Archive for October, 2009

Strategic Plan for Students.

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Strategic plans are tools that many organizations use to keep themselves successful and on track. A strategic plan is a road map for success.

You can use the same sort of plan to establish a route to academic success in high school or college. The plan may involve a strategy for achieving success in a single year of high school or for your entire education experience.

Most basic strategic strategic plans contain these five elements:

  • Mission Statement
  • Goals
  • Strategy or Methods
  • Objectives
  • Evaluation and Review

1.   Create a Mission Statement:

  • Determine your overall mission for the year (or four years) of education. You need to decide ahead of time what you’d like to accomplish.
  • The statement should spell out an overall target that would enable you to reach your highest potential.
  • Your statement should be personalized: it should fit your personality as well as your special dreams for the future.
  • Also consider how you are special and different, and think about how you can tap in to your special talents and strengths to achieve your target.
  • You might even come up with a motto.
  • Example:  Stephanie a young woman who is determined to graduate in the top two percent of her class. Stephanie’s motto is :  “Enrich your life and reach for the stars.”

2.  Select the Goals:

  • Goals are general statements that identify some benchmarks you’ll need to accomplish in order to meet your mission.
  • You need to recognize any weaknesses and create a defensive strategy in addition to your offensive strategy.

2.1   Offensive Goals:

  • I will set  aside two hours every night and dedicate them to homework.
  • I will build relationships with teachers who write great recommendations!

2.2   Defensive Goals:

  • I will identify and eliminate time-wasting activities by half.
  • I will manage relationships that involve drama and that threaten to drain my energy.

3.   Plan Strategies for Reaching Every Goal:

  • Take a good look at the goals you’ve developed and come up with specific strategies for reaching them. If one of your goals is dedicating two hours a night to homework, a strategy for reaching that goal is to decide what else might interfere with that and plan around it.
  • Be real when you examine your routine and your plans.

4.  Create Objectives:

Objectives are clear and measurable goals, as opposed to goals that are essential but indistinct. They are specific “objects,” tools, numbers, and things that provide concrete evidence of success. If you do these, you’ll know you’re on track. If you don’t carry out your objectives, you can bet you’re not reaching your goals. Some sample objectives:

  • Buy a planner and write in it every day.
  • Sign a homework contract.
  • Secure a device for recording my favourite shows.
  • Take a learning style exam to determine my best learning style.

5.  Evaluate Your Progress:

  • It’s not easy to write a good strategic plan on your first try.
  • Every strategic plan should have in place a system for an occasional reality check.
  • If you find, halfway through the year, that you are not meeting goals; or if you discover a few weeks into your “mission” that your objectives aren’t helping you to get where you need to be, it may be time to re-visit your strategic plan and hone it.

By Grace Fleming.

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Learning to Learn.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Your path for most effective learning is through knowing:

  • yourself
  • your capacity to learn
  • the process you have successfully used in the past
  • your interest in, and knowledge of, the subject you wish to learn.

It may be easy for you to learn physics but difficult to learn tennis, or vice versa.

All learning, however, is a process which settles into certain steps.

These are four steps to learning:

1.   Begin with the past: What was your experience about how you learn? Did you:

  • like to read? solve problem? memorize? recite? interpret? speak to groups?
  • know how to summarize?
  • ask questions about what you studied?
  • review?
  • have access to information from a variety of sources?
  • like quiet or study group?
  • need several brief study sessions, or one longer one?

What are your study habits? How did they evolve? Which worked best? worst?

How did you communicate what you have learned best? Through a written test, a term paper, an interview?

Proceed to the present:

  • How interested am I in this?
  • How much time do I want to spend learning this?
  • What competes for my attention?
  • Are the circumstances right for success?
  • What can I control, and what is outside my control?
  • Can I change these conditions for success?
  • What affects my dedication to learning this?
  • Do I have a plan?
  • Does my plan consider my past experience and learning styles.

Consider the process and the subject matter:

  • What is the heading or title?
  • What are key words that jump out?
  • Do I understand them?
  • What do I know about this already ?
  • Do I know related subjects?
  • What kinds of resources and information will help me?
  • Will I only rely on one source (for example: a textbook) for information?
  • Will I need to look for additional sources?
  • As I study, do I ask myself whether I understand?
  • Should I go more quickly or more slowly?
  • If I don’t understand, do I ask why?
  • Do I stop and summarize?
  • Do I stop and ask whether it’s logical?
  • Do I stop and evaluate (agree / disagree)?
  • Do I just need time to think it over and return later?
  • Do I need to discuss it with other “learners” in order to process the information?
  • Do I need to find an authority, such as a teacher, a librarian, or a subject-matter expert?

Build in Review:

  • What did I do right?
  • What could I do better?
  • Did my plan coincide with how I work with my strengths and weaknesses?
  • Did I choose the right conditions?
  • Did I follow through; was I disciplined with myself?
  • Did I succeed?
  • Did I celebrate my success?

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Taking Class / Lecture Notes.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Good (class) notes are essential to good study skills. If you study bad notes, it’s pretty clear that you won’t perform very well on tests. But what are good notes? Good notes capture the most important facts and enable you to understand how every fact fits into a larger puzzle / picture.

Many students fall into the trap of attempting to write down every word the teacher / lecturer speaks. This is unnecessary, but even worse, it’s confusing. The key to good notes is identifying the most important things to write down.

Develop a Frame or Theme for Your Class Notes.

  • Each lecture has an overall theme or common thread. Each day lecture will usually address a specific chapter or topic.
  • Your notes will make more sense to you if you identify a common thread and create a frame of reference in your head before the lecture begins.
  • When you understand the overall theme  or message for the day, you will be able to identify important facts and understand why they matter.
  • When you start with a frame in your head, you can see where each fact , or piece of a puzzle, fits within the frame.

Finding the Theme for Class Notes.

There are a few ways to identify a theme for a framework.

  1. If the teacher has assigned a specific chapter or passage for the next class, you can be pretty certain that the next lecture will focus on that reading.
  2. Even if the information is different from the chapter you read (and often teachers add important facts to the reading) the theme or topic will often be the same.
  3. Some teachers will assign readings on one topic and lecture on something completely different. When this happens, you must find the relationship between the reading and the lecture. Chances are that relationship will represent a theme.
  4. Another good way to identify a theme for the day is to ask the teacher. Before each lecture begins, simply ask if the teacher can provide a theme, title, or framework for the day’s class. Your teacher will probably be very glad you asked and may even start providing a theme or framework for each day before the lecture begins.

Class Notes With Pictures:

  • You may find that it helps to draw picture while you take notes.
  • You may also find that you can understand a theme or overall picture of a class lecture when you turn words into diagrams or charts. For example, if your biology teacher talks about osmosis, be sure to draw a quick and simple picture of the process.
  • You can even ask the teacher to draw an example on the board and then copy the illustration.
  • Don’t ever hesitate to ask the teacher for visual aids! Teachers know all about visual learning.

Lecture Notes:

As you progress from high school to college and into graduate school, you’ll find that your lectures can get much more complex. Sometimes it’s not easy taking notes that make sense the next day. There are a few tricks for taking sensible lecture notes.

Date your notes:

  • Lecture notes from a single class should be kept in a single, dedicated notebook in the correct sequence.
  • Establish the habit of putting the date at the beginning of each day’s notes and marking the end of a day’s notes.
  • If you ever, for example, have to take history notes in your biology notebook – be sure to start on a clean sheet of paper, mark the date, and tear it  out. Then place the loose sheet in the correct file (by stapling / gluing it ).

Ask for a lecture theme – get an idea of the big picture.

  • Professors and teachers usually lecture from an outline they’ve prepared ahead of time.
  • They often try to complete one topic, theme, or cycle in an individual lecture – although there will be some overlaps some days.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for the topic of the day or the theme of the day’s lecture.
  • If you notice that the professor seems to be talking about something you’ve never heard of before; and you suspect that he is transitioning from one topic to another, just ask : “Professor, are you changing topics?”
  • If you listen carefully, you can usually pattern your own notes according to the teacher’s own outline; especially if you listen for transition words.

Watch for digressions and mark them.

  • Teachers don’t try to make things complicated; they usually try to lecture in an organized pattern , but this is not always easy. Sometimes a student will make a comment, ask a question, or relay a personal experience that pivots the lecture into an unplanned tangent.
  • To avoid confusion, always indicate in your notes when a student asks a question or the class breaks into a discussion, etc.
  • Also indicate if and when your teacher says something like “Let’s get back to the topic.”

Draw pictures and make arrows:

  • If you’re a visual person, you should make as many doodles on your paper as you can.
  • As soon as realize that one topic relates to another; comes before another; is the opposite of another; etc – draw a picture that makes sense to you.
  • Sometimes the information will not sink in until and unless you see it in an image.

Underline new vocabulary:

  • Anytime a teacher writes a word on the board/ put a circle around it/ underline it / or draw pointy arrows around it – be sure to underline it in your note.
  • If a strange word pops up in your notes, you can bet it will show up on a test.
  • You must know more than the definition of a new word.
  • You must know how it fits into the big picture.

Look for code words in the lecture:

There are certain code words to look out for in a lecture that can indicate that your teacher is giving you the relevance or the context of an event.

Code words can indicate relationships, significance, or order. Always indicate when your teacher says:

  • There were three causes….
  • The first reason…..
  • In the months leading up to ….
  • Some people saw this as …. while others believed……
  • There are four steps to the process
  • The reaction to X was …..

Compare your lecture notes to the book:

  • Sometimes it’s impossible to find a pattern in the teacher’s lecture.
  • If you find that your notes are confusing and provide no hint of a pattern, go straight to your textbook.
  • Take a look at the topics the teacher covers and see how those compare to the chapter titles and subtitles of the textbook. Chances are, things will start to make better sense when you see how the author arranged them.

By Grace Fleming.

Read more @ http://homeworktips.aboutcom/od/makingthegrades/a/lecturenotes.htm

Top 10 Tips for Student (Trainee) Teachers

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Students teachers are often placed into awkward and stressful situation, not really sure of their authority and sometimes not even placed with veteran teachers who are much help. These tips can aid student teachers as they begin their first teaching assignments. Please note that these are not suggestions for how to approach the students but instead for how to most effectively succeed in your new teaching environment.

1.   Be On Time:

  • Punctuality is very important in the “real world.”
  • If you are late, you will definitely NOT start out on the right foot with your cooperating teacher.
  • Even worse, if you arrive after a class has begun which you are supposed to be teaching, you are placing that teacher and yourself in an awkward situation.

2.  Dress Appropriately:

  • As a teacher, you are a professional and you supposed to dress accordingly.
  • There is nothing wrong with over dressing during your student teaching assignments. The clothes do help lend you an air of authority, especially if you look awfully young.
  • Further, your dress lets the coordinating teacher know of your professionalism and dedication to your assignment.

3.   Be Flexible:

  • Remember that the coordinating teacher has pressures placed upon them just as you have your own pressures to deal with.
  • If you normally teach only 3 classes and the coordinating teacher asks that you take an extra classes one day because he has an important meeting to attend, look at this as your chance to get even further experience while impressing your dedication to your coordinating teacher.

4.   Follow the School Rules:

  • It is important that you do not break school rules.
  • For examples, if it against the rules to chew gum in class, then do not chew it yourself.
  • This is definitely not professional and would be a mark against you when it comes time for your coordinating teacher and school to report on your abilities and actions.

5.   Plan Ahead:

  • If you know you will need copies for a lesson, do not wait until the morning of the lesson to get them completed.
  • Many schools have  procedures that MUST be followed for copying to occur.
  • If you fail to follow these procedures you will be stuck without copies and will probably look unprofessional at the same time.

6.   Befriend the Office Staff:

  • This especially important if you believe that you will be staying in the area and possibly trying for a job at the school where you are teaching.
  • These people’s opinions of you will have an impact on whether or not you are hired.
  • They can also make your time during student teaching much easier to handle. Don’t underestimate their worth.

7.   Maintain Confidentiality:

  • Remember that if you are taking notes about students or classroom experiences to turn in for grades, you should either not use their names or change them to protect their identities.
  • You never know who you are teaching or what their relationship might be to your instructions and coordinators.

8.   Don’t Gossip:

  • It might be tempting to hang out in the teacher lounge and indulge in gossip about fellow teachers.
  • However, as a student teacher this would be a very risky choice. You might say something you could regret later. You might find out information that is untrue and clouds your judgment.
  • You might even offend someone without realizing it.
  • Remember, these are teachers you could be working with again some day in the future.

9.   Be Professional With Fellow Teachers:

  • Do not interrupt other teachers’ classes without an absolutely good reason.
  • When you are speaking with your coordinating teacher or other teachers on campus, treat them with respect.
  • You can learn a lot from these teachers, and they will be much more likely to share with you if they feel that you are genuinely interested in them and their experience.

10.   Don’t Wait to the Last Minute to Call in Sick:

  • You will probably get sick at some point during your student teaching and will need to stay home for the day.
  • You must remember that the regular teacher will have to take over the class during your absence.
  • If you wait until the last minute to call in, this could leave them in an awkward bind making them look bad to the students.
  • Call as soon as you you believe you will not  be able to make it to class.

By Melissa Kelly.

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Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Blonde reports for her University final examination that consists of “YES” / “NO” type questions. She takes her seat in the examination hall, stares at the question paper for five minutes, and then in a fit of inspiration takes her wallet out, removes a coin and starts tossing the coin and making the answer sheet, Y for Heads and N for Tails.

Within half an hour she is all done whereas the rest of the class is sweating it out.

During he last few minutes, she is seen desperately throwing the coin, swearing and sweating.

The moderator, alarmed, approaches her and asked what is going on.

“I finished the examination in half an hour,” “But” she says, “I’m not going to finish rechecking my answered!”

By Martha Winslet.

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Teacher Competencies Needed.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Inclusive schools don’t ask “how does this students have to change in order to be a fourth grader?” but rather, “How do we have to change in order to offer full membership to our students with disabilities?”

What competencies do general education teachers and special education teachers  need to be competent inclusive teachers?

  • Ability to problem solve, to be able to informally assess the skills a student needs (rather than relying solely on standardized curriculum).
  • Ability to take advantage of children ’s individual interests and use their internal motivation for developing needed skills.
  • Ability to set high but alternative expectations that are suitable for the students: this means developing alternative assessments.
  • Ability to make appropriate expectations for EACH student, regardless of the student’s capabilities. If teachers can do this, it allows all students to be included in a class and school.
  • Ability to determine how to modify assignments for students: how to design classroom activities with so many levels that all students have a part. It will mean more activity-based teaching rather than seat-based teaching.
  • Ability to learn how to value all kinds of skills that students bring to a class, not just the academic skills. In doing this, teacher will make it explicit that in their classrooms they value all skills, even if that is not a clear value of a whole school.
  • Ability to provide daily success for all students. Teachers have to work to counteract the message all students get when certain students are continually taken out of class for special work .

Other competencies that will help general education teachers in an inclusive environment include:

  • A realization that every child in the class is their responsibility. Teachers need to find out how to work with each child rather than assuming someone else will tell them how to educate a child.
  • Knowing a variety of instructional strategies and how to use them effectively. This includes the ability to adapt materials and rewrite objectives for a child’s needs.
  • Working as a team with parents and special education teachers to learn what skills a child needs and to provide the best teaching approach.
  • Viewing each child in the class as an opportunity to become a better teacher rather than a problem to be coped with or have someone else fix.
  • Flexibility and a high tolerance for ambiguity.

Teachers today more fully recognize the value of inclusion because they see its power as an effective instructional practice. We feel that two factors are critical to the effectiveness of the district’s inclusion efforts: effective collaboration among classroom teachers and the special education staff, and a weekly block of instructional planning time”. Logan,  Diaz, Piperno, Rankin, Mac Farland, & Bargamian. (December 1994/January 1995). Educational Leadership.

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What could be done to help Parents deal more Effectively with Inclusive Education?

Monday, October 19th, 2009

I have never, ever met a parent of a child with disabilities who did not hope that child would someday have friends and connections with the broader community“… Mara Sapon-Shevin, Professor of Education, Syracuse University.

Welcoming parents into a classroom and school is vital to having them be part of the team for inclusive education. Parents of students with disabilities are often the driving force behind the push for inclusive education.

Parent education is the other key to help parents who may question the academic validity of inclusive education. Some parents may think their children will not make the same academic gains in an inclusive setting as students in a rigorous academic class. Susan Etschedit (UNI) states research shows the opposite is true. “Not only are all students making strong academic gains, but the literature clearly documents social, interpersonal, and personal gains. An inclusive setting not only does not detract from the usual education program, but it enriches the educational environment for all children. We have empirical research to validate this information and, more importantly, teacher testimony to tell us how inclusive education works.”

While many parents may not like an active classroom and may think their children are not able to learn in that environment, studies show that few students consider an inclusive setting disruptive. A recent survey of 90 sixth graders at a school in Dubuque, Iowa, found only 3 students who said they felt their inclusive classroom was disruptive.” — Chris Macfarlane. Associate Professor of Special Education, UNI

On the other hand, parents of students with disabilities are most concerned that their child will be teased or harmed and not be safe. Again, Macfarlane states that in almost every instance after two years of integrated education, this was not a problem or the problem was very small. “The reality is that all kids are teased at school, ” she notes, “so let’s work on teasing and helping children understand it is not acceptable.”

Parents may support inclusive education when they understand one of its goals is to keep students in their neighbourhood school, a school where siblings may attend. This make it easier for parents who may be more comfortable becoming part of a school community that they already know.

Having students be part of an inclusive setting means that as when those student become parents, they see inclusion as how education is and not think it is something to fight for.

How can schools work with parents towards inclusive settings?

Chris Macfarlane who has worked with lots of  schools and parents and teachers in inclusive settings suggests that schools need to work more with parents. “I’m always glad when I see parents actively involved in their child’s education and future. But in some circumstance, parents need to understand that their children with special needs have to be able to generalize what they learn at home and bring to school and vice-versa. For instance, a child who learned to do something independently at school need the opportunity to be able to do that at home as well.

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More about An Inclusive Classroom.

Monday, October 19th, 2009

According to Chris Kliewer, Inclusive classrooms look different all the time because the environment is created by whatever interactions the teacher and students have as a group or as individuals in the group.

It’s a lot of students doing different things with people helping them, students moving from one environment to another. It’s also a classroom where everybody is smiling, the students are actively engaged, and the teacher is delighted to be there. It sounds like pandemonium and looks messy.

Students spend a lot of time in learning centers where they make a lot of choices about what they’re working on. It’s a classroom where learning often happens in small groups with peer helping and supporting each others.

It’s a classroom with a lot of time for social interaction that means something to curriculum expectations.

It’s a classroom that is student-centered. Students have a high level of responsibility for creating their community. They help structure the rules and are expected to follow them and to meet contracted expectations for curriculum.

It’s a classroom where students know others will be doing different things and the issue of fairness doesn’t come into play because that’s just the way it is.

It’s a classroom that reaches beyond the classroom and into the community as a resource for learning new skills.

Inclusion without resources, without support, without teacher preparation time, without commitment, without a vision statement, without restructuring without staff development, won’t work” .. . Mara Sapon -Shevin.

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Attractive Teacher

Friday, October 16th, 2009

A young, attractive teacher was concerned about one of her twelve year old students. She took him aside after class one day and asked, “Matthews, is there any particular reason why your schoolwork has been so poor lately?”

“I can’t seem to concentrate,” replied Matthew,  “I think I’ve fallen in love.”

“Is that so?” said the teacher, holding back a smile. “With whom have you fallen in love?”

“With you!” Matthew declared.

“But Matthew,” exclaimed the rather flattered teacher, “don’t you see how silly that is? It’s a fact that I would like a husband of my own someday, but I certainly don’t want a child”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry,” replied Matthew, “I’ll be careful.”

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Classroom Management Checklist.

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The following are some important issues to consider in your Classroom Management Checklist:

Learning Activity:

  • _________ Is the child able do the task/activity?
  • _________ Is the child able to understand your directions/instructions?
  • _________ Do the learning tasks and instructions consider the child’s learning style?
  • _________ Is this type of activity that helps to promote self-confidence (instead of frustration)?
  • ________ _Does the child understand what completion means?


  • ________ Are classroom rules clearly understood by all students?
  • ________ Have the rules / routines been practiced and taught to the students?
  • ________ Do you adhere to your classroom rules/routines without exception?
  • ________ Are consequences enforced fairly and consistently?
  • ________ Are there a variety of rewards and consequences?
  • ________ Do all students understand your expectations?
  • ________ Do all students understand consequences for inappropriate actions?
  • ________ Is your room inviting and organized?
  • ________ Do your children understand all transitional routines?


  • ________ Do I always demonstrate respect for all students?
  • ________ Do I praise my students and give them ample opportunities to experience success?
  • ________ Do I ensure that I have student’s attention before I talk?
  • ________ Are my instruction and directions presented clearly and specifically?
  • ________ Do I use appropriate voice intonation?
  • ________ Do I regularly use positive reinforcement?
  • ________ Do I use sense of humor?

If you have wondered why some teachers just seem to have the magical formula, check out their class sometime and measure it against this checklist. I’m sure you’ll answer yes to each item. Good luck and remember patience is another key ingredient for success.

by Sue Watson.

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