Tag Archives: christianity

Good Books for Christian Teachers–The Chosen by Chaim Potok

As an English teacher, I am often called upon to select appropriate books to teach in my classes. Since I am the lead teacher in my department, selecting high school novels falls upon me, and this task I take very seriously. As a Christian teacher, I understand that my job requires sensitivity, detailed consideration and a logical rationale for each selection. Each book must be carefully read and selected with a Christian worldview in mind. However, each book must also strive to fulfill the academic requirements of my school as well, which has high expectations in mind. Students should be prepared to survive in an AP Literature and Composition course, which requires strong critical thinking skills and an ability to read discerningly.

One of my favorite picks is the novel The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. What can I say about this book? I love it! Not only does it relate to my students in Panama, it is perfect for discussing a different religion and religious tolerance. It is also excellent for use in a World Literature classroom since it provides so much opportunity for discussion of European history, especially history concerning the Jewish populations. In summary, The Chosen is a book narrated by a young Jewish boy named Reuven Malter, whose father is a professor who write articles about Jewish commentary and interpretation. At the beginning of the story, Reuven meets Danny Saunders, who is the son of an Hasidic Tzaddik rabbi. Although they meet under circumstances that should divide them concerning religion and identity, they somehow make a very unique friendship that helps them survive the coming-of-age process and coming to terms with their own roles within the Jewish faith. This book allows for critical discussion of the following topics:

–What should be the relationship between religion and the secular world?

–What are some Jewish beliefs and traditions? How are they similar/different from Christianity?

–What are the percentages of Jewish people residing in the U.S.? In Panama? In your particularly country? How did they get there and what type of Jewish religion do they practice? Are they Orthodox? Reformed?

–Why can we say that the Jewish faith is the “root” of Christianity? Knowing that, students will be able to develop a respect for Judaism.

–How can we maintain faith even when there seem to be “bad things” happening in the world? (For example, Reuven is living in NY city during the period of WWII.) What is our relationship to God, and how do we see Him?

This book is very multidisciplinary, as it allows students to look up statistics of Jewish populations and create graphs, research historical backgrounds to Zionism and WWII, learn a little bit about psychology and Freud, delve into the intricacies of a major world religion, write thoughtful journal entries and critical papers, and reflect upon a coming-of-age process that they themselves may be going through personally. If you haven’t yet read novels by Chaim Potok, check it out!


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Technology in the English Classroom

One of the greatest challenges that will be facing me next year is how to best utilize technology in the classroom, whether as an instructional tool, an assessment tool, or simply showing students how English and technology work together in today’s 21st century world. So far, our school is equipped with a fairly large computer lab–around 25 computers network-connected. We also will have a projector and laptop in each classroom beginning with next year. I’ve also talked the school into purchasing a few video cameras for use in creating video projects, and they have thankfully complied. This year, I used my personal portable DVD player for school DVD viewing because we have a limited supply of DVD players at the school, and some of them were missing remote controls or not working correctly.

Despite all of the increasing technology that is being made available to our school, I am facing the challenge of how to incorporate it into my classes and also with the challenge of how to coach a new middle school teacher how to incorporate it into the middle school curriculum, which is even more focused on computer literacy. They will need to be able to film, edit and upload Youtube videos, blog their own portfolios and demonstrate agility with Powerpoint and MS Word. I’m super excited about what the future holds, but I know that I will also need to teach myself how to do these things before I can begin to instruct students in their use.

So here is the challenge for you who view the Forum and want to share lesson plan ideas: Do you have any worksheets, plans or instructional guides that incorporate technology in your classroom as a student project? An assessment activity? An instructional tool? If so, pass the information along to your fellow teachers by either emailing them to me or by commenting on this site. I’m sure that there are many other teachers who are in the same boat here, and need to educate themselves or gather together resources and ideas. Remember–if you have any requests that you would like to be blogged on this site, be sure to let me know! I want this site to be helpful for you, and your needs may be different than my needs as a teacher. Also, if you saw something on this site that helped you, be sure to let me know!


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Audio Books Part 2

After communicating via email with the Recorded Books people, they explained what their company had to offer in terms of resources. So, as a follow up, I decided to post the email that was sent to me on this blog so that you could see for yourselves what Recorded Books can give you and how it will help your particular child or student to succeed in school.

From: “Jean Stephens” <jstephens@recordedbooks.com>  Add Mobile Alert
To: “‘Anna Drake'” <anna_drake22@yahoo.com>
CC: “‘Jennah Watters'” <kjennah@recordedbooks.com>
Subject: Recorded Books for ESL
Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 12:46:52 -0400


Thanks for visiting our blog. I enjoyed your site. Stimulating ideas and a very nice look.


No, Recorded Books does not have any teacher guides oriented towards religion.


As for ESL, we think the best application of audio is the listen-and-read strategy with an unabridged audiobook that matches the print book word for word. This multisensory approach lets the narration support students with weaker reading skills, or, alternatively, the reading along in the book can help students transition from the spoken word to print text. Often the listen-and-read approach allows striving readers to access books they might not be able to handle without audio support—and that means you don’t have to “dumb down” their material and students are spared the insult of trying to learn with books that are too immature for them.


We’ve also got popular K-12 fiction recorded at slightly reduced speeds to give ESL learners a little more time to run their eyes across the print page (SteadyReaders) and we have some very slow recordings of specially written short books for older students whose English is at an early elementary level (SmartReaders.) These and some other ESL tools can be seen at our website: go to www.recordedbooks.com/school, click on Special Products, and start with the Overview at the top of the menu.


Thanks so much for mentioning us at your site. Looks like we share some of the same concerns and objectives. Look forward to hearing from you again.


Jean Stephens

School Marketing Manager

Recorded Books, LLC

1 800 638-1304, ext. 1144




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Recorded Books and Lesson Plans with Recordings

Some teachers are trying to find new ways of incorporating technology into their lesson plans in a way that is fun, inviting and reaches out to auditory learners. I happened across this blog site that contained some very interesting lesson plans using audio recordings and books. I invite you to check it out. In particular, audio books can help struggling readers learn new vocabulary, read faster at home and improve their comprehension levels. It is strongly recommended that they listen to an audio recording of the reading and follow along in their books. In terms of usage, it is not appropriate for students to just listen to an audio book recording of their text without having the words in front of them as well. However, for fun in elementary classrooms, students can have a story listening corner using audio recordings. It may also help students comprehend Shakespeare a little better in the secondary classroom. What I noticed first, however, was the lesson plan title for listening to the sounds of bees and insects. The title was “Make a Joyful Noise.” That is one way to introduce praise and worship to God as Nature also has its own ways of showing praise. 🙂  I hope that the site will be helpful to you. I will also post it in the handy links section under Teaching Methodologies as “Audio Recordings and Lesson Plans.”

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“But I Don’t Have Enough Time!”: Some Thoughts on Inclusion

International schools and Christian schools in general tend to have a high turn-over rate. At our school, people sign a standard 2-year contract that is renewable, but so far I am the veteran, having 5 consecutive years teaching at our school. Due to this high turn-over rate, we have realized the need to have an extensive curriculum documentation process in place and to purchase textbooks that guide teachers in meeting the needs of ESL and Special Needs students. This year, I was very excited and happy to note that our school brought in a Resource specialist to work with our kids and guide us in instructional practices.

For some of our teachers, however, it was mystifying. Our Resource specialist tried to explain how to modify tests. Some teachers said, “But I don’t have enough time!” However, the law requires us to make time. And modified tests do not really need to take you longer than 15 minutes to make. Most teachers had this concept about modifying tests and instruction that they had to write two brand new tests every time they wanted one! For those who were relying on A Beka tearouts (We are still phasing A Beka out of our curriculum, not that those who use it should be offended…), this was a nightmare. In reality, the idea is that you are testing on the same material, but you just have to check the wording and make it look different on the page so that those with processing disorders, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and reading disabilities do not get points wrong simply because they are not understanding the instructions. Your 15 minutes of time may make the difference between a happy, confident, motivated student and a failing, miserable, depressed student. I ask you now, is it worth it?

Graphic organizers comes in handy for meeting the needs of special students. Most of them work well when they can picture the information that goes in the box and map it out in their heads. The important thing to remember is that multiple choice does not really work well with most special needs students. Long matching columns also can be confusing as they lose track of their thoughts. Give them smaller matching columns, graphic organizer responses and do not take points off for spelling. A graphic organizers link is located in my right hand column.

I would like to gather together some samples of your modified tests so that we can share and make them available for other teachers who are confused about how to create modified tests in a time-saving way. I will post these tests here on the Forum for people to view. Unfortunately, I cannot pay you for sharing your tests with all of us, but I hope that you are willing to trust that if you share your materials with us, one day you will find materials that you can use as well. I ask that all those who use the Forum respect the materials shared and do not sell them, post them on their own personal websites, or take credit for the work of another. Please upload your own tests/quizzes to your blogs/sites and then send me the URL link for access. For right now, here in a link that I discovered in the process of seeking lesson plans for inclusion:


The above site is a secular one, but I believe that reaching all children is a mutual goal of all educators. Also, if you have tips for instructing Special Needs students that have been key to your success, share them with us in a comment! I would love to hear from you!

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The Challenge for Christian Teachers in Public Schools

Suffice it to say that while I am extremely proud and happy to be a Christian school teacher, I have recently learned that being a Christian educator means much more than where you teach. In actuality, it means how you teach, and especially who you are. If you are a Christian educator means that you are committed to maintaining a personal life of integrity, serving as a role model for students, and raising up students who can make a difference in the world.

How can this be accomplished for those of us who teach in public schools, some of you may very well wonder. We live in a country that preserves the right to believe and the right not to believe. Your opinion on this principle may very well determine whether or not you choose to change the world from within the public school system or whether you choose to retreat and try a different route by choosing homeschooling and Christian schooling as your primary ministry.

On this site I would like to personally recognize two key points about choosing to teach in a public school and try to develop an apologia for those who feel called to this particular ministry. 

1. Jesus tended to minister among those who were most in need of Him. So many stories of Jesus’ life contribute to the idea that Jesus was really about “healing those who were sick.” This does not mean that homeschooling and Christian school ministries are not also valid ministries, but it doesn’t rule out public school teaching as a ministry. Instead, the stories of Zaccheus the tax collector, the woman at the well, the leprous beggars, the Good Samaritan and the thief on the cross teach us that no point is too low that Christ cannot reach into the depths, bring forgiveness from sin and change lives radically. Once we stop believing this, we have chosen to doubt God’s power and we, as a natural result, are blinded to miracles of public school ministries that happen every day.

2. Public schools do not have to be a lost cause. Teachers can contribute in different ways: by pushing for character education programs, by counseling students one-on-one, by inspiring them to seek answers for the emptiness inside their lives and (even subversively) play Christian music in their empty rooms during break in the hopes that the notes will one day reach the ears of a passerby. Those who are brave enough to venture an invitation to a youth group activity, start a Bible study group, or openly admit a personal Christian belief should hold fast to the words of Jim Eliot, which we Christians admire so well: “He is no fool if he would choose to give the things he cannot keep to buy what he can never lose.” What is a mission after all, but to take risks in the name of Christ. Above all, it should be the job of each Christian educator to train up children to take ownership of their faith, not to just receive it passively as the byproduct of a parent’s beliefs. In a public school, teachers are more free to ask the big questions concerning ethics, morality, opinions concerning the role of religion in society and even more to model the community service that causes so many to open their eyes to the reality of Christ’s love for orphans, the homeless, the societal rejects, and minority voices in our country.

Just an FYI–If you happen to be a Christian teaching in a public school, you may want to check out the link for the Christian Educators Association International. According to the website, its mission is ” to “serve the educational community by encouraging, equipping and empowering Christian educators serving in public and private schools.” It claims to be the only Christian Association that includes Christian educators working in the public arena and offers professional liability insurance opportunities if you should ever find yourself in a position of threatened suspension, termination or lawsuits.

Thanks for being on the front lines!

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Homeschooling in Today’s Modern World

Many Christians today still choose homeschooling as an educational option, but have no idea where to turn for resources. Although reasons for homeschooling vary, there are a number of key questions to consider:

1. Which curriculum are you going to use? Keep in mind that this question goes beyond a textbook. Parents can answer this question by looking to their state standards or even national standards of education. Some educational programs scoff at standards developed by secondary sources, but keep in mind that these standards have more to do with research and development and less to do with faith-based questions of morality. For example, a Christian school or homeschool can follow the National Council of Teachers of English standards or the AERO standards quite easily without finding something against their moral values. The Association for the Supervision of Curriculum and Development is an interesting research-based group that publishes key texts on curriculum development as it pertains to the neurological development of students. If we know how kids learn, then we can apply that knowledge to curriculum development. You may think you know best for your kid, but logically it is better to choose a guide that lessens the learning gaps rather than to try and “wing it” on your own.

2. What are your reasons for homeschooling? Do you want to provide your child with a classical education that includes literature, Latin, modern languages and rhetoric? Do you want your child to have a wide-ranging education focused on making them well-rounded individuals? Do you want your child to have the freedom to individually explore their own interests and meet their educational goals at the same time? Is your primary goal to preserve the doctrines of your faith? If so, what key points of doctrine do you see as most essential? Your choice of methodology and resources will depend on these objectives.

3. Who will be teaching your child? Will you be undertaking the responsibility of your child’s education? If so, what qualifications do you hold for the task? What types of professional development will you do to prepare yourself to be the best teacher possible for your child? If you are wanting your child to be more of an independent learner, what tools will help your child best reach that goal?

4. Where can you find additional resources and support? Perhaps you live in a small neighborhood where homeschooling is not the norm. Online forums such as Christian Teacher Forum can help you find fellowship, resources and help as you journey on this new and exciting path. The Internet has provided so many exciting homeschooling, technology-based tools! Just check out the links to “The Jubilee Academy” in the homeschooling category, for example. It is exciting what is taking place in our world today!

5. Where can you find extra-curricular activities that will provide your child with social interaction? One of the biggest complaints I heard from other students is that homeschooling children tended to be withdrawn in social situations. Teach your child how to capably interact with other children of the same age group by exploring outside lessons in art, music, martial arts, sports, and other community activities. Determine a school schedule that works for your child and allows him/her to explore outside interests. Send your child on missions trips offered through your church or participate in a foreign exchange program at a local school.

I hope that this article has given you some food for thought. Please feel free to share your lesson plan ideas, your stories and your reasons for choosing homeschooling. Help make Christian Teacher Forum an effective networking tool for homeschooling parents!


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