June 2014

Fire Safety and Bulletin Boards: What is the Law?
By Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame
For more free education news go to http://reacheverychild.com/blog/2014/not-so-secret-formula-improves-writing

Sadly, one of the great traditions of most classrooms are paper decorations. Sometimes, these are even hung from the ceilings as well as available walls. The reason that it is sad is for two reasons. First, it is probably against the law. Secondly, teachers have probably spent a great deal of their time and own money to decorate the bulletin boards. Making the classroom meet fire regulations does not mean it has to be without decoration if the teacher uses fire retardant materials that meet the fire code. With the emphasis on quality the postings l should relate to the current topic or items used throughout the year such as steps to writing an essay, classroom rules, or how to solve an equation postings. Again, unless the student has done the work on fire resistant paper it must fall within the fire regulations in terms of space allowed for such postings.

Another area of concern is upholstered furniture in the classroom. It is not recommended unless it has been treated. Open flames are also a concern. I have seen many classrooms where the teacher has tried ot make the room more user friendly and placed sofas so that the students could have a more home-like atmosphere to read or work. Unless these have been teated these may be illegal, according to the fire code.

One of my most popular blogs was a listing of how to decorate bulletin boards with photos from teachers around the country. You can still see many teachers who have posted them on sites such as Instagram or Pinterest. Take a long look at these and you can see how talented teachers, but also remind yourself that a bulletin board must be legal. I am not telling you to tear down your bulletin boards, I am providing you with the law and you need to check with your administrator to see if it is the same in your community.

I don’t want to be a kill-joy about this issue and some teachers have voiced their concerns:
But the reality is that safety is the overriding concern and there is still space allowed for decorations. This district uses 20 percent as a legal figure http://www.kimberly.edu/index.php/staff-resources/161-classroom-safety.html

Here are some sites that I recommend you or your administrator check. Please note this posting:
“Flammable material coverage. No more than 25% of any wall in a classroom shall be covered with a flammable material. In a corridor there may be only a 4 foot by 8 foot section of a corridor wall covered, with a 50 foot separation of wall space between each section.”

Making it Acceptable

Despite this there may be a way to make your classroom acceptable to the Fire Marshall. It is called fire-retardant chemicals or paper. Of course, you need to check with an administrator who needs to check with the fire officials, but it could make your bulletin boards compliant. Naturally there is a cost which, hopefully, the district should absorb. There are also variety of fire retardant paper that can be used.

Or you can try and make fire resistant paper yourself.I have not done this so you are on your own.

Fire Restrictions on Classrooms

A school district site with a listing of fire rules

This is a listing of rules for various states and includes rules on door locking.
Most of these links are printable.

Warnings about upholstered furniture in classrooms and more

From North Carolina

Here is a list of ways to get most out of legal bulletin board space

Apps that protect students for schools and parents
by Alan Haskvitz

The Internet is both a blessing and a curse depending on its usage. The problem is that teachers/parents can’t always be there when the decision between the good and evil sites and messages are being utilized. With that in mind here are a list of some of those sites that provide this service. Some have a charge and others are free. The partial list below provides insights into what is available, but is no means complete. However, these might be a good starting point. Prices range from free to over $12 a month, depending on the type of coverage you want for your family. Always check to see if these sites cover both cell phone, tablet, and home use. Some sites can use GPS tracking and other services such as blocking of callers. Take your time reviewing each of these and always check the contract carefully. Teachers should also ask the technology department what blockers they use. Remember that students may be able to access the school server with their cell phones which can eat up bandwidth, especially if they are downloading large files. Please note that this list is just for information and is not meant to convey our approval and that prices can vary.

Covenant Eyes
Internet Accountability  tracks websites you visit on your computers, smart phones, and tablets, and sends them in an easy-to-read report to someone you trust.

Amber Safety
To provide parents with state-of-the-art, easy-to-use tools that help them protect their kids from threats online, at home, at school or anywhere they might go.

Phone Sheriff
PhoneSheriff allows the blocking of certain functions of the phone or tablet at certain times of each day. “For example you can tell the software to lock the phone or tablet every night at 8:00 pm until 8:00 am or whatever hours you choose. On smartphones you can choose to lock the entire phone or you can lock just the ability to make calls while the other functions of the phone remain operable.”

Open DNS
OpenDNS has parental controls that empower parents to manage Web access across every device that accesses the Internet on your home network. This includes phones and computers that your kids’ friends bring into the house and more.

App Certain
This service is free and includes features such as a remote curfew mode as well as an analysis of apps.

Norton Family Parental Control
This is a $50 service that enables you to check what kids are doing online, sets limits of computer time, and can monitor mobile devise activity and more. Check for a free version. http://us.norton.com/norton-family-premier/

K-9 Browser
K9 Web Protection is a free Internet filter and parental control software for your home Windows or Mac computer. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids. . http://www1.k9webprotection.com/

Mobile Watchdog
Mobile Watchdog monitors cell phone activity on Android devices — text messaging, application use, and browsing use. The app may be capable of sending usage emails.

This site has several packages and a variety of safety features. It monitors contacts with friends, pictures and posts on social networks.

For more free materials go to http://reacheverychild.com/blog/2014/prevention-apps-provide-help-when-you-cant-be-there

World Cup of Soccer Lessons: Teachable Moments

For more free resources go to

The 2014 World Cup begins on June 12th in Brazil and is the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world and the coverage is bound to be huge. There are 32 teams from around the world participating the event. The World Cup offers a great way to integrate lessons that involve a variety of subjects from art to zoology. With the results being available daily the lessons can be updated. Since some places may not have coverage of the event I highly recommend you use the Internet to keep current.

I find that even those students who are not interested in soccer enjoy getting involved in using the variety of information interesting for math practice such as percentages, graphing, and even probabilities. They also like to make a book of the animals that represent those countries in the form of an animal atlas and design flags for their teams. The lessons can easily meet Common Core standards in math and literacy.

Official site

This site has updates on the World Cup

Soccer lessons from Great Britain.
A wide variety including songs.

Compare the stadiums
A fun site that has pictures and data on the places in Brazil where the games will be played. Students can compare rainfall, temperature and even the capacity of each stadium to write an essay on why there choice is best or a compare and contrast essay or make a graphs of the information.
A free app
This site has flags of the nations.

Huge link sites


Printables for younger students

A photo essay on the history of the World Cup
A unique math game based on soccer

ESL Lessons
Includes tests and listening skill practice.

More ESL Lessons
News English Lessons
ESL / EFL Lesson Activity on Brazil World Cup

The New York Times has a blog about the event
The site has both synonyms and quizzes.
Probability lessons for older students

Free summer reading program for your class and school
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame

Awesome Stories is offering a tremendous deal for free. Teachers can enroll and track the summer reading of their entire class. I did say free. You can even enroll the entire school. The program is interactive and the stories are interesting and Common Core assignments can be applied. Even if you are off for the summer it would be worthwhile to investigate this site.

Remember that this is all without cost. The site even has a calendar of important dates and reading activities that could be used to make each day a teachable moments. You can use this site for flipping an assignment, blended learning, or just to get students excited about reading. Try this one, Animals as Defendants in Court and the true story of a pig put on trial for murder. The readings have an abundance of primary source material as well and that helps students prepare for Common Core.

Here are some of the stories that are available and the site also offers the true stories of what is behind some movies such as 12 Years a Slave, Remember the Titans, and more. There is even an audio/radio section to help students improve listening skills.

Helen Killer, Benedict Arnold, Bobby Kennedy, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Vikings, Alexander the Great, even Secretariat winning the Triple Crown.

Site overview

Click to access 5d96dd8dca.pdf

Here is the index by grade/standard/subject

Education link

To sign-up go to Membership@AwesomeStories.com and tell them Alan sent you.

End of the Year activities
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame

Veteran teachers know well the difficulties that the last weeks of school present. The student’s minds are set for vacation, grades are essentially earned and recorded, the summer heat becomes a distraction, books have to be collected, examined and supplies ordered. Adding to those problems are the fact that many schools want you packed and ready to vacate your room for cleaning or having to move to another location and the now frequent task of attending retirement parties and looking for summer employment and you have a high level of potential stress.

Remembering that closure is a learning experience, teachers might consider having the students organize their notes and review what they have learned in the form of play or a scrapbook. In addition, you might have them make a prediction about their future and place it in an envelop with their name and address on it. A few years later you can mail it to them. Of course, some have moved but many find the letters a great way to rekindle past memories and remotivate themselves.

Here are some unique ideas for end of the school year activities. Although many may be considered too youthful for high school, they can be easily modified for those students by simply adjusting the materials. For example, a high school English student could write a poem about their future using the style of one of the individuals whose work they studied. A history student could write a fictional account of a leader of the future based on the character traits of those that were studied. Even physical education classes could find the students developing dances for the future on a planet with limited gravity. In other words, if the students are motivated the end of the year can be a large, organized, and relaxed time.
The following are good ideas for all grade levels:
Creative ways to have the student recall what they learned.

Make puzzles about the students’ names

Create a Guinness Book of Records based on the past year. Have the student write about what they learned in terms of records such as longest research project, most talkative student, best math student, most pencils sharpened…..

An article about ideas for the end of the school year that you can use to motivate students.

Five end of year activities

Teacher submitted ideas

End of year T-shirts
How to make them

12 Ideas to keep them reading

Create best of books by having the students compile lists such as most endangered animals, fastest runners, largest people…

Memory books, summer goals, posters

Make a time capsule about what the students learned this year. You might even consider making it an individual time capsule.

Dealing with your own end of the year stress

Make an end of the year memory poster

Mainly primary/elementary ideas on Pinterest

Random teacher ideas
A summer safety poster
Make your own autograph books
Writing an ode to the classroom
Writing a letter to next year’s class
Making a memory or scrapbook to use next year.
Create a words of wisdom poster for next year’s students
Write a letter to their teachers for next year
Have the students use a large sheet of butcher paper or bulletin board paper to list what they learned this year by writing the lesson on the timeline
Create a play that tells the story of the year.

Finally, make sure you use all that student energy to help you clean and prepare the class for the next year.