Summer Break

Good Afternoon,

Today’s blog post will be our final one for this Spring. We will return with some exciting blog posts this Fall. Have a wonderful Summer. May the Lord bless you as you pursue a life that honors Him.


Upcoming Articles

Five week Series

We are excited to announce that Dr. Jeff Walton will be writing a five-week series for us at FOCUS.  Each week Jeff will be discussing a “universal education truth” for educators in today’s world. The first post will be discussing the role of the teacher in his/ her classroom.

Get to know Jeff

He serves as the executive director of the American Association of AACS staff member, Jeff Walton, photo by Hal Cook, 2015Christian Schools headquartered in Chattanooga, TN. He is the editor of Journal for Christian Educators. He has served in Christian education ministries for 33 years as a high school teacher, school administrator, college administrator, and association officer.


Gift Card Winners!

Drum roll please! The winners of our Amazon gift card drawing were Karen Creech and Melissa Mcavoy. Congratulation! Thank you to you all for being a amazon-gift-cardpart of FOCUS this year. We sincerely hope that you have been able to take many of the ideas from our posts and use them in your school and classroom. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Digital Invasion (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013)

Have you ever considered how much you use technology? If it were taken away, wouldthe-digital-invasion you be devastated?In The Digital Invasion Dr. Hart and Dr. Frejd explore how technology changes people. This is a very helpful book when considering how technology should be used in the home and at school.


Purposeful Technology

Have you ever considered how much we rely on technology for screen-shoteveryday tasks? The phone rings on the night stand to wake you up, a notification pops up on the screen reminding you to bring the ice cream to grandparent day, and a text from the school principal pleads with you to arrive early at school to unlock and turn on the lights. The only break that you get is at the traffic light where you finally get to check Facebook. Sound familiar? Our lives are so busy and technology makes it easy to multitask. Even in the classroom we are bombarded with technology. Schools are pushing for the newest and greatest from Apple. Is technology really helping our students? Is it possible to use technology too much? As the teacher, it is your job to determine what will best help your students.

Dr. Hart and Dr. Frejd co-wrote a book called The Digital Invasion. In this book Dr. Hart and Dr. Frejd explore how technology is changing individuals and their relationships with other people. Consider how technology has changed how we spell. You laugh because you know that it’s true. Do students see a need to know how to spell words correctly? No. They rely on their devices to correct their quickly written message. “Once we have lost the art of spelling, we may never be able to retrieve it” (p. 60). Technology has also changed how we communicate with our students and with their parents. Face-to-face meetings with parents are now a last resort. “God has created us for authentic connection and meaningful attachments – the kind of connection that has the power to secure, grow, free and transform us” (p 92). Keeping a personal relationship with both students and with parents is very important.

We are told in 1 Corinthians 14:40 that everything we do should be done decently and in order. This applies to the classroom. Everything that is done, from lesson preparation to the use of visual aids, should be done with a purpose and in good order. As you prepare your lessons, think about how you can use technology to its fullest potential but not beyond its usefulness.

~ First, calculate how much technology you use in your classroom. Is it well balanced with your other visual aids?

~ Second, consider the purpose for using the technology. Many educational apps are really cool, but your reason for using them in your classroom needs to be purposeful and with a goal in mind.

~ Third, think about your time spent in the classroom. Time is one of your most valuable resources. Don’t waste any of it!

~ Finally, consider your students. You are the teacher. You know the individual needs of your students. How many of them will benefit from using technology?

My purpose for writing this blog was not to make you hate technology, but to ask you to consider why you are using it. Make technology, like everything else you do in the classroom, purposeful.


~ Kara Carroll ~


Hart, A. D., & Frejd, S. H. (2013). The digital invasion: How technology is shaping you and your relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Look under the “Books” tab to find out more about The Digital Invasion!

Adding Spice to Your Reading Instruction

 Teaching with Variety

“Variety is the spice of life” is an idiom which refers to the idea that individuals prefer to participate in a variety of experiences instead of doing the same thing all the time. People like variety. You see this in everyday life when you shop for ice cream. This idea also applies to education, specifically to the teaching of reading. Doing the same thing every day is boring for students and teachers. You can add spicesvariety to your reading instruction by changing your reading groups, reading texts, and reading responses.

Reading Groups

Teaching the whole class ensures all students receive the same instruction. It also saves planning time and class time. However, this form of grouping does not meet individual needs, makes it difficult to involve all students in a discussion, and makes it more difficult to informally assess individual students. Teaching the whole class is best saved for teaching phonics, vocabulary, and specific reading skills/strategies that all students need (drawing conclusions, comparing/contrasting, summarizing).

Teaching with ability or skill groups meets the needs of the individual student or group by helping struggling readers and challenging proficient readers. When using small groups, more students participate in the discussion and informal assessment is easier to manage. Ability groups also enable you to provide text at students’ instructional reading level. Teaching skill groups is best used to reteach or practice specific skills.

Partner groups provide students with opportunities to assist others. The use of partner groups requires training and good classroom management so students stay on-task and cooperate with each other. Partner groups are effective for repeated oral reading to increase oral fluency and reciprocal reading (one student reads a page while the other listens and asks questions or summarizes what was read and then students switch roles).

Research groups also require training as students learn to cooperate with group members. Students with similar interests choose a topic. They develop research skills by locating information in books and on the Internet. Struggling readers benefit by working with proficient readers. Students share their research by writing reports, making posters, or giving presentations. Research groups give students authentic purposes for reading.

Literature groups (circles) involve students who read the same book. Most teachers offer students a choice of four or five books (historical fiction is often used). Students are assigned a job sheet to complete while independently reading the chapter. Students meet to discuss the reading. Literature groups develop leadership skills by providing students the opportunity to run their own group while the teacher moves among the groups and facilitate.

Literature Circle Roles

Discussion Director: writes questions for the group

Vocabulary Enricher: chooses difficult words to explain

Character Analyzer: identifies character traits with supporting details

Passage Picker: chooses passages to read aloud

Text Connector: connects the text to real life or a different story

Summarizer: summarizes what previously happened

Reading Texts

Narrative text contains story elements (setting, characters, theme, plot, resolution). The organization is usually in chronological order consisting of paragraphs that unfold the plot. Historical fiction, realistic fiction, and fanciful fiction are examples of narrative text. When reading narrative text, have students identify the story elements. Ask students to predict what will happen and later let them confirm or revise their predictions.

Informational text is usually written in a factual writing style. The organizational structure is varied (topic/detail, cause/effect, compare/contrast). Textbooks, newspapers, Internet articles, and encyclopedias are examples of informational text. Although most teachers use narrative text, it is important that you also teach comprehension using informational text. Provide books on interesting topics (sports, animals, how-to books). When reading informational text, have students identify the main idea, visualize concepts, or summarize the text. A major portion of reading instruction should focus on the life skill of understanding informational text so students can “read to learn.”

Reading Responses

Student responses can be varied instead of always writing book reports or answering questions. To develop deeper understanding, responses should require students to refer back to the text and provide support. During-reading responses increase understanding. While students read, let them complete a concept web, answer questions, make T-notes, or participate in reciprocal reading.

After-Reading responses promote retention by allowing time for reflection and analysis. After students read, let them sequence events in words or pictures, tell three things they learned, make a character web, act out the story, write a new ending, compare/contrast on a Venn diagram, or summarize what they read.


God created your students with differing abilities. Jesus, the master teacher, is an example to all teachers. He met the specific needs of people by using variety in grouping; He taught large groups, small groups, and individuals. Jesus used variety of instructional strategies as He taught with examples, illustrations, miracles, and questions. Reading instruction at the elementary level should prepare students for lifelong reading. Doing the same thing every day for six years does little to excite students about reading class. Add variety by using different types of text while teaching the whole class a couple of days and teaching in groups several days during the week. At least once every quarter, use literature circles to read a novel. Students don’t always have to do the same thing. Vary the types of reading responses with different texts and with different students reading the same text. You too can add spice to your reading instruction by adding variety.


Dr. Tammie Jacobs has been an educator for over 30 years. She currently serves as the head of the Department of Elementary Education at Bob Jones University, teaches elementary education courses, and supervises candidates during practicum and clinical practice.


Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Winter 2014 ed. Vol. 20. No. 2.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.

Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects ( Association of Christian Schools International, 1993)

Written by Ruth Haycock (originally in four volumes), Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects is a sourcebook of information vital to Christian school teachers.  This volume provides organized, referenced, and categorized biblical truths designed to integrate every school subject.  Whether lesson preparation, research, project completion, or chapel and program development, this volume will become a trusted reference work that will allow you to work more efficiently and effectively.  A priceless resource, Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects will deepen you knowledge and love for God’s Word while assisting you develop powerful, biblically-integrated lessons.



Aloha: Welcoming New Teachers

Works for us

AlohaPhoto Source: Wikipedia

Aloha is a small word with a big reach. Think of it as a hug. In Hawaii, we use it to say hello, good-bye, and as a synonym for love. The word aloha also describes our approach to helping new teachers get connected to our church, school ministry, and community.

Our school enrollment averages around 200 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. We have one class per grade where we try to do it right and do it well. We have 13 full-time teachers; but because it is Hawaii, every year we say good-bye to at least one terrific teacher and hello to a new one. Over the past 30 years, this has added up to a lot of hugs.

For many of these new teachers it is their first teaching opportunity. For them, moving to Hawaii is both exciting and a little scary. Here are a few of the things that have worked for us to help make the move easier for them.

Before They Arrive

Helping new teachers feel loved and wanted begins before they arrive. Moving to a new ministry can be exciting and scary. Knowing that information reduces anxiety, we try to create an environment where new teachers are comfortable asking questions. We have found that sending emails and text messages works well because of the time zone differences, but this also works well because it allows the new teachers to ask all sorts of questions as they think of them without feeling like they are bothering someone. We ask one or two of our current teachers to connect with them as well. The more information we can give them before they arrive the better.

When They Arrive

My wife and I and two or three of our teachers like to greet new teachers at the airport with a smile, a flower lei, and a short tour of the island. During the first week, we want to accomplish three things.

First, we want to familiarize them with the island. This means spending the day with them as we circle the island while sharing with them about ourselves, our diverse culture, and our unique history. Moving to a new place is always better after making new friends, so we try to take other teachers with us on these excursions to help foster opportunities for new friendships to develop.

Second, we want to help them get established in their new home. Since new teachers will not be paid for another two or three weeks, we take them grocery shopping and the church picks up the tab for the first $100. We also ask the new teachers to make a list of things they need for their house and classroom. We call this a wish list. We post the wish list in the back of the church auditorium and challenge our church folks to provide the items. Our church families are great about adopting new teachers and making them feel loved and part of the church.

Third, we want to help new teachers get connected with our church. During that first week, our pastor and his wife will work on connecting with them. We encourage our college and career Sunday school class, church members, and school staff to reach out to our new teachers as well by including them in family activities. We know that the more connections the new teachers make, the faster they will feel like they are a valued part of the ministry.

After They Arrive

After playing tourist for the first week or so, we want our new teachers to get busy working. Working together builds unity, and at the beginning of the school year we have lots of opportunities for unity!

For instance, we always schedule a church-wide work day for families to come help the teachers get the campus and classrooms ready. We also have a day set aside for new teacher orientation. This way they can have the principal’s attention, take care of paperwork, and get some individual help before the other teachers come for in-service training. Once in-service training begins, an experienced teacher is asked to help the new teacher. This mentor shows the teacher how to get the classroom and lessons ready for school.

We do other things as well, but these are a few of the things that work for us. At our school, loving and helping new teachers is a planned activity, but it is also a part of who we are as a church and school. For us, we have discovered that aloha works!


John Goodale earned a B. A. in pulpit communications from Tennessee Temple University and an M.A. in education administration from Liberty University. He has been a teacher and principal at Ko’olau Baptist Academy in Kaneohe, Hawaii, for 30 years.

Copyright Journal for Christian Educators, Spring 2016 Vol.22 NO 3.  Reprinted with permission of the American Association of Christian Schools.