Archive for April, 2011

Writing contest deadline extended!

David Somoza, an elementary school teacher, and Peter Lourie, adventure travel book writer, have teamed up to write the new book Writing to Explore: Discovering Adventure in the Research Paper, 3-8. In their book, David and Peter show teachers how to guide students to write interesting, adventurous, well-researched papers that are rooted in real places, supported by facts, and developed with detailed descriptions of images from real locations.

In that spirit, we challenge you to send us your students’ best writing about a state or a place they have lived in, visited, or daydreamed about. When we say “writing,” we mean that any “old” or “new” form of storytelling is acceptable: photo stories, video clips, interviews, poetry, essays, research papers, or even cartoon strips. The important thing is that as we read your students’ work we’ll feel like we’ve been transported to the place they are writing about.

The essays will be judged by David and Peter and the top five submissions will be featured on the Stenhouse Blog.

One winner will receive a library of Stenhouse books of your choice (a $150 value), and the following books by Peter Lourie to start your classroom adventure library (a $180 value): Amazon, Arctic Thaw, First Dive to Shark Dive, Hidden World of the Aztec, Hudson River, The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd, Lost Treasure of the Inca, Lost World of the Anasazi, On Texas Trail of Cabeza de Vaca, On the Trail of Lewis & Clark, On the Trail of Sacagawea, Rio Grande, Tierra Del Fuego, Yukon River.

Send your stories to If you would like to send us a larger file, you can mail a CD or thumb drive to Stenhouse Publishers, Attn: Zsofia McMullin, P.O. Box 11020, Portland, ME 04101-7020.

5 comments April 29th, 2011

Bubble in a bundle!

In the new math books Beyond the Bubble: How to Use Multiple-Choice Tests to Improve Math Instruction Grades 2-3 and Grades 4-5, authors Maryann Wickett and Eunice Hendrix-Martin show teachers that multiple-choice tests can be used to better understand students’ true mathematical knowledge and comprehension.

Each book is divided into five strands — number, measurement, algebra, geometry, and probability — with six problems per strand. Each problem includes an overview of the objective of the test question, a sample question typical of those found on standardized tests, strategies students employ to solve the problem, conversation starters, student work, and instructional strategies to advance students learning.

You can now buy both books in a package and save $6 off the regular price. Head over to the Stenhouse site to preview sample problems from each book.

Add comment April 27th, 2011

Quick Tip Tuesday: Poetry in nature

This week’s Quick Tip comes from Herbert Broda’s 2007 book Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning: Using the Outdoors as an Instructional Tool, K-8. The book just received the Environmental Education Council of Ohio’s Publication Award. The award was presented to Herb at the organization’s annual meeting and is given to a publication that has made a significant contribution to the public understanding of an environmental issue.

The outdoors can serve as both venue and content as students use spoken, written, and visual language. Because the outdoors pulls at the senses, the schoolyard can provide fantastic raw material for description!

The outdoors can provide great inspiration for writing poetry. Because the outdoors stimulates thinking in so many directions, students don’t have a problem fi nding substance for poetry writing. A very effective introduction to poetry is the “See What I Found” formula poem. This is one of those activities that has been around for many years, but I have no idea who may have “invented” it. Although this may not fit a technical description of poetry, it certainly emphasizes the aesthetic qualities of language and coaxes the use of descriptive words. The structure of this five-line poem is very simple:

First line: See what I found?
Second line: (name of object)
Third line: (adjectives and/or descriptive phrase)
Fourth line: (tell where you found it)
Fifth line: (make a comment or question about it)

See what I found?
A butterfly
Flitting and glowing in the sunlight.
It’s resting on a flower.
I wonder how long it will stay?

There are many ways to do this poetry activity. Sometimes I will have students find an object in nature that is no larger than a thumbnail. They bring the object to the outdoor teaching area and write the “See What I Found” poem. They always, then, return the natural items back to the original locations.

Another variation is to have kids take their clipboards or lapboards and find something interesting without removing it from its setting. This can be another one of those activities that can focus on either the macro or micro aspects of the schoolyard. You can have students find a special spot and then write about something no more than 3 feet away from them. Or you can have them sit on the grass and write about something they see in the distance. I really like this option since it does not disturb the environment, and makes it possible to utilize an animal or large object in the poem. It’s also great to see kids enjoying the outdoors, observing and writing.

The previously described Tale of the Tape activity (Chapter 4), in which students generate a listing of adjectives and descriptive phrases for a natural object, makes a wonderful precursor to the “See What I Found” poem. One teacher includes Tale of the Tape as an introduction to the use of the thesaurus.

The schoolyard can provide a magnificent setting for many traditional language arts activities. For example, Pam Tempest takes advantage of the Florida sunshine by frequently taking her students outside for reading. Sometimes she reads a story aloud to students outside and other times the schoolyard is used for sustained silent reading. Sometimes Pam has a small group of students who borrow a quilt and sit outside of her classroom windows on the lawn and read.

An Ohio teacher achieves a change of pace and place by taking students outside to write poetry on the sidewalk with colorful chalk. The novel setting and unconventional writing tools spur the creative juices, with nature often providing a creative writing prompt.

Since the outdoors is so conducive to reading or writing, it is well worth the effort to create an outdoor seating area. As a bonus, an outdoor courtyard or other type of outdoor seating area can also serve as a location for performance. Language arts standards emphasize that students should be able to use spoken, written, and visual language to communicate for different purposes. In the outdoors, those purposes might include describing evidence of an environmental problem found on the school site and then researching the problem, gathering data, and proposing solutions. Or it might include describing one’s own feelings and responses to the outdoors.

Add comment April 26th, 2011

What I Learned at School

“If we want to understand how much teachers are worth, we should remember how much we were formed by our own schooldays,” writes Marie Myung-Ok Lee in a recent editorial in The New York Times. With all of the recent upheaval about state budgets, schools, and what teachers are worth, the author of the article recalls her teachers who made a difference in her life and set her on a path to become a writer.

Read the full editorial here.

We’ve all had teachers like this during our school years, whose impact lasts beyond the classroom walls.  Who was the one teacher who made a difference in your life? Share your story in the comments section and we will randomly select three commenters to receive a free Stenhouse book.

2 comments April 25th, 2011

Poetry Friday: Wash in the Street

This week I picked a poem that appears in Pat Johnson and Katie Keier’s recent book Catching Readers Before They Fall. They use the poem in Chapter 2 to show how our understanding changes as we read. Later in the chapter, Pat shares her thinking as she read the lines. You can still preview the entire book online!

Wash in the Street
Ann Turner

I pass ’em
on my way to school
dumped like wash
in the street:
Gus and Bones and Sleepy

scrunched up on a bench
all their flapdoodle on —
gray, wrinkles socks,
a jacket drabby loos,
hats knit by trembly hands.

Once in a bus station I saw
a woman dressed like an opera,
a red turban on her head.
She sang so loud the pipes
washing her purple feet
in the sink.

And people smile
or not
edge by like they’re a dog
about to shake out all
its wet.

Add comment April 22nd, 2011

History teaching that makes a lasting impact

Traditional fact-based lectures and textbooks often leave students disengaged and uninspired, devoid of lasting learning that can shape their future citizenship and critical thinking. In his new book “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” veteran history teacher Bruce Lesh invites us to move toward a more investigatory approach in which students learn, utilize, and retain the thinking processes of historians as they gain important knowledge of the past.

Lesh presents a series of lessons in American history that serve as exemplars of how to generate historical thinking with students in key areas such as causality, multiple perspectives, empathy, contrasting interpretations, and intent/motivation. Manageable steps and in-the-trenches advice will be welcomed by teachers who want to escape the “confines of coverage” and move from history as memory to a question-centered approach that engages students and teachers alike.

“Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” will be available in print next month, and you can now preview the entire book online! You can also read an article by Bruce published in the OAH Magazine of History by Oxford Journals.

Add comment April 21st, 2011

Can you, like, speak well?

The same skills that we use for public speaking also apply to a wide range of oral communication—interviews, discussions, meetings, and presentations. So why is the teaching of speaking skills often limited to public speaking class?

In this short video, Erik Palmer, author of the new book Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students, explains why speaking skills are so important, both academically and in life, and introduces six essential skills using the mnemonic PVLEGS:

1 comment April 20th, 2011

Snapshots from NCTM

In case you missed the action last week at NCTM, here are a few snapshots of our math authors who spent time at the Stenhouse booth with fans.

Debbie Diller signs a bag for one very happy fan

From the left: Jessica Shumway, math editor Toby Gordon, Anne Collins, and Linda Dacey

Debbie Diller (left) and Jessica Shumway get to know each other

Jessica signs her book Number Sense Routines

Add comment April 19th, 2011

Poetry Friday: In Every Life

Happy April and happy tax day on this beautiful April day! Oh, and happy Poetry Friday!

In Every Life

Alicia Ostriker

In every life there’s a moment or two
when the self disappears, the cruel wound
takes over, and then again
at times we are filled with sky
or with birds or
simply with the sugary tea on the table
said the old woman

I know what you mean said the tulip
about epiphanies
for instance a cloudless April sky
the approach of a butterfly
but as to the disappearing self
I have not yet experienced that

You are creating distinctions
that do not exist in reality
where “self” and “not-self” are like salt
in ocean, cloud in sky
oxygen in fire
said the philosophical dog
under the table scratching his balls

1 comment April 15th, 2011

An introduction to the Zeroing In series

The Zeroing In on Number and Operations series brings together the experience and insights of authors Anne Collins and Linda Dacey into easy-to-use tools for teaching key concepts in number and operations and for addressing common misconceptions. We asked Linda and Anne to introduce the series of flipcharts and share how the books came about and how teachers can make the most of them.

Between us, Linda and I have experience teaching mathematics at all grade levels. When we chat about the way our students talk about mathematics, we notice a general pattern of misconceptions, misuses of terminology, lack of number sense, and—above all—confusion about key concepts. This led us to ask, what are the key concepts and how should we teach them so that these common misconceptions don’t form? We decided to write a series, based on research that could be used by teachers regardless of their district’s adopted curriculum. In developing the Zeroing in on Number and Operations series we examined the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Curriculum Focal Points and the recently developed Common Core State Standards for Mathematics to help classroom teachers as they align lessons to these sources. We targeted grade bands pre-K–K, 1–2, 3–4, 5–6, and 7–8 in such a way that teachers can tailor the mini-lessons and activities to the level of their students. That is, if students need more of a challenge in, say, fourth grade, the teacher may decide to use some of the material from the grades 5–6 flip books; conversely, if a third-grade student needs more intervention, practice, or scaffolding, a teacher may use the grades 1–2 book. Similarly, the forthcoming flip book, The Xs and Whys of Algebra:  Key Ideas and Common Misconceptions, can be used with students in grades 7, 8, or 9.

The Structure of the Flip Books
When you examine the Zeroing in on Number and Operations series you will see that the thirty modules in each resource include a mathematical focus, information on potential challenges and misconceptions, sections on the classroom and meeting individual needs, and references/further reading. As mentioned, the modules will support whichever text or program you use in your classroom. Each of the modules has game cards, problems, or graphic organizers in the appendix for you to reproduce.

As you flip through the Zeroing in on Number and Operations resources you will see plenty of suggestions for modeling specific numeric concepts geometrically or algebraically. For instance, many students may use the five-frame and ten-frame activities from the pre-K–K and grades 1–2 flip books. The strategies for posing problems are appropriate across the grades, and you will find specific problem-posing situations in each grade-level book. Because ratio and proportionality are so heavily emphasized in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, you will find a variety of lessons, activities, and differentiation tips in grades 5–6 and 7–8; you will notice too that the activities increase in sophistication from grades 5–6 to 7–8. Research shows that many students struggle with inverse operations such as subtraction and division, so you will find emphasis on these operations in the grades 3–4 and 5–6 flip books.

Meeting Individual Needs
When my son was in fifth grade, he announced that he did not need to go to school until after Thanksgiving. When pressed to explain why, he stated that all that happened from September through November was a review of what he had learned the previous year, and since he already knew that material it was a waste of time. Unfortunately, many students share my son’s experience, so we made sure that in our “Meeting Individual Needs” section we included challenges for students who need them as well as suggestions for scaffolding material for students who need additional support.

How to Use the Flip Books
We encourage you to have this resource handy on your desk so when you are working on a particular concept or topic and you need an activity, a suggestion to make the topic more engaging, or additional challenges or support for some of your students, you will have these ideas at your fingertips.

Add comment April 13th, 2011

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