Friday, November 26, 2010

Teachers Create Online
Classroom Wish Lists

According to a 2010 national survey, teachers spend an average of $623 a year out of their own pockets to provide needed supplies, rewards, and other staples for students. Pencils and pens (78%), prizes and incentives (72%), and arts and crafts supplies (72%) top the list of purchases teachers make using their own cash, according to the survey, which was conducted last April by OfficeMax®. [Read the survey.]

Can you think of another profession where “employees” regularly reach into their pockets to provide the necessities needed to do their jobs? Do accountants dip into their wallets for clients? Do engineers purchase supplies required to do their jobs? Educators are among the only professionals who dig deep to into their personal savings for the must-haves of their professions.

And as school districts tighten their budgets, the situation is only going to get worse.


The National Teacher Registry is a new, free, first-of-its-kind service for school teachers. The Registry enables teachers to create an online wish list of items they need and want for their classrooms. Parents and others can access the registry by teacher or school name, purchase items from the list, and have their selections delivered to the classroom.

The Registry operates similar to online wedding or baby shower registries, but the products are all education related. Teachers can create wish lists of office or art supplies, books, educational games, teaching tools, and much more from retailers that include Borders Books, the Teaching Supply Store, and Dick Blick Art Materials.

The Registry was created by MarCole Interactive Systems, which has built bridal and gift registries for large retailers such as Neiman-Marcus, Office Depot, and Target. The site is entirely free to educators. Teachers and parents pay no fees; the site is supported by fees the retailers pay to be part of the Registry.


What better time than right now -- with the holidays fast approaching -- for teachers to create a classroom wish list that parents and others can access?

Or you might create a wish list for your school on the Registry. You can provide a link to it from your school’s Web page so that community supporters might provide needed items.

The Registry even provides checklists, flyers, and letters to parents that you and your staff can use to broadcast news of this practical resource to your wider school community.


Be sure to check out additional ways to raise money for school supplies and activities in Education World’s Fundraising Article Archive.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fun 'Challenges' Engage
Kids, Families in Reading

A couple weeks ago, kids lined the sidewalk in front of a Buckhannon (West Virginia) Academy Elementary School as their teachers raced by in teams of two. Since it was just before Halloween, teachers dressed in football uniforms, pink rubber boots, and toilet paper might not have seemed such an odd sight -- except for the fact the costume-clad educators were pushing each other on office chairs!

The office chair race was actually a reward for students. They earned the goofy high-speed event by reading more than 9,000 books this past summer.

“This was a great activity for the kids,” said Principal Randall Roy, who emceed the race. “They had a great time.” [read more]

Meanwhile, halfway across the country reading specialist Sandy Lambert and Principal Kim Lasanby-Barber dressed as pirates and “walked the plank” as students cheered them on. The pirate-themed celebration was the culminating activity of the fall reading challenge at Lincoln School in Spring Valley, Illinois. Students earned the reward by exceeding the goal of reading for 80,000 minutes. The school’s 200 students read for a total of 196,310 minutes. [read more]


Principals and teachers across the country will do all sorts of crazy things to encourage students to pick up books. Here are just a handful of examples of schools that are in the middle of “reading challenges” as I type.

This week, students at William E. Young School in Homer Glen, Illinois, are involved in a 100,000-minute reading challenge. “If 95 percent of Young Elementary students read 30 minutes a night, that means our school will have read 100,000 minutes total in just one week,” said Principal Michael Szopinski. If students achieve the goal, Szopinski will help get kids in the holiday spirit by donning reindeer antlers and a blinking red reindeer nose during the week of November 29. [read more]

If all goes according to plan, students at Stafford (Texas) Primary School will see their principal, Kim Yen Vu, perched atop a dunking booth next spring. The year-long “Principal’s Reading Challenge” has been going on at Stafford for a few years. Back in 2008, Vu kissed a pig when students reached their goal. This past year, she sat atop a wall -- the school’s marquee -- dressed as Humpty Vu-mpty. This year, teachers and students “aim” to see Principal Vu soaked. [read more]

Students at Bonneville Elementary School in Orem, Utah -- where the school mascot is a bronco -- are enjoying a year-long “Top Bronco” reading challenge. Parents log students’ at-home reading minutes on monthly calendars. The goal is for K-2 students to read 50 hours during the school year and grade 3-6 readers to read 75 hours, explained Principal Shawn Brooks. To keep students motivated, a “half-way-there” banana split party will be held in January to recognize students who have achieved at least half their goal. A special “Double Club” movie party will be held in May for students who read double their goal. [read more]

At West Rocks Middle School in Norwalk, Connecticut, students are taking on the “Read Around the World Reading Challenge.” Students earn “miles” for each book they read on their way to 29,000 miles. To be precise, a trip around Earth is 24,901 miles, but students will be stopping off in -- and learning about -- a variety of the world’s major cities as they travel toward their goal. “As students participate in the Read Around the World Reading Challenge they will receive raffle tickets and become eligible to win prizes,” added Dr. Lynne C. Moore, the school principal. [read more]

At Burr Intermediate School in Commack, New York, the “Burr Reading Challenge” encourages students to make reading a daily habit, and special events help motivate them to read more. For example, during October students wrote book reviews on paper bags supplied by local supermarkets. The “paper bag book reviews” are on display throughout the school this week (American Education Week), and after the week is done they will be donated back to the supermarkets so the bags can be shared with the community. Reading becomes a community event in other ways at Burr. From October 25 to December 3, students are involved in their annual Ronald McDonald House Read-a-Thon. Last year, the read-a-thon raised more than $2000 for the Ronald McDonald House. Students also collected books to donate to a Suffolk County homeless shelter. [read more]

We would love to hear your story of what your school is doing to motivate student reading. Just POST A COMMENT to share your story so that others might benefit from one more idea.


Find more ideas for motivating student reading in these Education World articles:

Principals’ Feats Fuel Fabulous Reading
What would students do to see their principal throw cow chips, spend a night on the roof, or get slimed? It turns out that they will do a great deal -- of reading! Included: From becoming ice cream sundaes to singing songs and kissing pigs, see what principals have done to encourage their students to read.

Principals Make Reading a School-Wide Goal
Students pledge to read thousands of pages… First- and fifth-graders buddy up for reading… Those events and others are part of school-wide reading programs at two Minnesota schools. Included: Additional activities to help make reading a school-wide goal.

Reading Fun
Are you looking for a special project that will excite your students about reading? You have come to the right place! We have gathered together dozens of Education World articles that will turn every week into Book Week at your school.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Backpacks Help Feed Hungry Kids
All Weekend Long

A few years ago, we posted an article about a program that provided some school kids with backpacks of healthful foods to take home on the weekend. The backpacks filled a gap for those students and families by ensuring that kids would show up Monday morning hungry for learning, not for food. [Read the article, For Hungry Kids, Backpacks Lighten the Load].

Back in 2007, backpack programs like the ones described in that article dotted the landscape of U.S. schools. Since that article first appeared, though, the number of programs has grown by truckloads. Witness this handful of headlines I’ve spotted in local newspapers in just the past few weeks:

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that 16 million U.S. children live in “food insecure” households [source]. Knowing what we know about our country’s economy, a growing unemployment rate has likely increased that need -- which explains why we’re seeing more and more about backpack programs in local news headlines.

“A backpack program is a natural solution to a need,” says Karrie Denniston, director of programs for Feeding America, a charity dedicated to feeding hungry Americans through a network of more than 200 food banks. “A backpack program is one of those programs that gets to the heart of a need and fills it.”

Whether backpack programs are organized by PTOs, churches, food banks or other groups, they are filling a deep need and helping to improve students health and achievement.

For more information about Feeding America’s backpack efforts, view the video at the bottom of this blog entry. For more information about backpack programs, click the links below.

Backpack Programs
Learn more about Feeding America’s BackPack Program, which is designed to meet the needs of hungry children at times when other resources are not available, such as weekends and school vacations.

For Hungry Kids, Backpacks Lighten the Load
Students who are disruptive, can't concentrate, or lack motivation may not need a firm hand; they might need a helping hand! With the help of communities, the simple remedy is a backpack -- a school standby -- that is filled with food supplies to help kids get the fuel they need to flourish. Included: Advice from successful backpack programs.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Perks for Parent Involvement
Can’t Be a Bad Thing

A new program in Detroit has been making news headlines. The "I'm In" program rewards parents with points for attending workshops and participating in other activities at the District’s eight Parent Resource Centers. The points parents accumulate on their "I'm In" cards can be traded for discounts at local businesses. Read more…

But are bribes really needed to get parents involved in their child’s education? some detractors ask. That involvement is part of being a parent and raising a child, they say. Knowing you are actively involved should be enough of a reward.

Besides, they add, everyone knows that incentives don’t work.

Those detractors make good points, but anyone who has taught in or led a school with a large population of poor, immigrant, or minority families would not be so quick to judge. Educators in those schools know the hurdles that poor families face, and they bend over backwards to include those families in school activities and to support them in other ways.

They know what the research says, too: When parents are involved in their children’s education, those kids have higher grades and standardized test scores, improved behavior, and better social skills.

Plus, any program that is able to actively engage local businesses with area schools is a win-win for the entire community.
     > > > > Scroll down the page for links to
                   dozens of parent involvement ideas
So why wouldn’t schools want to offer incentives to get hard-to-reach parents involved? Offering incentives can make a difference by showing those parents that schools care enough to go the extra mile. There’s nothing wrong with giving a little incentive to get parents to show up. Doing that can go a long way toward increasing parents' comfort levels and eliminating negative feelings they might have toward schools in general or their own abilities to help their children achieve.

And who knows? A few of those parents might even decide to stay involved. Then schools can urge those parents to bring others along.


Let's give Detroit credit for trying to turnaround their schools and trying a few experiments to get parents and others involved in that effort. The video below, produced by the district, is one more piece of its "I'm In" campaign, which is intent on highlighting the district's schools and promoting community engagement.


  • Seventy-Five Ideas to Build Parent Involvement and Support [might require free registration]

  • 68 Parent Involvement Ideas That Really Work [pdf]

  • More Ideas for Parent Involvement


    Parent Involvement in Schools
    Parent involvement in schools is much more than parent conferences and PTOs. These articles from Education World’s archive share practical ways in which schools are involving parents. These strategies are working for others -- and they could work for you.

    Got Three Hours? A School Needs You
    This Education World article shares news of Three for Me, a parent involvement program that can help get parents more involved in your school. Included: Tips for getting dads involved.

    Parent Involvement Checklist
    Does your school do a good job of reaching out to parents? If you can do some more work in this area, these resources from Project Appleseed -- including the Parent Involvement Pledge -- are sure to help.

    Parent Involvement Activities in School Improvement Plans
    This study of Title I schools in the Northwest Region (U.S.) identifies effective and potentially effective parent involvement activities. [pdf]

    Parent Involvement Activities for Transition
    These 20 activities can help involve parents at all levels, but particularly those parents who want to support students as they make the transition to middle or high school. [pdf]