:
Type up a
letter, save it,
and print it out
on colorful
paper rather
each student
a letter.
Fold-over note cards
Colored paper
Designer stationery
Phone call
Home visits
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 High School. I moved to this
area from Atlanta, Georgia recently with my wife. I graduated from the
University of Georgia with a BS in Biology and have experience with
sophomores and juniors. I am looking forward to seeing you in Biology II this
All students need to come to class prepared with the following:
Three-ring binder
Onion skin paper
This is helpful
for teachers
who have
classes of
college ruled paper
graph paper
spiral notebook
I have also attached our syllabus for this semester as well as my classroom
procedures for your information. Please keep this copy somewhere visible so
that you can reference it easily.
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 555-789-4355 after August 12th. School
starts August 17th and I look forward to meeting you in room 312.
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 Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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.
Home is often more of a relaxed and non-threatening
environment than school.
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.
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
Do not direct the entire conversation. Allow the student and
parent opportunities to ask questions and lead the
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.
“Be professional
and appropriate
at all times when
meeting with
students and
“A wellprepared
teacher is
aware of
when meeting
with families.”
“Pull out your
resources, or
search the
internet on
different cultures
to prepare for
meeting families.
Remember, a
wrong comment
or action could
jeopardize a
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 38
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
Teacher Testimony
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!
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.”
As it turns out, 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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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.
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
Make sure you write down any staff development meetings
that are required by your school or district as well as school
school events
and meetings
on your own
calendar to
help you with
and with
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
“A wellprepared
teacher is
“Organization is the key
to a successful year”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 40
Set up a manila folder for each 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
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 is vital to document all forms of parent communication (phone calls/
letters/ conferences)!
Teacher Testimony
“Do not throw
away your
student files,
even if the
from your
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.
An inexpensive way to create mailboxes is to get plastic crates and
hanging file folders with tabs. You can also set aside a filing cabinet
with one drawer per class period. Just be sure students can access
their mailbox!
√ 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
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.
Before School Starts
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.
Use plastic shoe
boxes with lids to
store supplies such
as scissors,
crayons, tape, 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
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 for that class.
• If you have a field trip on Wednesday, then put all of the
necessary information, forms, entrance tickets, etc., into
the Wednesday folder for that class.
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 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
lessonplans, warm-up activities, materials, copies,
and a substitute folder inside, all ready to go.
“A wellprepared
teacher has
lessons and
ready ahead
of time and
organized in
one location.”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 42
“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.”
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 folders to be
used the following day. Be sure your lesson
plans and materials for the day are inside.
Lay them flat on your desk so that it is the
first thing you or anyone else sees when
approaching your desk. Put the sub folder
inside the first period folder, just in case.
Setting up the Day of the Week folders
1) Laminate the
folder so they will
2) Put a stand-up
file holder on your
desk to hold the
folders in an easily
accessable place.
3) Put all materials
for each day’s
lesson in the folder.
(ie - copies, lesson
plans, newsletter,
activites, etc.) Be
sure to put enough
copies for each
class period per
subject taught.
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:
• Create a different folder for each class you teach. For example, a
teacher who has two sessions of English 101 and three sessions of
American Lit will have two of each daily folder.
• Be sure you label each folder with the title of the class for easy
• Folders not in use should stay in the filing cabinet in a hanging
folder for each day. If you use hanging files with a gusset (a
bottom), you’ll be able to make copies of handouts ahead of time
and store them in the appropriate place.
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 Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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
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.
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.
“A wellprepared
teacher has
a substitute
folder with
lessons and
ready to be
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
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 Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 44
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
“Returning to
the classroom
after an
absence can
be either a
pleasure or a
depending on
how prepared
You were for
having a
teacher in
your class.”
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
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 (p. 216-217). 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 234-235 for a description of
Bloom’s Taxonomy.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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
Seating chart
Textbook records
ESL and Special Ed lists and schedules
Student locker and class job information
“A wellprepared
teacher has
organized in
an easily
2. Calendars/ Schedules section:
Computer lab
Elective/ special areas
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.
with a threering binder.”
4. Extra Forms section:
Hardcopies of forms such as parent communication,
bonus points, certificates, free homework coupons, etc.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 46
Course Binders
“Don’t let
pile up on
Keep one binder for each course you’ll be planning (each prep)
In the front of each should be a planning calendar that shows
an overview of the entire grading period
Grading period lesson plans and daily handouts are kept in this
Keep everything in chronological order to make planning easier
the following year. You might use tabs for organization.
Transparencies can be attached through hole-punched clear
plastic covers – look for these in office supply stores.
your mail as
moderate, or
low priority as
soon as you
take it out of
your box.”
At the end of each grading period, you
could transport this section into another
three ring binder and clearly label it for
future reference with the name of the 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.
Note of Warning:
“File memos
and other
papers as
soon as you
read them.”
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.
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 Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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 Brain Challenge area with enrichment activities for
further study?
Should I have a computer station?
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
•will you be sitting behind your desk frequently or not?
•do you need your own personal space?
“Your room
will reflect
and teaching
style. What
does your
room say
about you as
a teacher?”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 48
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:
-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!”
“What kind of
could you
create in
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
• Every Friday we read from our Acts of Kindness box.
• Whenever we read a story, one student gets to introduce
the reader.
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
Remember: Students will be more motivated to learn in an
environment that is stimulating. Blank walls = Blank Minds
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
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
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
Famous Mathematicians, Scientists, Artists, Musicians,
Sports figures, People in History (same as above)
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
“A wellprepared
board space
to enhance
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Before School Starts
Page 50
Create a class/ daily schedule
When making a schedule, try to think in terms of time rather than
subject periods.
When creating
your class
schedule, think
in terms of time
rather than
class periods.
This will help
you maintain a
good flow to
your day or to
your class.
Middle school teachers have only 45 or 50 minutes to schedule
per subject/ class period taught
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
9:45-9:50 - Clean up/ Closure
Some schools have block scheduling which generally lasts 1
and 1/2 hours
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Before School Starts
Page 51
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?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Before School Starts
Page 52
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.
Action Taken:
Action Taken:
Action Taken:
Action Taken:
The following students were exceptionally good and/or helpful:
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Before School Starts
Page 53
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
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
2) Why do you feel it is or is not important to have a mailbox 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Before School Starts
Notes/ Reflection on Chapter
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.
My room is
all set up
and ready to
go, but I’m
not sure how
to make
Where do I
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!”
Classroom Management
Page 56
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 Dictator
style does not
promote a
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
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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 57
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.
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
Lesson plans are loosely sketched and student digressions
dictate the course of the lesson rather than the teaching
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
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 teenagers 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.
“Being friendly
with the
students is
NOT the
same thing as
being their
Do not allow
students to
address you by
your first name,
even in fun. Your
relationship with
students should be
a professional
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 58
Teacher as Balanced Leader
“This leadership
approach IS
centered, but
recognizes that
students need
discipline to feel
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
Teens require
boundaries to
feel at ease.”
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:
“A wellprepared
teacher is a
Is organized in order to maintain a productive classroom.
Maintains discipline as a key component to this teacher-student
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
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.
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 59
Creating a “Balanced” Classroom Envrionment
As we just discussed, the balanced leadership style
results in a balanced classroom which creates a nonthreatening 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:
Problem solver
“An effective
teacher is
prepared to fill
many roles
with grace and
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 60
Quick Tips on Successful Classroom Management
If we had to provide a brief overview of our main philosophies on
classroom management, this is it!
√ 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
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
Use a key word like
“GO!” and do not let
students begin the
activity until you say
your key word.
√ 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
√ 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…”
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.
√ Students crave consistency.
Your class will run smoothly if
students always know what to
√ Consistent behavior builds
√ Trust then builds respect.
√ 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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 61
Key Concepts for Successful
Classroom Management
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.
remain calm
and maintain
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
Student time vs. Teacher time
Transition times between lessons/activities
Working on projects
Reading workshop
Writing workshop
Lab time
Group work
End of class
“A wellprepared
teacher trains
students on
class routines
everyday to
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. 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 Class
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, I began dismissing them one student
or one row at a time depending on who was the quietest. They put their
journals away and left quietly and quickly. I felt so much more collected and
relaxed at the end of the day from then on!
“Avoid looking
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 62
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.
“A wellprepared
teacher has a
students enter
the class.”
√ Students should enter the classroom, begin copying important
announcements, and complete the focus assignment found on
the board or overhead.
√ Some possible warm up assignments are journal entries, new
vocabulary words, grammar practice, math review, and daily
geography activities.
√ Warm ups, or focus activities should not last longer than 10
√ Students should KNOW every day to come in and get busy with
their assignment. This happens through consistency and training
from the first day!
• Follow your procedures religiously. You may want to
post them so that students can see what to do every
If you have a
presentation station,
simply save the
information in a folder
to access at the start
of each new class!
• 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 opening class procedure
1) Check student mailbox, retrieve graded work
and class materials
2) Get class or lab supplies, if necessary
3) Sharpen pencil
4) Copy homework in calendar
5) Complete focus assignment
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 63
Here is an example of how you could set up your chalkboard
or presentation station before class begins.
Warm-up Activity:
A detailed, wellorganized board will
keep you and your
students on track!
It also prevents those
pesky questions of
“What are we doing
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.
Type up a sheet with the date, class objectives, class
agendy, any project or homework assignments, due
dates, and the focus assignment for the day. Be sure you
type up one per prep (course taught).
Type up this sheet along with your lesson plans so that
everything is ready at the same time. Do not wait until the
night before to type up your Beginning of Class
Purchase (or ask the school if they have any) copier
transparencies. You might also try transparencies for
laser or ink jet printers. Copy these typed sheets onto a
Place each sheet in the Day of the Week folder with the
appropriate lesson plans and other materials.
“A wellprepared
teacher sets
up the board
for the next
day before
going home to
reduce stress
in the
This cuts down on having to change board information in
between each class period. Simply put the new course
transparency on the overhead and you are ready to go.
This is perfect for traveling teachers to save time and
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 64
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.
“On the following assignment I expect your final product to
be typed or neatly written in black ink. I want it to show your best
possible effort which means that the information should be
correct, it should be neat, and it should be creative. Sloppy and
half done papers will not be accepted.”
“Become a
Master at
use of
class time
down time.”
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 responses to student work.
√ Scan over memos from the office and
record these items on your desk
√ Scan over lesson plans to prepare for
the next activity.
√ Return graded papers to student
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 65
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.
√ With secondary classes, it is not as easy to keep attendance
in the gradebook. The school will give you a class
attendance sheet for each period that will need to be filled
out and placed outside the door for pick up.
√ Any 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.
“You can
be held
for your
records, so
accuracy is
√ If your school uses a specific sheet for reporting absences
and tardies, make your own spreadsheet to keep attendance
records within your classroom. Use this in your manila folder.
√ Mark absences as an A and tardies as a T. If it is excused,
circle the letter.
√ Some schools use an electronic method of reporting
absences and tardies. This is done on the computer and
should be part of your routine at the start of each class.
The school office will keep track of absences. However,
you are ultimately responsible for record keeping in your
classroom. It is crucial to keep accurate records, as
attendance has legal ramifications.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 66
Checking Academic Calendars (Daily Planners)
Daily Planners are
an excellent
organization tool for
students and a great
source of two way
communication with
parents. When
checked every day,
they are very
Also, saying “Hello”
to each and every
student is a positive
way to start the day!
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. It also can be used to your benefit during parent
conferences, because it shows that you have taken a proactive role in
teaching students to be responsible and reminding them on a daily
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.
“Train your
students at
the beginning
of the year
for transition
√ Always prepare warm-up assignments and sponge activities
ahead. Write them in your lessons and have them typed or on
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
Straighten up
Silent reading
Read Aloud
Logic Puzzles
Thinking Games
Jig-saw puzzle
Work on homework
Study for a test
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 67
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
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.
Students are
interested and
problems are
at a minimum
and positive
student teacher
are at a
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.
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 68
Organizing Students
is a key
element of
Management ”
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
√ Use tabs to divide sections
√ Students should order their sections according to their
√ Have students keep graded work in the appropriate subject
√ An assignment calendar should be in the very front of the
Organization is a KEY
life skill!
√ Class or school rules, procedures and syllabus should be
placed behind the calendar.
√ Students might keep each course syllabus in the front of that
particular class section.
√ Some students may want to keep a smaller 3-ring binder for
each class. This will help prepare them for college.
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 69
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.
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
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.
folders are an
and easy way
of keeping
organized in
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!
How could you utilize a pocket folder in your class as a journal or
way to keep student work organized?
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 70
Manila Folders
Writing Portfolio
Absent Folder
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
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.
General Portfolio
“A wellprepared
how to teach
students to be
is a life skill .”
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.
Enrichment 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
folders are of
great value for
teachers and
They are
and can be
used in so
many ways!”
Classroom Management
Traveling Teachers
Many new secondary teachers begin their career as a “traveling”
teacher. Basically this means that the teacher must travel from one
classroom to another rather than staying in one room all day to
teach. Any school with a large student population and not enough
physical classrooms will have one or more “floating,” or traveling,
teachers. Without a classroom of their own, the traveling teacher
must essentially borrow another teacher’s room in order to teach his
or her class.
It is vital that you develop a good rapport with the teacher who’s
room you will be sharing. This person will notice whether you are
being responsible with their room or not, and they will share that
information freely with others in the school. Below are some tips on
getting off to a good start:
Page 71
If you need special
equipment, etc., for
a particular class
period, talk to the
person who is in that
room to make
arrangements. Do
you need to use the
presentation station
each day? Work it
out in advance
rather than making
Before school begins, introduce yourself to each
teacher who’s classroom you will be using.
• Do not barge into the classroom demanding to have
a discussion. Instead, ask if they have a few
minutes to talk.
• If they say no, try to determine a time later in the
day that you might be able to discuss the situation
with them.
• Let this person know that you want to respect their
rights and that you want to be sure that you are
both on the same page in regards to sharing a
Determine the following through questions and
• Is there a place in the room where you can keep
supplies or materials for your class?
• Would they mind if you had a small space on the
wall or bulletin board to post student work, etc.?
• What supplies/equipment in the classroom are
strictly off-limits to both you and your students?
• What supplies/equipment is this person willing to
“Always leave
each room
exactly as
you found it!”
No one is required
to share anything
other than their
room space with
you and your
students. Do not be
offended by
someone who
adamantly refuses
to share or help
you. It may happen.
But it is better that
you are aware of
that teacher’s
attitude from the
start. Be as friendly
as you can and
make sure you
respect their stuff!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 72
More Tips
• Which classes can you store your own class supplies? Get
a crate or other type of storage unit with a lid to hold those
materials neatly for each class. Be sure it will fit in the space
allotted to you.
If the teacher who’s
room you are
sharing is not willing
to provide one iota of
space, don’t give up!
Try one of the
teachers next door.
They may be
sympathetic to your
plight. You never
know until you
explain your
situation and ask.
Rolling drawers are
the best way to go
because they can
hold your materials
without spilling the
Think about how you
could use other
types of storage
containers to help
you in your situation.
√ Will it hold a hanging file folder crate?
√ Will it hold books (textbooks and/or novels)?
√ Will it hold writing, art, and other miscellaneous
supplies you might need?
√ Will it hold shoe boxes with office supplies for you
and your students?
• Use a tall drawer system with wheels to hold supplies you
need for every class. This will be your “Mobile Classroom.”
Try to find a system with one or more drawers that can hold
hanging file folders. These will come in handy to:
√ Keep student folders for those with severe issues
√ Keep enrichment folders for students who finish
√ Keep idea folders for lesson extensions
√ Keep forms needed during class (detentions,
referrals, etc.)
√ Keep Day of the Week folders for each course
√ Keep Lesson plans and attendance folders for each
√ Keep Substitute folder
• Keep desk type supplies near the top of your unit for easy
access. Do Not use the desk supplies of other teachers!
pad of paper
tape dispenser
stapler remover
Computer disks/CD
sticky notes
paper clips
• Tack a poster of your expectations to the front of your cart
to use as needed with your classes.
• Print out procedures and expectations for each student in
each class. Laminate and hole punch to fit in binders. Now
you can simply refer students to the front of their binder when
necessary. Laminating will keep the pages intact throughout
the school year.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 73
Other Issues
Students Leaving the Classroom
Students leaving the classroom to go to the bathroom and for
other reasons is a huge issue in the upper grades. Why is this? It
is neither right nor fair that we subject our students to the
embarrassment of requesting permission to answer nature’s call.
As adults, we would never stand for that kind of treatment. As long
as you discuss your expectations at the beginning of the year,
bathroom breaks should not be such an issue.
Teacher Tip:
• Create a Sign-Out sheet that includes: date, time out,
time in, destination, and reason. Use Excel or some
other spreadsheet program to help you make this.
• Explain your bathroom policy the first day of school.
“I do not expect you to have to ask permission to answer
nature’s call. However, it is important for your safety and the
safety of others that I know where you are at all times and why
you are someplace other than my classroom. Here are my
expectations if you need to leave the class for any reason:
• Students may leave to use the restroom ONLY during “Your”
time which is when you are working on assignments. If I am
standing in front of you giving a lesson or instructions, you may
not sign out.
“A wellprepared
teacher has a
policy ready
for students
leaving the
classroom, no
matter the
• You must fill out the sign-out sheet completely and fill in the
“time-in” slot when you return. Bring it to me and you may leave.
Only one student may leave for a particular destination at a time.
In other words, two of you may not go to the bathroom at the
same time. You’ll simply have to wait until the other person has
• Your work time is exactly that - yours. However, if you do not
complete your assignment during class, it will simply add more to
your homework load.
• Take care of your business and get back. If you take longer
than 5 minutes, your bathroom privileges will be limited.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 74
Teaching Assistants
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!
Although middle and high school teachers do not assign class
jobs, having a teacher’s assistant can be a huge help! Why not let
your students help you take care of routine classroom tasks? Also,
check with the school office to find out about classroom assistants.
Some schools allow students to sign up for one period to be an
assistant. If you ask, you might be able to have a student assigned
to you for one class period as your dedicated assistant.
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.
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
Teachers can’t do
everything – We need
help sometimes!
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 75
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 challenging.
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
Many teachers confuse the terms “Classroom
Management” and “Classroom Discipline.” What do each
of these really mean?
“A wellprepared
knows the
between a
Class and
Classroom Management - The way you organize and manage
your daily classroom events so that no problems occur. This
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!”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 76
Recipe for a Well-Disciplined Class
√ Teacher who has planned ahead and is well planned
√ Flexibility
√ Established routines and procedures
√ Consistent follow-through
√ Positive attitude
√ Confidence
“An effective
spends time
on classroom
and planning
so that
problems are
less likely. ”
√ 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
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
The rules on the following page set clear expectations for the
students in your class.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 77
Classroom Expectations and School Rules
1. Follow directions given by any adult.
• Respond each time addressed by a teacher with ma’am or
• 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,
• Turn in assignments on time
• Use your time wisely
• Complete work neatly and carefully
“Rules and
should be
clear and
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
• 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.
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 class period, while you
are often in the middle of something else!
Students should be told exactly what you expect from them
and then trained in these expectations on a daily basis. Be
consistent. Students who know what is expected of them and
who know their limits will be less likely to cause problems.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 78
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
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 writing
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.
√ Maybe demonstrate some examples of why it would drive you
crazy if students...
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 79
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
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. How many times have you found
the solution to a problem simply by talking through it? Although some
students simply talk to hear themselves speak, if your assignments
are both meaningful and motivating, most students will be talking as
part of the learning process.
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 students
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
Then I give everyone
several minutes to talk
while I walk around
listening and engaging in
some of the individual
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 students as well!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 80
Introduce this concept at the beginning of the year:
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.
“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 students and students who
need to go to the bathroom 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!”
Next, you need to practice this with them several times.
Tell the students 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 81
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
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 demerit = WARNING
2 demerits = Loss of Clasroom Privileges
3 demerits = Detention
4 demerits = Parent Phone Call and Parent/Teacher/Student
5 demerits OR a serious offence= OFFICE REFERRAL
These demerits can be marked on a student spreadsheet to help
you keep track. Otherwise, it is easy to forget which students
received demerits and which ones did not. The behavior spreadsheet
should be kept in a separate manila folder (or can be placed behind
attendance chart). It should be kept in a place easily accessible by
the teacher, but not make public display of student infractions.
is vital when
working with
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 them, it could have the opposite affect, and the
student enjoys the negative attention. Either way, this will
generally result in additional rebellious behavior.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 82
Recording Student Discipline Infractions
“Make sure
that your
procedure for
marking and
behavior is
not time
consuming or
No student should be allowed to repeat the same
misbehavior more than three times in one day (two times in
one 50 minute period). More than this should result in an
office referral.
Every day should start “fresh with no mistakes in it.”
Each behavior, whether different or the same, should be
Class Rolls
Index Cards
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.
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
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, whose minds often wander
continuously, will not be aware of what they have done.
Teacher Testimony
As a 7th grade English teacher, I have found that it is necessary to tell the
student exactly what they have done wrong before applying
consequences. At first, if a student spoke out of turn or got out of their
seat during my lesson, I would simply stare at them and mark it down in
my book. When I showed the student the mark in my book, they were
indignant and said that I was being prejudiced or unfair. Finally, I realized
that half the time the students didn’t even know that they were doing
something wrong. From then on I made sure to tell the student exactly
what rule they were breaking at the time of the infraction.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 83
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.
“An effective
teacher seeks
to modify
behavior by
focusing on
rather than
√ 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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 84
Tokens of Appreciation
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.
“You will be
surprised at
how well your
respond to
even the
recognition for
a job well
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.
Using Recognition
Students want to be recognized not only for their
accomplishments, but also for hard work and improvement.
Secondary students are often highly motivated by recognition efforts
through a banquet or assembly of some sort.
Provide students with a special certificate noting their
accomplishment. Be sure all students have the opportunity to receive
Good Citizenship
Top 10 Class Points
Community Service
High Grades
Peer Relationships
Teacher Assistant
Improvement in academics or behavior
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 85
Attitude is Everything!
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
Remember that your
students will act like
adults at times and
children at 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
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
“Treat your
students with
respect and
you’ll find they
will respect
you in return.”
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 86
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 teen. 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.
Code 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.
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
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.
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Write a behavior plan that focuses on rewards rather than
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
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 their arguments.
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.
Page 87
“There are
times when it
is important to
stand your
especially on
the important
Ask yourself,
do I really
need to get
into a power
struggle over
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Classroom Management
Page 88
“Use a calm
voice at all
“Don’t take
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.
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
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 talking
back, 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.
Teacher Testimony
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Classroom Management
Page 89
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
2. On Task During
Group work
3. Cooperating wih
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
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Classroom Management
Page 90
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Classroom Management
Page 91
Opening Class Procedure
1. Check Student Box
-Get graded papers and put in Binder
-Get necessary folder(s)
2. Get supplies ready for class
-Sharpen pencil
-Get book for class
3. Copy homework into Academic Calendar
4. Complete Focus Assignment
5. Be ready to share
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Classroom Management
Page 92
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Classroom Management
Page 93
End of Class Procedure
1. Put away all materials neatly and clean your table.
2. Take out Journal/Log folder.
3. Open your Academic Calendar.
-check that all homework is written down correctly
-add any new assignments
4. Complete End of Class Journal Assignment posted.
6. Wait to be dismissed.
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Classroom Management
Page 94
Classroom Management
Your assignment is to define each of the following words. You must copy the ENTIRE
Respect Responsibility Integrity Discipline Cooperation Effort Honesty Perseverance Friendship Authority Attention Quiet Work Organization Flexibility Initiative -
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Classroom Management
Page 95
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Classroom Management
Page 96
Student’s Name
Student’s ID Number
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
Academic Difficulties
Failure to complete assignments
Failure to make up work/ tests
Excessive absences
Failure to bring materials to class
Poor quality of work
Excessive tardies
Poor test(s) results
Failure to follow directions
Lack of effort
Talks excessively
Ignores correction
Distracts other students
Displays negative attitude
Displays disrespect
Behavioral Misconduct
Parent/ Guardian is requested to have a conference with the teacher at one of the conference
periods indicated below:
1st Choice
2nd Choice
Please Sign and Return
Parent / Guardian Signature
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Classroom Management
Page 97
We Missed You!
Date of Absence
You missed these cool
activities in class today!
You missed the following
Quiz/ test on:
Journal topic/ Warm up assignment
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Classroom Management
Page 98
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,
adolescents 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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Classroom Management
Page 99
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?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Classroom Management
Notes/ Reflection on Chapter
Lesson Plans
book is
and I’m
not sure
where to
What do I
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.
Lesson Planning
Page 102
“A wellplanned
teacher has a
focus activity
ready for
students to
complete as
soon as they
enter the
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.
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:
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!
Write in journals
Creative writing activity
Calendar questions
Sentence corrections
Simple review activity
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/
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Lesson Planning
Page 103
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 theme in the novel, Great
You don’t want to write objectives that are hard for you to
measure student achievement or knowledge.
For example: Students will understand the theme of a story.
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
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)
“A wellplanned
teacher varies
activities to
help students
meet a
Objective: To be able to identify the effects of wind erosion.
1) Student groups make predictions about the effects of the wind erosion
experiment and record in lab journal
2) Student groups follow lab instructions for erosion experiment. Record
in lab journal.
3) Students make observations about the effects of erosion and record in
lab journal.
4) Groups share their observations
5) Lesson - Students take notes about wind erosion.
6) Students view photos of various regions in the US and identify effects
of wind erosion in each photo.
7) Students work in pairs to compare/contrast the effects of water
erosion(previous lesson) and wind erosion. (if time) (extension activity)
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Lesson Planning
Page 104
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:
“It is
important to
plan a
activity and
when writing
• 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
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 identify the effects of wind erosion on a particular region.
This type of assessment would be valid since students learned and
applied the information in a similar manner.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Lesson Planning
Page 105
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 American Lit
1st Six Weeks (Folder)
-August 6-10 (Folder)
-lesson plans (file)
-vocabulary test (file)
-reading assignment (file)
-parent newsletter (file)
-novel pages (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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Lesson Planning
Page 106
Steps of Lesson Planning
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
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
“An effective
teacher works
hard to make
meaningful to
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.
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 courses, make a calendar for each course
taught. This will be extremely helpful to refer to when you sit
down to write daily lesson plans.
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
• Date
• 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,
• 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 is included.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Lesson Planning
Page 107
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.
Name Game
Journal Entry
Student Info.
Organizing for
Set up writing
Pop Quiz over
procedures &
Assignment #2
Assignment #3
Pre-writing 2
Writing Modes
Genre Overview
Link to Week 1
Using Real-life
experiences for
Prewriting 4
Prewriting 5
Round Table
sharing of writing
Writing Steps
Writing Process
Prewriting 1
Hot Topics
Assignment #4
Assignment #5
Prewriting 3
Mystery & Horror
Sci Fi & Fantasy
Adventure &
Historical Fiction
Autobiography &
Biography Genre
Drafting stories choose 1 genre
or previous prewriting to start
first story
Drafting Stories
Drafting Stories
Drafting Stories
Draft #2
Draft #3
Draft #4
Choose 1 story to
take to Final Copy Round Robin
Sharing for
Peer Response -
Peer Response -
instructions &
model with the
Groups of 3
Revision - peer
and teacher
Revision - peer
and teacher
2nd Draft -- must
be completed by
Peer & Teacher
Feedback on 2nd
2nd Revision of
Proofread/ Last
Edit -- Peer &
feedback if
Final Copy due in
class today
Exam on writin
gprocess, writing
modes, and genres
Edit stories
Must be ready by
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
“An outline in
format is an
excellent way
to see the flow
of learning
throughout a
grading period.
Use pencil to
easily switch
concepts and
activity ideas
as needed.”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Lesson Planning
Page 108
Sample Lesson Plan - 9th
Grade Creative Writing
To be able to compose a narrative using real life experiences
To be able to design a life-map of important events
Real Life story (from my life), object to go with the story, large white paper, markers,
crayons, color pencils, large sheets of paper for each student
Write a draft of a story based on real life experiences
Focus Activity:
Read the news article about the ozone layer on the overhead (or the
handout) and relate the events in that story to your life. How is this affecting
your life, or how might it affect your life in the future?
Student enter and work on focus assignment. Teacher checks attendance and
visits with each student around the room, checking homework calendars
Share a few journal entries as a class.
Lesson - Real Life Writing
a) read own real life story to the students, “My Golden Puppy”
b) discuss - what made this story enjoyable? Did you think it was good?
Why or why not? What about it was fun or interesting? Move into class
discussion about how real life experiences can make a better story
because we are able to add more details. We are writing about what we
c) show students the object related to the story and explain that the story
was based on a real life experience.
a) Pass out large sheets of paper.
b) Explain to students that we will be writing and illustrating a life map which will
help us remember important events in our lives.
c) Students create their own life-map.
Closure - Students write on index cards -- why should we use experiences &
knowledge from our own lives in our writing? Pass in cards/ Clean up to leave.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Lesson Planning
Page 109
Blank Template
Objectives: To be able to
To be able to
To be able to
Focus Activity:
Closure Activity:
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Lesson Planning
Page 110
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 homework given in sixth
grade and increased through high school is beneficial. (p. 125-126)
When students complete assignments in the classroom, the
following holds true:
“What is the
goal of your
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
As such, 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.
For the reasons stated above, it is important to keep homework
as a tool for practice and review of skills/concepts learned in class
rather than as an assessment tool.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Lesson Planning
Page 111
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 math problems when 5 will show us whether or not
students can apply the concept?
Keep in mind the following factors which influence a teen’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.
• Students who might work after school.
• Busy family and extra-curricular lives including sports,
church, clubs, community service activities, and family
Must Teach Organization Skills
It is vital that you teach students how to keep themselves
organized when assigning homework on a regular basis. It is difficult
for many students to keep up with homework assignments for
several classes along with the materials needed to complete those
“It is vital to
skills to
keep track
and due
• Keep an “Unfinished” or “Homework” section in the binder where
students can place work to be done for each class. You might
encourage students to keep a pocket tab in that section to hold
loose handouts.
• 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Lesson Planning
Page 112
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
• When and where do you expect assignments to be turned in?
policy typed
out helps
both students
and parents
know what is
• 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
-Remind students of missing assignments each day. Many will forget
that they owe you the work.
-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
-Have parents sign the Homework Procedures/ Policy form to be
placed in the students’ binders.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Lesson Planning
Page 113
Grading Homework
Remember that homework should only be used to instill the
values of self-discipline and responsibility within our students.
Additionally, homework serves as a time for students to practice new
skills/concepts taught. One fifty minute period is often not long
enough to effectively practice and master certain skills. Obviously
practice at home must be mandatory!
As we discussed earlier, homework 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 sometimes be graded with a
system of checks for the level of completion. Additionally, be sure to
weigh in-class assignments and other assessments of learning
heavier when calculating overall averages.
(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
“Be sure to
check your
district or
policy on
your own.”
When thinking about homework, keep the following in mind:
• Do more work during class time.
• When assigning homework to older students, take into
consideration outside factors affecting completion of work.
• Make homework assignments meaningful.
• Do not use homework as a final assessment of student
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Lesson Planning
Page 114
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
lesson plans
to stay
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
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 students 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Lesson Planning
Page 115
Make an extra copy of your lesson plans for the principal to
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.
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.
Greet your students in a
pleasant way.
“Good morning John, how
are you feeling today? We
missed you on Monday.”
Have a sponge activity for
students that leads into your
lesson. Make this a fun/
exciting/ interesting activity
-fun facts
-math puzzle
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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Lesson Planning
Page 116
State your objectives for the day and go over the agenda.
“Today we are going to…”
“You should be able to…”
Teacher Tip:
“A wellprepared
good teaching
habits from
the first day of
Is your class
Have a quiet sponge activity
that students are working on
while you take care of roll,
Do your students know
what to do and when to do
State your objective/ agenda
first, then do a fun
introductory activity.
Give positive, yet
specific feedback.
“Thank you Julie. I really
like the way you described
the haunted house using
excellent adjectives!”
Before students work in
cooperative groups, ask
students what the rules
are for group work.
Vary your activities through
the lesson. Don’t lecture the
whole time. Make sure
students participate.
- introduction
- take notes
- practice individually
- group activity
- closure/summary
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Be sure to walk around
the room and monitor
student behavior and
Re-direct students
when they are
misbehaving. A
simple tap on the
desk or look will often
take care of the
Lesson Planning
Page 117
More Teaching Strategies
Give plenty of wait time
when asking questions.
-Count to at least 15 slowly
when waiting for student
Make sure your
information is accurate.
Check your spelling and
pronunciation of words.
Make sure students
are on task the
entire time.
Be cheerful and
vivacious when
teaching - principals
do not like boring
blah teachers.
Dress to impress!
Do not expect your students to respond positively to
changes made in your teaching strategies and style for a single
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
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Lesson Planning
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
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 important 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
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.
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.
The First Day
The first
day of
school is
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 interesting
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
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.
The First Day
Page 120
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 students that you know what you are doing and that
you have certain expectations from the start.
“A wellprepared
knows how
they plan to
seat students
on the first
day of
Some teachers plan out where they want each student to sit.
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.
students to
your class
with a note at
each seat
along with a
peppermint or
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.
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.
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.
Be prepared for chaos the first several days as student
schedules change, new students enroll, and students
away on extended vacations return.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
The First Day
Page 121
Do EVERYTHING in PENCIL the first couple of weeks of
There is nothing more annoying than getting all of your student records,
grade book, etc. looking very nice and neat only to have a student drop
your course or enroll late!
Be prepared for a lot of extra paperwork for add/drop schedule changes,
student lockers, special services forms, attendance forms, etc. Keep it all
organized in an accordion-style folder with each pocket clearly labeled. If
you have a form to fill out and return, do so immediately rather than letting
it pile up on your desk.
Have a short, fun, and easy assignment ready for
students as soon as they walk in the classroom.
Journal topic - Write a fun and interesting journal topic on the
board or overhead and have students write and illustrate.
Student fun facts sheet
Brain Teaser or Challenge is a fun way to start of every class, not
just the first day. It is fun to do, yet it also stimulates the brain into
thinking mode.
A Quick Quiz to assess what students already know. This activity
can be used to help you assess student prior knowledge.
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.
You can 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 a supply list for your class ready before school
starts. If you haven’t already sent one out, be sure ot do so on
the first day.
“A wellprepared
teacher has
ready for
students to
begin as soon
as they enter
the class.”
You want to have
students busy and
engaged while you
take care of
duties. Otherwise
you will get off to a
bad start.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
The First Day
Page 122
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.
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.”
√ 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!
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
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
√ Have a poster or overhead that lists the class/school
schedule and explain it.
Students like to know what to expect in the flow of the day.
This will deter them from asking you throughout the whole
class, “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.”
Be sure to write your the class agenda on the board for
students to follow.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
The First Day
Page 123
√ 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
For example:
Have students brainstorm and chart behaviors
falling under each rule/expectation.
Copying the rules generally doesn’t help student
internalize the information.
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.
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.
• 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”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
The First Day
Page 124
Throughout the first week of
school you want to have
several 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
Have the students fill out a
student information sheet
with all necessary
information. A sample is
included in the back of this
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.
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.
On the following page is an example of a list of procedures
for an English class. 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.
In addition, your syllabus should outline as many
assignments and projects ahead of time with due dates. This
will help prepare students for the eventuality of college and/
or vocational school
English 101
Introductions, Creative writing assignments,
Expectations, Class procedures, Get-to-know
Test over expectations; Round Robin sharing of
Writing process, Pre-writing, Real life writing
Pop-quiz; Round Robin sharing
Genre studies - Mystery, Horror, Science Fiction,
Biography, Fairy Tale, Historical Fiction
Pop-quiz; Round Robin sharing
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
The First Day
Page 125
Homework: Write 1-2 page original draft
Vocabulary paragraph – Due Thursday
Other homework written in calendar
Homework: Testing skills practice
Read for 20 minutes and write a response in log
Other homework written in calendar
“It is a good
idea to have
and policy
typed up and
ready to send
home with
Testing skills practice due from previous week
Homework: Write 1-2 page original draft
Other homework written in calendar
Vocabulary homework due
Homework: Read for 20 minutes and write a response in log
Study for pop quiz
Study for vocabulary test
Other homework written in calendar
Parents check over and sign student binder
Vocabulary test
Teacher checks binder – parent signature and Reading
Response log
Round Robin Sharing of Stories written in class and at home
Depending on how
you plan to
homework, your
policy and
procedures page
may not be as
lengthy as this
A plan such as this
one does help
remember what is
expected each day.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
The First Day
Page 126
Checklist for the First Day
Use this checklist to make sure you are ready to start your first
I know how I am going to seat my students when they first walk in the
I know how I am going to greet students when they arrive to the
I have a short note welcoming my students on each desk.
(Remember, you don’t have to write names on these notes)
My board/overhead/presentation station is set up with the date, my
name, an agenda for the class/day, and opening assignment
My lesson plans are written out in detail and are where I can get to
them easily.
I have a syllabus ready to hand to students.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
The First Day
Page 127
Sample Lesson Plan (One 50 minute Prep/Course)
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
Homework: Create a mind-map or web of the expectations discussed in class. Be prepared
to share.
white paper, index cards, classroom policies and procedures
5 min.
Housekeeping - Students complete information cards - include name, address,
phone number, parent’s names & phone numbers (if different), birth date, class
While students are working you should – call roll, and do other opening
day procedures
5 min.
Teacher introductions
10 min.
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.
20 min.
Classroom expectations and procedures
10 min.
Closure - Emphasize importance of working together to learn. I am your guide.
What you put into your learning/this class is what you will get out of it. Etc.
Journal -- What are your goals for this course? What expectations do you have
from me as the instructor?
The first few days should be spent getting to know students and training in classroom
If you have Blocked scheduling and have 90 minutes with each class, you will want to
alternate between going over classroom procedures/expectations and fun activities.
For example, you might add the following before the closure:
15 min.
Student pairs develop a mind-map of the expectations discussed.
10 min.
Student pairs group together and share mind-maps. How are they similar? How
are they different? Can you see the thought patterns of other students? What
does this tell us about working together in groups as opposed to working
10 min.
Share results as a class. Why is it important to know expectations up front?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
The First Day
Page 128
Get-to-Know Activities
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
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.
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.
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.
Back to School
Similar to Scavenger
Hunt. See the sheet in
the back of this chapter.
Partner Interviews
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
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 often used in
middle schools.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
The First Day
Page 129
Groups Activity
Have each student brainstorm for 2 to 3 minutes and list the
different groups they belong to. These groups include any and
every way that students could categorize themselves. For
example, they might be:
-African American
-football player
Be sure you give examples of the groups you belong to in
order to help students begin their brainstorming.
Once everyone has their list, go around the room and allow
each person to introduce him or herself and share the groups
they belong to. Ask students to listen for commonalities in the
This is an excellent activity to jumpstart a discussion about
tolerance of others, accepting differences, and focusing on our
similarities as ties to friendship. It is also a great way to help
us identify different strengths and talents among our students.
Setting Goals
Setting goals is another important activity that can and should
be done during the first week of school. Have students think
for a few minutes and jot down their goal for the class or for
themselves for the year.
“The first few
weeks of
school you will
need to spend
developing a
class, where
students know
and respect
each other.”
Go around the room and have each person share their goal(s)
with the rest of the class. Compile these into a list of Learning
Goals for that class.
This can also be used as a “get-to-know” activity, or it can be
done individually with just the teacher as the audience.
Use the goals set by students to help you get to know them
better as well as to set goals for your teaching throughout the
semester and/or year. Post these goals immediately, or at the
very least type them up so that each student can have their
own copy.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
The First Day
Page 130
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!
“Check to
see if there is
a Ropes
Course near
This is an
with your
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?
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. Why?”
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
** This is a great activity to develop critical thinking skills. You can
get these kinds of scenarios in books with logic games. One website
that has logic puzzles and situation games is Braingle
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
The First Day
Page 131
Team Draw 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 picture without talking.
Each student must use only the marker they have chosen and
may not switch colors. Set a time limit for this activity. 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.
students get
to know their
members by
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
The First Day
Page 132
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
The First Day
Page 133
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
an electric fan
1 tube of toothpaste
a 10 dollar bill
1 school math book
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 134
The First Day
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:
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
The First Day
Page 135
Dear Parents:
Hello! I am looking forward to having your teen in my course this semester. I feel confident
that we will have a terrific year full of learning. I believe that it is important to teach students
HOW to learn so that they can become life-long learners.
Communication is very important to me, so please feel free to ask any questions and express
any concerns or ideas you may have. Your teen’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 student
Name of parent/ parents
Daytime phone
Evening phone
Explain any special interests, sports activities, and hobbies he/she has:
List any allergies the student has toward foods, or other products:
List any medications the student is currently taking:
Are there any special notes or comments you would like to make?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
The First Day
Page 136
Student Information Sheet
Mother’s Name:
Work phone
Father’s Name:
Work phone
Guardian’s Name:
Work phone
Brothers or Sisters:
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?
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
The First Day
Page 137
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
Moved into
a new
house this
Flew on an
traveled to
a foreign
Has visited
five or
Likes to
Has a
Has visited
Has a dog
as a pet.
Plays more
than one
Is wearing
a watch.
exactly 15
letters in
their full
Has a four
digit house
Has blue
Has a bike.
last year.
this month.
relatives in
Can play a
All of their
are still
relatives in
Has an
Honor Roll
last year.
Was born
in June.
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
The First Day
Page 138
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
The First Day
Page 139
Instructions for Team Draw Activity
In your teams, have each person
select a marker. Using only your
own color and with no oral
communication, create a team
picture on your blank paper.
Once your illustration is complete,
discuss your handiwork and give it
a title.
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
The First Day
Page 140
Star Activity
Favorite Food
Favorite Movie
Favorite Type of
e on
rit rs
vo Pe
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
The First Day
Page 141
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.
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
The First Day
Parent Communication
I know I
need to
talk to
but I don’t
What do I
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
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.
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
Source: U.S. Department of Education
Parent Communication
Page 144
Starting Off On the Right Foot
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
You might also ask
them to listen to
your conversations
in order to offer
feedback on ways
you can improve.
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
teen! Tell the parents you are looking 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 in-depth 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)!
Sample Phone Call
Hello, Mr./Mrs. ________________
If you are
concerned that
certain parents may
not be receiving the
progress report
from their teenager,
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.
I am looking forward to having ________________ 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? 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 for me right now? It was great talking with you and I
look forward to working with you and __________ throughout this year.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 145
Keeping Parents Up-to-Speed
In order to help their teen, 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 in the classroom? Here are a few you can try:
Teacher Testimony
Positive Notes
Academic Calendars
Progress Reports
Positive Notes
Send short notes of a “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.
Yes, 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
Another great way of informing parents about a student’s
progress prior to report cards is the progress report. Most schools
require you 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.
I started sending home
progress reports every
two weeks throughout
the year to try and keep
parents better informed
about their teen’s
grades, behavior, and
work habits. The regular
progress report sent
home once before
report cards just wasn’t
cutting it for me. Our
school’s grading
program provides a way
for me to print off
individual student
reports with the current
average and a list of
missing assignments. I
also created a simple
spreadsheet that lists
basic behavior and work
habits. I place either a
check or a minus for
each and staple the
spreadsheet to the
academic report.
Although it is time
consuming, I also make
copies of these to keep
in each student’s folder
for my own records.
They really come in
handy during
conference time.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 146
Academic Calendars
An academic/homework calendar can work as a wonderful twoway 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 day 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.
“Using an
calendar is
one of the
quickest ways
to initiate nonthreatening
with parents.”
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 at the start of each class. 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
Remind parents that the academic calendar is a tool to help
them monitor their teen’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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 147
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
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 good study skills, and don’t know how to help their
children establish them. As educators, we can do a lot to help
parents. 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 teenager. 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 teen 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 they can study and
do homework with few interruptions and distractions.
Schedule a time to complete homework when it is appropriate for
both your teen and the rest of the family. Routines are important as
adolescents feel more balanced and comfortable when they know
what to do each day. Don’t expect them 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
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 the message that we all need time in a quiet environment.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 148
More Tips for Parents to Include in your Newsletter
Help your teen set up an area where he/she can study. This
does not necessarily have to be their bedroom. Some
adolescents do better when Mom or Dad are nearby and
would work well at the kitchen table. If younger siblings offer
too much distraction, send them to their room or another room
for “quiet time”.Decide upon one location and consistently use
it as a place to work and study.
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
• Check off each
assignment in the
calendar as it is
• Have snacks
readily available to
help keep the brain
going during work
Don’t complain about homework in front of the student. If you
have a comment or concern about homework or academic
requirements, please call the teacher later. You have a huge
impact on how your teenagers 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/herjob.
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 teenagers the
opportunity to work independently, develop responsibility and
Don’t do the homework for your teen. Some parents may
get carried away and want to do the project so that it is “done
right.” Doing the 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 teen is
having extreme difficulties, call the teacher and ask for extra
tutoring before or after school.
Make sure that your family is eating well. Just like our
cars cannot run without fuel, the human brain cannot run
without food. Even just one missed meal can affect an
adolescent’s behavior and learning. Please make sure that
everyone comes to school well-fed and fueled up for the day.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 149
September 1, 20__
We begin our economics unit this month and will be studying
different money systems, the exchange rate, the stock exchange,
and real life finances including balancing a check book and keeping
a budget.
Thank you to all the parents who volunteered to go on our
field trip to the Museum of Natural Science and History. We
appreciate your support.
September 22, 20__
September 29, 20__
Life Finance Project Due
Economics Test
If anyone has experience with the stock market, budgeting,
accounting, or economics itself, we are in need of several guest
speakers and/or materials to enhance student learning during this
unit. Please contact me at 555-456-7890 as soon as possible to
discuss ways you can help us learn about world economics! Thanks!
Recent research shows us that real world experiences help
students retain information and skills better than lectures and rote
drill. Take time this month to share how you handle your budget and
checking account with your teen. This might also be a great time to
open a bank account in the student’s name so that they can begin to
learn the skills of balancing an account and setting a budget for their
own extra expenses. Another real world experience that will enrich
your teen’s learning this month is to check out the stock reports in
the newspaper. Pick one or two favorite stocks and follow them each
“An effective
with parents
the year so
that everyone
is on the
same page.”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 150
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.
“A wellprepared
teacher thinks
through a
parent phone
call before
making it and
has student
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
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
teen’s life, and it is in the teenager’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 discipline
strategies, and/or helping their teen.
Checking their homework assignment calendar every
night and checking for completed homework
Instituting a behavior checklist at home and school
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 151
Offer a consequence when possible for the behavior if not
improved (detention, poor grades, office referral, etc.).
“If ____________ (student’s name) 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.
Simon, Paul
2211 St. Andrews Place
Wonderful, CA 34598
5th Period
Martha Simon
Peter Simon
(H) 456-9089
(H) 456-9089
(W) 329-0897
(w) 289-7658
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.
When using e-mail
to communicate
with parents, DO
NOT discuss
personal or
information about
their child, even if
they request it.
Instead, in your email, ask that
parents call you, or
to check the note
you sent home. Emails are not
secure, and can be
intercepted and
read by other
people which
violates the Privacy
Using index cards is
an easy way to keep
student information
and parent phone
records in one
Another way is to
use manila folders
and staple a parent
phone log on the
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 152
Assertive Phrases
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 student and that
your job is to help
their teen 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 student), so
how can we work
together to help
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 teen’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 teen’s best interest that we work together to
solve this problem.
Your teenager needs your help.
I need your support.
You are an important influence on your teen. 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.
I want to help your teenager 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 teen. 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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 153
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 student, 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
More appropriate Phrases
Poor study habits
Dirty/ Smelly
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
Insists on having her own way
Difficulty in working with others
Tries to get constant attention
Wastes time
Rude or mean
“An effective
that each
student is
very special
to their
Thus, they
diplomacy at
all times.”
Using the wrong phrase
with parents can really
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 154
The Parent-Teacher Conference
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.
“Always start
a parent
meeting with
an open
smile and
that some
parents are
fearful of the
because of
their own past
How can you
help them
their fears?”
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
teen’s teacher.
Parents may want to please
the teacher and make a
good impression, but also
want to express their
concerns or frustrations.
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 student’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 teenager.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 155
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 student’s
father is dead, you don’t want to ask, “Where is Suzy’s dad
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!
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.
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 teen, so that you can be
even more prepared!
and organized
when ready
with student
records and
an agenda for
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 156
Teacher Agenda
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 teen.
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.
“Make sure
you state
facts and
to back up
4. Ask the parent for their observations and/ or feelings about their
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
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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 157
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 teen’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
Make sure to have documentation in order to demonstrate your
concerns. If the student 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 158
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 teen’s progress. Parents of good
students really want to know how their teen 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 someone 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.
“Don’t forget
to report the
good news
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 159
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.
“A behavior
plan often
works well
with older
• 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.
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.
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 wouldlike 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.
On the following page we have listed a few tips.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Parent Communication
Page 160
Open House Tips
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 with
them. Explain that you cannot discuss specific aspects of their
child’s behavior and/or grades while other people are around.
Some parents may ask general questions about their child,
for example: “How is Suzy doing so far?”
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.”
You could answer that question by giving one specific
comment such as, “She is a joy to have in class, and very
energetic. Be sure to take a look at Suzy’s work displayed in her
If you really need to talk further with the parents, or you can
see that they truly want to talk about their child, go ahead and
schedule a date and time to meet.
Plan to have between ten and twenty solid minutes to inform
parents of your classroom policies and expectations. You may
want to explain your education philosophy at that time so that
they have a better understanding of how you teach. 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
A secondary open house is often scheduled so that parents
follow their child’s schedule. Each session lasts no longer than
20 minutes. You will have one or two sessions with no parents
due to your planning and/or team time. Use this time to catch
up on grading papers since the night will be very long!
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.
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 graded assignment
with you. Be prepared for a long line of parents. Keep your
comments short and precise.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Parent Communication
Page 161
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
4. Parents and teachers discuss possible strategies for improvement.
5. Parents and teachers decide on a plan of action.
6. Closure
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Parent Communication
Page 162
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:
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Parent Communication
Page 163
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 :
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Parent Communication
Page 164
Parent Notification of Student Conference
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
Please sign to show that we have discussed this note. This will be in your classroom file.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Parent Communication
Page 165
Missing Assignments
Original Due Date:
Parent Signature:
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Parent Communication
Page 166
Parent Communication
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Parent Communication
Page 167
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 their child much better at this point than
you do! Keep parents informed of what is happening in the classroom. Regularly ask for
volunteers to 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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
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 “Thumbs Up” 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 note, 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
Notes/ Reflections on Chapter
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.
How can
I teach
skills in
my class?
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 Classroom Library
• 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.
Page 170
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
What should be included?
“A wellprepared
teacher has
a variety of
material for
student use
in the
“Make your
area a
feel calm
How-To books
Fun Facts books
Historical Fiction
Non-fiction books related to subject
Student publications
Poetry books
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
•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 that)
• 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 classroom library apart from the rest
of the room, so I pulled in a comfy overstuffed chair, 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 students enjoyed that corner and I often used
it for more than just reading.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 171
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.
• 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
like an important part of your classroom library.
Book Clubs
• The Scholastic book club often sends out their magazine
to teachers. If you do not receive any within the first month
of school, go online to their websites and request the TAB
magazine for grades 7 and up. Encourage your students to
• 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
• Bonus Points. When students order, you get bonus
points. You can use these bonus points to get books
for your classroom library.
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
“Don’t forget
about Public
Library Sales
and Garage
Sales for
• Teacher Specials. Book clubs also offer teacher
specials where you can get packages of books for
lower prices. Take advantage of these deals!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 172
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Use of the Reading Area
1.) Rotation
Teacher Testimony
One way I use my reading
area is as a quiet place
where angry or frustrated
students can calm down.
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 classroom library
with a palm tree in it. With
all of the emotional issues
teenagers face, it is nice
to have a quiet place for
them to use when they
need to shill out for a
while. It may seem a
waste of time to some,
but I can see the
difference in my student’s
attitudes and behavior
when they rejoin the
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 area?”
• Quiet time area
• Student research
• Access to books
• Enrichment of content
• A place for students who are finished early to read
Monitoring Students
Use Bloom’s
Keywords to help you
develop reading
responses on a
variety of levels.
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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 173
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
• It is important that you
provide students with guiding
questions to use during
discussion. Each person
should record the answers to
discussion questions.
• 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
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
discussions that
do not meet your
model exactly
what you want to
Example: The Count of Monte Cristo is a true villian.
Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
(Using The Count of Monte Cristo)
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 174
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
“A wellprepared
teacher plans
out a routine
for literature
group time.”
What activities can I use to jumpstart discussion or enrich
student learning?
• Students create a storyboard that shows the major events/
themes 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
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
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).
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 175
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
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.
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.
Reader’s theater
is just one way
you can integrate
the required
element of theater
into your classes.
Creating a script
from a textbook
chapter to read
aloud in class is
another way this
skill can be
A third strategy is
to have students
act out the main
events or main
idea of the
passage they are
Once again, these
ideas are not just
for Language Arts
classes. How can
you integrate
theater into other
subject areas?
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 176
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
“A wellprepared
ways to
activities to
reading in
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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.
Write down 2 fact statements and 2 opinion statements from
your reading.
What do you think will happen next in the novel? Why?
Support your reasons with quotes from the book. Include page
What events in the story caused your character to react in an
unusual manner? What events in this part of your reading
have 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.
See pages 194, 216, and 218 for additional ideas.
Page 177
Use the reading
skills listed in the
next couple of
pages to create
your own
Also, using
Bloom’s Keywords
make creating
reading responses
a piece of cake!
“This type
for state
tests such
as the
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 178
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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.
are a great
way to
Additionally, if you decide that you want to extend the reading into
an essay or other written product, a graphic organizer is a great prewriting 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.
can be used
to organize
from nonfiction
reading in
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/nonfact.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
Make generalizations and draw conclusions from a passage
Identify purpose of a text
Making predictions
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
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!
Page 179
When planning out
lessons, think about
ways you will
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
Students will be able
to identify key
vocabulary terms
within the text.
“A wellprepared
helps make
of reading
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 180
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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.
“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
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.
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. Another option is for
students to keep a vocabulary notebook with a “word-wall” of
their own inside.
Instead of organizing by alphabet, your word wall could be
organized by themes of study.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Reading a Textbook
Use reading objectives to help focus the purpose of student
(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 alternate idea: 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.
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.
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.
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.
Page 181
“Use a
variety of
Students get
bored doing
the same
thing every
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
This gives students
the opportunity to help
each other and learn
from one another
before applying what
they have learned on
their own.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 182
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Sample Lesson
The following is a sample lesson written by a P.E. teacher to
integrate Reading and Writing skills into his class.
“A little
thought and
creativity can
go a long way
Reading and
strategies in
other subject
•Students will be able to use note-taking skills to read and
research about Olympic Athletes.
•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 notetaking 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)
Anticipatory Set/ Attention Getter:
1. 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,
Thank you to Juddson Smith, P.E.
Coach, Plano ISD, for sharing this
lesson plan with us!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 183
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 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
number(s) of source at the top and notes in the middle.
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.
Assessment of
-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.
Have students each go to the chart and fill in one item they learned about
becoming an Olympic Athlete. Read them and discuss.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 184
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Reading Novels in Class
“A wellprepared
reads the
novel before
lessons in
order to
their own
into the
planning for
novel studies
is more
when the
teacher has
done some
prior reading
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’
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?
√ How can you integrate information learned in other subject
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 185
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
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
• explanation of skill or concept
• real world application of skill/concept
• vocabulary words
• drawing of plot events
• character cards with basic information
• description of the procedure or events
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?
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
the Count of Monte Cristo is generous? -using The Count of
Monte Cristo
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 186
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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 selfpreservation mode. This turns into the usual answer of “I don’t know” or “Lots of
“A wellprepared
exactly how
he/she plans
to use
writing and
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
•What is your goal for the journal each day? What is the purpose?
•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 five 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 187
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, as needed.
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.
Provide Feedback
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
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.
whether or
not journals
will be a
tool in your
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 188
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Evaluating Student Reading
familiar with
the format of
your State’s
tool. Format
your formal
tests to look
and act like
the ‘real
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.
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
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.) Novel 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
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 189
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. Using these steps can help students 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!
Post the basic
writing process
steps on a poster
where it can be
clearly seen by all
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?
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.
students the
makes them
think more
about their
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 190
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
• Create a spreadsheet with student names down the side (one per
class) and writing process steps across the top.
• As students work through the steps of the writing process, put a
check mark next to their name..
• Students may move between steps 2 through 4 several times before
getting to the last step of Final Copy. Each time a student enters a
step, keep track with a number.
“A wellprepared
knows how
he/she plans
to monitor
when using
the Writing
or Reading
• This offers the teacher a quick way to check on student progress as
well as to redirect students who may be off task. Keep your
clipboard with you at all times while using the Writing Workshop.
• You may even want to leave a spot open to record the title/theme/
mode of the piece each student is writing.
Writing Modes
•PERSUASIVE/DESCRIPTIVE - (a.k.a. persuasive essay)
Students must make a choice and convince an audience with
•INFORMATIVE/CLASSIFICATORY - (a.k.a. compare/contrast
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
•INFORMATIVE/NARRATIVE - (a.k.a. how to essay)
Students must write a sequence of steps on how to do
something for an audience.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 191
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 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!)
Tell how flowers and trees are
alike and different.
Compare and contrast the
respiratory and circulatory
Tell how subtraction and division
are alike and different.
Compare and contrast sailboats
with ocean cruisers.
Tell how one problem solving
technique is different from
Compare and contrast the
British soldiers and the Colonists
Tell how the hero and villain in
your story are alike and
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
“You can
When doing a
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 192
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Ideas for Practice Essays
“Use Minipersuasive
writings to
help students
giving SOLID
their position!”
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?
Any concerns in the local or
global community such as
rainforests, oil spills,
garbage dumps, cold war,
Any concerns in the school
Mini-persuasive writings Why I should be allowed to
go to the bathroom, or, to
see a principal or another
teacher, or, why I shouldn’t
have to do homework.
Should students provide
their own art supplies?
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
Students need to
know what is
expected of them.
Also, you can use
the checklist to
help you with the
grading process.
Position Statement
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 193
“Use these
activities to
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
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
Put an unknown
object in a bag
and have students
describe it by
touch only. Who
came the closest?
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.
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,
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 than, brighter than)
Use of adverbs (slowly, quickly, intently, softly)
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 194
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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.
thinking skills
by utilizing
higher levels
of Bloom’s
when creating
give examples
Sample Questions: Count of Monte Cristo
• Identify the main character(s).
• Describe the mood of the story.
• Explain why the Count is helping Morrel.
• Give examples of how Danglars betrayed Edmond Dantes.
• Illustrate Faria’s plan of escape from Chateau d’If.
• Compare Edmond Dantes to the Count of Monte Cristo.
• Predict what you think will happen to the Count now that his
revenge has ended.
• Compose a letter to Mercedes from Edmond while in prison.
• Suppose Dantes escaped prison without knowing the events
which lead to his arrest. Create an outline of events that might
have happened were this true.
• Is Faria a helpful character? In a paragraph, criticize his
• Should the Count have taken vengeance on Danglars and
the others? Why or why not? Support your reasons.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 195
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.
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 196
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 197
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
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)
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 198
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
A - Add details to your story --use a caret ^ to add words
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, blah words -Cross out the word and write the change on top
ex: bad
Try to answer any questions asked by other students or
the teacher
You may need to revise your writing piece more than
A revised paper should look messy with arrows, carets,
circles, etc.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 199
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 200
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 201
Suspects – family members, servants, business associates, friends,
Police or inspectors
Usually a crime of some sort – murder, theft, missing person,
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 202
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 203
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 204
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 205
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 206
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Graphic Organizer for Persuasive Essay
Position Statement:
Reason 1:
Reason 2:
Reason 3:
Conclusion: (Restate your opinion and three reasons)
ELABORATION: Each point should be elaborated with either:
-a story illustrating a specific example
-a quote
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 207
Does the paper have:
Position statement
Three clearly stated reasons
Specific examples under each reason
Elaborative phrases (as well as, one example, for instance,
Persuasive vocabulary (obviously, plead, visible, distinct,
confidence, sincerely)
Transition words
(therefore, in conclusion, for example, nevertheless,
Interesting adjectives
Specific verbs
Other comments:
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 208
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Graphic Organizer for Comparison/
Contrast Essay
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 209
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:
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 210
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Object 1:
Object 2:
Object 3:
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 211
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;
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 212
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 213
Does the paper have:
Topic sentence that tells what is being done or
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:
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 214
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 215
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
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.
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!
Create a map of the important locations in your novel. Use a key with
symbols to explain your map.
Project: Choose one of the following, or have your own idea approved by
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 216
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
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
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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 217
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.
“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 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
“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
“...of little use and no
beauty…” (Mansfield Park, p.
No brain and no beauty? How
did she ever get married in the
first place?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 218
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Page 219
Reading and Writing are not just skills that have importance in English and Literature courses.
They are skills that impact student lives daily and must be practiced in ALL subject areas. The
more students practice reading and writing, the more proficient they will become. This is
especially true of those learning the language. The more we encourage the use of reading
and writing skills in all of our classes, the more our students will begin to see the importance
of the written language in their lives. Many students feel that reading and formal writing are
only important for their Language Arts classes. It is up to us to show them that even architects,
scientists, and mathematicians must be able to write formal papers and understand what their
colleagues have written in journal articles and other types of reading text. The best way we
can do this is by pointing out how we use reading and writing in our specific subject area as
well as applying those important skills within our course requirements. It is not necessary for
every teacher to teach the elements of literature and writing, but it is vital for every teacher to
model the importance of reading and writing skills within their content area. Simply pointing
out the reading skill being used to determine meaning and writing daily journals will do much
to increase student proficiency. Just think what can be accomplished when students are
actively reading and writing in each and every class!
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.
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
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?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum
Suggested Activites
1) Develop a plan for creating your own classroom library. 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 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) Write out your expectations and procedures for journaling in your classroom.
(See pages 61-62)
Notes/ Reflection on Chapter:
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
Where do
I start?
• 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.
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:
Teacher B:
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
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 wooden 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 wooden 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?
Page 222
Brain-Based Classroom
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
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
Look at the example for Teacher B. Do you think that using the fun
fact and concrete object of “wooden 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
1) Read and Keep Reading
“Other types of
must stay
of content for
their field as
well as current
practices, and
so must we!”
-historical events
-science journals such as Discover
-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
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?
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Classroom
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
Page 223
“A wellprepared
teacher reads
content and
skills when
√ 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.
2.) Understanding People
When do you have
time to read all of
this? Try one or
more of the
-in the bathroom
-while taking a
-while walking on
a treadmill
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 adolescents who often need more than just good grades
to help them bloom into successful adults.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 224
Brain-Based Classroom
Know your Students
“An effective
teacher takes
time to get to
students as
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 student 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.
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Classroom
Page 225
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Brain-Based Classroom
Page 226
How do I deal with angry or difficult students in my
“The more
we get to
know each of
our students,
the better we
can help
them to be
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
Steps to Determining Root of Problem
1.) Identify the specific behaviors exhibited by the student.
2.) Is this happening in just your class or in other classes as
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
all it takes is
a kind word
or “I believe
in you” to
turn an angry
or difficult
Then ask:
Has something happened recently to the student either at school or
-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
√ 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Classroom
Page 227
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.
Teacher Testimony
• 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
non-threatening 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.
One year I had a student
who came to class angry
every day. He was in a
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 for
most of his school career.
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 reading area 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 class
work 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 student in my
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 228
Brain-Based Classroom
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 classroom.
• 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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Classroom
Page 229
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.
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.
Are students only
thinking of food?
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
immediately downshift to their “Reflex” brain so that they are better
able to protect themselves from possible harm, be it physical,
emotional, or mental.
Anger inhibits learning
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.
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.
Does chaos rule?
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 230
Brain-Based Classroom
Teach Students about the Triune Brain
“A wellprepared
teacher plans
how to
strategies in
for student
use of
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.
Clear Transition from Play Time to Work Time
One way to
transition students
and re-focus their
attention is to say,
“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 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, “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.
Allow Students some Freedoms
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”)
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 231
Brain-Based Classroom
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
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
in class!
Average Retention Rate
Textbooks, Etc.
10 %
20 %
Demonstration/ Modeling
30 %
Discussion Group
How do I
50 %
Practice by Doing
75 %
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.
Page 234
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Bloom’s Taxonomy
Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills includes:
thinking skills
by utilizing
higher levels
of Bloom’s
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:
give example
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 235
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
different levels
of student
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
♦ Show how erosion changes land features
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
♦ 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”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 236
workplace is
becoming less
isolated with
partitions and
more a
system of
people working
together in
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.
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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.
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.
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?”
A good book to read besides Johnson’s Cooperative Learning is
Learning Thru Discussion by WM. Fawcett Hill. It will give you
additional ideas on how to model a good team for your students.
Additionally, Choice Theory by William Glasser also discusses the
concept of teaming within the classroom.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 237
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
The idea is to take
a box, cover it with
colorful paper, and
put the keywords
for each level on
each side of the
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
Or, you could
assign a level to
the student groups
depending on what
you wanted them to
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 238
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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.”
together in a
requires skills
that students
will use
their lifetime.”
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 239
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.
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.
“A wellprepared
teacher uses
a variety of
strategies so
that group
work does not
become as
dull as
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 240
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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
HOW to learn
so that they
can become
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 241
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.
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.
“The gift of
knowledge is
often not
unless it has
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.
“I wonder” questions are a wonderful way to integrate different
subject area topics and skills. You might pose a question regarding
the use of triangles and other shapes used in building bridges and
other structures in a math or science class.
Use “I wonder” questions to encourage research as part of the
learning experience. We discuss research projects later in this
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 242
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
“Field trips
are a great
form of
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.
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!
Children’s Stories
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
experiments” and
the keywords of
your topic.
You might also try
Yahooligans when
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 onomatopoeia for a poetry unit? Why not read
the book Mr. Brown Can Moo? Although a simple Dr. Suess book, Mr.
Brown Can Moo is full of onomatopoeias and provides excellent
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!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 243
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.
Have students use primary and secondary sources to find the answer
to a question relating to your topic of study.
Teach students appropriate
library skills as part of the
research process.
Be sure to teach note-taking skills before requiring any formal
Set a limit of 3-5 double-spaced typed pages for each paper. Every
9th grader should be able to write a 3 page paper and every 12th
grader should be able to write a 5 page paper.
In our opinion, students should be required to complete at least 3
research projects each year. As students get into upper grades, the
requirements should become more stringent. This will better prepare
them from college and vocational school where research is a common
learning tool.
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.
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 244
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
“No matter
what time of
year, projects
are a great
tool to use in
the classroom.
Students are
excited to
learn and
enjoy the
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?
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
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
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.
Example: 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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 245
Teaching Note-taking Skills
Not only do students need to know how to take notes from a
class lecture, but they also should be able to take notes from a
reading source as well. This skill is of extreme importance to
students going on to college. The first step you should take is
teaching your students how to take notes from a book, magazine, or
internet site. Don’t just leave this up to the English instructor.
Students should be required to take notes for research or class
instruction in EVERY academic subject!
One of the easiest ways to train students is to use one of the
A Big Book (the type used by primary teachers)
A Magazine article
A News article
Choose a book or article that is easy to read (never use an
encyclopedia to start) and either make transparencies or enough
copies so that each student can easily read the information.
Follow the steps below several times with your students as a
class, then have them work in small groups, then as pairs, and
finally individually. This process helps give students confidence to
take good notes.
• 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
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
• 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?
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 246
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
should be
utilized as a
learning tool
in all subject
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.
taking notes
with your
sending them
off to
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 247
Making Connections between Subject
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 secondary 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.
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.
Getting Started
1.) Start with a topic of study required for your grade level and/or
subject area
-Science and Social Studies are the easiest to use as a
starting place
“An effective
teacher helps
students see
across their
in learning
higher level
thinking and
is supported
by brainbased
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)
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 248
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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,
as a team, you would brainstorm Social Studies, Math and Language
Arts connections with volcanoes. Some of your ideas might include:
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).
“Can you
think of any
ways to
art or music
into this
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 apply
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 (Reading).
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Latitude & Longitude
Mapping/using a grid
Ancient Romans - Italy
Mt. Vesuvius
Current Events
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 249
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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 250
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Interdisciplinary Study
learn best
when they are
able to see
Integration is not an impossibility in the secondary
classroom. 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.
“The real
world does not
consist of
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 251
Learning Centers
Another way of enhancing your instruction is through learning
centers. As high school teachers, we 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
Enrichment Centers
Students use the enrichment 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
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.
“A Thinking
folder is an
easy way to
student work
from the
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 252
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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.
“A wellprepared
teacher plans
ahead and in
detail for all
field trips.”
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.
Helpful Tips
The number of chaperones you will need depends on -
“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
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
Sign up parent volunteers well in advance of your trip.
Notify other teachers in the school of the dates and times for
your field trip.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 253
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
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
back up procedures for supervising difficult
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.”
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 254
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
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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.
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.
volunteers to
arrive early so
that you can
go over field
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 255
Field Trip Permission Form
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
give my permission for
to attend the field trip to
I will
send a lunch for
purchase a school lunch
My teen has the following special needs to take into consideration
Parent Signature:
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 256
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Field Trip Instructions
Please be sure to ask your group to
think about or discuss the following:
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
(including rotation schedule of
exhibits if necessary.)
Be sure to visit the following places/
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
Page 257
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
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?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 258
Brain-Based Teaching Strategies
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” enrichment centers to use in your classroom. Take time to
make these ready to implement in the classroom.
Notes/ Reflection on Chapter
© 2003 Survival Kit for Secondary New Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Not sure of what to do to assess, or evaluate, your
students’ abilities and progress?
How do I
assess my
so that
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
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
his or her
Page 260
Philosophy of Assessment
Here are some tips to help shape your philosophy on student
Assessment is so much more than just assigning a letter
grade. It should provide teachers with detailed information
to share with parents.
“An effective
teacher uses
a variety of
methods to
get an
measure of
their abilities.”
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!
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 261
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
“Give clear
and specific
“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
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
Give the students a problem at the end of the class
session that they will turn in. They do not need to
write their names on these papers. When reviewing
the answers, you can get an idea of what students
learned and what still needs to be discussed in further
Thank you to Sheri
Langendorf, High School
Teacher, Illinois for
sharing this strategy.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 262
Alternative Assessment Tools
“Your lesson
should reflect
the type of
tool you use.”
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.
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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
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?
Page 263
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
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!
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!
“A wellprepared
teacher keeps
records of
to help
learning and
for parent
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 264
Student Reflection
“A Mind Map
is an
tool for
students who
like to draw.”
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.
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 mindmap around a specific concept or skill.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 265
“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.
“An effective
checks for
throughout a
lesson or a
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.
“Inteviews in
the classroom
are great
practice for
high school
They are Real
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 266
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
“Use writing
such as
poetry, and
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).
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 267
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)
Keywords will
help you
projects that
students to
use higher
level thinking
____ 6. Determine how well your tribe would be able to survive
in America’s modern environment. (Evaluation)
Student Evaluations:
Evaluate your group on the following:
___ Cooperation within the team
___ Individual participation
___ Information gathered
___ amount
___ correctness
___ elaboration
___ Visual teaching aid
___ creativity
___ accurate
___ best quality
___ use in presentation
See pages 234-235
for an explanation of
Bloom’s Taxonomy.
___ Presentation
___ individual participation
___ clearly spoken
___ loud voices
___ creativity
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 268
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.
“A wellprepared
teacher has a
goal in mind
before using
the portfolio
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.
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 269
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
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
What are your
How are you
going to
assess it?
How will you
involve your
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 270
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 271
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 272
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
Organize your grade book.
There are several ways you can do this.
1) Set aside six pages for each class period (one for each grading
period). Group all of the subject pages together.
Set aside six pages for attendance.
Attendance - pages 1-6
Remedial Reading - pages 7-12
English - pages 13-18
“Use stick-on
tabs to mark
sections in
gradebook. It
makes life so
much easier!”
2) Set aside pages for attendance and each class you teach.
Then, create six “groups” of these pages (one for each grading
1st Six Weeks: Attendance, Reading 1, Reading 2, American Lit.,
American Lit. 2, Speech & Debate - pages 1-6.
2nd Six Weeks: Attendance, Reading 1, Reading 2, American Lit.,
American Lit. 2, Speech & Debate - 7-12
Note: These examples are assuming that your school has 6
six weeks grading periods. If not, adjust accordingly.
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 easier.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 273
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.
520/ 6 = 87
547/ 6 = 91
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
Robert 19
Grace 20
T.pts./Out of
135 / 160
122/ 160
139/ 160
“A wellprepared
teacher thinks
through how
he/she plans
to record
grades before
school starts.”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 274
Grade subjective assignments
according to a rubric.
“A rubric
“A wellprepared
provides a
copy of the
rubric to
students at
the beginning
of a project or
so they know
what to
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
4+ = 100
1+ / 2- = 70
3+ / 4- = 90
2 = 75
4 = 95
Diorama of American Revolution
Scene from American Revolution
Correct Information
Complete sentences used on
index card
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 275
Grading Writing Assignments
Technically writing assignments are subjective, and as those of
you who use writing projects will see, it is one of the hardest areas
of grading. Writing assessments are used in many classes, such as
History, Science, Economics, Political Science, English, Literature,
and more.
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.
Give students two separate grades for their paper. One for
content and one for mechanics.
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. If you teach
Economics, History, or any subject other than English, you might
not choose to weigh the grammar as heavily as the content,
depending on your goal.
students two
grades on
allows them to
see specific
feedback on
their grammar
skills versus
the content.”
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 276
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.
modify for
your Special
students. It is
the Law!”
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 277
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.
cannot think
clearly under
the pressure
of a highstakes test.”
Just imagine yourself in their place. You know how to work
algebraic 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.
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
On the next pages are some tips you can use to help your students
deal with their test anxiety.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 278
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.
how the brain
works is the
first step to
happens to
them in
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 if
possible, 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 have a morning testing class, provide a small
breakfast. You might offer muffins and juice or a ready-toeat fruit.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 279
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.
How can students
know when they
need to take a
• I’m feeling sick to
my stomach/
butterflies/ anxious.
• I’m thinking about
everything except
the test.
• I’m feeling
• I’m feeling angry
at someone or
• I’m blanking out
on each question.
Teach Students Calming Exercises
• I’m tired.
• I’m hungry.
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
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.
• I’m thirsty.
• I have to use the
additional “clues”
with your class.
You’ll be surprised
at how many they
come up with
during your
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 Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 280
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Page 281
Portfolio Conference Sheet
Student Name
Teacher Name
Directions: Make comments about the discussion under each entry of the portfolio.
Title of Entry
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 282
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).
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Page 283
Modified Grading System Grading Scales
75 = 100
74 = 99
73 = 98
72 = 97
71 = 96
70 = 95
69 = 94
68 = 93
67 = 92
66 = 91
65 = 90
80 = 100
79 = 99
78 = 98
77 = 97
76 = 96
75 = 95
74 = 94
73 = 93
72 = 92
71 = 91
70 = 90
85 = 100
84 = 99
83 = 98
82 = 97
81 = 96
80 = 95
79 = 94
78 = 93
77 = 92
76 = 91
75 = 90
90 = 100
89 = 99
88 = 98
87 = 97
86 = 96
85 = 95
84 = 94
83 = 93
82 = 92
81 = 91
80 = 90
95 = 100
94 = 99
93 = 98
92 = 97
91 = 96
90 = 95
89 = 94
88 = 93
87 = 92
86 = 91
85 = 90
64 = 89
63 = 88
62 = 87
61 = 86
60 = 85
59 = 84
58 = 83
57 = 82
56 = 81
55 = 80
69 = 89
68 = 88
67 = 87
66 = 86
65 = 85
64 = 84
63 = 83
62 = 82
61 = 81
60 = 80
74 = 89
73 = 88
72 = 87
71 = 86
70 = 85
69 = 84
68 = 83
67 = 82
66 = 81
65 = 80
79 = 89
78 = 88
77 = 87
76 = 86
75 = 85
74 = 84
73 = 83
72 = 82
71 = 81
70 = 80
84 = 89
83 = 88
82 = 87
81 = 86
80 = 85
79 = 84
78 = 83
77 = 82
76 = 81
75 = 80
54 = 79
53 = 78
52 = 77
51 = 76
50 = 75
59 = 79
58 = 78
57 = 77
56 = 76
55 = 75
64 = 79
63 = 78
62 = 77
61 = 76
60 = 75
69 = 79
68 = 78
67 = 77
66 = 76
65 = 75
74 = 79
73 = 78
72 = 77
71 = 76
70 = 75
49 = 74
48 = 73
47 = 72
46 = 71
45 = 70
54 = 74
53 = 73
52 = 72
51 = 71
50 = 70
59 = 74
58 = 73
57 = 72
56 = 71
55 = 70
64 = 74
63 = 73
62 = 72
61 = 71
60 = 70
69 = 74
68 = 73
67 = 72
66 = 71
65 = 70
44 = 69
49 = 69
54 = 69
59 = 69
64 = 69
Source Unknown
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 284
Mid-Term Progress Report
The grades below reflect your child’s grade mid-way through the current grading period.
Student’s Name
Language Arts
Social Studies
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Page 285
Detailed Progress Report
Student Name
M.E. N.I.
Completes assignments
on time
Follows directions readily
Uses time wisely
Contributes to activities/
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
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Page 286
Missing Assignments
Parent Signature:
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Page 287
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
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
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
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?
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
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
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.
Notes/ Reflection of Chapter
Motivating Students
Some of
are not
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 middle and 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
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, busy-work, 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
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.
Page 290
Motivating Students
Atlas Activities
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, environment, 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.
Books and Brainstorming Activities
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.
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 guest speakers
Generate questions for interviews or research projects
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 291
Motivating Students
Concept Board Activities
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
Dioramas and Drawing Activities
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.
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.
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.
Everybody Activites
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. 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 or sequencing events.
Fun and Freedom of Expression
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.
Provide your students with lots of options. Every person is better at one medium than
another. Let them try their hand at writing music lyrics, poems, raps, and plays. They will love
the chance to explore their creative side.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 292
Motivating Students
Games and Getting to Know Students
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 problem-solving
skills we like to encourage, while Scrabble promotes vocabulary and spelling. 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.
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.
The more you know your students as people, the better you will be able to relate to them.
Each student 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.
Helping others can be motivating to students. It provides them with a chance to show what
they know and to be appreciated. Provide opportunities for your students to help you as a
teacher assistant.
Students can help one another when partnered together in class for activities and projects.
Have students create study groups within the class. This also helps with developing important
skills of networking with others.
The more students can see the connections between what they are learning and real life,
the more they will be motivated. Even subjects or reading material that can be viewed as dry
and dull takes on new meaning when presented in a way that connects it to the real world or to
student’s lives. How can you present your subject material so that it comes alive for students?
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 293
Motivating Students
Journaling, continued
Students can create a learning log by writing down what they have learned for the day. It
can also be used on a weekly basis. The only rule is that students must use complete
sentences. Journaling provides the transfer necessary to make a concept real. It also allows
the teacher to check periodically on a student’s individual progress. Journals are a great way
to demonstrate knowledge of a concept, show understanding, and give directions on how to
complete a task or solve an equation. A journal entry also works great as a closure activity.
We discuss additional ideas for using Journals in all subject areas in the Reading and Writing
Across the Curriculum chapter.
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.
Life Size and Letter Writing
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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 294
Motivating Students
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 best friend 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.
Odd Shapes and Open Sharing
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.
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.
Paper Bag Activities
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.
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 295
Motivating Students
Poems, Paper Bags, and Pop-up Books
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.
Abraham Lincoln
The pattern is:
Honest and just,
Line 1: Person’s name/ Concept
Fighting a bitter war,
Line 2: 2 adjectives to describe
Leading a broken nation,
Line 3: An action phrase with an -ing word
Living on through time,
Line 4: An action phrase with an -ing word
A Man for the Ages.
Line 5: An action phrase with an -ing word
Line 6: Wrap up word or phrase that is a
synonym for line one
Hot and Fierce,
Spitting out ash and rocks,
Spilling out lava,
Covering everything in sight,
New land is formed.
Pop-Up Books
Pop-up books are such a fun way to publish student writing. Just for something different,
have students publish their information in an illustrated pop-up book. Students simply fold one
or more pieces 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. Glue or staple the
pages together on the crease.
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.
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!
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
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
The internet is an excellent source to find books of quotes or even websites full of quotes
ready to be used.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 296
Motivating Students
Remembering Names and Researching
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 student’s face and name together. You’ll see
their face light up, no matter what age, when on the second day you say hello to each along
with their name.
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.
Have students research fun, interesting, and unusual topics. For example, when
studying a culture, have someone investigate hair-styles, clothing trends, or favorite
desserts! In Chemistry, how many elements are used in health and beauty products, to
make jewelry, or in cooking?
Sentence Strips
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.
Transparencies and True/False
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 297
Motivating Students
Unwrapping and Underlining
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
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.
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
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
When students are studying a new math concept, have them make a travel brochure to
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
W 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 298
Motivating Students
X-tra Small or Large
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.
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.
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 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 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!
Zooming In and Zest
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Motivating Students
Page 299
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
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.
“Do not
hesitate in
asking the
teachers for
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 300
“Take the
time to find
out what
interests each
student and
use that to
help motivate
Motivating Students
Find out if your school has a walk-in room, resource room, pullout 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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Motivating Students
Page 301
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
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
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.
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.
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.
“Keep your
eyes open for
students who
need special
Do you see a
between their
and their
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 302
Motivating Students
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
Students with no English language skills
“Respect an
ESL student’s
need for
silence when
faced with a
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
Restate/ paraphrase
Use Gestures
Explain or define any and all terms used in class.
Use illustrations and photographs; label items in the room
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
Pair with a student who can fluently speak their language and
can help translate.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Motivating Students
Page 303
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
Use role-play and retelling of content area text.
Have students create books.
Do not assume that the students have the appropriate academic
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.
Have students
thermometers to
help them show
you their level of
comfort and
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 304
Motivating Students
Students with fluent language skills
“Keep your
ESL students
involved in all
ESL students,
just like all of
our students,
work best in
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.
Provide realistic writing opportunities.
Provide visuals to help with comprehension.
Publish student writings.
Encourage them to use both of their languages as a translator.
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
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.
No Clue
I get it!
Thank you to Connie
Skipper, ESL teacher,
Garland ISD for sharing
this idea with us!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
Page 305
Motivating Students
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
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.
This page may be reproduced for classroom use only.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers
Motivating Students
Notes/ Reflection of Chapter
Technology in the
in the
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 high-tech 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.
Technology in the Classroom
Page 308
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Technology in the Classroom
Page 309
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 inbetween 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
•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.
“Power Point can
take the place of
the chalkboard
and multiple
handouts for
•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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Technology in the Classroom
Page 310
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:
letters and
forms using
Word or
other word
allows you
to save on
disk an edit
as needed.”
•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
•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
•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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Technology in the Classroom
Page 311
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
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!
•Teach word processing skills for writing pieces and projects.
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
information they’ve
learned. Excel can
be used to create
their own charts
and graphs as a
way of organizing
and intepreting
Give students
meaningful uses of
computer programs
as part of their
learning and watch
them blow you
away with their
•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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 312
Technology in the Classroom
•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
“Don’t forget
importance of
students to
using the
More Ideas
Create spreadsheets using mathematical equations
Study and draw geometric figures using Draw or Paint
Create graphs, charts, tables and diagrams to represent
Practice math skills using the variety of math programs
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Technology in the Classroom
Page 313
Social Studies
• Use CD Roms, Software, Internet and Email for research
Example: Take a “Tour of the White House” over the Internet!
• 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
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
Check with your
librarian and/or
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
• Create cards for classmates and family
• Students can practice grammar and reading skills using
programs in your school.
• Create a website to share information or publish written
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 314
Technology in the Classroom
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…
are an
student can
benefit from
time spent
on the
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.
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
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Technology in the Classroom
Page 315
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
Ways to use this technology:
• Good Videos for Classroom use:
National Geographic videos on Nature, Geology,
Animals, and History
Videos of IMAX films
Relevant appropriate 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.
“ A short video
or music clip is
an excellent
way to
introduce a
programs, and
internet sites
showing them
to your class.”
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 316
Technology in the Classroom
“For most
in your
lesson is
part of the
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?
LCD Panel or Presentation
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
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!
Notes for lecture
Teach editing/word
processing skills
Show students how
to use a particular
computer program
Give class
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!
Overhead Projector
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
assessment tool.
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Technology in the Classroom
Page 317
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 adultonly 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
preview web
sites before
students look
at them.
It is important
to closely
internet use
by students.”
Content Resources:
Color Landform Atlas of the United States
National Geographic
Presidents of the United States
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Technology in the Classroom
Page 318
Content Resources Continued:
My Own Favorite
Web Sites:
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Technology in the Classroom
Page 319
Content Resources Continued:
Bill Nye - The Science Guy
My Own Favorite
Web Sites:
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
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.
Career Bound
I’m ready
to start
in the
and need
a job.
What do I
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 - - 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 322
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
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.
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
Basic biography information - name, address, etc.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 323
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
-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.
“Think about
your first,
second, and
third choice
of teaching
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
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 6th 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 324
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.
“Subbing is
a great way
to get
noticed and
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.
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 325
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, thank-you 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.
“Your cover
letter should
you to
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.”
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 326
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,
mailing a
resume, it is
vital to have
a cover
I want to applaud you and the other teachers at Verifine High
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.
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 tin a positive
and caring classroom environment where trust and respect are
highly valued. I can see these same values and beliefs within
your school, and feel that I would be a positive addition to your
I would like to meet with you to discuss the wonderful work you
are doing at Verifine High 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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 327
Cover Letter Elements:
Introduction with positive comments about school
2nd paragraph has university information and teaching
3rd paragraph requests a meeting
How do you get personalized information about the
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
Create a website
for yourself that
includes a picture,
information, your
philosophy, and
other important
items for principals
to review.
You might even
want to post your
teaching portfolio
on a website rather
than having to
leave your original
with an
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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 328
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
should be
clear and
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 Association.
• Texas Provisional Certificate— Secondary English, 7-12
Secondary Reading, 7-12
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
- 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.
Enjoy writing stories, reading, swimming, cross-stitching and
playing the flute.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 329
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
-use binder folders to hold loose papers
Artifacts to include:
should reflect
both who you
are as a
person and
as a
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 330
Career Bound
Organization of Portfolio:
There are a variety of ways to organize your portfolio. Here
are a few that you can consider using:
By artifacts
Use tabbed dividers and
label each section according
to the artifacts found within.
Some sections might include:
-Teacher qualifications
-Lessons/ units
-Professional development
“An organized
presents and
By teaching standards
You might want to organize
your artifacts according to
different teaching standards
and/or responsibilities. Your
sections might include:
-Professional qualifications
-Curriculum and Instruction
-Classroom Climate
-Parental Involvement
-Meeting needs of ALL students
(ESL, Special Education,
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 331
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.
“The District
comes first,
then you’ll be
contacted by
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
Describe for me how you would deal with a student discipline
How do you incorporate technology in the classroom?
How you do you communicate/ involve parents in the
If we were to walk into your class at any given moment, what
would it look like?
·What are some lessons/units you have planned?
Don’t worry about having a
smooth, off-the-cuff
answer for each question.
for your
The interviewer expects you to be
nervous and knows that you might
stumble over your answers.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Career Bound
Page 332
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 333
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
Below is a sample Educational Platform:
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.
Learning concepts should be integrated so that students can see
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
Another area that many principals understand as an area of
weakness is integrating technology into the classroom.
What would your
strengths be as a
teacher? Below are
some examples:
Strong rapport with
Utilize proactive
Have a natural flair
for delivering
interesting lessons
Use higher-level
thinking skills and
techniques to
expand lessons.
Areas that will not be acceptable as your weakness:
• Math
• Reading
• Parent Communication
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Career Bound
Page 334
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
research the
policy on
They will be older than the other students
They may lose their self esteem
They will be bored because they’ve already experienced the
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 student, but rather offers them a “do over”.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 335
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
Some educators feel very strongly against the issue of
mainstreaming, while others would rather have all students in their
classroom. It is important 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 may receive. Remember, no
matter how much you pretend, children can always sense how you
feel about them.
Typical Class/ Typical Day
“Students can
always tell
how you feel
about them,
even if you
verbalize it.”
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.
Think about your subject area. How would you begin the
class to get students engaged? Would you use sponge
activities? Would your lessons be hands-on or textbook
oriented? How would you close your lessons?
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.
*Remember, a sponge
activity is an assignment
ready for students to
complete as soon as they
enter the classroom.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 336
Career Bound
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
“A wellprepared
thinks about
how their
classroom will
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 mini-lessons 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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 337
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
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?
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.
“Remember, a
built on trust
and respect
does not have
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 338
Career Bound
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.
“Most districts
follow similar
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.
Thank You
Remember to write
a thank-you note!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 339
The Hiring Process
Most districts follow similar policies for hiring procedures.
If you have applied early, say in February or March, you can
pretty much depend on waiting until at least May or June before
you are called again.
Teachers who are already under contract with the
district must be placed in a school before any new
hires can take place.
“If you do not
receive a call
by June, do
not panic!”
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
“Districts are
required to
handle their
before they
can hire
anyone new.”
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.
Be Patient! Although time seems to crawl
while you are waiting - your turn will come!
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 340
Career Bound
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.
“Don’t feel
to accept
the first job
you are
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
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.
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
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.
Career Bound
Page 341
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 and/or courses. Do not hesitate to specify
grade levels/courses you would feel most comfortable teaching.
If you leave it up to the principal, you may end up teaching just
about anything.
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
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
Hands-on versus textbook/ worksheet?
Typical Lesson (Opening, Meat of Lesson, Closing)
“A wellprepared
knows the
issues that
are important
to each
school when
• 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 information?
• Do you have them reflect in journals or
review concepts in their own words as
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 342
Career Bound
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
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
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Career Bound
Page 343
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
Be assertive, but not aggressive. Use your “teacher” voice and
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 conversation
and demeanor, and you will find yourself a bonafide classroom
“Use as many
resources as
you can to
help you get
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 Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Page 344
Career Bound
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
5) Why would it be a good idea to research a district’s website and philosophies before the
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.
Notes/ Reflection on Chapter
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 345
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 Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Inspiring Teachers Quick Order Form
Fax orders: 972-495-2702. Send this form.
Telephone orders: Call 1-877-496-7633 toll free. Have your credit card ready.
Internet orders: Have your credit card ready.
Postal orders: Inspiring Teachers, 2510 Meadowridge Dr., Garland, TX 75044, USA
Products Available - View our online catalog at
Survival Kit for New Teachers - $36.95
Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers - $29.95
ABC’s of Effective Parent Communication - $17.95
Mr. Tim’s Tips for New Teachers - $12.95
Classroom Materials/Gifts
Yacker Tracker Traffic Light - $39.95
TAG Attention Getter - $18.95
Teacher Therapy CD - $15.00
Teacher Therapy Tape - $10.00
Please send the following products:
Unit Cost
Please send more FREE information on:
Staff Development Workshops
National Association for Beginning Teachers
email address:
Sales tax: Please add 8.25% for products shipped to Texas addresses.
U.S.: 15% of the total order. Order 4 or more, 10% of total. Order 10 or more, 5% of total
International: Same as above plus $15.00 to cover International shipping charges.
Card Number:
Credit Card:
Exp. Date:
Billing Zip Code:
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
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
Page 350
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: McDonald and Hershman
Page 351
© 2003 Survival Kit for New Secondary Teachers: Empowering Beginning Educators
Was this manual useful for you? yes no
Thank you for your participation!

* Your assessment is very important for improving the work of artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project

Download PDF