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


Make your classroom a tattle-free zone

teacher1My students don’t tattle.  They just don’t.

At the beginning of the year, my students tattle at the appropriate level for their developmental stage.  However, instances of tattling quickly slip to almost zero.

Easy steps to stop tattling in the classroom:

  1. Teach students that unless it involves safety, it’s probably tattling.  It’s important to establish the difference between tattling and a legitimate report of an urgent matter.
  2. Explain to the class that you are actually pretty smart and will notice most instances of wrongdoing without being informed through tattling.
  3. Tell students that you expect them to focus on learning, not tattling.  If a student tattles, assign extra learning opportunities to make up for time spent tattling.  A good learning opportunity might be using the dictionary to define tattling, then using the word in a sentence.
  4. Do not allow comments that begin with another child’s name.  Not only does this cut down on tattling, it forces children to use more sophisticated sentence structure.
  5. Teach your students that by not tattling, they become more loyal to each other.  Would your students like to be in a classroom full of spies?  No?  Well, that’s what happens if they all tattle on each other.  Everyone becomes an informant.
  6. If a child tells on another student, assign the tattlee an appropriate sentence to write, such as “I will not throw paper airplanes.”  Then, have the tattler write “I will not tattle.”
  7. Do not allow children to tattle after recess.  Explain to students that what happens at recess does not belong in the classroom.  Tell your students to let the recess monitor deal with recess-related tattling issues.  Suggest that students use recess time wisely: get away from the offending student and do something fun instead.

Don’t worry: your students will tell you what you really need to know.  You won’t miss out on important information about bullying or safety problems.  You will simply gain more teaching time and a better classroom climate.

More tips for stopping classroom tattling

Information for parents dealing with tattling at home

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 10, 2016


Set up class jobs right away!

During the first week of school, I used to have to do a lot of cleaning after dismissal each day.  This is because I hadn’t set up a clear job system right away and train my students.  Then, I got smart and made it a priority.  Setting up a class jobs system gives students a sense of competence, community and cleanliness all at once.

Let me share with you a brilliant class job system that keeps the room spic-and-span.  (Many of the ideas came from my students—the best solutions always do.)

Before this brilliant system, I had what most teachers have: a rotation system for jobs.  The problem with this is that kids forget what their job is, and you constantly have to train students in a new job.  Plus, kids slack because they know you can’t keep up with who is supposed to do what.

My students and I developed a job system based on efficiency, not fun.  (It turned out to be fun anyway.)  We created an Excel spreadsheet listing all the jobs we thought we needed.  Then we began to assign jobs.  By the end of the year, everyone had at least three jobs.  Some kids had more.

You can download and view this sample Excel spreadsheet.  You can sort it by job to assign one job to several students.  You can sort it by student to see how many jobs each student has.  You might not recognize some of the jobs—delete them!  Feel free to add your own.  Please post your best ideas for jobs so we can all learn.

Each job earns income: five table points for doing it in the morning, and five table points for the afternoon.  (Jobs that don’t fit this schedule are assigned table points that seem fair.)

First thing in the morning and at the end of the day, the class becomes a beehive of activity as students complete their assigned jobs and mark their table points.  Our classroom always looks great!

I know it’s not feasible to assign all 90 jobs during the first week.  I usually identify my 30 most important jobs and assign those.  When the kids ask if they can switch jobs later in the year, I’ll tell them no.  I’ll cheer them up by saying that we can start assigning more jobs as people show how well they can do their assigned jobs.

Some kids are particularly good workers and may have more jobs than others.  I also let kids invent jobs and then do them.  The deal is that if you invent the job, you get first dibs on doing it.  (Aren’t elementary kids great?  They want to help in the classroom.)  The kids think of very clever ways to keep the classroom looking nice, and that makes it a better place to learn!


Back to school: watch out for kids that don’t have a lunch

lunchsandwichSome students are at risk of going hungry during the first days of the school year.  Kids who might qualify for a free or reduced price lunch may not be in the program yet, and they might not have anything to eat.  As a teacher, you can save the day by watching out for these kids.

Walk with your students to lunch during the first days of school.  Stay and watch them go through the lunch line and/or take a seat at the table.  You might notice a student who has neither a hot nor a cold lunch.  Or you might notice a student who gets to the front of the lunch line and is confused when asked for payment.  You can swoop in and save the day.

How you save the day depends on a lot of things.  In one situation, I just paid a student’s account for a few weeks until the school sorted out the situation.  (I did it on the quiet; the student and parent did not know.)  The student was an English Language Learner and the parent was new to the country.  It took a while to explain that there was a program in place and to enroll the child.

You might also be able to speak with the cafeteria manager, social worker or principal.  Someone is going to help make sure that the child gets a lunch.  You will be glad that you noticed the problem and were able to make a difference in a child’s daily life.


Back to School: ask parents to write a letter about their child

backpackandlunchbagConsider asking parents to write you a letter about their child.  A personal letter from the people who know your student best can inform your teaching for the entire school year.

Many letters will be straightforward: basic info about likes and dislikes, favorite subjects, etc.  However, some parents will be glad of the opportunity to share special concerns.  You might learn about family circumstances, health issues,  or previous experiences with school that affect how the student learns and behaves.

Be judicious about whether you request a letter from families.  At some schools, parents would welcome the chance to communicate in writing.  At others, parents may feel like you are giving them a writing assessment.  Another possible issue is a language barrier–but you never know.  You might find that some parents are happy to write you a letter in their native language.  Chances are that someone in the district can translate for you–or you can get a rough idea with a Google translation.

Back to school night is a good time to request the letter, but it’s not the only opportunity.  Your school might have an Open House a few weeks into the school year.  By that time, the rush is past and everyone, including you, has more time to devote to the assignment.

A clear complement to the letter-from-a-parent is the letter-from-a-student.  An open-ended letter about the student makes a good writing assessment and informative piece for your files.

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 15, 2016


Five tips for summer library “shopping”

Going to the library is like shopping without the buyer’s remorse. Wait, scratch that. The library can still offer buyer’s remorse if you check out too many books, the wrong books, or just plain lose books.

Here are my tips on organizing your library haul.

  1. Keep a dedicated library basket (or bag) in the car and at home. The basket at home is so you don’t lose books. When you’re not reading the book, it goes in the basket. When you’re checking out dozens of books at a time, this becomes important. Keep a basket in the car for already-read books so you can drop them off whenever you’re nearby. If you wait for a scheduled trip to the library, you might end up with overdue books.
  2. Teach your child how to select books. Librarians and teachers try, but it might mean more coming from you. Kids pick the strangest books. My third graders will show me their latest library picks and I’ll say things like,“Have you read the first five books in this series that is two grade levels above yours? No? So why did you pick this?” “This book is about the Russian Revolution. Do you have any interest in that? Then why did you pick it?”“This is a tender coming-of-age story about a girl and her horse. You like Transformers and anything about war. Why did you pick it?”Teach your child to really think about whether there is anything he can relate to—the cover, the title, the author, or the first page. If not, pass. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s for you.
  3. Use the five-finger method. At school, books are labeled with their AR levels. Not true at most public libraries. You can check on ARBookfind.com, or you can just use the five finger method. Encourage your child to read the first page aloud and hold up a finger for each word that’s too hard. If your child finds five too-hard words on the first page, the book is too hard. Put it down.
  4. Ask the librarian for advice. Librarians read more than anyone and they know what kids like. You can trust them to help you choose. Just make sure your child understands that while he doesn’t have to read everything the librarian recommends, he has to read enough so as not to annoy her and make her not want to help him next time.
  5. Feel free to take and check out the display books. Librarians set books out on display, like at a bookstore. You’re allowed to borrow these books. The librarian can always find something new to set out. (Hint: for picture books, sometimes it’s random. I’ve found some cool books by reading the random picture books librarians set out.)
Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 18, 2016


The Second of July: “the most memorable epoch in the history of America”

I always imagine John Adams as the nerdy know-it-all of the Founding Fathers, the guy who was never quite cool*. Nothing illustrates this so well as his earnest prediction that July 2nd was gonna be a big day:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”— July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail

Americans celebrate the date on the document, not the date the resolution was approved in a closed session of Congress. We all know that we’ll be partying on the Fourth. Let’s take the Second to do our homework and learn a little about the holiday.

Because the Census Bureau is all about the fun: peruse their Fun Facts about the Fourth of July. I liked their comparison of who will be celebrating in the USA: over 311 million now versus 2.5 million then. Also, did you know that more than 1 in 4 hot dogs consumed on the Fourth of July originated from Iowa?

View the Declaration of Independence from the Archives web site.

Read John Adams’ letter describing the 1777 Fourth of July celebration.

That treasure trove of Internet research, Wikipedia, publishes a useful Fourth of July.

*My basis for this assumption: the “Sit Down, John!” number from the musical 1776 . This is such a fun movie. I get a kick out of watching Gwyneth’s mom as Martha Jefferson. There are powerful moments, too. The best is “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” (Note: according to an Amazon review, this song is not in the director’s cut DVD.)

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


Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Four—Practical tips and suggestions

MixedUpFilesYes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Think about your purse or bag. Some museums won’t let you carry a large bag.  A diaper bag or Mom backpack won’t cut it.  Think about how you’ll carry your wallet and keys.  Maybe you want a small purse that’s easy to carry.  Also, bring some quarters for the locker.  Many museums’ lockers are free these days, but not all.  It’s good to be prepared.
  2. Remember that children have short attention spans.  A teacher’s rule of thumb: a child can focus intently for the same number of minutes as his age in years.  Of course, if you can truly engage the child, he will focus for much longer.  Just keep this in mind for those times when you want to linger over an exhibit, but your child is done quickly.  That’s how kids are.
  3. Hydrate!   Bathroom!  These two go hand-in-hand.  When you feel your energy lag at the museum, it’s time to hydrate.  A nice big glass (or bottle) of water will restore you pretty quickly.  Then hit the bathrooms—or plan to go soon—because you don’t want bathroom emergencies.  I recommend you locate the bathrooms when you first enter the museum so you’re ready for a crisis.
  4. Eat something. Hungry kids are cranky kids.  Eat something filling before you go, and find a snack while you’re there.  Musuem cafes often have tasty offerings.  Some cafes are on the expensive side, but they often have reasonably priced offerings for kids.  If the café isn’t in your budget, bring a snack from home.  Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is an easy snack to bring.  Add some M&M’s if you’re feeling generous.  That plus water from the water fountain will get you pretty far.
  5. Take breaks.  Many museums have beautiful grounds or a nice patio.  Take breaks every so often and let the kids run around.  Grab a snack from the café or head to the car to enjoy a brown-bag snack.  In a pinch, get kids away from the exhibits and do a few yoga stretches or simple exercises.
  6. When all else fails, play I Spy. A game of I Spy can keep a child going even if she is not particularly interested in the exhibits.  Alternatively, I Spy might help your child focus on the details.  Sit on the bench in the middle of the gallery.  Ahhh…that feels good!  Now, play I Spy.  Challenge your child (or students) to find the green this or that, an unexpected symbol, an artifact, etc.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


Juneteenth (June 19th)

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”—Read by Major General Granger to the people of Texas, June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over and the slaves were now free.

I wish this date fell during the school year, because it would be so meaningful for students. Still, we can learn and celebrate today, take the lessons with us back to school.

How can you celebrate Juneteenth? Learn about the history and search for Juneteenth events in your area.

I highly recommend visiting Juneteenth.com, the comprehensive source for all things Juneteenth. You can learn more about Juneteenth at the Smithsonian, in this article that complements a special exhibit.

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


Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Three—Learn all you can

NightAtTheMuseum2Yes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Connect the past to the present.  Ask thought-provoking questions.  How do the activities in the painting/exhibit remind you of modern life?  How do the artifacts, tools, and daily-life objects compare to now?  Compare and contrast.  Think about whether the people in the paintings look like someone you know.  You might see some familiar faces!
  2. Start a collection.  Give your child a purpose in attending the museum: adding to a collection.  The collection could be postcards with pictures or reprints of art, magnets, scrapbook pages, facts, whatever.  Kids love to collect, and they love to learn more about their collections.
  3. Make a museum-movie connection.  Watch movies with fun museum scenes or a connection to the historical location.  Some of my favorites are Night at the Museum and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off features iconic scenes from The Art Institute of Chicago.  Your older kids will love it.  Heist movies are fun, too.  Edgy parents might let their kids think about how a heist might go down at the museum—or how they could prevent one.  Historical fiction movies pair well with historical visits.  For example, watch Felicity – An American Girl Adventure if you’re visiting Colonial Williamsburg.  Parts of the movie were filmed there, and the plot takes place in Williamsburg.
  4. Make a museum-book connection.  Before or after your visit, hit the library, Internet, bookstore, whatever!  Look for books set in museums, like From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or the delightful  Katie’s Picture Showand other picture books about Katie, a girl who can step into paintings. Another idea: read books set in the time of paintings or exhibits you saw.  Your child might develop an interest in a certain location or time period.  Encourage that!
  5. Build a frame of reference.  Many people say, “I know what I like,” but the truth is that we like what we know.  Often kids don’t like museums because they don’t have a clue what they’re seeing.  No clue, no appreciation. Many museum and historical exhibits go over a child’s head unless you build a frame of reference. Here’s a fun, easy technique that educators call K-W-L. (Knows, Wonders or Wants to know, Learned)
      • Find out what your child already knows about the location or topic.  You might be surprised at what your child already knows—or you might uncover misconceptions.
      • Make a list (or just discuss) what your child wonders about the topic.  What does she want to learn?  You can offer some knowledge here, but don’t spill everything, because…
      • After the visit, you will list (or discuss) what your child learned.  Bonus points if you can turn a discussion on what you learned into a discussion about what you now wonder.  After all, learning makes us realize how much there is to know, and how much we don’t know.  Ideally, you can entice your child (or students) to do some research (or just visit the museum website) after the visit.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part Two–Structure your visit

NightAtTheMuseumYes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch students enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Bring supplies so kids can draw what they see.  (Bonus points if you convince a child to take notes!)  Even preschool children will enjoy sitting down right in the middle of a gallery to draw what they see.  This technique works especially well at art museums, but also enhances visits to historical museums and locations.  Once, at a museum, I chatted with a mom who was calmly enjoying the gallery while her preschool-age children sat silently on the floor and sketched the artwork.  She told me that she created a special bag of art supplies—that the kids are ONLY allowed to use at museums.  She gave each of her preschool-age children their own box of crayons.  (VERY important!)  Each child had her own sketchbook.  You can create a kit like this for less than five dollars, using basic crayons and a spiral notebook.
  2. Take a docent-led tour.  Docents work long and hard to learn about the collection, and they love to share.  Join a docent tour.  Most docents will tailor the tour to the guests, so a tour with well-behaved children will feature highlights that appeal to them.  Docents give fascinating talks, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much your child enjoys the experience.  Encourage your children to behave, perhaps by arranging to take a break right afterward.
  3. Take the audio tour.  Many museums have audio tours.  Some museums provide their own audio equipment; others provide info you can access through your phone.  Some museums offer special kids audio tours, curated for kids’ tastes.  Imagine your child, silently absorbed in an audio tour.  Ahhh, museum bliss!
  4. Encourage children to read the exhibit descriptions.  I’m talking about the plaques and cards many museums use to describe pieces.  Older children can read these on their own. Younger children will enjoy highlights.  Reading the exhibit descriptors GREATLY enhances the educational value of any exhibit.
  5. Use the museum’s resources.  Many museums have special website sections for kids, coloring pages, kids’ tours, activity rooms, orientation films, kids’ audio tours, and kid-friendly plaques describing exhibits.  Take advantage of these resources!
  6. Don’t miss the gift shop.  Museum gift shops have cool merchandise you can’t find elsewhere.  They can be pricey, but there are also bargains.  Postcards of famous artwork are some of the cheapest souvenirs.  Make a big deal out of letting each kid pick 4 or 5 (a dollar’s worth.)  They’ll have fun evaluating the choices and deciding on their favorites.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


Tips for Helping Kids Enjoy Museums and Historical Locations: Part One–Lay the Groundwork

Katie'sPictureShowYes, it’s possible to teach preschool and elementary school-age children to enjoy museums.  Apply these tips and watch kids enjoy art museums, historical museums, historic houses and other historic locations! These tips work well for parents and teachers.

  1. Go when it’s free.  Many museums have free times.  Some museums are always free, like the Smithsonian, but others are free for the last hour of the day, or Wednesdays after 3:00 pm, or something.  Also, power companies and major corporations often sponsor free days.  Another option: talk to your school and the local library.  They sometimes have free tickets and passes to local attractions.
  2. Plan your visit.  Begin the planning at home by using the website or at the museum by visiting the information booth.  Ask staff at the information booth for advice on kid-friendly exhibits.  Staff members love to see kids enjoy museums, and they will be happy to help.  Study the museum map and make decisions.  While you’re at it, teach some map-reading skills.  Kids only mildly interested in the actual museum might be very interested in planning your visit and reading the map.  The map and orientation materials might pique your child’s interest in the exhibits—that’s what those materials are designed to do.
  3. Dress for the occasion. I recommend nice clothes and comfortable shoes.  When you and your kids dress for the museum, you convey that the visit is a special occasion.  Well-dressed kids tend to be well-behaved kids—children really will step it up if they’re all decked out.  Kids who love to dress up will be thrilled to have a chance to wear their favorite duds.  Seriously, though, stick to comfortable shoes.  They’re essential!
  4. Talk to your child’s teacher.  You might score some extra credit, a fun project to do during or after the museum visit—who knows?  The teacher might ask your child to tell the class about the visit afterwards, just to raise the museum’s profile and entice other students to learn more.  Your child’s teacher might want to arrange a field trip and will ask for your opinion of the museum.  A side benefit: your child’s teacher will know that you do cultural activities with your family.  Can’t hurt.
  5. Reward and bribe.  Whatever works!  Set standards and goals for good behavior, and reward your child for reaching them.  This doesn’t have to be a setup wherein your child associates museum visits with drudgery.  Set a goal to learn ten things, draw ten things (nicely), take notes, teach someone about what you learned, help a siblings behave and learn—whatever you value.  The reward could be a snack, a souvenir, you name it.

Read all four posts about helping kids enjoy museums and historical locations:

Part one: lay the groundwork

Part two: structure your visit

Part three: learn all you can

Part four: practical tips and suggestions


Unlikely but engrossing essay topic–the Swiffer Duster

SwifferNo one sets out to assign an essay about the Swiffer.  I stumbled across this magical essay topic by accident.

It began with the feather duster I provided as equipment for one of our class jobs.  (Click here for tips on setting up an extremely effective class jobs system.)  My students told me that a Swiffer would work much better.  I bought a Swiffer starter kit for the classroom.  The kids took great pride in showing me how to set up and use it.

It became clear that my third graders had strong feelings about the Swiffer.  I assigned it as that week’s essay topic.  Students could pick their own style of essay: persuasive, personal narrative, how-to, compare/contrast, or descriptive.  Their essays ran the gamut.  All of them were at least a page long.  Even the most reluctant writers had a lot to say about the Swiffer.

I cut up the Swiffer box and used it to decorate our hallway bulletin board.  We hung up Swiffer papers on yellow backgrounds.  Our classroom was on the way to the cafeteria, so everyone passed our Swiffer board.   Many kids complimented us on it.  It turns out that all elementary students really like the Swiffer.

I hope that the Swiffer assignment works as well for you as it did for G3, Miss Green’s Third Grade.  May it bring you a dust-free classroom full of happily writing students!

Posted in Writing by Corey Green @ May 23, 2016


Teach U.S. civics, history and geography with 9 FREE quizzes from the US naturalization test

Teach your students all 100 questions and answers from the U.S. naturalization test.  Nine quizzes with corresponding study guides make it easy to break the test into manageable chunks.  I hope these quizzes help teachers, students, and candidates for naturalization.

Children who grow up in the U.S should know the civics, geography, and history concepts that we ask our naturalized citizens to learn.  By studying the test, your students will gain an overview of what it means to be American.  I hope t2hey will also gain respect for immigrants, who must learn all this information without the context that makes it much easier for U.S.-born people to understand.

The unit starts with the easiest lesson for American students, U.S. Geography and symbols.  This lets the students score an easy win and knock out 12 of the 100 questions.

Click here for all study guides in one pdf, and click here for all quizzes in one pdf.  Click here for the answers–once on the page, just click “100 civics questions and answers.”

  1. U.S. Geography and Symbols
  2. Principles of American Democracy
  3. Legislative branch
  4. Executive branch
  5. Judicial branch and local government
  6. Rights and Responsibilities
  7. Colonial Period and Independence
  8. U.S. History: 1800s
  9. Recent American History & Other Important Information
Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ May 16, 2016