Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are You Being the Best You Can Be?

The other day I noticed my neighbor cutting his grass, but my hands were full, I was running to the car, plus his back was turned, so I decided not to attract attention or wave. Two days later I found out he had passed away of a very random heart attack. Typically we'd speak when I saw him outside, and the thought crossed my mind: "Man, I really should have said hello."

I realize this may be a morbid topic. But as the holidays begin to roll around, and our minds are cluttered with the economy, gifts, groceries, ample space for house guests, etc...let's stop and consider how we treated someone today. Are we doing all we can for our students; our neighbors?

It's easy to get caught in the grind. It's easy to think you can't make a difference because you don't have enough money or time. But there are small things that can make big impacts.

  • Invite a neighbor over for lunch or dinner OR organize a neighborhood potluck.
  • Drop off canned goods at your local food pantry OR start a canned food drive at your local church or synagogue.
  • Make and deliver a local church or synagogue member a meal to their home.
  • Do you have a pet? Find a senior center in your area and see if you can take your pet for a seniors visit. Dogs have a wonderful way of cheering people up.
  • Winter is almost in full swing. Have you switched out your clothes from summer to Fall? Take a look and see if you really need that shirt or pair of pants. Could you possibly donate it to so someone in need?
  • Organize a clean up day in your local park or community.
  • Plant flowers for someone or in an area that seems like it needs sprucing up.
  • Repaint a playground.
  • Speak at a career day for your child's school. (we already know how wonderful educators are!)
  • Go to a community meeting and learn about the issues in your city, and any opportunities they may have.

The more you give back, the happier you will be as a human being. The happier you are, the better you will perform in your work and in your life. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Turning Student Work Into a Web Book

Ever wonder what to do with all that art work? Are you looking for a class project to send home to parents? Create your own web flip books. This website has an awesome FREE tool for publishing custom classroom books.

Step 1: You need to have your document(s) as PDF's.  You have a couple of options:

a) Scan in your student's artwork, assignments, stories, etc. and then save them as PDF's.
b) Have your students create their artwork in a program like Paint.  Copy and Paste the work into a Word document.  You can add captions here, just make sure you use large type font. Then save that Word document as a PDF.  Remember where you save the files!

Step 2: Go to the youblisher website and follow the steps.

a) Create an account with username and password - giving them a current email address.
b) Check your email for a welcome letter that will contain a confirmation code. Copy the confirmation code.
c) Log into the youblisher site, paste in that confirmation code.  You are ready to go!

Step 3: Create

a) Click "Add New Publication"
b) Click "Browse" and locate your saved file.
c) Click "Upload"
d) Youblisher will prompt you to title your doc, select language, etc.
e) Youblisher will do the rest. It will say "processing."

You can log in, and click "view publications", "edit," or "delete" any time.  Once you publish a book, you can not go back and add more pages.  You can, however, edit the Title. You can delete or add as many as you like.

When viewing the document, you'll see icons in the right hand corner, that allow you to zoom in, email, save as a PDF, and flip pages (left and right arrows).

Highlight the URL at the top of the page, while you are viewing your publication. Copy that URL and you can share it with whomever you wish to view the document.  If you have a classroom webpage, you can also embed your publication links.

It's a great - paperless - way to showcase student work. It's also a wonderful way to get children motivated to create. So get publishing!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Common SAT Errors Students Make (and How to Avoid Them)

Internet4Classrooms is pleased to feature Miriam Holt  as a guest writer this month as we highlight SAT and ACT Test PreparationMiriam Holt is an Academic Advisor and SAT Tutor for Parliament Tutors in New York City.  Have you decided whether to take the SAT or ACT? Find out what Parliament thinks.

Common SAT Errors Students Make (and How to Avoid Them)

No standardized test is perfect. But anyone who really knows the SAT will tell you that as far as standardized testing goes, it's one of the best.  Why? Because it is very cleverly designed to do exactly what it claims to do: it tests a student's ability to reason.  By reviewing the most common errors students make on the SAT, other students can avoid repeating these mistakes in the future.

The Essay

Writing an off topic essay is the first mistake you can make and it can be a score-killer. Take your time to read and understand the entire prompt.  Spending too long on the intro paragraph and shortchanging the meat of the essay is another common pitfall.  This can be avoided by starting with the body paragraphs and then adding the conclusion and the introduction in their appropriate spots after the body paragraphs are written. Finally, students must learn to budget their time, saving 3 minutes at least to proofread. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are all evaluated by essay readers.

Critical Reading: Sentence Completion

For the critical reading section’s sentence completion questions, students should cover up the answer choices and then read the sentence. Analyze it carefully and make guesses as to what sort of words ought to go in the blanks. Then uncover the answer choices to seek synonyms of those guesses.  The SAT often uses similar sounding words, encouraging over-suggestibility: students see answers that "sound good" and forget to check whether the words fit what is required by the sentence.

The next step is to rate each individual word more consciously. Assign it a plus sign if it works well in its blank. Grade a minus sign if it is certainly not a good choice. Mark a zero if it isn’t clear.  Unfamiliar words get zeros.  Students should only eliminate pairs of words that have one or two negative ratings.

Finally, there is no cure for a weak vocabulary. Students should write down every unfamiliar word encountered on practice tests in order to carefully build a list of words to be learned.  Check out this article for more ways to study for the vocab section(Note: I4C offers a free online SAT/ACT vocabulary testing study guide as well as SAT/ACT math quiz study guides.)

Critical Reading: Passage-Based Questions

Reading too slowly and not understanding the text are the two most important issues students must overcome on the passage-based reading questions. Students should try both of the following methods to find out which works better: 1. Read as though they will be asked to recount the entire passage from memory; 2. Skip the passage and go straight to the questions with line number references in them.

Don’t be fooled by strongly-worded and attractive sounding answers choices. Students should be aware that the correct answer is often moderately worded, while the answer choices with more extreme or black/white wordings--containing words like "never" and "always"--are often incorrect.

Lastly, always consider the tone of the passage.  Try to hear the voice that a reader would use to read the passage aloud.


Students need to practice math skills regularly to be comfortable with the math tested by the SAT and to be able to solve the problems quickly.  Don’t get bogged down by mental lock.  As soon as a student reads a problem, that student should immediately begin writing down any possibly-related formulae or pictures that could illustrate the problem. This will also help avoid making careless errors, like dropping a negative sign or adding instead of multiplying.

An extremely common SAT error on the math section is answering a question that the problem didn’t ask. The test “tricks” students by asking them to find values that are tangentially related to what a normal person would expect the answer to be.  Students should always read the problem twice before beginning to work on it. This is crucial.

Students should remember to check the first page of every math section for useful formulae.  This page includes the Pythagorean Theorem.  The SAT math section LOVES the Pythagorean Theorem.  If it seems to be impossible to find the information a question asks for, it’s probably because a student forgot about this theorem.

Grammar/Writing: Sentence Correction

Students should learn to recognize prepositions and put brackets around prepositional phrases so that they can help themselves zero in on the true subject of the sentence. Confusing the object of a prepositional phrase for the subject of a sentence, and thus choosing the wrong verb (e.g. choosing “None of us are going,” instead of the correct version, “None of us is going.”) is a very common problem on the SAT writing section. 

It is important to become accustomed to requiring parallel structures in sentence construction on the SAT, even when we would not hold such strict requirements for other formal writing.  According to the SAT, this is incorrect: “To call her narrow-minded is like calling water wet,” but this is correct: “Calling her narrow-minded is like calling water wet.”)

Students should make sure that dependent clauses with unspecified subjects are placed adjacent to their subjects in the sentence, e.g. “Carrying an umbrella, Carol didn’t mind the rain,” instead of “Carrying an umbrella, the rain didn’t bother Carol.”  Technically, the second implies that the rain was carrying an umbrella.

Students should be clear on pronoun case and should learn the difference between a subject and a direct object. Resist the temptation to match words like “someone,” “anyone,” or “everyone” with pronouns like “they” and “them,” because plural pronouns cannot substitute for singular nouns.  Instead, the student must choose singular pronouns such as “him,” “her,” “he,” “she,” and “one.”


In conjunction with Miriam's helpful tips, take advantage of Internet4Classrooms SAT/ACT Free Study Guide.  We offer free online vocabulary quizzes on 5,000 SAT and ACT vocabulary words and over 1,000 math problems and quizzes. Students and their mentors will receive reports on their grades, progress, and daily activities. Retake the tests until you master every question. As an added bonus:

  • Students achieving 100% mastery of at least 25 vocabulary quizzes and 25 math quizzes per month on the Internet4Classrooms website are automatically entered to win a $100 scholarship.
  • A $200 grant will be given each month to the school with the highest ratio of correct quizzes per student.
Sign up today!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remembering 9/11 In The Classroom

No matter where we live, we can all relate and remember where we were and what we were doing on the shocking day forever known as 9/11. As educators and parents of today, we are faced with the task of explaining these events to some children who may not have even been born yet. 

There is a lot of information online. I4C has put together it's own September 11th page of classroom resources. You can find timelines, history, coloring sheets, 9/11 lesson plans, and more

We hope you find them helpful when exploring the tragedies and history of September 11th. If you have links to pages that you can suggest, please email us! We would love to hear from you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Internet Restrictions At Work

USA Today recently published an article by Greg Toppo titled, "Web restrictions draw ire of some educators," about putting limitations and even bans on some school computer accessibility.  It's understandable, especially these days, how some sites are obviously inappropriate for school and home. But banning teachers from Google images and National Geographic? Are we going too far? What about prohibiting teachers from being on social networking sites like Facebook, or accessing personal email?

I will admit, I did find it somewhat uncomfortable when I heard  my friend tell me how she can see her child's teacher's Facebook page. I'm not sure how I'd feel knowing what my teacher did the night before she came to class. That being said, like Greg Toppo has written in this piece, the Internet is not going away. Children should be taught how to safely use the worldwide Web. They need to be made aware of the pros and cons of having social network accounts. They need to be taught that just because it's on the Internet doesn't necessarily make it true. And they need to be given the tools to know how to fact check. But it's got to be a joint effort between parents and educators alike.

It can be frustrating, feeling like we have enough resource limitations as it is, now we can't visit a web page we want. I'm not sure what the solution is, but again we are reminded of how technology truly does change the way we educate and live.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Starting Off On A Good Note

We've all thought about it once or twice, especially now that it's August. You're thinking, man, in a couple of weeks it's back to the grind and back to the classroom. And you may have let out a sigh or groan as you thought it. No one likes ending a summer vacation! But it's also nice to get back to the smell of new pencils and paper. You're getting your lesson plans organized and outlined. You're getting to your classroom and setting up your room just the way you want it. You've got the seat assignments all mapped out. Your bulletin boards are being created with love. Workstations, centers, and computer stations are being cleaned with pride. You know how you are going to greet your new students. You know how you are going to explain the classroom procedures and rules, and where they should put their supplies. You may even give them their first assignment (whether it be making their own name tag, playing a circle game, describing their summer, describing themselves in one sentence, or naming an animal that best describes them.) And once you feel you are as prepared as you can possibly be, remember this:

It's a fresh new year! It's another year of hope. It's another year of building futures and bigger dreams. Will be there rough days? Sure. Will you have tired moments? Of course. Don't forget that I4C has a huge Back to School Section with teacher tools, where teachers and parents alike can find tons of lesson plans, classroom organizational help, planning tools, bulletin board ideas, and grade level help.

On day one, consider bringing this kit to class to get you through the first day back.

1) A toothpick - for reminding you to pick good qualities in every student.
2) A key - to let you know you open the minds of countless children
3) Clay - a way to remember you can mold social and ethical values in your students.
4) A rubberband - to be flexible, especially on the first day.
5) A puzzle piece - to remind you that you are part of something bigger in the end.
6) A mini-handheld fan -to blow away those negative thoughts or doubts
7) Chocolate - a sweet treat to eliminate your stress
8) One marble - to keep in your pocket when you think you're losing all of yours.
9) A mint - revive that sore throat after talking so much.
10) Two Aspirin - when all else fails take 2 and start fresh in the morning!
Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you. - Madeline Bridges
Sandwich every bit of criticism between two thick layers of praise. - Mary Kay Ash

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reading Woes? It Could Be Irlen Syndrome

Internet4Classrooms is pleased to feature Rich Mintzer as a guest writer this month as we highlight Exceptional Children and Irlen Syndrome.

Rich Mintzer is an author and journalist with over 50 published non-fiction books, many as a ghostwriter and articles on various websites.  He also writes book proposals for new authors and edits their work.  In the course of working with Helen Irlen on her latest book, The Irlen Revolution, he became fascinated with the work being done to help children read who had struggled, some of whom had spent years in special education classes.  A staunch believer in Helen Irlen’s work, they have become friends over the years and Rich always takes the opportunity to write about Irlen Syndrome to let parents and educators learn more about this little known perceptual disorder.  Rich lives in Westchester New York with his wife and their two teenagers. You can visit his website at

Read on to learn about a reading disorder you may be unfamiliar with.

Reading Woes? It Could be Irlen Syndrome
by Rich Mintzer

Learning to read is a rite of passage into a literary world that opens many doors to a world of knowledge, discovery, fantasy and fun. But what is it like for those who struggle, who can’t read at grade level or, in some cases, can barely read at all? For some, repetition and phonics make a difference, while others benefit from glasses to solve vision problems. But what about those whose problems are neither cognitive or visual?

Many of these struggling readers have what is called Irlen Syndrome (a.k.a. Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome). It is a visual processing disorder that results in words, letters and numbers moving around or bunching together on the page making reading a major challenge. It is akin to looking at an optical illusion, which appears to be moving in front of your eyes, but isn’t. It is also a problem that flies below the radar because it does not show up on standardized tests.  And yet, it can be corrected through the use of colored overlays and/or wearing colored lenses.  However, since everyone is unique, the colors, or color combinations will vary greatly from one person to the next.

In the past 20-years, since former school psychologist and researcher Helen Irlen found that many people were struggling to read because of this particular perceptual disorder, some 8,000 educators have been trained to recognize Irlen Syndrome and millions of children have benefited from colored overlays, not only in the United States, but as far away as New Zealand and Australia.  Unfortunately, the numbers are just a drop in the bucket.  As a result, the parents of many children never learn about Irlen Syndrome.

So, What Can Educators Do?

The hope is that you can, with the support of your school, get a better idea of which youngsters might benefit from testing for Irlen Syndrome.  Testing is completely non-invasive and, not unlike an eye-test, is all about the child telling the tester, or screener, what he or she sees during the testing process.  In fact, parents are encouraged to take the tests along with their children not only for support but because Irlen Syndrome is hereditary, and they too might benefit from overlays or filters.

When it comes to observing possible candidates for Irlen testing, Kristina Uribe,Third Grade Language Arts/Social Studies teacher and Dyslexia Specialist, from the Bethune Academy in Aldine, Texas says that observation is very important. “I watch students very closely so see who avoids or refuses to read. Very often their body language gives me clues. They might be very restless in their seats, look up from their books soon after they started reading to the point that they do not go back to the book. Eye rubbing is another symptom that can be observed easily," says Uribe.

“Kids have a posture when taking tests, they usually lean into their work. A student who might need to be screened will have his hand to his brow, wear a visor or use his hand to shade his paper. I also look for kids who want to work but seem like they are working twice as hard as others in class,” says Monica Rice who teaches the sixth grade Beaumont, California.

Nancy Menn, a special ed teacher and Irlen Screener in Wisconsin takes the straight forward approach and asks students if the print changes after they read for a while, if the letters get blurry or move on the page, or if the page seemed too bright. “Some students look at me as if I’m crazy, and with others you see the light bulb go on and they talk a mile a minute about what was going on when they read,” says Menn, who has witnessed a number of students improve greatly with overlays and Irlen filters.

“I try to identify students whose verbal reasoning appears well above what they are able to produce in written form.  I also identify students who are acquiring reading skills/ spelling skills or math skills at a slow pace,” says Julie Stowe, Junior School Teacher at Green Point Christian College in Kincumber, New South Wales.


The goal of getting children tested, however, would not have much credibility if it weren’t for the stunning results.  “I get wonderful responses from the kids that use the colored overlays says Tina Cutler, Program Manager (Social Worker) for Community and Employment Programs Group in Toronto, Ontario. "I can read, I feel smart!" "I can see the whole sentence." "The black dots are gone!" "The page is calmer!" "The letters have stopped moving!"  These are just some of the affirming responses Tina has heard from students with colored overlays.

Meanwhile, Julie Yepson, a grade school teacher at Antioch school district 34 in Antioch, Illinois notices more students reading for pleasure whereas the same students didn't often like to read before using the overlays. “Three students that reported headaches when reading no longer have headaches and students that felt nauseous when reading no longer feel that way either,” add Yepsen. In fact, one student proclaimed, "Mrs. Yepsen, you have no idea how much this is going to help me!" upon receiving her overlays.

Tarena Berry, a counselor at Calvert Elementary School in Houston, Texas also trained to become an Irlen Screener, “Immediate results are seen,” says Berry. “When I took the training to become an Irlen Screener, I didn't realize what impact it would have. When I tested my first student, I could see at that moment how relevant and valuable the process is."

The overlays are just part of the ongoing solution, since reading is not only on the paper but in all facets of life.  From computer screens to mobile phones to street signs, Irlen filters are typically the next step, allowing those who have struggled with words and letters to embrace the written and printed word and no longer struggle to read.

For more on Irlen Syndrome, visit and/or pick up Helen Irlen’s latest book The Irlen Revolution.

Rich also recommends a very informative video done by a teenager who has Irlen Syndrome. Here' s an 8 minute glance into what it's like to live with Irlen Syndrome and the many ways to help manage the symptoms.
                                            Video by DavidAccola linked from

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Achievable Dreams

It's no secret that this month Oprah is ending The Oprah Show after 25 years on air. Her final episodes include the lessons she's learned and her favorite and most influential guests. Her favorite guest of all time was a woman who overcame her painful circumstances and fulfilled her dreams. Dreams of which she wrote on a piece of paper, put in a tin, and buried under a rock where they'd remain for years and years. Dreams that included moving to America, getting an education, and receiving her PhD. When she went back to her hometown of Zimbabwe and dug up that tin, she could say that she met every single goal. And she fulfilled those dreams because she was told it was achievable.

Too often our desires are seen as unattainable. How many times do we make lists, or write down our goals, and it never gets farther than that piece of paper? Do you believe every one of your dreams is achievable?

As the school year comes to a close, and summer break begins, think about your achievements. Did you accomplish everything you wanted? What do you envision for the next school year? Don't just state your goals. Plan how you are going to fulfill them. Have your students do the same thing. It may sound silly, but have your students bury their dreams in their backyards. Let them go back a year from now and see just how much they can achieve when they strive to succeed.

When you see that you can accomplish what you set your mind to, the sky is the limit on what's considered achievable.

                                                                    Video courtesy of  DailyRiser.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Molding Our Techniques vs. Molding Our Children

In addition to ever-changing technology and teaching methods in our classroom, our students are changing too. They are independent, adaptable, and tech-savvy.  Their future career needs seem to carry higher stakes than they did 10 years ago. Besides their academic needs, behaviorally, students are evolving too. More and more, medical diagnoses such as ADHD, Tic Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Sensory Disorders, Autism Spectrum and Behavioral Disorders are becoming the norm in our classrooms. Teachers are burdened with test scores and keeping up with trends, as well as pressured to be equipped to handle and educate all types of personalities.

Jeff Branzburg - Director of Technology, NUA; education technology consultant, Teaching Matters, Inc; former teacher and instructional technology director -  created a digital comic using entitled Fit the Tool to the Job (Not the Job to the Tool).  

Think about how many times you’ve encountered students who don’t fit into a certain perfect student mold? Have you noticed that the tools and methods you are using are not reaching that particular student? How do we make our current tools meet each student’s individual educational needs, instead of trying to get every student to learn the same way? It’s a daily challenge. One we should discuss with our peers, colleagues, and parents. One we should continue to improve. Our students need us. We can’t let those who learn differently slip through the cracks.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Analyzing Your Classroom Effort

In business, it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure the needs of their customers are met efficiently and effectively.  Example 1) Yesterday I was in Target and I needed batteries. The batteries were located in the Electronics section of the store.  Coincidentally, the majority of interactive toys need batteries. Right beside the Electronics section, were rows and rows of toys. And beyond this Toy section was the Grocery section, where the candy was strategically placed right across from the toys. Efficiency and effectiveness is the name of the game.  They had moved the battery section to meet the customer needs. Batteries are needed in toys, and candy attracts children. No running around the store to find the candy or the batteries or the groceries for that matter; everything in one spot so you just walk from one section to the next. And the owner can benefit from a parent giving into a child’s impulsive toy or candy desire every now and then. 

Example 2) I ate at a Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant recently. Times have changed as health and nutrition have evolved. People want smaller portions and healthier options, including myself. To fit into the customer needs, Ruby Tuesday's has adjusted its menu to provide nutritional values, healthier food choices, and the option of smaller portions.  My food was cooked in the manner requested, as I asked for things to be left out and added. Ruby Tuesday’s was willing to prepare my food with flexibility, and they gained a satisfied customer who is willing to come back.

These two businesses are a lot like the business of education. Of course, education does not involve batteries or food. What is does involve, is effort.  Effort is made to work effectively and efficiently within the needs of their customers (students).  Many times I hear, “Well, I wasn’t taught that way and I learned just fine!”  “I wasn’t taught with technology and I turned out alright!”  Just as Ruby Tuesday’s and Target illustrate, school is not about the teacher (store owner) or what the teacher (store owner) wants or needs.  It is about the children, our customers, and what they need.  Evaluate students' requirements for success. Take a look at their needs, even if they are tech-related. Give them the tools to thrive and perform to their potential in an age where technology does rule. Take the time to not only become aware, but trained, in the technology tools that can give your customers – your students – a leg up in future careers. Think about their requirements in correlation to the tools and efficiency you provide. Analyze your effort. Do you run your classroom according to *your* needs, or according to your customer needs? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Reason to Teach

Google “the problem with our schools” and you will find roughly 300 MILLION links to click.  Words like funding, charter, standards, private, public, test scores, mergers, no child left behind, economic status, and Superman are part of daily conversations.  Individual experiences and situations motivate each response.  One can say the fact that there is such an emotional force behind the conversations about school problems shows the passion for our children and our school systems. There is a river of frustration that winds itself throughout all of us in some way. We realize that in life there will almost certainly come bad with the good. Our children deserve the best education they can possibly get. So instead of letting our love of children be affected by the daily bitterness, let’s decide to work with the resources we have – no matter how few – and approach our children with confidence and reassurance.

Do you remember why we became educators? We weren’t thinking about standardized testing. It wasn’t about uniforms, bussing, race, or the ratio of teachers to students. It was about the love of learning; the love of children.  It was about passing along the inspiration of hope. Educators provide one, if not the, most important resource to the world’s children:  How to acquire KNOWLEDGE. That should get you going in the morning. That should keep a smile on your face.

Yes, you are one of those committed public servants that go out and buy pencils and supplies with your own money because you can’t get the simple resources you need to do your job. Yes, you are one of those amazing teachers who are willing to spend time before and after school to help students who are struggling to keep up. You may never get the official recognition you deserve for going above and beyond. Teachers are one of the most selfless, under-appreciated, professions in our society.

That being said, remember you may also be the one friend, mentor, or acting-parent to a child that needs hope. You may be the one person providing a means to something better. You are the one that believes in the child when others may have given up.  You provide a hope that he or she can make it in what seems to be an increasingly bitter educational system.

There are others that affect the educational process.  Parents should be held accountable. The administration definitely plays a key role. But you are the face students see day after day. You are the person they can count on to love them for who they are. You provide encouragement and pride in their abilities no matter what level they are climbing. 

Turn the competitiveness and resentment towards the problems in our educational system into a reason to teach better. Nourish a positive attitude of bright futures and smiling faces inside your classroom. There are a lot of things within the educational system we can’t control.  But we can control how we choose to face each day and each student.

And if you’re having a bad day or feeling disgusted with the politics of it all, remind yourself of this:
  • How children have an amazing way of making us smile. 
  • How their imaginations, observations, and curiosity are truly genuine.
  • Think about the compliments children give us without ever asking for anything in return.
  • Think about those ah-hah moments when a child figures out they can read on their own and their face lights up with a smile; Or when a high school student gives a presentation to the class and gives you a look of accomplishment.
  • How encouragement, recognition, and love don't cost anything.

When all else fails, tell yourself this:
  • You make a difference.

Video courtesy of Justin Tarte,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How to Help Classrooms in Need

Teachers are always in need of classroom supplies, from large items like bookshelves to what you may think are simple items like pencils and paper. There are quite a few online donation sites, but these 3 I'm going to feature are ones that stood out to us.

How it works:
Teachers sign up to create an account, log in, and enter in their classroom needs. They write a brief description of what their classroom needs and why. As a donor, you can look up almost any public or private school by name, city, state, or zip code and choose to whom you want to donate.  There are advanced criteria as well, if you'd like to search by school subject, cost, poverty level, etc. When you are searching for a classroom, there are summaries on the left-hand side that tell you how many are registered in that area, how many have been adopted this year, adopted since 1998, and how many funds were donated this year and since 1998. You enter in your amounts and payment information online once you've chosen your classroom.

The teachers are given the money through an e-account and can purchase their wanted items through Adopt-A-Classroom’s affiliated vendors online. The items are shipped to them directly and become school property. Donors and teachers communicate during the school year, receiving thank you’s, artwork, and the opportunity to participate within the classroom you’ve chosen. You can donate to as many classrooms as you’d like.  

  • You have the option to donate to both public and private schools. 
  • A donor has the opportunity to be active within the classroom and remain involved as long as he'd like. 
  • There is no "actual dollar amount needed" that is defined in the classroom listing. So in theory, the teacher can raise as much as he or she'd like.
  • 100% of your donation goes to the teacher.
  • There is no type of teacher registration validation. There are terms and conditions you have to agree to, but no teacher verifiable agreement. Meaning anyone (theoretically) can claim to be a teacher at a particular school and type up a "need" for donation money.  
  • There is a minimum donation of $25.00 to any classroom.
  • There is no posting date. The only date that we saw was the donations since 1998 status on the left-hand side. Once you find a classroom listing, who's to say how old the posting is, if the teacher is still in need of money, or if they're checking the listing/email address currently? It was a bit confusing. Postings don't seem to "close" or appear "fulfilled."
  • As opposed to other sites, there is no pre-order form in their classroom posting. They simply describe what they'd like to buy. You can't see the specific items desired, the cost, nor vendor information up front. So a donor can't be exactly sure what the teacher is going to purchase until the money is given and his or her order is placed. The one thing you can be sure of is that it will be school materials-related because you know it's being purchased from only Adopt-A-Classroom's vendors.

How it works:
The process is similar to above. Teachers create accounts and post their "projects" online. Donors can "view projects" a number of ways. A clear list of  recent projects comes up when you click on the "Projects" tab. There are also advanced criteria searches on the right, where you can choose by city/state, school, subject, poverty level, urgency, popularity, and beyond.  Can't decide who to donate to? There is a feature that allows you to donate to the most urgent project, chosen by DonorsChoose.  In contrast to the Adopt-A-Classroom's description of a teacher's class needs, DonorsChoose requires each project be specific. When a teacher posts a need, they must place their order up front similar to a grant, so that the posting shows the items, their cost, the quantity desired, and where the teacher is buying it from, all in the project listing. Any donor can see a total dollar amount needed to complete the teacher's request.

As donors submit money, you can visually see the total dollars earned and the remaining balance left in order to complete the project. When the goal is met, teachers go to's online store of affiliated vendors and place their order online. The materials are shipped and become school property. The donor is sent pictures, thank you's, and letters in correspondence to keep him or her updated. The project is closed.

  • There is no minimum donation.
  • You must agree to their conditions and terms for teacher/project enrollment and confirm you meet the teacher requirements. You can not be a principal, administrator, staff developer, substitute, or student teacher and must work full time.
  • The projects are very specific and in a sense pre-ordered, so you can see the exact items that will be purchased with your donation.
  • The website is very user friendly and easy to navigate.
  • The option to donate to the site as a whole for the most urgent projects is a cool feature if you can't narrow down your choice.
  • There are a lot of extras on this site - from wedding registries and birthday wishes to blogs and honoree donations.
  • This website only applies to public schools. If you are a private school you can not register.
  • Remember: You must be a full time teacher. Principals, administrators, staff developers substitute and student teachers are not permitted to create projects. Therefore a poster's qualifications are limited.

How it works:
This is another donor/classroom supporter site, using the same technique to search for a classroom/teacher wish list through a criteria search. HOWEVER, it encompasses a whole lot more when it comes to providing classroom assistance. You have the ability to do quite a few things with this site. 
1.) As a teacher, school, or district - you can create a wish list. Every teacher gets their own homepage and web address. Shop through iloveschools’ online store to find the items you need and quantity and build your list.  Your “order” is published so that donors can view the item, quantity, and cost.  You get the same dollars donated vs. balance left visual as DonorsChoose. When the wishlist has been funded, iLoveSchools places the order and has the goods delivered. 2.) Be a classroom friend and create a web page for your school or class. This is a really great way to get the word out about your needs. 3.) Post a donor offer. This is a wonderful way to recycle goods and fulfill classroom needs all at the same time. Have gently used or new items you don't need? Post a donor offer on iLoveSchools with a description, estimated value, delivery option, and contact information. Get responses from schools in need and neighboring districts. You get to choose who to pass the donation to. Everyone wins! 4.) Can't decide which project you like the best? You can donate to ILoveSchools two ways: a) donate XX amount of dollars to a teacher/classroom iLoveSchools selects, or b) donate directly to iLoveSchools to help them cover administrative costs.

  • In contrast to DonorsChoose, the qualifications of applicants who want to register and create wish lists are defined by a wide range of titles, from homeschool parents to librarians for grades pre-K through 12th. Also included are after school program staff as long as they follow specific curriculum.
  • We love all of the different options on iLoveSchools and its user friendly site, including a blog that keeps people informed.
  • The donor offer feature is a wonderful way to re-gift and provide assistance to our educators.
  • According to their site, they have an option coming soon where you can print flyers about your wish list for another way to publicize the need.
  • Both public and private schools can post wish lists.
  • It can be difficult to find the feature that actually allows someone to create and start a wish list. Put your mouse on the "home" tab in the top task bar. Slide your mouse down to the last topic titled "educators" and click to get started.
Donations of money or supplies are always helpful to an educator, especially in the current economy and budgeting crisis within school systems. Parents may often wonder, well how can I really help? Or how can a pack of crayons really make much of a difference? These sites prove it does take a village, and your support can help provide a better educational experience for our kids!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

NEW! ACT Test and SAT Test Study Program

Internet4Classrooms is always working to provide educators, parents, and students with the most useful online tools for your schooling needs.  We are thrilled to offer a new, free, interactive ACT/SAT study program that will help students prepare for the ACT Tests and SAT Tests.

The concept is this:  Each student gets a free account, with a log in name and password, alongside a designated mentor (a teacher or parent).  Once logged in, students gain access to 5000 SAT and ACT vocabulary words.  They can take online vocabulary quizzes as often as they’d like.  Daily and monthly vocabulary lists provide a study guide. There are diagnostic practice tests as well as tips on how to study and master definitions.  Students can retake quizzes and see which words they missed.

Summary reports and test scores will be emailed to the addresses you provide.  Students will get a daily result guide, showing them previous scores, words to study next, and future tests to take.  Mentors will get a weekly report with the ability to choose from a drop-down menu to select any student’s progress you would like to view.

The process is easy.  Go to the sign up page and create an account.  Each student must enter in a mentor's information. As a mentor, it’s best to create an email account just for this service. and offer free accounts.

Once you have created an email address, give your first and last name, and the new email address to your students. Each student must sign up by entering in their name and their email address.  Select their grade level.  They will enter in your information as their mentor.  Both you and the student will get a confirmation email with password.  You are ready to begin! 

Click here for a tutorial on how to sign up for the ACT and SAT Study Program. We hope you find this tool useful in preparing for the ACT and SAT Tests. As always, comments and questions are welcome. Email

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Plagiarism Hazard Online Papers and Essays

Did you know you can actually find almost any essay or paper topic online, and access it for a low fee if not for free? Students' workloads are heavier than ever. Tack on extracurricular activities and socializing, and homework time always seems to be crunched. We all love a good time-saving tip, but does going online to retrieve a pre-written paper take things a bit too far - especially when the service is not used properly?  How can teachers be sure a student actually wrote their submitted work?

There are a lot of online resources in this topic. Today we'll be featuring these 3. - "Free term papers and essays for all" is what the website's slogan says. Anyone can browse from over 250,000 essays and articles by simply typing in the content you are searching for. You get a 2 paragraph freebee and then purchase longer ones or essentially pay for a membership and have access. Standard membership is 30 day a month all-access for $19.95. The premise is this: they are providing you with information about these topics, serving as a research aid, and you are supposed to be responsible enough to cite the sources, take the initial jump-start they've provided and finish/elaborate your own work. Members are able to share and see each other's papers as well.

In addition to finding essays and papers, you can click on another tab that will take you to this site: - Here's what you do. Type in your paper's assignment and needs in full detail. Assign how many words you need it to be, how many sources, and how many pages. You can choose your deadline as to when you need WriteMyEssay to complete this project, and essentially pay by need. So if you need your paper in 5 days, it'll cost you $19.95 per page. For the procrastinator: if you need your paper within 8 hours, it'll cost you $79.95 per page.  The company provides a free bibliography, guaranteed completion, and free revision if the paper doesn't match what you needed.

Did you ever think 15 years ago you could get this kind of service!? And there are dozens more -,,, and on. These sites can be extremely useful. But in the wrong hands, extremely dangerous when it comes to plagiarism. Teachers need to be diligent and aware. The Internet is a world of resources at our fingertips, but at what cost when it comes to educating and training our children to become successful down the road.

There are sites that strive to ensure sites like these aren't abused. - Going on the mantra: "Prevent Plagiarism. Engage Students." This site offers wonderful tools to ensure students are working up to their potential and writing original pieces. It is specifically designed to prevent plagiarism by offering something called "originality check." Students must submit their writings using the Turnitin interface. Teachers can then compare the submission to over 130,000 student papers, and web pages. Instructors share papers with other students and peers can review and comment. When a teacher goes to grade the paper online, you can type in your feedback and revisions and also use colorful grade-marking and highlighting tools.

Now of course -- this is something your school would have to purchase. Quotes are given based on your school and your needs. But we wanted to point out the concept and the fact that there are methods of preventing plagiarism submissions. At the bare minimum, you are now informed of the free sites above, and can go online to search yourself if you want to compare writings in question.

And because we know not every school is equipped to purchase such software, here are some FREE teaching tactics to preventing plagiarism:

  • Give a very narrow criteria for your subject matter.
  • Vary the topics per class and year, and save submitted works.
  • Require students to turn in multiple rough drafts.
  • Students can be told to photocopy their sources.
  • Require the sources to be very specific - like something published in the last year, or from a specific book that you assign. Or you can even say all sources must have been published within the last 4 years.
  • Make your students give oral reports.
  • Have students email you copies of their work in addition to turning in a hard copy.
  • Be sure to discuss, define, and explain what plagiarism is.
  • Be stern and reiterate the consequences should plagiarism be discovered.

People will do what they want to do, and take shortcuts they want to take. So arm yourself with knowledge, continue the parental involvement and parent-teacher communication, and continue to encourage and show students they have the ability to complete tasks and meet goals all on their own.