Classroom Solutions > 112 posts categorized "Writing"

Comments: 1

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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Poetic Beginnings: Four Poetry Lessons to Get to Know Your Students

Amys PoemMany curriculum guides would have us believe that poetry and April are conjoined twins, never to be parted, but we teachers know better. Poetry is powerful stuff, and cramming it into a single month is unfair to our students and to poetry! In my class, we read, write, and publish poetry throughout the year, and I frontload the first two months of school with even more poetry. We gain deep insights about each other while sharing our poetry, we luxuriate in words, and we celebrate creative risks –- important back-to-school practices. Here are four of my back-to-school poetry lessons that I use to get to really know my students.

 

Amy shares one of her published poems.

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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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Comments: 38

What’s in a Name? A Back-to-School Literacy Unit

NametagDuring the first few weeks of school, I always find it challenging to come up with a meaningful unit of study so that my students can feel as though they are accomplishing something beyond learning a bunch of routines. There’s the obvious imperative to build our classroom community. On top of that, the empty bulletin boards in the classroom are glaring at us, demanding student work so our classroom can begin to look “lived in.”

Last year, I had wonderful results using a name unit as our first shared literacy experience. Read on to find out what my students did. (This post includes a list of read-alouds and graphic organizers to support the unit.)

 

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Comments: 4

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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Comments: 6

Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 4

Kindergarten Weather Station CenterWhen we study weather in science, our dramatic play center becomes a weather station. With self-made instruments, hands-on experiments, and — as always — plenty of literacy, the weather station inspires the children with a sense of wonder and awe for the natural world.

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Comments: 2

Celebrate Writing and Young Authors!

DSC00722Every day in my classroom students spend time writing, either by themselves or with partners. Some students illustrate books while others peer edit or meet with me. Every week, we have Writers Workshop in our classroom, and when a student has a completed book, they present it at Author's Chair. I am pleased to share with you a fun Author's Chair video featuring several of my students. Enjoy!

Giveaway winners announced at the end of this post!

 

 

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Comments: 12

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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Comments: 2

Differentiate Your Kindergarten Classroom

Differentiating in KindergartenIt's a fact: every child is unique, and as teachers we know that more than anyone else. So why do we often find ourselves trying to teach every child the same way?

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Comments: 4

Stretch Your Dime and Save Your Time

Miss Bindergarten Saves Money and Time Teachers need all the help they can get, financially and otherwise. Use these tips, shortcuts, and dollar store ideas to save your budget and your sanity.

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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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Comments: 1

Celebrating Poetry

Vasicek Poetry Practice DrumsA recurring theme in many of my blog posts is the importance of providing students with an authentic audience for their knowledge and skills. Sure, some students will do a great job in school because they have that kind of work ethic, but others need to know that there is a bigger purpose. One of the top five memories in my class for the past six years is Poetry Night. This is a night that stretches comfort zones, demonstrates extreme teamwork, and allows students to showcase their creativity and poetic talents. And when it is all over, what a sense of accomplishment!   

Photo: Rehearsing the drums that are played in between poems.

 

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Comments: 18

State Assessments: Note-Taking & Writing Strategies

MBlow0411_shutterstock_63405031_girl_writing-2Last week, I received an email from a good friend who shared test-taking tips that she is using in her classroom. The other day, a 6th grader in an unidentified U.S. location wrote, thanking me profusely for the test-taking tips that I had posted on my Web site. She wanted me to know that she is “less nervous to take the exam.” The next email was from a fellow blogger, Renee, who was looking for paired passages to use for state test review. It is evident that teachers and students across the country are in state testing mode. Read on for some of the review strategies I use in my classroom.

Photo copyright Shutterstock/jeka.

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Comments: 2

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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Comments: 2

Adventures With Books: One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies

One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
Join my class as we turn the book One Tiny Turtle into a unit of fun and exciting learning experiences. This lyrical and informative look at the elusive and endangered loggerhead turtle is sure to delight young nature lovers.

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Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan

BookcoverThis year, I was blessed to receive a class set of Chu Ju's House by Gloria Whelan, which tells the story of Chu Ju, a 14-year-old Chinese girl struggling to survive in a country where males are traditionally valued more than females. When Chu Ju's parents decide to give her baby sister away because of the One-Child Policy, Chu Ju leaves home with her. Teaching literature from other cultures requires a considerable amount of background knowledge. However, it is exciting learning about different cultures, and that excitement spreads through the class.

After reading Chu Ju’s House, students engage in a mini research project, exploring an aspect of Chinese culture alluded to in the novel. This assists the students in developing a thorough understanding of the legal and cultural conflicts presented in the novel. In this post, you'll find a study guide, instructions for a vocabulary wall mobile, and  SMART Notebook activities.

 

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Comments: 2

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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Comments: 4

Motivating Middle School Students

IMG_5957It takes a special breed to teach middle school students. Teens and preteens thrive on drama, struggle with hormones, and explode with emotions. As if that isn’t enough, this time of year we also have to contend with a spring fever epidemic. Many students shut down as snow banks thaw and the Canada geese return to the North Country. With ten weeks left in the school year and only one month before state tests, we cannot allow students to check out. So, how do we motivate our middle school students and keep them engaged in learning? Celebrate their achievements and give them choice and voice. This post describes some of the ways teachers celebrate student achievement at my school, and a video illustrates what one student chose to do when given voice and choice.

 

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Comments: 6

State Assessments: Extended Response

SMART_Notebook_ER_picAre you feeling the pressure of state tests? With Race to the Top and looming state testing season, many of us are feeling anxious. At this point in the year, my goal is to help my 6th grade students transfer the skills they learned throughout the year to the state tests. This week's post includes resources and strategies for teaching the extended response, or essay portion, of the assessments. Included is a SMART Notebook lesson for outlining the essay and serving a little TEA to reduce anxiety.

 

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Comments: 2

Explore Childhood Themes With a Kevin Henkes Author Study

Kevin Henkes Author StudyTo strengthen my students as readers and writers, I had them take to the Reader's Chair and the Author's Chair to share their responses to a study on Kevin Henkes, who writes and illustrates books about lovable mouse characters who express common childhood feelings, fears, and fantasies. After evaluating his writing style and comparing the characters, settings, and themes of four of his books, my students showed off their own reading, writing, artistic, and critical-thinking skills.

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Comments: 5

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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Comments: 8

Middle School Literature Circles

IMG_5890Okay, I confess: I thrive on organization and structure in my classroom. My students like routines, and I like to know what progress each student is making on a daily basis. If you are like me, then your first experience with literature circles may just put you over the edge. Relinquishing control of my classroom was not easy. Read how I learned to let go and guide my students through the organized chaos of literature circles. 

 

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Comments: 2

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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Comments: 4

Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 3

Kindergarten Literacy CentersCome visit our kindergarten post office center, Terrific Tiger Post Office. It is located in our classroom at 12 ABC Street in Terrific Tiger Town, SE (Squires Elementary).

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Comments: 8

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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Comments: 7

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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Comments: 6

Easy Writing Ideas for Early Writers

Writing in PreK and Kindergarten“Easy writing ideas?” you ask. “But my students don’t even know how to write!” You’re in luck. These ideas are suitable for children with limited word and print knowledge, in the beginning stages of reading and writing. Each can be adapted for any ability level, from prewriter to fluent writer. By providing options for students at different stages in their literacy journey, you help them build confidence and set every child up for success in writing.

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Comments: 12

Analyzing Characters with WALTeR

Lead_photo_walter
One day, I was driving to school, pondering my frustration over the impending state test dates that were approaching, yet my students were still struggling with identifying specific details to support a character trait. It was apparent they needed another approach. They needed a mnemonic device to help them remember the type of details that would help them succeed, so I created WALTeR, a guide for identifying text-based relevant details that BEST support their claim. Walter needed to be memorable, someone they could visualize and remember. (Clip art created with ToonDoo.com by Mary Blow)

 

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Comments: 6

I Love to Read! Surefire Ways to Create Lifelong Book Lovers

I Love to Read Month February is “I Love to Read Month,” the perfect time to assess if your students do, in fact, love to read. Are they captivated by good stories? Does reading fill them with excitement and enthusiasm? Do they play with the sounds of language in a literature-rich environment that promotes active learning through highly engaging activities? If the answer to any of these questions is no (and even if it’s yes!), it may be time to arm yourself with a repertoire of techniques guaranteed to get every child in your class saying “I love to read!”

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Comments: 10

Compound Sentences

Fanboys_posterEach year, I make it a goal to focus on grammar. Last year, I became determined to find a solution to the problem of run-on sentences. Each time after reading student writing, I found myself repeating the age-old question, “What is a sentence?” My students could explain the components of a sentence: subject, predicate, capital letters at the beginning, and ending punctuation. With some prompting they could conclude that a sentence must have a complete thought. So, how was it that they could identify a sentence and explain what one is, and still write paragraph-long, never-ending sentences? How could I change this?

Read on to discover my solution. Included here is a SMART Board activity and a free FANBOYS poster.

 

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Comments: 5

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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Comments: 8

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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Comments: 2

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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Comments: 10

Valentine's Day Sweets & Heartbeats Across the Curriculum

The Heart on Valentine's DayValentine's Day is my favorite holiday at school. It's easy for kids to understand.  The decorations are pretty hearts and flowers, and the focus is on friendship, love, and kindness. I like to extend the easygoing and cheerful atmosphere all day and all across the curriculum. Read on to find activities in every subject area that center around my favorite thing: the heart.

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Comments: 2

Teaching about the Tension in Egypt

Deserto___There is a lot of excitement going on in Egypt these days. What is it all about? What would an elementary student need to know? What could you possibly connect it to? What lessons can be learned by discussing the situation? Below are some ways you might incorporate Egypt into your curriculum.

 

Photo courtesy m_bartosch.

  

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Comments: 4

Hitting a Home Run With Civil Rights

IMG_5793When I first started teaching a Civil Rights unit, my goal was to have my students write an essay for the Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers Essay Contest. This writing activity has grown into a multigenre thematic unit because my students are so engaged in the topics of baseball and Civil Rights. Jackie is famous for breaking the color barrier in baseball; however, he is also renowned for overcoming the barriers in his life by remaining faithful to his values: courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment, and excellence.

 

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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: 20

Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 2

Kindergarten Literacy CentersOne of my students' favorite dramatic play centers is a bakery. It's not only fun, it's also full of ways to practice literacy. And with a good name and logo, all it costs is a little effort.

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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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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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Comments: 12

A Teen Soap Opera to Learn SAT Vocabulary

DSC01247 Because I teach in a low-income, urban high school, where many students do not speak English as their first language, my students often have difficulty building their vocabulary. Yet increasing their vocabulary is extremely important: vocabulary is critical to students' reading success, and a wide-ranging vocabulary helps students communicate more effectively when writing, speaking, and listening. In addition, students' confidence improves both academically and socially when their vocabulary increases. Further, students will soon face state testing, SAT testing, and Advanced Placement courses, all of which will require them to employ an ever-increasing vocabulary.

Read on to find out how my class learned new vocabulary words and so much more when they wrote and produced their own high school soap opera.

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Ringing in the New Year With a Kid-Friendly Las Vegas Party

Las Vegas New Year's Party for Kids On the last day of school before Christmas break, our class had a party to celebrate the end of school in 2010. Since I teach in Las Vegas, it was only natural to have a kid-friendly version of the party that many parents and other grown-ups would experience on New Year's Eve. This New Year's party included Las Vegas-style New Year's fun and games, New Year's crafts, and New Year's resolutions for kids.

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Comments: 5

Netbooks in the Classroom

IMG_5485 What does a 21st century classroom look like? This year, as a part of a federal building grant, our school district purchased 11 wireless portable computer carts, each of which houses 27 netbooks. Over the past month, I have been piloting a wireless portable computer cart in my classroom. There have been many hurdles along the way; however, empowering each student by giving them a computer has been enlightening and exhilarating. The rewards are well worth all the time and effort I have put into piloting them.    

 

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Comments: 6

Axis of Hope

Axis of Hope Double Circl I recently attended a New England Association of Schools and Colleges conference. The luncheon keynote speaker was a man named Carl Hobert, who is the founder and director of an organization called Axis of Hope. I was riveted by Mr. Hobert's address, in which he discussed how Axis of Hope works with adolescents to help them develop an understanding of alternative, nonviolent approaches to resolving complex conflicts locally, nationally, and internationally. I knew right away that this was something that would be powerful in my own school. Read on to find out what happened when we held an Axis of Hope workshop at Revere High School.

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Comments: 5

The Catcher in the Rye — Thoughtful Laughter vs. "Bathroom" Humor

DSC01165 Popular culture today all too often embraces a type of crass humor commonly referred to as "bathroom humor" or "scatological humor." Movies, TV shows, cartoons, and popular comedians all seem to capitalize on this type of humor in order to get a laugh from an audience.

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Friendly Letters: Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

Friendly_letters_SMART_board_title_page Thanksgiving is the perfect time to immerse students in an authentic writing experience. In my class, we write friendly letters to give thanks to a family member, friend, neighbor, or former teacher who has had an impact on our lives. Although my goal is to teach the friendly letter, the students learn the value of taking the time to let others know how much they inspire us and how much we appreciate them. Included in this article is a SMART Notebook lesson and a video that illustrates how to use the interactive components.

 

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Comments: 9

Thanksgiving — A Time for EVERYONE to Give Thanks

DSC01144 High school students today are tremendously overscheduled. They go from school to clubs, sports, and work. They take Advanced Placement classes, SAT prep courses, and they volunteer and do community service. And once they leave middle school, the Thanksgiving-themed assignments and activities completely disappear, and with them, the opportunity to reflect and take stock.

 

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Teaching Word Processing Skills in English Class

TypingI can’t imagine being proficient at my job without keyboarding skills. There is too much to do with so little time. Likewise, the ability to use a word processor to communicate is important to our students’ success in school and in the real world. However, at the 6th grade level, many students are still developing keyboarding skills. For this reason, it is essential that I include keyboarding in my middle school curriculum. Otherwise, utilizing technology as a form of communication is counterproductive. It consumes too much instructional time. We know that students pick up keyboarding easily. The texting generation is very quick with the thumb. They simply need the tools and the practice to expand this skill to all ten fingers.

Included in this article are videos on formatting essays in Microsoft Word and inserting footnotes into Microsoft Word documents.

 

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Comments: 8

A Night at the Opera

DSC01123In my very first post, I wrote about Jenny Kelly, the director of the World Classical Performing Arts Society, founder and director of the Baltimore Opera Theatre, and director of Teatro Lirico D'Europa. I first met Jenny when I contacted her after seeing an ad in The Boston Globe for Teatro Lirico D'Europa's performance of La Traviata, which was coming to a theater in Boston.

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Comments: 14

Score! Teachers and Parents Team Up to Reach a Common Goal

SHC01If a child's teacher and parents have the same goal — to help the child succeed at school — then they are a TEAM that needs to communicate and cooperate with each other. After all, nothing exists in a vacuum. What affects the child at school will affect the child at home, and vice versa. The two-way school-home connection is the most important factor in the child's education.

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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.