Archive for December, 2010

Brain Binders: Puzzle #3009

Puzzle #3009

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Brain Binders: Puzzle #3008

Puzzle #3008

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Brain Binders: Puzzle #3007

Puzzle #3007

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Brain Binders: Puzzle #3006

Puzzle #3006

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The Best and Worst of Teacher Gifts

Dear Parents and Caregivers who will give holiday gifts to teachers in the coming days,

We get a lot of tchotchkes and there are enough candies, cookies, and popcorn in the Teachers’ Lounge to feed a small country. But we do like to know that you and your kids like us, and appreciate what we do. So here are some gift ideas that we can all agree on.

  1. Heartfelt gratitude. Many teachers agree that the best gifts they have received are the ones that are truly heartfelt. The child that makes a gift for their favorite teacher, or the parent who takes the time to sit down and write a note about how much they appreciate all that a teacher has done for their child. These don’t take up space on a shelf, add inches to the waistline, or otherwise place any requirement on the teacher. Gratitude is truly a perfect gift, so let your teachers (and all those other helpful people in the school) know how much you appreciate them.
  2. Ask the teacher what they need for the classroom. Most teachers end up spending their own money to purchase things they want for the class. By offering to get them a gift of something they would buy anyway, the teacher will save some of his or her own cash, and avoid having to get out to make the purchase.
  3. Make a donation. This might be difficult, especially with all the red tape that comes along with a public school. You might be able to donate to your school’s PTO/PTA, which in turn will come back to your child’s classroom. In private schools, preschools, or even daycare, a cash donation will certainly be well received, and easily directed to the proper supply fund. If the school is registered as a not-for-profit organization, your donation is probably even tax-deductible.
  4. Gift cards. It’s certainly not mandatory that you give a gift that directly benefits the classroom. Target, Walmart, and Starbucks are all high on the list of favorite places for teachers to shop – for themselves. A local cafe or restaurant that’s close to the school may also be a good choice. Don’t be afraid to ask for their preference.

Thank you for your gift, whatever it may be, and thanks for taking the time to find out what we really want!

– The Teachers

A Note to Teachers: Holidays offer an opportunity for you to create a “wishing tree” for you own classroom. Decorate a small tree or plant with paper ornaments, each labeled with an item the class would like to have. Let parents know that, of course, choosing a tag is optional, but they are welcome to take a tag and place that gift under the tree. This ensures that gifts received directly benefit the classroom, and takes the guesswork out of gift-giving for the parent. The best part is, you can keep your “wishing tree” going all year long!

If you’re a teacher, please use the comments section below to tell us about the best and worst gifts you’ve received. Parents, feel free to chime in and tell us what you’re giving this year.

Brain Binders: Puzzle #3005

Puzzle #3005

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Are Backpacks a Pain in the Back?

By Lee Shiney, Teachnet Editor

With our predisposition to park ourselves in front of a computer or TV, we weren’t too surprised to learn recently of students as young as elementary level complaining of back problems normally reserved for years later in life. But the question has surfaced: are book-laden backpacks to blame?

Different districts are already handling the issue in different ways. Teachnet Contributor, “Wizzle,” points out:
“When I went to my daughter’s Open House (High School), I was impressed by the way a number of teachers had ordered one ‘class set’ of books for their subject. This set remained in the room. Each student gets a copy of the text of their own to keep at home”.

From another school, Vineyard10 wrote,
“A decision was made that the teachers cannot send more than one book home each night for homework, so the students won’t be burdened with excessive weight. Now, I do agree that it’s not healthy for anyone’s back to carry around a lot of weight. But I’m not sure how we can give the appropriate amount of homework to these kids with one book a night.”

Are those small folding airport luggage contraptions the miracle answer? We’d never seen this before, but Sharon (Grade 5, MI) writes:
“Many children at our school have purchased the small suitcases on wheels. They are becoming increasingly popular.”

There are even backpacks now with rollers and handles built right in: Rollerbags. In any case, they can create their own kind of hazard:

“Our school was originally built as a K-8 school. We don’t have the wider hallways a middle school should have. The hallways are very crowded during the change of classes. The students are busy conversing with their friends and do not see the students who are wheeling the backpacks behind them. We’ve already had a teacher who almost fell when a student cut in front of her with one of them.” -Eileen B.

Considering that students today are probably in the some of the worst physical shape ever, there may be more to their pain than a few books. If you don’t accept fewer books as answer to achieving a lighter load, consider these tips for wearing a heavy pack:

  • Always use both straps to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack.
  • Pack the heaviest objects closest to the wearer’s back, and distribute weight evenly from left to right.
  • Wide, padded straps will be more comfortable than thinner straps and unpadded straps.
  • Shorten the straps so that the pack rides higher on the back, reducing lower back and spine strain.
  • If you see a student wearing a backpack and walking with a forward, encourage them not to lean forward, and check the weight of the pack to ensure it is not too heavy for their body size. The backpack should not exceed twenty percent of the child’s weight.

Parents Have Homework, Too.

“No gift is too costly (or too hard to obtain) for a parent to give his child.”

No parent would choose to give his or her child an inferior gift, or a gift that would be harmful in any way. The gift of a good education is a most valuable one. What can parents do to contribute their part to this gift? The teachers (school) have one very important part. The child has a very important part. Parents have an equally important part. Without the parent’s part, the education will not measure up.

In short, parents have homework. The home is where it all begins. Parents are the head of the home. The head of the home provides, teaches, reinforces, and enforces. If the head of the home does not fulfill its obligations, no other agency can fill in the gap. The child carries with him/her everything that is absorbed in the home. First of all, parents must supply the basic needs of the infant, including food, shelter, clothing, love, and security. By the time the child has reached school age, parents have done lots and lots of “homework.” However, the assignment is just beginning.

When the child begins school, the parent’s role takes on a new dimension, that of enhancing the “formal education.” That is, the education that is provided by the school. A parent’s role in the education of his child has many dimensions. A parent’s “homework” carries with it many responsibilities. These responsibilities include keeping the proper attitude toward education and school, supporting/helping your child, setting healthy priorities, consistency in discipline, rewards and consequences, open communication, helping with work missed during sickness, being active in school matters, and controlling your child’s school attendance.

Attitude. It begins with attitude. If you have a positive attitude toward school in general, your child will also have a positive attitude. If you have concerns about the school or the teacher, be very careful how you voice these concerns in front of your child. Your child will pick up on your attitude, adopt it as his or her own, and take it to school. Negative and apathetic attitudes are at the root of a large portion of discipline problems at school.

Support. Your child cannot go it alone. When he or she has a particular assignment that may require special help or supplies, you are the one s/he turns to for help. Be there with all the support and help possible. There may come a time when your child will need extra help on schoolwork. If you cannot provide this help, speak to your child’s teacher about it. There may be some remedial materials, or the teacher may be able to help you and your child work through the problem. You may consider outside help, such as a tutor. Arranging the schedule in the home to accommodate quality “homework” time/place is one aspect of support. Your child will need to feel secure in the fact that you will be there helping.

Priorities. In order for education to come out on top, it must be given top priority. This must be a true commitment in light of the many interesting and beneficial activities that are available for the youngsters. These include sports, scouts, music/dance lessons, and other activities. Too many activities will bring down the educational level of your child. This should be closely monitored during the school year.
Consistency. Whatever your methods of discipline, consequences, and household management, consistency is the key. When you promise a consequence, follow through. Be firm. Try not to be influenced by your child’s persuasive tactics. Children consistently test authority. Be prepared to follow through each time. Results, while not always immediate, will be forthcoming. Children are just that – children. Although they are learning to accept some responsibility, they are not yet adults, and should not be treated as such. This is their time in life to learn things like consistency and priorities, and it is your “homework” to instill these qualities in your child. Children need to know that their poor choices create consequences.

Rewards and Consequences. Worthwhile rewards may help reinforce responsible actions. However, rewards do not have to be in the form of costly material gifts. Rewards may be in the form of time spent together, a special word of praise, or a chance to skip a chore. Just let your child know how proud you are of him/her. Consequences should fit the misbehavior as much as possible, and should be done immediately, when possible. Try not to become emotional when you discipline your child, and be sure to let the incident go. “Forgive and forget.” If you remain hostile toward your child after disciplining him/her, you are distancing yourself from your child. Make sure you are still “available” to your child.

Communication with your child. Talk with your child. Listen to your child. Make casual comments about what he/she is saying to show that you are listening. Do not “put words” in his/her mouth about what went on in class. If your child has an unpleasant story to tell you, do not make it worse for him/her by becoming visibly upset. This will only upset the child even more. Let your child tell the story in his or her own way, in his or her own time. If you resort to an “interrogation”, you will likely get the story from a biased point of view. If the problem persists, call or write the teacher.

Communication with your child’s teacher. Keep the lines of communication open. Check your child’s agenda daily. This is the teacher’s best method of communicating with you. Always go to the teacher with any problems before going to the principal. You and the teacher are on the same side – the side of your child. The teacher wants your child to succeed. Make a friend of the teacher.

Missed Work. If your child is absent due to an illness, he or she may need extra attention from you in order to get caught up on assignments missed. Your child most likely has a given number of days to get the work done and turned in. If the illness is prolonged, you may call the school for assignments, but be sure to make every effort to see that the work is actually done. This extra effort on the part of your child’s teachers is very time consuming, and the time is taken from their planning or from their classes. This practice is one that is encouraged if you plan to see that your child does the work. If you have an occasion in which your child cannot complete a daily assignment because of a family emergency, write a note to the teacher asking for a one day extension. It is likely that your child will have consequences at school for missing work. “Homework” for the parents is to instill the importance of school assignments in your children.

Be involved. Show your child that you want to be involved in his or her school. Whenever you get notification of a school meeting, or a school need, show that you are interested. Participate in various activities at school. If there is a school event, show up with your child.
Child’s Attendance. You, as the parent have the power to control your child’s attendance, including being on time. Poor attendance and tardiness directly affect a child’s school success in numerous ways, emotionally as well as scholastically. Please understand that signing out is the same as being absent. Your child will miss vital instruction. Instruction continues up until dismissal. When you sign your child out unnecessarily, you are telling your child that school doesn’t matter. Restrict sign outs to sickness of the child, or a true family emergency. “Homework” for you as the parent is to keep your child in school.

Yes, parents have “homework”. Your homework continues as long as you are responsible for your child. Without your part, your child’s school experience will not be all that it can be. Together, let’s prepare the “Gift” of education for your child!

Teachnet Contributor, Sybil Humphries, has been a South Carolina teacher since 1970, and is now an ADEPT coordinator for Pickens County, South Carolina, Schools.
First published August 23, 1999

© Copyright 1998, Sybil Humphries. She invites teachers and schools to distribute this handout freely and asks that you notify her via e-mail.

Developmental Vision

By Susan Schocket, Career Development, West High School, Wichita KS
August 15, 2000

“I wonder why Johnny, Jimmy and Joanie always lay their heads down on their desk when they write.”

“I wonder why Chris never can copy the notes off of the overhead. He must not care about school!”

“Boy, that Susie really is struggling to read. I don’t understand why she can read big words but has a tough time with little words repeated over and over. It seems she is always losing her place.”

Ever ask yourself these questions? Ever wonder why some, otherwise intelligent, kids seem to have so much trouble with academics? These young people succeed and we can help them by taking the time to educate ourselves on this learning concern.

When Janice was going through school, she struggled with reading comprehension – a slow reader. When she went to college she found out that not all people had to “chase” the words on a page to read. She had a visual learning problem that she learned to compensate for and a wonderful mother who proofed and typed most of her papers throughout school. Had her teachers been aware of this problem, they could have helped too. Janice now has a MBA and is a top financial executive for a large corporation.

Some interesting facts about vision that all teachers should know

  • Research indicates that 1 out of 4 children and 7 out of 10 young offenders have vision problems that affect their learning ability.
  • Vision is a learned process. We are not born with our left and right sides working together. Eyes must learn to work together just as legs and arms do. This is a developmental process and continues to develop from birth on into adulthood.
  • A person can have 20/20 eyesight, and yet have a visual problem that does not allow them to comprehend what they see.
  • Most high school dropouts have a 4th grade or less reading level indicating that they were “lost” in school when it came time to “read to learn” instead of “learning to read” which they probably were not successful at doing in the first through third grades.
  • Our ability to perform tasks, our self-esteem, and our interactions with others is greatly affected by our vision. Good eyesight is only one small piece of the picture.
  • Visual problems can be hereditary in nature but the developmental process has just as much impact on being able to see and comprehend.
  • A major reason for learning concerns classified as Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Disorder may be vision problems.
  • Vision problems can be the basis of poor gross and fine motor coordination.

Look and See

Teachers need to know what most optometrists know about vision. Unfortunately, schools of education don’t include this information in their curriculum. Vision consists of much more than 20/20 eyesight (seeing an object at 20 feet). Vision allows us to obtain meaning and understanding from what we see!

Vision is a set of skills and abilities of which 20/20 eyesight is only one. Other necessary skills include two-eyed coordination, focusing (accommodation), eye movements and tracking. For example, a child may see clearly at chalkboard distance (20/20) but still may have symptoms such as blurred vision, eyestrain, headaches, or fatigue while reading. This is due to focusing or a two-eyed coordination problem. These problems often reduce a child’s attention span, comprehension, and general school performance.

This is a treatable visual dysfunction. There are many behaviors exhibited by the child with developmental vision concerns. Parents and teachers are the people who are in the best position to identify the condition. A vision screening for distance (Snelling chart) is not enough! Parents Active for Vision Education, P.A.V.E., has created a checklist for parents to detect these problems. The Optometric Extension Program Foundation, Inc, OEM, has created an Educator’s Checklist to detect the problem. (Reading the information on this page for educators will give you a better insight into vision problems thus your students, but if you just want the checklist scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.)

Talk with parents about the importance of finding a knowledgeable doctor for vision testing and a list of appropriate questions they can ask before selecting a vision care provider. It is important for students with visually related learning concerns to participate in optometric developmental therapy to be most successful in correcting these problems, but there are some things we can do as teachers to help these students be more successful in the classroom.

Inviting a professional vision therapist in to conduct an inservice is a great step in educating a school’s staff. Make sure the speaker is versed in strategies that can be utilized in the classroom.

After you read the facts, you will see there are a large number of kids in this “boat”. You will even be able to think of at least one kid specifically and say “ah, ha! Remember many of students these are regular education kids. If you read the research you will be amazed at the number of students this affects. Kids with visual concerns can’t comprehend well, don’t perform well on “traditional” classroom assignments, and many become discipline problems since they can do that well. The student who has poor organization, incomplete assignments, the inability to stay on task and lack of attention to assignments may very well be a child with poor visual skills.

So what can teachers do?

Thank you to Jill Karst, Development Clinic, for providing information gleaned from her 30+ years in working with students and vision problems. Her expertise in academics and vision therapy provides great insight into learning problems and how teachers can play a role in impacting the academic achievement of these students. She is available for staff inservice activities for your school. You may reach her at: Developmental Clinic, P.O. Box 47146, Wichita, Kansas 67201, (316) 269-3541.

Science 911

So you really want to know – did dinosaurs really roam the earth in what is now Kansas? What the heck is a quark? Just call on Science 911! Our experts are the college professors who are the creators of the WEE3 Science Review and Assessment Cards. Here’s the latest installment:

I know you can compress lots of air in a tire, but can you also compress helium into a balloon? (Assuming the balloon is puncture proof) And if so, when you release the balloon will it rise five times as fast? Finally, would the balloon rise to a point of equilibrium, or continue to rise till it burst?

You could compress helium into a balloon only if the sides of the balloon were rigid like an auto tire. With real balloons the rubber stretches and expands, pushing back against the atmosphere until the elastic limit of the rubber is reached, whereupon the balloon breaks. Consequently it is not possible to “compress” helium into a conventional balloon to any real extent. If you had a very thick-walled balloon you could compress helium into it to a certain extent, I suppose. When a balloon filled with helium is set free, it rises because the density of the balloon is less than that of the surrounding air, since helium is so light. This is exactly like a piece of wood rising up from the bottom of a lake. In principle, the balloon rises until it reaches an altitude where the ever thinning atmosphere’s density is the same as that of the balloon, whereupon a point of equilibrium would be reached. In a practical sense the pressure inside of the balloon continues to expand the walls of the balloon as it rises (expanding against an ever decreasing atmospheric pressure), and at some point the balloon’s elastic limit is reached and it breaks. So, the answer to the question of whether a point of equilibrium is reached or whether the balloon breaks is determined by the strength of the balloon’s wall.

Why do Certs™ spark when you bite them in the dark? Is this electricity?

What you see when you bite into a Cert in the dark is a manifestation of what is called “triboluminescence”– the mechanical generation of light. That is to say, some substances become luminous when scratched, crushed, or rubbed. Several minerals exhibit this property, fluorite (chemically this mineral is calcium fluoride) being one. While the mechanism of light generation is not exactly clear, current thought on the matter is that when a hard crystalline material is broken into pieces (upon mechanical fracture), charge is separated momentarily in the material and light is produced upon discharge, or recombination, of the separated charges. So the answer to your question is “yes’, the light is related to electricity in the sense that it seems to arise from flowing charges. By the way, WintOGreen Lifesavers exhibit the same behavior. You might want to give them a try.

How much energy (in joules) is released when a 10 kiloton hydrogen bomb is detonated?

One ton of TNT is equivalent to 4.184 x 10^9 joules. So, a 10 kiloton hydrogen bomb would release 10 x 10^3 x 4.184 x10^9 joules, or 4.184 x 10^13 joules. (By the way, for online purposes, 10^3 means 10 raised to the 3rd power, and so on.)

I would like to know how sea level is determined? With the fluctuations of the tide what do they use as a standard? I recently read an article that stated that Mt. Everest is getting an inch taller every year as compared to sea level. How was this determined? I, and my students, would appreciate any answer that you could supply.

Thanks for this very challenging question. As I am sure you know, the measurement of Mean Sea Level is a knotty problem. There are several factors that affect the level of the sea; e.g., tidal changes caused by the Sun and Moon, waves caused by storm systems and earthquakes, and sea level changes caused by wind to name three. These introduce errors into the determination of Mean Sea Level. Until³recent years when accurate satellite altimetry became possible, mean sea level was determined primarily by making long term measurements of sea level at specific sites around the globe using tidal gauges and then averaging the observations over a wide range of stations. (The mathematical treatment of the raw data is more sophisticated than merely “averaging”, but the end result is the same.)³In the United States, the National Ocean Service has adopted a specific 19-year period as the official time segment over which tidal observations are taken and reduced to obtain mean values for tidal data. This period is called the National Tidal Datum Epoch, and the current Epoch is 1960 through 1978. The results derived from the 19-year period are reviewed annually for possible revision, with a mandatory review every 25 years. There also are several international organizations that are involved in making these measurements.³For example, The Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) is one of a number of groups within the Federation of Astronomical and Geophysical Data Analysis Services (FAGS). Since 1933 PSMSL has collected and analyzed sea level data from a network of tide gauges. Their operation seems to be typical of that for other organizations that collect these types of data. As of mid-1999 the database of this Service contained over 46000 station-years of monthly and annual mean values of sea level from over 1800 tide gauge stations around the world. About 200 national authorities add data to this database. These data have³been used extensively in studies to determine long term changes in global sea level during the past two centuries. This method,³employing gauges to measure tidal sea levels, introduces other potential errors into the Mean Sea Level determination, such as³susceptibility to recording error due to reliance on human observations, possibility of marine fouling the gauge, and changes in the height of the gauge, to name a few. The United States has installed a new state-of-the-art water level measuring system that overcomes most of these potential errors. The use of satellite altimetry in this decade has presented an opportunity to establish a more accurate observational system for global sea level measurements. The ERS-1, TOPEX/Poseidon, ERS-2, GFO-1, Envisat, and EOS-ALT satellites are accurate enough to determine changes in Mean Global Sea Level of 1 mm/year. These satellites also have allowed the accurate determination of the elevation of benchmarks, against which the elevation of tidal gauges are measured and changes in land elevation are detected. The principle source of errors from satellite data have to do with the actual orbital elevation of the satellite. It seems as if three factors have lead to changes in the elevation determination of Mt. Everest. First, the land mass of which Mt. Everest is a part seems to be rising. Secondly, there appear to have been errors in accurately determining the position of the rock that underlies the snow cover. Thirdly, the accuracy with which elevation measurements can be made has increased with the use of Global Positioning System and the other altimetry satellites mentioned above. The following are several reference web addresses which you might find useful should you and your students care to delve more deeply into this problem:

I hope that the above has been helpful. As you can tell, the determination of Mean Sea Level is fraught with potential errors, and much of the activity in this area seems to be evaluating the effect of those errors.

Why does density require units but specific gravity does not? The numbers are the same.

If you are referring to either a solid or a liquid, the specific gravity of the substance is found by dividing the density of that substance (in gm/cubic centimeter) by the density of water, which is1 gm/cubic centimeter. The numbers do not change because you are dividing by 1, but the units cancel out: ( x gm/cubic centimeter)/ (1 gm/cubic centimeter) = x.

Is medical MRI related in any way to what chemists refer to as NMR? In a recent article something was said about the discovery of NMR in the 50’s that led to MRI.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) are based on exactly the same physical principles. It is not called NMRI, or Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging, presumably because of the public’s general fear of anything that has the word “nuclear” in the title. This is an unjustified fear in the present case, since in both MRI and NMR one is just looking at the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei (primarily hydrogen). One does not use radioactive nuclei in MRI, which is a safe, non-invasive technique.