Friday, December 23, 2011

Hot Topic Planet Earth

The Review

Topics included are 'What is a Planet,' 'What is the Earth Made of,' 'How Many Oceans Are There,' 'How are Coastlines Shaped,' 'Have there always been mountains,' 'How Are Rivers Made,' 'Are All Deserts Hot and Sandy,' 'What Is A Glacier,' 'Where Are The Polar Regions,' 'What is the Earth's atmosphere,' 'Where Does Weather Happen,' 'What is climate,' 'What Are the Earth's Natural Resources,' 'Are We Damaging The Planet,' and an Index.

Each topic heading is depicted on a two page spread and includes a series of questions and answers as well as a number of brightly colored, well executed drawings. The pages depicting 'How are Coastlines Shaped' are particularly compelling with a single drawing illustrating a length of coastline and showing a protective wall, a length of beach with several groynes or breatkwaters, a cave, stacks and arrows to indicate the direction of waves. A discussion of sand color, cause for tides, recovering land from the sea, as well as how beaches are formed.

The cover says, 'Discover all the facts with this question and answer guide.' And, opening the over I can believe that while maybe not every fact is there, there are a whole bunch!! My resident critics, 4th grade, settled themselves to a session as reviewers. They take their job as critics seriously, listen carefully and view the illustrations with an eye toward approval or disapproval from a child's standpoint. If the work meets their approval we keep it for our classroom, if not, it is gone.

The colors of the brightly illustrated cover with cutaway of the earth's core, illustration of how a waterfall is formed and a mountain climber scaling a peak caught the children's attention immediately. We had just finished Science units regarding Glaciers and Weather, the children were delighted to find both topics are included on the pages of this book. As we came to those particular pages the children immediately requested, 'ask us the questions,' 'ask us the questions.' The questions presented regarding glaciers were ones they were able to answer, the material presented on the weather page followed that found in their 4th grade science books, and they were proud that they were able to name the types of clouds, explain how thunder and lighting occur, and discuss a weather front knowledgeably.

The children agree HOT TOPIC Planet Earth is a great addition to our class library, it is taken to a desk often when the children have a question regarding an aspect of our planet. And it is chosen for free time reading when we simply choose what it is we like to read. I like that the book includes so many topics found in the 4th grade Science text. I am pleased to see little groups of 2 or three with the book asking one another questions, finding answers and chattering about the illustrations.

HOT TOPIC Planet Earth is a well researched work filled with a myriad of facts and child intriguing illustrations. Discovering that the book is published by a British Publisher and is printed in China led the children to search our world map.

I received a hard cover copy for review, it is holding up well during classroom use.

I enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.

Classroom Under Construction

Classroom Under Construction Building the Foundation for Creative Classroom Instruction is a 107 page, 12 chapter hand book for the new teacher, the tired teacher and all those in between. Practical ideas to pep up and boost instruction as well as celebrations for all the good things teachers do are offered on the pages of this work designed to help teachers improve their classroom effectiveness.

Writer Grimes presents his 'workshop in a book' with chapter 1 Beliefs and Decision-Making. A teaching philosophy is essential to support and frame underlying teacher practices. Grimes says a teaching philosophy is a personal vision and sense of purpose for teaching.

Chapter 2 What's in a Name? Names and what teachers do with them is important. Asking a child what name he prefers is a good way to attack the name issue.

Chapter 3 Pouring the Foundation Grimes tells us that the classroom is a happening place, it is busy, bustling and noisy. It is characterized by joy or anxiety, boredom or stimulation, uproar or silence.

Chapter 4 Time Is Your Friend - And Your Foe Grimes discusses a well known truth to all teachers TIME RULES THE SCHOOL, the day, the week and the year.

Chapter 5 The Doctor Is In Grimes points out that never before in our history has so much been expected of teachers, and it is expected that teachers will willingly educated themselves and be under compensated even as they may be berated by non teachers. 1903 George Bernard Shaw set the tone: He who can does, and He who cannot teaches has been quoted often and loudly by many. Grimes also points out Shaw was not a teacher and did not know what a teacher is about.

Chapter 6 Making the Grade Grimes states that grading mechanisms, including rubrics are needed, however they are mechanical tools. Grimes points out that while student attendance may be a requirement of law, his attention is not and that teachers must be able to create meaningful compelling work for students. Grimes suggests that D and F grades be done away with and material re-taught until students achieve A B or C grades.

Chapter 7 This Class Sucks Grimes affirms that when students act out the reason for their behavior may have nothing at all to do with either the class or the teacher. Teacher's must be perceptive to what is happening with their students, not jump to conclusions, and address problems in a win-win mode rather than blaming and creating problems where had existed before.

Chapter 8 The Dog Won't Eat My Homework the issue of homework is often fraught with emotion and irritation. Grimes provides a peek into how homework may be incorporated successfully into the learning process and offers a description of how homework impacts students, teachers, and parents.

Chapter 9 Cooperation In Learning And Living Grimes discusses the importance of cooperative learning as a time when children are working in concert with their teachers and one another while providing a degree of civility to the competitive forces that are inherently present in schools.

Chapter 10 You Make The Call Grimes addresses those grey areas when good decisions must be made based on judgment, understanding of school law, and common sense.

Chapter 11 Lest We Forget Grimes offers teaching strategies and activities that will facilitate perpetuating the memories of people and events important to our national history. We stay connected as a culture when we know, share and remember our shared heritage.

Chapter 12 Get A Life Grimes discusses the need for balancing professional and personal aspects of life. He points out that teachers who work in a year round setting tend to have a more positive outlook about themselves, their homes and social lives and their teaching than do teachers who teach in a traditional setting.

Rich Grimes' Classroom Under Construction speaks to the core of successful teaching practices. Grimes discusses procedures meant to aid teachers as they bond with each student with the understanding that teacher-student bond is predictable as a requirement for student's academic success. He explains how the teacher's personal belief system will dictate the teacher's attitude toward students, toward assigning of homework and toward presenting grades. Grimes presents suggests teachers are like to attain more success with their students by learning the correct pronunciation of the student's name and using it often when speaking with the student.

I like his idea of homework that goes beyond the student and includes getting parents and other family members involved, energized and motivated because family interest in school and child is a definite contributor to student incentive for learning and doing well. Grimes offers a number of activities that promote student participation.

As a teacher I found Classroom Under Construction to be a valuable tool for beginning or not so beginning teachers. I do have 3 suggestions to make the book more useable: spiral binding will aid in keeping the book open to a particular page, larger print and darker print will be useful for those who may have older eyes. Many new teachers are not 20 somethings, they are part of the over the hill bunch who are looking into a second career. The book has so many valuable suggestions it is a pity it may be cast aside simply because print size and boldness of letters make it more difficult to read.

A must have for every beginning teacher of any age Classroom Under Construction has much to offer those of us old war horses who have been at it for a while. I was sent a trade paperback for review. And will be keeping this edition for my own library, if a spiral bound comes along that will be even better. I will suggest this book for my student teachers as they come to my classroom.

Book Review - Results Now by Mike Schmoker

Author Mike Schmoker followed up his two other "Results" books with the best and most motivating yet.

This book pleads with educators and administrators to assist in the immediate transformation of American schools. He describes in detail the "buffers" that American schools have created which have led to the illusion that a high percentage of American schools are actually effective (which he points out in detail, actually are not). This "buffer" that Schmoker describes has led to teacher isolation, lack of quality instruction, and to the reality that administrators are virtually devoid of influence when trying to effect the quality of instruction. This is a sample of some of the startling statistics Schmoker presents, (page 18):

o "Classrooms in which there was evidence of a clear learning objective: 4 percent"

o "Classrooms in which there was evidence of higher-order thinking: 3 percent"

o "Classrooms in which non-instructional activities were occurring" 35 percent"

(Note: to get specifics on this research-based study, visit his book)
One of the most motivating features of this book is that the author reminds educators of how much they already know about effective teaching practices, especially as a collaborative group. Often educators are fixated on new programs, more materials, more workshops and the need for more money. This quote is an example of this idea, "We have relied far too much, with miserable results, on a failed model for improving instructional practice: training, in the form of workshops or staff development."

Chapter 8 of this book entitled, "Professional Learning Communities" is a pro-active approach to reforming schools and demonstrates Schmoker's true value of educators.
As for administrators, don't feel left out because Schmoker is fully aware of your limitations, boundaries and lack of support. Again keeping pro-activity in mind, Schmoker suggests several solutions which will change educational leadership and its effect on instructional quality.

This is one of the very few books that doesn't try to state the issues with a politically correct point of view. His writing style is blunt yet lacks negativity. In fact, this book has the effect of challenging educators to make some simple and high effective changes TOMORROW, that can produce immediate results.

This ending quote from Results Now demonstrates why I give this book 5 stars (on a 5 point scale) for educators and educational leaders and as guessed, is suggested as a MUST READ.

(From Page163's CONCLUSION, "WHY NOT US WHY NOT NOW"): "With so much at stake, is there any decent reason to postpone what could be education's greatest moment?"

Note from me : This book is startling when you first read it mainly because of the statistics he shares and what was found inside our American classrooms, but these startling revelations are what truly should provoke all educators, leaders, and parents too, to make serious changes in the American school system.

The Handbook of Good English by Edward D. Johnson

When a baby just learns a language, he talks by putting words one after the other without thinking about style, usage, expression, or grammar. Sometimes, the novice writer does the same thing, too.

Yet, good writing and a good command of the English language deserves much better than that. The good news is this can be learned from books such as The Handbook of Good English .

True, many texts on the subject have made it to print after Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, but most books on the market satisfy a writer's needs only partially; others are too heavy or too thick to keep on the desk or to carry around in an overnight bag. Some offer complicated answers, and others do not keep up with the changes in usage and language.

First published as The Washington Square Press Handbook of Good English, The Handbook of Good English offers everything other books do, as well as keeping up with the changes in usage and expression. Hailed as the copy editor's right hand, it gives clear answers with examples to the trickiest problems.

The book is divided into four major parts:



How to Style Written English: Miscellaneous Mechanics

Beyond the Sentence: Diction and Composition.

At the end, it offers a 131 page Glossary/Index for quick reference of the material in the above sections.

The book is highly informative, practical, easily readable and understandable, and quite comprehensive. The author covers all potential combinations and problems in grammar and usage. Even though allowing exceptions to archaic rules and being much more tolerant than uptight grammarians, the author points out to good solid rules. In addition to these rules, he shows the way to a more expressive style and persuasive form of writing.

The author must have gained an in-depth understanding of the problems of a struggling writer or a copy editor. In the beginning of the 'Grammar' section, he explains why he added the glossary/index. "It is often difficult for those who do not know the name of the error they may be committing to find the discussion of that error in a reference book. I have done my best to reduce this difficulty by careful listings in the Glossary/Index, but the reader may have to do some skimming of the rules and their discussions. To help the skimming eye, I have subdivided the longer discussions, and when possible I have begun paragraphs with examples of specific constructions that may match the reader's problem."

Edward D. Johnson, the author of this book, was born in 1935. After graduating from Exeter and Harvard, he worked as a book editor. His books are: The Handbook of Good English; Francis Bacon of St. Albans; The first folio of Shake-speare, Francis Bacon's maze- Being a demonstration of the sixth line word cipher in the first folio of the "Shakespeare" plays; Shakespeare Illusion; Shakespearian Acrostics- A Demonstration Of The Marginal Words In The First Folio Of Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories And Tragedies; The fictitious Shakespeare exposed; The Shakespeare quiz- Or 100 questions for the Stratfordians to answer; Francis Bacon versus Lord Macaulay; Don Adriana's letter; Francis Bacon's cypher signatures; The mystery of the first folio of the "Shakespeare" plays; Bacon-Shakespeare coincidences; Are you interested in "Shakespeare"?; A short history of the Stratford "Shakespeare" monument; Shake-spears sonnets.

The Handbook of Good English is in paperback and 432 pages with ISBN-10: 0671707973
and ISBN-13: 978-0671707972.

This book needs to be read from cover to cover, digested well, and then kept on the writer's desk for quick reference. As a must-have book, it will definitely improve any novice or slightly experienced writer's performance.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Much Money Students Can Save By Renting Textbooks Online

Renting textbooks online is a popular trend among university and college students. They are using textbook rental services offered by some of the most reputable online book rental stores to save money. New students on university campus often have less idea about the textbook rental facilities. They are either ignorant to this affordable option of getting college textbooks or have no idea about how much money they can save by renting textbooks online. This article will provide some important insight to online book rental services and the money saving potential being offered by online textbook rental stores.

Original Textbook Cost vs. Textbook Rental Fee

Online textbook rental services help students in cutting their expenses over semester textbooks. On an average, student can reduce their textbook expenses by 50% to 60% by utilizing textbook rental services. There are many online book stores offering wide range of college textbooks on rent. Their textbook rental fees for the whole semester comes around 35% to 40% of original retail price of books.

For example, the popular book "UNDERSTANDING SCIENCE" which is priced $ 149.95 can be rented for $ 74.98; that simply means saving of $ 74.97 (approx 50% of the original cost). The book rental fee usually includes shipping charges (both delivery to recipient and dispatch to book rental store at the end of semester).

Usually an Australian college student has to spend an average of $1000 to $1500 on buying all college textbooks for a semester. At the end of semester, the books become useless to them. They have the option to either sell it or give it to their juniors. However, in many cases the syllabus or the books are changed depending upon the curriculum revision or professor's preferences of teaching. In that case, the books cannot be used by juniors.

Think about a student who prefers renting books rather than buying it. He will spend approx $ 500 to $ 750 for all the textbooks for one semester. At the end of semester, he will return all the books to the online book rental store and order books for next semester. He doesn't need to worry about selling used books or giving it to juniors. His expenses over book rental is approximately 50% that means for the total purchasing cost of books in one semester, he can rent same books for two semesters.

In summary, utilizing book rental services for getting college textbooks is a wise decision for college students in Australia. They can reduce their costs of getting books and spend the remaining money to fulfill their other needs.