Monday, May 24, 2010

Senior Students Play Active Roll
In Welcoming Newbies

As another school year is winding down, doesn’t it seem a bit strange that so much of your time is being consumed by planning for next year? Chances are you’ve already met the students who will comprise next year’s incoming class. It’s also likely that you have held special events for those students and their parents. You're doing all that to ensure that your students’ -- and their parents' -- transition to their new school goes smoothly.

As you and your staff manage the upcoming transition, I hope you haven’t overlooked one of your school’s most valuable resources: the students who will comprise your senior class. Their energy and enthusiasm -- and their experience -- can go a long way toward to making your school’s “newbies” feel truly welcomed.

The stories below share how three schools are making use of their “seniors” as ambassadors and mentors to new schoolmates.


At Perry Hall (Maryland) High School, students in next year’s senior class are busy planning special events for the incoming freshmen. Those events aim to make new students feel welcomed and help them over the typical transition hurdles and angst. Students at both ends of the school seniority totem poll make connections by playing beach volleyball and engaging in other activities.

As the video above attests, the oldest students in your school can be among the biggest cheerleaders for new students. Their enthusiasm for special “Senior Reach Out” events can go a long way in making the “newbies” on the block feel part of the school fabric.

If you have a moment, take time to enjoy the students’ second Senior Reach Out promotional video: Senior Reach Out #2. These student-produced videos, which are shown on the school TV station to promote participation in Senior Reach Out events, are part goofy but entirely engaging -- right down to the Beatle’s “Come Together” soundtrack.


At South Central High School in Winterville, North Carolina, the school’s oldest students play an active roll in teaching new students shortcuts to success. Thanks to the school's “Link Crew,” new students are made to feel comfortable throughout their first year of high school.

Link Crew is a national effort, a student orientation and transition program that originated on the West Coast. Among this year’s Top 100 High Schools (Newsweek), seven of the schools use Link Crew to connect students and create a positive school climate.

Link Crew’s student members commit to an ongoing relationship with the freshmen class. Leaders and their groups meet throughout the year to address challenges that new students are encountering.

“It’s all about building relationships,” Amy Hilliard, the teacher who heads South Central's Link Crew program, told the Daily Reflector. “It's not just over after Thursday. It's a yearlong program.” [read the article]


Each fall, the senior class at all-girls St. Joseph High School in Brooklyn, New York, plans a very special breakfast. Each new student in the school’s freshman class is assigned a senior “sister.” On breakfast day, seniors and their sisters give up a first-period class for some bonding and fun over pancakes and eggs.

The seniors help make breakfast day extra special by providing small gifts for their sisters. Mentoring relationships formed that day between “sisters” comprise a long-standing tradition at St. Joseph’s.

One freshman provided her input on the breakfast for an article in the school newspaper. “I think the breakfast was a nice experience,” she said, “but the food could have been better.” [read the article]


Education World Article Archive: Transitions

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cool School Tool #4:
Mouse Mischief Gives
Teachers Immediate Feedback

Have you had a chance to check out Microsoft’s new Mouse Mischief tool? This new freebie from Microsoft is an easy way to engage students and give teachers immediate feedback about how their lessons are going.

You’ve probably seen demonstrations of Classroom Response Systems (CRS) click-response tools that teachers can use to create multiple-choice questions. Students use their individual clickers to respond and teachers receive immediate feedback about how students are grasping the content. Microsoft’s Mouse Mischief mimics those CRS tools, but what makes Mouse Mischief so cool is that it is a free download. Instead of clickers, individual students use a mouse (wireless, or connected to the teacher’s computer via a USB hub/port) to respond to the teacher’s questions. Mouse Mischief is an inexpensive and easy way to engage students -- even shy students who are usually hesitant to participate in classroom activities.

In order to set up Mouse Mischief, all teachers need is a computer, a projector, and Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 or Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007. Downloading Mouse Mischief automatically installs a new tab -- the Multiple-Mouse tab -- at the top of the PowerPoint page. Teachers can click that tab to follow an easy step-by-step process for creating yes/no or multiple-choice (up to ten choices) questions.

Using Mouse Mischief enables teachers to see how their lessons are going. If the results of a question indicate many students are not grasping a new concept, teachers can re-teach or adapt the lesson to ensure students' success.


Are you interested in learning more about this new free tool from Microsoft? The two video links below will give you a better understanding of why Mouse Mischief is so valuable and how easy it is to install and use.

Mouse Mischief: Sultan School District Case Study
Learn how one California school district has adopted the Microsoft Mouse Mischief tool. They have found the tool to be inexpensive and easy for teachers to use. Best of all, it requires little or no tech support.

Microsoft Mouse Mischief Demo
A teacher created this video that provides step-by-step instructions for creating multiple-choice questions using Mouse Mischief. Learn to create questions to be answered by individual students or teams of students.


These resources from Microsoft help familiarize educators with the capabilities of Mouse Mischief.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Get Kids Moving During Fitness Month

At a time when many school districts are paring back physical education programs, some others are realizing the true value of physical activity and beefing up PE. Including physical activity as a vital part of the curriculum and the school day has led to improved morale and increased student achievement, they say.


At Naperville (Illinois) Central High School, the first class of the students’ day is gym class. That scheduling decision was made five years ago as part of an effort to “jumpstart students’ brains,” according to Paul Zientarski, chairman of the school’s PE department.

And the results have been astounding. Students are now reading 1-1/2 years above grade level, and math scores have shot up exponentially.

Those results don’t surprise Dr. Charles Hillman of the University of Illinois. His research shows that after 30 minutes on the treadmill, students actually do as much as 10 percent better at problem solving.

“Exercise is good for attention, it’s good for how fast individuals process information and how they perform on cognitive tasks,” Hillman recently told ABC News [read the article and view a video].

When students exercise first thing, “all their brain cells are working,” added John Ratey, an associate clinical professor at Harvard University. “And when their brain cells work, they pour out neuro transmitters, and they also pour out these brain growth factors which help our brain cells knit together.”


At Sunray (Florida) Elementary School, Principal Lee-Anne Yerkey and PE coach Scott Carlson thought a fitness room might generate student interest in exercise.

By all measures, it has done that and more.

With careful instruction from Carlson and plenty of pictures showing proper use of the equipment, kindergarten through second graders exercise their upper and lower bodies and their cores while listening to music. Third- to fifth-graders do circuit training, work out with weights, and do 20 minutes of cardio exercises. All students keep fitness logs to record their progress.

Students can see the benefits, says Carlson. And that could be the key to providing students with activities and skills they will use to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives, he added.

“They [students] are so enthusiastic. They get off the bus and say, ‘I have fitness lab today!’ -- and that makes my day!” Carlson told Education World [read the article, Students Pumped Up Over Fitness Rooms].


Physical activity isn't just for PE teachers. It's a tool that any teacher can use to help focus students and boost achievement, says Martha Swirzinski, a movement educator whose company, Movement Plus+, trains educators how to incorporate activity into their classrooms.

“Eighty-five percent of students are kinesthetic learners, which means they learn better when things are hands-on,” Swirzinski told the Newport News Daily Press [read the article].

“When children sit for longer than 10 minutes, oxygen and glucose are pulled from the brain," added Swirzinski. "When that happens, after a certain amount of time the brain gets sleepy and basically turns off. By incorporating movement into classroom lessons, you can help those students who may have a harder time focusing.”

Incorporating movement increases students’ abilities to function at a higher level and retain more information, she added.

The biggest challenge that Swirzinski and many other movement educators face is convincing district leaders and teachers that increasing the amount of time students spend in motion will benefit them academically too. Bigger than any other barrier is the belief that movement is just for fun and isn’t as important as other instruction.

“Changing attitudes is the most challenging part,” says Swirzinski. “Movement isn’t just a way to get energy out and have fun. The body helps train the brain how to learn, and it helps keep our kids healthy.”


Education World PE and Health Subject Center

Education World Physical Education Article Archive

Monday, May 3, 2010

PTA Recognizes Outstanding
Family-School Partnerships

Last week, the National PTA recognized seven schools with it annual Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnerships Awards. The awards recognize school PTAs that put strong practices into place to involve parents and families into the lives of their schools.

This year’s Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award went to Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia. Barrett’s PTA will use the award’s $2,000 cash prize to expand Roving Readers, its school-wide literacy program. Roving Readers is a diverse group of parents and neighbors who serve as guest readers and storytellers in the school.

“We are thrilled that our PTA was recognized with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership award,” said Principal Terry Bratt. “Our parent group has been an extremely supportive partner and has provided us with a number of resources through its fundraising efforts…. There is no doubt that our students want to come to school every day because of the activities and programs we have in place.”

Six runners-up represent outstanding efforts in implementing each of the PTA’s six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Those standards, and the schools that were recognized, are
● Standard 1: Welcoming all families into the school community
   Chattachhoochee High School, Alpharetta, Georgia;
● Standard 2: Communicating effectively
   Olivewood Elementary School, Lake Forest, California
● Standard 3: Supporting student success
   Chapel Trail Elementary School, Pembroke Pines, Florida
● Standard 4: Speaking up for every child
   Seven Oaks Elementary School, Eagle, Idaho
● Standard 5: Sharing power
   Harmony Elementary School, Goshen, Kentucky
● Standard 6: Collaborating with the community
   Northeast Elementary School, Evergreen Park, Illinois


The research is clear and convincing: Regardless of income or background, when parents are involved, students are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, graduate, and go on to postsecondary education. Here are 10 more truths about parent involvement from the National PTA.

1. All parents have hopes and goals for their children.

2. Parents differ in their abilities and/or resources to help their children
    reach those goals.

3. The parent is the central contributor to a child’s education.

4. Parent involvement must be seen as a legitimate element of education
    and deserves equal emphasis with elements such as school
    improvement and evaluation.

5. Parent involvement is an ongoing process, not a series of events.

6. Parent involvement requires a shared vision, policy, and
    framework for planning programs and practices that are
    connected to student learning.

7. Many barriers to parent involvement are found within school
    practices, attitudes, and assumptions.

8. Successful parent involvement programs help families guide their
    children’s learning from preschool through high school.

9. Families from diverse backgrounds have their own set of norms
    and experiences that often influence their relationship with

10. Parents are more likely to become involved when they understand
      that they should be involved; they feel capable of making a
      contribution; and they feel invited by the school and their


Family-School Partnerships
When families, schools, and communities work together, student achievement improves, teacher morale rises, communication increases, and family, school, and community connections multiply.

PTA National Standards Implementation Guide
This guide serves as a tool for empowering people to work together with an end goal of building family-school partnerships and student success.

PTA Great Idea Bank
This social network enables parents to interact and learn from each other how to overcome the challenges of parenting today.


Parent Involvement in Schools
Learn about practical ways in which schools are involving parents. Read about parent involvement strategies that are working for others -- and that could work for you.

Partners for Student Success
Many schools or districts are taking unique approaches to bringing together schools with their parents and community to help ensure student achievement. Articles in this series are based on the work of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University.

Fundraising Ideas for Schools
The articles in this Education World archive share practical fundraising ideas that are working in schools around the world. If you’re looking for fun or creative ideas, check out these from principals in the trenches.

Newsletters 'R Us
Here you will find newsletter templates, clipart, and cut-and-paste features and fillers for your school-to-home newsletters. All of our Newsletters 'R Us features are free to copy and paste in your school pubs or on your school Web site.