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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
    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.
  • Local_kayak
    Re: Oil spill
    marbar
    For a writing exercise I would use Google images or other images and have your children use descriptive language in a poster, letter to the editor, diary, or poetry lesson. If you did a lesson on ocean currents you could have your kids map out where a spill might travel if it started at point A. What countries would be impacted, what animals.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Oil spill
    Ruth Manna
    There are great resources, many deal with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Go to theteacherlist.ca and search. Also check youtube. There are oil spill images while Glee chorus sings Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Try edutopia.org for more ideas, esp. project based learning. Edutopia has units about the Gulf oil spill.
  • Profile
    Rubrics and classroom assessment practices
    trechtzigel
    I am a current JH Spanish teacher working on my Master's degree. The class that I am currently enrolled in is on the aspects of classroom assessments and practices. Throughout the class we will be working on building a rubric for a unit that we currently are teaching. I have used rubrics but only pre-made from the textbook that I use in class and only for specific oral and written projects. I've somewhat looked on-line for guidance in creating my rubric but am finding myself frustrated. Can anyone give me some advice or insight as to a site to help me or even some suggestions on what possibly would be a must have in my rubric? The unit I am looking at using is on conjugating verbs. Any advice or help is welcomed.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Rubrics and classroom assessment practices
    Ruth Manna
    It's not too hard to design your own rubric in Word or Excel. You want to think about what it is you want students to know, do, etc. Maybe in your case it's a short list of a few verbs you want students to conjugate. Jot down four or five verbs or understandings you are looking for. Then set up a 4 point scale on which to rate each student. You can do it!
  • Profile
    Classroom climate
    B.E
    Hello I'm a student studying to be a teacher and I had a few questions. For one of my classes I need to ask a couple of teachers about the classroom climate. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions. Thank you. * Can you help me distinguish between a welcoming and engaging climate for learning? * As a future teacher what are some ways I can foster engagement? * Can you give me some examples of ways in which I can attempt to connect with my future students? Thank you again.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Classroom climate
    Ruth Manna
    Engagement means the students are with you, buy into what you are teaching, and are paying attention. Here are a few ways to foster engagement: good eye contact change inflection in your voice stand straight and tall move around the room assertive tone of voice in low register, assertive is not mean. It helps to start a lesson with something to get students interested in the lesson. It might be a brain teaser, word problem, interesting vocab word, science experiment, read-aloud, etc. Technology like smartboard or overhead will help you get their attention. You want to capture their attention, then you have to hold their attention by the way you present yourself.
  • Profile
    Mrs. Stine
    rasmusnicole
    I am trying to find a poem about a substitute teacher named Mrs. Stine. I have been unable to find it in the book wizard and I thought that Jack Prelusky was the author but now I am unsure. Do you have any suggestions of where I might look next?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Mrs. Stine
    Ruth Manna
    Here's how you spell it: Mrs. Stein The poet is Bill Dodds You can find the full text online.
  • Profile
    Special Needs Students
    mrsbaker23
    I am a first year teacher teaching at a very small private school. I was originally a Secondary Ed History major in college and had to take a job teaching a contained 6th grade classroom. The biggest challenge I've had are the 3 special needs students in my class. One, in particular, suffers from seizures, migraines, a stomach ulcer, and learning disabilities as a result. He has missed quite a bit of school and has fallen behind. I'm meeting with the aide that will be pulling him out to catch him up, and I'm not even sure what to have him complete. His comprehension is low, and I'm not sure how to get him to catch up. Any suggestions?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Special Needs Students
    Ruth Manna
    Start with reassessing this student. What assessment tools do you have? Based on his performance on assessments create an action plan for his tutor/aide and a weekly list or outline for the tutor to follow. Since you are teaching in a private school, you aren't responsible for teaching to state standards. Standards will guide you as to what typical students can accomplish in sixth grade. However you're going to need to teach him where he is now, so ask lower grade teachers if you can borrow books and materials for this student. Meet with his parents and see if you can get their cooperation. Make sure they are helping out with nightly practice/homework, listening to him read, and reading aloud to him. Screen time should be limited to two hours a day.
  • Profile
    EFL Teacher in Korea
    ashleyagaines
    I'm a new teacher. I graduated in 2009 and have been teaching English at an international school in Seoul. I just got asked to build our curriculum to a higher standard and being the lead teacher. In this process I have to build our staff with developing lesson plans, a yearly plan, student portfolios, student assessments, and honestly I have no idea where to start. Could you give me some ideas in how to be more effective? Right now I'm kind of lost :)
  • Local_kayak
    Re: EFL Teacher in Korea
    marbar
    If you are a new teacher and they are asking you to do all of that I have serious questions about that school. Sounds like a fly-by-night operation to me.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: EFL Teacher in Korea
    Ruth Manna
    Start by selecting assessment tools. Make sure teachers understand how to use tools, administer, score, and analyze the results. Set up an assessment schedule, for three times a year, at least, for students achieving on grade level and more frequently for students who struggle. In the first year, concentrate on one subject. Reading is a good place to start. Have data meetings after school to discuss how students perform on assessments. Look for patterns of strength and weakness and plan next instructional steps based on data. Differentiate instruction based on student needs. I'm making this sound a lot easier than it is in fact. If you write back with more questions, I'll offer more specifics.
  • Profile
    grades 2 and 3 teacher
    deb.5
    One of my reading groups consists of a group that has just completed Stone Fox. The other books they have read are The Hundred Dresses, Molly's Pilgrim, and Donovan's Word Jar. We have discussed each chapter in some depth, had vocabulary words and spelling words, and written summaries of each chapter, resulting in an end of the book summary. Does anyone have suggestions for more books for this group who read levels N-P? I also need some TM materials that I can use as well? Thanks for the help!!
  • Local_kayak
    Re: grades 2 and 3 teacher
    marbar
    If you want a great character analysis unit that your kids will enjoy with any of the books you mention, go to Character Scrapbook in Scholastic.com. http://teacher.scholastic.com/... Be sure to read the teacher guide to get full use of the site.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: grades 2 and 3 teacher
    Ruth Manna
    Try the Book Wizard here on scholastic.com http://bookwizard.scholastic.c... There are many ways to search and you'll find one that works for your students.
  • Profile
    Student Teacher
    espanateacher
    I just found out that I will have a student teacher in my room on Monday. The university that I am working did not have many requirements or guidelines for the student teacher or myself. Can you point me in the direction of some good advice or resources?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Student Teacher
    Ruth Manna
    A student teacher has a supervisor who works for the university and will likely meet with you soon. The Supervisor will visit and observe throughout the weeks you have a student teacher and will ask for your input. You will probably have three-way meetings. Your student teacher will be able to give this information when she arrives. If not, ask her to find out and give you the supervisor's email address of so you can write to her, introduce yourself, and invite her to visit. Ask colleagues who have had student teachers in the past for their advice. Having a student teacher can be a wonderful experience, because you'll have opportunities to watch her work with your students which can be affirming and enlightening.
  • Profile
    Helping Parents Understand Just Right Books
    MissBelmonte
    I am a 3rd grade teacher who has been teaching for 4 years. During my first few years of teaching, I did not see a problem with my students reading books like Harry Potter and The Lightning Thief. Over the past year or so, through professional development and discussions with colleagues, I have come to see that reading higher level books like this (F&P Level V and S) are not just right for just about any third grader, with very few exceptions. Many of my higher readers (F&P Level O & P, according to DRA and Teacher's College assessments) are eager to read books like this. When I tell them that they should only be reading these books with their parents, many parents respond by saying that I am not challenging their child, or they do not agree with the leveling system. They also feel that the child can handle the book. I believe that many factors at play; the child is a good decoder, comprehension is aided by prior knowledge from seeing the movie, and so on. I am struggling with how to explain this to parents who have little background about the leveling systems and Reading Workshop, and I am often second guessing myself--maybe the child is advanced enough and I am putting too much faith in an assessment, rather than whole picture. HELP! I have tried having conferences with the readers to discuss just right books, sharing leveled lists with the parents, and teaching parents about the Book Wizard on scholastic.com. If you have any other ideas or resources that can help me, I would greatly appreciate it!
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Helping Parents Understand Just Right Books
    Ruth Manna
    Just because a student can decode and comprehend a book doesn't make the book "just right." He may not be emotionally/developmentally ready to handle the content. Books with animals as main characters or nonfiction books about science or social studies work well for advanced, younger readers. This may be a good compromise when parents are pushing a child to read beyond his level of maturity.
  • Profile
    Leaving a teaching job
    jnr039
    Hello, This is my first year as a teacher and I teach in a charter school. There are so many reasons why I plan on leaving the school next year, the biggest one being the lack of knowledge that the principal has and the unprofessionalism of the administration as a whole. There are are four other teachers that are trying to leave as well, which is saying a lot for our small school. That's putting it mildly. I know that in applying for a new job, they will need letters of recommendation. Using my principal is not an option, not because of anything I've done but because I don't think she will write me a letter if I'm leaving. She's very unprofessional. She also has not fully observed me or any of the other new teachers this year at all. My question is, what do I do in this situation? I have a co-worker that will write one of my letters.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Leaving a teaching job
    Ruth Manna
    Here's my email. ruth.manna@verizon.net Write me and I'll have more ideas. Characters are limited here. Yes, a recommendation from a colleague is a good idea, but you will still need one from a supervisor. What about your supervising teacher when you student-taught? Have you had other jobs, part-time or summer jobs? You will want to have three recommendations. Offer to teacher a demo lesson when you are interviewed. This is becoming common practice and will give you a chance to show your skills. From your description of your current school, your decision to leave is a wise one. Life is too short to be miserable. You need a school where you can grow and flourish.
  • Profile
    Scheduling for Special Educaton teachers
    bvandermallie
    I am having a very challenging time scheduling my three aides plus my services to the 17 students that I have responsibility for. There are soooo many constraints; such as the time the students are available, my time, the aides time, the regular ed classroom schedules etc. Is there any really helpful computer software that can be used???
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Scheduling for Special Educaton teachers
    Ruth Manna
    Have you tried an Excel spreadsheet? That's what I use for scheduling. It allows me to reorganize endlessly. I will look for online scheduling software for you, but try Excel.
  • Profile
    special ed demo
    prncespms
    I am going for my first demo lesson in a special ed class containing a handful of students. I was only told that the lesson had to be math or ELA, contain differentiated instruction and should be geared towards verbal but language impaired and MR students. Does anyone know where I would even begin?
  • Profile
    Re: special ed demo
    prncespms
    The students are in 5th grade but I am sure they are not functioning at the typical 5th grade student level.
  • Profile
    "Mean Girl" with Angry Parent
    kinder.teacher
    I have 16 years in education; this is my 3rd year teaching kinder. I am used to the drama from my girls, but this year it is worse. I have a 6 year old who in our Title I school wears all name brands and a Coach backpack. I had moms telling me their daughter was crying because she wants to wear new shoes everyday like this girl, or she wasn't as pretty as this girl, many tears because the other girl would not let others play with them, and 7 or so girls have cried because they are not "popular" like this girl. As in years past: I spoke with all the parents at the 6 week conferences no blame or mentioning names and discussed ways to calm the drama. I held whole group and one to one discussions, and most of the drama ended or was worked out with a quick “Do you have any ideas about how you girls can work this out?”…with the exception of one. I spoke with the girl who has been instigating many times, as have many other teachers (in P.E., cafeteria duty, recess duty, and art). I finally called the mother to set up a time to meet, and it turned into 25 minutes of her yelling in my ear and calling every other child in the class names like “cry baby, or liar” telling me that I don’t know what I’m doing, and ended with her saying “I can’t help it if the other kids don’t have a good enough self esteem to handle my daughter.” She pulled her daughter out of school and went to the office. My principal said she was really friendly and just wanted to do what she could to help. Verdict: all the girls are going to the counselor together, and the principal will be speaking with them. I was told this girl is not going to change and the other girls just need to learn to deal with it. I was not backed up. My principal just agreed that I didn’t know what I was doing and that they, along with this mother would “help me.” I am hurt and insulted. The girl’s mother then called the kinder aide to say that her daughter was being picked on by ME and the school was going to fix that.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: "Mean Girl" with Angry Parent
    Ruth Manna
    It sounds like difficult mother and obnoxious daughter have a lot in common. Given how her mother behaved, it's not surprising the daughter can't get along with classmates. Your principal did not support you and that hurts. As tough as it is, try to put this incident to one side and move on. If things don't improve and you continue to feel you are being treated unfairly, consider looking for a new teaching position. Life is too short to be miserable.
  • Profile
    The topic of slavery and social dynamics
    spendergrass12
    I am working on an assignment for my multicultural education course, and would like some input from a teacher's perspective. Does the introduction of slavery as a topic into the classroom affect how children interact with one another?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: The topic of slavery and social dynamics
    Ruth Manna
    What's most important is the quality of the relationship you have with your students. If you have created a classroom with a strong sense of community where each individual is valued for his/her unique strengths and contributions, then it should be possible to discuss controversial subjects without causing social problems. At the beginning of the year I talk about multiple intelligences which leads to great conversation about gifts and talents and an appreciation of individuals and their contributions.
  • Tbts_wise_guys_logo3
    Re: The topic of slavery and social dynamics
    wiseguys1
    I guess it would probably depend on the grade level. It would also depend on how you began the school year with the students. I make sure to start the year off doing an activity called "Circle of Our Multicultural Selves" in which we openly discuss differences that all of us have including skin color. If your class has background in this area, then I think they can handle the topic of slavery. It is necessary to talk about this topic so the students of today can learn from America's past mistakes.
  • Profile
    Interactive Web Sites
    Molly1989
    As a student attending Lansing Community College, I am currently working on an assignment about Science education in elementary grades. In my research for interactive websites, I discovered the Scholastic Website. If I may borrow a few minutes of your time, I have a question for you. How are Science interactive activities beneficial for elementary students? Thank you
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Interactive Web Sites
    Ruth Manna
    Science needs to be hands-on to be effective and engaging for students. Although there are websites where students play games like the Salmon Challenge, http://your.kingcounty.gov/dnr... but that's not the same as raising salmon fry in a classroom. Or students can dissect an owl pellet, http://www.kidwings.com/owlpel... But that's not as interesting as dissecting a real owl pellet. When thinking about interaction and science, the chance to work with real materials and a lab partner far outweigh a virtual experience or game.
  • Profile
    Survey for Thesis
    cami14
    Dear Fellow Teachers, I am completing my Master thesis, I am doing a survey to collect some data regarding teachers' perception of the effectiveness of bilingual ed vs. esl immersion. If you are a bilingual teacheror ESL teacher or both or simply a teacher who has an opinion regarding those programs, please I'd really appreciate it if you could participate in my survey. If you are interested in participating, please contact me at cacceus14@yahoo.com in order to obtain the survey form. I thank you for your time and consideration.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Survey for Thesis
    Ruth Manna
    This is a very controversial subject. There's a great deal of literature about bilingual vs. ESL immersion, a hot topic that has been discussed and argued about for many years. I am not an ESL teacher but I have had non-English speaking students in my class. They have spoken Spanish, Greek, or Japanese as a first language. I didn't have a choice as ESL immersion was all that was available to my students. However my personal bias is toward bilingual education. It just seems a more fair, humane way to teach English.
  • 5385111217-64626667
    kindergarten teachers training
    Mrs.Rabab
    I want to know about learning centers in kindergarten. my pH.D Objective is about "training kindergarten teachers to use learning centers in the classroom" ,so please can you help me to know What are the topics that must be contained in the training? thank you . please can you help me about this . thank you
  • 5385111217-64626667
    Re: kindergarten teachers training
    Mrs.Rabab
    thank you for helping me. so please If you have a content for teacher training in kindergarten can you send it to me. and i have Questionnaire for teachers can i send it to you to revise it for me. than you again rabab
  • R_manna_011
    Re: kindergarten teachers training
    Ruth Manna
    If you are going to work with kindergarten teachers and train them to use learning centers you'll want to consider: What's the purpose of the center? (literacy? math? science?) How will you organize the space? what furniture will you need? How many students will be able to work at this center at any one time? What materials will be needed? How will materials be stored? How much time will students spend at this center? Will students visit just onece or multiple times? How will teacher teach students to use the center? Will the center have rules for use of materials and appropriate behavior? How will teacher evaluate the effectiveness of the center?
  • Profile
    Early Intervention
    NYC2010
    I recently got an additional NYS certification, Students with Disabilities Birth-2 Grade. Someone told me they heard with this certification, you can become an Early Intervention ABA teacher doing home instruction, you just need 20 hours of observation and to take a test. Does this sound right? I can't find anything online.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: Early Intervention
    Ruth Manna
    Here's what I'd do: Contact the Dir. of Pupil Personnel Services (head of special education) for a local school system and find out whether they will be offering ABA training to their teachers and/or paras in the near future. You might be able to pay a few hundred dollars to participate in their training. If they aren't planning any ABA training, ask the Dir. of Pupil Personnel Services for a referral to another dist. training program or for the name of a trainer.
  • Profile
    A Classroom of Moms and Dads
    ashfields
    I teach at a small school. The children have been together since preschool. They order each other around. I'm frequently stating "I will take care of Claire. I'm the adult. I'm the teacher. HELP! How can I guide them to let go of this control?
  • R_manna_011
    Re: A Classroom of Moms and Dads
    Ruth Manna
    Oops! I see these students are no longer in preschool. They've been together since preschool. Still, you need to have a heart-to-heart chat with them and let them know things will be different from now on. You might even set up a reward system as a way to change their behavior. You can be assertive and kind at the same time.
  • R_manna_011
    Re: A Classroom of Moms and Dads
    Ruth Manna
    You need to reclaim your power. Preschoolers certainly are not the adults and they should not feel they are in charge. You are in charge. It is actually scary for students to feel they have that much power. They want you to lead them, no matter whwat they say. You need to think about ways to stop them and correct them kindly, so they learn the teachers are in charge at school.
  1. Ideas to Promote Active Engagement in Your Students
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    Type:
    Activity 
    Grade:
    3-5
    Subjects:
    Interdisciplinary
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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.
    Created by:
    wiseguys1
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  2. Report card comments
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    Type:
    Link/URL 
    Grade:
    3-5
    Subjects:
    Arts, Math, Science, Technology, Foreign Language, Interdisciplinary
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    Summary:
    Superb tool to help teachers write their end of year reports
    Created by:
    duncwilson
    Views:
    95056
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  1. vllozano
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    Location:
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    BARBER VICK VILLAGE ECC 
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  2. kayla.sumner@lcsbonline.org
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  4. reshma.sramkissoon@gmail.com
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  5. Hannah Seabrooks
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    Geographic Profile:
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    Experience:
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