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

 

Branding your Classroom

When you brand your classroom, everything becomes more fun.  Branding builds community because it makes your class feel more like a club.

My last name is Green.  When I taught third grade, I branded my classroom G3 and created a logo with an interlocking G and 3.  On the first day of school, I taught the kids how to do a class huddle and congratulate ourselves.  (I say “Go, us!” and the kids reply “G3!” in their deepest and most macho voices.) We also created a logo that we proudly displayed on our door.

The picture at right shows the G3 version of the Roman testudo (tortoise) formation.  This was our class’s entry into the Social Studies parade.  Our curriculum included Greek and Roman history, so a testudo formation was right up our alley.  The G3 posterboard shields look nice, don’t they?

The G3 brand belonged to everyone in the class.  Students proudly decorated folders, notebooks and even backpacks.  Our PTSO created signing shirts for end-of-year autographs, and the kids all wanted G3 on their shirt.

I knew a teacher whose classroom was in the basement, Room B-6.  She renamed her classroom “The  BOG” as wordplay on B-o6, then she used frogs as a theme for everything related to her class.

Another teacher chose ladybugs for a theme.  She called her students were “Lovebugs,” as in “Lovebug, could you have made a better choice than hitting Tommy?” Everything sounds sweet if you add “lovebug.”

I highly recommend that you create a brand for your classroom.  It can be a play on your name or grade, the school name, or a theme that you can use to decorate the classroom.  Make it unique so that it only applies to your class.  The “insider” feeling will be well worth the effort.

Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ May 9, 2016

 

Extra credit: 6 benefits

apluspaperExtra credit can be a motivational tool that empowers students and helps parents get involved.    Here are five reasons I like to assign extra credit:

Students feel more control of their grades.  With extra credit, students know that there are ways they can influence their grade.  They don’t have to wait for you to give a grade–they can earn it on their own.

Students learn study skills.  This works especially well in math. I copy the practice/reteach pages from our textbook program.  Higher achieving students can do the problems as a grade booster; lower-achieving students can work with the teacher, a peer, a tutor, or a parent to learn the material.  Struggling students are more motivated to do these practice problems because they know it will improve their grade.

Extra credit can make difficult conversations more productive.  We all have to phone or write parents to explain that a student is struggling.  If you offer lots of extra credit opportunities, you can make the conversation productive and positive by emphasizing what students and parents can do right now to improve the grade.  Everyone will feel better about putting in the time and effort.

Extra credit is motivational–and contagious: once a few students do extra credit and see results, others will be more motivated to try it themselves.  My classes work harder when I provide a lot of extra credit opportunities.  Many teachers fear students will do the extra credit instead of regular assignments, but I find that extra credit makes students work harder on the required work, too.  Students get into the habit of achieving.

Students are willing to take risks: students will work harder and do more challenging work in an extra credit context.  Extra credit is risk-free, so if the work isn’t up to par, it just doesn’t count.  It doesn’t hurt the students’ grades.  I find that students are more willing to try challenge problems, higher-order thinking questions, and critical thinking prompts if they know that it’s just for extra credit.  They often end up doing better than they would have if the assignment had been required.  (Extra credit takes the resentment out of work!)

Extra credit keeps struggling students in the game: we know that struggling students need to work more, not less, than others.  Extra credit lets them do remedial work that immediately impacts their grade.  It can make the difference between passing and failing.  As students do more extra credit, they learn the skills needed to pass the class on their own, with or without the bonus points.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 2, 2016

 

Teach U.S. geography with 6 FREE cumulative quizzes

lectureSix FREE cumulative quizzes make it easy to teach and learn US geography.  Start with easy-to-identify states, then build up until students can label all of them.

I developed this system because I noticed that most students (in any grade) do not know basic U.S. geography.  Rather than teaching geography by region, I decided to teach by ease of memorization.  Level 1 features states that are easy to pick out on the map, usually because of location or shape.  Easily mixed-up states are on higher levels, but students have no trouble learning them because they already know most of the states by then.  The tests also ask students to learn bodies of water, neighboring countries, and the Great Lakes.

The tests are cumulative.  For each level, new states are indicated by a large question mark and previously learned states by a smaller question mark.

For level 3, teach students two tricks: MIMAL is the name of the chef shown in profile on the map.  The states are Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  Minnesota is the hat, Louisiana is the boot, and Missouri is the belly.

For the Great Lakes, teach students that Super Man Helps Every One.  From left to right, the lakes are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Quiz 4

Quiz 5

Quiz 6

U.S. Geography Challenge master goes on the back of each quiz.

Copy the U.S. Geography Challenge page on the back of each map.  One page covers the whole unit.  For extra credit or a treat, students can fill in the states for upcoming lessons.  The US Geography Challenge page gives postal codes for each state.   I recommend students use those codes on the map.  It’s easier than squishing in state names and a good way to learn the postal codes.

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Apr 25, 2016

 

Offer a choice of two

I learned the “offer a choice of two” tip from a mom volunteer, who smoothly distributed about 5 flavors of popsicles with all students feeling like they had a choice in the treat they were given.  I realized that offering a choice of 2 has many classroom management applications:

— It speeds up questioning that’s intended to keep the lesson going, not spark deep thought.  “Should we put the apostrophe before or after the s?” instead of “Where should we put the apostrophe?”

— It gives students options without overwhelming them with choices: “Would you like to use markers or crayons?” instead of “What would you like to color with?”

— It offers students a pseudo-choice: “Would you like to calm down and do the activity with us, or refocus in another classroom?” instead of “Shape up or ship out.”  (also a choice of 2, actually)

— It teaches kids to make a decision, then stick with it.  Most decisions in life are not worth over-thinking.  Your mom’s birthday card will look good whether you use red paper or pink.  Just pick one!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 18, 2016

 

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary! D.E.A.R.

bookWhat do Henry Huggins, Ellen Tebbits, Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Otis Spofford, Ribsy, Socks, and Ralph S. Mouse have in common?  They’re celebrating Beverly Cleary’s birthday on April 12th.

April 12th also is National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day.  D.E.A.R. is a reading celebration that encourages families to make reading together on a daily basis a family priority.

Beverly Cleary’s beloved character, Ramona Quimby, is the program’s official spokesperson. Ramona is responsible for spreading the word and the love of reading.  All this came about because Beverly Cleary received many letters from readers who participated in D.E.A.R. at their schools, so she gave the same experience to Ramona in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (link to amazon, book and movie).

The goal of National D.E.A.R. Day is to show families how to make time to drop everything and read.  It’s easy to set up and host your own celebration.   The D.E.A.R. website features information and tools to promote your celebration. There’s also a list of Favorite Read-Aloud Titles for Families of D.E.A.R. Readers

Students get really excited about D.E.A.R. in the classroom: have them read any and all books by Beverly Cleary.  My parents read her books when they were in elementary school, and now Beverly Cleary’s books are published in twenty countries in fourteen languages.  Beverly Cleary’s autobiographies, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet
, fueled my dreams of writing children’s books.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!  Now, I’m off to read!

Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Apr 11, 2016

 

How AR levels are determined

argenrechallengeMany schools use the Accelerated Reader Program (AR) to guide students’ independent reading.  In essence, children read books and take a computer based AR quiz to earn points.  Points are based on the reading level of the book and the word length.  Points are awarded based on the quiz score.  A student must earn a passing score to receive points for a quiz.

Your child’s AR level is determined by a test called Star Reading.  This test is part of Renaissance Learning’s suite of programs designed to work in conjunction with AR.  Star Reading is a multiple choice test with a fill in the blank format.   Students read a sentence and choose the word that best fits the blank.  The test is self-adjusting because question difficulty varies based on whether students answer correctly.

In essence, Star Reading is a test of vocabulary.  This is appropriate because vocabulary is an excellent predictor of reading ability.  I have found the Star Reading test to be quite accurate for my students.

Observations and Comments:

  1. Most children do not read at grade level.  This makes sense, because grade level is basically a median.  Half the students are above, half the students are below.  The child’s AR level is usually determined by a statistic called independent reading level, which is the level of books a child can comfortably read on his own.
  2. Sometimes parents want their child to read above the assigned AR level, but this can be a mistake.  Children improve by reading books that are fairly easy for them.  If the child is struggling to read the words, he can’t understand the story.  The child will not improve reading comprehension by practicing like this.
  3. The way to move up in AR levels is to read, read, read!  Encourage your child to read everything available at his or her level.  By doing this, your child will pick up new vocabulary words.  The Star Reading score will rise, as will the AR level.

Connection:  You can also help your child build vocabulary by reading aloud.  Choose books that are above your child’s AR level.  Children can listen at a much higher level than they can read themselves.  Your child will naturally absorb new vocabulary.

Posted in Accelerated Reader (AR) by Corey Green @ Mar 7, 2016

 

The 5 BEST Leap Year Worksheets online–all FREE!

boyleapingClassAntics has the best Leap Year worksheets online.  They were hugely popular in 2012 and have been a hit in 2016.  ClassAntics Leap Year worksheets teach reading comprehension, math, and writing.  Here are all the Leap Year worksheets in one place.  Enjoy!

Start with a reading comprehension worksheet about Leap Year.  It’s a good, basic introduction to the concept of Leap Year that is appropriate for third grade and up.

Students like the writing worksheet about how and why Julius Caesar created Leap Year and rearranged the calendar. This worksheet challenges students to write a newspaper article about the event. The article gives “notes” our fictitious reporter took at the press conference—in a handy who, what, where, when, why format.

Here is an fun reading comprehension worksheet called “Fun with Leap Year and Leap Day.” The passage and questions are indeed fun. What other worksheet challenges you to figure out what Pope Paul III and Ja Rule have in common? (Answer: they were both born on Leap Day.)

Next is my fun “Was it a Leap Year?” math worksheet that lets students apply their knowledge of divisibility by 4. Hints for determining divisibility by 4 are at the bottom of the page. The worksheet teaches a special case: century years. Because a revolution around the sun does not quite take 365.25 days, only century years divisible by 400 are Leap Years. The worksheet gives a student-friendly explanation and challenges them to determine if a century year was or wasn’t a Leap Year.  I also have provided an Answer Key as a separate download.

My Leap Year Idioms worksheet helps you teach students about idioms—a commonly assessed concept on state standardized tests. Have some Leap Year fun with idioms based on the word “leap” or “year.”   Here is the Answer Key as a separate download.

Posted in Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Feb 28, 2016

 

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 13, 2016

 

Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 3

Leap Year Idioms

Teachers, here is a FREE Leap Year worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher. I hope you and your students enjoy it! Here is the Answer Key.

This worksheet helps you teach students about idioms—a commonly assessed concept on state standardized tests. Have some Leap Year fun with idioms based on the word “leap” or “year.”

If you haven’t seen them already, check out Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 1 and Part 2.

Part 1: Leap Year Reading and Writing

Part 2: “Fun with Leap Year and Leap Day” reading comprehension and Leap Year Math

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Fun With Literacy,Holidays by Corey Green @ Feb 1, 2016

 

Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 2

Fun Reading Comprehension and Leap Year Math

Teachers, here are FREE Leap Year worksheets written by a National Board Certified Teacher. I hope you and your students enjoy them!

Here is an enjoyable reading comprehension worksheet called “Fun with Leap Year and Leap Day.” The passage and questions are indeed fun. What other worksheet challenges you to figure out what Pope Paul III and Ja Rule have in common? (Answer: they were both born on Leap Day.)

You and your students will enjoy learning about Leap Year luck (or lack thereof), Leap Year marriage proposals in Ireland, and the quandary posed by a Leap Year birthday in The Pirates of Penzance. The questions are all opinion based—and in my opinion, you shouldn’t grade them! Give students credit for completion, then go home and kick back to enjoy the rest of Leap Day.

Next is my fun “Was it a Leap Year?” worksheet that lets students apply their knowledge of divisibility by 4. Hints for determining divisibility by 4 are at the bottom of the page. The worksheet teaches a special case: century years. Because a revolution around the sun does not quite take 365.25 days, only century years divisible by 400 are Leap Years. The worksheet gives a student-friendly explanation and challenges them to determine if a century year was or wasn’t a Leap Year.  I also have provided an Answer Key as a separate download.

Don’t forget to download the other two worksheets in Free Leap Year Worksheets Part One.

Happy Leap Year!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 25, 2016

 

Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 1

Reading Comprehension and Writing Nonfiction

Teachers, here are FREE Leap Year worksheets written by a National Board Certified Teacher. I hope you and your students enjoy them!

The first one is a reading comprehension worksheet about Leap Year.  It’s a good, basic introduction to the concept of Leap Year that is appropriate for third grade and up.

Next is a writing worksheet about how and why Julius Caesar created Leap Year and rearranged the calendar. To shake things up a little, this worksheet challenges students to write a newspaper article about the event. The article gives “notes” our fictitious reporter took at the press conference—in a handy who, what, where, when, why format.

Stay tuned for Free Leap Year Worksheets Part Two: Leap Year trivia reading comprehension and Leap Year math!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 19, 2016

 

Ballad of Birmingham

book“Ballad of Birmingham” is a famous poem about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 in which four girls were killed.   Of all the lessons I present in connection with the Civil Rights movement, this is the most emotional and memorable.

Read the poem.

I recommend the book Free At Last: A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Those Who Died in the Struggle. A double-page spread shows pictures of the girls and explains about the bombing.  This book was developed as part of the “Teaching Tolerance” program at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

You can use materials from BalladofBirmingham.org to teach your students about the poem.  You will learn the story of the bombing, the story of the poem, and the story of the song.  I recommend that you read the poem with your students.  The song should be a separate experience, but it is one worth sharing.

Here is a video with the song and news footage.  I recommend that you view it yourself and decide if it is appropriate for your students.

You can also see a clip about the church bombing from the History Channel.  This explains the context of the bombing in a powerful, visual and concise way.  Again, view it yourself and decide if this is appropriate for your students.

**I discovered the poem “Ballad of Birmingham” as a child, when I won a Dr. Martin Luther King Day essay contest at the US Navy base in Naples, Italy.  There was a ceremony in honor of Dr. King.  I read my essay, but by far the most memorable part of the day was when my friend Keisha’s mom recited “Ballad of Birmingham.”  She ended by singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”   This powerful performance is one of my most cherished memories.

My essay compares Dr. King’s dream to the international community at the NATO base in Naples, Italy.  Read my essay at the About the Author section of my CoreyGreen.com website.

Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall

“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”

“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 11, 2016

 

Teaching Kids to Access Memorized Information

Accessing information you’ve already memorized is
as easy as Z-Y-X!

That’s a catchy way to introduce this tip: teach kids to access memorized information by showing them where to look for it, so to speak. All you need is a backwards alphabet and a buddy!

Here are the Z-Y-X steps:

Z: Ask the child to stand right in front of you and recite the alphabet—backwards.

Y: Watch the child’s eyes as he attempts this task. Note where the child looks.

X: Tell the student that when attempting the task, he looked to his top left (or top right, or whatever you noticed.)

For THIS STUDENT, that is where to look when trying to access memorized information. Everyone is different, so you will need to help each student individually or buddy kids up so the buddy can identify where the partner should look for answers.

Got a test coming up? Try it yourself and you’ll know where to find all the answers!

It’s much more effective than staring into space.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 4, 2016