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A fresh start: Tips for decluttering your classroom in 2011

Before I began working for Imagine Learning, I substitute taught at several elementary and middle schools. Each classroom I entered revealed an interesting—but logical—pattern: classrooms that were neat and tidy at the beginning of the school year became a cluttered chaos by the new year. And, generally, any semblance of organization diminished completely from that point until the end of the academic year. Fortunately, organizational chaos is evitable—and now is the perfect time to get your classroom back in order. So, if you are a teacher who can barely see your desk beneath mounds of papers and clutter, read on for tips on starting 2011 back on the clutter-free track.
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The difference a year makes: Alexis's story

As part of our One Year Later series, we’re sharing the stories of four students who have made remarkable progress with Imagine Learning English in just one year. This is the first of four posts in the series. If you’re like me, you’re wondering where 2010 has gone. The new year always seems to sneak up on me, and I’ll probably be dating my checks wrong well into February. At the same time that I wonder where the year has gone, I also like to take a moment to reflect on what a difference one year makes. One year ago no one knew what Wikileaks was. One year ago LeBron James was beloved in Cleveland. And one year ago no one knew that something called an iPad would become the best-selling electronic device in history. One year later One year can also make a big difference in the life of a student. Recently, Imagine Learning had the chance to catch up with four students we had first visited in November 2009, when the students were just beginning to use Imagine Learning English. In November of 2010, the video team returned to see the progress these students had made in just one year with Imagine Learning English.
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Do some (web) surfing this winter

So winter break is here, and you’ve just settled down for a much-deserved long winter’s nap—or at least a little rest and relaxation. You have some great book recommendations (both educational and just for fun), and you have a list of great Imagine This! posts to catch up on. What else do you need? More educational resources? Some news resources so you can catch up on what’s going on around the world? Maybe a few fun time-wasters? Then this is the post for you, my friend. Here are a few of my personal favorite websites, with plenty to keep you occupied until school is back in session. You might even get some good ideas for lesson plans in the coming new year!
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Winter break reading: 10 favorite education books

If you’re like me, reading is something you’re passionate about. But it’s also the one thing that always gets bumped to the bottom of the to-do list. Scratch that. On most days, reading doesn’t even make it to the to-do list. So when holidays come around, I count those days as my time to catch up on some page turning. I’ve planned, prepared, shopped, wrapped, delivered, and packed. I’m ready for our holiday road trip and excited to have some uninterrupted reading time in the car. Now all I need is a good book list to guide my reading choices. So I asked our instructional designers what books they’d recommend. Here's a list of our top suggestions for your winter break reading list. 10 Favorite Education Books: Milton Chen. Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools. (2010) Linda Darling-Hammond. The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. (2009) Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. The Race between Education and Technology. (2008) Wendy Kopp. One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for America and What I Learned Along the Way. (2001) Jay Mathews. Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America. (2009) Deborah Meier. In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization. (2002) National Research Council. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. (2000) Diane Ravitch. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. (2010) Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer. The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract. (2000) James W. Stigler. The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom. (1999) But why stop at ten? Here are a few extras we couldn’t resist adding: Donna Foote. Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America. (2008) Shirley Sagawa. The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers Are Transforming America. (2010) Paul Tough. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada's Quest to Change Harlem and America. (2008) I know I’m stopping at the library on my way out of town. What will you be reading over the next few days and weeks? Do you have any books you’d recommend adding to our favorites list?
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Best of the blog: Top posts from 2010

Winter break—it’s finally here. Eager students (and teachers) can enjoy a break from school to rest, rejuvenate, and prepare for the New Year. Now that school is closed in many districts, you teachers might find yourselves with some extra time on hand. Want to not only enjoy your holiday but also stay sharp with classroom ideas? How about taking a break from holiday festivities to catch up on some of our best blog posts from this past year?
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Yule blog: Season's greetings from Imagine Learning

Season's greetings to all the teachers, administrators, and parents who help teach our kids. Happy holidays from everyone at Imagine Learning! To watch this video on YouTube, click here.
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Using music to help struggling readers: Guest post

Today we're sharing a guest post from Elizabeth M. Peterson, fourth-grade teacher and host of the Inspired Classroom, a blog about using music and arts education to enhance student learning. For more information about Elizabeth, check out her bio at the end of the post. Our students come to us with many interests and talents. Music is one of them. Whether it’s Beethoven, the Beatles, Bon Jovi or (Justin) Bieber, tapping into their love of listening to music can help students become better readers. The two disciplines are innately very similar, and teachers and parents can take advantage of these similarities to help struggling readers become motivated learners.
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How social media saved winter break

It happens every year. Just when your students have gotten into the groove of schedules and studying, along comes winter break, ready to derail your efforts. This January, avoid the blank stares and cricket chirps by keeping your students engaged in learning throughout the holidays. If you've got a few minutes this break, we've got 50 simple solutions (from 5 social media sites) that will bring an end to winter break's intellectual breakdown. Because if you and your students are already planning to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, or Flickr this holiday season, you might as well be learning something at the same time.
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Why talking in class could help your English learners make even bigger gains

Keep talking! Louder, please. It's too quiet in here! You probably don't find yourself saying things like this to your students very often, but new research on how children acquire second languages might soon have you asking your students to make a little more noise in class. Neuroscientists at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, recently published a study that confirms what educators have long suspected: social engagement is a vital component of language learning. In other words, encouraging your English learners to converse with teachers and students could be the secret weapon you need to help them make some serious gains.
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Artist spotlight: A simple way to get your kids talking about art

We know that getting kids excited about art isn’t always easy. So to help you get your students a little more enthusiastic about art and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating illustrations and drawings, we're sharing an interview with Maryn Roos, one of our favorite illustrators here at Imagine Learning.  We hope you'll share this interview with your students and get them talking about what they like about art and drawing. You can even use the interview questions we asked Maryn to help your students create their own artist profiles for one of their very own art projects.
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