Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

Using vehicles is an excellent way to motivate students and to help ready them for real life buying decisions. The following links deal with the various manufactures where students can write for information, obtain pricing information and to harvest compare and contrast data for Common Core related essays.

A listing of all DMV offices.
Finding the office that deals with your state and others can provide information on how old one needs to be to drive as well as the various license fee data that could be used for Common Core math problems. I have used driver manuals to motivate students to read.

Data on fuel economy
This federal site would enable students to select a variety of vehicles and there fuel mileage. This could be used for math as well as to provide statistics for an essay on the best or worst type of vehicles in terms of fuel costs.

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.

A Learning Activity for Father’s Day
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame

Father’s Day is an opportunity for a fun, yet meaningful lesson, but also time to be mindful that not all children are living with a father. Although there are a variety of activities that largely revolve around creating a poem or a craft that can be given as a gift a more notable lesson can make it learning relevant. Before starting the teacher needs to see which students don’t have fathers at home. These students may elect to send this card to any male in their family. The teacher should discuss this matter with the students first so that there aren’t any hurt feelings. A call home may also be in order.

Once this is accomplished the students create a card such as the one here:

The My Hero Theme is an excellent one, but the heroic figures that the student uses needs to be their own. Research on five or so of famous male heroes in history enables this activity to be a true learning activity as well.

To start the lesson the students research famous men in history. The make a list of their character traits and what they accomplished. They decide on which five have the traits that the “father” in their live might have. Next give them a blank card. This can be simply cut poster paper, a large index card or something more elaborate. On the front they write the names of the five men and what they accomplished. They can also consider drawing or printing out pictures to place next to the names.

On the inside cover the student writes “Happy Father’s Day” with some art work of their own making.
On the third page that write, You have the traits of these famous men in history. After they list the name they write the trait and what that person accomplished. For example, you remind me of John Muir because you love the outdoors (
and you remind me of John Glenn because you encourage me to meet new challenges
and you are like Martin Luther King, Jr. because you believe all people are equal

On the back page the student can create a poem to their father.
The result is an activity that is requires new learning and is most appreciated by the parent or guardian because it is unique.

Sites with relevant lessons

History of Father’s Day

Most Famous Fathers in Literature
For older students. They need to read the book,
A short version of famous literature fathers-day

Lessons for all levels

ESL lessons

Mainly primary arts and crafts

Link site to a variety of Father’s Day lessons and activities

Statistics about Fathers
These could be used as the bases for a math activity

Discipline: training that perfects the mental faculties

Ten Skills Every Student Needs and You Probably Don’t Have Time to Teach
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

After 40 years of teaching there comes a time when you want to just yell at the curriculum designers and textbook publishers that they have the cart before the horse. Teachers need to be allowed to spend more time teaching students how to learn and less on preparing for a test which measures nothing applicable in the real world.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I feel that every teacher would love to really teach students how to get ready for the challenges ahead of them and use the curriculum as a stepping stone to that goal. Over the years my students always were at the top in the State in terms of standardized testing. Indeed, some of them had perfect scores. The problem was I was teaching them how to take the test. Fortunately, I as able to shorten the material required for the course by removing those elements I though were essentially chaff so that I could teach them essential skills. Essentially, I started by teaching them how to discipline themselves. This worked so well that I still get letters from students, some decades after they were in my class, thanking me for teaching them for life. I have never gotten a letter thanking me for teaching them the Monroe Doctrine.

Here is the list and it far from complete, which are skills that need to be taught. Feel free to comment and add your own.

Learning how to Learn

Developing a love for learning is essential for any educator. It is the most important lesson a teacher can impart to a student and it is also the most difficult. A teacher may have to face a variety of hindrances from lack of parental care, nutritional and emotional problems, and even severe mental concerns. Regardless, there needs to be an effort and the best way is to become a facilitator by prodding, motivating, and providing a diverse array of learning materials to challenge the student to learn for themselves. Most often the textbook, frequently filled with data with little relevance to the student, is the main focus of instruction. And, perhaps, that is the way it must be if the goal is a test that measures improvement in the acquisition of this data. The teacher can feel confident as he or she has covered the material by sticking to the textbook. Motivational, hardly, but that is how teachers are frequently judged. There is another way to do this, but it is time consuming and requires a multitude of rubrics. Providing a variety of materials and having the students learn from them is an arduous task. However, once it is done a teacher can spend the rest of years modifying, adding, and individualizing lessons to meet the needs of the students. ReachEveryChild (cited below) provides a variety of sources for this free material and is an excellent place to start individualization.

The second part of learning how to learn based on whether the student is an auditory, visual or kinetic learner and how to use these to their advantage. It is impossible for a teacher to use all of these methods when presenting lessons, but a student can create their own lessons to help them acquire the knowledge. In my classes I have students create poems, songs, graphic organizers and the Cornell note taking system. In this way there is a variety of methods for them to learn. I insist they use my linking and three transfer method of learning as well. The linking method makes them link what they are learning to other things they have learned and create a “learning tree” of it that they add to throughout the year. The three transfer method is to have students read the material, take notes on it, and transfer that material to another mode such as notecards. I also recommend presenting the answer to a question and have them supply the question. This is an excellent test of finding out what they know. It can be used in all subjects.

What is Valid

If you have time, giving the student a variety of short articles to read and asking them to figure out what would be the best way to judge this material is very worthwhile. This process should also include a study of the various types of propaganda, how to evaluate a website for bias, and stereotyping. That is a lot to swallow and so it is best as part of a school-year long program. If you are teaching social studies an ideal unit could be the differences of opinion between the South and the North about slavery. Learning how to learn is not just about the acquisition of skills, but for the student to acquire the ability to judge the material. One of the best tools to get students to read is Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four. As the students read the article they keep track of the characters and reach various conclusions as the teacher hands them the next page. The lesson makes them detectives, but more importantly allows them to learn for life. Seldom are we giving all the answers, but we must make decisions by what we know and judge what is valid.

Speed Reading, not just reading.

It isn’t any secret that the first basic skill is reading. But not just reading, but speed reading. Close reading will follow much more quickly if students can learn how to read rapidly. Reading for facts and reading for pleasure can both be more enjoyable if a student acquires the ability to focus on several words at one time. I taught second graders how to read over a 1000 words per minute at their grade level. The usual improvement was always 200 to 400 words per minute more and this was for language arts and social studies materials. Interestingly the comprehension improves as the speed level doubles as the student concentrates on the material. It is a win-win, but it most be reinforced until it becomes a habit and it takes at least 30 days for it to become a habit. Be warned that some students are resistant to it and so online speed reading sites can help them challenge themselves at their own rate.

Write at Grade Level +

The first thing on teaching a student to write is to explain the types of writing based on the purpose. Taking notes while on the phone or writing a compare and contrast essay may be different in length, but the ingredients are the same. However, for longer works you need to teach the student to write at grade level. I have the students write a one page paper on their favorite vacation either real or imagined. Next, I have them underline all the one syllable words. After that they circle any word that they have not known since primary school. The Fry Formula is applied and the students record their writing scores. They is always silence as the students realize that they are writing at several grades below grade level. Now, that isn’t necessarily bad, but it does force them to expand their vocabulary and that is good. I always have a few Thesaurus books on hand and show them how to use them. The results are immediate and the students not only improve their writing, but improve their thinking and organizational skills as well as they strive to improve. My article (citation below) provides an in-depth look at this successful practice that has enabled my students to win numerous writing competitions.

Teach Them to be Journalist

This vital profession is based on training that every student needs. The ability to communicate, to judge facts, and to influence others with their work. There is no other profession that is so vital for students to learn from because it is essentially what they are going to do nearly every day of their life. A good journalist seeks out evidence and judges it. They write using the who, what, when, where, why, and how approach. They use the inverted triangle that helps them organize facts. Finally, it teaches them to be curious and ask questions and, very importantly, take good notes.

Teach Them to be Lawyers

Perhaps, oversimplifying, but lawyers earn them living by researching and providing evidence that their cause is correct. This requires an examination of evidence and organization. This is another valuable trait that can help students of all ages. For example, was George Washington was a good president? Can you prove it? Can you provide evidence that he was not so good? Some may call this critical thinking, but that type of thinking can not really be utilized until a student is able to have a variety of experiences that enable them to make a critical decision. Thus using the basic skills of an attorney in proving a point and providing evidence to that end are skills they are going to need to write essays persuasive and expository essays and in life.

Be Accountable

At the beginning of the school year I ask the students to look around the room and, without naming names, tell me how many other students they would hire to work for them based on the knowledge that they wanted good workers. After that I ask them to write that number down, fold the paper, and place it in a basket. I take out the numbers and place them on the board to come out with an average. In almost every case it is ten percent of the students or less. That means that the others already have a reputation of not being good workers. The reason for this is that many students simply do not hold themselves accountable. Immediate gratification, poor parenting, the need for quick teacher assessment with little assessment of the assessment, all help feed a “who cares” mentality. This results in large scale cheating with little fear of consequence. Research has overwhelming shown that rewards must be intrinsic to be a lasting value. If students are to be held accountable there must be a reward system that works and entices parent buy-in.
People Skills

We aren’t talking about cooperative learning, we are talking about the ability to get along with others regardless of differences. We are talking about good manners, social skills, negotiating skills, and the ability to work together to create a common goal. Skills as basic as how to talk to people on the phone, how to ask permission, or even showing remorse or concern are missing and yet vital for life.

Handling Emergencies
Handling emergencies is also seldom taught at school. Yes, fire drills are held, but what value are they to the student when a fire really occurs elsewhere? My students wrote and had published in the American Fire Journal the problems with school fire drills in the hopes of enlightening others. School administrators essentially ignored it because it wasn’t an area to be tested. Sad, because the issues the students brought up were important. For example, why does the fire extinguisher stay in the room during a fire drill? Why do the students stand up in rows when an explosion could knock them over? Who knows where the dangerous chemicals are? What do the various colored helmets that firemen wear mean? Needless to say, handling emergencies is a vital skill. Why doesn’t every student know CPR? How to stop bleeding? Or to identify a person having a “fit” and knowing how to act? Taking this a step further, how to teach students not to panic and to learn how to identify people should be taught. But, who has the time?

Skills for life

Setting realistic goals, identifying propaganda and bias, budgeting time, operating a computer and touch typing, triage work assignments, handling money and investments, observation skills, where to find information and measure its accuracy, and learning how to listen can all be incorporated in the curriculum. Each of these carry lifelong importance and all can and have been taught within the curriculum if there is time. There are free units of study on almost all of these areas available. The teacher needs to be given the time and flexibility to personalize them for their class.

Before I get off my high horse I must add one more thing and that is for the student to learn how to be happy. My friend Larry Martz, an editor with Newsweek, wrote in his book Making Schools Better, about the small bite principle. This is a simple plan where small strides can result in large gains. An educator who just takes one of these ideas to heart could make a huge difference knowing well that it is at least as significant as anything on a standardized test.

Why Students Cheat

Making Schools Better

Car Rating Site

Government fuel economy site

How to Improve Student Writing

Student speed reading lessons
There are others

Using the Inverted Triangle

Abraham Lincoln: Lessons and Links

for more great resources go to

There is nothing difficult about finding information about President Abraham Lincoln. What is a problem is finding appropriate materials for use in classrooms that students can understand. As such, I have tried to locate those sites that offered an array of resources that cover everything from the basic timelines and quotes to literacy encouraging lessons.

Here is a site that has the bones of an excellent lesson. It shows the great strength of Lincoln and the students always enjoyed it trying to figure out how much a barrel of whiskey weighed as written in the article.

Others ideas could include research about his failures and the changes in his face as the stress of the presidency and his personal life had on him. Printing out a series of pictures from the first to the last is quite compelling and clearly show how the war took its toil on him. Here are the locations for that assignment:

Lincoln’s pictures through time are below or you can show the students this video

Early photo

Students should read about the research that went into identifying this photo.

First known photo 1846







1865 for five dollar bill

Last photo taken

The following are additional links to quality resources:

The Lincoln Institute has a site with lesson ideas for teachers

An article from the April 27, 1861 edition of Harper’s Weekly features a biography and picture of President Abraham Lincoln, and an incredible description of Mr. Lincoln’s declaration of war on the South..A must see site that fits the Common Core requirements.

Easy to understand story of Lincoln’s Life

Printable script for a game show that asks the audience to pick the real Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln lesson plans and activities

Timeline of Lincoln’s Life

Failures in Lincoln’s life.

A great way to get students to think about overcoming adversity and rejection.

A unique site where the students can watch video clips and answer questions.

A PBS lesson plan site

Large link sites for many grade levels

 By Alan Haskvitz

Halloween offers a great teachable moment that can be related to a variety of integrated lessons. There are a diverse array of units, lessons, printables, and craft sites.

One of world’s largest list of lesson plans links

Links to all types of holiday related resources

Teachable moment article

A guide to creating the best units.

Really good link with lots of lots of interesting ideas.

Uneven quality, but a good variety of Halloween related lessons

Anoka, Minnesota

The Halloween capital of America

Take a look at how a city built its claim.

Halloween Activities and Lessons

Halloween printables and primary lessons

Large list from Donn

General link sites

History of Halloween

Pumpkin lessons

Canadian lesson plans

Halloween Safety lessons

Physical Education Plans for Halloween

A good variety. Other holidays physical education plans also listed.

Halloween flash cards

Art lesson: Draw a Monster

For more free educational materials go to

Helping Your Slow Learning Child
By National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
Perhaps the greatest challenge to a parent or adult is a child who is a slow learner. These children do not fall into the category of special education, do well outside the classroom, and show no evidence of having a medical problem. They simply do not do well in school or a particular subject. In the days before formal schooling these students would carry on productive lives working and doing tasks that did not require extensive reading, writing, or math operations. However, today the emphasis is less on occupational learning and more on academic preparation. Thus there is a growing need for help to remediate these children to provide them the best possible opportunities in a changing world.

Having successfully taught for nearly 30 years in several states and countries two commonalities emerge when dealing with slow learners. The first is that they need extra time to complete tasks. This means that the parents must be willing to augment what happens at school regardless of how fruitless it might appear at times. Secondly, the child must be offered incentives that are appropriate. Depending on the child the best incentives are those where the family works together on a project such as building a model or attending a concert or game. The incentives should require delayed gratification so that the child learns patience and the importance of waiting to be rewarded.

The next area is proper nutrition. A child needs to have a breakfast. Period. Every study done points out that a quality breakfast and proper sleep are the two best ways to improve student performance.

With those two factors in mind, the next step for a teacher or parent is to search for lessons and other resources that make it easier to differentiate the curriculum and make learning more vital and relevant. To this end the special education sites on the Internet have some great ideas. It must be noted that this column is not dealing with those students that qualify for special education classes. However, the concepts that teachers use when dealing with these students are ideal for helping a slow learner once the student’s weaknesses have been diagnosed. In any one of my classes I have about ten percent who are slow learners so having a slow learning child is not unusual.


Here are some general characteristics of slow learners. Students may display some or all of these depending on their age and degree of problems acquiring knowledge at school. First, they are frequently immature in their relations with others and do poorly in school. Secondly, they cannot do complex problems and work very slowly. They lose track of time and cannot transfer what they have learned from one task to another well. They do not easily master skills that are academic in nature such as the times tables or spelling rules. Perhaps the most frustrating trait is their inability to have long-term goals. They live in the present and so have significant problems with time management probably due to a short attention span and poor concentration skills capabilities.
It should be pointed out that just because a child is not doing well in one class does not make that student a slow learner. Very few children excel in all subject areas unless there is great deal of grade inflation at that school. That is why it is essential that standardized tests scores be examined in depth by the parent or teacher to look for trends. Also there is a difference between a slow learner and a reluctant learner. A slow learner initially wants to learn, but just has a problem with the process. A reluctant learner is not motivated and can also be passive aggressive creating even more of a problem for teachers and parents through a ploy that involves non-cooperation. There is seldom anything wrong with the learning ability of reluctant learners.
To help slow learners here are some proven ideas for parents
Have a quiet place to work where the child can be easily observed and motivated.
Keep the homework sessions short
Provide activity times before and during the homework
Add a variety of tasks to the learning even if it is not assigned such as painting a picture of a reading assignment.
Allow for success
Ask questions of the child while they are working about the assignment
Go over the homework before they go to bed and before they go to school
Teach them how to use a calendar to keep track of assignments
Read to the child
Use my “Three Transfer” form of learning in which the student must take information and do three things with it besides reading. For example, read it, explain it to someone else, draw a picture of it, and take notes on it.
Be patient but consistent.
Do not reward unfinished tasks

Challenge the child
Have the child do the assignments that are the most difficult first and leave the easier ones to later. Call it the dessert principle.
Don’t be overprotective. Students who have parents that frequently intercede in their child’s education are teaching that student that the parent does not respect their abilitites. If you do call a teacher make sure you are seeking a positive outcome. Remember that most teachers have dealt with numerous slow learners and have a vast amount of experience. However, sharing your child’s strengths and weaknesses could make the school year more beneficial for all concerned.
Contact the teacher if there is a concern. Calling an administrator solves nothing as the teacher is the sole legal judge of academic success.
Take you child to exciting places where they can see where academic success
is important. A trip to a local university or community college, a walking tour
of city hall, a visit to the fire station or a behind the scenes tour of a zoo are
highly motivating.
Examples of interventions for slow learners
Environment: Reduce distractions, change seating to promote attentiveness, have a peer student teacher, and allow more breaks.
Assignments: Shorter and with more variation, repeat work in various forms, have a contract, give more hands on work, have assignments copied by student, have students use three transfer method where they have to show the work three different ways.
Assessment: Shorter tests, oral testing, redoing tests, short feedback times, don’t make students compete
What to avoid: Cooperative learning that isolates the student and places him or her in a no win situation. Using a standardized test. Ignoring the problem.
What to encourage: Grouping with a patient partner. Learning about the child’s interests. Placing the student in charge. Mapping, graphic organizers, and hands-on work. Using Bloom’s taxonomy of tasks to make the assignments more appropriate.
Resources for slow learners
Slow learners greatly benefit from yoga
It is always important for students to get proper nutrition and exercise. This article may be of interest in that Yoga calms the mind and body.

Autism-PDD Resources
This site offers information on treatment and, even the law, with a parent guide. Quite complete.

Kentucky Department of Education’s Behavior Site
Intervention ideas, jobs, and a forum. When a slow learner is frustrated they can become behavior problems. Here are some resources that provide suggestions to cope with this problem.

LD OnLine: Learning
Disabilities Information and Resources


National Center for Learning Disabilities
The Council for Exceptional Children
This large database has most everything from a job bank to resources. Start here.
Disability Accommodations
Strategies for varied disabilities, including speech, hearing, behavior, ADD and learning

KidSource: Disabilities
A large link site with ratings of those that are the most helpful.

Resources for Early Childhood Special Education

Very ValuableSpecial Education Resources on the Internet

Misunderstood Kids Outside the Box
Special education articles, resources,
news, and other features.

Email discussion groups
A little difficult to follow

Special Needs Opportunity Windows
SNOW is made specifically for special education teachers, this site
offers discussion, bulletin boards, a listserv, events and resources.

The law and special education

Technology Resources and Special Education

Special Education Award
There are several. Here are just a couple/

Alan Haskvitz has been selected as one of the best teachers in the United States by six different educational organizations. He has earned over 30 awards for his innovative teaching and has been featured on national radio and television numerous times as well as featured in books on improving education. His students have done extremely well winning major competitions in nearly every curriculum area. Haskvitz has taught at every grade level and every core subject in his nearly 45 years as an educator.

Cinco de Mayo lessons and links

by Alan Haskvitz, national motivations speaker


I have placed a large selection here


A general list of links mainly for elementary

Diverse selection of resources

Craft activities


Food and music

Large unit of study for elementary with word wall and more

For more use the search engine at




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