More tips on building a sub kit

teacheratdeskI recommend that substitute teachers  bring their own materials and activities.  A sub kit comes in handy, especially for those days when the teacher did not leave lesson plans.

I got the sub kit idea from Kid-Kits in The Baby-Sitters Club.  Club president Kristy invented Kid-Kits.  Her logic was that kids love to play with novel toys and activities.  The toys don’t have to be new, just new to the kid.  The baby-sitters stocked their Kid-Kits with old board games, art supplies, books, etc.  Click here to see the contents of the girls’ Kid-Kits at the official Baby-sitters Club site.

Here are my suggestions for building a substitute teacher’s Kid-Kit.

Class set of printable puzzles, etc.  You can copy these for each new job, or put masters in page protectors and bring dry-erase markers.  You can buy markers at dollar stores.  Another option: use crayons. Tissues will wipe crayon marks off page protectors.

Mazes: (I like the ones at KrazyDad.)  Use easy or medium mazes.  The hard ones are too hard.

Word searches:  a quick Google search for printable word searches will yield many results.  Just make sure that your word search prints on one page.  Some of them put the words on one page and the jumble of letters on another.  SuperWordSearchPuzzles.com has good puzzles that print all on one page.

Logic puzzles: don’t break these out unless you are prepared to teach a lesson on how to do them.  A great source: logic-puzzles.org.

Squishy ball: bring a ball for Silent Ball, an all-time-favorite classroom game.  Basically, it’s a silent game of catch.  Many kids make it an elimination game.  If you miss a catch or make a really bad throw, you’re out.  You’re also out if you talk.  Kids LOVE this game!

Storybooks and picture books:

Bring a collection of fun stories for kids.  You can check them out of the local library or buy some at used bookstores or library sales.  Another option is to visit the school library before school and ask for a book.

Another good option is a chapter book that is really a collection of short stories  You can read a chapter or two to each class.  Ir you return to a class, they will be excited to hear more chapters.  Here are some kids’ favorites:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and all the sequels

Paddington books by Michael Bond and all the sequels

The Stories Julian Tells and Ann Cameron’s other books about Julian

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Peggy Parish

The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H. A. Rey

Good luck at your sub job!  Click here for my first post on building a sub kit.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 28, 2014

 

Book Review: Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

Fly Away HomeFly Away Home is a powerful picture book about homelessness.  The narrator and his father live at the airport.  In spare prose, the boy tells his story.

“My dad and I live in an airport . . . the airport is better than the streets.”  So begins the narrative by a young boy who matter-of-factly describes his daily existence.  The simple text touches on many emotions: sadness  because the boy lost his mother, anger and resentment of those who have a home, and hope and hopelessness.  The title Fly Away Home refers to an episode wherein the boy is given hope when a bird trapped in the airport flies to freedom.

This book makes a great readaloud and springboard for discussion.  While listening, students will be so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.  They are utterly sympathetic to the family’s plight.  After reading, discussions of homelessness, loss of a parent, and hope follow naturally.

The illustrations complement the text.  Ronald Himler’s watercolors show the vast impersonal nature of the airport and the efforts of the boy and his father to fade into the background.  Often, the two are quite literally in the background.  The pictures convey intense loneliness and determination.

My students often make the connection to The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.  That movie dramatizes the true story of a man who became a successful stockbroker despite the significant obstacle of having neither money nor a home.

Click here for a lesson plan and worksheet (on page 3.)

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Jul 21, 2014

 

Tips for substitute teachers: easy activities and lessons

The Three Musketeers

If you substitute teach long enough, you will wind up subbing for a teacher who didn’t leave lesson plans.  Suddenly you will have to plan a full day of lessons and activities.  A more common problem is that the teacher’s lesson plan didn’t take long enough, and you have to fill an extra hour or two.  Here are some time-tested activities that elementary students love.  All of them are easy for substitutes to pull together.

My best advice to subs: when all else fails, read a story.   Even naughty classes will usually sit still for a story.  Grab one off the shelves or call to the office, librarian or a neighboring teacher for an age-appropriate picture book.

After you read the story, tie in an activity.

  • Illustrate your favorite part in the story
  • Write a paragraph about your favorite part and illustrate it
  • Create a “written retelling” or summary of the story
  • Write a new ending or a twist on the story
  • Do some sort of writing/drawing activity that pops into your mind while you are reading

Create comic strips: kids love to create comic strips. All you need is a piece of paper for each student.  Plain white copy paper is best, but notebook paper will do in a pinch.  Teach students to divide the paper in eighths by folding it in half, then half again, then once more.  If you’re feeling ambitious, teach the kids that this is two to the third power or show them how ¼ is half of a half, and 1/8 is half of ¼.  Your call on whether this is a good idea.

Comic strips can be an open-ended project, or they can tie into the curriculum.  Comic strips work well with social studies and science lessons.

Write & draw: My students love to do design-and-write lessons.  Kids will enjoy designing their own castle, tree house, club house, etc. and writing about its special features.

Good luck!  After you’ve done all these activities, read another story to those kids!

Other ClassAntics posts on substitute teaching:

How to build emergency sub plans

Benefits of being a substitute teacher

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 14, 2014

 

Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring

RuthHellerFlowersA good coloring page should be part of every teacher’s Emergency Sub Plans.  Ruth Heller’s designs for coloring are high-quality, engrossing designs that boys and girls love to color.  I highly recommend that every elementary teacher own one or two.

I first learned of Ruth Heller’s coloring books when a colleague shared the Snowflakes book.  I used them to help the kids create personalized calendars for their parents.  The class would be silent for forty minutes straight as the kids colored their snowflakes.  At other times of the year, this is forty minutes a teacher can ill afford to devote to coloring.  However, during mid-December in a particularly snowy year with no recess, it was just fine.

Your class will love all of Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring.  The books can easily become projects.  Use the Flowers designs as the basis for Mother’s Day cards.  Use the Butterflies design for decorations to go with your science unit on butterflies.  Prisms and Geometrics can accompany a math lesson; Leaves go with a plant unit or autumn leaves lessons.

Happy coloring!

Posted in Book Lists,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 7, 2014

 

Celebrate the Fourth of July with free online games about the American Revolution

statueoflibertyIn the spirit of the Fourth of July, take a moment to play some fun games about the American Revolution.

American Revolution quiz game: Test your knowledge with multiple quizzes about the American Revolution.  The quizzes cover the revolution up to 1789.

TeachingAmericanHistory.org American Revolution tutorial: This is more like a lesson than a game, but you get to click around.  It combines geography with history as students click to learn about various locales important to the American Revolution.

Liberty! The American Revolution: This online quiz/lesson lets you answer and learn.  It coordinates with the PBS series Liberty! The American Revolution.

Mission US: This is a great site with several exciting missions.  Appropos for the Fourth of July is Mission 1: For Crown or Colony?

The Revolutionary Fireworks Frenzy!  This is a pure-fun game that lets you pretend to set off a whole bunch of fireworks in front of a place that looks a lot like Liberty Hall.  That’s it, but it’s pretty fun.

Colonial Williamsburg Interactive: This site lets you play games and do activities that enhance a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.  It’s lots of fun even if a trip to Virginia is not in your future.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers,Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Jun 30, 2014

 

Tips for teaching order of operations part three: online PEMDAS games

mathblocksThe order of operations is an important concept in math.  It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn.  Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part three: online PEMDAS games

After you’ve taught order of operations until you’re blue in the face, take a break and let some online games have a crack at it.  Your students might find that practice is a little more fun when it comes in the form of a computer game.

Here are a few good order of operations games.  You can paste the links into a convenient place for your students to choose from, or let them work from this blog post.

Kids, let’s have some PEMDAS fun!  This guide is organized to help you find a game that suits your order of operations confidence level.

Good for beginners:

Order of Operations at SoftSchools.com: I like this game because it takes actual calculation out of the equation, so to speak.  Students click on which operation they should perform first.    The program models how to show your work.

Another no-calculation order of operations game: This game also lets you just deal with order of operations, not the calculations.  It’s a good way to build your confidence in knowing what to do first.

Good for practice:

The Order of Operations Millionaire Game: practice PEMDAS in the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  This is a one or two player game.

Leveled order of operations game:  This game provides practice problems that are leveled.  You can choose to deal with parenthesis or just keep it simple.  This is a good game for building your skills.

Connect Four-style order of operations game: This game can be for one or two players.  It lets you solve practice problems, then place your piece for Connect Four.   You can change the level of difficulty.

Rags to Riches: build your virtual fortune as you solve order of operations problems.  It’s fun to think about making money at math practice!

Good for PEMDAS pros:

Funbrain Order of Operations game: This one asks students to place the numbers in order to create an equation that yields a predetermined result.  This is higher-level order of operations thinking.  Good for students who understand the concept, not so great for struggling students.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  Don’t get creative with the acronym.  This is what every math teacher after you will use.

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 23, 2014

 

Tips for teaching order of operations part two: practicing and perfecting PEMDAS

mathblocksThe order of operations is an important concept in math.  It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn.  Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part two: practicing and perfecting PEMDAS

Let students make practice problems.  Kids love to play teacher.  Have them create problems for the class to solve.  You can take a seat with the students and try the problems with everyone else.  Taking the part of a student is good for you, too.  You can feel the anxiety they experience as each new problem goes on the board.

Tell kids that PEMDAS is the default.  Many students get through lessons on order of operations only to disregard them when they see equations a few months later.   Many students don’t realize that they should always use order of operations.  I tell kids that they should always use it unless a problem specifically says otherwise.  (This would be a written mental-math problem on a standardized test.)

Warn kids of the PEMDAS pitfall: you’re just as confident when you’re getting it wrong.  Assuming your students know their basic facts (and that’s assuming a lot), then the math in order of operations problems won’t be hard for them.  Their competence with basic facts might lead them to think they’re doing well, even if they left PEMDAS behind a long time ago.

Warn students that if the math gets hard, they probably made a PEMDAS mistake.  Most practice order of operations problems do not involve difficult calculations and extra-long division.  If your kids find themselves mired in deep calculations, they probably made a wrong PEMDAS turn somewhere along the road.

Find practice problems online.

Math-aids.com has an excellent Order of Operations section with scaffolded lessons to help you give the kids non-intimidating practice.

Dad’s Worksheets has a great Order of Operations section, too.

I highly recommend both sites.  In fact, I have written quite a few blog posts that link to them.  Click for the post about Dad’s Worksheets and here for the post about Math-Aids.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  Don’t get creative with the acronym.  This is what every math teacher after you will use.

Posted in Academics,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 16, 2014

 

Tips for teaching order of operations part one: getting started with order of operations

mathblocksThe order of operations is an important concept in math.  It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn.  Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part one: getting started with order of operations

Don’t grade while you’re teaching.  You want to create a risk-free environment for students to learn order of operations.  Give them lots of practice, let them help each other, but don’t assess them.  Not formally, at least.  Don’t grade the homework for accuracy.  Give the kids a chance to learn before you assess them.

Plan at least a week just to get the basic concept.  Years of experience taught me that most students need a lot of time to grasp order of operations.  Students get frustrated as they are learning the concept.  Warn them in advance that most of them will take a while to learn this.

Scaffold the lessons.  Break order of operations into baby steps.  Students will need lots of practice with 3 + 2 x 4 before they deal with more complicated problems.  I recommend that you use individual whiteboards or no-budget whiteboards (page protectors) so that you can create problems that suit what your students need from moment to moment.

Give real-world examples.  One of the most common uses of order of operations is shopping.  Tell students a little story about buying 3 of one item, 4 of another, etc.  Then, add the tax to the whole thing if you think your class is ready for that.  After you’ve told the story, write the equation on the board.  Label each number.  The idea is for students to see why you can’t add the number of bananas to the cost of oranges, just because they happen to be next to each other in your example.

Teach kids to give themselves a checklist.  Model and require your students to write PEMDAS next to each problem.  They can use the acronym as a checklist to make sure they are following order of operations as they solve the problem.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  Don’t get creative with the acronym.  This is what every math teacher after you will use.

Posted in Academics,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 9, 2014

 

Tips for substitute teachers: find allies ASAP

tablesSubstitute teachers are often thrown into the classroom after receiving little or no training.  Therefore, it’s up to the sub to pull things together.  I highly recommend that you enlist allies as soon as possible.

When you check into the school, greet the secretaries and other grown-ups in the office.  Most likely it will be teachers and instructional aides.  Tell them which teacher you are subbing for.  If they offer help, take it.

Once you get to the classroom, find the lesson plans as quickly as you can.  If you can’t find them, talk to neighboring teachers.  They can help you search.  If this doesn’t yield fruit, contact the front office.

If it’s close to start time, don’t read the lesson plan all the way through.  Just glance at the warnings, allergy notices, etc, and first hour or so.  Then go make friends!

Your time is far better spent talking to neighboring teachers.  The next door neighbors and across-the-hall teachers can explain little things at any point during the day.  They are a good first line of defense against unruly children or unexpected problems.

Accept the help of anyone who offers to check on you.  Remember that teachers and administrators know that children are sometimes naughty for substitute teachers.  Don’t feel like they will think less of you if you ask for help.  In most districts, there are not enough substitutes to go around, so they want you to do well.  Turn the tables: tell students that they will be receiving random inspections throughout the day.

You might find allies among your students, but be careful.  That first child who offers you lots of advice is quite possibly the class snitch.  This child will not do much to help your relationship with the other students.  I recommend getting some advice from quiet-but-not-busybody children, and trying to enlist the cooperation of students who seem like they could get squirrely.  Often if you can direct that energy into something positive, the child will be quite helpful.

Good luck!  When subbing for elementary school, if all else fails, read them a story…or two…or three…

Other ClassAntics posts on substitute teaching:

How to build emergency sub plans

Benefits of being a substitute teacher

 

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 2, 2014

 

What would you have been before modern education?

We have so many educational options, but what was life like before that?  Read on for a fascinating infographic that will make even the most reluctant student quite happy to be in a modern school.  Your students will enjoy learning about what people studied in the past.  From Neolithic hunting & gathering lessons to medieval universities, it’s all here and it’s all fascinating.

Before Modern Education
Source: BestDegreePrograms.org

Posted in Academics by Corey Green @ May 26, 2014

 

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

markersHere are some cheap and easy ideas for whiteboards: markers, cleaners and student whiteboards.  Perfect for today’s teachers, who outfit their classrooms on their own dime!

Whiteboard cleaner

Expo Whiteboard Cleaner does the job, but it adds up over the course of a school year.  However, a rubbing alcohol solution can do the trick, too.  You can dilute the rubbing alcohol with distilled water for a solution that is less potent and smelly.  In a pinch, hand sanitizer does the job because of the alcohol content.

Rubbing alcohol is also effective at removing marks from a permanent marker.

Whiteboard markers

Expo is the standard for dry erase markers, but the brand is pricy.  A few years ago, I was buying fine-tip Expo markers at almost a dollar a pop when our class supply ran out.  Now my local Dollar Tree stocks four-packs for a dollar.  The best are packs with only black.  The colored dry-erase ink tends to be more difficult to erase—particularly the red!  Consider yourself warned.

Low-budget whiteboards

Many teachers like to teach math by having students work out problems on individual whiteboards.  Those whiteboards are pricy.  A cheap alternative: page protectors. Slide paper or cardstock inside and you’re good to go!

Tip: buy cheap page protectors.  Thick, high-quality ones do not erase!!!

Click for my post with more details on Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms.

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 19, 2014

 

Book Review: Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

Across the AlleyAcross the Alley is a powerful picture book about what separates people: cultural and racial differences, not the small alley between their buildings.  Richard Michelson’s prose and E.B. Lewis’s illustrations meld into a lovely book that’s perfect for a readaloud and discussion.

The story takes place in New York City, where Abe and Willie live across the alley from each other.  Abe is Jewish and Willie is black.  During the day, they don’t talk.  But at night, they have a secret friendship across the alley.

The boys are hemmed in by their cultures, not only in their friendships but in their pursuits.  However, they find that Abe doesn’t really like playing violin—but Willie is a natural.  Likewise, with a little help from Willie, Abe soon outdoes the teacher when it comes to pitching.

Then one night, Abe’s grandfather catches them.  What will happen to their friendship Across the Alley?

*Spoiler alert: the boys inspire their families and everyone becomes friends in the light.

Across the Alley segues nicely into classroom discussions about a variety of topics:

  • One advantage of befriending people who are different from you is that you learn new things.  How does Across the Alley illustrate this point?
  • Young people have a way of crossing cultural divides, sometimes persuading their families to do so.  How do the young people in Across the Alley influence the old?
  • New York City life and the culture of Jewish and African-American people at the time of Across the Alley
  • Baseball: Negro LeaguesSatchel Paige and other players mentioned in the book
  • Jewish culture: learn about synagogues, such as the one where Willie gives a recital
  • Prejudices against both boys’ cultures: Abe faces anti-Semitism and Willie faces racism.  This isn’t shown in the book, but it was all but inescapable at the time.
Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 12, 2014

 

Free worksheets for the Tapestry series by Henry Neff

TheHoundOfRowanBring the fantasy series The Tapestry into the classroom with FREE worksheets written by a National Board Certified teacher.

Have you discovered The Tapestry series? It’s a richly imagined fantasy about a Chicago boy who stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

The Tapestry series stands out because of the beautiful writing and gorgeous illustrations. The illustrations are my favorite part. Author Henry Neff is a great artist, and it’s interesting to see the world so vividly illustrated by the person that created it.  Click here for a gallery of Henry Neff’s illustrations for Book One: The Hound of Rowan.

The Tapestry series is four books strong and growing, with Book Five set for release in 2015. I met author Henry Neff early on, when we presented together at the International Reading Association Annual Conference West. Henry presented his book; I presented worksheets and ideas for teaching The Tapestry in the classroom.

Books in The Tapestry series:
The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry

The Second Siege: Book Two of The Tapestry

The Fiend and the Forge: Book Three of The Tapestry

The Maelstrom: Book Four of The Tapestry

The Red Winter: Book Five of The Tapestry

My worksheets:
What Do You See? In The Tapestry, Max saw a tapestry depicting the Cattle Raid of Cooley. He later learns that he may have abilities like those of Cuchulain, the Irish folk hero. What qualities link you to heroes of the past?

Vye Detector: In The Tapestry, Vyes are minions of The Enemy. It is important to be able to identify them:

“A vye is not a werewolf. The vye is larger, with a more distorted and hideous face—part wolf, part jackal, part human, with squinty eyes and a twisted snout. In human form, however, they can be most convincing….They are clever in their deceits and their voices are wound with spells to ensnare you.”

After a Vye attack at Rowan, students receive extra training in identifying and fighting Vyes. In the following scenarios, how would you identify and fight a Vye?

Create Your Own Charge: In The Tapestry, students are paired with mythical animals who will be their charges and companions for the rest of their lives. In the book, the animals choose the students. Max was chosen by Nick, the lymrill. It is difficult to describe a mythical animal—until you organize.

Workers for Rowan: Like any school, Rowan depends on workers to help the school run smoothly. The cooks are a reformed hag and ogre, and a leprechaun is the bathroom attendant.  The following creatures want to work at Rowan. Match the creatures with the best job for them.

Enjoy The Tapestry!

Posted in Academics,Book Lists,Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 5, 2014

 

Calm your students with soothing water sounds

WaterscapesThe sound of moving water is incredibly soothing and very effective at calming students.  Here are five easy ways to bring the sound of water into your classroom.

Buy a fountain.  When you’re trying to create a falling-water sound, nothing beats the real thing.  Fountains at every price point help you make it happen.  Under $25 fountain, under $50 fountain, fancy fountain.

Buy a CD.  I like the nature music/sounds of Dan Gibson.  My favorite water sounds CD is Waterscapes.  It has all kinds of water—rain, waterfall, bubbling brook, ocean waves.  You can play the CD through a few times, then put it on random to mix things up.

Use Pandora and other Internet radio channels.  Tell Pandora to play Dan Gibson music, ocean waves music, or other similar sounds.  The Spa channel is good for water sounds, too.  It’s best if you can spring for a subscription so that Pandora doesn’t play ads.  Another good option: work for a district that blocks the ads, giving you the no-commercial sound for free.

Buy a machine that generates a water sound.  You can bring nature sounds of all kinds into your classroom with a machine favored by spas.  Or, go for the budget option and buy (or repurpose) a Lullaby Sound Machine meant to soothe babies to sleep.  The machine will soothe grade-school kids, too!  Just don’t play the lullabies.

Play Internet videos.  A quick search for water sounds for studying yields many hours-long videos that play water sounds.  If your school’s system will allow, stream away.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 28, 2014

 

FREE worksheet about “If” by Rudyard Kipling

Here is a FREE worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher to help students comprehend “If” by Rudyard Kipling.  “If” is an inspirational poem that complements lessons on character.  It’s a perfect choice for National Poetry Month.bookonhead

My students and I love Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”  We read it every year, and I often print a special copy on decorated paper as an end-of-year gift.  The poem is best appreciated by just reading and discussing it, but a multiple-choice reading comprehension worksheet can’t hurt.

The questions help students interpret the poem and understand its theme and central ideas.  Still, it’s a tricky worksheet.  I like to read the poem with students, then let them try the worksheet.  That gives students a chance to show what they comprehended on their own.  Afterward, we can discuss the worksheet, share our favorite parts, and appreciate nuances like rhyme scheme, repetition, enjambment, etc.

Click here for the two-page pdf file.  Page one is the worksheet; page two is the poem.  That way, it’s easy to create a two-sided worksheet.

I know you and your students will like “If.”  I hope you also like the worksheet!

Answers: 1 a, 2 c, 3 b, 4 e, 5 e, 6 c

Posted in Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Apr 21, 2014