home schooling


By Alan Haskvitz
http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Ringleaders/al.html

Autism continues to be a concern for all parties. Perhaps the best way to help with this concern is to communicate ideas and resources. Towards that goal, I have put together some of the most valuable I could find.

First, autism is a brain disorder that impairs the ability to communicate, socialize, and maintain what are considered normal relationships with others. Students with autism may have varied levels of skills, capacities and behaviors. Even the cause of autism is not understood at this time, although medications are prescribed to relieve symptoms. So, you need to treat every autistic-diagnosed student as a distinct individual and take time to read their reports and be aware of any medications and their possible side effects.
The major problem when teaching several students with autism, besides the uneven development in learning, are issues of classroom management, behavior, differentiated instruction, and even how best to use teaching aides.

Finally, you must be attuned to the type of medication our student may be using. A carefully developed Individualized Learning Plan is essential and meeting with the parents necessary to make consistent progress.

Unfortunately, due to its nature, autism success stories are not easily duplicated. Just because one method works in a certain instance does not make it transferable. I recommend you read widely from the resources below and glean ideas that might help your students.

National Autism Center
Offers a great many resources for teachers and parents, including an online library.
http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/

The Autism Society 
A great organization for families looking for resources and research. They designated April as Autism Awareness Month.
http://www.autism-society.org/

Cindy’s Autistic Support is a link site that provides all sorts of tips and advice for parents and teachers.
http://www.cindysautisticsupport.com/

PositivelyAutism
An autism blog with how-to articles and more.
http://www.positivelyautism.com/

Autism on SlideShare
This site provides a list of sideshows that offer insights on autism. This is an exceptional site, but it takes time to navigate the many entries.
http://www.slideshare.net/search/slideshow?searchfrom=header&q=autism

Autism and Asperger Syndrome
This site offers the basics, plus classroom ideas. It’s a good primer on these two conditions and resources for helping those impacted.
http://www.mugsy.org/connor1.htm

Structured Teaching Classroom Ideas (Autism, ASD)
This Pinterest page offers visuals for primary and elementary.

22 Tips for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders,
Handy and essay to follow ideas for educators and parents.
http://teaching.monster.com/benefits/articles/8761-22-tips-for-teaching-students-with-autism-spectrum-disorders

Autism Fact Sheet
From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. This site
presents lots of ideas and explanations that can provide insights.
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm

Read The Autism Teacher
A blog full of good teaching ideas.
http://theautismteacher.blogspot.com/

Autism Resources for Teachers.from the NEA
http://www.nea.org/home/15151.htm

Resources for National Hispanic* Heritage Month
By National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
http://www.findingdulcinea.com/features/profiles/h/alan-haskvitz.html

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, America observes National Hispanic Heritage Month. This observation began in 1968 as National Hispanic Heritage Week, but it was expanded in 1988 to include the entire month-long period. To help educators and parents with this observance, I have put together free resources to help undestand the significance of the month and tie it in with Common Core reading and writing reqirements.

One of the official sites
http://www.hispanicheritagemonth.org/

Latino-Hispanic Heritage
http://www.42explore2.com/latino.htm

Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month
http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/heritage_month/hhm/index.html

Hispanic Heritage Resources for Teachers
https://www.teachervision.com/hispanic-heritage-month/south-america/6629.html

Hispanic Heritage Music Resources
You may be asked to register.
https://www.teachervision.com/hispanic-heritage-month/resource/20161.html

Other lessons related to Hispanic history
The Aztecs – Mighty Warriors of Mexico
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/aztecs-mdash-mighty-warriors-mexico

Aztecs Find a Home: The Eagle has Landed
A unit of study about the founding of the Aztecs capital, Tenochtitlan
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/aztecs-find-home-eagle-has-landed

Conquistadors
A encompassing view of how Europeans controlled the natives.
http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/theconquistadors/tp/08conquistadors.htm

Cortez and the Aztecs: Different Points of View
Great for Common Core lessons
http://historyclassroom20.wikispaces.com/file/view/less-mayaztec1.pdf

Couriers in the Inca Empire
A lesson about the communications of the time period. For elementary age students.
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/couriers-inca-empire-getting-your-message-across

Teaching with Historic Places
Excellent site with a v ariety of lessons from the National Park Service
http://www.nps.gov/search/?affiliate=nps&query=hispanic

Culture and History Through the Use of Children’s Literature – This site has three simple lesson plans to provide examples of what can be done for this month using literature as a base. Not for everyone.
http://www.cis.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1997/2/97.02.06.x.html#i

Hispanic Culture and People
Andes Manta – From the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge celebration of Latin American arts
http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/multimedia/series/VideoStories/andes-manta.aspx

Students can create own clickable map of Mexico
http://createaclickablemap.com/create-clickable-map-mexico.php?maplocation=mexico

Some Famous Hispanic Scientists
http://coloquio.com/famosos/science.html
And
http://www.factmonster.com/spot/hhmbio4.html

Latin America Data Base
Good resoucres for creating Common Core math lessons
http://ladb.unm.edu/

Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo Activities 
Large number of lessons
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/cinco-de-mayo/

Mr. Donn’s Cinco de Mayo Lessons
Large variety of lessons for all age levels
http://holidays.mrdonn.org/cincodemayo.html

History of Mexican Independence Day
http://teacherlink.ed.usu.edu/tlresources/units/byrnes-celebrations/mid.html

*Full Definition of HISPANIC
1.of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain or of Spain and Portugal
2. of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent living in the United States; especially :  one of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin
http://www.merriam-webster.com/

Dealing with Hate in the Classroom
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Almost every classroom has incidents where a prevailing moment reveals hate. This is not unusual, but it is a teachable moment. A very teachable moment for the parent or educator willing to take the time to consider the various cause and effects aspects and act accordingly. This is where experience pays. In many cases the issue has surfaced previously and the actions taken at that time may have worked, if nothing else by pure luck. However, the speediest method is to gloss over the episode, push the incident into the future, and move on with the lesson at hand.

It is important to note that criticism is not hate. One of the most counterproductive comment is that a criticism of something is being negative. Nothing could be further from the truth. Calling someone negative may make the caller feel better, as name calling frequently does, but in fact, the name caller is the one being negative. Criticism is meant to improve something. It may not be accurate, but it is certainly needs to be carefully studied as it roots can reveal a great deal about how others see an issue and fresh viewpoints can result in positive improvements. There is a quote by Robert Ingersloll. We Rise by Lifting Others that reads, “Being critical means one cares.” That being said, negativity may just be the result of not being able to see another person’s point of view. In A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy there is a segment where a gun is revealed whose sole purpose if to fire at someone and inflict on them the ability to see things from the gunner’s point of view. A very valuable weapon. I am sure that every teacher would own one for classroom use.

Hating is something difficult to evade. For example, if you are a good teacher and someone acknowledges that there may be another who feels he or she is just as good they could turn that feeling into hate. A great deal of hate can be traced to someone being jealous of another and seeing that individual’s success as not deserved. Something as simple as someone getting a better grade can result in negative, hateful remarks. Being successful nurtures hate. Call it human nature. Even those who profess religious tolerance and obedience have difficulty avoiding hatred. Here are several quotes from the Bible about hate
http://www.openbible.info/topics/hate

This is not to delve into the freedom of speech quandary over hate. That is another issue. This essay is about how to deal with hate based on your background and those of the individuals involved to the best of your ability. To mention the fact that dealing with hate is complex is an understatement. At best dealing with hate in a productive manner can nullify, perhaps for the moment, hate and turn it into a lesson that others may benefit from. In other words, a teachable moment.

The number one rule when dealing with hate is that although it is universal, it is not universal. In other words, not everyone hates someone or something, but someone is going to hate. Indeed, that is what makes people so attuned to it. You can have 35 students in your classroom but the one who hates you is the one who gets your attention. And since hate is usually learned, it may well mean that his or her parents may also support that hate. So your ignore the good and turn to the squeaky wheel that needs attention . So rule number one is to confront the issue by trying to find out the cause. That does not mean you have to agree with the cause, but you need to understand what caused it before you react. One of the most dramatic causes is that haters may feel that they are the center of the world. It revolves around them and this may well be fermented and brewed at home. At school it can be a leading cause of bulling. Bullying is essentially a display of hate for others that must be learned behavior. Babies are not born with it, to the best of my knowledge. Bullying is encouraged by those whose self-esteem is built upon expressing their disdain for others. It could be a fear of being low man on the totem pole or the belief that putting someone down enables their status and enables them a step up on their self-esteem chart. Thus is it imperative that you find out the cause of the hate by asking the hater for his or her feelings on the manner. They may not know why, but by opening their eyes to the possible results of their actions it may stop hating in the future. I broke up a student fight one day and after pulling the two participants apart asked them what caused it. One boy said the other deserved it. The other boy had no idea what caused it. I warned and dismissed them with the usual warning. I didn’t make it a teachable moment. I regret that now. What if I would have sat down with both of them to get to the bottom of the disagreement? Maybe nothing would be resolved, but at least they would understand each other better and I wouldn’t have to get my Hitchhiker gun.

Lesson number two is not to let hate get the better of you. Google fight reveals that there are 100 negative student comments to one positive comment. Although not clearly an academic study, it does reveal that is negative clearly gets more attention. I had an assistant superintendent of instruction who didn’t like me at all despite my successes or, perhaps, because of them. When I was being interviewed for a mentor position she asked me what day would be best. I said that Wednesday wouldn’t be good for me knowing that I had classes on the other days. She told me that Wednesday was the only day she could make it. I told her I would try and make arrangements. I took great pride on how I didn’t let her hate get the better of me. Of course I was rejected, but her use of her position enabled her to do so and left me powerless overall. This is the same bullying that rears its ugly head when students who are viewed as more popular use their “power” to regale others with negative views. Learning how to deal with hate sometimes requires a support group, but always requires the individual learn how to cope without endangering themselves mentally or physically.

Lesson number three is to not underestimate the danger of hate. It lingers and can cause damage to all concerned. Glossing over even something as simply as name calling can manifest itself in lifetime of harm and thoughts of retaliation. Indeed, there is a clear need for a battle plan for dealing with hate. First, invest in a good anti-bullying campaign such as http://beyondbullies.org/ and use it for the entire school. Using peers is always best as there is inherit mistrust of adults by some. Secondly, there should be a procedure to follow and it should be part of a staff development plan. First, investigate the cause or causes. Secondly, don’t make judgments. Third, don’t blame. Fourth, support both parties by educating them to the potential impact of their acts. Fourth, make a time line to follow up with those involved. Don’t let the matter drop. Finally, see how widespread this hate might be. Talking to students without naming names can provide depth.

Often time the problem with finding the cause of hate isn’t easy to ascertain. Online videos of students who have been bullied or the victim of hate are shown and yet students frequently miss the point. They think it was terrible, no doubt, especially if the featured child commits suicide. But they don’t understand that people react differently to hate. Was it the child’s fault that he or she couldn’t “take it?” Studies of the impact of hate on an individuals all point to its negative and dangerous nature. What is missing is what should have been done to stop it. There are many instances where a student or parent complained to the school and nothing was done. Unfortunately, it was probably because those involved were too busy, thought they had solved the problem, or wanted the problem to go away. So the final rule is get feedback and act on it. I would suggest that dealing with bullying and hate be part of standardized testing. Having students read about it and write conclusions clearly fits into Common Core standards and yet such reading lessons are non-existent at present.

Last rule: You must do an anti-hate/bullying program school wide using a quality program. Everyone must be involved from classified to certified in the training. Changing attitudes is not a one assembly or staff development program. That is why it is critical to have administration support such causes with time and funding. A district wide policy would be even more effective. Using student mentors is essential as well. And, to gain the maximum benefit the program should give students the opportunity to write about concerns and learn how to deal with them. The program should develop a cadre of students who are trained to help curtain hate and bullying.

Conclusion: Haters are going to hate. They get satisfaction from that and the notoriety may provide the support they need to continue to spread hate. When you see images, read articles, and listen to rhetoric against groups or individuals by adults you have to question what happened to them in life and in school that empowered them to be so hateful. Perhaps just one teacher’s caring remarks and follow up might have made the difference. Regardless, the issue of dealing with hate should be part of every teacher preparation program and every district’s mission statement. There are rules of behavior posted in nearly every school room and yet there are few posted about hate and bullying. Perhaps it is time to move dealing with hate up a notch in the curriculum hierarchy and treat it as a crime against humanity.

Online Educational Games
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Games are an interesting way to teach concepts and provide rigor. They also enable early finishers to challenge themselves. Here are a few of the better sites.

146 Educational Games
http://mrnussbaum.com/educational-games-for-kids/

English and Mathematics
You need to registr
http://www.education.com/games/educational/

Alpahabet Related Lessons
http://www.apples4theteacher.com/coloring-pages/interactive-alphabet/

Games and Puzzles by Subject Matter
http://www.theproblemsite.com/games/

Primary Level Games
http://www.abcya.com/

FunBrain.com
Very popular site with a lot of content
http://www.funbrain.com/kidscenter.html

Mixed Subject Matter
http://www.knowledgeadventure.com/

Quiz Hub
K-12 online games revolving around subject areas
http://quizhub.com/quiz/quizhub.cfm

Math and English Games
http://www.syvum.com/online/games.html

Huge link site using apps
http://www.techlearning.com/default.aspx?tabid=100&entryid=7263

Educational Web Adventures

Science related links by topic, grade level
http://www.eduweb.com/portfolio/portfolio.php

Science and wildlife oriented.
http://www.eduweb.com/portfolio/portfolio.php

Math and English remedial work lists
Good for review
http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/quiz_list.htm
Math related games
http://www.cut-the-knot.org/index.shtml

Sophisticated science games — mainly physics
“This site contains interactive plasma physics topics, ranging from electricity, magnetism, energy, and fusion. Please visit the “Virtual Tokamak” and our “Virtual Magnetic Stability Module” to learn about Plasma and Fusion Containment. “
http://ippex.pppl.gov/

NLVM for Interactive Mathematics
Terrific interactive math site with great learning activities — this is a must visit.

Resources for Teaching about the Holocaust and Hate
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

Recently a Southern California school had the students do a research project on whether the Holocaust really happened. (http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2014/05/06/holocaust-denial-exercise-for-students-in-california-high-school-backfires)

The backlash was considerable and deservedly so. Not only one was the premise beyond common sense, it would mean that the students would be using the Internet and other sources that could be very misleading and, essentially, propaganda. (The Southern Poverty Law Center has a lengthy list of such sites. )

The problem that emerges is that most students don’t know quality site from a propaganda sites. And it is possible that they may have to register or give their email address to sites that pander to hate. As such, it is critical that an educator review all the sites and other sources first.

To this end, here are some excellent sites that provide information about the Holocaust. I use these sites to not only teach the students the evils of hate, but to show them what happens when they don’t stand-up to evil using Nazi Germany as an example. A recent poll indicated that nearly ten percent of American had never heard of the Holocaust and that clearly indicates the importance of George Santayana’s quote, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.”

I have also added an excellent unit on diaries should you want to take the Diary of Anne Frank and relate it to other such works.

The exhibits here are a must watch for all students. The many lessons that can be learned are invaluable in building better, more active citizens. There are videos here as well. Be aware that the material here may need to be reviewed to see if it is appropriate for younger students.
http://www.ushmm.org/

Jewish Virtual Library
Primary resources for older students
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/holo.html

Teaching plans for various subjects based on the Holocaust
http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/activity/middlesc.htm

Here is a site that lists hate groups and more
Southern Poverty Law Center
An excellent resource worth spending time with
http://www.splcenter.org/

Lesson plans
Lots of good ideas that fit with Common Core objectives
http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson187.shtml

Remembrance Days
http://www.ushmm.org/remember/days-of-remembrance

My unit on Anne Frank and her diary
An excellent unit of study that incorporates other diaries, history, and much more to make this subject more meaningful to students and adults.
https://carfamily.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/diary-of-anne-frank-the-best-unit-of-study-on-diaries/

Seven Vital Tips for the First Day of School
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
— Will Rogers

That quote might not be accurate, but it won’t hurt to be prepared and let the students know you are prepared. To enable this to happen there are seven important steps that should be taken to get the most of this first impression.

First, be prepared. Have your first day well planned out including a seating chart for the students. It is important to have good discipline from the first day, but that does not mean you have to be mean. Raising a hand to ask a question, asking permission to leave the room, even where to pick-up or hand-in work should be explained as well as the late work policy. Above all spend time reviewing school safety rules. Where are the exits, the fire extinguisher and the emergency routes? You don’t have to make the students afraid of you, but they need to know what your expectations are and when they can get extra help.

Secondly, take control. This is their first day in your class. They need to know the rules and the expect ions. Posting them in the classroom is always a good idea. I recommend having a handout for each student with the discipline code, your contact numbers, materials that they may need to bring, and any other school information. You may not have time to go over the school handbook, but make sure that every students has one as well as any textbooks that are required.

Thirdly, take a long look at your classroom. The first code in your community, if it is like other towns, usually limits the number of flammable items to about 20 percent of the wall space. There cannot be anything hanging from the ceiling or blocking the doors. Sofas and other upholstered items may also be deemed a violation of the rules regardless of how good an idea it might be. I recommend you dedicate at least one board to posting of school related items. As for the other space, I recommend you have students design them based on what is being covered in class.

Fourth, Some of the students may not know each other and so an ice breaker may be of value. I don’t use them, but some teachers find them of value. One idea I sometimes use is to bring in a wolf or other stuffed animal and have the students submit names to name our classroom mascot.

Fifth, Get personal information. I give the students a card asking them for their home contact numbers as well as their interests and favorite hobbies. I even ask them to bring a paper that they did in previous years that they are proud of so they can show it to me later in the week as I get to know them better. And, I always try to contact the parents within the first couple weeks of school or at a Back to School night. Sometimes messages from a students get changed by the time they get home, if you know what I mean.

Sixth, be open to new ideas. I have posted a great many links here. Spend some time and maybe you can discover frosh ideas. Consider having the students write a short autobiography to get to know them.

Finally, be yourself. Whether your first day of class or your 40th, the most important message to leave with your students is that you are a caring teacher. Yes, you have rules, but that does not mean you or without compassion and understanding. Remember you don’t want to mark Will Rodgers wrong.
Read up on classroom management
http://www.pacificnet.net/~mandel/ClassroomManagement.html

A list of great ideas for new and experience teachers.
http://iteslj.org/Lessons/Schroeder-FirstDay.html

Ice Breakers and Checklists from Education World
http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson074.shtml
http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson073.shtml

Planning for your first day of school
http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr360.shtml

Establishing rules
Ten Ideas
http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson274.shtml

Ideas for preparing to work with parents
http://www.middleweb.com/9637/parents-inclusion-classrooms/

Huge selection of ideas and links on everything.
http://www.proteacher.com/030005.shtml

Activities and sample handout forms
http://atozteacherstuff.com/Themes/Back_to_School/

Middle and elementary school ideas including school tour
http://www.cbv.ns.ca/sstudies/activities/1rstday/1rst.html

Back to school bulletin boards
Remember that decorating a door may be a fire code violation as well as having over about 10 to 20 percent of the walls covered with flammable items.
Mainly for elementary
http://tinyurl.com/ob5v2dk

Interesting collection of back to school get acquainted ideas
http://atozteacherstuff.com/Tips/Back-to-School/Icebreakers-Getting_Acquainted/index.shtml

Lots of lesson planning sites
A good place to look for new ideas
http://www.teachingtips.com/articles/Jthefirstday1.html

Set up your classroom seating arrangement virtually
http://teacher.scholastic.com/tools/class_setup/

haskvitz111

Bulletin Boards by Month
http://bulletinboards.theteacherscorner.net/monthly/

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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
http://www.teachers.net/gazette/NOV08/haskvitz/

Making Schools Better
http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-8129-1939-4

Car Rating Site
http://autos.jdpower.com/

Government fuel economy site
http://fueleconomy.gov/

How to Improve Student Writing
http://reacheverychild.com/blog/2014/not-so-secret-formula-improves-writing

Student speed reading lessons
There are others
http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/stancliffe59.html

Using the Inverted Triangle
http://www.multimedia-journalism.co.uk/node/2097

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