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Teacher Helpline

Hi, I’m Ruth Manna, a teacher for over 20 years, and now a Director of Curriculum. I’ve spent over five years answering questions on the Teacher Helpline and hope to answer yours. This year, I'll join other teacher advisors on the Top Teaching blog.
Administrator: Ruth Manna Created: 02/22/2010 Last Activity: 11/20/2010

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Please bring your questions, situations, and problems and collaborate with one another and with me.
  • Profile
    I would like a project for my 3rd graders to make as a keepsake
    pergensten
    I thought in the last 2 weeks of school when my required 3rd grade state testing is dwindling down, that I could make a memorable keepsake for my student's parents. Does anyone have any ideas? I would like the project to take 4 to 5 days of work. Thanks for sharing!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: I would like a project for my 3rd graders to make as a keepsake
    Ruth Manna
    Third graders really love making gifts for their parents. It might be fun to brainstorm with your students and get their ideas about what kind of gift they'd like to make. They will likely come up with wonderful ideas. You'll need to consider how to make their ideas practical and do-able in five days. Another thought would be to go to your local craft store and look around. Inexpensive items at the craft store may suggest projects to you. At this time of year it might be fun to make a bird house if your students live in an area where their families could put them up. Another idea might be a simple key rack for by the back door. It's useful and decorative too. You could use wood, sandpaper, nails or cup hooks, and paint. Parents always love photos of their children! You could take individual photos of each child and print them out. Then students could make simple picture frames with heavy cardboard and wood. Parents also love letters and cards from their children. Students could write letters or cards with decorative borders to go with their gifts. If you need additional help, you can write to me at ruth.manna@verizon.net. Good luck with your project!
  • Profile
    Adding past experience to a resume
    jradecki33
    I am in my early 40s and I am about to receive a teaching certificate. My question is, should I list my prior experience in banking on my resume? Some tell me not to bother (for schools just want to see my clinical experience), while others say to mention it briefly.
  • Profile
    Re: Adding past experience to a resume
    jradecki33
    Thank you!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Adding past experience to a resume
    Ruth Manna
    I'd list all my work experience. You want to show all your talents and skills. Who knows, maybe you will be called on to organize and lead a fund-raising venture at your new school. So don't leave any work experience out. However feature any relevant work experience, like camp counselor, YMCA leader, Sunday School teacher, babysitter, etc. If you have been involved in any community service, especially community service involving families or children, I would add that too (Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, etc).
  • Profile
    Getting Hired as Elementary Teacher
    joeymfowler
    I have not taught in a classroom setting in 3 years, I currently teach pre-school children. Now that my children are grown I am ready to return to the classroom to teach early education. I am certified in early education and received my masters degree 5 years ago. How do you recommend I get my foot in the door for an interview. I am worried I will be competing with recent graduates.
  • Profile
    Re: Getting Hired as Elementary Teacher
    pergensten
    I was in your shoes. Apply to be a substitute teacher! Be friendly with the secretary! Word will get out of your great work with the kids! Just be available!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Getting Hired as Elementary Teacher
    Ruth Manna
    There are many ways to get your foot in the door. I'll list a few here and if you'd like more info just write to me at ruth.manna@verizon.net 1. Hand deliver your resume to schools. Ask to speak with the principal. Personal contact shows initiative. 2. Get a part time job within a school dist. perhaps in after-school program. 3. Substitute teach so teachers and administrators get to know you and your work. Offer to stay late, do clerical jobs, etc. 4. Position yourself as an experienced teacher when you write your resume. A teacher with five years of experience has attributes that are different from a new teacher. Having a master's degree may be seen as a plus too, though school will have to pay you more. 5. Consider jobs that are education related, for example, working at a Y or community center with school-age children. 6. Offer to teach a demonstration lesson. 7. Persevere. Jobs will become available throughout the summer months and into Sept. Sometimes enrollment increases dramatically and a school will need to hire a teacher in the second week of school 8. Stay positive! This will help you project positively!
  • Profile
    Summer Enrichment Lesson Plans Help!
    alaurenkeller
    Hi! I teach middle school language arts in a private school and haven been asked to start a summer enrichment program for my expertise area. I have three separate content area classes organized (grammar, writing, reading workshops) but I need help with the curriculum/workbook. Any suggestions on what to use? Thanks!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Summer Enrichment Lesson Plans Help!
    Ruth Manna
    Lauren, I think I answered your question but not sure where reply went. Did you receive it in your email?
  • Profile
    Re: Summer Enrichment Lesson Plans Help!
    alaurenkeller
    oops. I just saw that I received responses to this questions at another post. Please diregard, thanks!! :-)
  • Profile
    Teaching Demo advice
    mlwalton
    Hello to all :-) I had a great first round interview and was invited back to teach a demo!I have never had to do this in my 6 years of teaching. I have been doing my own research about it but I would love some feedback from "those that know." The school is a private school for students with high funtioning autism, ADHD, and other learning differences. The school utilizes the social thinking curriculum by Garcia. I will be teaching a 45 minute MS science lesson to a class of 8 students (5 lower high school reading level & 3 upper to mid elementary). I have also been instructed to plan for differentiation and a hands-on approach. I have been tossing around a few ideas. I keep coming back to a lesson on identifying unknown substances. The lesson would use a fictional mystery scenario as a jump off. Students would then work in pairs to identify the substances based on physical/chemical properties. After I teach the lesson I have round 2 of the interview questions with the head of school and the VP of education of the organization. Any thoughts/advice teaching a demo to this population would be highly appreciated!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Teaching Demo advice
    Ruth Manna
    Mandy, Your lesson idea about mystery substances sounds interesting. Think through what you'll do if lesson has glitches, for example, if someone spills, breaks a beaker, etc. Consider what you'll do if students are distracted, inattentive, etc. You may want to demonstrate or model procedure, before you turn them loose. You may want students to stand around you while you demonstrate. Maybe your students know about forensics, shows like CSI, etc. You might want to activate their prior knowledge before you instruct them. What's your essential question? Keep coming back to the essential question. Write questions out in advance on 3" X 5" card(s). Save time for summing up. You might want to make up lab sheet (graphic organizer) for students to complete. You might want to have a chart you could put up on a Smart board (if available) or overhead projector. Are you familiar with Social Thinking? If not, you may want to read up on it before your lesson. About your interview: Ask about teacher orientation program, mentor teacher, etc. Ask about what's expected other than teaching. Are you expected to lead extra-curricular activities like coach a sport, chaperone dances, etc.? Find out about teacher evaluation process. Ask if you can have access to your classroom over the summer. You'll want to spend time organizing your classroom this summer. There is usually time set aside at the end of an interview for your questions. If not, it's okay to say, "I have a few questions I'd like to ask." Mandy, good luck with your demo lesson. Think positive thoughts. Let me know what happens. I'm interested. Best wishes, Ruth
  • Profile
    Word Work
    kaarinakaarina
    Can you help me understand what "word work" is? It seems to be a broad term, but I can't wrap my arms around the common theme. Our school has a PD coming about this topic and I can't even define what it is! Thanks for your help. Alli
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Word Work
    Ruth Manna
    Word work in the primary grades means phonemic awareness and phonics. Here are two books to help you: Word Matters by Fountas and Pinnell and Making Words by Patricia Cunningham. In upper elementary grades word work means vocabulary and sometimes spelling.
  • Profile
    Performance assessments
    trechtzigel
    Resently in my grad class, we have been looking at performance assessments. I typically give only a couple of formal performance assessments a year due to the complexity of grading. Meaning it takes me quite awhile to grade their performances, which means I struggle with the fact that there really isn't a lot of immediate or timely feedback for my students. I have set rubrics but I like to add positives, negatives, and suggestions for improvement. But doing this for 75 students is quite difficult. Is there an easier way to score performance assessments that is less time consuming or am I just needing to sit up all night for the few days after the assessment to grade them all? I find that peer evaluations tend to be slanted due to popularity of the student. I could use some advice on how to complete the assessment evaluations without taking so much time.
  • Local_kayak
    Re: Performance assessments
    marbar
    You might also come up with some very short and sweet informal assessments to give your students continuous feedback. If they wait a long time for feedback it isn't as useful.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Performance assessments
    Ruth Manna
    If it were me, I'd spread out the performance assessments, and only give a performance assessment to one class/section at a time. I agree with you that students may evaluate based on popularity, but they can be taught to do otherwise. Maybe they need more direct instructions about rubrics. It might help if the students write the rubrics. They might be more invested in the process of evaluation if they write the rubrics.
  • Profile
    Teaching a first and second grade combo class
    rebecca.marie.taylor
    Hi. I've been teaching second grade for the last--almost--four years and have recently been told that I will be teaching a first-second combo class next year at the small, private school where I love to teach. I would love resources and ideas that would help me do justice to this challenge for the students I'll have next year! I'm not sure where to look though. I've browsed around on the internet, on the websites of our school's math and ELA curriculum companies and have come up with very little. I just figured I'm not looking in the right way or place. Any ideas? :o)
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Teaching a first and second grade combo class
    Ruth Manna
    Three math programs you might want to look at are Envision Math from Scott Foresmann, Investigations from TERC, and Math Expressions from Houghton Mifflin. For reading program check this out: http://teacher.scholastic.com/... AND http://www.heinemann.com/fount...
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Teaching a first and second grade combo class
    Ruth Manna
    Are you teaching guided reading? I think you can make guided reading work with a wide span of beginning to emergent to more fluent readers. I can suggest professional resource books for you if you'd like. For science and social studies, you'll need a 2 year cycle of a range of different units. Math is the trickiest subject. Is there anyone who could come in during math and work with half of your group?
  • Profile
    Classroom Recordings
    KelcieMc
    Hi, I am a new teacher and I would like to record myself reading children's books to use in the listening center in my classroom. Is this legal, or would I be infringing on copyright?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Classroom Recordings
    Ruth Manna
    No, this is fine as long as you are using books for educational purposes and for your own students. If you were to sell CDs that would be a problem. :)
  • Profile
    Reading Specialist Question
    writejulie24
    Hi, Just wondering if anyone knew where you could find a comprehensive list of assessments that reading specialists use to evaluate the students they are working with. I am trying to learn all the varieties of testing like the QRI, IRI, etc... and it would make it easier to learn them all by having it on a chart with the areas the test evaluated (fluency, comprehension, decoding, etc.) for studying purposes. Does anyone know where I can find such a valuable resource? Thanks!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Reading Specialist Question
    Ruth Manna
    Two assessments to begin with are Heinemann Benchmark Assessment kits, which can be used from K-6. Two boxes cover all 26 guided reading levels. Also look at DIBELS test of oral reading fluency and high frequency sight word lists.
  • Profile
    Re: Reading Specialist Question
    writejulie24
    I am currently focusing on the grade levels K-5 right now. Thanks!
  • Profile
    Re: Reading Specialist Question
    writejulie24
    And a list of instructional strategies to help comprehend it all. Thanks!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Reading Specialist Question
    Ruth Manna
    I will look for a chart for you. What grade do you teach? Different assessment tools are used at different ages. Please write back.
  • Profile
    Summer Enrichment Help - Middle School English
    alaurenkeller
    Hi! I have been given the opportunity to do a summer enrichment session for my school focused on middle school grades. There will be three separate sessions consisting of one week each and three hours per day. I want to separate it by grammar enrichment, reading club, and writers workshop. Any suggestions, tips, or assistance would be GREAT! I am also lost on the type of curriculum to use - book/workbook/etc. Thanks in advance to any helpful teachers!! :-)
  • Local_kayak
    Re: Summer Enrichment Help - Middle School English
    marbar
    One part of your writing may be to use Write It which is a free online unit for middle/HS school writers. Your students will get instruction on 6 different genres, publish online, and email or print their work for their friends, family, and teacher. http://teacher.scholastic.com/...
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Summer Enrichment Help - Middle School English
    Ruth Manna
    I like your idea about a reading club. My suggestion would be to gear the three weeks around one or two content areas of interest to middle grade students and then weave the skills into the content. Since you have three hours a day, it works well and you may find students learn more with some reading, writing, and grammar each day. It will be more fun for students if it's geared to content. Maybe the reader's club could be part of each day. Students could meet talk about the book or books they're reading. You could ask them a few comprehension questions or show them something about the book; vocabulary, author's purpose, etc. Then they could have 20 min. to read while you call one or two students at a time for direct instruction. For books, maybe multiple copies of a novel that ties in with your theme. The theme for the three weeks could be as broad as Friendship or more narrow, like Extreme Sports. Look in your school library and see what resources they have. Once you pick a theme you'll be able to choose books and Web sites. Students might enjoy making videos, podcasts, wikis, as projects. Maybe you could go on a field trip? What you want to do is make the three weeks light and fun and not like school, which is why you probably don't want a lot of worksheets and workbooks. If you write to me after you pick a theme, I'll have more ideas for you. You can contact me at ruth.manna@verizon.net. Write Scholastic Helpline in subject line.
  • Profile
    Assessment styles and question types
    trechtzigel
    I'm re-evaluating some of my past assessments that I have given to students. I'm looking at the validity of question styles. Do my questions envoke high ended thinking or simple regurgitation of materials? I want my students to comprehend what they are learing, but also develope confidence by having success with assessments. Do you believe that multiple choice questions can provoke higher ending thinking? Or do most teachers use multiple choice questions for time management when it comes to correcting?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Assessment styles and question types
    Ruth Manna
    Higher order thinking is assessed with open-ended questions and open responses. You'll be able to tell more about what students are thinking with open response questions. They are more difficult to grade and will take you more time. When teachers use multiple choice, it's usually to ask questions that assess literal comprehension of subject matter; names, dates, vocabulary, etc. So, I encourage you to add a few open response questions to your multiple choice tests.
  • Profile
    DIBELS class
    alyle2
    I teach 2nd grade. At our school, K-2 classrooms have a time slot during the day for 25 minutes when the students switch rooms within their grade level to be in a group with other students that have about the same oral reading fluency scores on their DIBELS scores. I meet with the second highest group in our grade level. These students are middle benchmark and already read 90 wpm or higher. Outside of the typical fluency practice lessons (reader's theater, reading poetry, etc.), what are some ideas I can try? The class is getting too stagnant and too predictable. Keep in mind I only have this group of 18 students for 25 minutes a day. The time flies! It makes it hard. Ideas?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: DIBELS class
    Ruth Manna
    Second graders who read at 90 words per min. or better are solid readers. What about a group novel like Judy Moody or Geronimo Stilton or Horrible Harry. Maybe you'd select several possible novels that are readable and let the students in your group vote. You can spend part of the 25 min. reading with them, discussing their reading, facilitating their discussions with one another. To mix it up a little they could read with a partner or read silently and then turn and talk to a partner. Students could keep a journal and take notes or answer or ask questions in their journals. They could use sticky notes to record favorite new vocab. words. There are lots of possibilities and changing and adding elements will keep it from becoming predictable.
  • Profile
    Interview questions
    mxa35
    Tomorrow is my very first interview for a subbing position. How can I prepare myself? What kinds of questions should I expect?
  • Profile
    Re: Interview questions
    trechtzigel
    There are a lot of great web sites out there that help prepare you for interviewing. Read through some and practice your answers outloud- not just in your head. The type of questions will be determined by what level or position you are interviewing for. Also, I would say be prepared to answer the questions: What would you say is your best quality?, What are your strengths? and What areas do you believe you need improvement? From my experience both interviewing and being the interviewee is be care not to over list items for any of these questions. Keep your answers to the point- be personable but not rambling. GOOD LUCK!
  • Profile
    Devil's Arithmetic
    nicchic18
    Do you have any resources and/or ideas for pre-reading activities for "The Devil's Arithmetic"?
  • Profile
    Special Education
    fl1007
    Hi! I am a first year middle school ELA Resource teacher and would like any info (websites, magazines, books, etc.) on how to teach ELA Resource, if possible. I attend a lot of professional development training, none in which explains in depth how to teach ELA Resource. I live in Texas, therefore teach the TEKS. I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Since my students are lower than their current grade level (most which are still at the elementary level), am I allowed to teach the same lessons to all my students, no matter their grade? For example, can I teach my 8th graders what I am teaching my 6th graders since they are all pretty much on the same level? What do you suggest? Thank you!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Special Education
    Ruth Manna
    I can understand your desire to teach the same content to 6th through 8th graders who are all reading below grade level at approximately the same level. It makes planning easier. However, what you teach needs to be tied to the curriculum and content in grades 6-8. Talk with subject area colleagues in grades 6-8, especially in ELA, science, and social studies, so you can gear your lessons to their content, but on a reading level that matches your students' reading skills. For example 8th graders may study U.S. History and cell biology, while 6th graders may study Texas History and Geology. The new Common Core State Standards (don't know if Texas has adopted CCSS) have appendices that refer to teaching ELA while teaching science and social studies. Check out these documents. Regular ed. colleagues who teach science and social studies can give you ideas and suggestions. You'll need to connect with them at least weekly, if not daily, and plan together for all students. If you can, spend time in their regular ed. classrooms with your students. You'll get a sense for what's happening with more age-typical students, teachers' expectations, classroom culture, and subject matter content, all of which will help you with your students. Working in a resource room can be isolating for you and stigmatizing for middle school students, so as much as possible work with your colleagues and students in reg. ed. classrooms. If you want more specific help, seek out your mentor, special education supervisor, or building or dist. administrator. Or you can write to me at ruth.manna@verizon.net.
  • Profile
    High School Students-Elelmentary Reading Level
    kengland@goliadisd.org
    I love scholastic --- any ideas on how to help kids who are in high school but only on an elementary reading level? budgets are being cut...
  • R_manna_011
    Re: High School Students-Elelmentary Reading Level
    Ruth Manna
    I'd approach this by gearing it to students' interests. Do they like cars, skateboards, fashion, etc.? Once each student has identified an area of interest, then you'll want to help them find readable material about their interests. Newspapers, magazines, Web sites, video clips, etc. There is a great article in today's NY Times about high school students who engaged in independent projects. Here is a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03... It's entitled "Let Kids Rule the School." Check it out! You'll get ideas! You're going to need to be flexible to get older, struggling readers engaged in the curriculum.
  • Profile
    Intro letter
    nicchic18
    I am beginning a long term sub position as a sixth grade language arts teacher on monday. This will be my first teaching experience other than student teaching. The principal would like me to write an intro letter to the parents and run it by her first. What should I include in this letter?
  • Profile
    Re: Intro letter
    nicchic18
    Thank you so much! Do you think at this point in the year it is important to keep up all the current teachers standing assignments,standards and format or to implement my own?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Intro letter
    Ruth Manna
    Here are things to include in your letter of introduction: a little about where you're from,esp. if you are from the area, college you attended and your college major, where you student-taught, again, this is even more meaningful if it was local, but include anyway. Also include that you're looking forward to working with their children. Say a little about your expectations. If students have regular homework, you may want to set a couple of ground rules for homework and nightly reading. Let parents know you look forward to meeting them in person and invite them to stop by before or after school during the next week so you can meet one another. The tone you want to establish is friendly, welcoming, and warm.
  • Profile
    Ideas to teach!
    Teacher Nan
    Hello! I am a student teacher; and I need ideas to teach vowels and consonants. I am taking a course on the University and the teacher let me a homework for the next week: give a class for children (I can select the age), select one topic and teach with the topic: 4 vowels and 4 consonants. I need ideas and activities for this assessment!! I selected: "Basic Skills - Things that go together", but I am not sure that this topic is correct, can you help me with some ideas please or tell me another topic that I can pick! thank you a lot!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Ideas to teach!
    Ruth Manna
    Look at Word Work by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas. Also Patricia Cunningham's books, Making Words, Making More Words, etc. Scholastic has great books of Word Ladders, which also might work for you. These books will suggest appropriate activities for your students. This sounds like a primary grade classroom with beginning readers, from what you describe. I'd gear my lesson around a short vowel sound. Just a thought.
  • Profile
    Questions on assessment with SRI
    Fmarch01
    I have watched students take the SRI test, and sometimes I am baffled by the score they receive. For example, when a student correctly 29/30 questions correctly or even all questions correctly, the score didn't see to match the performance on the assessment. This occurs with students who may be BR at the first of the year, then take a test at the trimester and their score only moves a little even with the above scenario. Could you answer this for me?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Questions on assessment with SRI
    Ruth Manna
    How much do students practice reading? Are they reading outside of school? Students likely need to increase their reading. About the test, I suggest these links: http://teacher.scholastic.com/... For customer service try this link: http://www.scholastic.com/cust...
  • Profile
    Oil spill
    terriblake
    I am trying to incorporate a nearby oil spill that recently happened into my students fourth grade currriculum. I'm having trouble knowing where and how to start. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
  1. Ideas to Promote Active Engagement in Your Students
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    Subjects:
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    Summary:
    All teachers struggle with keeping students engaged throughout the school day. Attached are some ideas that have been successful in my classroom.
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  2. Report card comments
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    Grade:
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    Subjects:
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    Summary:
    Superb tool to help teachers write their end of year reports
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  1. mbeattie
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