Emergency Valentine Cards

Elementary school students just love Valentine’s Day.  Opening Valentine cards and eating little treats is pure fun.  (Click here for my tips for a smooth Valentine’s Day at school.)

Every year, someone forgets their Valentine cards.  In my experience, this has occurred much more frequently since we slipped into this recession.  I expect to have lots of “forgotten” Valentine cards this year.

Fortunately, I have an “Emergency Valentines” supply—multiple boxes of deep-discount Valentine cards I bought after the holiday last year.

Discreetly, I send the student to another classroom to address their Valentines.  In my opinion, this is a much better system than having students make their own emergency Valentines at school the day of the party.  Distributing hastily made Valentines is embarrassing for the giver.  Why do that to a student when you can buy a box of Valentines for a dollar?

If you don’t have an emergency Valentine card supply, start one now by picking up Valentine cards at your local dollar store.  Great idea: buy several boxes so you have enough for Valentine’s Day emergencies in other classrooms.  E-mail teachers at your school about your emergency stash.  You will make friends with teachers and their students you rescue.

After this Valentine’s Day, buy your spare valentine cards for a quarter!

P.S. Don’t forget to pick up paper bags for holding Valentine cards your students receive!

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 13, 2017

 

Tips for a Smooth Valentine’s Day Party

Valentine penguinValentine’s Day is a fun, low-key holiday.  The most important thing is the Valentine Cards!  Let your class enjoy handing out Valentines, reading them, and munching on a limited amount of treats.

  1. Buy extra boxes of Valentines for kids who don’t have any.  Sometimes it’s a matter of money, or just a too-busy family life; other times an English Language Learner doesn’t have valentine cards because his parents don’t know about this elementary school tradition.  Parents, an extra set of valentines makes a nice donation to your child’s class.  Teachers, buy extra Valentines at the Dollar Store.  I also buy Valentines at 75% off after the holiday for next year’s supply.
  2. Decorate Valentines bags: Let your students color designs on plain white paper lunch bags.  This is a good way to channel Valentine excitement on the morning of the party.
  3. Learn about Saint Valentine: Why not bring a little history to the day?  Report highlights from Saint Valentine on Wikipedia to your class.  Or read aloud from a book:   Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda is a good choice. (AR Reading Level 5.4; 0.5 points)  With beautiful illustrations and simple text, this is a good Read Aloud for elementary school.
  4. Watch a movie: Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is sure to be a hit!  With all the Chimpunks mania of late, let your class go old-school and watch the animated show, Alvin & the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Valentine.
  5. Limit the treats: I recommend just one treat–and make it good, like a cupcake.  This way, the focus is on cards and classmates–and nobody gets sugar high.  I ask parents to send in Valentine’s sale treats after the holiday for our Emergency Party Supply.

Teachers: Keep a hefty supply of thank you notes!   I keep them on hand so I am always ready to write a thank you note immmediately.

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2017

 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is a beautiful picture book that brings Islamic culture to life in vivid color.  The book is beautifully illustrated and features charming, soothing rhymes on each luscious double page spread.  “Red is the rug Dad kneels on to pray…Blue is the hijab Mom likes to wear…”

There are many ways to use this book in the classroom:

  • regular readaloud; using this as just another story
  • springboard for a writing exercise–students could use color to illustrate an aspect of their lives: “Yellow is the pencil I use on my test; it helps me do my very best”
  • favorite parts: ask students to write a paragraph about their favorite double page spread in the book.  Mine were the titular golden domes and silver lanterns
  • structure for a research project: students can research any subject, from space to Queen Victoria to the history of Iran, and then create a report that uses color, the alphabet, or some other similarly simple structure to report on the subject

About Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

Written by Hena Khan, illustrated by  Mehrdokht Amini

Published by Chronicle books in 2015

AR book level 2.4   AR points 0.5

Posted in Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2017

 

Groundhog Day including a FREE Worksheet

Groundhog Day is a fun, low-stress holiday for the elementary classroom.

Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using my Groundhog Day Worksheet.  You will find vocabulary definitions, think and respond questions, and a fun tongue twister about woodchucks.  (Did you know a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same creature?)

Visit Groundhog.org, the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for pictures, articles, and resources for teachers.  (I like the songs to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and “Up on the Housetop.”)

“Punxsutawney” [puhngk-suh-taw-nee ] originally was settled by the Delaware Indians.
The name derives from a Native American term which translates to “town of the sandflies.”
The town is located in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Here is a quick brush-up on Groundhog Day history from my worksheet:

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2nd.  According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, the groundhog will leave the burrow, signaling that winter will soon end.  If it is not cloudy, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into the burrow.  Winter will continue for six more weeks.

Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries (1700s and 1800s).  In Pennsylvania today, you can see official Groundhog Day early morning festivals.  You can enjoy special food, hear speeches, and even watch a g’spiel (play or skit).  You might find that only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken.  Those who speak English at the event pay a penalty, usually a coin per English word spoken, to a bowl at the center of the table.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 30, 2017

 

Fun Facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s School Days

Students love to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but his achievements seem inaccessible to them. For kids, Dr. King was a fully-formed civil rights leader who always knew just what to do.

You can inspire children by teaching them about Dr. King’s school days. Then they will understand that he had to face obstacles, study, and learn. Kids feel so powerless sometimes—it’s good to show them that famous people were once children, and that everyone was a beginner at some point.

You and your class would enjoy taking Valerie Strauss’s MLK Quiz: His unorthodox education. Here are some no-context tidbits to get kids interested:

Did you know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …

> Was kicked out of school? (Okay, so it was kindergarten, and it was only because he was too young. Got your attention, though!)

> Was called an underachiever by his college professors?

> skipped two grades?

> thought about studying law or medicine?

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 23, 2017

 

Teaching Notes for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you may want to show the “I Have a Dream” speech to your students.  I have found that this speech is captivating for elementary school students, but it is absolutely necessary for you to teach them about the speech before they listen.

I’d like to share my teaching notes (pdf) on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech with you and your students.  I hope it helps you teach the historical context, allusions, and rhetorical techniques.  If you copy my teaching notes for your students, I suggest you read the speech with them and explain the context.  Then, listening to Dr. King give the speech will be an unforgettable experience for your students.

Why are teaching notes so important?  The “I Have a Dream” speech is rich in allusions: historical, biblical, and even financial.  Your students will appreciate these allusions—if they know about them.

Take the first few paragraphs: will your students understand the significance of the speech’s setting, the Lincoln Memorial, and the phrase “a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today” if you don’t explain these details?  Will your students understand how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution compare to a promissory note?  My teaching notes explain these details clearly.

What about the famous part of the speech, at the end?  For example, knowledge of geography is essential to understanding the “let freedom ring” section.  Dr. King begins it with “let freedom ring…” [in famous landmarks of northern and western states]… “But not only that.  Let freedom ring…” in famous landmarks in the southern states.]  The sequence will be more memorable for your students if they understand this distinction.  Without teaching notes, your students might miss much of the meaning.

I recommend you buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream speech on DVD rather than listen to the speech through the Internet.  This DVD introduces the speech with real footage of events leading up to it.  You can also watch a featurette about the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  Your students will enjoy seeing the marchers and will be impressed with how well-dressed the marchers are.  (Every year, this is the first thing my students notice.)

Free “I Have a Dream” speech at AmericanRhetoric.com

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 16, 2017

 

Good Holiday Presents for Teachers

Many kids ask their parents if they can give small holiday presents to their teachers. Here are some gift ideas that are always appreciated:

A card with a heartfelt message

Christmas tree ornaments—your child should sign first and last name and date them (Josie Jones, 2016) so teachers can reminisce when decorating every year.

Gift card for a local learning/teaching store

Gift card to a discount store like Wal-Mart or Target

Supplies for the class: sanitizer, pencils, white board cleaner, Kleenex, etc.

A personalized gift (I love my Miss Green apron!)

Flowers or a small potted plant

Amazon gift card

Blank note cards—teachers write a lot of notes. (You can buy nice blank cards at stores like Ross and Marshalls for about $5 or less)

iTunes gift card

A recommendation letter, typed and signed, recommending the teacher. The teacher can hold this in her file and use it for applying for another job, make a copy and give it to the principal for her personnel file, etc. It can go a long, long way.

Handmade gifts: bags, decorative items, etc.

Two gifts I personally appreciate are chocolates or candy I can share with the class (Dum Dums, Jolly Ranchers, etc.)

Remember, your child’s classroom teacher is not the only important adult at school. You might want to send in cards to a specials teacher, librarian, bus driver, instructional aide, school nurse, or the custodian who always greets your child. Classroom teachers often receive many presents at holiday time, but these school workers are often overlooked. Something as simple as a holiday card with a personalized note would be much appreciated.

Posted in Holidays,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Dec 23, 2016

 

Mim’s Christmas Jam

bookby Andrea Davis Pinkney
AR Reading Level 3.9; 0.5 points
Available at Amazon.com

Summary: Saraleen and Royce just want their daddy to come home for Christmas, but he can’t because he is working to build the NYC subway, and the foreman won’t let the crew leave.  Mim (mom) sends in some of her famous jam, and the crew and foreman like it so much that they give the workers the day off after all.

Activities: I might help students use prior knowledge and experience by having them discuss favorite family recipes.  Then, we’d read the book.  This is a good Read-Aloud or independent reader for grades 2-4.    This is a good book for predicting.  At the back of the book is an author’s note on building the subway.  That would be especially interesting for New Yorkers.

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Dec 17, 2016

 

Attack on Pearl Harbor: teaching tools including two FREE worksheets

“…December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

If your class is like mine, you will find that students know next to nothing about this tragic and important event.

I have taught the following lessons to both third and fifth graders.  Students are eager to learn about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and I never have any trouble keeping their attention.

First, I describe the event to students, and place it in the context of World War II.

Here is a good reading comprehension worksheet with a short passage about Pearl Harbor.  This passage gives American embargoes on Japan as the reason for the attack.  I think that children should know that destroying the Pacific Fleet was another Japanese goal for the attack.

I read President Roosevelt’s famous speech and explain it to the students.  I give students a copy of the speech.  You can print the speech and listen to it at AmericanRhetoric.com  Students are fascinated to hear this address from so long ago.  They listen much better if they can read along.

I use information from the National WW2 Museum fact sheet.  Also, I playa video clip about the attack from the History Channel.  It shows visuals and features the beginning of President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress.

After students understand what happened, I tie the lesson into writing by showing a first draft of FDR’s speech, from the National Archives.  It’s interesting to see how he developed the most famous phrases.

InstructorWeb has a nice packet about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It’s appropriate for students in 5th grade and up.   The packet features a passage to read, a chart, and questions: multiple choice, short answer, matching, and essay.

Posted in Academics,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 5, 2016

 

Thanksgiving lesson: write a how-to paper on preparing a Thanksgiving feast

ThanksgivingFeastThanksgiving is the season for giving thanks…but your students have written thanks-themed pieces every year.  Why not try something different?  Challenge your students to write a paper on how to make  Thanksgiving dinner.  The results will be hilarious, and the piece will become a family favorite for years to come.

Plan for your students to spend at least an hour on this project.  They’ll want to brainstorm (as a class), write, then decorate their paper.  It’s really important that you have students do this project on a paper they decorate.  One, it makes a better Thanksgiving souvenir.  Two, decorating the paper makes kids want to spend a little more time on their writing.

You’ll probably need to brainstorm as a class.  Have the kids list common Thanksgiving dishes.  Don’t let them crowd source tips on how to make the dinner.  You don’t want a practical child ruining a family’s fun.  You want parents cackling as they read naive tips on how to prepare a feast.  (Heat the oven to 1000 degrees, cook the turkey in the microwave, etc.)

You can make this project simple or complex.  The simple version is to focus on preparing the turkey.  That’s good for kindergarten-first grade.  Older kids should tackle the whole feast.  That way, they’ll have more opportunities to write something unintentionally hilarious.

This writing assignment is perfect for a buddy-class project.  Older kids can help younger kids type the assignment, or older kids can do the writing or help with spelling.

Click here for printable Thanksgiving stationery.  Click here for Thanksgiving stationery files.  (Perfect for the computer lab with your buddy class.)

Other ClassAntics posts about Thanksgiving:

Let Scholastic Help You Teach the First Thanksgiving

The Mouse on the Mayflower

FREE Worksheet for the Movie The Mouse on the Mayflower

Posted in Food,Holidays,Writing by Corey Green @ Nov 21, 2016

 

FREE Worksheet for the Movie The Mouse on the Mayflower

Celebrate Thanksgiving and give yourself a little prep time by having your class watch Mouse on the Mayflower and complete this FREE worksheet.

Mouse on the Mayflower is a time-honored Thanksgiving movie. Your class will enjoy the cartoon story told from a mouse’s point of view.

For older students, you can use this FREE comprehension worksheet to increase the educational value a little. The questions are easily completed by a fifth-grader who pays attention. This worksheet is perfect for grades 4-6. In my experience, third graders just stress out and interrupt each other asking for the answers because they missed them.

Here’s a previous post about Mouse on the Mayflower.

Follow up other mouse-eye views of history. My favorite is Ben and Me, a wonderful book by Robert Lawson and a fun cartoon movie by Disney. It’s a great way to teach students about Benjamin Franklin and set the stage for a unit on the American Revolution. Another good mouse story is She Was Nice to Mice: The Other Side of Elizabeth I’s Character Never Before Revealed by Previous Historians, a cute mini-novel written by 80s star Ally Sheedy when she was twelve.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 16, 2016

 

Teach the 2016 Presidential Election

Teaching government is most fun during a presidential election year. These resources will help you and your students learn about the 2016 election. Election day is November 8, 2016.

The following resources and lessons help you teach government basics and how to choose a candidate—while steering clear of contentious politics.

Schoolhouse Rock Election Videos

Watch these at the official Disney site and avoid embarrassing YouTube moments (scroll down the Disney page to where the “Watch Videos” section appears):

Electoral College
I’m Just a Bill
Presidential Minute
Preamble
No More Kings

Icivics has created an excellent packet to teach the electoral process. You will enjoy these worksheets with pleasing design yet meaty information.

Teach students to evaluate candidates—but take today’s politics out of it! The Icivics Candidate Evaluation packet is a ready-to-use unit that lets your students compare two fictitious candidates.

FREE online debate game: The Icivics Cast Your Vote game lets kids run the debate! Two fictitious debate important (but not too controversial) issues. Students choose which question to ask and then decide which candidate they agree with. At the end, they get to vote. A printout shows how often they agreed with that candidate and how strongly. Students will probably find that no one candidate reflects all their views; voters have to make a judgment call on what’s important to them.

Your judgment call: will you make your students write an essay about their debate game? Why or why not?

Learn about voting rights: who got the vote and when? What are barriers to voting? This Icivics lesson packet gives you everything you need to teach the topic of voting rights at the elementary level.

The classic site for teaching elections and government: Ben’s Guide to Government: this extensive site gives you materials to teach government to students in grades K-12. For branches of government to the Electoral College, all the information you need is here.

Classic election night homework: give students this Electoral College map coloring page that they can fill out as they watch the election returns. You can also do this the next day at school.

Teacher Tip: the day after a presidential election can be a rough one in the classroom. Some students internalize their parents’ politics. If their candidate didn’t win, kids can be very depressed or angry. Likewise, students whose candidate did win can be insufferably smug. You can talk with students about how after the election, the president represents everyone. Then you might want to move on to a new subject, fun art activity, learning game—anything but elections and government!

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 2, 2016

 

Halloween tip for parents of kids who can’t eat candy: buy it back!

Halloween can be a rough time for kids who can’t eat candy.  (Possible reasons: food allergies, diabetes, etc.)  Trick-or-treating is just so tempting, and it’s a bummer to go through the activity but not be able to eat the spoils.  Missing out on trick-or-treating to avoid the temptation sounds even worse.  Here’s one way to handle it: do a candy buyback.

Remember how fun it was to come home from trick-or-treating and show off the plunder? Well, a candy-free kid may not be able to eat it, but he could still have a good time.  Parents can arrange a set price per piece of candy, or make it a math lesson by assigning different values to different types.  The child could spend Halloween night counting his riches.  The next day, he could spend the candy money on something fun.

I overheard this one day at a crosswalk in Washington, DC.   I must admit that I followed the two conversationalists (dads) until I heard the whole tip.  It’s a good one, and I hope it helps someone this year.

The tip is so quick and simple.  I thought the post could use a little more.  Here is History.com’s Bet You Didn’t Know: Halloween.  It’s a well-produced short about the history of the holiday.  I believe it is totally school-appropriate.  Enjoy!

You might enjoy these other Halloween posts at ClassAntics:

New Orleans Halloween: teach a Fall Festival lesson about the culture of New Orleans.  Includes a FREE powerpoint of New Orleans cultural symbols and landmarks, book recommendations, and music tips.

A good way to organize a Halloween Party: learn how to create a party for your whole grade level by setting up a rotation.  Each teacher need only prepare one activity.

Do any of your students opt out of celebrating Halloween or other holidays?  Read how to accommodate that student in a pleasant way in the post Buddy Up to Help Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays or Birthdays.

Make it a theme day with Halloween Math Worksheets.

Write spooky Halloween stories using a sensory word bank

Posted in Food,Holidays,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Oct 31, 2016

 

Write spooky Halloween stories using a sensory word bank

HalloweenIt’s not often that students are truly interested in imbuing their writing with sensory details.  Halloween is one of those rare occasions.  Here are some tips for encouraging students to write vivid details.

Practice as a class

Working together, choose a spooky setting and story premise.  On the board, create a chart with five columns, one for each sense.  (Sight, smell, taste, sound, touch)  Fill each column with at least three examples.  Then, encourage students to try turning the sensory details into sentences that could fit into a story.

Create individual sensory word banks

Once students start writing their spooky Halloween stories, they are more interested in action than description.  A little planning can go a long way.  Encourage students to brainstorm sensory details for their stories.

Separate description from storytelling

Writing a Halloween story with vivid descriptions might be too much for your students.  You could encourage students to write descriptive Halloween paragraphs and illustrate them.

Create a grab bag of sensory details

Cut scratch paper into eighths.  Give each student five scraps.  Then, have each student write a sensory detail on each scrap.  Put all the scraps in a grab bag and redistribute them.  Challenge students to create a paragraph that incorporates all the sensory details they pulled from the grab bag.

Read spooky stories and descriptions aloud

As students work, take frequent breaks for sharing.  You can choose good examples or allow students to volunteer to read their efforts to the class.  Students will be motivated by seeing their peers succeed at description.

Happy writing!

You might enjoy these other Halloween posts at ClassAntics:

New Orleans Halloween: teach a Fall Festival lesson about the culture of New Orleans.  Includes a FREE powerpoint of New Orleans cultural symbols and landmarks, book recommendations, and music tips.

A good way to organize a Halloween Party: learn how to create a party for your whole grade level by setting up a rotation.  Each teacher need only prepare one activity.

Do any of your students opt out of celebrating Halloween or other holidays?  Read how to accommodate that student in a pleasant way in the post Buddy Up to Help Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays or Birthdays.

Make it a theme day with Halloween Math Worksheets.

Posted in Holidays,Writing by Corey Green @ Oct 24, 2016

 

New Orleans Halloween

bookThis year, try a New Orleans theme for your Halloween/Fall Festival party.  You can work in geography, history, culture, and Halloween fun.

I did this last year and I can tell you that both the kids and parents just loved it.  It was a nice modification of traditional Halloween-at-school activities.  Parents appreciated the educational angle and they learned something, too.

I grabbed everyone’s attention by showing them that the Disney Haunted Mansion is in New Orleans Square.  I told them that the Disney Haunted Mansion movie is set in New Orleans, too.

Once I had everyone’s attention, I showed them a New Orleans PowerPoint I created.  You can click to download & share it, too (large file: 3+ MB).  It shows pictures of New Orleans to help get everyone in the mood.  I downloaded the Disney “Grim Grinning Ghosts” Haunted Mansion song along with some classic New Orleans jazz to play while we looked at the pictures.

Everyone loved learning about the New Orleans jazz funeral.  I told the children how it evolved from African funeral customs.  A New Orleans jazz band plays a sad song or dirge on the way to the cemetery, and happy tunes for the procession out.  Click here to learn more about the New Orleans jazz funeral.  Here is a sample:

Eileen Southern in The Music of Black Americans: A History wrote, “On the way to the cemetery it was customary to play very slowly and mournfully a dirge, or an ‘old Negro spiritual’ such as ‘Nearer My God to Thee,’ but on the return from the cemetery, the band would strike up a rousing, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ or a ragtime song such as ‘Didn’t He Ramble.’  Sidney Bechet, the renowned New Orleans jazzman, after observing the celebrations of the jazz funeral, stated, “Music here is as much a part of death as it is of life.”

Because I teach third grade, I don’t explain how the New Orleans above-ground cemeteries are necessary so that the bodies don’t wash out on the streets during floods.  This would be very interesting to older students, though.  For third graders,  I  show  pictures of the beautiful New Orleans cemeteries, famous cultural landmarks of the city.

Make sure to teach the kids about New Orleans food, like jambalaya and po’boys.  Explain that po’boy sandwiches can be any simple filling in bread, but that most people think of a shrimp po’boy.   My mom said that when she lived near New Orleans, red beans and rice was everybody’s Monday dinner because Monday was laundry day and the mother was too busy to cook something difficult.  Practical details like that help history and culture come alive for students.

Parents and students alike are very interested in my story about the New Orleans streetcars.  I explained that if you ride the car to the end of the line, the driver will have everybody stand up so he can reverse the seat backs.  In that way, you always ride facing forward.  Click here to see the concept.  The picture is part of my New Orleans PowerPoint presentation.

For a literacy connection, I recommend reading the New Orleans Magic Tree House book A Good Night for Ghosts.  Your students will enjoy learning about New Orleans and Louis Armstrong.  The book touches very, very lightly on segregation.  You can expand on that or wait for another learning opportunity, your choice.   (If you like, teach your students that Ruby Bridges integrated William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans.)  A Good Night for Ghosts shouldn’t be too scary for your class.  It has a mild ghost scene that turns out not to be ghosts after all, but Louis’s friends.

Happy Halloween!

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Oct 17, 2016