Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookbooks I Use or Have Heard Great Things About

I thought I compile a list of cookbooks for other quasi cooks (like me) with little time, money, and/or children running around their home.

Cookbooks I own & use:
"The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue" by Missy Chase Lapine
This book has taught me to be creative with all my cooking as far as adding pureed foods. I love the pancake recipes and the tater tots. I now put purees in mac n cheese and spaghetti and other recipes to make it that more healthier.

"Kraft Kitchens Dinner on Hand"
I love how this book has a chart where you can choose different meat or veggie ideas for each recipe depending on what you have in the cupboard. "Man n Cheese Pizza is delicious- your kids will love it!"

"5 ingredients or less - most in under 20 minutes. Over 300 recipes from home" economic teachers
Easy and yummy recipes. I love "Carol's Chicken" & "Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole." There is also a "Holidays & Parties," book which is use for special occasions. I used a St. Patrick's punch for my baby shower, since one of my baby colors was green.

"Meals in Minutes" by Gooseberry Patch
I love the "Beefy Mushroom Soup" and "Easy Potato Casserole. Many of the recipes are easy and yummy, but sometimes I have to adjust the time on the oven or the amount of certain ingredients."

"The Busy Family Cookbook" by Taste of Home
I love the variety of yummy and easy meals. Haven't made anything yet that doesn't work. Recommend Spicy Flank Steak. I also like the St. Patty "Quicker Bioled Dinner."

"5 ingredient, 15 minute cookbook" by Cooking Light
Very simple and yummy recipes with meat and fish. My husband loves "Pork Chops with Peach Mustard Sauce."

"Hungry Girl" by Lisa Lillien (the jury is still out on this book, but she has great alternatives for ingredients to make very healthy meals).
The Spinach & Artichoke Dip was a success on a vacation trip.

Cookbooks that are on my wishlist/looking into:
Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill

The Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book by Kelli Rudnicki
Dozens of delicious dairy-, egg-, and nut free recipes. "Those ingredients aren't as critical to moist, delicious oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies as we thought." (
Parenting.com, March 2010)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: She came out with a a recipe book (featured on Good Morning America): Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl (check out her blog as well)

Cookus Interruptus
Haven't tried the recipes yet but they look simple, easy, and healthy. The site is devoted to environmentally friendly cooking.

Finding The Silver Lining | Parade.com

Finding The Silver Lining | Parade.com

Author Mitch Albom with Pastor Henry Covington in Detroit.

Editor's Note: Find out how you can help faith groups make repairs at a Hole in the Roof Foundation.

Rain falls on the church roof. It pours through a gaping hole and splashes onto the pews. Against the plop, plop, plop of gathering water, a pastor urges nearly 100 weary men to believe in the future. They wear old jackets or sweatshirts. They line up for chili and cornbread. They sleep on the floor, atop vinyl mattresses.

“Enjoy the meal,” the pastor tells them as they line up. “There’s a place for you here. See that man for a blanket…”


Just as the first major winter storm bears down on Detroit, acts of faith -- and author Mitch Albom's newest best seller, Have a Little Faith -- have added up to put a new roof on a crumbling downtown church that serves and shelters the homeless.

The $85,000 repair is set to be unveiled today, snow or no snow. The plan is for a joyful ceremonial removal of a great blue tarp placed where there was once a huge hole that left the church so cold people routinely prayed with their coats on. The funds came from "A Hole in the Roof Foundation" established by Albom to support churches that serve cities' poorest people can't use government money for capital repairs.

Albom, who has devoted the proceeds of earlier books such as Tuesdays with Morrie, to fund programs in the recession-shattered city, launched Have a Little Faith, a little book describing the commitment to good works of two clergyman. One was his childhood rabbi, the late Albert Lewis. The other was Henry Covington, spiritual leader of Pilgrim Church and a ministry to the homeless. A portion of the funds from book launch events went to kick off the foundation.

Detroit author Mitch Albom's newest book,
By Santa Fabio, for USA TODAY
Albom says people nationwide responded with donations from $7 -- enough to buy a roof shingle through a Twitter campaign called "Shinglebells" -- to $10,000 from a church in California.

Ten days ago, we had 100 volunteers, including the homeless people who sleep at the church, out here forming a big human line when the trucks pulled up with the supplies.

We unloaded the shingles and nails and handed the supplies up to the ladder to the professionals on the roof. Then, on the count of three, they pulled off the tarps.

Today, on the count of three, they'll do it again. They'll also unveil a plaque inside the church, replastered and repainted where the biggest hole once let rain fall in. It lists about 400 names.

The ceremony will include the church choir, singer Anita Baker and the Detroit mayor all there to celebrate the faith of strangers in a city church. Albom says there's still money coming into the Hole in the Roof fund and soon they'll pick a new church to repair.

This is my hometown, Detroit, in a devastated economy, in a crumbling church, on a cold, hard floor at the bottom of the world.

And still, there is hope.

If there is any advantage to living at the epicenter of the economic crisis, where our main industry—the auto business—has imploded, where abandoned houses seem to dot every corner, where the unemployment rate is a staggering 25%, it is this: You get to see what man is made of.

What I have seen is that man is made of tough stuff. Man can rise to the occasion. One such man is the pastor of this church. His name is Henry Covington. Thirty years ago, he was in prison. He’d been a drug dealer, a drug abuser, a thief, and an armed robber. He had every excuse to see the world as hopeless.

But on a night when he truly hit bottom, hiding behind trash cans, certain he would be murdered by angry drug dealers, he promised his life to God if he lived to the morning.

He lived.

He kept his promise.

These days, Pastor Covington, 52, runs the I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministries in downtown Detroit. His huge brick building was once—more than a century ago—the largest Presbyterian church in the upper Midwest. Now, like much of Detroit, it’s been overgrown with poverty, and there are broken windows and a hole in the sanctuary roof through which the rainwater collects in buckets. Several times, this ministry has been close to folding. Local drug lords even offered the pastor money to let them use the church for their dealings.

But Henry Covington was done with that life.

Instead, he dug in. He found a way. Today, he conducts services through the cold, through the snow, even under a giant plastic tent when the gas company shuts the heat off due to unpaid bills. He takes little salary and lives with his family in a tiny, nearby home.

And yet, he says, “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

What he means is that he is where he can make a difference. In that way, Covington is typical of many people in this economy who find new meaning in their lives despite losing jobs, homes, or status: They find it by giving to others and reconnecting with their faith.

In Detroit, we call it fighting back.

A few years ago, I spent a night at a local homeless shelter to write about the experience. As I stood in line for food, a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was who he thought I was. I told him yes.

“So,” he said, nodding sympathetically, “what happened to you?”

I never forgot that. I realized hard times can hit anyone. Now, all around our country, it is being proven true. With the mortgage crisis and the recession, even rural states like Wyoming and Montana have seen jumps in their unemployed and homeless populations. In Detroit, nearly half of the homeless are families, and more than half of those are on the streets for the first time.

Can Video Games Teach Kids | Parade.com

Can Video Games Teach Kids | Parade.com

On a fall morning at a public school in New York City, sixth-graders are called to sit down at their desks. At first glance, it looks like any other middle-school science classroom. There’s an aquarium full of tiny turtles and a harried teacher fumbling with a projector.

But then the instructor boots up the day’s lesson: a video game. The students watch as the tiny dolls in PlayStation 3’s LittleBigPlanet (pictured) hop through a maze of contraptions onscreen. The game is being used to introduce them to Newtonian physics, and as part of their coursework, the kids will be required to build devices similar to the ones they’ve just seen.

This is the inaugural class of Quest to Learn (Q2L), the first-ever school in the U.S. built on the innovative approach of games-based learning. While many American schools use computers and games, Q2L is the first to follow a curriculum entirely focused on video games. Its 72 sixth-grade students—guided by six teachers—study and explore subjects through role-playing activities and computer-driven interactive quests instead of textbooks and lectures. They work together on gamelike “missions,” solving puzzles and completing challenges as teams. Their courses have been combined into multidisciplinary “domains” like Codesworlds, a blend of math and English, and Sports for the Mind, a mix of art and physical education. At semester’s end, the pupils won’t take finals; they’ll reach the next level, like at the end of a game.

Katie Salen, Q2L’s executive director of design and a self-described “game geek,” thinks this approach is necessary to engage a generation of wired young people and reduce dropout rates. In New York City, a dismal 39% of students leave high school without earning a diploma.

“These are digital kids,” she says. “They’ve already transformed society. Why not education?” Experts view Q2L as a model for other schools. “We’re starting to see agreement that video games are the new liberal arts,” says Kurt Squire, a professor in education communications and technology at the University of Wisconsin. “This school is the first implementation.”

In September, Edward O. Wilson, a respected professor emeritus of biology at Harvard University, caused a stir when he said, “Games are the future in education. I envision visits to different ecosystems that the student could actually enter...with an instructor. They could be a rain forest, a tundra, or a Jurassic forest.” His vision resembles the kind of teaching that goes on at Q2L. For example, in one class, students are studying design through Gamestar Mechanic, an online game. In another class, they are learning geography by role-playing as location scouts for a mock reality-TV show. They will research different climate zones around the world, create digital maps, and eventually submit their multimedia pitches to an actual TV producer.

Instructors were recruited not for their gaming skills but for their willingness to rethink education. “Students now live to play games and are immersed in technology,” teacher Ginger Stevens says. “It makes sense to tap into that enthusiasm. Instead of forcing an old model of education on them, we’re looking at where students are coming from and building a program around that.”

Q2L is the result of a collaboration among the Parsons School for Design, New Visions for Public Schools (an education-reform group), and the Institute of Play (a nonprofit devoted to game-based education). Q2L is a non-charter public school funded by the Department of Education. It will add another grade every year until it reaches the 12th grade.

Its students have ended up there after applying and being chosen by lottery. “I have quite a few friends who are jealous,” 11-year-old Beauchamp Baker says. His mother, Lesli, reports that the school has benefited him in more significant ways. Beauchamp, who has been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, had some difficulty at previous schools. Now he is more engaged in his schoolwork than ever before. “It’s a great match for him. He’s really enthused about learning,” his mother says. But she admits that, as a parent, “you have to take a leap of faith.”

Some educators think the leap is too big and unnecessary. “I’m not hostile to the idea of kids learning with technology, but there’s not much deep thinking behind the hype about gaming,” says Gary Stager, an educational technology expert at Pepperdine University. “Great teachers have reached kids for generations through interesting subject matter and meaningful work.”

But what seizes the interest of today’s sixth-graders may be entirely different from what engaged earlier generations. These young people have only ever known a world with the hands-on, immediate interactivity of the Internet and video games. When asked what his favorite part of school is, Q2L student Liam Smith says, “I like doing stuff instead of just learning about it.”

His classmates seem to agree. In math class, when the teacher unfolds a checkered mat on the floor, the children’s excitement is apparent. One kid shouts, “It looks like Tetris!” Yells another, “It looks like Connect Four!”

“Those are good observations,” he says, “but this is actually a game I’ve made.” Then, when he asks for volunteers, an amazing thing happens—everyone raises a hand.

How Games Are Used in Schools
Here’s a look at how teachers are firing up their students.

• Mother of Mercy High School, Westwood, Ohio
Students are learning about subjects like business ethics, hiring, and the environment by playing SPILL!, a game in which teams work to clean up an oil spill in a simulated city. The game was also used in 500 other U.S. schools this fall.

• Oak Grove Elementary School, Paragould, Ark.
In addition to using standard gym-class equipment, kids break a sweat with the video games Dance Dance Revolution and ATV Off Road Fury 2.

• Southwest High School, Jacksonville, N.C.
Through a program calledProject K-Nect, students are given smartphones equipped with math games and problem sets to help improve test scores.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Savvy educators offer advice for keeping kids honest.

What goes on in the mind of a cheating student? Most educators would love to peek inside those young brains to see what motivates the eye wandering or cell-phone sneaking, in an attempt to prevent it.

Researcher and expert on cheating Eric Andermann, director of Ohio State University’s School of Education Policy and Leadership, has found that the goal that students are encouraged to work toward significantly affects whether they cheat or not.

“If the test is seen by students as the most important part of schooling, then cheating will be more likely to occur,” says Andermann. “The research is quite clear about this.” While testing will always be a necessity in schools, there are ways for teachers to mitigate cheating. If they “really stress the value of the content, the importance of the content, understanding the content, and don't emphasize social comparison (i.e., don't point out who knows more or less than others), cheating will be less likely to occur,” he says.

Some students don’t even realize they’re cheating. More than 23 percent of teens admitted in a Common Sense Media poll that they don’t think it’s cheating to look at notes on a cell phone during a test.

But you can help them understand that it is, says Andermann, by teaching students about proper and improper use of the Internet and technology, as well as plagiarism from online sources. “Students are so used to gathering information via the Internet that they often don't know that it may be wrong,” he says.

Of course, there are some students who will still cheat. Fortunately, educators have strategies for keeping them honest. We asked your colleagues for their best advice in an online discussion. Read on for their tips or add your own here.
An Ounce of Prevention
Review Expectations

The first assignment of the semester is a plagiarism Webquest I found on the Internet (Google “PAMS Plagiarism WebQuest”). Students complete a paper answer sheet for 100 quiz points. If a parent signs the completed sheet, the score increases by 15 points. I keep the sheet on file. If I can prove plagiarism on a later assignment, the student receives a zero and detention. Parents tend to stop fussing when I pull out the answer sheet with their signature.
Stephanie L., Jasper, Tennessee

Mess with the Tests

Make multiple versions of the test so kids cannot copy from one another’s papers during the test.
Carol S., Belgrade, Minnesota

When you make multiple versions, always use different colored paper. That way, if you ever don’t have time to create multiple versions, you can use different colored paper and students will not know whether there is only one version of the test.
David T., San Jose, California

I punch holes on the sides of my tests. When I wander around the room as tests are being taken, I look to see the surface of the desk through the holes. If I see a paper instead of the desk, I know the study guide is hidden underneath.
Spencer H., Brentwood, California
Try a Cheat-Proof Assessment Model

Use performance-based assessment. Students may work cooperatively during the planning process but each person receives an individual presentation and/or written grade. It’s usually easy to determine the amount of learning and effort the student has as I work with him or her on projects and listen to presentations.
Elle G., Louisville, Kentucky

Give Them the Crib Sheet

Nearly all of my tests are open note and open book as my questions are usually essay questions asking students to apply what they should know, evaluate what they have read, and synthesize material. For example, they might have to compose a paragraph that contains at least three quotes that point out a personality trait of a character I choose. On the rare occasions that part of the tests are simple recall, I allow students to bring a 3×5 note card with any notes they can squeeze on it. The effort to go over material and decide what might be important means they are actually studying! I always tell students I do not expect them to memorize material but I expect them to know HOW and WHERE to find an answer quickly.
Elaine F., Defiance, Ohio
Choose Your Position Carefully

I monitor test-takers from the back of the classroom to get a “bird’s eye” view of the whole class and catch the stray eyeball or suspicious hand movements.
Ed G., Mountain Top, Pennsylvania

Never leave your desk during a test. Last year, when I went to a student’s desk to answer a question, it became “open season” for all students who were at my back.
Connie C., Louisville, Kentucky

Cut It Off at the Source
I make my students responsible for keeping their papers covered. Whenever I see answers uncovered, I quietly place a small, red square of construction paper on the student’s desk as a warning and reminder. If a second square is placed on the same student’s desk, a point is deducted.
Susan R., Olive Branch, Mississippi.
Fight Copying with Technology

My eighth-grade students would copy work before school and at morning break. So I began using my blog to post questions related to readings (Click here for an example). Replies are time-stamped and can be easily compared. Soon the copying was almost eliminated.
Chris M., Lakewood, California
Trick ’Em

I made copies of students’ test papers, recorded the grades, and then handed them back saying, "I did not have time to grade this set of papers so this will be a test of honesty for you." Those who self-corrected and came up with the same grade earned on the copies, got an A regardless of what had been earned. Those who cheated, earned a zero. The graded papers were then handed back. Since they never knew if this would be done again, cheating was diminished. I made phone calls to every parent and let them know the results and asked them to praise their honesty or talk about cheating. There are lots of ways to try and eliminate cheating, but talking about character and learning for life was stressed.
Cecelia S., Greensboro, Georgia
When Cheating Happens
Make a Statement

When I discovered cheating, usually on a homework assignment, I divided the grade among the number of children whose assignments were identical. I told them that if they were willing to share the work, they should be willing to share the grade. Word got around.
Christine S., Buffalo, New York
Give them a Second Chance

Take the student out into the hall and say, “Charles, I don’t think you are ready to take this test today, are you? I’m going to have you take a makeup test in a day or two. This time, I want you to study and be prepared. I need your honest answers so I can give you a fair grade.” This establishes trust as a caring teacher, one who can be approached for help.
Robert E., San Francisco, California

I grade the work. Then I put a zero on the paper and ask them to get a parent to sign it and to write a page explaining what they intend to do to correct the problem. When I get both, I reinstate the grade. This way, the parents have no reason to complain about a zero, they just have to sign the paper, and the student is empowered to choose his or her own consequences.
Joseph C., Covington, Virginia
When in Doubt, Let it Go...

If you are not absolutely certain that cheating occurred, let it go. There is nothing worse than a dispute about whether a student cheated or not. Make a mental note to watch the suspect more closely in the future.


Other ideas:
1. Move student seats or seating arrangement just for the test
2. backpacks and other paraphernalia are moved to the side of the room-students can have books but no paper at their desks
3. When answering questions during the test, always position yourself so you can still see the majority of students (called "cheating out" in theater)

Pay Based on Test Scores? (by NEA)

What educators need to know about linking teacher pay to student achievement.
By John Rosales

How do you define your success as a teacher? Are you well-prepared? Experienced? Board-certified? Congratulations! You must be a good teacher. Well, maybe.

How were your students’ test scores? Some districts (perhaps yours) want to reward educators on the basis of student test scores. Some already do.

It’s one of education’s burning hot issues: pay-for-performance, and it's becoming one of the determining factors in whether you are judged a success or flat-out failure.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says performance pay for teachers is his department’s “highest priority.” The Obama Administration created the $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund to encourage states to implement performance pay systems and other changes.

Legislators and elected officials are answering that charge and considering using student performance as a criterion in setting teacher pay. But such a move comes with serious, potential pitfalls. For example, when pay raises are based on student test scores, you’re only measuring a narrow piece of the teacher’s work. In addition, such plans can pit employee against employee, especially when there’s a quota for merit increases. What happens to teachers who do not teach tested subjects? How are they rewarded?

There are other potential problems with alternative compensation systems. Any educator whose district is considering or bargaining such a system, needs to ask these questions:

* Is there adequate funding for the new pay system and is it sustainable?
* Is it easily understood and transparent?
* Are evaluations subjective or objective?
* Have administrative and implementation costs been considered?
* Are the sizes of incentives large enough to change behavior?

“We all must be wary of any system that creates a climate where students are viewed as part of the pay equation, rather than young people who deserve a high quality education that prepares them for their future,” says Bill Raabe, NEA’s director of Collective Bargaining and Member Benefits. “We can all do a better job of linking quality professional development and career opportunities directly to the pay system.”

So what makes a quality pay system? It should begin with professional level starting pay (at least $40,000) and have no more than 10 steps. And you should move through the salary system for things that actually improve teaching and student learning, such as experience, knowledge and skills, and National Board Certification. Some plans also grant extra pay for other assignments, such as peer coaching, mentoring newer educators, earning advanced degrees, or working in hard-to-staff schools.

NEA supports systems that create career paths and include teachers as partners in any compensation reform effort.

“It is crucial that all pay plans or policies be negotiated with teachers in collective bargaining, or developed collaboratively with the Association where there is no bargaining,” says Raabe.

Fortunately, some districts have heard the message. Below are two examples of alternative pay systems designed to serve the needs of members in their areas. Both emphasize teachers’ professional development and were the results of negotiations between the school district and the local Association.

Portland, Maine

Since 2007, the Portland Education Association (PEA) has operated under the Professional Learning Based Salary System (PLBSS) with its 740 members participating in professional development and other activities that are awarded salary contact hours (SCH) and result in a lane change.

“Our salary system is based on the statement that the best indicator of student learning is teacher learning,” says Gary Vines, who led PEA to a new salary system in 2007. “A high quality teacher is the most important factor in student learning.”

Here’s how it works: Under PLBSS, educators move horizontally across five salary lanes based on the earning of SCH for participation in professional learning activities.

Work on district committees, curriculum design, and leading student activities can contribute to earning the SCH needed to gain a lane change. Staff also can gain SCH for participating in learning activities and taking college courses.

“We wanted to recognize some of the kind of ‘above and beyond the job definition’ work that teachers always do as having an impact on their base salary,” says Vines, a high school guidance counselor.

In order to move to another lane, staff must accumulate 225 SCH. College credit awards and individual proposals can be made for hours applied to an activity (see http://blogs.portlandschools.org/plbss/ ).

When changing lanes, staff members can immediately and permanently increase their salary from between $2,100 and $8,900, depending on their starting step. If an individual moved from Lane 1/ Step 1 (brand new teacher) to Lane 5/Step 1 at the quickest possible pace (13 years), they would move from $33,000 to $67,000.

The highest paid teachers in the prior system (doctorate, 31 years) could earn $64,000. Now, teachers who continually participate in approved professional development could earn $15,000 more nine years earlier.
Helena, Montana

In Montana, professional development and service to the school district and community is what matters most in determining pay increases.

The Helena Education Association (HEA) introduced the Professional Compensation Alternative Plan in 2004. Under its salary schedule educators earn $35,040 in their first year and work their way up to $73,173.

“Our performance plan is not based on any type of test scores,” says Larry Nielsen, a UniServ Director with MEA-MFT and former president of HEA. “If you invest the money up front in professional development, it has been proven that student achievement will improve.”

Though teachers had the option of remaining under the traditional salary schedule, the majority of HEA’s members embraced the new system in which they can advance according to the following mutually-agreed on criteria:

The Career Development Plan, which is written by educators for themselves and “designed to get people to be innovative,” says Nielsen, who was a band teacher for 19 years before joining MEA-MFT. It is based on the principle of “professionals helping professionals to be better professionals.”

Professional Service Commitment – Those activities educators participate in outside of the bargaining contract for which they receive no compensation. These activities are not assigned, but are performed in agreement with school administrators. “Anything that benefits the students, the school, or the district is applied here,” Nielsen says. This includes union work performed by officers, building representatives, and committee members. “Union work is a professional service to the district,” he says.

Positive Evaluation – Written by an administrator, there are two guidelines followed:
1) Professional growth, where teachers write a plan in conjunction with administrators.
2) Check-out, where an administrator meets with a teacher and checks off items and tasks from a list noting what the teacher has accomplished during the evaluation period. Administrators also write an essay-type narrative which accompanies the check-out list.

At the end of the school year, “the teacher and administrator meet, and if the educator has met the criteria, they advance,” Nielsen says.


How homework can harm English Language Learners

By Mary Ellen Flannery

When it comes to predicting a student’s grades, which factors are important? Whether they know the material should be at the top of the list, right? Or, for English Language Learners, maybe their fluency in the classroom lingo?

Whether they’re poor? Mother went to high school?

No, no, no, and no. According to a recent study, published in the journal Educational Research, the best predictor of an immigrant student’s grades is completion of homework.

And that’s a problem.

Many immigrant students face significant hurdles to completing homework. They may be poor and lack a quiet study environment to do homework. They might be responsible for taking care of their younger siblings or household chores, or working a part-time job after school. Unlike their English-fluent peers, they probably don’t have parents who can help to decipher Shakespeare – or who have time to help at all, as they might be working two jobs. Their parents also might not understand that, in America, it’s expected that they too will help build that dry-ice volcano.

“You know those science fair projects where the parent does half the work? Immigrant kids don’t have that help,” says New York University professor Carola Su├írez-Orozco.

And the difference has real consequences.

Should You Assign Homework at All?

Three years ago, in his book “The Homework Myth: Why our kids are getting too much of a bad thing,” author Alfie Kohn calls homework, a “modern-day cod-liver treatment.” Not a single study shows that homework leads to higher student achievement, he argued. In fact, the only thing it’s been proven to cause is bad attitudes.
Do you agree? Comment on our discussion board.
“Each homework assignment that is out of reach for immigrant students arguably places them at a position of cumulative disadvantage – for failed opportunities to learn, negative teacher perceptions, and academic disengagement,” writes researcher and author Hee Jin Bang.

In Bang’s first study on homework – her second is due to be published this year – she found teacher perceptions to be the likely connection between grades and homework. It's as if teachers use homework to gauge whether a student works hard and tries his or her best, and then rewards that effort with better grades.

That’s not doing them any favors, Bang suggests. All students should be held to high expectations, and the right kind of homework could actually help these kids practice English or new skills learned in the classroom. It just has to be homework that students can handle independently.

“If I send anything home for homework, it has to be an assignment that can be handled by the students by themselves,” says Ricardo Rincon, a Las Cruces, New Mexico, teacher whose students are primarily first-generation Latino. “These parents make sure to pay the bills, bring home the food, and keep a roof over their heads, but they may have to take a job that doesn’t have them at home when their kids are at home.”

He encourages educators to think about the kind of homework they assign. Not only should it be simple enough for a student to do independently, it also has to be meaningful, urges Michelle Preusser, a National Board Certified third-grade teacher in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. That doesn’t mean 25 more math problems, she says. “We don’t want to turn our kids off to learning."

Her students take home a reading log and they’re asked to read at least four days out of seven, and record what they’ve read. “In third grade, the more they read, the more everything falls into place.” At the same time, their math homework, called “Math Links,” and sent home in English and Spanish, will extend the day’s lesson to home. For example, after learning about perimeter in the classroom, they might have to look at shapes on the paper, estimate which has the largest perimeter, and then maybe measure the perimeter of their room.

A favorite assignment: Build your own musical instrument. To go with science lessons on sound, Preusser asks her students to build an instrument using everyday objects in their homes. They bring them to school and demonstrate for classmates, then do self and peer evaluations.

And it’s not just the quality of your assignment – it’s the quantity. “I’m not sure more homework necessarily means more learning,” Preusser says. For its part, NEA supports “the 10-minute rule,” developed by a Duke University professor. That rule calls for 10 minutes of homework per grade, so a third-grader would have 30 minutes, a ninth-grader no more than 90 minutes.


Some ideas for ELL (also good for RSP):
1. Highlight half the questions they have to complete in a workbook.
2. Limit book questions to multiple choice and true/false questions
3. Make it a point to ask your student if they understand and question them. They may say yes they understand but then they can't explain to you what they are supposed to do.
4. Increase their workload or type of questions they complete slowly as they show they can handle so that by the end of the year they are completing the same amount of work as your regular education students
5. If you have a workbook written at a lower level, have them work in that book for a semester until their abilities become stronger.
6. Quickly go over any words that may be difficult for ELL and have them write what the word means on their HW paper so they can refer to it again when they go home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Parent-Teacher Talk

Parent-Teacher Talk

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Could You Survive a Year Without Shopping?

Could You Survive a Year Without Shopping?

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Websites for Teachers

This is one of my favorite sites as a science teacher (specifically health and biology).

This site is for creating your own games, like jeopardy, flash cards, BINGO, scavenger hunt, etc.

Haven't tried this one yet, but it looks like it has some great ideas.

For math teachers, check out this site.

This site is great for creating a word art. Insert a poem, parts of a speech, biographical information and the like and create a wordle. Use the wordle as decoration, writing promt, discuss the main ideas or plot of a story, etc.

This site is so much fun, it's like scrap booking for teachers. Add photos, blogs, podcasts, videos, and more.

Create your own survey for free.

A learning platform where teachers and students create learning projects.

A free way to talk about and share your images, documents, and videos.

Createa movie from pictures and add subtext, all for free.

Make a movie for your class with this free website.

A website where you can buy gifts under $30 to help people around the world. A great way for students to learn about the needs of people and community around the world.

Teachers can post what materials they need for their classroom and people can donate money for your materials.

Post or view what teachers are doing in the classroom. Almost like YouTube.

Real world videos and STEM resources

Don't forget you can research lessons using google. I have found some helpful lessons online that way.