Teach students how to wear a bike helmet properly

As a teacher, we see a lot of kids with bike helmets.  It’s scary to see how many kids wear their bike helmets improperly.  The helmet can’t do its job if the fit isn’t right.

Most of the time, an ill-fitting helmet is either too big or worn too loose.  As a teacher, you can’t do much about the too-big helmet aside from tell parents.  However, you can help kids adjust the fit right away.

Bike helmet fit comes down to three things:

Eyes: the helmet should sit an inch above the eyes (use two fingers to measure that about an inch of forehead shows)

Ears: the straps should form a Y around the ears and come just under the ears

Mouth: the child should be able to fully open her mouth.  If not, the strap is too tight.

Make sure kids tighten the strap enough.  It’s scary to see a loose strap that lets the helmet come right off the head at the slightest impact or nudge.  Below is a simple video, less than a minute long, that demonstrates these concepts.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 5, 2015


Get Lost in Reading with Scholastic and the origin-story film “Pan”

“Pan,” the origin story of the famous Peter, premieres October 8.  Scholastic offers free materials that help you use the film as a chance to interest your students in Peter Pan and reading in general.

“Pan” tells how Peter added Pan to his name and ended up in Neverland.  Your students can use the original Peter Pan story as a springboard to spinoffs: origin stories, alternate endings, continuations, and tales from another character’s point of view.  Your students might enjoy creating their own Peter Pan spinoff or spinning off another story.  You can let the students choose or just use whatever is this week’s selection in the reading book.

Click here for Scholastic’s “Get Lost in Reading” feature.  Here are some highlights:
Description: students the Pan screenplay‘s description to inspire their own version of the set
Pan ebook with articles about the movie and connections to literacy
Book recommendation: a Pan-themed sheet to recommend books to classmates

Your students might like other Peter Pan-themed spinoffs.  I enjoy the Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  Your students might like to know that the spinoff book became a Tony award-winning spinoff musical.  (How many spins off the original story is that?)

Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Sep 28, 2015


Bedtime Math–teach kids to love numbers and use math in real life

51SXV06OGNL._SX408_BO1,204,203,200_Bedtime Math promises to do for numeracy what bedtime stories did for literacy.

It all started when Laura Overdeck decided to help her kids love math the way she does.  And boy, does she love math!  Overdeck earned a B.S. in astrophysics from Princeton and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.  She combined her love of math, kids and bedtime stories into the Bedtime Math series.

Each book offers multiple evenings of Bedtime Math because they beg to be read little-by-little, with time set aside for thinking.

Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series)

Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal (Bedtime Math Series)

Bedtime Math: The Truth Comes Out (Bedtime Math Series)

BedtimeMath.org offers FREE Bedtime Math resources to complement the books.  Check out the Daily Math for blog articles about fun real-life math topics.  You can download a Wacky Math app that brings Bedtime Math to your device–daily problems, articles, etc.

Bedtime Math has a section for educators.  The author asks educators to encourage bedtime math at home, rather than making it part of school.  She also suggests starting an after-school math club, for which she will provide ideas and curriculum.  Very generous.  However, I think the educators section should be taken with a grain of salt.  Remember, its advice is from the perspective of an accomplished mom of privileged kids, not a teacher whose students run the gamut.

Starting an after-school club opens a whole can of worms.  A) you’ll be working for free B) you have to wonder whether school liability insurance and protections extend to after-school clubs–most elementary schools aren’t set up for them C) you are responsible for making sure the kids get home safely.  If they walk, it won’t be in the safety of huge crowds of kids, and if they get picked up–well, the pickup might be an hour late or not at all.

Regarding the idea to keep Bedtime Math for home only: not everyone has a parent who loves math–or even likes it a little bit.  Not everyone has a parent who reads bedtime stories.  Heck, not everyone has a parent who actually enforces bedtime–and provides a real bed.  Plus–not everyone has a parent who speaks/reads English.

Some kids may never experience Bedtime Math unless it is at school.  Consider your school’s circumstances and decide whether Bedtime Math is something to recommend to parents or do at school.  Also consider that families may be much more interested in Bedtime Math after you whet kids’ appetites at school.

Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy,Math by Corey Green @ Sep 21, 2015


Constitution Day

Washington_Constitutional_Convention_1787Teach your students about the Constitution using FREE high-quality resources.  Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics.org has superb resources–whole units, complete with PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, teaching materials, and high-quality online games.  As usual, Scholastic has assembled an excellent collection of materials for all grade levels.

Another good site is National Archives Constitution Day resources.  This includes a simulation of the confusion and complexity delegates faced as they first met to create the Constitution.  The directions are ready-to-use, and all you need are envelopes and paperclips.  Curious?  Here’s the activity.

I hope you and your students enjoy Constitution Day.  To me, it’s the Beezus to Independence Day’s Ramona.   Like Beezus Quimby, Constitution Day is serious and focused.  Like Ramona, Independence Day is fun and playful.

iCivics.org Scholastic
All curriculum units

Road to the Constitution unit

Constitution unit

Justice by the People unit

Celebrate Constitution Day

Constitution Game

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Sep 14, 2015


Book review: Ashley Bryan’s Puppets

61XELAshKqL._SY496_BO1,204,203,200_Immerse your students in the lush multi-sensory pleasures of Ashley Bryan’s Puppets.  This unique picture book tells the story of Ashley Bryan’s puppets, made from found objects and inspired by African culture.

Ashley Bryan’s Puppets is not a picture book that children would pick up on their own.  It is sophisticated and intellectual, requiring a teacher or parent to help the child derive meaning from it.

…but oh, what depth of meaning!  Ashley showcases dozens of his puppets and highlights several with poems about the puppet’s meaning, inspiration from African culture, and construction.

This picture book would be great to share with a whole class.  I would read a poem or two a day.  That would let the students appreciate each one’s individual beauty.  The students will want to thumb through the book and enjoy the lush photography of each puppet, but their attention spans will appreciate reading just a poem or two at a time.

The class might enjoy making found-object puppets and researching other puppets and puppeteers.  Students might enjoy learning more about Ashley Bryan and reading his many books.   Check out the Ashley Bryan Center in Isleford, Maine.

Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Sep 7, 2015


“One Day More” flash mob at school district convocation

Talented teachers in West Des Moines Community Schools spiced up their convocation with a well-rehearsed flash mob, performing their own version of “One Day More” from Les Miserables.

The opening speech is very dull and illustrates exactly why teachers dread convocation.  Skip to 1:24 for the good part.  Use closed captioning (the CC icon) to catch all the lyrics.

Have you seen Les Miserables yet?  If not, check it out!  I really enjoyed the Les Misérables movie, but the Dream Cast in Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall will always hold a special place in my heart.  It features Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean.  Lea Salonga is brilliant as Eponine, and Australia’s Philip Quast demonstrates how Javert’s songs are supposed to sound–booming and intimidating, full of fire and brimstone.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 31, 2015


How to spot signs of vision trouble in children

reading150Anyone with glasses can tell you about that moment of clarity: seeing the leaves on the trees.  Help your students experience that thrill.  Watch for signs of vision trouble in students.

Of course, the classic sign of vision trouble is when the child can’t see the board.  However, many students won’t admit that they have trouble, so parents and teachers have to watch for the signals that indicate vision trouble.  Remember, vision trouble can go beyond nearsightedness to include lazy eye, crossed eyes, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

If you spot the following behaviors, notify the school nurse and call the parent.  (I call home because some students won’t give parents the nurse’s note.)  When speaking to parents, remember to describe the behavior you see and avoid anything that sounds like a diagnosis.

Correcting a vision problem can lead to quick and remarkable results.  I have seen students jump an entire grade level in reading fluency and comprehension shortly after getting glasses.

Signs of vision trouble in children:

  • rubbing eyes
  • squinting
  • tilting books to read them
  • leaning close to books
  • turning the head to look at objects that should be in peripheral vision
  • wandering eyes
  • headaches
  • covering one eye
  • avoiding reading or seeking out books with large print (not related to reading level)
Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 24, 2015


5 ways to cultivate a coworker relationship with your students

raisehandsIn many ways, I have a closer coworker relationship with my students than I do with my colleagues.   My colleagues are wonderful, and we help each other with teaching, classroom management, and meeting students’ needs.  However, the coworker relationship is much closer with students.

In the classroom, I am the manager and the students are my team.  Our task is to make sure everyone meets standards by the end of the school year.  I set a plan for how to accomplish our learning goals, but the students and I adjust it as the year goes on.

How to treat your students like coworkers:

  1. Cultivate the coworker attitude in yourself—it will show in how you approach everything.
  2. Share with students the state and national standards, curriculum maps, and pacing materials from the district. This helps them take your perspective–and take your job more seriously.  Seeing planning and accountability materials helps students understand the big picture and appreciate that school is about more than day-to-day assignments.
  3. When possible, tell students your objective and give them the chance to help you determine the best way to accomplish it. You can do this for a day, a unit, a project, a grading period, or the whole year.  Give the students experience with short and long-range planning.
  4. Assign class jobs. Explain to students that the classroom requires certain tasks be done in order for each day to go smoothly.   Teach students about man hours, efficiency, and management skills.  This will motivate everyone to complete their jobs because they understand the true purpose.  (Click here for detailed advice on setting up class jobs—including a FREE fill-in spreadsheet.  Click here for advice on how to work as a team to maintain the classroom.)
  5. Try to keep things between you and the student wherever possible. If you must involve an administrator or parent, move on after the incident is over.  Try to get back to dealing with the student directly.  If you can do this successfully, you’ll strengthen the coworker bond.
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 17, 2015


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 10, 2015


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 @ Aug 3, 2015


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 they 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 @ Jul 27, 2015


Run and jump to remember how to plot ordered pairs

boyleapingMany students get confused when they have to plot ordered pairs on a graph. “Run and jump” helps them remember that the first number is x and the second is y.  Teach your students to mutter “run and jump” as they first slide their pencil to the x, then slide to y.

Don’t get discouraged if your little scholars don’t quite master “run and jump” after the first lesson.  The simple catchphrase should be enough to get most kids back on track, even if it’s been a while since the class plotted ordered pairs.  Your heart will warm when you hear your students reminding each other to “run and jump.”  Teacher intervention is rarely necessary once kids know the trick.

Click here for graphing worksheets from MathAids.com.  You can choose from one quadrant and four quadrant worksheets.  Click here for my post on FREE four quadrant graphing characters worksheets.

Posted in Math by Corey Green @ Apr 27, 2015


Unlikely but engrossing essay topic–the Swiffer Duster

SwifferAny teacher who has ever assigned an essay knows the refrain: “I don’t know what to write!”  The cure is an engrossing topic.  Here’s an idea: assign your students an essay about the Swiffer.  Seriously–this is a truly fascinating subject to kids.

No one sets out to assign an essay about the Swiffer.  I stumbled across this tip by accident.  In my classroom, I provided a feather duster as equipment for one of our class jobs.  (Click here for terrific tips on setting up an extremely effective class jobs system.)

My students told me that a Swiffer would work much better than the feather duster.  I bought a Swiffer starter kit and brought it in.  The kids took great pride in showing me how to set up and use the Swiffer.

I realized that my third graders had really 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 @ Apr 20, 2015


FREE typing resource for school: Typing Club

TwoKidsAndComputerTouch typing is one of the most important skills your students can learn.  The ability to type quickly and accurately will help students at school and in the workplace.  I recommend TypingClub.com, a FREE resource.  It has so many features to help teach typing and organize a class’s efforts.  You won’t believe it’s free!

TypingClub is great because it lets you organize your whole class and customize each student’s experience.  You can set the pace, the standards of performance, and the style of lessons.  The prearranged typing program will work very well, but you can also create assignments and tests.  You can set the program to allow students to progress freely through lessons, or you can hold them back until they meet standards.  It’s all up to you, and it’s very easy to set up.

Some students are naturally motivated to learn how to type.  Others need prodding.  Here are some things that encourage my students:

  • Tell them that they have an advantage over typing students from decades past.  Thanks to texting, today’s kids know where the letters are on the keyboard.
  • Give them candy every for every five lessons they pass.
  • Set individual or whole-class goals with associated rewards.
Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 13, 2015


Spaceship Math–FREE leveled worksheets to teach basic addition and subtraction

SpaceshipMathHelp kids learn math facts by using Spaceship Math, the FREE leveled worksheets with 26 scaffolded levels.

Spaceship Math is part of Dad’s Worksheets, a terrific math site that I have written about a few times.  With Spaceship Math, students learn their basic facts a few at a time.  It starts very simply.  For example, level A for addition covers 1+2 and 1+3.  That’s it, unless you count 2+1 and 3+1 as separate facts.  Level by level, students build their skills.  There are four versions of each level, plus timed tests for every two levels.  The worksheets are cumulative, so students are always reviewing old facts.

To find Spaceship Math on Dad’s Worksheets, click on the operation you want students to practice.  That opens a menu of choices for the operation, and then you can easily find Spaceship Math.

I like to give the whole class a placement test.  I choose a level in the middle, usually L.  That has 7+2 and 7+4.  From the placement test, I assign students to packets of either levels A-L or L-Z.  The students don’t exactly thank me for these packets, but they do see that the packets help them learn.  Plus, the leveled worksheets keep kids in their zone of proximal development, so it never feels too difficult.

I really like Spaceship Math for addition and, subtraction.  For multiplication, I recommend Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!–and not just because I wrote it.

Spaceship Math multiplication is very different from the way most of us learned our times tables–one table at a time.  It moves pretty quickly, and doesn’t give students a sense of how each times table works as a unit.  My Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! levels times tables in an effective way.  It provides lots of practice problems, plus word problems that show the value of each times table.

I haven’t written a Best Division Workbook EVER! yet, so for division, I give students worksheets based on the times tables.   I assign division times tables in the same order I presented multiplication tables in Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!

I hope you and your students enjoy Spaceship Math.

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Math by Corey Green @ Mar 23, 2015