Archive for November, 2010

The Lawrence Elementary Looping Project (Grades 4-5)

By Lajean Shiney, Founder

The Lawrence Looping Project is not a technique new to Wichita, but it is to our school. We have several pair of classroom teachers who make up “loops”; in my case, I have fourth grade this year, with my partner teacher teaching her fourth graders from last year again as fifth grade. Next year, I will keep the students from my class and teach fifth grade, and my looping partner will begin her new loop with a fresh class of fourth graders. While some benefits reportedly include giving special ed students a more stable learning environment, I am particularly looking forward to a more long-range curriculum, and for dealing more effectively with students who, say, spend nearly a whole year just getting up to speed on basis math skills, only to go out the door just when things were beginning to get on track.

While there is a fair amount of information written about multi-age classrooms where multiple grades are in one classroom, I have found far less material on “looping” or the other more ambiguous terms used to define it. In the following pages, I have a compilation of information which was available to me during our fact-finding process.

The following information was compiled from various sources for my personal use in evaluating the viability of looping at my own school. Much was given to me in the form of “copies of copies”; my apologies to authors who are uncredited here.

Issues to be Addressed:

Q. Will students learn anything during the second year with a teacher?
A. The academic growth should be strengthened in that skill level from spring be targeted much sooner in the fall. Staff member would know child’s strengths and weaknesses. Teachers would be more able to group learners by academic needs.

Q. How will teacher turnover affect this plan?
A. Teacher turnover should not impact the convept as new staff members would be acquired that already believe in and are committed to the looping initiative.

* increased instructional time
* the system fosters bonds between staff/kids/parents
* better serve diverse student body
* authentic assessment of student programs
* increase parent involvement
* emphasizes stability, persistence and intimacy
* more readily developed with group “persistence”
* increases staff partnership
* possibly fewer behavior problems as stronger peer relationships develop
* staff learn from each other
* reduce student anxiety of possible failure
* teachers more patient, relaxed, easier to experience with teaching methods

Q. How will looping make it a better system at a smaller school?
A. ?

Q. Would departmentalization continue?
A. Departmentalization would not be affected and could be expanded.

Q. How do teachers feel about looping?
A. Teachers have not given a formal opinion about the concept but have been open to discussing and studying the issues. We hope t make a better determination near the end of March.

Q. What are some cons to looping?
A. Teacher making parent unhappy; student social skills; discipline; students may miss out on having a certain teacher if teacher transfers.

Q. Combination classes – how would this work?
A. ?

Q. What to do about parent/student/teacher conflict?
A. Individual conflicts would be addresses as they are now – individually.

Q. Class size.
A. ?

Q. Planning/Prep for teachers
A. Planning would begin in April and May during inservice opportunity, and most likely a summer retreat.

Q. Would there be an opportunity for students to change teachers?
A. Staff return in fall – unknown as of this date.

Q. Total staff commitment
A. Would be necessary to ensure success – “total staff” could mean select group.

Looping – What Research Says

On the following few pages, staff has attempted to synthesize the multitude of research available to our community as we explore the concept of “looping” for our learning community during the 95-96 school year. The looping concept is an instructional delivery system which allows a staff member to remian with their class for up to three years. As we contemplate the initiation of this programming method, your professional staff will make their recommendation only after validating their recommendation based on fact, research and what’s best for kids.

Our 2nd “town meeting” is scheduled for March 7 in our library. At this session, the staff will attempt to respond to inquiries from our first “town meeting” and provide additional input from district practitioners who currently utilize the concept.

Please take a moment to review the information garnered from research and plan on attending our meeting tomorrow. Should you wish to review the entire file on “looping”, please feel free to stop by the office or if you need additional information about a specific piece of research, please contact the staff person who is serving as the resource for that specific piece of research.

We hope our efforts lead our community to decisions that will reflect favorably on the academic and social success of all of our students.

“Restructuring America’s School”
American Association of School Administrators

The word is out in West Germany about a new kind of school that is revolutionizing the way teachers teach and students learn – and leading educators in America as well as in West Germany, are taking note. The Koln-Holweide school, in Cologne, is a model school that is a radical departure from the overcrowded and impersonal “comprehensive” schools typical of that country. Already the pioneering efforts of this school appear to be paying off – the Koln-Holweide system has been adopted in twenty West German schools, with great success every time.

The Koln-Holweide school is making strides with students that would make any educator proud: only one percent of the school’s 2,000 students drop out annually as opposed to a national West German average of 14 percent. In addition, 60 percent, versus 27 percent nationally, score well enough on a high school exit exam to go on to a four-year college. The secret lies in a system that fosters bonds between teachers and students; where harmony is a goal, not a sifde effect. Here students learn from their fellow students and teachers learn from their fellow teachers. They exist in a very close-knit and planned “school community”.

The founders of Koln-Holweide felt resturcturing was needed to serve a large and diverse students body that was not responding to the traditional school setting. They wanted to impose a structure that would acknowledge the value of each student and, at the same time, provide an avenue through which students from very different backgrounds could work together to reach their potential. Toward this end, administrators of the school developed what they termed the “Team-Small-Group-Plan”.

Under this system, students are brought together in groups of 85 to 90 to be team-taught by six to eight teachers. Unlike most team-teaching in America, these groups stay together for a six-year period, thus enabling the students and teachers to form strong, lasting bonds. Within the teams, students are further divided into classes of 27 to 30 students, and then into “table” groups of five or six, where they engage in cooperative learning. These groups feel a sense of responsiblitity for one another; they come to know that successful individuals mean a successful group, and they help each other reach that goal. Mentoring and empowerment are the main characteristics of the Koln-Holweide staff. Teachers support one another by continually providing constructive feedback and suggestions. They serve as mentors for students, as well. According to Anne Ratzki, headmistress of the school, teachers are responsible “for the total education of their students, for making sure that their students succeed, personally and academically.”

Comment Ideas for Report Cards & Progress Reports

When Teachnet Contributor, Chantal Latour, sat down to personalize her students’ report cards, something was missing. The list of report card comments that used as starters and had spent years compiling was gone.

Chantal explained her situation to the members of the Teacher-2-Teacher forum and was overwhelmed with responses. Nearly 300 adjectives and phrases are available here for your use.

As one contributor points out, remember: “My main advice about report card comments is to tell the truth.”

  1. Is a good citizen
  2. Is learning to share and listen.
  3. Is becoming more dependable during work periods.
  4. Is developing a better attitude toward ___ grade.
  5. Is showing interest and enthusiasm for the things we do.
  6. Is learning to occupy his time constructively.
  7. Wants responsibilities and follows through.
  8. Can be very helpful and dependable in the classroom.
  9. Always uses her time wisely.
  10. Has strengthened her skills in ___.
  11. Has great potential and works toward achieving it.
  12. Working to full capability.
  13. Is strong in _____.
  14. Is learning to be a better listener.
  15. Is learning to be careful, cooperative, and fair.
  16. Is continuing to grow in independence.
  17. Enthusiastic about participating.
  18. Gaining more self-confidence.
  19. Has a pleasant personality.
  20. Has earned a very fine report card.
  21. Has improved steadily.
  22. Is learning to listen to directions more carefully.
  23. Now accepts responsiblity well.
  24. _____’s work habits are improving.
  25. Has been consitently progressing.
  26. Has shown a good attitude about trying to improve in ___.
  27. The following suggestions might improve his ____.
  28. I am hoping this recent interest and improvement will continue.
  29. Seems eager to improve.
  30. Has shown strong growth in ____.
  31. Is cooperative and happy.
  32. Volunteers often.
  33. Is willing to take part in all classroom activities.
  34. Works well with her neighbors.
  35. _____’s attitude toward school is excellent.
  36. Has the ability to follow directions.
  37. Hand work is beautifully done.
  38. Learns new vocabulary quickly.
  39. Has a sense of humor and enjoys the stories we read.
  40. Is a steadfast, conscientious worker.
  41. Is very helpful about clean-up work around the room.
  42. Anxious to please.
  43. Brings fine contributions.
  44. Has a pleasant disposition.
  45. Works well.
  46. Is hard-working.
  47. Is pleasant and friendly.
  48. Needs to increase speed and comprehension in reading.
  49. Needs to apply skills to all written work.
  50. Gets along well with other children.
  51. Your constant cooperation and help are appreciated.
  52. Has shown an encouraging desire to better herself in ___.
  53. Making steady progress academically.
  54. Quality of work is improving.
  55. Responds well.
  56. Is maintaining grade-level achievements.
  57. Works well in groups, planning and carrying out activities.
  58. Seems to be more aware of activities in the classroom.
  59. Takes an active part in discussions pertinent to ___.
  60. Accepts responsiblity.
  61. Extremely conscientious.
  62. Bubbles over with enthusiasm.
  63. Has a sense of humor we all enjoy.
  64. Has an excellent attitude.
  65. Work in the areas of ____ has been extremely good.
  66. Is an enthusiastic worker during the ____ period.
  67. Needs to work democratically with others in groups.
  68. Possible for ___ to exceed grade expectations.
  69. Grasps new ideas readily.
  70. Needs to develop a better sense of responsiblity.
  71. Enthusiasitic about work in general.
  72. Performs well in everthing he undertakes.
  73. Unusually mature.
  74. Seeks information.
  75. Mature vocabulary.
  76. Doing strong work in all areas.
  77. Is a clear thinker.
  78. Excels in writing original stories and poems.
  79. Is a good student who appears to be a deep thinker.
  80. Reads extensively.
  81. Has good organization of thoughts.
  82. Has a vast background knowledge of ___.
  83. Is a very fine and serious student and excels in ___.
  84. Rate of achievement makes it difficult for ___ to keep up with the class.
  85. Must improve work habits if ___ is to gain the fundamentals needed for ___ grade work.
  86. _____’s academic success leaves much to be desired.
  87. Handwriting needs to be improved.
  88. Cooperative, well mannered.
  89. Is a very happy, well-adjusted child, but ___.
  90. Makes friends quickly and is well liked by classmates.
  91. Cries easily.
  92. Good worker and attentive listener.
  93. Good adjustment.
  94. Good attitude.
  95. Capable of achieving a higher average in areas of ____.
  96. Has difficulty retaining process of addition, etc.
  97. Is inconsistent in his efforts, especially in ___.
  98. Sacrificing accuracy for unnecessary speed in his written work.
  99. Needs to listen to directions.
  100. Never completes assignments in the allotted time.
  101. Fails to finish independent assignments.
  102. Would improve if he developed a greater interest in ___.
  103. Comprehends well, but needs to work more quickly.
  104. Needs to be urged.
  105. Can follow directions.
  106. Enjoys listening to poetry.
  107. Enjoys listening to stories.
  108. Listens carefully.
  109. Evaluates what he/she hears
  110. Phonics – (is able to distinguish, has difficulty distinguishing) sounds in words
  111. Now knows and is able to use _____ consonant and vowel sounds
  112. Confuses the sounds ___ and ___
  113. Is able to blend short words using the vowel(s) _____ with /without assistance
  114. Is learning to attack words independently
  115. Uses the phonics skills to attack new words
  116. Reading is (smooth, jerky, hesitant, rapid, irregular, or fluent)
  117. Comprehends what he/she reads
  118. Is interested in books and reading
  119. Can read to follow directions
  120. Can now recognize ____ sight words
  121. Reads for pleasure
  122. Needs lots of repetition and practice in order to retain reading vocabulary
  123. Is still confusing words which look alike
  124. Is beginning to read words in groups (phrases)
  125. Reading is becoming (not yet becoming) automatic
  126. Enjoys discussing the stories
  127. Has had difficulty with learning ______ so in the coming term we will focus on ______.
  128. Speaks in good sentences
  129. Speaks clearly
  130. Has difficulty using (pronouns, verbs) correctly
  131. Enjoys dramatization
  132. Enjoys participation in conversation and discussion
  133. Expresses ideas clearly
  134. Has a good oral vocabulary
  135. Takes turns talking
  136. Speaks with confidence to the group
  137. Uses punctuation correctly
  138. Is able to place periods and question marks correctly
  139. Uses colorful words
  140. Uses (complex, simple) sentences
  141. Is now able to write a complete sentence independently
  142. Participates in group story telling (composition)
  143. Can write an original story of (one or two sentences, of a few sentences)
  144. Puts words in the appropriate order
  145. Is able to read his sentences back
  146. Shows self confidence in writing
  147. Can compose several related sentences
  148. Is building a good spelling vocabulary
  149. Uses his individual dictionary to find unfamiliar words
  150. Enjoys learning to spell new words
  151. Is able to learn to spell words easily
  152. Sometimes reverses letters in a word
  153. Has difficulty remembering the spelling of non-phonetic words
  154. Is helped by using hand or body motions to remember spelling
  155. When printing, often reverses letters, such as __, __, etc.
  156. Has good (poor) fine-motor skills
  157. Is able to print on the lines
  158. Spaces letters and words correctly
  159. Some printing is excellent but is often untidy in daily assignments
  160. Enjoys doing neat careful work
  161. Can work with numbers up to ___ with understanding
  162. Understands the signs +, -, = and uses them to make number statements
  163. Understands and uses basic facts of addition and subtraction to ____
  164. Reverses some numbers still
  165. Understands place value up to _____
  166. Can use manipulatives to add and subtract
  167. Can use manipulatives to show place value to _____
  168. Understands money (pennies, dimes, nickels)
  169. Relies heavily on concrete objects
  170. Knows the basic shapes
  171. Can count to ______
  172. Is able to create graphs using simple data
  173. Understands several methods of graphing
  174. Is beginning to memorize the number facts
  175. Is friendly and cooperative
  176. Cooperates well
  177. Helps others
  178. Has a sense of humor
  179. Has a good attitude towards school
  180. Is working well in all subjects
  181. Lacks independence / Is gaining independence
  182. Is too easily distracted
  183. Is becoming more self-reliant
  184. Is an attentive student
  185. All work is neatly and accurately done
  186. Is a polite conscientious pupil
  187. Is working above grade level in _________.
  188. Works too slowly
  189. Does not complete assignments in the allotted time
  190. Seems unable to finish required work
  191. Does colorful and interesting art work
  192. Is especially good at ______
  193. Requires too much supervision.
  194. Please encourage him to do things on his own.
  195. Should be encouraged to _____
  196. Needs frequent encouragement
  197. Is maturing
  198. Is learning to concentrate
  199. Is learning to listen carefully
  200. Is gaining self-confidence
  201. Often completes work early
  202. Is very thoughtful
  203. Takes pride in work well done
  204. Is eager to learn
  205. Makes little effort when not under direct supervision
  206. Often seems tired at school
  207. Is not very appreciative of the value of ( time, courtesy, sharing, neatness, accuracy)
  208. Shows initiative; thinks things through for himself/herself
  209. If a child is having difficulty – say so! Say what you have tried already to help him/her, and what you are going to do differently in the term to come to help the child.
  210. Never say the child is having problems without giving a possible solution you are going to try and what has already been tried.
  211. This shows you are doing everything in your power to change the situation.
  212. _____ has matured nicely this year, academically and socially.
  213. He/She assumes responsibility well and has a find attitude.
  214. He/She still needs strengthening in the concept of long division.
  215. Thanks for the help I know you have given her.
  216. There has been a noticeable improvement in _____’s study habits this reporting period, which is very encouraging.
  217. Please continue during the summer with ___________ review and as many reading experiences as possible.
  218. ___________ would benefit from reading many library books this summer.
  219. He needs to improve his reading speed and comprehension if he is to have success in the ________ grade.
  220. If ___________ will put forth in the future the effort he has shown in the past two reporting periods, he will receive a great deal from his schooling.
  221. With __________’s ability to apply herself to each task, she should receive much satisfaction from her school experiences.
  222. _____________ continued to blossom as the year progressed.
  223. _______________’s oral reading is very expressive and her oral reporting is excellent.
  224. Thank you for your interest in _____________’s attitude.
  225. Although he has had some difficulty adjusting to our room and various duties, he usually tries to cooperate.
  226. _____________ has had some problems adjusting to our room, as you know from my reports to you.
  227. Many of her difficulties occur on the playground and she then carries a poor attitude in the classroom.
  228. This hurts her academically.
  229. She is capable of much better work.
  230. I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you this year.
  231. __________has made nice progress this reporting period.
  232. He is maturing nicely and I hope this continues.
  233. Although _____________’s growth in social maturity is continuing, it is not consistent.
  234. She still needs guidance and support from both you and me.
  235. Thanks for your cooperation.
  236. _____________ is a wonderful girl and I’m happy to have had her in my room.
  237. she has made many fine contributions to our class and is an inspiration to her classmates.
  238. With ____’s friendly, cooperative attitude, she will always be a pleasant addition to any class.
  239. I have enjoyed the association I have had _____________.
  240. His friendly, sincere way has made him a very popular member of the ___ grade.
  241. Regardless of how busy _________ is, he still has time to do something nice for someone. For this reason, he is one of the best-liked members of my class.
  242. I enjoyed having _____________ in my class.
  243. She is a sweet and cooperative child.
  244. _____________ is a pleasant, conscientious student.
  245. He is self-confident and has excellent manners.
  246. It has been a pleasure to have him in my class.
  247. I enjoyed having _____________ in my room.
  248. She assumes responsibility well, excels on the playground and is well liked by her peers.
  249. She’s helped to make my year a pleasant one.
  250. She is a big help in seeing that our room looks clean and pleasant.
  251. She has been most cooperative and only needs strengthening in social studies skills to bring her up to ____ grade level.
  252. ___________ is a fine citizen and takes a keen interest in school.
  253. I hope you enjoy your new home!
  254. __________ takes a keen interest in all work and is most agreeable and a willing worker. It has been wonderful having her in my room.
  255. Exhibits excellent attitude
  256. Possesses good self discipline
  257. Respectful of others
  258. Works independently on assignments
  259. Exhibits creativity
  260. Does good work
  261. Always cooperative
  262. Classroom attitude shows improvement
  263. Pleasant student to work with
  264. Quality of work has improved
  265. Hard worker
  266. Participates well in class
  267. A pleasure to have around
  268. Experiences difficulty following directions-when unsure needs to ask for questions
  269. Needs to actively participate in classroom discussion
  270. Needs better study skills
  271. Requires incentives
  272. Low quiz/test scores
  273. Assignments/Homework incomplete/late
  274. Needs to pay attention in class
  275. Disruptive in class
  276. Needs to improve classroom attitude
  277. Excessive tardiness
  278. Excessive absences
  279. Failure to turn in make up work
  280. A conference is requested
  281. This subject modified/ leveled according to ability
  282. Does not work up to his/her ability
  283. Student will be retained in current grade next year. Please contact the school to arrange a conference.
  284. Subject has been taught but no grade issued
  285. Makes careless errors
  286. Difficulty understanding the material
  287. Does not know math facts well
  288. Interrupts others
  289. Gets upset easily
  290. Work is not neat
  291. Disorganized
  292. Needs to proofread work
  293. Does not form letters correctly
  294. Assignments are not neat
  295. Excessive talking
  296. Needs to spend time on task
  297. Does not put enough time into assignment
  298. Needs to improve self discipline
  299. Needs to improve respect for others

Free Downloadable PDF Certificates & Awards

We have had numerous requests here at Teachnet.Com for a library of downloadable, printable certificates and awards. As we work towards creating such a library of PDF files and blacklines for you to use, we now make our first contribution to the library online. Read on for information on how to request your own certificate.

The files below are all PDFs (portable document formats) and can be viewed and printed at high-resolution using Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat is FREE for download (Mac & PC) at

Gold Foil
For the illusion of a professional foil stamped border or name, you might think you have to send the job to a printer. Not so fast! Gold foil and seals can turn an ordinary certificate into something truly extraordinary.

You can order laser foil from Paper Access or visit your local Staples, Office Max, or other business and paper supply store. The foil uses the heat of the fuser in your laser printer or copier to adhere to the black toner on the certificate. For instructions (with pictures), visit

PaperDirect also offers a complete line of paper, certificates, seals and more. Check out their product selection or request a catalog.

This Never Tardy award is 8.5 x 11 inches. Three lines allow for flexibility in student’s name, grading period, signatures and date awarded.

Click here to download

This Super Speller award is 8.5 x 11 inches with a single line for “awarded to”. Filling these out for many kids and then hanging them on a bulletin board or in a hallway makes a great display.

Click here to download

This Perfect Attendance award is 8.5 x 11 inches. Three lines allow for flexibility in student’s name, grading period, signatures and date awarded.

Click here to download

This Certificate of Achievement is 8.5 x 11 inches and has lines to fill in: the recipient, what the award is for, and who the award is awarded by. Set up your computer to print the information on the certificate, type it in with a typewriter, or hand letter the certificate yourself. The gold foil process mentioned above works great on this one.

Click here to download

This Certificate of Achievement is 8.5 x 11 inches and rewards “academic excellence”, allowing for subject awards such as Math.

Click here to download

This french version of the Certificat de Participation is 8.5 x 11 inches and, like the Certificate of Achievement, has lines to fill in: the recipient, what the award is for, and who the award is awarded by.

Click here to download

The You’re a Star award is 8.5 x 11 inches and allows you to decide how much information you want to include. For a simple award, just write the recipient’s name in the star. To add more text, use the extra space inside the star and let your students know you think they’re great!

Click here to download

The Honor Roll certificates are 8.5 x 11 inches and the pdf includes two versions: one for awarding each grading period and one for the entire year.

Click here to download

This Memory Book was designed with the graduating classes in mind, but you can use it at any grade level. Fold the 8.5 x 11 inch sheet in half with 2-4 extra blank pages. Staple at the fold and VOILA! You have an [almost] instant parting gift for your students. Give with glue sticks (if you dare) so they can attach pictures next to their friends’ signatures and farewell wishes.

Click here to download

The Certificate of Appreciation is 8.5 x 11 inches with two unmarked signature lines so that two people may sign or one may sign and date.

Click here to download

This generic “Award” is 8.5 x 11 inches (filled in here in gray as an example.) For a complete list of “presented for” options, see the column at right.

Click here to download

The Good Behavior award is 8.5 x 11 inches with spaces for the student’s name, school, date, and teacher’s signature.

Click here to download

This Certificate of Promotion is 8.5 x 11 inches with spaces for name, grade (or class) completed, promoted to, date, and a signature line.

Click here to download

This simple Diploma is 8.5 x 11 inches with spaces for the date, student’s name, class or school graduated from, and two signature lines.

Click here to download

This Gift Certificate comes two on a 8.5 x 11 inch sheet and is 8.5 x 5.5 inches when cut apart. With spaces for a recipient, value, and “redeemable at”, these can be used to award students with items in the classroom or from the school cafeteria or supply shop.

Click here to download

This Student of the Month certificate is 8.5 x 11 inches with spaces for name, month, personal qualities, and two signature lines.

Click here to download

Is there a certificate or worksheet you would like to see included here? Please leave a comment below and we’ll add it as soon as we can. Keep in mind that it should be generic enough for others to use.

Awards For Everything

Thanks to Teachnet Contributor, Boni Fulgham, for the following award ideas. Use these to “fill in the blank” for basic certificates, like a Certificate of Appreciation.

Your Bright Smile

Hardest Worker

Best Boy Athlete

Best Girl Athlete

Outstanding Behavior

Most Improved Behavior

Excellence in Science (and Math, reading, spelling,

Most Improved in Math (and reading, spelling, etc.)

Being a True Friend

Math Problem Solver

Most Responsible

Wonderful Singing

Happy Attitude

Always Dependable

Always Sharing

Always Polite

Computer Whiz

Great Sportsmanship

Stick-to-It Award (or Never Give Up)

Class Bookworm

Always Helpful

Beautiful handwriting

Most Cooperative

Creative Writer

Excellent Artist

Excellent Thinking

Great Participation












Brightest smile

Best messenger

Best Lineleader

Most artistic

Best Manners

Hardest Worker

Best Handwriting

Best Cutter

Best at Coloring

Most Improved Reader

Best Reader

Most Expressive Reader

Most Dependable

Most Helpful

Most Improved Handwriting


Most creative story-teller

Nicest smile

Tidy Desk Award

Awesome Artist

Super Speller


Outstanding Organizer

Most Cheerful

Teacher’s Helper

Super Sharing Award

It’s The End of the Year As We Know It.

By Nicole Stockdale, Staff

Finally…The end of the year is almost here. It seems that for many students (and teachers as well), the only desired lessons are those taking place in a swimming pool. But there are certain steps you can take now to prevent the end of the year from meaning the end of learning. Think in terms of: play, plan, and complete.

First, don’t be afraid to play! Everyone is ready for a break, so it will take more energy for you to keep your classroom under control during lectures and for students to stay focused. Integrate more “fun” into your lessons to give the learning process a change of pace. For example, instead of having a quiz, test your students knowledge in a “quiz show” format. Split the children into two or three teams to compete against each other for points. They receive points by answering the questions correctly. You don’t even need to come up with the questions. Students do an excellent job of covering a subject matter if you ask them each to submit three questions on the topic they just learned. Some of the pressure is taken off of you, and your students, while your goals are still being accomplished. Here are some additional ideas:

* Give your class a fresh perspective; teach your class outdoors, in the library, or even in a school bus.
* Bring in guest speakers.
* Parents are a valuable resource; let them talk to your class.
* Introduce new media to your class by
* Be your own gues speaker by dressing up as someone else.
* Have your children teach the class.

Second, remember to plan ahead for the deconstruction of your room. Everything you have put up in your room this year probably needs to be taken down. You don’t need to wait for the students to be out of the building before some of your work can begin. In fact, your students are a great resource to you. For as much disdain as they show for doing their assignments, they will show even more enthusiasm for helping you with your housekeeping and organizational tasks. One of the first things to come off your walls can be student work. This will also save pupils from having three armfuls of items to lug home on the last day of school. After that, bulletin boards outside of the classroom can come down. When removing decorations that will be used in future years (can you safely say that any of them won’t be?), the key is to organize. The last thing you want to do is haphazardly throw everything in a box that will be ignored for years and eventually thrown away because you don’t want to go through it all. The time spent to put letters and borders in a folder sufficiently labeled will be invaluable when you want to find your pre made bulletin board in later years. Here are some more ideas:

* Make a calendar out of posterboard, marking off enough days
* to last you one week past the end of school. Start filling in!
* Plan to play.
* Think of five things you want to do the week after school is out; do one of these things each day to relieve your anxieties.
* Drop any committees whose meetings you continually dread.
* Look around for ideas for next year. If you think of great ideas, make a list and put it on top of one of your boxes.
* Don’t forget about uncompleted committee work.
* Set a date to start coming up with ideas for next fall.
* Actually dedicate a time to plan, even if that means setting aside the first half hour of each day. This will greatly reduce stress.

It is inevitable that the school year will come to a close. However that does not mean everything will be complete on its own. Bringing a sense of closure for yourself as well as your pupils at the end of the year is important. That, however, means a lot รบ there are textbooks to finish, lessons to review, field trips to go on, and parties to throw. This is when students begin to count down the minutes till their last day, and teachers wonder how on earth they will be able to get everything accomplished. But don’t panic. If you get the planning done, a lot of the completion will follow. Be realistic; realize that your students can easily go into information overload (or, rather, attention-span underload) as the summer nears. And for the things you don’t get done beforehand, give your full attention to after school is out. Even with the students gone, there are numerous other distractions. Try not to get sidetracked with garrulous teachers who have already finished. And save the files and folders to clean out until you come back in the fall. Your energy level will be up, and your spirits will be high. A lot of satisfactory closure comes from the little touches, like these ideas:

* Write a thank you note to the staff and post it in the teacher’s lounge.
* Don’t forget those who have especially helped out this year. Show your gratitude with a nice note or small gift.
* Give out awards of accomplishment for having successfully completed the year.
* Meet with your closer staff friends after the close of the school year to allow everyone to unwind on informal grounds.
* Make a list of things you feel good about accomplishing this year.
* Remember to say goodbye to those who are leaving and hello to those who may be new to the school.

You know the end of the year is coming; there’s no excuse for letting it sneak up on you. With some playing and planning, this period will come with ease.

Ideas for getting to know each other: Ice Breakers Galore!

Each student receives a slip of paper with a song title on it, with about four or five people receiving the same song. They don’t show their song to anybody. Instead, they hum their song, walking around the room trying to find other people humming the same song. For younger students, put the name of an animal on their paper. They can walk around making their animal’s noise until they find others making the same noise.

Have each student introduce himself by first name and tell something they did this summer that starts with the same letter. For example, I could say “Hi, my name is Nicole, and I nudged the President.” The next person in the line (or circle) does the same but must also introduce the people before him and their summer activity.

Place enough chairs for every student in a circle. Tell the children that you’re sure you all have something in common with each other. Then say something like, “I really love pizza. If you love pizza, too, stand up by your seat.” Comment on how many and continue with a few more statements like this. Then, and this is where the fun begins, tell the students to move to another seat if must stand in response to the next question. It should not be adjacent to them or occupied. As they do this, you sit in an empty seat. The last child standing will be the next person in the middle who must form an “if” statement. The trick to getting out of the center is to pick something that lots of people will have in common. Your students should learn this after a couple of rounds.

A classic icebreaker is to give your students a “People Finder Sheet.” Make a list of qualifications like “Can speak another language” or “Has visited Europe.” Then have students seek out these people in your class. Students who meet the qualifications initial the item. The object of the game is to fill the page with initials, but they can only use a student’s initials once per sheet. Be careful, though. Because this icebreakers is a classic, many of your older students will have done this countless times in the past. But you can still use this icebreaker! The trick is to make the qualifications more interesting so they can learn fun things about each other.

Each student should write down three sentences describing himself. For example, “I have attended 11 schools,” and “I have an aunt and an uncle both named Laverne,” and “I love to vacation in Cancun.” The catch is, two of the statements are true and one is false. (Try to guess which one I am lying about!) The students then share their three statements with each other or the entire class (whichever you prefer) and vote on which they think are true and false. The catch here is that the more unusual the information, the harder it will be for the other students to guess. Let them know this, and you are sure to learn some interesting trivia about your new students.

Starting a new school year can be as stressful for new students as it can be for you. Through the use of some of these icebreakers, your transition to the new year can be more comfortable for everyone. Read on for more classroom-tested ice breakers from Teachnet Contributors.

My introduction to the students is sharing a part of my interests and self by taking a small white paper bag (lunch bag size) with my name written in crayon and decorated with stickers, sequins, etc.. I place about 5 – 10 different items that tell about myself. Chocolate Hershey bar ( I love chocolate…what teacher doesn’t?), picture of my animals, sea shells, NY Yankees pennant (favorite baseball team), favorite book, a little potted plant, (enjoyment of gardening), a baby rattle & picture of my new baby, etc… After sharing this with the students, I pass out these same type of bags and direct the students to bring no more than 10 items depicting their interests and likes (must fit in the bag!) They then will take turns explaining their items – sometimes I video the presentations to be used later on in the year (can be used on a web page or Avid Cinema presentation). The students learn a lot about each other as well as provide you with their interests on which to use and build on during the school year for motivation and/or conversation. I finish up the day by bringing the students and a large skein of yarn (rolled into a ball) outside and sit everyone into a circle. I begin by holding the end of the string and tell something about another person I learned, then I gently toss the ball to another student, they must share something they learned about another student. The ball is tossed around the circle weaving a “web” until the yarn is totally unrolled. This allows for bringing the class together as a “family” from day one, making your interests common ones, and helping new students unfamiliar with those who know each other more comfortable now that they know the others a bit better. -“Botn1”

I like your idea about the bag. It would be a good idea for a couple of days subbing too. Your yarn idea reminded me of another use I have with it. When you throw the yarn you must say something that you LIKE about the person you are sending it to. When everyone has had a go, the yarn is thrown back, again, stating what you like about the person you are throwing it to. -Dona Hartwich from down-under

Ask students to bring a box or a bag with items that tell something about them. Have students interview one another and then introduce their partner to the class. Once students have interviewed each other, have them make a place mat for their partner. Have a personal scavenger hunt Ask them to write an acrostic with their names Play the Letter Name Game: Students must go around the room looking for someone who has a certain letter in their names. Ex. Look for someone who has an “m” in their name. Or, find how many people in the class have an “m” in their name. Play “Get Acquainted Bingo.” Get a list of students’ names and ask them to fill in a Bingo grid. Then play Bingo. Another Bingo activity is to have them say something about themselves as their name is being called. Play Signature Bingo. Instead of you writing the names of the students on the Bingo grid, have students go around collecting signatures from the students; then play Bingo. Hope you can try some of these. -Marta Pabellon

You could have your students make “Me Posters” and you could make one also. The poster would include photos and/or magazine pictures that tell something about the person, such as family, hobbies, special interests, etc. – you make your poster including the information you want to know about the students and then use is to introduce yourself to them. Then ask them to do the same. I always ask them to include their name or nickname in a way other than just written out. Another suggestion would be to write the class a letter about yourself and put it on a transparency. Read the letter to the students and then ask them to write you a letter including the same type of information. You will need to be specific about what info you want included – I give an outline or list. I don’t know what age your students are but this works well with older students. -Sandy “SQUILT109”

I write a letter to the kids. I also write a letter to the parents to introduce myself and tell a little bit about my background. I’ve received great feedback about that. -“Luvmugs44”

I also send a postcard welcoming my new students, and they have always commented on it the first day of school. Another thing I do is send a letter to the parents also, introducing myself and telling a little about what my class will be like for their children. This year, for the first time, I have made a handbook to send home the first day of school with very detailed information about most of the expectations in my classroom, including such things as what happens if toys are brought to school, restroom policy and weather-appropriate clothing for outdoor recess as well as the usual information on behavior management systems, classwork expectations,and homework policy. -Nancy Rausch 4/KY

Bad PR is Ruining Public Schools

By Lee Shiney, Teachnet Editor

I’ve had it. Yesterday I read yet another article in another trade journal (in this case, for information technology) whining about the monopoly public education has and why it should be dismantled with the voucher system.

What public education needs is better public relations. I live three blocks from a middle school, yet never hear what is happening at that school. Does that school’s principal have a responsibility to keep me informed? No, but if he or she wants to tell about something great happening there, I’ll sit up and take notice. Now, I’ll be the first to admit schools shouldn’t necessarily be in the public relations business, but these are difficult times, and the public’s opinion of public school looks to be at an all-time low. If your school district won’t cast itself, and you as an individual teacher, in the best possible light (and most get an “F” in this department) it’s time for individual schools and teachers to pick up the ball and run with it.

I know of schools where district policy prohibits teachers to speak to the media at all. This underscores the need for a definite plan at the school level to make sure that teachers and administration are working together to let local residents and businesses in on their success stories. With a plan in place, you’ll be on the road to sending positive public school information to the spreaders of information.

Here is our first round of suggestions to make your school more visible and give public education a boost.

Keep your community informed…

  • Go door to door with fliers communicating school events. Everyone in the surrounding area should know about events at school – not just the parents who send their kids there.
  • Develop partnerships with local businesses:
    • Ask them to display flyers and cards in their stores announcing school events & projects.
    • Involve them in career days and invite them to share information about their profession with your students. (Think of the fun lessons you could develop with someone who does, say, carpet cleaning! How different substances leave different kinds of stains and the chemical processes used to remove those stains…)
    • Have businesses donate supplies or services when they can, and return the favor by including their name in programs and newsletters. Add them to your community flyers too, listing them as a sponsor of your school. Some businesses may even donate money to various school funds.
  • Organize neighborhood improvement & upkeep events:
    • Clean up a neighborhood park, painting tables, equipment and restrooms. Plant flowers and pull weeds, too.
    • Have a neighborhood cleanup day: clean the school yard, then help out the neighbors with their yards, streets & alleys.
  • Get to know your local neighborhood associations. Send representatives to attend regular neighborhood association meetings, to hear from residents and to give updates about your school.
  • Utilize your local media:
    • Call radio and television stations as well as newspapers and get the phone number for faxing press releases. Send a press release for every event that goes on in your school and remind them that there’s more to your school than the high school football scores. For more on press releases, see the sidebar at right.
    • Invite media personnel to volunteer in your school. Have them tutor, help teach a lesson, read to classes, or speak about their career.

    And keep your parents informed.

    A newsletter for your room will give you a direct link to the segment of the population which matters most. See our feature on creating your own newsletter, but remember, any informative flyer you can send home on a regular basis (at least once per month) sends the message you care what others think. Use it to announce events, list student awards, and remind of timely information, such as when permission slips are due for a field trip. Remember that students can get involved at whatever level you desire, from typing information to doing the complete layout.

Newsletters Fit To Print

Several teachers have contacted us recently because the job of creating a newsletter has dropped into their laps. By keeping the process simple you won’t feel completely overwhelmed and your newsletter will more likely go out on a timely basis. Creating a work of art may sound nice, but the first priority is getting the news out.

Professional Guidelines
Start borrowing ideas from professionals, like font combinations. Look at a local newspaper and you’ll find Times for text and Helvetica Bold for heads may be pretty close to what they use – and these fonts are already on your computer. Magazines are also good starting points to view proportions of headline to text.

Go In Reverse
Use reverses (black or gray boxes with white text) sparingly for items to really stand out. You won’t need reverses for headlines (in our example here the “School Has Started” head would be better as big, bold, black Helvetica…this time the reverse is overused). Use them for contact info or smaller subheads for a more pleasing balance. Font tip: use a bold face for the white letters so they don’t seem so swallowed up by the surrounding black space.

Less is More
Especially if the newsletter is just for your class, try to keep it to one 8 1/2 by 11 (letter size) front and back, instead of adding more pages. It will be read more thoroughly and saved more often. Send out this format more frequently if necessary.

Chuck Your Page Layout Program
Just because you’ve got access to a fancy page layout program doesn’t mean you have the time to work through a steep learning curve. If your goal is simply to expedite getting the news out, do this:

1. “Dummy up” the layout on paper (while learning some newspaper terminology), drawing in margins, headlines and text. Use our example for a starting point if you like.
2. Measuring accurately, create each element separately in a word processor or simple graphics program. Use dummy text or rough, unedited text for this.
3. Print, then cut out each element and stick down to a sheet of paper with a glue stick.
4. Using this rough layout as a starting point, adjust sizes where needed to make things fit better. Also, try looking at it upside down to see if any issues of balance jump out.
5. Tape down your final layout onto a tabletop using heavier poster board, then use a T-square and triangle to keep things square and straight. Tip: use a very light blue pencil for drawing guides and making notes. They still make non-repro blue pencils just for this purpose, but test with your copier to make sure they won’t print out.

There is a Reason – Kern, Kern, Kern
Kerning is the process of adjusting letter spacing, and you should do it. Headlines will look better and body copy will be more readable. Try to tighten up individual letter pairs for headlines if possible, but at the very least, reduce the space between letters slightly overall. Compare printouts of normal and tighter-kerned text to see the subtle but greatly improved difference.

Proof Reed or Yule be in Serius Trouble
Sure, run the spell check, but remember the computer won’t know this from that. Have two people read through the final copy word for word for any errors, typographical as well as grammatical. Example of a classroom newsletter

Weekly Parent Activity

Our school is installing a Parent-Teacher Hotline, a telephone system that allows teachers to record messages to their parents, and parents can call in, enter the classroom I.D. number, and hear the teacher’s message regarding homework, upcoming activities, permission slips that need to be returned, etc. We’ll be using ours to include a Home Activity for the Week, a simple learning activity designed to involve parents in the learning/teaching process. But you don’t need a high-tech scheme to pull this off. Dream up a short activity each weekend (please feel free to borrow from our library here), three or four times on a sheet of paper, run off copies, cut and send home with students on Monday.

Business Cards and Other Customized Paper Items

Lajean Shiney's business card designI can’t talk enough about business cards for teachers, because mine have helped me out more times than I can count. Mostly, they identify you as a teacher when you are talking with someone out in public, especially if you happen to be asking them for a handout you can’t afford otherwise. You can cook up your own by getting a school letterhead, cut out the name, address and phone, and paste that information into a two inch by three and one-half inch box. Leave room for your name, then make multiple copies with a copier. Paste those onto a letter sized sheet of paper, copy again onto heavy paper, then cut apart. Sign your name with a bright red marker and you’ve got a two color card that won’t look bad at all.

If you know anyone who promotes or manages a business, chances are good you know someone who works from time to time with a professional offset printing company. Custom printing jobs often use a sheet of paper that is larger than the finished size of the product being printed. The remaining paper gets cut off at the end of the job and recycled. I you need business cards for yourself to give to parents, vouchers to use in your classroom, or any number of paper items that could be custom printed, ask about “ganging” your small job onto someone else’s larger job. You may find that you can get some very inexpensive printed goods.

Publish a Newspaper

A conversation with contributor, James DeBonis, prompted this idea for a computer lab. Nearly any grade can put out a newspaper, and desktop publishing is the tool to do it with. There are many styles and designs to draw from, and the project involves a variety of skills. Where else can you get students to get excited about a project that involves writing, talking to people, drawing, photography, and, basically, running a business? And remember: a newspaper doesn’t have to look as professional as a city daily to be good.

For a more modern twist, consider setting up a classroom blog using a service like WordPress or Blogger. Students and parents alike can “subscribe” and receive email notifications when you post updates.

The Ticket System

This is the third year for using the Ticket System in my room. The idea is that each student has a ticket they keep at their desk, a ticket I’ll take from them as a form of punishment or discipline. I keep track of how many times each student loses a ticket during the grading period, and reward those with no lost tickets. The variations of how to use these tickets are endless; you will no doubt think of your own ways to use tickets to your students’ advantage. The possibilities in constructing them are endless too. I use magnetic sheeting (the kind screen printers use for magnetic signs or that some people are using for promotional refrigerator magnets), but there are a number of ways to make a ticket that your students can personalize with their name and a picture. Magnets work well because they can be anchored to a metal desk, and double as a name tag for substitute teachers.

Self-Hardening Clay

Self-hardening clay is available in five pound boxes at hobby stores, dries on its own when left uncovered in about a week, and is paintable. This clay is great for a first-time art project if no kiln is available, and dividing the five pound cube into eight equal sections gives students a large enough piece to make a small coiled pot.

Note: when they say it air-dries, it really does. Open each box in the store and do a push-test with your finger to make sure the clay inside the sealed plastic bag is fairly soft (some boxes we found were much more stiff than others). Use it within a few weeks. Sprinkle leftover clay with water drops and remove as much air as possible before wrapping tightly in its plastic bag, and even then, don’t expect too long of a shelf life after it’s been exposed to air.

A True Sick Kid? Get Well Puzzles

When a student has been absent long enough that someone has to stop in and pick up work for them, it’s a good time to reach in your box of word puzzles and brain teasers to send along a little “fun” activity as well. In addition, you might want to keep a selection of get-well cards, or write a quick note to them on personalized stationery to make them feel special.

Dividing Students Into Teams

When dividing your class into teams, skip the unfair practice of having team captains pick favorites. Have students line themselves up chronologically by their birthdays, but make them use sign language to communicate their birthday. Then you, the teacher, can divide the group in half. This only takes a few minutes to accomplish. Thanks to L. Zydek of Alberta, Canada, for this tip.