Lesson plan

Election and Propaganda Lessons

This is a great time of year to use teachable moments in your curriculum. You can integrate election issues into current events, math, civics and social studies, history, life skills, and other areas. Here are some of the best resources I have found. Please feel free to send me your own by clicking on my name on http://www.reacheverychild.com/alan.html

Election Videos

A great collection on all aspects of voting and elections past and present.


Teachable moments







Prepare your students to vote


Voting sites


Get Ready to Vote


Presidential Links

Check out the mock voting sites. Excellent and involving. Also make sure you order materials from VoteSmart. Non-partisan, easy to read, and in many languages.







Contributions to candidates


Contributions by Zip Code




General Sites



New York Times Learning Network


The White House


Folder Games Ideas, Examples and More

has been moved here:


Amelia Earhart Day

by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz

On July 24th the country is celebrating the achievements of Amelia Earhart. This teachable moment can result is some excellent lessons that can be integrated across the curriculum.

How to use teachable moments


Here are some sites that have quality resources. I might recommend to older students a comparison of Earhart and teacher astronaut Christa McAuliffe.

Biography of Amelia


Biography of Christa


Official site for Earhart


Review of Earhart’s accomplishments


Women in Flight Using Music

Sophisticated lesson with resources needed. Good ideas.


Other women in flight


Women in Flight

Great historical information about flight.


Scholastic Lesson Plans


Women in Science

Huge biography list including interactive challenge.


Wright Brothers and aviation links


Transportation Links


Space Links


Women in history





Video about Earhart Video


Aviation History Video


Wright Brothers Videos








Teachers and Classroom Discipline

By Alan Haskvitz


Before meaningful instruction can take place a teacher needs to establish a safe learning environment. This is often difficult for a variety of reasons from lack of parental involvement, to drug use, to personality disorders. Regardless of the cause, the most important thing is for school policy to be followed. That policy should include the philosophy behind the rules, the person or group responsible for implementing the policy, the solutions, and possible interventions and other actions.

Although the law impacts major discipline issues, the main concern for the teacher is to follow the rules and, hopefully, find ideas that work before they become an administrative matter. Obviously, there is not one answer to all discipline problems and so flexibility is important. Adding to that factor is the need to communicate and consistence of rule enforcement. With all that in mind, it is no wonder that teachers could use some extra help. As such, here are some resources that can prove to be invaluable to all teachers when dealing with these discipline problems.

Classroom Management and Discipline Sites


Classroom Discipline Help


Tips for new teachers


Student discipline and the new teacher

An interesting article about the frustrations of teaching, especially without a good preparation program.


General articles from teachers

Teachers are always the best sources for information on student discipline.


American Federation of Teachers

Suggestions and tips


Teacher to teacher suggestions


Short slide show on essence of student discipline


Suggested Reading List

Good start for setting up a program


Research on Discipline


Simplified explanation of needed steps to follow


Guide to School Discipline


An example of a school district code


From Canada: A Zero Tolerance Program


Washington State Booklet for Parents


Excellent collection of teacher ideas and articles


There are a wide variety of relevant videos on YouTube.

A lot of junk, too. Worth a quick scan, a very quick scan.


For more free resources go to


Understanding Why Students Don’t Like School:

by Book by Daniel Willingham


Reviewed by Alan Haskvitz


This is an interesting book that I read for only one reason; I wanted to see if he mentioned any of my methods of teaching. Call it a vanity read. However, as I read this book I became more interested in his findings and their possible impact on the way teachers educate their charges. Willingham challenges some of the sacred cows in education and provides some interesting support for his beliefs. Best of all, the author relates his work to helping teachers teach.

“The mind is actually designed to avoid thinking,” Willingham writes because the mind works slowly and takes effort. This is definitely something that most people want to avoid. Instead, the author adds that people rely on memory and it is faster and easier. For example, most people do things the same way they always did them. They are happy with it and it is easier. Of course, the problem with teaching is that the students become hidebound and so getting them to change their notetaking or study skills is a chore. No wonder it is said that changing a habit takes 30 days.

This fear of change and of having to use ones brain is also why some students don’t like school. They like to work; they just don’t like to think. That being said, people are also curious. So a teacher that can stimulate their interest by taking advantage of this curiosity has an advantage. First, it should be noted that students enjoy thinking, if it isn’t too difficult. That is why television games such as Password are popular with some individuals and why people read and play games. So a teacher needs to find this sweet spot, according to the author.

“This is where creative teaching comes in, using a combination of storytelling that evokes emotion and thought, and exercises that put lessons into context and that build upon previous learning. It’s also sustained hard work,” Willingham wrote. This process creates thinking skills dependent upon factual knowledge. It is that factual knowledge that must be stressed so that learning can be advanced and last.

Willingham, a research cognitive scientist, spent a great deal of his efforts trying to find how to reach students using different learning styles and discovered that the reality is that it really does not matter.
“There are different abilities, but really, we all learn the same way,” he said. “It’s not left brain versus right brain, or visual or auditory or kinesthetic. We learn using a combination of skills, and we are all more similar in our learning styles than different.”

In other words, as most teachers already know, in order to motivate students you need to reach their interest zone regardless of the type of learner. A good unit of study allows students to learn the material in a variety of ways and build the core knowledge base that enables them to advance. The author continually stressed the need for students to master basic skills, especially study skills. Since I spend most of the first part of every school year teaching my students how to take notes, how to provide proof, how to write test questions, monitor their time, create a battle plan for the day, use spare moments wisely, link learning, and transfer material at least three different ways, Willingham’s work was reassuring to me. There may be some teachers who work in a district where the State curriculum is the bible and anything not listed is forbidden material, but hopefully, the administration will learn from this book that before you can build you need a good foundation of knowledge.

Another interesting finding professed by Willingham was that intelligence can be improved through hard work. It is not solely heredity. In a study of great scientists the common theme was not the fact they were exceptionally brilliant, but they had the ability to sustain their work. Although Alfie Kohn writes that homework really does not result in improved learning, homework does provide a student with the opportunity to sustain their work on their own. Thus homework can supply the outlet for students to learn to excel and sustain learning on their own, as they are going to do in the future. Students may be talented in one area, such as music or math, but that does not mean they have a greater “intelligence” in that field. For the educator this means that they should add enough flexibility for a student to apply their learning in several ways.

Another point Willingham makes is that praising a child for being smart should be avoided. It gives the impression that if you are smart you are going to get good grades. Thus not getting an answer could make the student feel he or she is dumb.  Thus praise should be for working hard and effort. Help the student understand that hard work pays off and that failure is a natural part of learning. That is the real value of assessment. It shows the student where they need to work harder. In the classroom I find students who get an A mark just look at the grade and not the questions missed. Whereas most students who get lesser grades look at each missed answer and question it. The grade is not an end in itself, but a measure of progress to building up a large memory base for future use.

Here are some additional thoughts expressed in Willingham’s book.

  • The brain is not designed for thinking; it is designed to save you from thinking. It is slow and unreliable. People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers, unless the cognitive conditions are rights we will avoid thinking.
  • Most of the time we do what we do most of the time. In other words there is a need to challenge our teaching style and to look at it with fresh eyes and the student also needs to be challenged.
  • People like to think, but the conditions have to be right or they quit. Chains of logic should not be more than two of three steps long and the application of new ideas cannot be done too soon or the lesson is lost for future use.
  • Students need to have the proper facts on hand to proceed with learning and the use of memory aids is suggested.
  • When you plan a lesson start with the end in mind.
  • Factual knowledge must precede skill.
  • Learn to link or chunk information for easier recall.
  • The amount of material you retain is based on what you already know.
  • A student can’t do critical thinking without core knowledge.
  • Memory is the residue of thought
  • A teacher’s teaching style is what students remember. A teacher who is recalled as good is one who builds a learning base for the student to use in the future.
  • A worthy goal is persuading the students that the lesson has value.

Here are some of Willingham’s basic beliefs that I have tried to relate teachings:

“People are naturally curious, but they are not naturally good thinkers.”   This means that the teacher needs to create lessons that challenge the student to blend there base knowledge with new learning. I would recommend using Bloom’s taxonomy to create different outcomes from the same base material to allow learning to flow with more creativity.

“Factual knowledge precedes skill.“   A student must have a base of knowledge to draw on. And, in fact, that base knowledge is what makes it easier for some students to learn because it gives them a wider base to build upon.

“Memory is the residue of thought.“ Students have to be motivated to turn a lesson into a memory. The teacher must not take away from the student’s ability to learn by distracting them with artificial means that might take their thoughts from the basic objective. For example, a teacher who dresses up as a historic figure might disrupt the learning by having the student looking at the custom rather than what the character represents. I have read a number of research pieces that also note that music can also be a detriment to learning for some individuals as they become enamored with the song rather than the lesson.

“We understand new things in the context of things we already know.” The more vast the knowledge base the easier it is for a student to learn new principles. This takes time, especially if the child does not have a rich academic environment to bring to the table. Abstract principles and deep knowledge are not easy to acquire.  Have realistic expectations. This type of learning must be built over time.

“Proficiency requires practice.”  Building a base of knowledge is ongoing and needs consistent practice. And, not everything needs to be inculcated. Willingham recommends shorter practice sessions spread over time, but the content should also be related to more advanced work to offer a challenge to the student and provide the opportunity to apply what they have learned.

“Cognition is fundamentally different early and late in training.”  Students are not experts and it takes time to build skill. Teacher assignments need to reflect this change not by asking more questions, but asking questions that stress the depth of knowledge.

“Children are more alike than different in learning.”   A most interesting observation, especially since I was a co-presenter with Howard Gardner at the Imagination in Education conference in Vancouver. That being said, it is with willingness that I follow Willingham’s ascertation that although people have different learning styles and types of intelligences, the teacher needs to stress the content over the presentation style. In other words, a teacher should use a variety of strategies in the classroom depending on the lesson and be wary of only using one method.

“Intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work.”   A teacher should promote hard work and praise it as previous knowledge builds a larger memory base for future learning. Since intelligence can be changed by the learning environment the more opportunity a student has to expand that base the better prepared they are going to be to meet future challenges and abstracts with a larger memory base.

Teaching, like any complex cognitive skill, must be practiced to be improved. What I felt was the most important part of Willingham’s book was his belief that experience is not the same as practice and that teachers need to continually improve their teaching ability. He states that teachers with ten years of experience do as well as teachers with 25 years of experience for one reason, after a certain time period they tend to “coast.” He relates it to driving a car. Very few people really can drive well, but they think they can because they drive daily. Seldom does a driver take an advanced course or even learn the difference between cutting the apex of a corner to dealing with under-steering or over steering let along emergency braking. The author believes that you should get the opinion of a peer to help you improve and make small changes as you deem necessary.

It is clearly obvious that professional development for teachers needs to be rethought. Too often such presentations are made by non-practicing teachers and offer little practical application for the busy educator. In my previous research I noted that inservice days need to be followed-up to provide feedback to the presenter as well as the teacher. Attending professional development given by successful practicing teachers also provides a common ground to explain how changes in cognitive development can be used by the working educator.

A final thought about Willingham’s work is that most teachers instinctively know how to teach well. They may need a few tips from a peer or from attending a conference where fellow educators are presenting, but very few of them need much more except, perhaps, a teaspoon of good job from those they serve. If change is going to come to education it needs to come from within and that is why the best conferences are those where teachers learn from other teachers. It would be very interesting to see if teaching another form of intelligence because we all know it is a talent.

Here are some good links:

Top 11 traits of a good teacher

http:// www.reacheverychild.com/feature/traits.html

How to Integrate Lessons

http:// www.reacheverychild.com/feature/integrate-lessons.html

Differentiated Instruction


http:// www.reacheverychild.com/feature/differentiatedinstruction.html

Middle School Brains: Teaching the Distracted

by Alan Haskvitz


Major links to Autism free sites


Special education links


Students with special needs links


Free resources for students with special needs:


Teacher liability and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act


Special Education sites by area of need


Ideas for helping slow learners


Special needs physical education sites




Banned Book Lists and Lessons

by Alan Haskvitz


The power of the writing word has caused a great many legal cases challenging the First Amendment. A discussion about these cases and the books involved is an excellent opportunity for students to learn about the legal process and see different viewpoints.

What I especially like about this topic is that shows how society’s values change over time and enables students to develop an appreciation for standing up for one’s rights. As always preview these resources with the child and parents in mind. And there is a need to explain to the students that a banned book and a challenged book are not the same. As always, follow the directions of your administration.

Teachers and the Law

Legal cases that all educators and parents should know about.


The American Library Association Page

Includes a list of frequently banned books plus ideas and resources and a calendar of events.


Books Suppressed by Legal Authorizes

For older students. Really quite interesting to see the differences in various countries as well as in the past.


History of Book Banning


Recent censorship

Includes banned books and authors.


Banned Children’s Books

Includes Goosebumps, My Brother Sam is Dead, Gulliver’s Travels, and

Harriet the Spy among others

A link page for older students


Classic books that have been banned.


Banned book and censorship resources

For older students


The Controversy over Harry Potter


How to deal with Censorship in Schools

Includes ideas and links.


Lesson Plans


When Books Burn

Lessons and Links


Reasons to teach about banned books


Banned Book Webquest


Webquest for older students


Learning Centers
Alan Haskvitz
The use of learning centers in elementary and some middle school classrooms has been fairly well accepted as common practice although the concept does have its critics. The rationale for the concerns are related to the time element in that some classes have a set amount of minutes while other teachers have the ability to set their own limits. Secondly is the amount of time making sure students are on task and also the amount of minutes given to setting up the centers. There is also a great deal of planning involved and the funding to equip the centers must be found. By far the most telling argument against learning centers is the fact that some teachers would rather do whole class assignments and feel that the extra work and smaller group activities aren’t to their liking. Add this to the need for many more grading rubrics and you have the adding noise level small groups seem to create and you have a difficult argument to overcome.
However, to those who enjoy the idea of learning centers I recommend starting small and moving ahead as you feel the need and acquire the resources. There are upsides to this type of learning environment, however, as always, no one methodology has ever been proven to be best for every situation. Go with your instincts, talk to teachers who have already invested time and most likely their own money, in creating centers.

Types of Learning Centers

The types of learning styles are numerous from those that deal with the major styles or learning such as auditory, tactual, and visual to those centered around enrichment and a combination of the two. These centers revolve around enrichment activities that focus on the main objective of the lesson and offer a variety of ways to learn those concepts. They are best used after the class as been exposed to a the main lesson and showed some knowledge of its ingredients. Typically, the centers provide more layers to the learning and a deeper understanding of the material. In an ideal world the learning centers combine both cooperative work and individual activities. For example, created a mural as a group and a poem about what was learned from the individual.

Another type of center is based on the mastering of a fact by performing tasks directly related to that acquisition. These skill centers enable a student to see the data in a variety of ways, but also promote repetition to inculcation of the important facts. The main difference between skill and enrichment is the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. One requires the student to take a set piece of information and create projects from that in ever expanding circles of reasoning. The other is taking a fact and working to learn that fact as it applies to the situation. There is less freedom and more structure to the latter.

A learning center that allows a student creative freedom to express themselves with a limited amount of structure as to the subject matter is worth considering. They can be set up as discovery based where the materials are provided to allow the student to find a variety of answers to a question or even to produce their own questions. These centers are easy to construct once the teacher has a handle on the students’ interests. For example, if the class is studying ancient civilizations pictures, models, building blocks, and other materials can be provided as they decide different ways to construct weapons, protect cities, dress soldiers, and even build a modern day fortified city are all possible.

Here are some centers related to Language Arts that can provide more detail: A vocabulary center; a compare and contrast center for use with reading short stories; a diary center to reflect on what has been learned or to as biography for a character[ a test writing center where students create tests for others to take, an art center where poster are created to illustrate a point of learning or advertise a book or other work; mnemonic devise center where students create ways to help them memorize facts; and a linking center where students use diagrams to link previous learning to present ones.

The key to all good learning centers is the teacher’s ability to break down the lesson into smaller parts so that the learning centers can build on the initial objective. This added to the teacher’s knowledge of the students’ interests creates more dynamic learning opportunities and more on-task behavior. But keep in mind that designing grading rubrics for activities at all these centers is very difficult and might be considered as part of a larger grading package.


A WikEd piece on Learning Centers in the Middle School Classroom is an excellent short article on the pros and cons of using these centers as well as some suggestions and possible problems. A good read for all levels.


A Quality Primary Site
A primary learning center site that includes literacy station boards, a PowerPoint how to and even a variation of Bloom’s taxonomy in the form of a printable Marzano’s Level of Thinking that should be part of every teacher’s grading rubric and objectives.
Classroom Organization and Workstations
A large link site with valuable ideas on how to arrange and use learning centers.
Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Learning Center
Some links, but mainly books on the topic from Amazon. Always check prices of these books with other sources before buying.
A Teacher Created Site with Fresh Ideas for Primary and Elementary levels.
How to Set Up Your Classroom
Ideas for all types of situations, including learning centers. Worth a quick read.

Another simple site with eight rules to follow when setting up your classroom.


What to consider before setting up the audio learning center. Includes dealing with media players, headphones, and more.


Sparklebox is great

This site has a variety of lessons on all areas of learning and most grade levels. Take your time and explore the many avenues that this free resource from Great Britain provides.


Interactive lessons that could be  used for computerized learning centers in many subject areas and elementary levels. Here are some examples:

Literacy Learning Center Ideas and more
Learning Center Ideas
More detail and some creative ones, too, that use multiple intelligences.

Cute and free printable sites to label learning centers


Learning circles used in an inner city classroom

These ideas can be used by all teachers. An extensive article with emphasis on cooperative learning.


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