• GRADING
        • PARENTS



This is an excellent way to strengthen skills in older students while building skills in younger children.


  • none


  1. At my school, I have long been involved in cross-age Study Buddies. When done correctly, this is not an on and off merely fun experience. At the beginning of every year, my students who are in the intermediate grades, pair up with kindergarten students.
  2. In the first week, we go to the room early to help the little ones learn how to load up backpacks, walk through the lunchline(!), get to the playground after lunch,etc. In these days of limited help in the classes, every extra hand is greatly appreciated that first week. This is especially critical for children coming to school with no English (better than 50% of my campus kindergarten.).
  3. We then start going every week. I recommend the same day and time each week to build rapport and to emphasize the importance of the learning time. By this time in October we are at the point of helping children one-on-one with counting, ABCs, writing their own names, gross and fine motor skills, etc.
  4. Each week there is a very simple book for my children to read to the kindergarten kids. Then the two Buddies color it and the big Buddy helps to look for the letter of the week or a color word, etc. In our case, my buddy and I have food each week for these children that ties into the unit.
  5. I believe that the hour we spend doing this weekly is time well-spent. Like we all do, I have kids in my class who are reading at the first grade level, don't know their multiplication tables, etc. Yet, when we go to Study Buddies these children know as much as every other one of their peers. It is a powerful boost to their self-esteem! Likewise, it has proven to be a wonderful motivator for discipline problems or the children not completing work. And it is always wonderful to have a call come in or a note left in my box asking for a specific child to come spend a few minutes of recess or spare time with the little ones. Suddenly children who normally aren't chosen for things, make the honor roll, etc. are THE ONES. Parents of my students love this. I cannot say enough about how this has boosted the morale of my resource students.
  6. The other side of the issue is that every week there is someone special for the kindergarten child to be with one-on-one. We encourage talking the whole time. Just lately, I noticed some shy children starting to smile or ask for help.

It is not too late in the year to start this kind of program at your school. The benefits are enormous! Just keep in mind, this is a tennis shoe type of day.

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A twist in making and displaying the classroom rules.


  • chart paper
  • butcher paper
  • markers
  • paper
  • pencils


  1. Tell students to brainstorm on their paper 3 important rules for school.
  2. Allow them to share. Focus on stating rules positively. For example: "Don't call people names." could be "Respect others rights and property."
  3. Make a list of rules on chart paper. This is your rough draft.
  4. Tell the students you want them to come up with 5-6 general rules that will cover all of their ideas. (See examples below). They need to agree to these rules.
  5. After the rules are agreed upon, tell them you will write a final copy on poster paper for them to view and sign tomorrow.
  6. After school, write the rules in this format:
    • Class Constitution
    • We, the students in Mrs./Mr. ____________ class, in order to behave in an appropriate manner, agree to abide by the following rules:
    • List rules agreed upon and signed this _____ day of _________, 2000.
  7. Students sign the poster at the bottom.
  8. The next day, go over the class constitution. Have the class read it together. Discuss each rule and what it covers.
  9. An added activity: Have the students copy the class constitution on to lined paper. As they are doing this, you can have them come up and sign the poster. Discuss the significance of signing this paper.
  10. I have mounted the poster on to brown butcher paper torn around the edges to make it look old. Put it up in a prominent place in your room and refer to it often.
  11. As new students come, have them sign the poster after they have read it.
  12. Examples of general rules:
    • Keep my desk neat and floor clean.
    • Respect others.
    • Ask for help if I need it.
    • Complete my homework neatly and correctly each night and return it to school each day.
    • Use class time wisely to work on assignments.
    • Listen when Mrs. _______ or a student is speaking to the class.

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Recently, a number of teachers have written to me asking about grading for classroom participation. I have conducted a good deal of research which showed that this is a tremendous disservice and unfair situation to a great many of your students.
Students participate as a result of their leadership personality traits. Think about your class--students who have a strong leadership personality enjoy raising their hand (even if they consistently have the incorrect answer). Those who have a weak leadership personality trait are extremely reluctant to raise their hand--even if they know the correct answer. This does not mean that these students are less on-task than those who continually raise their hand. Therefore, if you give points for classroom participation, are are really rewarding those with a strong leadership personality style and punishing those with a weak one.
The following is a summary of my research in this area, if you want to know more about leadership in students. It comes from my work with cooperative learning groups, but the concepts of leadership are directly applicable to student participation in the classroom. The following material is adapted from my book The New-Teacher Toolbox: Strategies for a Great First Year.


Leadership is a personality trait. All of us are on a "leadership" continuum. At one end, there are those that thoroughly enjoy and search out leadership roles. At the other end, there are those that actively seek a non-participatory status when forcibly involved with a group. Think back to your group work experiences in college courses, or your association with committees in your own school. Did you naturally "take over" the leadership of the group? Did you take an active, but participatory role? Did you sit back and take an absolute minimal role in the discussions of the group? It was your personal leadership style that served as the greatest determining factor as to amount of your group participation.
To briefly explain this phenomenon, during a study of Cooperative Learning in the classroom, I videotaped small group work during four different Cooperative Learning units. The videotapes were then analyzed, and the types of leadership shown within the various small working groups was explored. Each student was classified by predetermined criteria as either a "Leader," a "Follower" or a "Non-participant." The following are an explanation of the categories of leadership and leadership roles:


  • TASK LEADERSHIP--The student is concerned with the process--keeping others on task, getting supplies, etc.
  • INTELLECTUAL LEADERSHIP--The student offers a new idea to the group (versus simply answering someone's question with a research result).
  • SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL LEADERSHIP--The student gives praise or encouragement to a member of the group.
  • COERCIVE LEADERSHIP--A student gives negative feedback, or creates off-the-topic humor to disrupt the process, even momentarily.


  • LEADERS--These students "run" all facets of the group, and initiate virtually all dialogue between members.
  • FOLLOWERS--These students readily answer questions and participate, but usually only at the instigation of one of the leaders.
  • NON-PARTICIPANTS--These students never offer information unless asked; they never volunteer for anything. However, they normally will do whatever task is assigned to them.
Amazingly, it was discovered that the only students who ever took significant leadership roles within the group, were those students who had been categorized as "leaders." "Followers" sometimes showed some leadership characteristics, and always at the instigation of the leaders. "Non-participants" never took any leadership roles; they answered questions when asked while using the shortest possible answers, and they quietly did their work without any interaction with others.
What was fundamentally interesting, and most important when determining Cooperative Learning group roles, was that a student leader might show leadership in "task" areas one day, or "intellectual" or "social" areas the next. The leaders varied in their leadership roles depending on what other leader happened to be in their group on that particular day. However, in all cases, all leadership roles were fulfilled by those students previously characterized as leaders. A student classified as a "follower" or a "non-participant" never took a leadership role within the group.
The repercussions of these findings are central to the development of a good Cooperative Learning lesson or unit. For if only those students with personality styles that enjoy and seek leadership take leadership roles, then the previous espoused concept of passing around group leadership becomes increasingly problematic. For if you make a student with a "non-participant" personality style into the group leader for that session, at least one of three possibilities will probably result:
  • The students with leadership personalities will take over the group process.
  • The students with leadership personalities will exert their internal need for leadership by sabotaging the group in some way, often unconsciously. (See the description of "Coercive Leadership" above )
  • The non-participant student forced into leadership will be so uncomfortable and distressed at this role, that either nothing will get accomplished, or he will allow those who enjoy leadership to take over the group.
In all situations, if a "non-participant" type of student is artificially forced into a leadership position, the group will not function in the way that you originally planned.
Rather than incorporating predetermined group "leaders," a potential solution to this problem is to list tasks, or jobs, for the group to fill, and then let the natural group dynamics sort them out. For instance, you may tell a group that they need a spokesperson, a runner, a secretary, et cetera, and let them figure out who will do what job. You will find that in most cases, the group will distribute its leadership and task roles within minutes.
As an additional anecdote to this issue of group leadership, I had fun with the results of an extra cooperative learning lesson, one not included in the above study. In this lesson, among the various groups constructed, I ensured that three strictly homogeneous leadership groups were formed: one of all leaders, one of all followers, and one of all non-participants. The results were at times, humorous. The leaders group argued vehemently about who was going to do what task and cover what area. Finally, the students picked sections of the project out of a hat, and each worked on his own material--with no group cooperation or interaction. Since they were told that there was to be a group grade, many of the members covered areas assigned to other students, in addition to their own, figuring that they could do a better job! The followers had the best functioning unit, for within their own group, some had more leadership traits than others, and a natural hierarchy developed of leaders and followers. The non-participants each worked on the entire task, each on their own, with no feedback or discussion among the members of the group.
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GRADES: 1-12


  • clothespins
  • circle cardboards from pizzas


  1. On one side of a pizza cardboard circle (poster board works also but not as well), divide the area into a desired number of sections by dividing the circle (across the diameter, like a pie).
  2. In each section print the desired information or questions and then on the back of each section write the corresponding answer.
  3. On both sides of a clothespin, near the clip end, write the answers to the information or questions.
  4. Place the clothespins in a plastic bag and attach to the circle.
  5. The students read the information or question, they select the clothespin with the correct answer from the bag and clip it to the edge of the circle near the corresponding question (a version of matching).
  6. For a self check the student can flip over the cardboard and see if they have put the correct answer (clothespin).
  7. This can be placed at a center or for when students are "done" with all their work. Students can also be the developers.
  8. A few examples for the different areas:
    • math: multiplication (all the 9 facts on one), addition, subtraction or division facts; fractions, decimals and percents (pictures and the fraction or decimal and percent equivalents); numerals and expanded form; digital and analog time; pictures of coins and amounts; angles and degrees; sin, co-sin and tangent
    • language arts/ English: antonyms or synonyms; vocabulary and definitions; authors and books; upper and lower case letters of the alphabet; abbreviations;
    • science: chemical equations (ions); animals and kingdoms,
    • health: organs and functions; foods and food groups;
    • social studies: people and inventions; dates and events; states, capitals and abbreviations (countries also);
    • Foreign languages: vocabulary and the English translation
    • definitions and terminology for any content area would work

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The concept is based on the ideas of "Pay It Forward" and blue ribbon awards.


  • royal blue ribbon, the 3/4' works best and is sold on spools
  • small gold safety pins, be sure they are the kind that have a loop (or a curl) scissors
  • thimble-you will REALLY appreciate having this
  • zip lock type bags, gallon for class and quart sized for 3 ribbons per student
  • sharpie
  • optional: colorful or cheery computer paper, to write a personal message or instructions
  • optional: a children's book to illustrate kindness, selfless or related ideas


  1. Pre-teaching activities: Submit the idea in writing or verbally to the principal, assistant principal and if possible your team leader, it is crucial to have the support of your administrator and team for the success of this project. Once you have the go ahead, enlist help to cut, place on the safety pin (like the AIDS and Cancer ribbons) count and sort into bags per student and class. On a Friday or Monday present the idea to the class to gage interest and publicity
  2. Open with a short brainstorm discussion or children's story about kindness, recognition or other related topics.
  3. After a few minutes, share a brief story of someone that you want to recognize and why.
  4. Then call on a few students to briefly share similar stories.
  5. Then after they have ownership of the idea of recognition, pass out blue ribbons to the students individually and help them put them on if needed.
  6. Another way is to start with 1-5 students and individually recognize them and have those students in turn recognize another student and so on until the whole class has been recognized.
  7. Try to say something to each student, but in the interest of time a whole class statement is fine.
  8. After they are wearing their ribbons, have them think about someone that they would like to recognize for their positive contributions.
  9. Then pass out the individual zip lock bags with 3 ribbons to each student.
  10. The students recognize one person and present them with a ribbon, then the other two ribbons that are left in the bag.
  11. The recognized person then recognizes another person and presents them a ribbon and the remaining ribbon in the bag for them to pass on.
  12. To adapt this activity for the whole school: With the administrator's approval, make ribbons for each student in the whole school-enlist help for this if possible.
  13. Have a student from your class pass out the ribbon bags to each teacher in the school, and be sure to have the students recognize everyone on the campus with a presentation of a ribbon, and possibly one to pass on. You might want to discuss this project in detail with the faculty in writing (on the cheery paper) or e-mail, a brief presentation at a faculty meeting is also good. You may also want to have the students in your class create a mini-explanation and type it up to copy/distribute with the ribbons.


  • Upper elementary learners can write journal entries about topics relating to the project including the person they gave a ribbon to and why, personal reflections/opinions about the project. Lower elementary can create a picture and a sentence, or dictate what is in the picture.
  • The student excitement and enthusiasm for this project is contagious! Not to mention the parents and the rest of the school. It is amazing to see virtually a whole school wearing blue ribbons and a smile.
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This gives the students a sense of belonging and also pride in their homeroom.


  • construction paper
  • star tracers
  • glitter
  • pencils, crayons, markers


  1. Have each child color and decorate a star with their first name printed across the middle. 
  2. Hang just outside the classroom with a banner that reads "Stars of Room 3" or "Bright Stars of Room 3". 
  3. Tell the students every single day, that they are your "stars". Tell them that you've never had a class of students who shine as brightly as they do. Make them proud to be in your classroom. Make them proud to be one of the classroom family. 
  4. I've noticed that students become very protective of their classroom family and take more pride in keeping the classroom neat and tidy. There are fewer 'put-downs' and fewer problems because they are all taking responsibility for being 'shining stars'. This activity works for all elementary grades K to 6. The older students will spend longer decorating their stars but they will all be very proud to have them displayed.
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Education Assistant, no school listed




  • paper
  • scissors


  1. If you have a center based classroom, as is my kindergarten class, I suggest first listing all of your centers on a piece of paper.
  2. Next, draw a sketch of the outline of your room on another sheet. Like redecorating a room in your own house, cut out little squares, label them and place them in your paper classroom. This way you won't forget anything, and it won't take any time to rearrange your room.
  3. Take note of things that block other things...does your room flow, can you see the children from all of the angles?

Believe me, I am not at all artistic. This can be done very simplistically...not to scale or anything elaborate like that. Try to use all sides of furniture as possibilities; for example, I turned an old bookshelf around to use the front shelf part as part of my home center and am corking the back of it to use as a makeshift, child accessible bulletin board that will act as the back wall of my writing center!

Just like in a house, see where outlets are to use for computers and listening centers. This year, I will incorporate my listening center with my library. I am using my old love seat from home to act as the connecting piece of furniture to use in my new "quiet space" in my classroom.

Check where sinks are (if you have them) or floor space rather than carpet space is. Put your paint tables and sand and water tables where water is accessible for quick clean ups! Have your circle time space and your block center on or near carpeted space so that it will curb the noise!

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The primary goal of this plan is to encourage and facilitate parental involvement in the elementary classroom. Since there is no one reason for nonparticipation I am advancing several approaches that seek to address a variety of obstacles that parents face in becoming involved in their child's education. I'm also interested in ideas that others may have on this topic, so please e-mail me with your feedback and ideas.

Start Up Calls

Spend the week before school starts calling each parent to introduce your self, emphasize their importance from the start and open lines of communication. Invite them to a parent meeting and take this time to discuss scheduling a meeting for when the most parents can attend.

Calling Web

Establish a calling web in which each parent is responsible for calling two or three other parents to notify of special events or news. Attempt to set up so bilingual parents will call those that don't speak English well. This will help to address communication issues for those who don't read. Designate a neighbor to inform those with out phones.

Beginning of the Year Questionnaire

Send a questionnaire home to parents on the first day of school. Ask them these kind of questions:

  • Tell me about your child, what are his or her interests?
  • What do you think is important for your child learn this year?
  • Is there anything you especially want me to know about your child?
  • How would you like to be involved in your child's education this year?

Suggestion Box

Have box mounted outside of class door for student or parent suggestions. Let it be known it is perfectly fine to make anonymous suggestions or to send them in envelopes with students.

Thursday Folder Notes

Send home a folder on Thursdays with student work in one side, school communication on the other side. Have a sheet that is permanently included for hand written comments and communication between parent and teacher.

Monthly Calendar

Each month send home a calendar that highlights times when parental participation would be encouraged on a school and class level. Include times in your daily schedule when parents are free to drop in, perhaps a study hall at the end of the day or a reading time when they can come listen to readers or read themselves. Invite parents to lunch, recess, library times, lab time and special activities. Try to schedule at least one thing a month that will occur in the evening (for working parents). Have an authors tea where students share works they've published. Set up an art museum for parents to come see. Have parents let you know if they have an idea to add. A calendar will give parents on a tight schedule an opportunity to plan in advance and give them a variety of options to choose from.

Office Hours

Have one evening a week marked on calendar when you will either be available in the class room or available over the phone to speak with parents. Periodically change the time so you will be available to all parents at sometime.

Rotating Homeroom Parent

Have the homeroom parent position change each new nine week period. This will give more parents an opportunity to participate so that the work load will be less likely to fall on one or two persons.

Weekly News Letters

Send home a news letter in Thursday folders. Try to incorporate the help of a bilingual parent or coworker if necessary. Use news letter to thank parents and acknowledge their contributions and inform them of any new developments.

Teacher Calls

In the case of parents who don't respond to written communication, periodically call them so they will know you are aware of them and care about their input. If they do not speak English enlist the help of their "web" caller or a member of the school staff who speaks their language.

Bulletin Board Feature

Use a specific bulletin board to highlight individual students, their families, and cultural heritage on a one or two week rotating basis. Encourage the parents to help the student plan the board. Send each family a note about it with suggestions (that they aren't limited to) and a sign up schedule. Be prepared with plans to assist students that have parents who don't get involved.

Homework Packets

Consider all family situations in homework assignments. Give weekly or monthly packets so a family can be flexible in designating time to work on it. Include activities that can be accomplished with parental input such as family histories, surveys, and projects.

Parent Book Shelf

Have books, even if only a few, available to parents on a specifically designated shelf in your room Include books on parenting, homework and study skills, and what ever the need is in the class.

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First of all, you need an up-to-date copy of the curriculum for your grade or course

Standards, benchmarks, and indicators are becoming common in the world of educational jargon, but are we as teachers dealing well with the changes we are expected to make in the classroom. Many states are requiring state assessments based on the state curriculum. Here are six helpful hints in dealing with the new curriculum.

1. Look at the curriculum you must teach. Group like benchmarks by looking for a common topic where such a group could be taught. For example map skills might include learning the vocabulary, creating and using of a variety of maps, and identification of symbols on a map. (Concept: There is a place for everything.)

2. Next it would be beneficial to see if there is an overlapping with another subject. There is no need to teach the same concept twice. For instance, math might be covering scale drawing. Figuring the distance between two places might easily be taught at this time. (Concept: Kill two birds with one stone.)

3. Remember your activities MUST FIT INTO THE CURRICULUM. It is not effective to have a pet project that does not fit. One of the major obstacles to successful teaching is doing this backwards. (i.e., choosing an area of study and trying to "stick" the benchmarks into it). Be willing to let go of units that no longer fit the curriculum. (Concept: Only if the shoe fits, wear it.)

4. Understand the depth that is to be taught at your grade level and teach for mastery of that level. Some teachers cannot find middle ground. If it is introductory, then teach for mastery of the introductory concepts. If it mastery, then teach for mastery of the entire concept. (Concept: Water seeks its own level.)

5. Teach to the curriculum; do not teach to the test. If the testing genuinely tests the curriculum, then teaching the curriculum will make your students successful. Teaching the test gives limited understanding and is not responsible teaching. (Concept: Don't miss the boat.)

6. Incorporate fun activities. Just because the curriculum is well defined does not mean it will not fit into fun units. I teach how to buy cars when I teach economic concepts--think about it--when you buy a car you pay all kinds of taxes; it requires licensing and fees; understanding of supply/demand is necessary, acquiring savings, obtaining loans,etc. Can you think of anything an 8th grader would love to study more? Well, there are a few. But the point is the fun unit fits the curriculum. It also put the level of understanding into immersion because we pretend to buy the car at the lot (salesmen meet with the students and fill out a contract), loan officers actually review loan applications, etc. (Concept: Learning is fun.)

Okay, so are you tired of the cliches yet? Well, I stuck them in as reminders of the main points. If you work to do these things, teaching to standards and benchmarks won't be so bad. If fact, you know exactly what your responsibility is and that can make teaching easier.

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