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Check It Out

Courier Article by Carol Banks
Sunday, August 7, 2005

Library Helps Teachers Prepare for New School Year

Can you believe it? It's August already and time for school bells to ring again.

With that in mind, today's column will focus on the Educational Materials area of Central Library's READ Center. This vital part of our department features a wealth of curriculum-related books and journals for educators. It is a veritable teacher's warehouse of information. Teachers who visit us regularly sing the praises of The Mailbox publications.

Four editions of the popular, timesaving and cross-curriculum journals are available: preschool, kindergarten through grade 1; grades 2 and 3; and intermediate. These theme-driven, bimonthly issues offer exciting ideas to entice even the most reluctant learners in the classroom.

The Mailbox also encourages teachers to write in and share tips and problem solutions with their peers. Whether it's discovering a better way to store bulletin-board cutouts or teaching multiplication tables, the Mailbox has something for every elementary educator.

A companion publication, The Mailbox Bookbag, also published bimonthly, is devoted solely to the teaching of reading and literature, and showcases popular children's books. In the newest issue, for example, the ever-popular Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner is featured. Look for many other Mailbox publications, such as The Best of The Mailbox Theme Series books, suitable for primary grades, with units of study about Native Americans, famous black Americans, ocean life, penguins, weather and building character, to name a few. Holidays Through the Year suggests appropriate celebratory activities for those special times that children love.

If you are a first-time teacher, a teacher who is moving to another grade or just a teacher who wants to brush up on basic skills, I recommend the Getting Ready to Teach series produced by Frank Schaffer Publications. An outstanding educator who specializes in that grade level has written each book, from kindergarten to sixth grade. Very user-friendly, each book presents an overview of the curriculum as well as lesson planning for the various subjects.

The fifth-grade edition, written by master teacher Susan Cloud Marino, presents a great idea for social order in the classroom. The usual tasks that need to be completed, such as conducting safety drills, maintaining a classroom library and watering the classroom plants can be assigned to students using very official titles, such as Secretary of Defense, Librarian of Congress and Secretary of Agriculture. Tips for providing the best physical layout of the classroom as well as keeping open communication between home and school are included, too.

The EdMat area also has books and journals for the specialized teacher. Let's Meet Famous Artists by Harriet Kinghorn, Jacqueline Badman and Lisa Lewis-Spicer provides exciting and informative lesson plans for 19 world-class artists. A brief biography of each artist is followed by a representative art activity. Evaluations and follow-ups are also included.

Scholastic is another giant in the educational publishing trade. Teaching With Dear America books by Jeannette Sanderson and Great American History Games by Lorraine Hopping Egan and Louise Spigarelli are two of the many Scholastic Professional Books available in the EdMat area. Both are suitable for grades 4-8. Many of these Scholastic resource books provide a full-color poster to enhance student learning. The two-sided poster for Great American History Games features Courageous Colony: A Game of Survival in Colonial Jamestown, Faces in American History and 8 History Mystery Puzzles.

When classroom studies subside for a bit, everyone heads outside for recess. If you need to familiarize yourself with basic rules for playground games, look no further then Guy Bailey's The Ultimate Playground & Recess Game Book.

This volume has "over 170 fun-packed, safe and ready-to-use activities to help you create a quality play experience for children of all ages." Chapters include rules for "traditional playground games, sports and sport lead-up games, large and small group games, relay games, classroom games and activities and games using ropes, hoops and other fun stuff."

Middle and high school educators can also find useful materials in the EdMat area. For example, Mark J. Handwerker's science series, Secondary Science Curriculum Activities Library, is geared toward grades 5-12. Titles in this series are: Ready-to-Use Chemistry Activities, Ready-to-Use Earth & Astronomical Activities, Ready-to-Use Human Biology & Health Activities, Ready-to-Use Life Science Activities and Ready-to-Use Physical Science Activities.

Each lesson provides a classwork agenda for the week, homework directions, lesson objectives, classroom activities and materials required for the lessons.

Even in the best of all possible situations, teachers have to manage a variety of classroom behaviors daily. Kenneth Shore's Elementary Teacher's Discipline Problem Solver: A Practical A-Z Guide for Managing Classroom Behavior Problems can be a handy reference. Practical advice and possible solutions are presented for such problems as back talk, bullying, chair tipping, cheating, note passing, low self-esteem, tattling and whining, to mention a few.

Plan a visit to the EdMat area of the READ Center very soon. Stop in and chat with Jan Steinmark, our reader's adviser for this area. She can help direct you to the topics you need.

She'll also be happy to show you her "on display" area, which features "the best of the best" for each month during the school year.

Carol Banks is supervisor of the READ Center, Central Library's children's Department. Contact her at (812) 428-8222. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.