Free Divergent Worksheet: Create Your Own Faction

DivergentEngage your students with a FREE Divergent worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher.

Students love Divergent, with good reason.  It speaks to the clique-plagued teenage experience.  It shows students a way out of the conformity while acknowledging that individuality has a price.

Challenge your students to create their own faction within the Divergent  universe.  This worksheet walks students through the process, allowing them to think deeply about their faction.  The questions serve as a window into an author’s prewriting process.  Students can imagine author Veronica Roth pondering these possibilities as she crafted her story.

The printable pdf worksheet poses eight questions that should take students a class period to answer.  You can extend the assignment by asking students to write an essay, advertisement, brochure, or editorial about their faction.  Creative students might want to try their hand at fan fiction, describing an initiate’s experience of joining the faction.

  1. Faction emphasis: which virtue or value will your faction emphasize?  Brainstorm, then choose.
  2. Faction name: use a thesaurus to give your faction a distinctive name.  For example, Dauntless sounds much better than Brave and Abnegation sounds better than Selfless.
  3. Contribution to society: what role does your faction fill?  What are its responsibilities?
  4. Faction manifest: describe your faction’s mission and vision.
  5. Overkill: what is the downside of the faction’s emphasis on one value?  What does the faction lose by emphasizing one virtue?
  6. Aptitude test: what challenge would identify people who are well-suited to your faction?
  7. Initiation: what is your faction’s rite of passage?
  8. Wardrobe: how do people in your faction dress?  What accessories do they choose?
Posted in Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Apr 14, 2014


Memorize poetry and learn vocabulary: “There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson

argenrechallengeStudents learn a great deal from memorizing poetry.  Repeated readings build fluency, familiarity with vocabulary, and appreciation of language.  The act of memorizing helps students learn how to teach themselves.  Memorizing poetry is a great activity for National Poetry Month.

“There is no frigate like a book” by Emily Dickinson is a great poem for your class to memorize.  The poem sets the tone for a language arts class because of its theme of “reading takes us places.”  The structure and rhythm of the poem are very much like a nursery rhyme, but with more sophistication.  The poem has some challenging vocabulary, but students can handle it.

I got the idea for memorizing this particular poem from my younger sister’s AP English teacher, Tom Meschery.  Fun fact: he was the first Russian to play in the NBA.  Seriously!  He played in the NBA, and was a rookie teammate of Wilt Chamberlain’s during the game in which he scored 100 points. Mr. Meschery, besides being an inspiring English teacher and NBA player, is also a poet.  What a guy!  Click here to read an article about Tom Meschery.  His most recent book of poetry is Some Men.  His book of basketball poetry is Over the rim.

Mr. Meschery challenged his AP English classes to memorize “There is no frigate like a book.”   Every student did.  You can imagine how grown-up my third graders felt when I told them that memorizing the poem was a high school assignment, but I felt they could handle it.  A bribe of candy when they completed the task and bam!  Every third grader learned it.

Below is the poem with vocabulary words at the end.  Click here for a printable pdf of the poem with vocabulary.  I formatted it to fit on half a sheet of paper so you can conserve resources.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry –

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
–Emily Dickinson

frigate: a fast and heavily armed naval vessel of the late 18th and early 19th centuries
courser: a swift and strong horse, frequently used during the Middle Ages as a warhorse
prance: to spring from the hind legs, to move by springing, like a horse
traverse: the act of passing through, or a crossing
oppress: to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints
toll: a payment or fee charged for some right or privilege, as for passage along a road or over a bridge
frugal: not wasteful, economical, inexpensive
chariot: a type of carriage (as in horse and carriage)
bear: to hold up or support

Posted in Fun With Literacy,Tips for Teachers,Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Apr 7, 2014


Cesar Chavez: Watch the movie; share books with your students

Don’t miss Cesar Chavez, the biopic directed by Diego Luna and starring Michael Peña.  Bring Cesar Chavez into your classroom with these beautifully written picture books appropriate for elementary students.

Cesar Chavez’s story adds depth to units in social studies, history and economics:

  • Justice, equality, inequality, civil rights
  • Worker’s rights, unionization, strikes
  • Migrant workers, agriculture’s role in California’s history
  • Freedom marches and demonstrations
  • Latino heritage, Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Chavez’s influences: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi

Picture Books about Cesar Chavez

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez: this picture book tells Chavez’s story with simple, strong prose by Kathleen Krull.  Yuyi Morales’s beautiful illustrations perfectly complement the setting.  Click here for my book review on Harvesting Hope, featuring ideas for using the book in the classroom.

Cesar: Si, se puede! / Yes, We Cana collection of poems that recreate the life and times of Chavez.  This bilingual edition will capture the attention of your students as Chavez captures their hearts.

Cesar Chavez: A Hero for Everyone: this straightforward, easy-to-read biography is perfect for the Common Core’s emphasis on nonfiction.

Side by Side/Lado a Lado: The Story of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez/La Historia de Dolores Huerta y Cesar Chavez this bilingual book helps students understand that Cesar didn’t do it on his own.  Strong people like Dolores Huerta were instrumental to the success of the strike and march.

Cesar Chavez: The Struggle for Justice / Cesar Chavez: La lucha por la justicia This bilingual picture book by history professor Richard Griswold del Castillo simply and vividly tells Chavez’s story.

A Picture Book of Cesar Chavez (Picture Book Biography): this beautifully expressive biography tells Cesar Chavez’s life story in an engaging way.

Older students will enjoy the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Viva la Causa kit.  It features a 39 minute film and teaching guide.  Viva la Causa will show how thousands of people from across the nation joined in a struggle for justice for the most exploited people in our country – the workers who put food on our tables.

¡Viva la causa!  ¡Sí, se puede!  The movie and books will make you want to stand up and cheer.

Posted in Academics,Book Lists by Corey Green @ Mar 31, 2014


Veteran Teachers: Give New Teachers the Gift of Prep Time

principalThe first year of teaching is difficult.  Every veteran teacher knows this.  Here is an idea for supporting new teachers: give the gift of prep time.

Well-intentioned school districts offer new teachers special sessions in classroom management, policy, etc.  These activities take up new teachers’ time after school.  What those teachers really need is TIME!

For new teachers, everything takes forever.  Prep, planning, grading—it’s relentless and exhausting.  No wonder new teachers regularly pull twelve-plus hour days.  Additionally new teachers are not familiar with the rhythm of the school year, so they don’t anticipate problems and events the way experienced teachers do.

There are many ways to donate time:

Donate your prep time.  Arrange to watch her class for about twenty-five minutes of your half hour special.  The teacher could grade a little, deal with email, call a parent—whatever will take some of the pressure off.

Invite her class to join yours.  Invite the teacher’s class to your room for story time.  An experienced teacher can read aloud to 60 kids (about) as well as 30, particularly if her heart is full because she knows she’s doing a good deed.  After the story ask the students to write a summary, illustrate the story, write a new ending—anything educational that will give the new teacher precious time.

Cover her extra duty.  Once in a while, cover the teacher’s additional duties: before or after school, at lunch, during recess, etc.  Those extra few minutes can make a huge difference to someone who’s treading water.

Help after school.  Wouldn’t we all have loved a veteran teacher (or two or three) to have a grading party?  Help plan?  Make copies?  Create organizational systems?  Many hands make light work.

Organize as a school.  Could your school’s staff arrange systemic help?  Maybe the staff would even be so generous as to exempt new teachers from extra duty for the first year, or at least reduce the burden.  It would be a warm welcome and a gift of time.

These tips are intended to support first-year teachers, but would also apply to teachers new to the district, school, or grade level.  These ideas are a good way to lend a hand to teachers with health problems or those who are facing a personal crisis.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to help–but alleviating stress and giving time can make a difference.

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 25, 2014


A Fun Way to Practice Math Combination Problems

mathblocksHere is a fun activity that lets your students practice combination problems and learn a little about each other.

Every year, students have to master combination problems for the state test.  The technique for solving these problems is simple, but the kids never seem to remember it.  Hence the yearly review.

Sample problem: Josie has 2 flavors of ice cream and 3 types of toppings.  How many different combinations can she make?

Answer: 6.  You multiply option 1 times option 2.

That’s it.

I review these problems by making up a word problem for each student in the class. The problem’s theme is based on the child’s interest.


Katie has three pairs of soccer shorts and four soccer tee-shirts.  How many combinations can she make?

Matt has three different bats and five different baseballs.  How many combinations can he make?

Doing this for a class only takes a few minutes.  Each sample problem takes thirty seconds or less.  By the end, the students know how to do this type of problem.

For now.

… this time next year, they’ll be reviewing it again!

Posted in Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Mar 15, 2014


Teachers will love the Align stapler from

Align StaplerTeachers get excited about things like staplers.  The new Align stapler from is worth getting worked up about!  The stapler has a detachable base, so it isn’t limited by its length.  The Align stapler can go where other staplers can’t.

You can use the Align stapler to staple students’ books.  Use it to repair simple classroom paperback picture books, the kind you buy cheaply through Scholastic Reading Clubs.

Align is great on bulletin boards, big pieces of paper, and hard-to-reach surfaces.  It has a magnetic base, so you can keep it right on the whiteboard.

Click here to buy Align for $9.99 at  See below for the video about this versatile product.

If you’re going to buy a cool stapler, pick up a great staple remover.  I like the Swingline Ultimate Staple Remover because it easily takes staples off bulletin boards.


Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 6, 2014


The Dave Barry Essay Challenge: Talk Like a Pirate Day

MuppetTreasureIslandChallenge your students to write a humorous newspaper column using only the facts Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry had at his disposal when he wrote the column that made Talk Like a Pirate Day an international phenomenon. (Or at least an awesome tradition in Miss Green’s class!)

I got the idea for this lesson after reading the incredibly basic website that explains International Talk Like a Pirate Day, a “holiday” created by two friends, John Baur and Mark Summers.  They sent their facts to humorist Dave Barry, hoping he would help promote the holiday.  Did he ever!

It’s remarkable what Dave did with such simple facts.  He created a truly memorable column.  This lesson could run for a week or so because you need to develop students’ knowledge of Dave Barry, teach them about Talk Like a Pirate Day, give them time to write, and then let them compare their essays to the master’s.  I highly recommend that you celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day at the end of the unit!

The official Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19, Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday.  I like to have my class’s Pirate Day at the very end of the school year, well after standardized testing.  The second-to-last day of school is my favorite time to do this.  (It’s a full day; the last day is a half day with unpredictable attendance.)

Talk Like a Pirate Day Unit Plan

1)      Learn about Dave Barry.  He is a columnist for the Miami Herald who now writes adult novels and children’s books, most notably Peter and the Starcatchers with Ridley Pearson.  I recommend that you read aloud from vintage columns on his website.  Or, take your class to the computer lab and let them peruse the site.  (Depends on the age level you teach.)

2)      Learn about Talk Like a Pirate Day.  You can read aloud from the website, let them peruse it themselves, give them my Factsheet, or make students take notes like real reporters.

3)      Write a humorous essay/column about Talk Like a Pirate Day.

4)      Finish writing, turn in the essays, read Dave Barry’s column aloud.  Note: the dialogue at the end is a little edgy, so I have given you two versions: original and abridged.  Use your judgment on which to choose.  (I’d use the without-dialogue version myself.)

5)      Celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Printable pdf Resources:

Ideas for Talk Like a Pirate Day activities:

  • Talk Like a Pirate!  Teach pirate vocabulary
  • Pirate ships: make ships out of aluminum foil.  The ship that holds the most treasure without sinking wins!
  • Pin the patch on the pirate
  • Pirate word search, crossword puzzle, Mad Libs, etc.
  • Pirate movie: Muppet Treasure Island, perhaps?
  • Pirate math: write fun word problems for classmates to solve
  • Pirate stories: write fun mini-stories about pirates
  • Visit the Pirates in the Classroom section of the Talk Like a Pirate Day website for more ideas

Arrr!  Have a great time, mateys!

Posted in Academics,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Feb 27, 2014


Teacher sayings and expressions

Teachers have a language all their own.  Here are some of the most common sayings.   I think these tips should be of interest to first-year teachers, parents, and children’s book writers.

  • First-year teachers: learn these phrases all at once rather than over years
  • Parents: learn to control or at least influence children the teacher way
  • Children’s book writers: add realism and familiar language to your work

General tip: tell kids what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.  For example, teachers tell kids, “WALK!”  People who don’t spend all their time with hundreds of youngsters are more likely to say, “STOP RUNNING!”  Unfortunately, kids tend to focus on the action and skip right over the don’t/stop/not.  The result is that the child continues to run, or do whatever it is you asked him not to do.

Cute little rhymes and euphemisms: these little sayings help teachers convey messages that kids need to hear over and over.

  • Dot, dot, not a lot: don’t use too much glue
  • Criss cross applesauce: the new way to ask kids to sit cross-legged or “Indian style”
  • You git what you git and you don’t throw a fit: just be grateful for whatever color of Popsicle you received, etc.
  • Sit on your pockets: the polite way to ask kids to sit on their bottoms, as opposed to crouching or balancing on their knees so the kids behind them can’t see
  • Bubble in your lips: if your mouth is all puffed up like a blowfish, you can’t talk
  • Bubble in our lips, hands on our hips:  you can’t talk or poke your neighbor while in line
  • Indoor voices: speak in a soft voice
  • Playground voices: funnily enough, you never have to remind kids to use their “playground voices” outside, but you DO have to remind them not to use the “playground voice” inside.

Do you know other teacher sayings?  Please comment and add them to this list!

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Feb 23, 2014


The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams by Derek Jeter

TheLifeYouImagineYour students will love to learn life lessons from Yankees superstar Derek Jeter.  His book, The Life You Imagine: Life Lessons for Achieving Your Dreams shows students how the same program that took Jeter from scrawny eight-year old to World Series champion can help them achieve their dreams.  Here are some tips for using the book in the elementary school classroom.

Chapters of The Life You Imagine delve deeply into life lessons such as “Set Your Goals High.”  The format is ideal for a character-building program that can spread over several months of class discussion.

My sister younger is a diehard Yankees fan with a particular devotion to Jeter.  Back when she was a college student with a flexible schedule, she visited my class for lessons based on Jeter’s book.  We made an event out of it.  My sister wore her Jeter jersey while she read from the book and led discussion.  My students loved taking time to reflect on the big picture.

I recommend that you read the book on your own before sharing with your class.  Highlight or underline the best passages in each chapter.  The book is a little long to read aloud to elementary school students, but many passages will resonate with them.  It’s best to read selections from the book rather than to summarize.  That way, Jeter’s voice comes through.  Hearing this advice from a Yankee rather than a teacher makes a difference.

My students really took the lessons to heart.  They enjoyed recapping what Jeter said and thinking of how to apply his advice to their own lives.

Jeter’s advice to set high goals inspired my students.  Jeter points out that many people try to do well—but not many try to be the best.  That’s insightful.  That’s inspiring.  Watch how hard students work when they are trying to be the best, not just good.  They’ll work to be the top student, not just make the honor roll.  They’ll try to be the best player, not just make the team.

Jeter shows that when you set your sights on being the best, your idea of hard work changes.  You dig deeply and find what you’re really made of, what you really can do.  After reading about Jeter’s constant practice, skill building, and dedication to being the best at everything from schoolwork to sports, it’s hard to slack off.  I think it’s no coincidence that my class that most loved Jeter’s book was also the class that won the district writing contest for their class book.  Those students worked very, very hard on that project.  They put in Derek Jeter-level dedication and saw results.

The lesson that most resonated with my students was “The World is not Fair.”  Much of the chapter describes Jeter’s experience of growing up biracial.  He writes about how he was treated differently when he was out with his black cousins versus his white cousins.  He shares memories of being followed around stores by clerks who suspected he planned to shoplift.  He relates that being biracial sometimes affected how he was treated on the ball field.  All of my students were deeply moved by this.  It made them more aware of unfairness and more committed to helping to make the world fair.

My students were inspired by Jeter’s candid talk of failure.  When he was first drafted to the Yankees, he made 56 errors in spring training.  He worried his career was over before it began.  Luckily, Derek Jeter called on his reserves of inner strength and powered through.  Knowing that Jeter faced failure, that he worked so hard for what he has, inspired my students to overcome their own obstacles.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough!  I hope you and your students enjoy it.

To finish the post, I bring you The Play.  Jeter’s famous flip that was so cool, it doesn’t even need his name in it.   It was amazing!

Posted in Book Reviews,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 15, 2014


Teach Kids about Art with Katie’s Picture Show by James Mayhew

Katie'sPictureShowIntegrate art and literacy with James Mayhew’s terrific books about Katie, a girl who can step inside paintings.  These beautifully illustrated books bring masterpieces to life.

Katie’s Picture Show: This is the book that started it all.  Katie visits London’s National Gallery, where five famous masterpieces come to life.

Katie and the Starry Night:  The stars are falling out of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night!  Can Katie save the day, er, night?

Katie Meets The Impressionists: Katie meets Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Katie and the Waterlily Pond: A Magical Journey Through Five Monet Masterpieces: An art competition inspires Katie to step into Monet’s masterpieces.  Can she learn how to create a winning entry?

Katie and the Sunflowers:  Katie explores post-Impressionst masterpieces by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, and Paul Cezanne.

Katie and the Spanish Princess:  This one’s about  the pride of Spain, Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez.

Katie and the Bathers: Pointilist art comes alive for Katie.  She cools down with the bathers—but floods the gallery!  What now?

Katie and the British Artists:  Katie has a magical art adventure exploring masterpieces by Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Katie and the Mona Lisa:  Katie tries to cheer La Giaconda up—with disastrous results!

Teaching ideas:

  • Choose a masterpiece and imagine what would happen if Katie stepped into it.
  • Learn more about each masterpiece Katie encounters.
  • Write or discuss alternate adventures for Katie.
  • Write a letter to Katie.  You can suggest topics (requests to become her sidekick, questions, suggestions for new adventures) or you can leave it open-ended.  Students may surprise you with their creativity.
  • Create a Katie’s Picture Show comic book.  Retell sequences from the book or create your own.
  • As a class, prepare a mini-lesson for younger students.  This could involve mini bios on the artists, listing sensory details in the paintings, or fun facts about the masterpieces.  Buddy up with a younger class and reread the book.  Then, partner students and let them present their work to the youngsters.
Posted in Academics,Accelerated Reader (AR),Book Lists,Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2014


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

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 30, 2014


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

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 23, 2014


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

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 16, 2014


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

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 9, 2014


Math + Fitness = NumberFit

Math and fitness go hand in hand at NumberFit, a British company that engages kids in physical activities that develop their math skills.  If you live in the UK, see if NumberFit is a good fit for your school, youth group, camp or party.  If you live elsewhere, look to NumberFit for inspiration on how to combine math and fitness.

NumberFit’s promotional video explains the gives you an idea of some of their activities.  A child described NumberFit’s activities as “very, very fun and very, very maths-y.”  You can see races, calisthenics, and math lessons in the short video.

The NumberFit blog offers interesting articles that will help you teach students the connection between math and fitness.

I like Maths in Sport.  The article investigates how sprinter Usain Bolt uses mathematics in his personal and professional life, for everything from training to dietary requirements to how many zeroes are in his checks.

Examples of Usain Bolt’s math: (Go to the blog entry for answers and calculations)

  • What is the perfect angle for a sprinter’s feet to be at taking off from the blocks?
  • How long should it take before a sprinter’s body should be upright, running at 90 degrees to the floor?
  • What angle should a sprinter’s arms and legs be at to create the optimum speed and velocity while running?

Another fun NumberFit blog entry is Top 10 Celebrity Mathletes…the famous who love Mathematics!

I don’t want to steal NumberFit’s thunder, so I’ll just list a few:

  • Cindy Crawford: earned a scholarship to study Chemical Engineering (with Mathematics) at Northwestern University
  • Brian May: before he was a guitarist for Queen, he was a math teacher!
  • Teri Hatcher: studied Mathematics and Engineering at De Anza College in Cupertino; she is the daughter of a Nuclear Physicist and Electrical Engineer

Corey’s Math + Fitness Ideas

My Best Multiplication Songs EVER! are good for math and fitness activities.  Some ideas:

  • March and sing the elevens (they’re to the tune of the US Navy’s march, Anchors Aweigh!)
  • Jump as you sing fives (they’re to the tune of Pop! Goes the Weasel)

The Running Quiz

Play this game outside or in a gym.  Students stay in the middle of a large area, huddled in a group.  One side of the running area is Choice A; the other side is Choice B.  (Or true or false, even or odd, whatever)

Ask students a question, give them time to think, then, on your signal, students run to the area corresponding with their choice.

The thinking time is important.  You want the students to make their own decisions, not just follow the crowd.  Of course, struggling students will likely follow the crowd, but they’ll catch on after a while.

Examples of Running Quiz Questions for Math:

Even or odd

  • Ask any number, give kids time to think, then tell them to run to Even or Odd

Prime or Composite

  • Ask any number, give kids time to think, then on your signal they run to prime or composite

Adapt the Running Quiz to any subject matter!  If you designate one zone as True and the other as False, the quiz works well for social studies and science questions.

For another fun and active math activity, check out Secure the Perimeter!


Have a fun and maths-y time!

Posted in Academics,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 4, 2014