social studies


Making School l Elections Meaningful: A Relevant Civics Lesson
by National Hall of Fame Educator Alan Haskvitz
http://articles.latimes.com/keyword/alan-haskvitz/featured/1

Almost every school has school or class elections with the idea of sharing the true nature of a democracy where everyone can vote. Usually those students who want to run create posters, give a speech, and come election day the results are tabulated and the winner announced. What I would suggest is to consider making it more representative teachable moment.

The Campaign

First, every one who wishes to run for office must meet certain requirements such as a 2.0 GPA. When the person signs-up to vote they are given an agreed upon number of poster paper and they are numbered and signed. They are accompanied by a list of where they can be placed and proper etiquette. In that way all the participants have an equal chance. There can also be interviews in the school newspaper, using the public address system for a fixed number of ads, and a speech that can video tapped to play on the school system, if it is enabled. The whole idea is to make the election fair and to promote creativity within set bounds.

Election Day

The next step takes place before the voting. Students line-up at registration tables where the school attendance folders are duplicated. Students sign by their name and are give a ballot. They have a day to consider the person they wish to vote for and the ballots are cast the following day. This means that some students who don’t care simply can’t vote because they didn’t take the time to register.

The Vote

After the election there is a registration process in which every student who wants to vote registers to vote and receives a ballot.

Integrating the Lesson

I also recommend having an art competition for the best campaign poster and one for the best slogan. The competition could even include the best campaign song. A panel could do the judging, teachers, or it could be on the ballot. In this way the election becomes more interesting to the students and gets them more involved. This site provides information on what is called the “youth vote.” It makes interesting reading, but it also provides more evidence to support educators who use voting as a teaching tool. Have students reach conclusions from this data:
http://collegestats.org/2012/09/25-facts-about-the-youth-vote-this-year/

Of course, integrating civics is a given. Here are some recommended websites that have good lessons to accomplish that goal:

National Student/Parent Mock Election
The best site to get involved.
http://www.nationalmockelection.org/

iCivics lessons
You can register, but it isn’t required. Some lessons are interactive.
https://www.icivics.org/teachers/lesson-plans/mock-election

Mock election link site
Pretty much everything is here, but it takes time to navigate.
http://www.ncwiseowl.org/ss/Citizenship/MockElections/Mock_Elections.htm

Scholastic
Lessons by grade level
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/unit/elections-everything-you-need

For federal elections
http://www.educationworld.com/a_special/election.shtml

Types of propaganda
Print out
http://shepherdenglish.pbworks.com/f/AdvertisementAssignment.pdf

An exceptional source of Constitutional related materials
A great newsletter, lots of lessons, and a knowledgeable staff.
http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/

Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.
http://www.dmv.org/

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.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America
http://search.ezilon.com/united_states/business/automotive/auto_manufacturers/

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide
http://autopedia.com/html/MfgSites.html

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.
http://www.motorists.org/

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.
http://www.nadaguides.com/

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.
http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-graphic-representation-of-whats-really-made-in-america-feature

The Most Difficult Student to Teach
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
http://www.findingdulcinea.com/features/profiles/h/alan-haskvitz.html

He was young, bright, and failing school.

A year after finishing the eighth grade he failed high school and was sent to a continuation school. There, I noticed his writing talent, gave him an old computer, and worked to get him into a small, high school program where he could get the attention he needed. I went to the principal of his school and told her of my plans. She was thrilled and brought him in to discuss the possibilities. The only thing he had to do was continue not be a discipline problem. The next day he got into a fight over a pencil. End of story.

He won. He liked his life. No expectations, no school related stress, and no fear of failure. This is the most difficult child to teach. The reasons are simple and complex. Unlike students who have been diagnosed with a learning concern, these students don’t have any measurable problems that can be ascertained by testing. They simply win by losing. They see a test not as a measurement of what they know, how to improve, and to guide future methods to help them, but as a waste of time that can only end badly if they try. They know they have the power to fail and it they do, it was of there own choosing. Some may call it passive aggressive, but it reality it all aggressive. They are in charge and let the devil take the hindmost. Within minutes they are done with the test and sit idly by trying not to draw attention. Bubble tests offer them the ability to make designs with the answer sheets. Essay tests enable them to write about issues that are not related to the subject, but make it look like they are working. Going to the bathroom requests are frequent and finding ways to hide and use cell phones provide the only challenge that a quiet room provides.

The results are no surprise to the parent, teacher, or student. Indeed, most schools advocate simplifying the requirements, giving the student extra help, and even after school detention. It is the latter that provides the most joy to the hardcore. For there they meet others who could care less. Not all the students, but he or she only needs one to rationalize their efforts and maximize the benefits of failing by providing socialization possibilities. By the end of high school, if they make it, the system has provided them with hundreds of hours of special help, thousands of dollars worth of remedial books and media, and has pushed them out into life. They have won even if they are not allowed to graduate because they have beaten the system. They remain in charge.

These students have made the legendary, “not working to potential” comment a staple on report cards and parent meetings. To the student this means they have ability and confirms what they have known all along. The amount of ability, the ability to show it, the ability to use it in a useful manner are all the teacher’s responsibility to measure and maximize.

This syndrome, if you will, is not just for low or average achievers, it is also for some of those labeled gifted. It is this latter group where this winning by losing is most evidence because some schools heap more work on those identified as high achievers. There is a dramatic difference between high achievers and those identified as gifted in some cases. The achiever loves the game and loves to win. The gifted student may just want to blend in or face the competition and simply does poorly. These students come in all shapes and flavors, but the one thing low achieving, highly gifted students have in common is the belief that in the end everything will be okay.

Many teachers have seen the same scenario, especially when students take tests. They know if they do well they are going to be challenged and, if the scores are high enough, even lose friends. Students know the game and play it well. I have seen them complete a two hour state test in 15 minutes with no regrets. When the results come in they shrug it off and return to the lifestyle they have learned to enjoy. No stress, no expectations, and best of all no need to change. Change is frightening and these students have found a way to avoid it and thus new challenges. They like their comfort and responsibilities aren’t a concern now that they have proven that they aren’t any good at meeting society’s expectations for them.

Smart? You better believer it. They have the system mastered. While other students are working away trying to prove they are the best, these students cliche together and enjoy themselves without the worries school usually provides. They have realized that if you do well you only court disappointment and they also fear losing control. Ironically, the only control they have over their future is to fail and using that method that don’t lose control. They can control their expectations and gain approval from their peers. Best of all they can shrug off that bright label and its expectations.

It is important to note that failure is not the student’s term, but one society places on them by grading them on things they don’t value. Not working to potential is an overworked term to imply that the individual in question has the same potential as others regardless of that individual’s self-imposed value.

Some students don’t fear success as much as they fear it’s ramifications. Doing well puts the onus on them to continue to do well, even improve. It also can cut into their social life and may even create a classic Catch 22. If I do well I shall have to do better and better. If I don’t do well I don’t have to stress.
High expectations aren’t for everyone. Some students just want to remain uncalled upon. “I don’t know” is their code word for don’t ask me anymore because I don’t want the attention good or bad. The goal is to hide among the masses.

The good news for students who fail to succeed is that they can capitalize on apathy and make it their stock and trade. When the test comes the student simply does not care. I am not good at math is an explanation they have learned works. Failing because one simply does not care is better then facing a challenge where the results of studying might be failure. It is better not to care and not be surprised. These students aren’t lazy, they work at not doing well. They have all the answers to avoiding it. “I forgot”, “I don’t understand”, and other rationalizations have worked for them. They simply do not have the courage to change. It isn’t self-esteem, it is a lack of understanding, foresight if you will, of the value of success to society. It has been said all students want to learn, but the reality is that they may not want to learn what you are offering. They want to count, but without a clear appreciation of what is at stake failure becomes acceptable. Let’s face it, a good grade means little these days. The difference between a B and a D isn’t worth staying up late and losing friends. To these students a D isn’t a disappointment, it is a victory. They didn’t fail and who really wants to be on the honor role anyway.

A common trait of these students is usually the fact that they are street smart, but have limited math and language art skills. As the school years went by they found themselves falling behind more and may have reached the conclusion that it really didn’t make any difference how well they did because they wouldn’t measure up. In many cases parents are also feed-up having tried several types of motivation without success. Parent-teacher conferences were tedious and repetitious with educators noting the lack of achievement and offering up a few suggestions all of which the parent had heard frequently.

Smart students don’t care if they pass or fail or fall somewhere in between. Threats of repeating the year hold little value to them. Worse, if they do fail next year’s teachers are probably going to have a student in their class who could be disruptive to the others and a behavior problem. Is the system going to fail them two years in a row? They know this won’t happen and so their goal just might be to get kicked out putting more pressure on the parent and a loss of income for the school.

Schools are caught in a quandary with these students. If they follow Piaget’s theory that they will learn when they are ready to learn and promote all students failure is not an option and threatening a student just makes them more hardened to such talk.

To overcome this consistent failure to buckle down to society’s standards requires a paradigm shift in education. Schools must learn to accept failure from some students and be willing to use it as a starting point. Failure is the leading cause of progress. To error is not failure, but a starting point. The only true failure in school is expecting that all students are the same. Hence standards based testing is essentially useless to these students. They don’t care. The problems that the system must solve are how to motivate them, how to measure this success, and how to justify this to the public.

To overcome the “I don’t give a damn” attitude requires some decisive action that may be out of the mainstream and thus expensive, time consuming, and frequently frustrating. If you follow the idea of multiple intelligences you cannot help but being struck by the fact that most people are better at some things. The problem is finding what they are better at and developing a plan to exploit this weakness in the bright child’s armor.
The student needs to be taught about themselves. Why? Because they may think that they are unique and their problems are different. The reality is that their problems might not be common place, but they are seldom unique. That does not mean they should be ignored, but they can benefit from learning about problems others have overcome. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s many failures. (http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/education/failures.htm)


Ways to Help Reach Them

I recommend that following plan when dealing with deliberate non-achievers. First, involve them in the decision making. Tomorrow we are going to read a story about people who burn books to keep others ignorant. Here is brief outline of Fahrenheit 451. Do you think the students would like to guess at what the title means before reading it or after? Engagement is crucial in motivation. Asking students to develop questions about the material and showing them how to create these questions is a plus. Giving the questions to other students to answer is also engaging.

Relate assignments to real life when possible. Books are being banned. Here is a list of them. How do you see the relationship between those who burn books and those who ban them? Is banning the book the same as having parental guidance on records? Write an essay on why such warnings are needed or not and when we are done we can write to a record industry official and see what they say.

This type of lesson can result in discussions of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and helps feed the skeptical nature that some students have because they don’t feel empowered. Having lessons that can attempt to change society are very motivational to these students.

Learning from errors is what schools should be for. Remember, failure is the first step on the road to success. However, humor is also important. Bright non-achievers usually have an aversion to making errors and so they don’t try. Thus they feel they control the situation. It is the same tactic that students use when they reply that they don’t know to a question even if they do because they don’t want to get involved. This is why I recommend not using red markers and giving students a variety of ways to show they know the material. Some students might be motivated to improve by having their marks read out loud and some may be chagrined. The toughest students to teach don’t care and if they do well frequently say, “I didn’t even study” to assure their position at the bottom on the class.

These students have another universal code word and that is “boring.” Unfortunately, it is true. Most lessons taught are boring. There is very little that can be used to motivate a student outside of parent pressure, love of the subject matter, or desire to please someone, even the teacher. The latter is vital and the reason that good teachers are often subject to undue pressure brought about by students telling others whatever it takes to get them out of the class. Administrators essentially have a choice of believing the child and/or parent and the teacher. It is easier to move the student. The transfer seldom results in improved grades, but alleviates pressure and that is why the tough to teach student uses it. As for why a subject or lesson is boring is almost always because of two reasons. First, they see no need to know the material. Secondly, it requires too much effort. Students used to memorizing answers, asking friends what was on the test, and spending hours figuring out ways to cheat are seldom happy when confronted with something that is out of their control. Asking why that is the right answer or wrong answer is tough. Especially for those why rely on the “I don’t know” evasive reply.

In an attempt to avoid this the teacher might consider giving students a choice of lessons that teach the same subject matter. Sites such as Awesome Stories (https://www.awesomestories.com/) are prefect for this. The stories are high interest, plentiful, and provide a variety of ways to reach a goal. Proof of learning can also be expanded to include the traditional essay, writing online stories, Khan Academy website (https://www.khanacademy.org/) type tutorials where they teach others, songs, poetry, and more that transcend boring. Here are some examples based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (http://buhlercc.wikispaces.com/Bloom’s+Taxonomy) In my classroom I have students create museums, newspapers, miniature golf courses, tattooed arms, and musicals to allow students to show mastery of the subject.

Critical thinking is an interesting term in that the person has to have the knowledge to think critically before they can apply it. For example, a mechanic must find out why the engine does not work. Without a working knowledge of the engine their can be no critical thinking. That is why the hard to reach student must learn the value of being skeptical. When you add this to their usual positive response to the absurd you can develop students who start to look for the disconnects in lessons and society. I make fun of fairy tales, for example, and that usually gets them to start rethinking what has been accepted by them in the past. This contrarian point of view also works in math class as well. Giving students the answer a question and having them write the question results in their striving to apply their learning in ways that they have not experienced before.

Conclusion: I would suggest that winning by losing attitude is the prerogative of the student and to overcome this learned behavior requires changes in methodology and require a teacher to have patience and the ability to try different approaches. Time consuming, yes, but once mastered the lessons flow and the results are dramatic. Start slowly with these students by empowering them and inviting them to take part in the process. After that tilt the lesson so that it requires a fresh outlook with no wrong answers. The little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike to save the community is a grand example of getting these students involved. http://www.dutchcoachapproach.com/The_Dutch_Coach_Approach/A_brave_Dutch_boy.html

After reading this to them ask them why this was a stupid thing to do? Ask them what they would have done instead? Next read them this
“True! Of course it is! […] I have given you the story just as Mother told it to me, years ago. Why, there is not a child in Holland who does not know it. And […] you may not think so, but that little boy represents the spirit of the whole country. Not a leak can show itself anywhere either in its politics, honor, or public safety, that a million fingers are not ready to stop it, at any cost. “

Now the teacher can relate this to a number of readings and even tie in math, geography, and political science. There is the potential to consider whether the quote was a primary source and why it wasn’t. The point is that the lesson isn’t boring and the learning potential is vast. The non-productive student can be called on to design a medal, create a poem or song, write an editorial, or even design an outfit the Dutch boy might have worn as well as writing an opinion of why it was good or bad.

Bottom line: Empower the students, keep the lessons unique, and be prepared to challenge yourself. Finally, share your outcomes with others to gain feedback and solicit changes. Remember that they may be the most difficult students to teach, but they can be the most rewarding.

Clever Boys Dumb Down
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/5071005/Clever-boys-dumb-down-to-avoid-being-bullied-study-claims.html

Virtual Electronic Field Trips
by National Hall of Fame teacher Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Thing back to your school days and the chances are that besides a lost love it was a field trip that you recall vividly. Whether that class visit was to a museum, park, or historical place the learning and enjoyment standout. Today, with modern electronics, budgeting concerns, lawsuit avoidance, curriculum standards, and high value testing results, field trips are a rarity, if not extinct.

Sad, yes, but what is even more disheartening is the fact that students won’t have the opportunity to go somewhere that they could later in life share with their family. Even when a grant has been secured to help pay for the transportation and entrance costs you need to impose on other teachers to have that student miss their class. A small favor to ask, but nonetheless a day of learning missed for that subject area.

There is also the time consuming of tasks of trolling for parents to supervise, arranging the time for buses to arrive, medications, making sure no child is without an emergency number, and that the students understand the time schedule. There may be need for substitute plans and it is recommended that you take a picture of the group on the day of the trip so that if one is missing he or she is easier to identify by officials. This is a lot to ask from a teacher and certainly not a requirement for their position.

But all the above are practical matters. What is missing is the spontaneous learning opportunity across curriculum areas and the diversity of learning opportunities. For example, before the students get on the bus they must calculate the mileage, make an estimate of the miles per hour, study a map to see what other significant places are along the road, and study a layout of the facility noting where they are to report, restrooms, and other places they need to know. The combines both geography and math and map reading. Add to that mix the directions the bus will travel and estimated time of arrival and you have a great learning experience before the trip begins. Having the students make their own note taking book using inexpensive note pads and self-made marbled paper using printers ink and library or book binding tape and you have an art lesson. Using technology, students can even use global positioning information to track the trip and note the various streets taken to make them more aware of the importance of knowing where they are when traveling.

There is always the value of debriefing once the trip is finished and having the students share a study guide for the trip about such items as types of occupations noted, most unusual fact, names of docents, and a list of items observed and the addresses of those who need thank you notes and, perhaps, art work.

The learning that can be linked to a field trip makes if memorable, but just as importantly, enables them to learn on their own, something that electronic field trips to do not currently offer. It is not that electronic field trips are bad, far from it, what better way to visit places far behind the immediate area. What they lack is the spirit of adventure, the learning with friends on their own, to learn from others and, above all, the excitement to actually tell their family about and share the learning and motivate a future excursion.

Fortunately, when I was attending school legal matters were not the main concern. Learning was. We stood in the back of a truck on the way to a historical park, walked miles across town to visit a museum, went to a zoo and were simply told to report back at a certain time, not to mention trips to airfields, ships, museums, and significant buildings. The fact that I can recall these and don’ t remember the teacher’s name is not an indictment of the school system, but a reflection that perhaps we need to rethink what I call “seated learning” as the only way to inculcate facts.

Due to legal and financial constraints perhaps it is time to take a longer look at electronic or Internet field trips.

First, to make this lesson as real life as possible it would be good to have a map of the location, and, if it is a building or park, a map of that as well. In this way the student has a sense of where the images are coming from. Furthermore, if it is a location, such as a museum, the students can be given math problems on time and distance to help them understand the expenses of such travel. This also ties in with Common Core questions as well.

Before the trip is taken the students should read about the place, be prepared to compare it to others, and be given time to write what they might learn or would like to learn. These can be used at the end of the lesson as the bases for a compare and contrast essay. Obviously, the lesson also ties in with technology and science lessons as well.

The students need to take notes on the field trip including the webpage and what was shown. I would recommend that the trip take place during class time to keep the group on task and eliminate students going off-topic.

The teacher needs to review the site first, make an agenda of what is going to be shown and in what order, and create a list of questions for the students to answer as the lesson progresses.

It should be remembered that field trips may not be the same as once thought. There are now field trips that show how to make bread, ride a horse, and more. So be selective and make sure they meet your objectives.

Virtual Field Trips
Ten of the Best Virtual Field Trips
http://www.eschoolnews.com/2013/04/07/ten-of-the-best-virtual-field-trips/

Huge List of Electronic Field Trips
http://www.bsu.edu/eft/home2/31digest.php

http://www.pitt.edu/~poole/VirtualFieldTrips.html

Apps for field trips from Edutopia
Rather limited, but varied.
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ipad-apps-virtual-field-trips-monica-burns

Using the Community to Improve Test Scores and Learning
by Alan Haskvitz
National Teachers Hall of Fame
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

haskvitz111

The St. Lawrence River was close to the school and so I walked the students in my special needs class to its banks. Most of the students had seen it everyday of their lives, but had never seen it. I took them close to the shoreline and had them look at the small fish and close their eyes to listen to rush of the water. I threw a piece of driftwood into the water. A student with a watch stood 100 meters downstream and called out the length of time it took to travel that distance. I threw another piece this time further out and they did the same. When we returned I showed them how to measure the speed of the river and noted that this is what sailors did in olden times to check their speed. The students found the water moved away from the shore. I asked them to draw the feeling the sound of the river gave them. After the spring thaw, the students returned to the river and instead of the fish there was trash and they didn’t like it.

In these two field trips a lifetime of environmental learning took place. Upset at what they had seen they turned to the community, created posters to display in stories, took photos, and wrote letters. The people responded and the primary goal of all learning was felt by all as the students were empowered to use what they had learned to make changes in society.

So too, my life as a teacher with a hidden agenda began. Today, nearly 40 years later I am now teaching social studies at a middle school and my agenda is still being followed, but no longer hidden thanks to the many teachers and organizations who have found that the community and the students need not be mutually exclusive.

My students have been involved in countless other activities to educate and improve the conservation of resources. Many times my students have been ahead of their times. In 1988 my students wrote a letter to the United Nations asking for a Day of Atmosphere Awareness. The return letter from Arthur Zegelbone promised that the United Nations was aware of the “greenhouse effect” and that there was going to be a World Environment Day on June 5th in Brussels. As we know, little was done since that time, but the students saw the problem and took action. A few years later they wrote and passed legislation that required all state funded building in California to use xeriscape landscaping to conserve water. The bill had overwhelming support. But that wasn’t enough.
After the first encounter with the United Nations they put together an entry that Target selected as one of the best environmental programs in the nation and they traveled to New York to contact members about their concerns. Target and the local water district paid for the trip and expenses.

The students noted the large amount of wasted paper at the school and came up with a method of self-sorting the trash. Not satisfied, they started a conservation club that recycles most everything at the school from printing cartridges to eye glasses. They hold community outreach events to educate adults and students from other schools as well. They started a Monarch butterfly garden to provide a safe home for these migrating butterflies as well as a Feed the Homeless garden that was fertilized using compost from a bin they had won at a country sponsored environmental conference. The recycle bins came from the city.

Nothing the struggle of the grey wolf, they raised funds to sponsor a young pup at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary. Noting that toilets were one of the main uses of water in a household they worked with the local water district to provide water displacement kits for city residents with the goal of saving six million gallons of water a year. To help residents understand the beauty of using landscaping that didn’t require a lot of water they designed and maintain a demonstration garden that shows these plants to residents.

Of course, some of their ideas met dead-ends because those in charge didn’t understand the value of their ideas. Supported by many water districts in the Western United States, they promoted the idea to taking a large trailer containing environment friendly plants to display at malls and major events. In that way, the garden would come to the people. The idea lost the competition, but the students learned a lesson about the difficulty of getting others to see the need to conserve.

Noting that need they decided to see how such changes were made. They decided to find out what was required for citizens to vote and were shocked to discover that they couldn’t understand the voting poll rules. They got a copy of the rules, rewrote them. and asked the Country Registrar of Voters to look at them. The Registrar accepted them and the changes were implemented making it easier for people to vote. They did the same with the state voter registration forms. Millions of California voters were impacted by their efforts.

They worked with the local police department to do safety belt checks and earn the community honors from the National Highway Safety Association. The police also taught the students how to fingerprint and they did this for all incoming students.

Working with local leaders they created a website that enabled communities to compare themselves to other communities in several key areas such as library books, business license fees, medical care facilities, and park space among others. It was judged to be of such value that the students were sent to Italy to represent the United States in international competition.

The students worked with the city landscape staff and came up with a plan which was presented at a City Council meeting. The plan was designed to save the city several million dollars in just a few years.

Making current events more meaningful, the students devolved and printed a newsletter that contained the highlights of every day’s events and faxed it to the local maternity wards where the nurses duplicated it and gave it the mothers of those children born on that day.

There is much more, but the most vital thing I have learned is that having students apply their learning to real world concerns make the lesson more meaningful for them and thus improves society. Perhaps most telling is that despite doing all these projects my student’s test scores have gone up dramatically. My first year at the school the state average for social studies was in the 22nd percentile. Getting the students involved in the next three years helped drive the score to the 94th percentile. Today, 25 years later, the state has a new test but the results are the same. Teaching at a school with seven subcategories; four minorities, ESL, low income, and special education, my students have consistently been at the top of the state test results even compared with gifted magnet schools. Indeed, of my 170 students, nearly 99 percent finished at the top of the State’s yearly standardized test. In other words, the community can provide the motivation to help improve test scores.

The point is that teaching students about the environment by using the community is not mutually exclusive from teaching them subject matter. Just as my special education students did 40 years ago, using the environment as a foundation for a learning lesson encourages them to see the importance of what they are studying and self-motivates them. The results are a win-win-win for the students, society, and test scores.

Editor’s Note: Al’s students also helped Joy Hakim write one of her The Story of Us books. And the student’s Powerpoints on the Westward Movement were accepted by the California Oregon Trail Association to be shared with others as well as the DMV. They also worked to put the Parklands Initiate on the California ballot, created a website on The History of Government that a professor at Harvard had high praise for and created a website that helps others with the State social studies standards. They also created story tapes for the Junior Blind. Finally, there interest in cars resulted in their findings on driving more efficiently being posted on the DMV site and they published their own textbooks. He was selected one of the 100 most influential educators in the world and earned the coveted Cherry International Teaching Award, the only classroom teacher so honored. His students have earned trips to Sea World, Disneyland, CNN, Busch Gardens, Washington DC, New York, the United Nations, and Rome where they represented the USA in technology competition.

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

Apps that protect students for schools and parents
by Alan Haskvitz
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

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

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

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

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

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

App Certain
This service is free and includes features such as a remote curfew mode as well as an analysis of apps.
https://www.appcertain.com/

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

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

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

NetNanny
This site has several packages and a variety of safety features. It monitors contacts with friends, pictures and posts on social networks.
http://www.netnanny.com/

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

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