StarTeaching Newsletter Past Articles

The First Year Teacher -

“Not Exactly What I Was Expecting to Teach”

By Becky Heckman, High School Teacher

First year teachers find themselves facing many challenges, and sometimes their class schedule is one of them. When I’m asked, “What do you teach?”, I answer, “High school Chemistry and Special Education Math.” The next response is usually “That’s a different combination.”

They are right; it is. Especially, when my Bachelor of Science is in Biology! I think I have a great schedule this year, especially for a first year teacher. I basically have 3 preps: My chemistry classes are first and second hour, and I can repeat lesson plans for that. I then have prep hour, which gives me a chance to grade and clean up after Chem, before heading off to lunch. After that I move on to 4th hour in my Resource Room. In here I basically have two levels of students and then some Study skills kids. It's the same for the rest of the day. I try to prepare two separate math projects for the different levels and have "extra work" for my study skills kids. (In case they don't have any homework to work on.)

I am still struggling with being inside all day. When I was a stay at home mom, I had the ability to go outside for some fresh air whenever I wanted (or needed.) It is quite different being inside cement walls all day. Even with the window open and plants on my desk, it is just not the same. I should step out during my prep hour, but just haven't managed to make that part of my routine yet.

Why would I accept a position as diverse as mine? Well, folks it comes down to the teaching experience. This, of course is a requirement before your Provisional Certificate expires. (If you blew off that part of your education classes, read up on it as soon as possible.) The fact of the matter is: I am nearing my expiration date. This is 2004-2005 and my certificate will expire 2006. That means I have to have my 3 years experience and 18 credits of a planned program completed and filed, and apply for my Professional Certificate by next fall. Well, folks, I’m not as prepared as I should have been. Due to families, babies, money, and employment I have not pursued any credits toward this certificate. That means I now have to apply for an extension. When you start talking extension, it gets scary. To get an extension, I need only 10 credits and reasonable cause for the delay. However, there’s this chance that I might invest all this time and money into these 10 credits and then be turned down by the state. Refused. Rejected. Application denied. Not good.

Initially, I wanted to pursue a Master of Science in Biology at Northern Michigan University or Central Michigan University. However, I don't want to have to take 18 credits toward my planned program AND an additional 6 by Aug. 31, 2005. Therefore, I have decided to obtain my Master's in Special Education. Besides, not being able to take anymore oplant classes, the only drawback is that in our area there are few colleges that offer special Education master's. I began looking online at various sites and narrowing it down based on cost per credit hour. I liked Northern Michigan's Master Program, but as of now only some of the classes are offered online, and as much as I like the Upper Peninsula, I just can't spend my whole summer there! I'm pretty sure, my kids and husband wouldn't like that!

There is some advice I can pass along to new teachers. Regardless of money and family issues, I would suggest all future professional teachers invest slowly into their Planned Program so that time doesn’t sneak up on you. It is a necessary evil, which will really benefit the new teacher when done properly. In the meantime, don’t be scared to get your feet wet with a curriculum that you never saw yourself teaching. You may just surprise yourself.




Making the Transition:

From the Classroom to the Office

by Don Killingbeck, High School Principal

Principal Wanted:

Superhuman with god-like qualities who is capable of being in the middle of controversy while not becoming it. Must be a person who is comfortable being responsible for everyone and everything while only being in control of themselves. Above all else, someone who likes making a difference working with students. If you do not mind being in the middle between anyone of the following: students, parents, teachers, superintendents, boards of education, then please consider applying.

The posting although factious is more truth (compiled expectations of the education community i.e. student, parents, staff, and board of education) than fiction. The move from classroom teacher to building principal is a challenging one. The classroom offers routine, immediate feedback, and control while the principalship is unstructured, with little unsolicited feedback, and influence quickly replaces control. If you are having difficulty in the classroom the principalship is NOT for you, but if you recognize that you have capacity and desire to lead, it maybe something to consider.

If you are considering the move the following steps are critical to the successful transition. The first step: find a mentor, someone who is successful in a leadership role and is willing to help you develop your skills.

The second step: get training; the best Masters programs will have instructors that are former Principals/Superintendents that bring a tremendous amount of experience to their courses. The third step: refine your educational philosophy, what is important? The fourth step: apply, find positions in locals that you are interested in and apply (without experience you will probably have to rely on the good old boy network).

I was fortunate enough to replace my mentor and long time principal at a school in which I worked at for seven years and loved. Depending on the school, staff, and community this may not be an easy transition but I found it better than starting over fresh in another place. The only downfall is you are not a “distant expert” or a guru the school district found in some strange far away place, plus everyone already knows your baggage. The upside is they knew what they were getting and still chose to hire you.

It takes grit and sheer determination to make it through each day of the first year especially if you are going to make any changes (which you should do early during your tenure). Change should be steady and should start with things that you believe will be critical to student achievement, building team mentality, and consistency.

If you are new to the district be extra careful who you gather information from and align yourself with. The learning curve is tremendous, if you are in the classroom and make a mistake only twenty odd students notice, now the whole school will be talking it over the lunch table (and it may be something that you did right that gets people upset).

The good news: the job does get easier and if you like something new and challenging everyday a principalship maybe something for you to consider. 





Emergency Lesson Plans:  

Real Lifesaving Tools

Everyone gets those situations in life where an emergency has come up, and you don't have the time (or sometimes the ability) to get a good lesson plan in to school for your students. Maybe you have a family emergency or a disrupted travel plan and you just cannot get into school to leave detailed lessons. That is why it is essential for you to have an emergency lesson plan available and handy.

The emergency lesson plan should be able to be used at ANY point in the year. It doesn't have to fit in with what you're currently doing (nor should it - it is to be used when you cannot leave normal sub plans). The lesson should be related to your normal curriculum, but it could be a supplement or a enrichment activity.

Get a folder (or a three-ring binder), and label it appropriately on the outside cover. There are even folders you can purchase (some schools even make these available to teachers) labeled 'sub folder' or 'emergency plans'. Also make sure you have an appropriate spot for your emergency folder on or in your desk area. Some schools will ask you to keep an emergency plan in the office. In either case, make sure it is easily accessible by a substitute teacher.

Think about keeping class activities to 10 to 15 minute increments. This way the sub will have better control of your kids. Students have difficulties adjusting to changes in their routines, and you don't want to have to return to discipline referrals.

Keep the information organized and easily accessible for a sub. Remember, the sub won't know where you normally keep things, and they can't read your mind. Spell out exactly what you want done, where it can be found, and what you want done with it when they're finished.
Make sure you have made enough copies of any worksheets so the sub doesn't have to. And be sure to leave answer keys. Many subs will actually even grade your assignments for you if you ask them in your plans. 

Get this done early in the year, and you can save yourself many headaches later, not to mention worries about what will happen in your room if you are unable to be there.


Language Arts: Include short writing activities involving students opinions. Thus they don't have to have 'background' information, and they can write from their own experiences. Parts of speech review can include mad-libs or easy, fun worksheets.

Math: Leave a calculator activity. These could even be puzzles or partner games. Or give review problems.

Science: Copy a science article and have students read carefully and answer questions. Make speculations and use the scientific method. Or have students create the plans for a lab activity.

Reading: Leave students a copy of a short story or article, and questions to answer. You could even set up a 'test-taking' exercise, and discuss appropriate answers and strategies.

Social Studies: Map activities are great for emergency plans. You can even set up a one-day unit on any area/region of the world, including your own town or city.

Everyone gets those situations in life where an emergency has come up, and you don't have the time (or sometimes the ability) to get a good lesson plan in to school for your students. Maybe you have a family emergency or a disrupted travel plan and you just cannot get into school to leave detailed lessons. That is why it is essential for you to have an emergency lesson plan available and handy.



Teaching Economics at the Middle School Level

by Marian Holes, Middle School Teacher

Economics in the Middle School seems such a difficult subject to me. It’s part of our content standards and tested on the high stakes proficiency test in the 8th grade so it truly must be presented to students. Yet, it’s not well covered in our typical M.S. history text or for that matter, in my own college curriculum. I find myself searching constantly for ways and means to present Economics to my 8th graders. 

Concrete examples and hands-on activities must be part of the economics curriculum. Vocabulary also must be learned in terms of a middle school students’ world. And, give our young consumers credit. They know quite a lot about money, choices and the way a free market system works. They just don’t know they know it because of the vocabulary! That’s our job as educators to take what they recognize, help them translate it into accepted econ vocab and principles, and apply it to economics to situations they observe or experience in society. Now that TRULY sounds like a daunting task!! 

I choose to start with vocabulary. My students like to hear “things” to do as we started with a workbook. As we read through our economics workbook, all the italicized (economic) words went on the word bank list, with definitions, of course. 

The word bank eventually evolved into flashcards. Now it’s an activity kids really like. We stay each other, review or quiz each other, all the while sorting flashcards from the “don’t know” to the “know that” piles. Flash card review is an activity before a test, when they finish something and are waiting for everyone else to get done, or as a fun game to end the class period. Using the vocab word in their own sentence checks for understanding. Can they use their sentence, deleting the econ vocab word, and have their partner figure out the word? Can they give an example for each word? Practice as a single proprietor, in a partnership, or in a (class-size) corporation. 

Using the vocabulary of economics in as important. When a student comes to class and needs a pencil, stop class for a couple of minutes and do a needs (demand) supply demonstration. Throw in a little advertising (my pencil writes the BEST answers), stir up some some competition (who else has a pencil to lend), set up a price (2 shoe deposit) and watch for supply and demand. Kids love it; it makes what they’re learning real. They recognize a surplus brings price down; a shortage could drive prices up, and supply or demand everywhere. 

Advertising is another great vocab word to demonstrate. Choose a product, and have partners do an ad. How will they convince customers their vision is best? Point out responsibility of the consumers from fraudulent advertising or unsafe products. How was the ad firm a consumer itself as well as a producer of a service? What is the difference between goods and services? Can advertising be proprietor, partner, or corporation? 

Proprietors, or better yet, partnerships could randomly select a flashcard and develop their own demonstration of its meaning. What a great opening set for today’s lesson if a couple of students shared the vocab definition by acting it out. Try partners determining profit, or a corporation giving dividends to first preferred stockholders, then general stockholders. Demonstrate limited vs. unlimited liability. Let everyone have an opportunity to act out vocab words. 

What a difference it makes when your students focus on the concepts and not puzzle over your words when you explain Economics. Start with vocab and help students make it their own! 




What I didn’t know and what I couldn’t know! 

By Dr. Mike Kanitz, coach and educator

Dr. Mike (Coach) Kanitz has been involved in athletics and education for 58 years at the high school, collegiate, and semi-professional (coaching) levels. He was recently honored with his induction into the Michigan Amateur Football Hall of Fame.  He believes strongly in the interconnection of schooling and athletics.  

Coaching and teaching are the same thing in reality. To distinguish them as separate entities would be a mistake. After thirty some years in the classroom, I can honestly say that starting out as a young teacher/coach was very difficult. What I didn’t know and couldn’t know was that my Quarterback would some day be my realtor, my Guard would be my dentist, and one of my Centers would be a car dealer/owner I would buy two cars from. A star Defensive Back would make the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and a Defensive End would become the warden of the Watergate prison.

I say ‘my’ because of the energy invested in each and all of these youngsters as students and athletes. The oilman who visits two weeks per year at his million-dollar condo near my apartment was my manager. I never should have yelled at him that much! When my children were small and the school secretary would say to me, “You just wait until your children are in high school.”

I couldn’t have known! Her kids were in high school and I couldn’t have known the burden of parenting teenagers! While I was heavy into discipline, I didn’t know discipline was a form of love or respect. As a young teacher I didn’t know that you never take anything youngsters do personally. I incorrectly thought they were stabbing me in the back when they broke “my’ rules. I wasn’t the smartest coach/teacher, but I really was dumb! 

Teaching would have been even more rewarding for me if I had understood that delaying gratification in seeing the fruits of one’s labor was part of the career choice. There is no immediate feedback for the tremendous energy put forth by a teacher. A coach gets a winning season some of the time and a teacher gets a peaceful semester some of the time. But, most of the time, the rewards come a long time after the work is applied. I didn’t understand that dynamic and that led to the pressure and frustration of trying to get it right! 
I always thought batting 300 was something special. How did I not know striking out was 700 percent of the time? How did I not know the space rocket was off course 90 percent of the time on its way to the moon? Why did I think it took off and went straight to the moon, orbiting on its way?

How come I wasn’t told that success in future life has only one statistically significant correlation. And that is involvement in co-curricular or extra curricular activities. I assumed future success was related to academics and grades! 

Did they try to tell us that teaching wouldn’t be all roses in those teacher-education classes? Was I not listening?

Late in my career I finally figured it out. Teaching was a journey, not a destination! When a person gives the self-permission to enjoy the journey, everything seems to change. The individual stops sweating the small stuff, because everything is the small stuff! Teaching is a gift you keep giving back, not something you keep for yourself. When I learned that secret, teaching became a real joy. 

I wish I wasn’t a slow-learner!


Best Quotes From Summer Reading

By Janice Rozich 
Middle School Teacher
Lake Ridge Middle School, Schererville, IN

Having your own students advertising books can be a great way of getting more students to read.  The American Film Institute website is also a great place to find ideas for your classroom, including the "Best Quotes" idea presented below.

AFI’s recent tribute to movies in the form of developing a list of the top 100 quotes from movies got me thinking.  How many of us have lists of books for students’ summer reading?  How many of us ask that they write book reports on what they have read?  No matter what form these reports take in terms of length or comprehensiveness, can we agree that these reports often end up being less about how much fun the book was to read than they are about answering a list of forgettable questions about the book? 

So, here’s my idea.  When your students return to school this August, instead of that book report, ask them to find a phrase or sentence from the book that encapsulates the theme of the book or a memorable character from the book.  The student has to use critical thinking in order to select just the right phrase or sentence.  I think a great way to showcase this effort is to create a poster for the book that contains the selection; along with the title and author, the student could include a graphic of some kind.  Once the poster is complete, it can be hung in the media center, in the school hallway, or your own classroom.  What a great way to advertise a book!

To get you started, can you guess the book from which these quotes were taken:

1.  "Greasers will still be greasers and Socs will still be Socs. Sometimes I think it’s the ones in the middle that are really the lucky stiffs."
2.  "Have you seen this wizard? Approach with extreme caution! Do not attempt to use magic against this man!"
3.  "What does it mean that Germans despise me simply because I am a Jew?"


1.  The Outsiders, S, E, Hinton
2.  Harry Potter (Prisoner of Azkaban), J. K. Rowling
3.  The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank

For more information on the American Film Institute, quick click the link below:


Modeling Student Behavior

By Frank Holes, Jr

Middle School English Teacher

Whether you as a teacher realize it or not, you are the best model of behavior in your classroom. A large part of your proactive behavior plans should include your own behavior you demonstrate to the students every day.

You must set expectations for your students, demonstrate the behaviors, and be vigilant to correct the kids. Don't waver on your expectations; inconsistencies will only confuse the students and cause you more problems. 

If you stay calm, collected, and in control, your students will exhibit the same behaviors. The same is true about enthusiasm; if you are excited about your lesson and truly believe in its importance,

"Don't waver on your expectations; inconsistencies will only confuse the students and cause you more problems." 

the kids will respond in kind. Conversely, the kids will know when you are tired, bored, don't want to be there, or are 'winging it.'

If you are late to class, or don't start on time, the kids will pick up on it and be more likely to do the same. The same is true about the way you dress, the way you act, the language you use, and your 'body language'.

If you want your students working from 'coast to coast', or from bell to bell, you need to set the expectation of activity all hour. Start with a warm up, and ensure the kids are doing it. Keep them busy on activities with transitions between each. Don't let there be any down time. Work them to the end of the period, and have them pack up when you say so, not whenever they want to.

If you want your students to quietly read in class, but you are spending that time working on other things, it sends the message that you don't value the activity personally. Modeling the skill for the kids reinforces your belief that it is important. It show you as a lifelong learner who values the skills you're teaching them.

"Modeling the skill for the kids reinforces your belief that it is important. It show you as a lifelong learner who values the skills you're teaching them." The same is true for writing, or labs, or math problems. Students rarely have the chance to see real people performing school work - for many, the only examples (and role models) are their classmates. Work along with your students.

Now this doesn't mean you have to do this the entire time. You must also supervise, coach, monitor, and actively support their learning. But you can spend at least a few minutes 'at their level'.

Be a positive role model for your students. Don't just explain and show the behavior; be the example day in and day out.




Poetry That Can Be Used for Any Class

By Frank Holes, Jr

Middle School English Teacher


Poetry need not be confined to the realms of the dust-covered tomes of your high school English department.  And you need not be afraid or intimidated by poetry;  anybody can write fun (and yet educational) poems.  As the following activity will show, this form of writing can bring an invigorating style to your ordinary classroom activities.

Poetry, for those not totally familiar with the conventions of the language-arts classes, is a generic term for forms of writing using highly specific words and phrases to instill images in the reader’s mind.  Some poetry follows particular forms and patterns, and other types of poetry can be free flowing.  Poetry can be simply individual (though connected) words or phrases, or found in complete sentences.  As you can see, there is no limit to the types of poetry that can be created. 

Short, simple poems require a great deal of student thought, because the kids must carefully choose the best words to fit the poem.  These can be fun for students to write as reviews for tests or the end of chapters.  You could also use them to in place of your normal writing assignments to add variety. 

Feel free to change the poem form to suit your activity or class.  For example, you may want to change the number of details or examples, or the number of lines.  If you have creative (or advanced) students, you may even want to require the lines to rhyme. 

Here's a short, simple poem form:

Name the topic

List three details, facts, or examples

Creatively describe each

Restate the topic in a new way


A Poem for Science:

The Water Cycle:

Water molecules, H-2-0,

Down goes Rain, Hail, Snow,

Raised up to the sky by the sun,

In clouds they gather for fun,

Ready to drop once more,

Changes in matter are a chore!

A Poem for P.E.:

Gym Class:

Run, jump, play!

We exercise every day.

Indoors or out,

We love to yell and shout!

Phys-ed is our favorite class.

Here's another simple form for those of you with language-arts savvy:

1 Noun (your TOPIC)

2 adjectives that describe your Noun

3 verbs (your Noun in action)

1 adverb for each verb (describe each action)

A real-life example of your Noun, a simile or metaphor, or a synonym for your first Noun


Green, Old

Walking, eating, swimming

Slowly, peacefully, gracefully

Nature’s little armored car


Slim, Bright

Growing, sprouting, flowering

Upward, outward, gently

A little sun on the Earth

Have your students add hand-drawn pictures to accompany the poems, and you’ve got authentic, artful work that is ready to put up in your room or hallway for parent-teacher conferences. 




Hiring Practices at the Elementary School 

By Carolyn Sackett, Elementary Principal


This elementary is great! As the principal I take great pride in the diversity of instructional methods used by the teachers here.

In the consideration of hiring practices it is always important to remember that each principal seeks different characteristics in their candidates. The thing to remember about me is that first and foremost, I am considered a risk taker: I like to try new ideas, I really do not think there is one correct way to solve a problem, and I am a woman. With these parameters set, I will attempt to answer a few questions.

What do I look for in a potential teacher?

Remember that in most schools there is no single person who screens potential candidates. The interview team scores each candidate on selected criteria. In our school this criteria is appearance, friendliness, poise-stability, personality, conversational ability, alertness, information about work field, experience and drive.

Appearance means well groomed, neatly dressed and minimal perfumes, you never know who may be allergic to your favorite fragrance. For friendliness strive for the medium, warm but not too overwhelming. Poise means surety of oneself;  ask questions when you do not understand, and answer every question to the best of you ability. For the best conversational ability score stay on the point and show some emotion. Show alertness by being well rested, listen carefully to what is said, and avoid redundancy. 

"In the consideration of hiring practices it is always important to remember that each principal seeks different characteristics in their candidates." When demonstrating field work knowledge be honest, but answer each question with a reference to what you have experienced. This shows the ability to apply what you know to new situations. 

It also recalls your actual experiences to the interviewers' minds. Drive is your opportunity to call attention to how much you have achieved and demonstrates your goal setting ability. You are expected to be nervous, but confident in your own abilities. 

What is the hiring process for this school district?

At the elementary, teacher hiring is done by a committee of teachers from the same grade level as the position to be filled. This committee is facilitated by the principal who will act as a tie breaker if necessary. Questions are decided upon before the interview, based on the interests of the committee. 

All the candidates are asked the same questions, but each separate position may have different questions. Candidates are screened using their resumes and any background knowledge we may have.  "You cannot predetermine what someone wants, so let your resume tell the best story about you, as simply as possible."

If possible drop your resume off at the principal's office and ask to meet her/him, as it helps to have a face to put with the name. Initial interviews are scheduled for one day, with follow-up interviews within the next two days. When the committee has chosen a final candidate, references have been checked, and the candidate has given assurance of employability, then a final interview is scheduled with the superintendent. 

What do I look for in a resume?

Personally, I like the KIS method. Keep It Simple! I have seen some fabulous resumes, but I still check references. The interview is the main hiring technique, and always will be. You cannot predetermine what someone wants, so let your resume tell the best story about you, as simply as possible. When a principal has 200 resumes to go through, longer is not better! Tell about your experiences and what makes you the best person for a teaching position. Portfolios are another controversial item. Always bring your portfolio to an interview, however, do not be insulted if there is not time to look at it. Initial interviews do not allow much time, and your spoken word gives the committee more information about you.  

Education/experience needed for this position?

As a new candidate it is always hard to hear that experience is the best teacher. Get into classrooms as often as you can, in as many different situations as you can. Find out about yourself as a teacher by comparing  "your way" of teaching to everyone else's way. Remember teaching is a very personal work. If your way does not fit into the school where there is an opening, believe me, you really do not want to teach there. 'Highly Qualified' just about guarantees an adequate education, but experience shows the application of that education. Remember, this is my opinion! I have met committee members who check grades and universities, I am just more experience orientated. 

Why should students attend school in my district?

This elementary is great! As the principal I take great pride in the diversity of instructional methods used by the teachers here. At each grade level your student can find a match for his/her personality and learning style. As a staff we care about the individual child and their family. We welcome parents into our school and appreciate the chance to work with the family in the education of their children. The staff is highly qualified, including our aides, and all stay abreast of new instructional methods. 

Never let anyone tell you that teaching is easy. With luck you will have around twenty children who rely on you for their acquisition of knowledge.  "to take each child from where they are academically and help them move forward is the reward of teaching"

More important they rely on you to form much of their academic self-confidence. They each have their own different way of assimilating knowledge. Their brain growth is at different points, and they come to school with different attitudes toward the educational process. They are not miniature adults, nor do they act or learn like adults. To expect that is to fail in education.

However, to take each child from where they are academically and help them move forward is the reward of teaching. The reward is in satisfaction, not in salary. 



Building Respect With Students 

By Dave Hare, Middle School Teacher



It has been said that, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care".  This is also true with kids.

Kids are people too and they deserve respect as people that you would give to any adult.  When I was a student, I was expected to respect my teachers and the adults of school by my parents, but today’s kids do not have that same expectation on them.  This means that we, the teachers, must swallow our pride and show respect to the kids first in order for the kids to respect us.  This seems backwards, but there is no use fighting that battle (maybe we can discuss this in a future article!)

As soon as you show respect to the kids, they become less defensive and open to your teaching, advice, ideas, and recommendations.  Word gets around the kids of the school that you are a fair person because you care.  I believe that you can show that you care for kids when you show them that they deserve to be respected as people.  This has allowed me to be able to manage my classroom more effectively too.  

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" The kids know that I respect them and that I expect them to respect me back.  They know that the "lines have been drawn" in terms of proper behavior in class.  

So, I have set rules based on what I believe is respectful.  This goes over much easier when the kids feel respected by me, the teacher.  I only send kids to the office when a student has crossed too many lines and I just need him/her out to maintain my own composure.  This has not happened in a few years (Knock on wood).

Respect shows that you care and when the kids know you care, they will respect and listen to you, and you will have an easier time in your classroom management no matter what level you teach.


Learning Pods and Classroom Setup

By Frank Holes, Jr

Middle School Teacher


Setting up small learning groups, or communities, in your class requires planning, not just in your instruction, but also in the physical space of your room.

When I decided to change my teaching style from a teacher-centered, lecture format to a student-centered, project format, I had to seriously contemplate how my room and its instructional resources were arranged. 

I knew I wanted to set up student 'pods' of four to five students.  Four makes a great sized group, but five is starting to push it.  These sizes also fit with the number of computers I had available.  Each pod needed one computer for the group to use, as well as work space, achieved by placing desks next to each other forming a table.   

I placed the pods at the outside walls for a few important reasons.  First was to get some elbow space between students and groups.  "The 'traditional' classroom and the 'student-centered' classroom are very different both in philosophy and in the application."

I wanted to eliminate interaction between groups so students could concentrate on their own group's activities.  Secondly, this arrangement allowed me to monitor the computers at all times.  Third, this setup created better traffic flow through the room, since students would often need to move back and forth to the central resource center.

I've set up the resource and presentation center in the center of the classroom.  This is where I keep student file cabinets (the short types), dictionaries & thesauri, school supplies, and art-type supplies. 

I've combined this storage area with my podium, overhead projector, and the other tech equipment like vcr or dvd players,

"Having previously taught in the traditional manner, I've found the pod setup, or student-centered class, to be both a challenge and a benefit to student learning." digital projectors, and the like.  This allows for easy student access to all resources, and I can effectively use all of my wall space when I need to present material.

The 'traditional' classroom and the 'student-centered' classroom are very different both in philosophy and in the application.  The basics of setting up your classroom to reflect the learning environment you've envisioned must be thought through carefully before jumping right into the pods.

Having previously taught in the traditional manner, I've found the pod setup, or student-centered class, to be both a challenge and a benefit to student learning.  Now that I've had a chance to compare them, my students and I prefer the pods.


My Philosophy of Education

By Linda Fineout
Spring Arbor University, MI

Linda Fineout is a teacher-to-be, working through the teacher education program at Spring Arbor University.  This was adapted from her appreciation of Dr. Seuss' Oh The Places You'll Go.

The things that you are, the things you can be 
These all shape my Philosophy! 

I love these kids, I love to teach 
It’s their mind and spirit I want to reach. 

Learning is fun, fabulous, and great! 
All these kids – they’re all first rate! 

Co-operative groups, Centers and such – 
Oh, we will learn ever so much! 

To read, to read, is a wonderful thing 
What knowledge and power, reading will bring! 

What is it, these children need to do? 
Dear Parents, let them read to you. 

Vision and imagination, set it free 
Let them be whatever they want to be! 

Positive thinking is the rule for the day 
I will listen to kids and all that they say. 

I will not allow fighting, bickering and such 
Teamwork, together, we’ll accomplish so much! 

I’ll strengthen their strengths and let them be strong, 
I’ll teach them values, and right from wrong. 

I’ll model for kids what I want them to do 
But I’ll be open to ideas that are brand spankin’ new! 

Kids are special! I must nurture them so 
Support, security, safety, they’ll know! 

I’ll have fun with my kids, but challenge them too 
So they’ll be motivated and self-confident in all that they do. 

Out of the box thinking, that’s what I love! 
Over and under and way up above! 

I’ll soar with my students, you come and see – 
See what my students will grow up to be! 

Responsible, caring, and oh so smart 
My kids and I, we’ll do our part 

Technology, writing, yes even math 
Lifelong learners, we’ll be, come follow our path! 

I will love them and guide them and then set them free! 
To grow up, take flight and you will see 

The best, the most fabulous adult they can be 
What a wonderful present from you to me!

Copyright 2005, Linda Fineout...Used with Permission



Get It Out Of Your Head And Into a Mind Map

By Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D


Do you ever feel like you have some great ideas, but when you sit down to write them, they’re not so great? Or even worse, you can’t really get a sense of what the ideas were?

In one of my graduate student coaching groups we have been discussing the difficulty of translating partly formed ideas into words on paper. One technique that makes use of a normally underutilized part of our brain is called “Mind Mapping.”

What is a Mind Map?

Tony Buzan, who created the word “Mind Map” and has written extensively on it, describes it as a powerful graphic technique that makes use of the way our brains naturally work. He says it has four characteristics.

1. The main subject is crystallized in a central image
2. The main themes radiate from the central image as branches
3. Branches comprise a key image or key word printed on an associated line
4. The branches form a connected nodal structure

How Do You Mind Map?

Mind mapping is best done in color. If you have some markers or colored pencils, and a sheet of white paper, you’re ready. If you don’t, just use what you have.

Start with the central idea that you are trying to wrap your mind around. It could be the big picture (e.g. your next chapter) or a smaller idea (e.g. the next few paragraphs.) Write it down in one or two words at the center of the paper, and draw a circle around it. If there is a symbol or picture that you can put with the words, sketch that in. The idea is that you are activating the non-verbal side of your brain. The quality of what you draw is not important, since you will be the only one seeing it. The same is true for the ideas you come up with. Don’t edit, just put in what comes to mind.

There are no rules for the way to proceed from here. I tend to break rules, anyway. The way my mind works, I start thinking of related ideas, categories, and ideas, which I write in little circles surrounding the circle in the middle. I then use lines to connect them.

Tony Buzan likes to draw curved lines emanating from the center, and write the related or associated ideas on the lines. The result looks like a tree emanating from a central spot.
My technique looks more like a bunch of lollipops.

As you continue to add associated ideas to your outer circles or branches, you continue to draw the connections. You will notice as you fill them in that there are cross connections that appear. I find it helpful to draw lines between those interconnecting ideas.

How Does a Mind Map Help?

The brain is an associative network, and the right hemisphere (in most people) is responsible for non-verbal, visual, associative and much creative thinking. Normally when writing, we are mostly making use of our left hemisphere, which tends towards the analytical, one-thought-at-a-time approach. Our internal thoughts, however, are not shaped like that. Thus we have a roadblock as we try to get our brilliant thoughts on paper.

By using a Mind Map as a starting point for thinking, you can bypass the blockage and feeling of overwhelm caused by overly analytical thinking. The Mind Map allows you to see more than one thought at a glance, and in doing so helps clarify your thinking. It shows the way ideas are interrelated (or less related than you thought.) It allows more access to creative, non-linear parts of your brain.

How Can Grad Students and Professors Use Mind Maps?

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “How is it that Gina writes so brilliantly and clearly? How does she keep all her creative thoughts straight?” The secret is that I use Mind Maps to write my articles. So it’s not a high IQ but my Mind Mapping skills that got me where I am today.

Here are some helpful ways to make use of Mind Mapping:

1. Use it for brainstorming ideas for your proposal or new research project.
2. Make a Mind Map of your next chapter or the one you’re currently stuck on.
3. When planning your career, make a Mind Map to show the pros and cons of your available options.
4. Use a Mind Map to take notes.
5. Mind Mapping can help keep you awake and interested in your subject.
6. Prepare for an upcoming meeting with a Mind Map and use it to explain your ideas.
7. Use it in teaching, both to prepare classes and for handouts.

Play around with Mind Mapping. You’ll find it’s a refreshing break from the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other way that we approach many things in life.

Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, tenure and dissertation coach who helps faculty and graduate students realize their dreams. Check out her site at  and get the free and unique “Academic Writer’s Block Wizard.” 


Maximizing Your Study Time

By Roger Seip
Memory Training For Students

The daily schedule for many young students today could rival that of several top-level executives. With soccer practice, dance, scouts and clarinet lessons taking up much of the evening, when do students get to focus on their studies?

Too often students get overwhelmed with the amount of work left over at the end of the day. They look at study time in one big sum and get distracted and exhausted before they even begin. To solve this problem, you may not be able to adjust your child’s schedule, but they can change their study techniques. Here are 3 study techniques that will help any student maximize their study time. 

They should start by separating and segmenting their study time. Break it up into smaller bits. No matter how brilliant you are a concentrated attention span lasts only about 20 minutes. So break your 2 or 4 hours study sessions into groups of 15 or 20 minutes. During the break, stand-up, walk around, grab a bit to eat or something to drink and then get back to the grind for another 15 or 20 minutes. This not only helps create spaced repetition, which is crucial for retention, but helps make study sessions less stressful and daunting. 

Another tool to help in maximizing study time is to use random practice. When reviewing lists or concepts don’t go in order. Skip around to force your brain to pull from an entire group of information. This aids in understanding the purpose or meaning behind a concept instead of merely its place in line. The simplest way to implement random practice is through the use of a study partner. 

Use a Study Partner. When at all possible, it is very beneficial to study with another student who shares the same educational goals and motivation. A study partner can help identify areas of weakness and ensure that topics don’t get skipped. It’s also beneficial to witness how another student takes in and stores information. For this reason and others, it is better for the study partner to be another student, but parent don’t be afraid to fill this position. The progress gained from working with a partner is general is worth it. 

Proper and efficient study techniques will follow a student through all levels of education and learning. Establishing good habits and skill sets, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at the time, will prove to reap massive rewards in the long run. So while little Johnny and Suzy might need their first day planners before the third grade, don’t let it stop them from becoming the best students they can. 

About the author: Roger Seip is a nationally known memory trainer. His new program, The Student’s Winning Edge - Memory Training, teaches students how to train their memory to study more effectively and get better grades. For more information on how your student can have a more powerful memory visit 


The Apple iPod As A Great 
Learning and Resource Tool

By Ken Cheong

There is no doubt that the Apple iPod has become a common item amongst today's youth as a great music player. But is the iPod more than just a music player?

In fact, the iPod is more than a music player. It is also a great teaching and learning tool as well. And it is guaranteed to help you learn fast. 

Audio Books 

Besides music, the iPod also plays audio books. These are essentially books that has been converted into a audio format and saved as a MP3 file. From a technical angle, there is no difference in the file format between a music or a book and you can download and play the same audio book off your computer or your iPod. This opens you to a whole library of 'books' for your iPod. 

These can include many great books found in public domains and downloaded for free. There are also many good commercial 'books' that you can purchase for a small price. These audio books are great as you can play them over and over again in the car, on the train or even on the plane. It's a good way to kill time and gain knowledge at the same time. 

The best thing about audio books is that you do not need to read. Let the book read to you and this can be a great enhancement for learning while driving or while sitting in a shaky bus or train. 


Have you also heard of podcasting? If you have not, these are simply audio files published by individuals or companies covering interest topics ranging from music, technology, current affairs, news, politics, cars, sales and marketing, electronics, fashion to many other interesting niche areas. 

They then put up these audio files in certain podcast stations on the internet. 

Most podcast are free and you can download and treat them just like audio books. Similarly, you can subscribe and organize these podcast on your computer iTunes and then synchronize them to your iPod. It's also a great way to gain knowledge while driving or taking transport to school or work. 

What is gaining fast popularity today is video podcast. Video podcast are essentially video files that can be downloaded and again, it covers a great genre of subject. (As a matter of fact, I am learning about designing my own podcast by watching a video podcast of this subject.) 

However, you can only watch a video podcast on your computer or on the latest iPod video model. All earlier models of iPod will not be capable of playing video. With the iPod video, you can also output the video signal to a normal TV and watch the entire podcast on TV as well. 

What's more, you can watch them, stop them, rewind them or repeat these audio or video podcasts as often as you like. What better way to learn? 

So who says that iPods are meant for music only?

Ken Cheong / Katherine Xie have 4 iPods starting from the 2G model. Katherine runs a popular website,, that gives tips on iPods as well as showcase quality iPod accessories from Japan. 



U.S. Congress
Unit Plan

By Kelly Payne

Knowledge of government enables individuals to define the roles of citizens within a constitutional democracy and to compare the American system of government with other systems. Civic knowledge builds understanding about the exercise of power. With knowledge of government and politics, citizens are equipped to evaluate domestic and international policy and to exert influence in public affairs.

US Congress Unit Plan

Subject(s): Social Studies Grade/Level: 9-12 

Standards addressed by unit: Michigan Curriculum Frameworks 
• Subject: Social Studies • Strand III: Civic 


Students will use knowledge of American government and politics to make informed decisions about governing their communities.  Over time and in varying contexts, students construct an increasingly sophisticated civic perspective organized by the following themes: 

• Standard III.1: Purposes of Government - All students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local governments in the United States, describe how citizens organize government to accomplish their purposes and assess their effectiveness. All societies establish governments to serve intended purposes. The purposes served by a government and the priorities set have significant consequences for the individual and society. In order to accomplish their purposes, governments organize themselves in different ways. 

• Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Evaluate how effectively the federal government is serving the purposes for which it was created. Performance Benchmark 3: Evaluate the relative merits of the American presidential system and parliamentary systems. 

• Standard III.4 : American Government and Politics - All students will explain how American governmental institutions at the local, state, and federal levels provide for the limitation and sharing of power and how the nation’s political system provides for the exercise of power. The American system of government is based on shared power. Citizens who operate effectively within the federal system understand its institutions and how to work within them. 

• Grade HS - High School Performance Benchmark 2: Analyze causes of tension between the branches of government. 

Time Required:10 class periods. 1.5 Hrs per class. 

Objective(s): To learn the basic workings of Congress and the process of how a bill becomes a law. Summary:  In this unit students will learn the basic workings of the United States Congress through various activities and learning techniques. Students will analyze and discuss current legislation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Students then will create their own bills and take them through the legislative process, with the end result being participation in a mock Congress simulation. 

STAGE I: IDENTIFY DESIRED RESULTS Enduring Understanding(s):  Students will understand the process of how Congress passes legislation that affects their daily lives and futures. Essential Questions:  How and why does Congress pass legislation that affects and changes a variety of aspects of life in America today? Knowledge and Skills: Students will be acquainted with what Congress does; Students will Identify how Congress is elected; Students will be able to describe the structure of each house of Congress; Students will be able to explain the in depth process of how a bill becomes a law. 

STAGE II: DETERMINE ACCEPTABLE EVIDENCE OF LEARNING (ASSESSMENT) What evidence will show that students understand? 

Performance Tasks (summarized):  Student written bills on a relevant issue in their life (attached), Students notes- to follow study guide and packet (attached), Redistricting activity, Mock Congress Simulation (attached)  
1. Congress Packet Page 2 
2. Congress Packet Page 9: Describes the Process of How a Bill becomes a law 
3. Congress Packet Page 1: Congress Study Guide 
4. Congress Packet page 11: Blank bill for creation of own legislation 
5. Day 1 Congress simulation proceedings  To use the first day of Congressional simulation 

Other evidence: Committee Reports, Headline Activity, Pop Quiz Race (group activity, attached), Written reflection on Mock Congress (attached), How a bill becomes a law quiz, US Congress test. 

1. Pop Quiz Race Reinforcement activity. Students complete this the day after finishing study guide. Students are given 7 minutes to fill in working off of memory, then they are given 5 minutes to work with notes, the final step is group work, students work together to make sure they all have the same information, and that it is correct. Groups race to get done first, then the group finished first, with the most correct receive a prize. 
2. Written reflection after Mock Congress - This is the Collins writing across the curriculum style 

Unprompted evidence:  Dialogue and participation in mock Congress, Discussion on a day in the life of a member of Congress, discussion on current bills in US House and Senate. 

Student Self-Assessment:  Students will self assess through the bills they write, and how well they participate in the mock Congress

Kelly Payne is a student at Lake Superior State University in Michigan.  Kelly has just finished a year of student teaching American history and government at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, Michigan.



Use Mind Maps to Improve Your Learning

By Royane Real

When you need to organize your thoughts, you probably write out all your thoughts the old fashioned way.   However, there is a technique called mind mapping which can help you organize your thoughts and help you understand the relationship of all the components. Try it and see. Many students find that the use of mindmaps helps them take notes more effectively and remember better when they study for exams.

The main problem with taking notes the traditional way is that this is a very passive process. Simply taking notes does not get the brain very involved in interacting with the information. If you can get your brain to get more actively involved in organizing the new material you will remember it better.

The following technique for note-taking is particularly effective for people who are highly visual. This method of making notes is sometimes called “mind-mapping” or making a “learning map”.   Although it takes some practice to use mind-mapping effectively, most people who use it find they can retain and remember far more information with a lot less work.

The essence of the learning-map (also known as “memory-map”, or “mind-map”) technique is quite simple. You will need a blank piece of paper, the larger the better. You will need at least one pen, more if you want to use a variety of colors.

You will be trying to fill the entire page with your notes, so it is important to keep the size of your writing quite small. With practice you should be better able to judge what size of writing will work effectively.

As you listen to the lecturer, or read the article you are studying, decide what you think the central theme is. For example, you might be listening to a lecture where you decide the central theme seems to be, “Conditions in Europe on the eve of World War 2”   Or you might be listening to a talk that has a central theme of “Strategies that plants use to survive winter”

Once you have decided what the central theme is, jot down the words in the center of the page, and draw a circle around the main theme. Don’t try to write down a sentence or a paragraph--just get down enough of the key words that will bring the ideas back into you mind.

Keep listening or reading, watching for the first main sub-theme.   When you come across the first major sub-theme, pick a spot on the page to jot down a few key words that sum up the sub-theme. Draw a circle around the sub-theme words, and then join your sub-theme circle to the main theme circle with a line.

Each time you come across a new major sub-theme, write down a few key words to summarize the new idea, and draw a circle around those words. Then draw a line to join the sub-theme circle to the main idea circle in the center of the page. Eventually you will have a circle in the center with several spokes radiating from it.

The lines or spokes don’t have to be straight, and they can be of any length required. The “circles” don’t have to be circles; they can be squares, triangles, or oval squiggles if you prefer. You can use different colors to help you organize the ideas better.

As the speaker or writer continues to present his ideas, you will find that some of the ideas being presented are additional supporting details that clarify or illustrate one of the sub-themes you have already identified. In this case you will write these “sub-sub-themes” down using just a few words, enclose them in a circle or squiggle, and link them to their sub-theme with a line.

Eventually your sub-theme circles may have many spokes radiating from them as the author or lecturer continues to present his ideas. At a glance you will be able to take in the dominant themes of the talk and the underlying organizational structure of the ideas.

If you happen to have any ideas of your own while you are reading or listening to the lecture, jot them down as well. This shows you have your brain actively interacting with the material.

When you make a mind map or a learning map of all your notes, you create a very visual document that differs a lot from traditional methods of making notes for class.   People who learn very well visually will particularly benefit from the way that learning maps clearly show the relationships between main themes, sub-themes and supporting facts and ideas.

Try this method and see if this is the note-taking technique that works best for you!

About the author:
This article was written by learning expert Royane Real. If you want to improve your learning, get her new short report "Your Quick Guide to Improving Your Learning Ability" at



Tips for Choosing a Digital Camera

By Sean Packards

Sales of digital cameras seem to be exploding. This is not surprising as the quality of images from digital cameras improves and they become more affordable. In addition, consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of digital photography. There are so many different types of digital cameras available choosing one which is best for your needs can become a very confusing decision. There are several things to consider when choosing a digital camera.

Types of Digital Cameras:

There are three basic types of cameras and this is the same whether you are shooting film or digital media. These three types are: point and shoot cameras, prosumer cameras and professional quality SLR cameras.

1. Point and Shoot cameras are fully automatic. They do everything for you. The camera choosing the correct exposure and whether a flash is needed. The photographer only needs to point and shoot.
2. Prosumer Cameras. These cameras are a step up from point and shoot cameras and allow the user to either shoot in fully automatic mode or to have some control over the exposure by using specific exposure modes. For example, there might be a portrait mode, an action mode, and a close up mode.
3. Professional Cameras. These cameras allow the photographer to actually look through the lens. This means that what you see is what you get. These cameras also provide complete control over the exposure. They have fully automatic mode, specific exposure modes as well as a fully manual mode.


It doesn't matter what sort of camera you decide to get you will have several decisions to make regarding resolution of the camera. The salespeople of most electronics superstores are quick to tell you that the most important thing to consider when buying a digital camera is how many pixels there are. Now while it is important it is not the end all of digital image quality. Pixels are tiny squares and in some new models they're starting to use other shapes as well. The more pixels you have in your image the sharper the detail of the image will be. Most current digital cameras on the market today will produce an image with more than 4 million pixels. That's enough resolution to easily print images up to 8 x 10 with good image quality. Is not likely that you will print images larger than 8 x 10 and so most of these camera should meet your needs.

Try Different Cameras Before you Buy:

Did you know that you could take a memory card into the store with you and place in the camera you are looking at and take a few sample pictures? You can then take these pictures home to compare on your computer or make prints. Various cameras have very different image qualities even though they may have the same number of pixels. This is why it's important to compare. Digital cameras are changing and improving faster than you can imagine. Every few months there will likely be one that is better at a cheaper price and you paid. Don't worry about it. If you take the time to choose a good digital camera you'll be making quality photographs that you and your family will enjoy for many years to come.

About the author:
This article was written by Sean Packards, the owner of
Filme Cameras Ltd, an outstanding
place to find camera resources and links.
For more amazing resource on this article,
please visit his website at:



Change Lives! Be a Mentor

by Jill Gurr
Create Now!

Jill Gurr is founder of the non-profit organization Create Now! She has mentored more than 50 high-risk children and youth and has trained hundreds of people to mentor thousands of kids. Learn more at    or email Jill at:


Half of the U.S. youth population (17.6 million kids to be exact) is considered to be “at-risk” of getting into trouble with the law, or “high-risk” and already in trouble. This isn’t a problem only in the United States. Street gangs, drug addiction, child prostitution, abuse and neglect are major concerns around the world.

Our children need help!

It’s easy to turn your back and ignore the problem, but what will you do when some kids jack your car? Or rape your daughter? Or spend their entire lives on welfare or in the prison system, on your tax dollars?


One solution that has been proven to work is mentoring. A mentor is a loyal advisor, a teacher or coach, sponsor, guide, confidante and role model. He or she is a special friend who serves as an advocate for the needs of someone else and makes an effort to bring out their best qualities.

I learned this first-hand in 1993 when I mentored a group of teenage boys who were incarcerated at a Los Angeles detention center for a variety of crimes. As a produced screenwriter, I wanted to share my love of writing with troubled kids in hope of inspiring them to change their lives.

I had a great idea for a story about two rival gang leaders from different ethnic backgrounds (Latino vs. African-American) ending up at the same detention camp where they had to resolve their differences.

During the next few months as I worked on our script with the boys, my Screenwriting Workshop went through all kinds of changes. In the end, the boys completed writing the script with me and it was optioned by producers. The best part though was that a number of the kids who were illiterate learned how to read and write through my program. I witnessed other remarkable changes as well -- a tough Chicano gang leader had tattoos removed from his body, and several of the boys wanted to go to college.

Thrilled with the results of this experience, I quickly came up with another idea for a screenplay and started a new Screenwriting Workshop, this time at a co-ed detention center. Again, these girls and boys were transformed through their experience of contributing to a screenplay, but especially from my interactions with them every week as their mentor. They opened up their hearts, shared their problems, and flourished under my guidance.

Inspired by these successes, I founded a non-profit organization in 1996. Create Now! matches writers, artists, musicians and other creative individuals in Los Angeles with high-risk kids who live in court-mandated institutions, such as homes for abused and neglected children, runaways, homeless kids and those in trouble with the law.

Through Create Now! I’ve personally mentored more than 50 of these kids and I’ve trained dozens of other mentors to work with high-risk youth. Create Now! has reached thousands of the most troubled children in Southern California.


You may wonder exactly what is mentoring. It’s not tutoring, which involves the teaching of a skill or discipline. Mentoring depends on the nurturing of a close, personal relationship. While helping with schoolwork can be a part of it, that’s just one aspect. Mentors inspire us to try harder and give us the confidence to reach for more ambitious goals. They teach us how to make good choices and open doors to new opportunities that normally wouldn’t be available.

A mentee, or protégé, is a novice, student or learner. At-risk and high-risk kids can be of any race and religion. They generally come from disadvantaged homes in poor communities. All children need the support of a positive adult, but these particular kids especially need help.

Research has shown that kids who are mentored have improved school attendance and better academic performance, a good appearance and attitude, less hostility, more self-esteem and many other improved qualities that are too numerous to name.


Tasha is another perfect example that proves mentoring makes a difference. She came from a poor community in South Central, Los Angeles. A bright girl with many talents, she didn’t get along with her family. When she was thirteen years old, Tasha began running away from home. She hung out with boys who got in trouble with the law. She was sent to detention camps and different institutions over the next few years.

I met Tasha at a detention facility when she was almost sixteen. She eagerly signed up for a Create Now! TV Writing Workshop with a professional sit-com writer who prefers to remain anonymous. When Tasha returned to her home in South Central, her mentor continued to visit her weekly. They formed a strong bond.

Her mentor moved to another state, so Create Now! provided Tasha with two additional mentors who helped her periodically. Her original mentor stayed in touch via phone and email. When Tasha graduated from high school, her mentors helped her apply to USC Film School and arranged for a scholarship. She was one of only fifty people in the world to be accepted into their film program.

Tasha graduated from college in December 2004. She got a job teaching disadvantaged middle-school children how to make their own videos. One of her mentors helped her get employed as a production assistant on a TV show and she’s now on the way to a lucrative career in the entertainment industry. We’re all very proud of Tasha.


Mentors benefit greatly from their experience. It’s a powerful feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. Most mentors grow on a personal and professional level through this process.

Many people who mentor develop leadership abilities and have a more profound understanding of children. Their own family bonds strengthen, plus they receive admiration and respect from their own peers.

There are different kinds of mentoring. Here are a few:

This is traditional mentoring, sometimes referred to as a “Special Friend” or a “Big/Little” relationship. You’re paired up with one child and the relationship tends to be close. Don’t take this involvement lightly and make sure you maintain your commitment.

With group mentoring programs, one adult volunteer builds relationships with a number of young people. Meetings can take place with a focus on a particular project or an ongoing activity.

A group of two or more adults work together as a team to mentor a group of youths. This system focuses on team building, leadership development, and community service, but it can be used for any type of program.

Low-income families face enormous pressure getting food and shelter. The stress can severely disrupt family life and lead to homelessness. These families can be matched with mentors (possibly your entire family) who work with them over an extended period of time. By connecting disadvantaged family members with useful community resources, helping them to develop life skills, and strengthening their foundation, you help the family to overcome challenges.

By using email and chat rooms on the Internet, mentors can reach children all over the world. Many forms of computer-assisted learning are becoming popular, as students have access to computers at school, libraries, and their homes.

Think carefully about what your needs are and how you can best serve at-risk and high-risk youth before you decide which type of mentoring program is right for you.


There are a lot of things that you can do with your mentees. Many of these kids have never been out of their own neighborhoods. You could take them on a trip to the beach, a hike in the mountains, a movie, a meal, or a visit to a museum. Expose them to cultural events like the theater or the circus, or just hang out and talk.

Most importantly, LISTEN! All kids need to communicate and vent. It’s important to hear what they say and be as open-minded as possible. Most kids need reliable adults with whom they can talk about their fears, dreams, and concerns. Mentors serve as sounding boards, and when asked, someone who can give trustworthy advice.

At-risk youth may not have any adults in their lives with the time, interest, or ability to listen to them. High-risk youth who live in residential institutions will rarely confide in staff members, administrators, or even psychologists for fear of punishment. Yet they might confide in you because of the trust that you’ve developed. It usually takes time, but when they know that they can count on you, they’ll start to open up.


Mentoring requires commitment and responsibility. You must keep your word and be dependable to have a positive effect. If you break your word, you’ll do more damage than good.

These children have been let down by adults most of their lives. Imagine if you come along, full of hope and excitement, and reach out to lend them a hand. They take it and off you go, spending time together and bonding. They slowly open up and start to trust you.

But then something changes in your life; perhaps you get a different job in another part of town, or you’ve got a new boyfriend who takes up all of your free time. Abandonment can be devastating to any child, especially these kids.

It’s okay if you only have sporadic time available to mentor, since even a short amount of time devoted to an at-risk youth is better than nothing. But it’s essential that you communicate this clearly to your mentee. The most important thing is not to set their expectations high only to let them down later.

These children represent our future. Through your support as a mentor, you can introduce them to a larger world where they’re a contributor instead of just another statistic.


No matter where you live or what you do for a living, you can impact a child’s life. To learn about mentoring opportunities in your community, visit the National Mentoring Partnership at

If you live in Southern California and have a creative skill that you’d like to share with at-risk or high-risk youth, please contact me at (213) 484-8500 or through email at

You’ll make a big difference in your community, and the world!



To The Learning Bank We Go

By Joe Pagano

As a former teacher of high school mathematics, I understand the day-to-day frustrations that any teacher might experience, particularly when trying to teach a subject like mathematics. The first day of class was always interesting. As teacher, I felt like the enemy who was bringing messages of death and despair to the students. I could see in many of their faces how dreaded a subject this truly was. But I would win them over. Yes, one by one I would quench their fear and instill new hope.

If you want to be successful as a teacher—any teacher—you have to refrain from playing the fear trump card. Unfortunately many math teachers do this, thinking that this will set the tone for the year and keep the students in line. This is not the way to go. Remember. You are on difficult turf. Most students despise math because it frustrates the heck out of them. They feel hopeless, lost, and confused most of the time when trying to work through this strange domain of variables, number systems, and word problems. Instilling fear in them will only make the problem worse.

Rather, you need to try alternative learning strategies. Now I know you’ve had this concept rammed down your throats a hundred or more times and I don’t mean to be like another administrator who forgot what it was like to be in the classroom. The truth is you can only lead a horse to water—you know the rest. So what kind of alternative strategies do you try? After all, you’re dealing with teenagers whose racing hormones keep their thoughts grounded on things other than math, English, and social studies.

What about integrating two different subjects, the so called “cross learning” approach. What about integrating math and English through the use of poetry. Now this definitely sounds interesting. What if you could open a lesson by reading a poem on mathematics which teaches a lesson on the subject, or gives some good food for thought? By taking this approach, you’re getting away from the textbook for at least a day and integrating a completely new approach to learning this dreaded subject. Moreover, you’re getting the kids to learn something about reading poetry as well. Could you see the startled expressions on their English teachers’ faces when they find out what’s going on in your math classroom? Now this is an idea that you can take to the bank—the learning bank.

About the author:

Joe is a prolific writer of self-help and educational material and an award-winning former teacher of both college and high school mathematics. Under the penname, JC Page, Joe authored Arithmetic Magic. As a result of this publication, Joe was invited to be a guest on the television show the Book Authority. Joe is also author of the charmingly pithy and popular ebook, Making a Good Impression Every Time: The Secret to Instant Popularity; the seminal collection of verse, Poems for the Mathematically Insecure, and the creator and scriptwriter of an upcoming DVD series that is both visionary and highly educational. The diverse genre of his writings (novel, short story, essay, script, and poetry)—particularly in regard to its educational flavor— continues to captivate readers and to earn him recognition.

Joe propagates his teaching philosophy through his articles and books and is dedicated to helping educate children living in impoverished countries. Toward this end, he donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every ebook. Joe makes himself available for speaking, consulting, teaching and inspiration. For more information on Joe, his teaching style, as well as information on how to purchase his books or other writings, please visit his website


School Band Fundraisers

By Kimberly Reynolds

Talk about your hard workers! Band groups are awesome when it comes to putting forth the effort it takes for fundraising success. The key is making sure they have the right fundraiser that will leverage all that energy.

In this article, we'll consider three band fundraisers that:
*Take some effort
*Are perfect for medium-sized groups
*Produce excellent results
Citrus Fruit:
One band fundraiser that fits the easy fundraiser formula is selling cases of citrus fruit shipped direct from the Florida groves.

Here, the band members use an order-taker brochure to explain the offering to prospective supporters.

You really need to go door-to-door or sell from a merchant table to achieve the kind of numbers where you'll raise substantial funds. This is perfect for a band group with enough members to canvass entire neighborhoods by working in pairs.

Customers can choose from Navel Oranges, Tangelos, Tangerines, Red Grapefruits, and mixed cartons. Order sizes range from ten pounds all the way up to forty pounds.

A common size is 2/5 of a bushel or 20 pounds. Generally, you can expect to pay roughly $8 for this size and make a profit of $4 each. These are rough prices because citrus fruit can vary in price based on weather patterns and availability.

Citrus fruit is a wintertime offering with availability best between mid-November through mid-April. There are discounts for large orders and bonuses for ordering a whole truckload.
Christmas Wreaths:
Another band fundraiser that's a good fit is selling Christmas wreaths via an order-taker brochure.

It's another late fall fundraiser that takes advantage of a holiday "must have" decoration.

Since they're made fresh, you can get an early jump on the retail stores and conduct your fundraiser as an order taker before Thanksgiving.

There are a number of offerings in addition to the traditional door wreath.

Suppliers also offer door swags, mantelpieces, centerpieces, candle wreath packs, and fresh cut holly. Prices range from $17 up to $50.

Profits are approximately 40% of the selling price on most items, so it makes a great band fundraiser because the total revenue is high.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how quickly your band profits can add up with an aggressive marketing campaign. You need to set some high goals for each band member, such as ten sales each before Thanksgiving.

Delivery is easy, with each wreath sealed in a plastic bag to preserve freshness. Get your orders in early and allow two weeks minimum for delivery.
Coffee Fundraiser:
A third band fundraiser that produces great results is a coffee sale. Like the other two fundraisers we've already discussed, a large selection of pre-bagged coffee products are sold via an order-taker brochure.

Your supporters can select from twenty or more flavors. Most suppliers have small "dollar bags" or the better selling half-pound package.

Usually, the cost for a half pound of quality coffee is $3, and the retail price is $5 or $6. You can offer a choice of whole bean, or ground varieties.

The idea here is to tap into the market for something that almost every household buys regularly, then expand upon it with multiple flavors.

Their names conjure up images of a cup of coffee wafting delicious aromas throughout the kitchen - flavors like Hazelnut, Toasted Almond, Hawaiian Coconut, Butterscotch, or Morning Glory.

Again, success is best achieved by presenting your offering to large numbers of prospective supporters. Set up a table at any event that draws a large crowd. Offer samples from tiny paper cups. Get the word out to as many people as you can.

Your band group works hard. Make sure you pick a band fundraiser that works just as hard by being impossible to resist. 

Kimberly Reynolds writes about fundraising ideas and tips on band fundraisers on her website. Find hundreds of fundraiser ideas on her website:


Teaching Listening Skills During Class

Presentations are becoming ever more common as teachers change to student-centered classes. These may be students or possibly guest speakers addressing the class. Regardless of who is speaking, the remainder of the students are comprising an audience that must be informed of its expectations during a presentation. We've developed a short, simple set of rules we call 'Expected Behaviors of a Good Listener'. All of our classrooms (each subject area) have posted these rules, and review them and utilize them whenever a presentation is given. They are easy to teach, remember, and monitor.

Rule 1: Look At The Speaker. This is a no-brainer. The audience is there to watch and listen to the speaker, and attention is mandatory.

Rule 2: Keep Your Hands Still. Free hands are unable to tap pencils, rustle paper, or drop spare change on a tile floor (one of my all- time greatest pet-peeves).

Rule 3: Never Talk When The Speaker Is Talking. This one again seems obvious. The audience is there to listen to the speaker, not to listen to another member of the audience.

Rule 4: Never Distract The Speaker. This is supported by the previous rules, but will also cover other situations. The audience should not make faces or body gestures that detract from the speaker's ability to present.

Rule 5: Keep Questions, Comments, And Laughter To Appropriate Times And Levels. Students will often have questions and comments about the presentations, and these are best posed at the end of the presentation. There will also be instances where funny things will happen or humor is used by the speaker. It is ok for the kids to laugh at these times (it's ok for the teacher to laugh too). We've had instances where puppet show stages and scenery props have fallen over. We've had tongue twisters gone awry. We've even had hilarious costumes and actions by characters. These and many others will happen as you present more often. That's ok, because these funny moments will help students remember the information better. Just remind students that laughter needs to be kept to an appropriate level, and not to carry on with it. Questions and comments can also be carried on too far. Don't let this time become an attack on the speaker (unless you're in a debate class!)

Ok, so what do we do about a student who chooses to not follow the expectations? We never give warnings, first of all. Once we've covered the rules, we expect immediate compliance. Many students have difficulty getting up in front of class without someone 'stealing their show' or causing them embarrassment.

Basically we take points away from that interrupter's presentation grade. The amount of the deduction is generally up to the individual teacher and weighted for the assignment. The first time it happens, we take off approximately 10% of the possible points. The second time is decreased up to 25% (we have little tolerance for disrupting a speaker). If it happens again, the student loses all credit and is removed from class for the remainder of the presentations.

Presentations are important for students, both as speaker and listener. Check out our website for a free printable copy of these rules that you can put on an overhead sheet or hand out to your students.

Using these simple rules (or adapting them to your class), you can teach your students to be respectful and pay close attention during class.

Crosswords and Word Puzzles:
A Great Way to Review in Class

Many of us enjoy the challenge of a good crossword puzzle in our local papers when sitting down to breakfast on the weekends or passing the time when traveling. But did you ever think about the benefits of using crosswords and other word puzzles in class?

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world. However, according to George Elliott of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament,, this serious adult pastime has a relatively short history. To paraphrase Elliott, "The first crosswords appeared in England during the 19th century. The first known, published crossword (December 21, 1913 in the Sunday newspaper the New York World) was created by a journalist named Arthur Wynne, who is usually credited as the inventor of the popular word game. Wynne based his crossword on a similar, though much older game (played in ancient Pompeii) called Magic Squares or word square, which was a group of words arranged so the letters read alike vertically and horizontally. These word squares were printed in children's puzzle books and other periodicals. During the early 1920's other newspapers picked up the newly discovered pastime and within a decade crossword puzzles were featured in almost all American newspapers."

Crossword puzzles require two fundamental vocabulary skills, 1) knowing the definition of the word and 2) knowing how to spell the word correctly. This can be a great way to review important terms and words for any class, from foreign languages, to math, to science, to language arts. By varying the number of words, and the size of the letter boxes, crosswords can be used at any grade level. Even lower elementary students can fill in these puzzles, and many children love the interesting shapes and connections between words.

Crosswords are not difficult to create, especially with the help of your handy computer. There are several on-line websites that allow you to input your vocabulary word list and definitions (clues). Good programs also allow you to customize the puzzle, changing the puzzle's overall dimensions, box sizes, title, and even colors. One easy to use puzzle making website is located at:

Once there, you simply choose the type of puzzle you wish (you can even see examples of the different types of puzzles, including math puzzles, mazes, and word searches among others). Crossword puzzles are fun for students, and they provide a welcomed break from finishing review worksheets, studying vocabulary lists, and answering questions from the textbook.

Running Project Centers Effectively

Project centers or stations can be a great way to have your students working independently (or as a team) on a number of assignments.  These centers have been used successfully by elementary teachers, gym teachers, and coaches for many years. And this technique can be utilized by middle school teachers too. In fact, writer's workshops and science labs are really not too far from this style of teaching.  Basically you divide up your students into several groups, and each group of students moves from one project area to the next, doing work at each station.

Some teachers have specific centers or stations they use each week during the year. They have certain skills they want their students to practice through the year. Some stations may change or be adjusted as the year goes on. Other teachers use groups as needed in particular units or for extra practice. These are geared toward specific objectives in a unit or they may be determined by testing and assessment of students progress (or lack of progress).

Dividing up the students will be determined in large part by the resources you have to work with and the types of assignments you want the kids to do. For example, in my class I want my students using technology in real-life applications. Thus, we need every computer put to use every hour. Now, we're quite lucky to have a bank of eMacs updated with new software right in our room. Because of this, we have students working on projects like PowerPoints, web pages, newsletters, and the like. Each week the students have a large project similar to these to work on. Sometimes these are individual activities, and other times the group of students must work together.  This is one example of the resources in your room dictating the group size; there are five computers, so I can have groups of five students.

There are a number of ways to designate your groups. You might have preformed groups, either choosing them yourself or allowing students to have input. One teacher at our school has the kids write down one student they work well with and one student they cannot work with at all. She then uses this to form groups. Another teacher uses his knowledge of the students' leadership skills and academic performance to form groups. In my room, students are already at tables, and each table is labeled with a different symbol (star, heart, square, triangle, & circle). This makes it easy for me to just write the symbol on the board next to each group, and I can rewrite them each day. One teacher in our elementary has a permanent chart on his wall and uses velcro (you could use magnets if you have a white board) to affix small signs to designate each group. Then changing groups each day is quick and easy.

You have to be ready for and expect a certain noise level when your students are in groups or project centers. But as always, there is 'productive' noise and then there is 'off-task' talking. Keep yourself free to move about the room, monitoring students and checking their progress.

Monitor the groups carefully and keep the kids on task, especially the first few times you try centers. Once your students understand your expectations, you'll be freed up more to help individually. I like to include normal classroom activities and assignments as part of the centers. After we've practiced this skill or activity and the students know how to do it, they are more likely to successfully accomplish a similar task in group.

This is one great advantage of the groups - you can move from group to group working with kids. Each project center has an activity for the kids so they are on task. And since these are much smaller groups of students, you can work closely with them, discussing and answering questions. And you can check for understanding faster, easier, and more thoroughly.

Choose meaningful activities at each station. In our English class, students need at least one reading and one writing activity each week. These may take various forms, and I try to mix it up a bit.  Then I also try to make use of the technology with computer projects.  Each activity has meaning and many provide good practice on skills.

After a few rotations, the students get the hang of it. I'll give them a two-minute warning, and we put a 30 second timer on the switch between groups. This keeps them hopping and eliminates the down time. They do get much faster the more you practice.

My students have responded favorably to the groups. They enjoy switching gears once or twice each class period. This fits with their attention spans too. I like it too, because the kids are split up around the room and they're on task. And I'm able to interact more closely with the students. It frees me up to walk around and work individually or conference with a student if I wish. I'm not sure this is the only way to teach effectively, but it is an excellent teaching tool to keep in your toolbox.

Positive Parent Conferences

It's parent-teacher conference time! Some are positive experiences where teachers are able to make great connections with parents. And yet other meetings are foretold by apprehension and met with strife. Over the years, you will encounter the gamut of positive and negative experiences, and everything in between. However, there are strategies you can use to make the best of any situation.

It is extremely important to make a good first impression (even if you already know the parents). Make eye contact with them, and greet the parents with a firm handshake. No weak grips! If you've never met the parents, stand up to introduce yourself. Welcome them with a smile. Remember that you are building relationships, and setting the tone for the conference.

A good way to open the conference is to ask how the student is doing in other classes. Ask about their other grades, and start building an overall picture. You will often find the student's strong and weak areas, and you may even find surprises. I've found students who were failing every class but mine. And I've found the opposite too. A good overall picture can really give you a new perspective on your students.

Always try to say something positive. Even in the cloudiest of situations, you should find some ray of sunshine. And if you do have bad news to share, opening with good news can help ease the transition.

Be objective with bad news. Give truthful and accurate facts, and keep from making speculations. Make sure you have your facts straight! Work with parents, and try to offer suggestions. Most parents will look to you for ideas. Plan what you'll say ahead of time. If you've taken the time to get to know your students well, you'll find the conferences easier.

Positive parents are what we all expect and hope for. They come in with an open mind, are pleasant, and are willing to both listen to your comments and help with solutions to problems that do occur.  These are often very short conferences at the middle and high school levels. The parents have heard the stories all before, and with good reason; students whose parents regularly attend conferences have higher grade averages and fewer instances of behavior problems than those students whose parents rarely interact with school personnel.

The truth be known, many parents are intimidated by teachers. Many do worry that their concerns and critiques will be turned around and used against their kids. Even though teachers find this entire concept laughable and preposterous, it does, nonetheless, cross many parents' minds.

So, what do you do with a hostile parent? Diffuse the situation by being patient and listening. Sometimes its hard to just listen while parents are going off on you. They may be right or wrong, misinformed or even plain out of line. It is only a mistake to interrupt them, especially if they are on a roll. Stop yourself, focus on what they're saying, even take notes to show you're listening, and let them burn themselves out. Sometimes the hostile parents are looking for an audience, and sometimes they just need to vent. By giving them the time to 'get it all out of their system', you allow them to calm down so you both can reasonably discuss the situation.

Be sure to stand when they leave, again this is being courteous and polite. Thank them for attending. And let them know you'll contact them if anything changes. Parents generally want to be kept informed about their kids, both the good and bad.

The Many Benefits of Sustained Silent Reading

The benefits of classroom reading are many. Children (especially young children) have a natural love of reading. However, we at the middle school often see students who either struggle with texts or are turned off to reading. A great way of regenerating that interest is through sustained silent reading in your classroom.

This topic has been hotly debated recently in the International Reading Association newsletter. I'm not trying to enter this debate.  This article will simply describe what we in our school have observed and detail what we've done in our classes that has worked for our students.

First off, let your students choose what they read, whether it is a book, magazine, or whatever. It makes a huge difference in peaking their interest. Teachers already give (and require) plenty of specific readings through activities, literature, and in textbooks.  Students need the opportunity to read about what interests them, and this can occur when you allow them to choose what they want to read.  By all means, continue with your regular activities, but find a way to give your students time (in class is best) to read on their own.

It is very important for you as the teacher to model reading to your students. Read the entire time your students are reading too. Don't let this time be wasted on grading papers, checking email, or doing any other administrivia. If you want your students to take the time seriously, show them you are taking the time yourself and are enjoying the activity. Regardless of what the kids may say to you, they will imitate your behaviors in your class. You have this great opportunity to be a positive role model!

Just as in practicing writing and their skills through the week, you as the teacher need to schedule in time for sustained silent reading.  When I'm covering a piece of literature, for example, my class may read in a variety of ways. We may read aloud, I may read to the class, or we may play 'popcorn' around the room as students choose others. You probably have other out-loud reading activities you use too. These are great, and I always recommend them. But you should always give students time to read silently too. It doesn't have to be a lot, but I do recommend at least ten minutes, though not more than twenty. Think in terms of attention spans: plenty of time to become engaged in the text, read for a bit, and yet stay focused. Obviously some students could lose themselves in a book for hours on end, but not all kids have such a long attention span. Start with ten minutes and work upward, adding a few minutes each time.

In addition to literature we all cover in class, I also set up a regular library time so students can select their own books. We'll stay in the library for, again, about twenty minutes. I give students between ten and fifteen minutes to look over the shelves and 'try on' a book. Its like trying on clothing. This trial version is very important so students can start deciding if this is the book for them.  If it doesn't hook them in the first ten minutes, I suggest they try again. I'll try to make suggestions based on what I think the students' interests are. Sometimes we talk about what they like, what their interests are. Students are not required to check out a book, but they must 'try out' at least one book at each visit.

We designate each Friday after our vocabulary quiz for sustained silent reading. Students may read their library book, another book of their choice, or even a magazine from the rack in my room (I typically collect old magazines from everywhere and keep them in a large rack in class). Old magazines include the old stand bys - Reader's Digest, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated. But I also gather Teen magazines, food and cooking, gardening, hunting and fishing, and video game magazines, among others. This way there are a large variety of topics for students to choose from.

The bookshelves in my room also have old reference materials and some outdated textbooks I've scrounged from other teachers. Some of your students will enjoy looking through drafting texts, recipe books, or science books, and you'd be surprised at the number of kids who love maps in social studies, history, or geography text books.

I've noticed a difference, especially in the attitudes of my students toward reading. Students given choices through the year were more engaged in the assigned readings through the year. Often, students (especially struggling students or low readers) have told me they enjoy reading, or they've found a topic or author they want to read more about, or the readings I did assign were some of the only ones they actually read (that year or in several years). Comments like that last one are bittersweet, because though I'm glad the student has regained the interest in reading, I'm sorry it took so long and the student was turned off in the first place. Sustained silent reading and allowing students to choose their own texts can be very powerful and beneficial to your students. You can be the teacher who makes a difference to your students.

Classroom Wrap Up Ideas

Opening your lesson is always important to focus your students for class. And a good wrap up activity is great for summarizing and closing your lesson. Early on in my teaching career, I focused on teaching 'coast to coast', right up until the end of the hour. Often my lessons ran until the bitter end, with students scrambling to pack up and rushing to their next class. Later on (as I got better) I began using wrap ups to close the lesson, summarize what the students learned, and provide a launching pad to the next day's lesson.

In English class, for example, the students will often complete short writing assignments as 'tickets out the door'. I've included a few short prompts at the end of this article that you can use (or feel free to adapt) in your own class. Some prompts take the form of short paragraphs, some are in the form of a quiz designed by the kids, and we even have some that are in a creative writing style.

Wrap-ups can take many forms. There are some teachers who simply ask questions of the class before students are released. If a student answers correctly, that student is allowed to pack up and perhaps even leave (depending on your school's policies). After a few questions, allow the remainder of the students to go on the next correct answer. You can take volunteers for the answers or use a random choice technique.

Other teachers choose to have students write before they leave. Short writing prompts are great. These should only last a few minutes, and be easy for you to grade/correct/take credit if you choose to. An easy way to check the writing is by length - a certain number of required words or lines. Some writings take the form of answers to questions, so you can check the number of correct responses. Another powerful way is to have students create their own questions in the form of short quizzes. Students can make up true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, short answer, or other types of quizzes.  Always have students include the answers.

There are even games you can play with your students as wrap ups.  Some store-bought games can easily be adapted and fit to your classroom. Simply change the game data by inserting your own questions and class curricular information. You might even create and develop your own games to play in class. As always, remember to factor time into your activity. You'll be able to get to only a few students in the time you have, so create a plan to randomly choose students or keep track of who has already participated. That way every student has an equal opportunity to participate.

Wrap-ups can be easy to design and implement in your class. And your students can have fun too using their creativity. The teacher must make a commitment to doing these every day. Then the procedure is in place for students and teacher alike. Wrap-ups are great for reviewing class material not only that day but over past classes. And they make an excellent transition to the next class.

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