Classroom Solutions > 90 posts categorized "9-12"

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Going Paperless in the Classroom

AamcscI am reluctant to guess how much paper waste we create in my classroom alone, but I know it's substantial. So I've set a goal of going paperless in my English class within two years. Read on to learn about why this is important — and why it will benefit my students — and how I intend to do it.

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Five Tips for Creating the Problem-Free Group Project

Group1Assigning group work can be very frustrating. Reflecting back on my first year, I'm amazed at how out-of-control and unorganized my group projects were. I'm sure when the principal walked by my room, my class looked very chaotic. My students didn't understand my directions, the target was not clear, my expectations were off, and I wasn't sure how to grade them. But I took good notes on what worked and what didn't, and I did better the next year.

Though issues will arise with group projects, I continue to do them because the benefits are so great. Group work provides another form of assessment and takes students to a higher level of thinking. Students also learn to work on a team, an ability they will need in today's world. I've learned so much about myself and my students since I began group work. In this post, I'll share some of these things, along with five tips for creating a problem-free group project.

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Proposing the Use of E-readers in the Classroom

KindlepostThe idea of using e-readers in my classroom came to me several years ago. As textbooks become more expensive and school budgets continue to shrink, e-readers and e-books have become a popular option for schools. After researching e-readers and programs at other schools, I decided to put a proposal together for my school. 

Before launching a schoolwide program, I proposed that my school board pilot e-readers in my English classroom. As I prepared my proposal, I realized that my proposal revolved around three key questions: 1) Which e-reader best fits my school's needs? 2) How will e-readers be used? 3) How will e-readers benefit students in my classroom? These questions, along with a discussion of the benefits of e-readers, possible outcomes of the program, and the replacement cost of current materials, were all included in my proposal to use e-readers in the classroom.

 

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Three Classroom Activities to Celebrate Banned Books Week

Bbw11poster In the movie Field of Dreams, there is a scene at a school board meeting where PTO members are attempting to ban a book: The Boat Rocker by Terrence Mann. This scene is not far from reality. According to Banned Books Week.org, 348 books were challenged by various groups last year. As an English teacher, I see value in teaching literature. As a parent, I see value in censoring certain material for particular age groups. It is important that teachers select appropriate materials, but let's face it: Our students see many things that are far from appropriate. It is our responsibility also to teach life lessons to the best of our ability, though we have to be careful about how much we allow. As teachers, we must learn from the community and use our best judgment in the materials we select. With that said, September 24 - October 1 is Banned Books Week. I've created three activities to explore the concept of censorship, book bans, and specific titles that have been challenged or banned by particular groups.

 

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Building the Foundation for a Successful School Year

Classgroup Week Two of the 2011-2012 school year is already "in the books."  I cannot believe how time is flying by so quickly. My students are beginning to transition from summer to school. They are adapting to my teaching style and I'm doing my best to get to know and understand their learning styles. My mind is beginning to focus on ways to make this a successful school year for myself, my students, and my school. The three S's (Self/Students/School) are a work in progress for me. Each year, I strive to improve in these three areas, realizing it will be difficult to achieve perfection. Having a positive mindset and maintaining a balance in these areas will build the foundation for a successful school year.

 

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Using Five Web-based Tools to Motivate and Engage the 21st Century Writer

KeyboardIn his book, Content Area Writing, Jim Burke wrote that "writing is the most public performance of our intelligence." Writing is a skill that is needed and used regardless of the career our students pursue. People write for many different reasons and audiences.  Writing no longer involves just a pen and paper and through the Internet, the 21st century scribe has the ability to build an audience in seconds. As the media continue to evolve it is important that our students understand that a tweet, an Internet blog post, and a research paper should be written differently. In this post are five web-based tools I have used in my classroom to motivate and engage the 21st Century Writer.

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Ten Years Later: Remembering September 11th With an Oral History Project

Scholasticsept11postOn the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on my way to work in Springfield, Illinois.  Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when terrorists attacked our country 10 years ago this year. My current students, however, may have a difficult time remembering as freshman students were 4 to 5 years old when this significant event changed the course of history. Since I often refer to 9/11 when discussing various pieces of literature, I wanted my students to have a firm understanding of the event, and so created the Remembering September 11th lesson. This lesson is broken into three phases: class discussion, group research, and individual project.

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Planning for the First Day of Kindergarten

Welcome to school
 
The first day of kindergarten can be both exciting and frightening for students, parents, and the teacher too. There are mixed emotions everywhere as this day marks a huge milestone in the child's life. As teachers, we need to incorporate ideas to help ease first day jitters and start the school year off on the right track. Here are a few tips to help you plan for the first day of kindergarten.

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Three Tech Tools to Collect and Analyze Student Interest Data

ToolsOur classroom and teaching strategies must be student focused. Maintaining a positive teacher and student relationship is very important.  According to Jim Burke in his book The Teacher's Essential Guide Series: Classroom Management, "the student-teacher relationship is the cornerstone of an engaging, successful classroom."  To build relationships with my students, I first need to know them. Talking with them in the hallways and at lunch is a start, but I need to know what they enjoy and what their strengths and weaknesses are in the classroom. Using "icebreaker" activities gives me some perspective on their personality, but doesn't tell me if a student enjoys reading or knows how to use various technologies. I have used paper and pencil surveys, but it is very time consuming to collect and analyze the data. However, I have found three time saving tech tools to collect and analyze student interest data.

 

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Creating a Well-Managed Classroom

Expectations1The impression you make on the first day of school can make or break you when it comes to classroom management and organization. In my district, we have a very short first day, only spending about 15 minutes with each class. In some classes, students just sit around and talk, but I get down to business right away. Students in my class leave the first day with an assignment and a brief understanding of the format of the class.

You might be thinking, “You are overwhelming the freshman students on the first day.” I don’t see it as overwhelming the students. I see it as showing them the importance of beginning the learning process and not wasting any time. With that said, it is very important to build a strong rapport with students and not intimidate them. I believe that there are four things a teacher must do to create a well-managed classroom.

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Surviving the Back-to-School Transition

Blog1resize2Wow! This summer is flying by. The new school year is weeks away. The transition back to school is difficult whether we’ve been off for a couple months or just a few weeks. This year will be my fifth year going through the back to school transition as a teacher. Late nights and sleeping in will soon turn into late nights and getting up early to teach. The evenings spent by the pool or in front of the TV watching movies will turn into evenings preparing for lessons or grading. I know my students will struggle with the transition, too, so it is important that I am ready for the first day.

This transition doesn’t get any easier, but here are four things you can do to survive the transition back to school.

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Welcome to Jeremy Rinkel's Classroom

Walt Disney once said, “Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource — the minds of our children." I agree. Through lesson plans and class activities, teachers have the ability to mold and shape the children who will be running our businesses, defending our country, and leading our nation. These children will need critical thinking and creativity skills to solve the problems they will face. 

I’m Jeremy Rinkel, Scholastic’s Classroom Solutions teacher advisor representing 9th–12th grades, and in August 2011, I begin my fifth year teaching for South Central Community Unit District #401. South

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Director's Edit: Final Thoughts on the Year

Vasicek BrainThis is my farewell post. Before getting to the content, I'd like to thank Scholastic for allowing me the opportunity to share the magic that occurs behind the scenes in a classroom. I'd like to thank Special Days Camp, the students of Studio 24, and the Integrity Bros. for the continued inspiration and ideas. I'd like to thank any teacher, friend, student, family member, colleague, reader, or human that ever sparked an idea in my mind. From John Medina to Spencer Kagan, and from the author of The Hunger Games series to the inventor of spray paint, I thank you for your contribution to my classroom. Lastly, I'd like to thank you, my faithful readers. Your overwhelmingly positive comments, emails, and suggestions have made me a better teacher.

Although I could write at length about the value of all of the ideas that follow, the time is short. So the CliffsNotes version appears below. Here are a last few gems, for seasoned teachers or rookies, on which you can meditate this summer.

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Memorial Day, One More "High School Uncut," and Farewell!

225505_10150630603755327_599375326_18743702_4923027_nMy father, Sam Petriello, is a World War II veteran and a Marine corporal who fought in the last battle of Okinawa. He also served as a sergeant in the 2nd Infantry Division in the U.S. Army. Sam participated in the first landing in Japan and the surrender of Japanese forces in North China. At the age of 85, my father is the president-elect of the 6th Marine Division Association, and he still meets with his Marine Corps buddies the second Tuesday of every month. My father lost his brother, Louis, in the war, as well as many friends and comrades, so Memorial Day was always a special day when we were growing up. My father instilled in his children and grandchildren the love of God and country, and he taught us the values of loyalty and hard work. My final post is dedicated to him.

Photo: My father at a Fourth of July parade.

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One Look Back — Two Steps Forward

F81935817Where did the year go? It seems as though I was staring at a sea of unfamiliar faces just yesterday. In a few weeks, I'll be sending them on to 7th grade. Before sending them off, I take a few moments to have them reflect on the year. What was their favorite unit? What was the most important thing they learned? How could I make their learning experiences better? Then I collaborate with colleagues for about an hour, comparing notes, celebrating our successes, and discussing areas to target.

As hectic as these last few weeks are, it is important to take time to reflect on the year and create personal and professional goals while everything is fresh in your mind.   

Photo credit: iStockphoto/Tommydickson.

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Using Film As a Springboard to Writing in the ELA Classroom

DSC01566As an English teacher, I am always looking for new ways to engage students in the writing process. I am continually trying to find and create interesting writing prompts that engage and challenge my students. Two years ago when I was asked to teach a film elective, I was provided with a wonderful opportunity to develop a course that would encourage students to write in new and exciting ways.

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Cementing the Year With Jeopardy

Jeopardy Vasicek Categories 2It's near the end of the year. Some of the students are getting squirrelly. You are running out of steam, but this is the time that you need to push your hardest. What to do . . . what to do?

To be honest, right now you are not going to get much new material delivered in a memorable way. Brain research does not support cramming, so I prefer to concentrate on cementing what I have already taught. I do it with several rounds of Jeopardy. In the true spirit of the Kagan teachings, this maximizes student engagement.

 

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Summer Reading Books High School Girls Will Love

IMGA0002Ah, summertime! The beach, the sea, the pool. Long days and hot nights. The perfect time for summer reading. James S. Kim and Thomas G. White (2011) note that one of the reasons that low-income students lose ground to middle-income kids in reading is due, in large part, to different rates of learning during the summer months. Even small differences in summer learning accumulate over the years, resulting in an achievement gap that continues to grow from elementary to high school (p. 64). Kim and White also discovered, however, that it is not enough to just provide books for kids for summer reading. The key is to provide books that are individually matched to the students' interests and reading levels (p. 67).

The books on the list below have already been proven to appeal to teens. Although both genders could certainly enjoy them, these five books are tried and true favorites that will please a decidedly female audience. Books that match a teen's interest can help motivate students to read and help teens continue to improve their reading skills.

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Common Core State Standards

MBlow0510_iStock000012975998_tortoisehareThroughout my career, I have done extensive research on world folklore. Aesop, the father of fables, has blessed us with an infamous fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” cautioning against hurrying to reach a goal and suggesting that the slow and steady will win the race. I cling to the wisdom of this fable as we begin our journey toward educational reform. 

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

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Summer Reading Books High School Boys Will Love

DSC01549Research has shown that summer reading increases literacy and improves academic performance. By reading all summer long, students build their vocabulary and stave off the brain-drain that often occurs during summer months. Although most high schools provide summer reading lists for their students, some kids devour all the books the first week school is out (yes! it happens!) and start looking for more to read. Other kids are just searching for some great reading material. And while most reading is gender inclusive, there are certain books that boys find especially compelling.

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Conquering Test Anxiety

Brain_lead_photoWhether it's a unit test, final exam, or high-stakes state assessment, some students will suffer from test anxiety. Ironically, it is often the student who has the least to worry about who suffers the most. Other students will tell me that they are better at math. Their brain just doesn't like to write. I use brain exercises and music to help my students conquer test anxiety and wake up both sides of their brain. Included in this post is a video demonstrating activities that activate both hemispheres of the brain and reduce stress.

Photo copyright iStockphoto/Glepi.

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What We'll Do Differently Next Year

DSC01483 One of the greatest things about being teachers is that at the end of each year we can evaluate our past teaching experiences, change what didn't work, and plan new strategies with the hope of perfecting our practice. Even after sixteen years of teaching, I find that every June I ponder the passing year and decide what to get rid of, what to work on, and how to change curriculum and instruction so that come September, my classroom runs more smoothly.

I did an informal survey of teachers in my district and teaching friends across the nation, asking them, "What will you do differently next year?" Responses ranged from working on classroom management and time management to creating projects that tap into higher order thinking skills.

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Simple and Impressive Planet Art

Vasicek Final PlanetMy art skills were arrested at about the 4th grade level: My students can attest to that! So, when I was able to produce a pretty impressive planet scene in under 15 minutes, I was very proud of myself. When I told my students that I used spray paint to do it, they were impressed as well.

 

 

 

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The Art of Literary Criticism

DSC01459 A goal of the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition test, which helps to make sure that students are truly college ready, is the careful reading and critical analysis of literature. Literary criticism requires students to study, evaluate, and interpret what they read — a valuable tool for all students, not just those in an AP class. But what is the best way to do help students develop this skill? How can you get high school students to think deeply and critically about literature?

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Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Freakthemighty_xlg
Freak the Mighty is a highly readable book that addresses many serious issues, including domestic violence, alienation, and bullying. Through the story of the main characters, Max and Kevin, students can learn a great deal about themselves and others.

 

 

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Paying It Forward

ParentteacherWhen I attend a conference, my goal is to come away with techniques, ideas, or information that will improve my teaching, and my greatest hope is to leave inspired. This year at the Computer-Using Educators conference, both my goal and my hope were realized. Today I want to introduce one of the people who made this happen last week. He's amazing both in how he uses technology in his classroom, and also in who he is as a person and as a teacher. He is one of the people that I aspire to be more like. His name is Brent Coley, and I'm honored to have him write a guest post for this blog.

 


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The Read-A-Thon

DSC01434 A few years ago my former mentee, Kelly Andreoni, an English teacher and advisor to our school's book club, came up with a wonderful plan for an event that would not only only encourage students to read, but also raise money in a unique form of community service: a Read-A-Thon. This year, over 150 students took part, raising over $9,200 for a charitable organization called "Raising a Reader MA," which promotes literacy awareness among families in communities across the state, including our own city of Revere. Read on to see how Kelly organizes this fun and worthwhile event.

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Cool Web Tools for Teachers and Kids! Part Two

NJang_0323111_iStock_000001186054_Websurfing
Last week at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs I saw a ton of great presentations. This week I am excited to share what I learned during a great presentation called "Extreme Makeover: Web Site Edition" by Brent Coley, a 5th grade teacher in Murietta, California.  Read on for ten great suggestions for making your Web site interactive, informative, and useful with FREE, easy-to-use apps!

 

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Building Trust in a Classroom

Vasicek Wind WillowTrust. It's the foundation of any great relationship. Trust. It can take years to build and moments to shatter. Trust. Can be the difference between a pretty good class and a pretty great class. So how do you build it? Read on.

 

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Get Ready for National Poetry Month!

DSC01412 
April is National Poetry Month, the perfect time to help get reluctant readers interested in reading and analyzing poetry. It is often true that high school students struggle with poetry and have difficulty unlocking the meaning of poems. This introductory lesson helps to hook students on poetry by challenging them to solve the riddle that each poem presents. It's a great building block to more difficult and challenging analysis.

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Cool Web Tools for Teachers and Kids! Part One

DSC00459
I just came home from a fantastic technology conference in Palm Springs called Computer-Using Educators, or CUE, and my head is about to explode (in a good way). I would love to share some of these fantastic cool tools and apps with you. If you ever do any projects online or offline, have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, or are just a tech geek like me, hold on to your heads for some AMAZING tools that you can use right away, to make teaching easier in almost any grade level or to make your life easier at home. Special thanks to all the presenters at CUE for inspiring others to bring tech into their classrooms! Read on to check out some super amazing techy things to do with your class and some cool apps for you!

 

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The Historical News Broadcast

Vasicek ClapboardHave you ever wondered what a news report might have looked like if television had existed in the time of cavemen or Columbus? One of my favorite cross-curricular projects this year, blending technology and social studies, was a lesson I call the Historical News Broadcast.

 

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Tyranny and Prometheus Bound

DSC01364Helping students make real world connections to the works they read is an important part of teaching literature. When students comprehend the contemporary and historical links to literature, they have a much greater understanding of what they read. This year my sophomore class and I were fortunate enough to be part of a collaboration between the American Repertory Theater and Amnesty International in the Prometheus Project, a partnership designed to put the theater arts to the service of human rights advocacy.

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Using Lyrics for Beyond Literal Comprehension

Music FilomenaHoward Gardner suggests that intelligence is not merely being able to read or do mathematical calculations. It encompasses several different components, one of which is music. I like to use music in my classroom to manage the day and to tap into the talents of those students who are high on the musical intelligence spectrum. One way to engage these students in reading is to use lyrics to teach the difference between the literal and beyond literal meaning of texts.  

Photo courtesy of Filomena Scalise.

 

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Create a Literary Magazine

DSC01402Creating a literary magazine for your school teaches students the fundamentals of good writing and publishing and provides them with a place to see their writing in print. It gives them a sense of audience, which is crucial for young writers, and it can foster a community of young writers and give them status. Read on to see what else a literary magazine can do for your school and learn how to start one.

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Children of the Holocaust

IMG_5864 I recently received my February 28, 2011, issue of Time magazine. On the cover was a picture of youths from around the world with the subtitle, “The Generation Changing the World.” In my classroom, we are transitioning from the protests in the Middle East to the Holocaust. After introducing the literature circle books for the unit, I held up the Time issue and Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy and posed the question, “Why would Hitler fear the youth?” The question set my students on fire. The biggest problem of the day was tracking all the books that started flying out of my room. The resources below will help you create an English language arts and social studies integrated unit on the Holocaust.

 

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The Good Old Book Report

DSC01391 Book reports seem part of the realm of middle school and elementary school. You don't often hear of students doing book reports in high school, but I feel much can be learned by doing such an assignment in the higher grades. A book report can challenge the student to use higher order thinking skills in order to understand and interpret literature.

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Books That Inspire Teens

DSC01294 I recently attended the College Board New England Regional Forum and had the pleasure of introducing the guest speaker, Wes Moore, author of the book, The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates. I had not read Wes' book yet, but I was certainly impressed with the author's background and his ability to ignite a room of about four hundred educators (no small task, as we all know). Through preparing my introduction, I learned that Wes Moore is a youth advocate, an Army combat veteran, a businessman, and a non-profit leader, as well as an author.

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Egyptian Students Speak Out

DSC01346Revere High School is a gateway community, with students from every corner of the globe. This diversity allows our students to truly be citizens of the world. They are able to share their worldview and their experiences with one another. When the revolution ignited in Egypt, many of our students were able to give accurate accounts and personal perspectives of the events as they unfolded.

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Digital Communication: Student-Designed Commercials

Movie ReelBeing able to effectively communicate in the 21st century is essential. Advertisers have efficient communication down to an art. (And at $3 million for a 30-second Superbowl slot, they'd better!) They must pick the perfect story, image, background, words, and music to engage an audience and sell a product in under a minute. By creating their own commercials, students learn to pay attention to detail and discover some fun technology.  

 

Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.

 

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Protests Prompt Change in Egypt

01_AP110130027268Why is the world concerned about the protests in Egypt? Throughout world history, there have been many historical protests. People assemble and protest for many different reasons: political, financial, social, religious, etc. Whatever the reason, change is the ultimate goal. Some of these protests have led to significant changes while others have been less effective. Whether or not a protest brings about significant or positive change, the fact remains that people, if suppressed and silenced, will assemble and protest whether or not it is a constitutional right. The following resources and activities provide the opportunity for students to explore world protests by comparing and contrasting past protests with current events in Egypt.

Photo: An Egyptian mother hugs her child as she watches thousands of Egyptian protesters gather at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday, January 30, 2011. Copyright Amr Nabil/AP Images.

 

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Updates: Opera, High School Uncut SAT Vocab

DSC_0249On Friday, February 4, 2011, five sophomore boys from Revere High School had a most extraordinary experience: they got to be extras in Teatro Lirico D'Europa's performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston. I've told you all before how lucky we are that Jenny Kelly, director, provides us with sixty to one hundred free tickets for each of her performances in Boston, but this was straight-up-over-the-top! Teatro operas are quite the extravaganza: there is a full orchestra, and the opera is sung in Italian with English subtitles provided on a screen above the stage. Lucia di Lammermoor features one of the most famous mad scenes in all of opera — and this was the scene in which our boys appeared as extras, as seen in the photo, standing perfectly at attention.

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Danger on the Internet: A Lesson in Critical Thinking

Internet Danger SalvatoreArguments on Jerry Springer, cat fights on Jersey Shore, WWE wrestling — the line between reality and manufactured entertainment is forever being blurred. My momma always said, Don't believe everything you read. Don't believe everything you see. These phrases are more true today than ever before. With all the recent technological advancements, it is increasingly difficult to tell the real from the fake. We must arm our students with critical-thinking skills so they can separate the fact from the fiction and use the Internet safely.

Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.

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Comments: 2

Heads Up on Substance Abuse

Heads_upThere are two schools of thought on the prevention of alcohol and substance abuse. Some believe that educating our youth will intensify their curiosity and perhaps encourage them to experiment with alcohol or drugs. Others believe that educating young people will deter them from experimenting with alcohol and drugs because they will understand the psychological and physiological effects these substances have on their bodies. Either way, I am sure that if you are a middle school or high school teacher, you are aware of the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse. This article provides resources and classroom activities for educating middle and high school students about substance abuse.

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Educating Teens About Drugs — The National Institute on Drug Abuse

DSC01340Drug and alcohol abuse continues to plague teenagers, and parents and teachers are often at a loss about how to handle this important issue. I grew up in the '70s, when there was a great deal of glorification of drug use in the media and very little information about the dark, dangerous side of drug use and addiction. With the advent of the information age, however, there are plenty of resources to help educate and inform students about the dangers of drug use.

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Comments: 3

Children of the River

DSC01310[1]I teach in an urban school system that is considered a "gateway" community. We are, after all, about five minutes away from Logan Airport. There are over forty-six languages spoken at our school, and most students speak a language other than English as their first language. Many of these are Cambodian Americans. A large number of Cambodian refugees settled in Revere in the 1980s and 1990s, and many of my students' families experienced the horrors of the Khmer Rouge firsthand. For this reason and others, Children of the River is perfect for my classes. 

 

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Comments: 8

Why You Should Become a National Board Certified Teacher

DSC01296Teachers understand that being a lifelong learner is a core responsibility of their profession. Professional development opportunities abound for teachers, some of it very good and some of it, well, not so good. Of all the professional development activities that I have taken part in during my sixteen-year teaching career, the most powerful, rewarding, and informative one was applying for and receiving National Board Teacher Certification (NBTC). It was also the most difficult and challenging one, but in the end, the process greatly informed my practice, and I truly believe it made me a better teacher.

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Mr. Vasicek's Classroom Music Playlist

Music 3 renjith KrishnanAfter reading my post "Music to Manage Your Classroom," some of you wanted to know some good tunes to play in your classroom. Grab your iTunes gift card and get ready to download some of the songs I use regularly in my classroom. Enjoy!

 

Photo courtesy of Rinjith Krishnan.

 

 

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Comments: 4

Resources That Bring Poetry to Life

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Nothing makes me happier than coming across a good resource, a one-stop gold mine. In this post, I am sharing my favorite poetry resources with hopes that it will save you precious time. The resources are used by teachers to design interactive lessons and by students in designing poetry projects or presentation: acting out poems, imitating poems, writing poems, and collecting favorite poems or lines to keep in a journal.

 

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Comments: 3

Martin Luther King Jr. and Common: I Have a Dream

DSC01278Today is Martin Luther King Day, and beyond the fact that they get a day off from school, I'm wondering if my students know much about the man who worked so hard to advance freedom in this country.

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Solutions are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Scholastic Inc.