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Volume 4 Number 4

No matter how many hundred of millions of dollars are spent, school reform initiatives will continue to produce unsatisfying results until we unflinchingly address the critical problem of teacher quality.
We're Still Leaving the Teachers Behind...
The Effective Substitute Teacher Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Approaches of Outstanding Teachers Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Considering a Reading Basal Series? 4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
Living La Vida Reading: Great Picture Book Biographies Postcard from Planet Esme - News from the world of children's books by Esmé Codell
10 Ways to Actively Involve Every Reader Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers by Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber
Teachers: Want to Learn? Then Learn to Risk! Teachers As Learners by Hal Portner
Getting Started on Your eBook eBook Authoring by Glenn F. Dietzel
Effects of Red Food Dye on Children Ask the School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
Two Lists of Ten - Giving Directions for Lengthy Assignments and Preparing for Everyday Instruction The Eclectic Teacher by Ginny Hoover
I Retired From 'Teaching' Back in 2009 and Now I'm Back! - Reporting from the future Ed-Tech Talk by Dr. Rob Reilly
English As a Second Language (ESL) Sites The Busy Educator's Monthly Five (5 Sites for Busy Educators) by Marjan Glavac
April Articles
April Regular Features
April Informational Items
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber...
Barbara Gruber and Sue Gruber are a mother-daughter writing team who share a passion for teaching and writing. This is not an "overnight success" story--they have been writing together for eighteen years. They are currently developing new educational products to be released by publishers this spring. They have written and sold over one hundred fifty educational products to publishers which are sold worldwide.

Barbara is a former teacher who was employed by Frank Schaffer Publications from l980 to l996. She developed and presented curriculum seminars nationwide for K-6 teachers. Barbara was involved in product development and was a freelance writer exclusively for Frank Schaffer Publications. After "retiring," she wrote a series of idea books for teachers for The Mailbox. Practice and LearnRight is the publisher of a series of best-selling word wall products. Barbara and her husband live on a farm in Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. She has four grown children and four grandchildren. Barbara earned her M.A. at Santa Clara University in California.

Sue Gruber is a kindergarten teacher who is sharing a teaching contract this year. Working half-time gives her more time with her 18 month old son Cooper. Sue, her husband and son live in Sonoma County, as well. Sue's first experience as a writer was helping Barbara write a science book for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue has a degree in geology and a strong science background. They continued as a writing team and created dozens of products for Frank Schaffer Publications. Sue and Barbara wrote eight new teacher idea books soon to be released by Practice and LearnRight. Sue taught grades three, four, five and is currently team teaching kindergarten. Sue earned her M.A. at Sonoma State University in California.

Barbara and Sue are are partners in Barbara Gruber Online Courses for Teachers. They personally write each course with today's busy teachers in mind. Teachers can do coursework completely on their own, or, if they wish, interact on line with others. They can earn one, two or three semester units from University of the Pacific. Barbara and Sue present information on a practical level. It can be put into action immediately in classrooms. Barbara and Sue provide instructional strategies and management ideas without creating more work for teachers.

The internet allows Barbara & Sue to do the work they love most—work directly with teachers. They are thrilled with the response by teachers to their courses. They have a fresh, teacher-friendly approach to affordably-priced courses. Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber have created exactly what today's teachers are looking for! You can find out about their courses at

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Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers...
by Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
10 Ways to Actively Involve Every Reader

Spring is a wonderful time to bring some fun variations into your reading program. There are lots of easy ways to do this without creating extra work for busy teachers. Our motto is "There IS a life beyond teaching"---we promise not to give you more work to do! This article provides easy-to-implement ways to add springtime sparkle to reading time in classrooms everywhere.

  1. Whole Class Book Club
  2. Are you in a book club? Isn't it fun to get together with a bunch of friends who have read the same book? There's nothing better than escaping for a few hours and indulging in deep discussions about books! Why not let your students experience the same kind of excitement? Here's an easy way to have a whole class book club! Step away from your usual reading program for a few weeks and enjoy!

    Track down a class set of books that you know your students will love. You may want to use bonus points from book orders to "purchase" a class set of books. Totally immerse your students in the experience! Now is the time to pull in everything you can within reason that ties in with the book.

    For example, a primary teacher might choose Frog and Toad Are Friends for the class book club book. Now is the time to learn about the life cycle of frogs during science, write Haiku poems about frogs, do some hands on math using frog counters and lily pads, and that cute frog art project you've always wanted to try! An upper grade teacher might choose Island of the Blue Dolphins. During Island of the Blue Dolphins book club students learn about California history, make maps of the island, calculate how many miles Karana would have had to paddle to reach the mainland, and learn more about the animals that populated the island. Be sure to have children decorate the room to go with the book theme! Even your most reluctant readers will love this special time in your classroom! We bet you'll enjoy the change of pace too!

  3. "With" instead of "For…"
  4. Our motto is there's a life beyond teaching! Are you overwhelmed by the amount of personal time you spend in your classroom? Here's something to consider! The more active involvement you draw from your students, the more they learn. Do you have passive students who sit back and let you entertain them? It's time to ask yourself this question:

    Can I do this WITH my students during school time instead of FOR my students using out-of-school time?

    You can spend time after school writing sentences about a story on sentence strips for a sequencing activity. Or, you can elicit sentences about the story from your students and jot them on sentence strips as you discuss and sequence them.

    Start looking for opportunities to do more with your students instead of for your students. It's a win-win situation! You have more time to pursue a life beyond teaching and your students are actively involved!

  5. Chapter Artists
  6. Try this idea when you start a new read aloud chapter book. Before reading the first chapter, choose a student to be the chapter artist. When you're about half way through the chapter have the student begin working on an illustration to go with the chapter. Give the artist a few minutes to finish up the picture. Paste the picture on a piece of chart paper. Label the paper with the chapter number and chapter title. Elicit sentences about the chapter to write on the chart paper. Read the sentences to the class. Reread the sentences together. Use a new piece of chart paper for each chapter. At the end of the book, create a cover and title page and staple pages into a big book!

    Each day before reading a new chapter, take a few minutes to review and read the chart paper pages you have already created with your class. This instant review brings all of your students up to speed and gets them ready to hear the new chapter. It improves listening comprehension for the chapter they are about to hear. Keep track of your artists on a class list to make sure everyone get a turn.

  7. Banner Books

Here's an easy way to generate excitement about a book you are reading aloud to your class. Post four tagboard charts labeled:

  • Captivating Characters
  • Amazing Words
  • Favorite Sentences and Quotes
  • We Predict

After reading and discussing the chapter, add information to each chart. Use different colored markers to record the information each day. The colors graphically show how characters and plots evolve and how predictions need to be revised as new information is revealed.

  1. Understanding Characters
  2. With your students, brainstorm a list of generic character traits such as adventurous, angry, brave, caring, gentle, curious, sad, thoughtful, happy, fearful, silly, shy, friendly, mean. Jot each trait in bold print on a word card.

    Use these character trait cards with any story. List on the chalkboard the names of the characters from a story you've read. For example:

    Max      Mom      Both      Neither

    Distribute the cards to your students. Students place the trait cards on the chalkledge under the correct headings. After all of the cards have been placed, pick up the cards and read them aloud. Ask students to share specific examples that illustrate each of the characters traits.

    Students love this activity and there are no papers to mark!

  3. Savvy See-Through
  4. Chances are you have lots of great charts that you use with your students. Here's a way to get even more out of your charts! Make a few clear plastic overlay sheets to use with your charts. You and your students can use watercolor markers to write on the overlays. Make the overlay sheet by running the laminator with nothing in it until it's the size of your chart.

    Take a minute to think about some of the skills you teach. Do you have a chart that is perfect to use during a lesson about compound words? Clip the clear plastic sheet over the chart and let students come up and circle the compound words.

  5. Instant Retellings
  6. After a group or the entire class has read or listened to a story, select a child to give an oral summary. Then, let other students add additional important details. Next time, choose another child to start the retelling. Keep track of the students who initiate the summaries on a class list. You want to make sure each of your students has a chance to do a retelling.

  7. Empower Students by Offering Choices

There's nothing like offering choices to involve your students. We don't mean choices like, "Do you want to read today?" Here are some easy-to-implement ways to provide choice in your classroom from time to time:

  • Let students select a paper or project to have graded.
  • List three activities and let students choose to complete one of them.
  • Give two follow-up questions after a story. Let students choose on of the questions to answer.

Giving children choices provides ways to build trust and fosters responsibility. It helps children understand that the classroom belongs to them and their teachers.

  1. Free High-Interest Materials

We guarantee that this book will become the most popular one in your classroom library. Fill a binder with plastic page protectors. Keep an eye out for high interest materials for your students to read. Slip them into the plastic pages. Ideas for FREE high interest reading material:

  • menus
  • catalogs
  • ads from the Sunday paper
  • cereal box front and back panels
  • maps
  • interesting news articles

Before you know it, your students will start contributing material to the binder! You may end up with several binders! At the beginning of each year take everything out of the binders and pique students' interest by gradually adding items a few at a time.

You can also have a box or basket with mail order catalogs, maps and travel brochures for children to read.

  1. Terrific Titles

Here's one of the best ways we know to teach the concept of main idea. After reading a chapter, elicit ideas for a new title for the chapter. List ideas on the chalkboard. Then discuss why each of the suggestions would make a good title for the chapter.

Expectations and demands have never been higher. If you are looking for more ideas like the ones in this article and want to earn units---we can help! We offer proven, easy-to-implement ideas and activities that are 100% practical. If you like our gazette articles---you'll love our online courses for K-6 teachers. Take a look at today. Our courses are:

  • CM1---Maximize Learning with Positive Behavior Strategies
  • CM2---100% Practical Ways to Save Time and Work
  • RW1---Systematic Activities to Boost Reading Achievement
  • RW2---Build Essential Vocabulary and Basic Word Skills and our NEW COURSE
  • RW3---Systematic Activities to Boost Writing Skills

We are approved professional development providers in many states. This information will be posted on our website soon. We are now providers in WA, WI, NJ #4796 and are working on approved status in CT, OH, MA and Ontario CN.

If your state has a provider program, please let us know by sending an email to

Teachers who take our courses say they can tell we are teachers---that's music to our ears!

Best wishes ~

Barbara and Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers

Copyright 2003: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers

For a printable version of this article click here.

Gazette Articles by Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber:

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