Easy tips to make your master paper and key stand out

TeacherCutting corners is usually not a good idea…but doing so helps your master paper stand out.

How to make your master stand out: Snip the top right corner.  The snipped corner doesn’t show up on copies, but Iyou can easily see that a paper is your master, and you’ll be careful not to throw it away.

How to make your key stand out: Write KEY in large letters across the top of the paper.  If you just write “key” on the name line, it doesn’t stand out from the students’ papers.

How to make the answers on your key stand out: Write with fat Crayola markers.  That way, the answers are in color and the lines are much thicker than what’s on the paper.  The answers really stand out, making my grading go more quickly.

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 2, 2015

 

FREE pattern block puzzles–for online and real life

PatternBlockPuzzleHelp your students learn spatial reasoning skills with pattern blocks.  A class set of these versatile shapes can provide hours of fun and education.

Pattern blocks are mathematical manipulatives that let students see how shapes relate to each other.

In the first set, all shapes can be built from the basic equilateral triangle:

  • Equilateral triangle (Green)
  • Regular rhombus (Blue)
  • Trapezoid (Red)
  • Hexagon (Yellow)

The second set contains shapes that can’t be built of the green triangle, but can still be used in tiling patterns.

  • Square (Orange)
  • Small rhombus (Beige)

Click here for an inexpensive set of plastic pattern blocks available at Amazon.com

Students love to make their own patterns from pattern blocks.  Another good activity is the pattern block puzzle.  Students build complicated shapes, such as a train, using pattern blocks.  Some puzzles have interior lines to show which pieces to use.  That’s good for beginners.  More advanced students like to figure it out themselves.

I like to print the puzzles and either laminate them or put them in page protectors.  If you laminate the puzzles, I recommend taping or gluing the puzzle to construction paper for strength.

Recommended pattern block puzzles:

Complete pattern block puzzle book from LearningResources.com

Jessica’s pattern block templates 

Online pattern blocks–a fun activity for the computer lab

Christmas pattern block printables

 

Posted in Academics,Math,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 24, 2015

 

Use desks as dry-erase boards

boyraisinghand2Some student desks  can be used as dry-erase boards.  This works on laminate fake-wood desks–but not all of them.  When you’re alone in the room, try a dry-erase marker on an inconspicuous portion of the desk.  If you’re lucky, the mark will wipe right off.  Presto!  Your students can use their desks for showing their work.  (Suddenly, students will fall all over themselves to show their work in math.)

I have found that this works best with any color of marker that isn’t red.  Red markers don’t usually erase well on actual dry-erase boards, either.  Additionally, I have noticed that the slicker the desk, the more likely this trick is to work.  Lastly, dark fake-wood desks tend to work better than the blond fake-wood desks.

This trick doesn’t work for everyone, but if it works in your classroom, your students will think you’re the best!

Good uses for desks-as-dry-erase-boards:

  • Showing work on math
  • Practicing cursive
  • Practicing spelling words
  • Taking notes–as a learning tool, not as notes the students need later
  • Practicing sample math problems

Other ClassAntics posts about whiteboards, dry-erase boards, and whiteboard markers:

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

Carpet squares make the best whiteboard erasers

Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 17, 2015

 

FREE Presidents’ Day computer activity: the 7 hat challenge

WashingtonTeachers, here is a wonderful, FREE computer lab activity for Presidents’ Day!  Your students will learn about the 7 hats a U.S. president wears and details about seven presidents.  This activity is appropriate for grades 3 and up.

This computer game-style activity comes from Scholastic, which of course has an assortment of Presidents’ Day activities.  The 7 Hat Challenge is my favorite by far.

Click here to play the game.  In order to succeed, your students must understand the 7 hats the President wears:

  1. Chief of the Executive Branch
  2. Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces
  3. Head of State
  4. Director of Foreign Policy
  5. Political Party Leader
  6. Guardian of the Economy
  7. Legislative Leader

Students learn about seven U.S. presidents, from Washington to Obama.  Students will decide which hat the president was wearing when he made various decisions.

The game has two levels: Easy and Hard.  Easy is good for third graders–but older students will quickly realize that in the Easy game, each president wears only one hat.  Once the student guesses the hat through either knowledge or trial-and-error, it’s easy to answer the other questions about that president since the answer is the same.  Older students should play the Hard level, which gives many questions about each president and shows the many hats that president wore.

After your class plays the game, you can use a Scholastic 7 Hats worksheet as an assessment. Click here for the worksheet.

I highly recommend that you use the worksheet as an assessment.  Your students will be much more serious during the computer lab activity if they know that they will be quizzed on it later.  The worksheet is formatted just like the program, so it’s a quality assessment of the activity.

Happy Presidents’ Day!

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Feb 9, 2015

 

FREE Groundhog Day reading comprehension worksheet + Watch the official promo video with your class

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

Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using myGroundhog 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 Groundhog Day ideas submitted by teachers.  Show your class the official promo video for Groundhog Day.  Students will enjoy seeing the excitement of visiting Punxsutawney for that day.

Posted in Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2015

 

Tips for using free online speed reading programs

TeacherStudentComputingFREE online speed reading software helps all of your students become more efficient readers–but you need materials and a plan to make the most of this resource.  Here are some tips from a National Board Certified teacher and speed reader.

For a full lesson on speed reading, read my blog entry on the topic.  Here are the Cliffs Notes:

  1.  Speed read by tracking with your finger.  Yes, just like you did back in first grade.  Build up speed by sliding your finger more quickly under the text and challenging your eyes and mind to keep up.  (The online version uses a computer program to flash the words on the screen.)
  2. This helps because it focuses your eye.  Without imposing focus, your eyes will just wander over the page, re-reading, skipping along, and generally wasting time.
  3. It also teaches you not to read in your head.  You know how little kids read aloud?  Well, us older folks enunciate the words in our heads.  As you learn to track your finger faster and read faster, you will read much faster than you could talk.  Once you break the reading-aloud-in-your-head habit, you read much faster.

My favorite FREE online speed reading program is Spreeder.  This tool is part of the terrific online speed reading course 7SpeedReading, which offers courses for individual users and educational institutions.  Request a free trial here–just click on EDU Edition on the menu bar.

Spreeder helps your students train their eyes and brain to work together more efficiently.  You can choose any text to practice with, although I recommend using their sample text first, because it explains the process.  In a nutshell, you have students adjust the program to flash words at them very quickly–about double their resting reading rate.  Students switch back and forth between fast and comfortable, building their ability to speed read in the process.

Spreeder is no fun unless you have ready access to interesting passages.  I found a great source: Mental Floss.  The website features is an offshoot of the magazine that helps clever people “feel smart again.”  The site includes articles, lists and features about everything under the sun.  Here is just a sample of what you can learn on MentalFloss.com:

15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was the Best Neighbor Ever

What Do the Ms on M&M’s Stand For, and How Do They Get Them on There?

How a Game of Monopoly Put 15 Criminals Behind Bars

WWI Centennial: Germans Repulsed at Givenchy

Where is Old Zealand?

Tip: tell your students not to click on post links from around the web, because those are much lower quality than Mental Floss.

Happy speed reading!


 

Paddington Bear in the Classroom

Use the success of the Paddington movie to interest your students in the books about everyone’s favorite marmalade connoisseur.

Encourage students to see the movie–or show it to your class in May for an end-of-school-year treat.  Critics have praised the movie, and it’s doing well at the box office.  EW‘s Jason Clark wrote that the film is “closer to the madcap spirit of the Muppets and the lovingly rendered style of a Wes Anderson film than to standard multiplex family fodder.”

Thank goodness the movie did justice to Michael Bond’s wonderful books.  There are so many to choose from, and your students will love them all.  Paddington stories tend to have high reading levels–6.0 according to AR–so they make great readalouds.  It’s important to expose students to text with more complexity than they can handle themselves, and Paddington stories are a fun way to expose students to more complex writing.  You can ask students to concentrate on the story, or you can give them Paddington coloring pages to keep their hands busy while they listen.

There are many great Paddington books.  My favorite, though, is the Paddington Treasury.  This comprehensive collection of Paddington stories will keep your class entertained for an entire school year.  The stories are sorted by category, so stories about mistaken identity are in one section and stories about food are in another.  You can read similar stories together for a lesson on theme or mix them up for variety.

The Paddington Bear – The Complete Classic Series DVD gathers all the classic TV episodes into one affordable disc.  It would be fun to have in the classroom, for a quick video break on Fun Fridays or as a handy bribe to help a sub keep control of the class.

I hope you and your class have a great time with Paddington Bear!

 

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Jan 19, 2015

 

How to make sure substitute teachers can find your sub plans

teacher3

If you know you’re going to be absent, leave your sub plans in a conspicuous place–and write the location of the plans on the whiteboard.

Spell it out–“Sub plans are on my desk.”  (Or the back table, or the podium, or the computer table–it’s surprising how many potential places there are to leave sub plans.)

If your absence was unplanned–perhaps because you woke up sick at 6:00 am–then you could email your plans to colleagues and ask them to place them in the room ASAP.  Ask the colleague to either speak with the sub or write the location  of the sub plans on the board.

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 12, 2015

 

It’s the new year–time to check progress and set new goals

girlanddteacherStudents and teachers know that the real new year is when school starts, but the actual new year is also an important milestone.  It’s a good time to review progress and set new goals.  Here are some tips for helping your students evaluate progress.

Print out as many benchmarks and data points as you can.  Give students their most recent STAR test, their AR progress, and their results on benchmark assessments for the 3Rs.  (Graded writing samples, scores from computerized assessments, etc.)

Show students their scores and give them a benchmark.  Be honest with the kids–tell them what constitutes at, on, and above grade level.

Encourage students to set new goals.  Choose a date for a new evaluation.  The end of third quarter is a good time to reflect.  Another good time is about three weeks before the standardized tests.

Give the students a log sheet where they can write their progress and goals.   Students on or above grade level may be self-sufficient for this step, but struggling students will need help.

Show students how they can improve their scores and reach their goals.  It’s the same advice we always give–read, practice math, focus on writing–but when that advice comes on the heels of a progress report, it might mean a little more.  Encourage students to write their action steps on their log sheet.

Encourage students to show their progress/goal sheet to parents.  You might want to require a signature and offer a reward for students who follow through.

 

Posted in Academics,First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 5, 2015

 

MobyMax: individualized student curriculum built from the Common Core

KidComputerTeachers, you have got to check out MobyMax!  It’s a fantastic K-8 online lesson system that is taking the country by storm.  It’s comprehensive, fun, individualized, and effective.  It’s all built on the Common Core Curriculum.  And it’s cheap!  There’s a free version and a $99/year version with extensive capabilities and access to games and contests.

MobyMax is great for today’s busy teachers with large classes.  The site give students a placement test and then automatically assigns them lessons.  There are many subjects: math, math facts, different types of reading, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and test prep.

Students love working at their level.   MobyMax keeps kids in their zone of proximal development (ZPD).  That’s the sweet spot where the work is neither too easy nor too hard.  The site is efficient because it doesn’t spend time on standards the kids have already learned.

I like that MobyMax lets you differentiate instruction so easily.  The site does most of the work for you, although you can tweak it considerably.  For example, you can set the grade level at which placement tests begin.  You can assign any lesson at any grade level.  You can assign vocabulary words or let Moby choose and teach.

MobyMax is very motivating.  Probably the most motivating element is game time.  The site has over a dozen games, and students earn time by working on lessons.  You choose how much game time Moby awards.  It starts at about 2 minutes for every 5 minutes of work.  When I did sample lessons, I found that frustrating, so I chose a 1:1 ratio for my students.  It sounds like a lot of game time, but it works out.   It’s interesting to see how students use their time.  Some burn through their time and work for five minutes, then play.  They’re living close to the edge.  Others get really into the lessons and rack up over an hour of game time.  If they want to play for an entire class period, so what?  They earned by doing focused work.

MobyMax also offers other incentives.  There are badges, contests, and ways for student and teacher to communicate.  You can send your kids messages called Vibes. The messages can be attaboys or get-to-works.

MobyMax offers lots and lots of data.  You can get detailed results from the placement tests, showing which standards student have mastered and which they still need to learn.  You can collect data on student progress through the curriculum.  You can track exactly how much time your students spend on each component of MobyMax .  (My students worked much harder once they found out I could track them to the minute.)

I think you’ll find that it’s worth the $99 for the full MobyMax experience.  After the 30 day trial period, the free version is a letdown.  There’s no game time.  You can’t assign lessons to individual students; they just take what Moby assigns them based on their placement test.  Vibes and other features are gone, too.

Parents, MobyMaxis great for families, too!  If you feel that school doesn’t meet your child’s needs, enroll your child in Moby.  It’s great for extra practice, home schooling, and beating summer slump.

You’ll love MobyMax!

Posted in Academics,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 29, 2014

 

Carpet squares make the best whiteboard erasers

WritingOnBoardTeachers, the best whiteboard erasers are free!  That is, if you can find a store that will give you old carpet square samples.  Just cut those carpet squares into small pieces and use them for excellent whiteboard erasers.

I came across this tip by accident.  The school district used my school as a summer school.  When I returned in the fall, carpet square-whiteboard erasers were right there on the ledge.  I quickly figured out what they were for.  My goodness!  They erase better than anything.

You don’t need fancy Berber. Cheap carpeting is fine.

Other ClassAntics posts about whiteboards:

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 22, 2014

 

Make tasty school lunches for kids (or teachers) with Laura Fuentes’ cookbook and Momables meal plans

HomemadeLunchesParents, get tips for making healthy school lunches from Momables!  Teachers, these recipes make great lunches for you and your family.

Momables.com has recipes, meal plans, and products.  The recipes were developed by creator Laura Fuentes in conjunction with dozens of moms, a chef and a nutritionist. The idea is to create delicious, fresh foods that kids will actually eat.

Momables has a nice collection of free recipes, but the good stuff comes with a subscription.  Then you’ll have access to meal plans and recipes.  The recipes are single serve, so it’s easy to figure the appropriate amount to make for your needs.  You can try Momables for a free week.  After that, you pay $8 a month or $79 for a year.  Momables has a regular plan and a grain-free plan for kids with allergies or special dietary needs.

An easy way to try Momables without the plan is to buy (or borrow from the library) a great cookbook from Momables creator Laura Fuentes.  It’s called The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet: Make Lunches Your Kids Will Love with More Than 200 Deliciously Nutritious Meal Ideas.  It has tips on stocking your fridge and pantry to streamline lunch making.  There are organizational feedback charts that let you track your kids’ reaction to each recipe.  The recipes are delicious and cover hot and cold lunches.  There are soups, snacks, riffs on sandwiches, desserts–it’s great!

As much as possible, try to involve your kids in planning and making school lunches.  Kids will value them more, eat lunch rather than trade, and learn valuable cooking and planning skills.

Other ClassAntics posts about school lunch:

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

Mix It Up At Lunch Day: October 30

How Lunch Money Works

Help your child fill up at school lunch

Posted in Food,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Dec 15, 2014

 

Create Goofus & Gallant skits for classroom do’s and don’ts

boyraisinghand2Remember Goofus and Gallant?  The old cartoons in Highlights for Children demonstrated proper (and improper ) behavior.  Teach your students about Goofus and Gallant, then create skits and cartoons to illustrate do’s and dont’s for the classroom.

Goofus and Gallant activities can be as elaborate or simple as you wish.  Whatever your speed, start by showing your students what the original was like.  Click here for Goofus and Gallant archives going back to 1959.  After a few examples, your class will be well-versed in the Goofus & Gallant format.

Now, have some fun!  Brainstorm classroom procedures that could benefit from the Goofus & Gallant treatment.  Assign them to groups of 2-4 students and challenge kids to create 20 second Goofus & Gallant demonstrations for the class.  Your students will have a great time creating and performing these skits.

You can also ask students to make Goofus & Gallant comic strips.

Don’t limit Goofus & Gallant to the classroom.  Rules and procedures for many school activities make good Goofus & Gallant topics.

  • Recess
  • Lunch
  • Before & after school
  • Bus, parent dropoff & pickup, walkers, bike riders, etc.
  • Social skills: making friends, interacting with adults on campus, getting along with the family, etc.
Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 8, 2014

 

Get your class excited about Peter Pan Live!

Peter Pan and Captain HookPeter Pan Live! airs on Thursday, December 4th at 8/7c.  Encourage your students to watch.  It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to see a live musical.  It will be like Broadway came to their living room.

The show looks promising.  Allison Williams stars as Peter, Christopher Walken plays Captain Hook, and Tony Award-winner Christian Borle performs the roles of Mr. Smee and George Darling.  It’s from the producers of The Sound of Music Live!, which I thought was an excellent show with great production values.  I can’t wait to see what they do with Peter Pan.  I am most excited about seeing Christopher Walken as Captain Hook.  I read in Entertainment Weekly that he is a professional dancer who fell into acting, and that his tap-dance scenes will knock America’s socks off.

For a little character education, tell your students how hard Allison Williams worked to get the role.  I read in Allure that as soon as Peter Pan Live! was announced, she contacted her agent.  “Too soon?” she asked.  The agent said yes–they hadn’t even written the script yet.  Allison made sure everyone connected to the show knew she was interested.  She used her phone to film herself singing the songs and sent it to producers.  When interviewers asked  about roles she wanted to play, she strongly hinted at Peter Pan.  It worked!

NBC and YMI have produced teaching materials to accompany the show.  Print out a full-color poster to promote the event.  Give the students copies of the synopsis and song list.  (These would be good printed back-to-back and sent home for students to share with their families.)  Simple-but-slick worksheets would make great extra credit activities.  Here’s one with a short quiz and here’s one  with lyrics to “I Won’t Grow Up” and a challenge to write your own verse.  Play the preview and accompanying promotional clips that take you behind the scenes as the cast and crew prepare the show.  There is a commercial after the preview, but after that, the promotional clips play without interruption.

You can buy Peter Pan Live! on Amazon and in stores on December 16th, so you could show it in class before Winter Break.  In the meantime, teach your students about The Sound of Music Live! with that show’s DVD, available on Amazon and in stores.  It’s fun to watch the show live, but it’s also nice to watch it without interruptions.  Plus, the DVD comes with a feature about producing the show.  Students will enjoy seeing the hard work and preparation that go into producing a musical.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 1, 2014

 

FREE online Thanksgiving games for computer lab time

PumpkinPieHere are some FREE online Thanksgiving games for computer lab time!  You and your class can spend a happy hour in the lab playing these games.  Only three days until we’re off for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Dinner: a logic game.  The challenge is to seat everyone near something they like and away from something they don’t like.  The game is self-correcting.  It won’t let you place a person near a problem.

Turkey Bowl: lob apples and try to hit as many turkeys as you can.

Turkey Run: help the turkey cross the crowded commercial kitchen and make it out alive

Thanksgiving Crossword: play online or on paper.  A fun way to test your  knowledge of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Story: spot the differences.  Carefully study two pictures and spot the differences.  Click on the differences.  You can give yourself more time or ask the game to reveal the remaining differences.

Turkey Puzzle: an online slide puzzle.  Click on the piece you want to move.  Try to build the turkey picture.

Turkey Pardon: an online Thanskgiving hangman game.  Save the turkey by solving the puzzles in time.

Thanksgiving Dinner Decoration: more simulation than game.  Decorate the table for Thanksgiving.  Click when you’re ready to enjoy your virtual feast!

Turkey Hunt: click on the picture to find the hidden turkey.   The turkey hides in a different place for each game.

Gobble’s Tic Tac Toe: Thanksgiving-themed classic

Thanksgiving Dinner Panic: quick!  Can you differentiate between delicious dishes and burnt ones?  Help the teen chefs choose the right food.

Other ClassAntics posts about Thanksgiving:

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

Let Scholastic Help You Teach the First Thanksgiving

FREE Worksheet for the Movie The Mouse on the Mayflower

The Mouse on the Mayflower

 

Posted in Holidays by Corey Green @ Nov 24, 2014