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Activities to keep your students focused during the holiday season

December is an exciting month filled with holidays, treats, and gifts. But with all of that excitement in the air, you may find it difficult to hold your students’ attention for long—especially as it gets closer to winter break. At Imagine Learning, we’ve put our heads together to come up with some great ideas to help you keep your students focused during the holiday season.  Here are some of our favorites:
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Waiting for Superman: Worth the wait?

A few weeks ago I found my seat in a darkened theater, anxious to finally be seeing the film Waiting for Superman, the new documentary in which filmmaker Davis Guggenheim examines the failings of the US education system. I had heard a lot about the film, which was in limited release nationwide but had finally made its way to my town. So was Waiting for Superman worth the wait?
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New proof supporting summer reading programs

My dad looked like the proudest grandpa in the world as he told my mom and me about spending the afternoon with my seven-year-old niece. He told us about how she had completely wowed him by teaching him something new about orca whales— specifically, the methods they use to hunt. “I just don’t know how she knew all of that,” my dad said. And then my mom revealed the secret to my niece’s whale knowledge: my sister had assigned her children book reports over the summer to keep them school-ready for the coming year. As a seven-year-old, I probably would have considered this idea cruel and unusual punishment. As an adult and education advocate, all I could think was, “My sister is a genius!” And my niece isn’t the only proof that summer reading programs are working. School Library Journal recently released some interesting results about the proven effects of summer reading.
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We're grateful for lessons learned

A while back, we celebrated World Teachers' Day by thanking the teachers who made a difference in our lives. Today we're celebrating Thanksgiving by expressing our gratitude for the most important lessons we learned as students. So here's a short list of the lessons we're grateful to have learned over the years from wonderful educators who weren't just our teachers but were also our mentors, coaches, and friends. We're grateful we learned how to . . .
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An irresistible way to change lives with a book

We know books can shape lives in many ways.  Here is one easy way to bring that power to your elementary classroom or home. I learned this lesson my freshman year in high school.  I attended a diverse Chicago high school.  And I can tell you, there were plenty of students who wished they were anywhere but school. But one thing the school had going for it was a gifted veteran English teacher who knew the power of books.  And she gave us a gift some 35 years ago. She had us read the gothic romance novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  (Not exactly the coolest book for a high school boy to read.  The cover looked like a romance novel your mom would read at the beauty shop.)  To my surprise, it was a great book.  But I was in for a much bigger surprise a few days later.
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Should your class jump on the blogwagon?

When a friend of mine first invited me to participate in her group blog about eight years ago, I was a little baffled about how to use it. And I couldn’t decide if I liked the format. The Bookity Book Book Club would hold online discussions of—yep, you got it—books. Even though I love reading and discussing books, my participation was minimal because I just didn’t get how to use the program, and, sadly, I was scared to learn something new. But then my husband and I started having children while living far from our families, and suddenly blogging took on a new importance. It was a way to stay connected—to show parents and grandparents what was happening in the lives of our daughters. And it was a way for me to share my feelings and ideas with a broader audience than just “dear diary.” There are other ways to use blogs beyond family life, and teachers around the world have discovered the value of classroom blogging as not only “an avenue for their communications, but also as a tool for giving voice to what their students are learning and how they are learning.” Have you considered the idea of starting a class blog? Maybe you’re not quite sure if it’s the right thing for your class, or how to start, or if it will be worth the effort when so many projects already tug at your time. To help out, I’ve done a little research for you. Here are ten reasons to have your class start blogging:
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1,000 Imagine Rewards points for Customer Appreciation Month

It’s Customer Appreciation Month, and we’re celebrating by giving away 1,000 Imagine Rewards points to all of our readers. Log in today and use promo code THANKYOU2010 to receive your points. While you’re there, check out your account and see if you’re ready to redeem your points for one of our exciting rewards. Hurry, this offer expires after December 1, 2010. Not signed up for rewards? Click here to create your free account today. You’ll get 1,000 points just for signing up and another 1,000 points with your customer appreciation code. You’re almost halfway to your first reward!
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Help your boys become reading champs

Have you ever noticed a significant gap in reading achievement between the girls and boys in your class? If you have, you're not alone. Research by the Ontario Ministry of Education indicates that although educators do their best to ensure equal learning opportunities for both genders, boys seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to reading. Here are some interesting facts about the gap between boys and girls:
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Giving back, giving thanks

Imagine going to school without a backpack, school supplies, or even the smallest necessities—socks, or even shoes. For some families, buying back-to-school supplies, including essentials, just isn't in the budget. We were reminded of this reality at our annual company-wide conference in July when a local educator told the story of a young student who wouldn't go to class. [flv image="/sites/institutional/files/blog/2010/11/TheRoadHome.jpg"]rtmp://sas-Flash.OnstreamMedia.com/ondemand/FlashDMSP/imaginelearn/Blog/TheRoadHome.flv[/flv]
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Are you breaking cultural barriers in your classroom?

‘Tis the season for cultural holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and if you're like most teachers, you probably have a class full of students who all celebrate the holidays a little differently. But no matter where your students are from or what language they speak at home, they come together in your classroom every day, so creating a community and breaking cultural barriers is a must. How do you do it? With books, of course.
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