Run a successful recess—Part 2

PlayingBallSad but true: many of today’s kids don’t know how to play outside.  Many kids aren’t given free rein to play outside in a neighborhood, and many others choose to spend most of their time indoors.  Consequently, they haven’t developed the fun-at-recess skill set.

Part Two: Teach kids how to play

As a teacher, you can help your students learn to have fun at recess.  This will help them get the most out of their outside time.  Ideally, they will enjoy the brisk exercise and time to make friends and develop social skills.

Tips for helping kids have fun at recess

Before recess time, suggest activities.  For example, find out who wants to swing, play tetherball, catch, four square, tag*, etc.   Buddy up kids so that everyone has a plan for fun.   As with many things in life, you get more out of it if you go in with a plan.

Teach kids how to have fun: go outside with the kids and teach them how to play four square.  Many of today’s kids don’t know.  Teach them how to jump rope and recite some common rhymes.  Play a few rounds of tetherball, demonstrating how much faster the game goes if no one is allowed to stop the ball or touch the rope.  You could arrange with other teachers in your grade level to take turns giving these lessons.  If everyone does it one day a week for a couple weeks, your students will become experts in fun.

Ask for parent volunteers: parents might love to drop by the school and teach kids how to have fun.  You could even make it an event and arrange a special one-hour fun lesson on a Friday afternoon.  Parents could talk to the class first, then go outside and teach fun.  You could ha have kids rotate through stations so they discover new games.  Sounds like a great party!

Ask older students to help: this would work particularly well if you teach kids how to have fun at recess every year.  The first year would be tough, but after that you’d have a group of alumni who can tutor kids on fun.

Look for tutors in your class: some students might already know certain games and would enjoy teaching them.  This can be a great way to help kids make friends and step outside their usual social circles.

Have a happy recess!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 15, 2014

 

Run a successful recess—Part 1

PlayingBall

There’s more to recess than just sending kids outside to play.  It takes effort and planning to make recess a successful active and social time.  Here are some tips to help your class get the most out of recess.

Part One: Gather recess equipment

Play areas like swings and jungle gyms are nice, but they generally aren’t designed for the numbers of students in a given recess.  Kids need other activities.  They need play equipment.

Does your school have an adequate supply of balls, jump ropes, etc?  Sometimes these supplies are made available to students only at lunch recess, leaving a grade level recess with no supplies.  Often these supplies are in a state of disrepair.

There are different ways to solve the problem of recess equipment:

  • During my first year, a retired teacher and principal subbed for our class.  He noticed that we did not have recess equipment.  A few days later, he brought us a wonderful present: enough balls, jump ropes, and other toys for our whole class.  Thank you, Mr. Langdon!
  • I taught third grade with a close-knit team of teachers.  We each received a budget for the year, which we ordinarily used for classroom and office supplies.  One year, we realized that PE equipment was availed in the district catalog.  We each contributed some of our class’s budget and purchased enough recess equipment for over one hundred kids.  We kept it in a large garbage can in our hallway.  It was prominently labeled “Third Grade Recess” to keep other grades from poaching it or custodians from dumping it.
  • Class toy drive: Ask the kids to bring in recess equipment.  Some items will be donations; others will remain one child’s property, which is just fine.  Prominently label everything, and label it again later in the year after the labels wear off.
  • Ask the PTA or parents for contributions: maybe the PTA can give you money you can use at the district’s rate for equipment, or money to buy equipment on the regular market.  Parents might donate money or equipment.
  • If nothing else, get tennis balls.  Lots and lots of tennis balls.  Used tennis balls are fine, unless they have been used by a dog.

I hope that your recess equipment drive yields some fun toys for your students.   I find that if you tell the kids about the effort that went into obtaining the toys and how much they cost, the students will take much better care of the equipment.  This goes double for equipment that they helped to procure.

Have a happy recess!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 8, 2014

 

FREE printable reading guide for George Washington’s Socks by Elvira Woodruff

GWSocks

George Washington’s Socks is an excellent choice for a literature study to support a social studies unit on the American Revolution.  In the novel, a mysterious rowboat transports five kids to the Battle of Trenton, where they experience the American Revolution firsthand.  The kids interact with Hessian soldiers, revolutionaries, and Washington himself.

About George Washington’s Socks:
AR reading level 5.0
AR points 6
Available at Amazon.com

I wrote a reading guide that helps me keep the students accountable and make sure they are following the story.  I wrote a half-sheet comprehension worksheet for each chapter, so the kids can answer enough questions to show they understand without belaboring the book.  I hope you like the printable study guide.

Click for the FREE printable study guide.

If you want something more involved than my FREE study guide, you can buy some at Amazon.com.

George Washington’s Socks – Teacher Guide by Novel Units, Inc.

George Washington’s Socks – Student Packet by Novel Units, Inc.

George Washington’s Socks: Novel-Ties Study Guide


 

Tips for remembering to bring things, do things, and manage to-do lists

Teaching involves lots of little tasks.  Here are some ways to remember everything on your list.  Pick and choose tips that will make your life easier.

Remembering to bring things

Load your car the night before: when possible, spend tonight loading your car with things you’ll need tomorrow.  Anything that won’t get too hot (or cold) in your car overnight can be loaded before the morning rush.  Load as much as you can.  For example, if you have a potluck the next day, you’ll have to put the food in your car in the morning.  But plates, napkins, etc. can go in the car tonight.

Put a Post-It on your door: write your task on a Post-It and put it at eye level on your door.  It will remind you to grab that casserole or whatever the next morning.

Put your keys by the item: Put your car keys next to the item you want to remember.  In the fridge, on the counter—wherever the item is.  The next morning, you literally won’t be able to leave until you bring the thing in question.  That is both the genius and the pitfall of this tip.

Keep a container in your car: I keep a laundry bin in the back of my car.  Things that go back and forth to school rest there.  That way, they don’t slide all over the place, and I know where to look for/place things.  I keep a cooler in the car, too.  That way, I can put things like DVDs in the car without cooking them.  Good for grocery shopping, too.

Remembering to do things

Put a to-do list on the whiteboard: this can be a list the kids see—or not.  For example, you could write a to-do list for the next morning on the whiteboard before you leave for the day.  You can also write a quick to-do list on the board at the beginning of your prep time.  It’s totally fine to designate a space on the board for to-do lists that affect the whole class.  Let them see what goes into running the classroom.  You might be able to delegate plenty!

Use a steno pad for an ongoing list: I became much more productive and organized once I learned this tip.  Every time you think of a task that needs doing, jot it on your steno pad.  You can let kids write to-dos on the pad, too.  (With your permission.)  That way, little tasks like “give Andre another permission slip” don’t slip your mind.  Click here for my post with more details on this tip.

Leave space for a to-do list in your lesson plans: Many plan books have an extra column at the beginning and/or end of the day.  Use this space for to-do lists, appointments, etc.  If your plan book doesn’t have this space, make it!  Truncate your plans to free up a column or write in the margins.

Keep errand-related items in your car: it’s a lot easier to do errands on the way to and from work if you keep the relevant materials in your car.  Library books go in the car when you’re done.  Receipts for dry cleaning live in the car.  Items you need to return (with receipt!) go in the car.  That way, you’re ready for a target of errand-doing opportunity.


 

Using John Medina’s bestselling Brain Rules in the classroom

Brain Rules CoverEvery teacher would benefit from reading Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.  John Medina’s book explains relevant neuroscience and offers ideas for applying the principles to real life.

Brain Rules would make a be a good choice for a professional development book club.  Medina does an excellent job of explaining each of the Brain Rules, but experienced teachers can definitely expand on his ideas for applications to the classroom.  You will be brimming with ideas after you read Brain Rules—why not get professional development credit for the brainstorm?

Reading Brain Rules inspired some changes (and gave me excellent justification) for some of my teaching techniques:

  • Refer sleepy kids (and their parents) to research that explains why sleep is an essential part of the learning process.
  • Encourage students to be active at recess—no walking or sitting around!  To function at its best, the brain needs the body to move.
  • Employ Medina’s attention technique: every ten minutes, tell a story or do something to re-engage the audience.
  • Provide as many visual aids as possible, because vision trumps all other senses.

One of my favorite sections covered stress.  Medina’s mother was a teacher, and he remembers her frustration when a child with troublesome home circumstances struggled more and more.  Medina’s mother realized that the child faced so much stress that nothing the school did made much difference.  A stressed brain can’t learn.  I know teachers wish that administrators and politicians understood this.

John Medina’s Twelve Brain Rules:

SURVIVAL: The human brain evolved, too.

EXERCISE: Exercise boosts brain power.

SLEEP: Sleep well, think well.

STRESS: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.

WIRING: Every brain is wired differently.

ATTENTION: We don’t pay attention to boring things.

MEMORY: Repeat to remember.

SENSORY INTEGRATION: Stimulate more of the senses.

VISION: Vision trumps all other senses.

MUSIC: Study or listen to boost cognition.

GENDER: Male and female brains are different.

EXPLORATION: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Medina created a Brain Rules website with many resources.  It has illustrations, charts and video for each brain rule.  Teachers of young children and new parents will enjoy Brain Rules for Baby.  This book has its own section on the site.

Posted in Book Reviews,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 25, 2014

 

Post a sign that tells others where to find your class (FREE and ready to use)

boystaringTeachers, here are FREE printable signs that tell others where to find your class.  You will save others a lot of inconvenience and grief if you display these signs whenever your class leaves the room.

When your class leaves the room, others don’t always know where to find you.  This can become a problem for a parent dropping off a lunch, a student who arrives late to school, or a messenger.

Some teachers make cute signs for their doors; mine are more functional.  You can print them in color and have a bona fide cute sign.  Or you can do what I did: print them in black and white—on colored paper.  (I use green for Miss Green.)  That will catch the eye and look pretty decent.  Laminate each sheet of paper, cut out each sign, and there you go!  My version like this lasted for three years.

At our school, we have windows on each door to the classroom.  The windows are framed in metal, and magnets stick to this. We keep all the signs clipped together on the inside of our door.  When we leave the classroom, it’s one student’s job to choose the correct sign and display it on the outside of our door.  This is a coveted job, so the child does it well, lest he or she lose the privilege.

I have uploaded the signs in two formats.  The pdf is ready to use.  I also give you the PowerPoint, so you can make modifications to fit your situation.  To use the file, just click.  Once in the file, click again to enable editing.  Then you can customize the signs to fit your needs.


 

Secret sponsor programs let families help needy kids

raisinghandsDoes your school have a secret sponsor program?  If not, consider talking with the principal and parent organization president about starting one.  A secret sponsor program lets more affluent families anonymously sponsor students.

I got the idea from a program at my younger brother and sister’s school, Schwarzkopf Elementary in Tampa, Florida—home of the Schwarzkopf Bears.  It was a public school.  Yes, it really was named after General Norman Schwarzkopf, who lived nearby.  Every year, he bought ice cream for all his Bears.

The program was called Secret Bear.  At the beginning of the school year, the school sent home fliers about the Secret Bear program.  The school had figured a cost for a year’s worth of field trip admission, a Schwarzkopf tee shirt, and other extras that no one wants to see a student miss.  Many families sponsored multiple Bears. The parents and children never knew who was their Secret Bear.

A secret sponsor program such as this does not need to be cost-prohibitive.  For example, the contribution toward a school tee shirt only needs to cover the cost, not the purchase price at school retail.  The cost of a field trip can be covered partly by Secret Bear and partly by spreading it among all the students who will attend.

Click here for my post remembering General Schwarzkopf and his work for children.  In addition to supporting his school, General Schwarzkopf founded Camp Boggy Creek with actor Paul Newman.  The camp serves children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

I hope that your school enjoys setting up a Secret Sponsor program.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 11, 2014

 

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

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

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

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

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


 

More tips on building a sub kit

teacheratdeskI recommend that substitute teachers  bring their own materials and activities.  A sub kit comes in handy, especially for those days when the teacher did not leave lesson plans.

I got the sub kit idea from Kid-Kits in The Baby-Sitters Club.  Club president Kristy invented Kid-Kits.  Her logic was that kids love to play with novel toys and activities.  The toys don’t have to be new, just new to the kid.  The baby-sitters stocked their Kid-Kits with old board games, art supplies, books, etc.  Click here to see the contents of the girls’ Kid-Kits at the official Baby-sitters Club site.

Here are my suggestions for building a substitute teacher’s Kid-Kit.

Class set of printable puzzles, etc.  You can copy these for each new job, or put masters in page protectors and bring dry-erase markers.  You can buy markers at dollar stores.  Another option: use crayons. Tissues will wipe crayon marks off page protectors.

Mazes: (I like the ones at KrazyDad.)  Use easy or medium mazes.  The hard ones are too hard.

Word searches:  a quick Google search for printable word searches will yield many results.  Just make sure that your word search prints on one page.  Some of them put the words on one page and the jumble of letters on another.  SuperWordSearchPuzzles.com has good puzzles that print all on one page.

Logic puzzles: don’t break these out unless you are prepared to teach a lesson on how to do them.  A great source: logic-puzzles.org.

Squishy ball: bring a ball for Silent Ball, an all-time-favorite classroom game.  Basically, it’s a silent game of catch.  Many kids make it an elimination game.  If you miss a catch or make a really bad throw, you’re out.  You’re also out if you talk.  Kids LOVE this game!

Storybooks and picture books:

Bring a collection of fun stories for kids.  You can check them out of the local library or buy some at used bookstores or library sales.  Another option is to visit the school library before school and ask for a book.

Another good option is a chapter book that is really a collection of short stories  You can read a chapter or two to each class.  Ir you return to a class, they will be excited to hear more chapters.  Here are some kids’ favorites:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and all the sequels

Paddington books by Michael Bond and all the sequels

The Stories Julian Tells and Ann Cameron’s other books about Julian

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Peggy Parish

The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H. A. Rey

Good luck at your sub job!  Click here for my first post on building a sub kit.


 

Book Review: Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

Fly Away HomeAR Book level 2.7
AR Points 0.5
Available at Amazon.com

Fly Away Home is a powerful picture book about homelessness.  The narrator and his father live at the airport.  In spare prose, the boy tells his story.

“My dad and I live in an airport . . . the airport is better than the streets.”  So begins the narrative by a young boy who matter-of-factly describes his daily existence.  The simple text touches on many emotions: sadness  because the boy lost his mother, anger and resentment of those who have a home, and hope and hopelessness.  The title Fly Away Home refers to an episode wherein the boy is given hope when a bird trapped in the airport flies to freedom.

This book makes a great readaloud and springboard for discussion.  While listening, students will be so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.  They are utterly sympathetic to the family’s plight.  After reading, discussions of homelessness, loss of a parent, and hope follow naturally.

The illustrations complement the text.  Ronald Himler’s watercolors show the vast impersonal nature of the airport and the efforts of the boy and his father to fade into the background.  Often, the two are quite literally in the background.  The pictures convey intense loneliness and determination.

My students often make the connection to The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith.  That movie dramatizes the true story of a man who became a successful stockbroker despite the significant obstacle of having neither money nor a home.

Click here for a lesson plan and worksheet (on page 3.)

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Jul 21, 2014

 

Tips for substitute teachers: easy activities and lessons

The Three Musketeers

If you substitute teach long enough, you will wind up subbing for a teacher who didn’t leave lesson plans.  Suddenly you will have to plan a full day of lessons and activities.  A more common problem is that the teacher’s lesson plan didn’t take long enough, and you have to fill an extra hour or two.  Here are some time-tested activities that elementary students love.  All of them are easy for substitutes to pull together.

My best advice to subs: when all else fails, read a story.   Even naughty classes will usually sit still for a story.  Grab one off the shelves or call to the office, librarian or a neighboring teacher for an age-appropriate picture book.

After you read the story, tie in an activity.

  • Illustrate your favorite part in the story
  • Write a paragraph about your favorite part and illustrate it
  • Create a “written retelling” or summary of the story
  • Write a new ending or a twist on the story
  • Do some sort of writing/drawing activity that pops into your mind while you are reading

Create comic strips: kids love to create comic strips. All you need is a piece of paper for each student.  Plain white copy paper is best, but notebook paper will do in a pinch.  Teach students to divide the paper in eighths by folding it in half, then half again, then once more.  If you’re feeling ambitious, teach the kids that this is two to the third power or show them how ¼ is half of a half, and 1/8 is half of ¼.  Your call on whether this is a good idea.

Comic strips can be an open-ended project, or they can tie into the curriculum.  Comic strips work well with social studies and science lessons.

Write & draw: My students love to do design-and-write lessons.  Kids will enjoy designing their own castle, tree house, club house, etc. and writing about its special features.

Good luck!  After you’ve done all these activities, read another story to those kids!

Other ClassAntics posts on substitute teaching:

How to build emergency sub plans

Benefits of being a substitute teacher

Posted in Substitutes,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 14, 2014

 

Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring

RuthHellerFlowersA good coloring page should be part of every teacher’s Emergency Sub Plans.  Ruth Heller’s designs for coloring are high-quality, engrossing designs that boys and girls love to color.  I highly recommend that every elementary teacher own one or two.

I first learned of Ruth Heller’s coloring books when a colleague shared the Snowflakes book.  I used them to help the kids create personalized calendars for their parents.  The class would be silent for forty minutes straight as the kids colored their snowflakes.  At other times of the year, this is forty minutes a teacher can ill afford to devote to coloring.  However, during mid-December in a particularly snowy year with no recess, it was just fine.

Your class will love all of Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring.  The books can easily become projects.  Use the Flowers designs as the basis for Mother’s Day cards.  Use the Butterflies design for decorations to go with your science unit on butterflies.  Prisms and Geometrics can accompany a math lesson; Leaves go with a plant unit or autumn leaves lessons.  All linked books are available at Amazon.com, where you will find still more of Ruth Heller’s Designs for Coloring.

Happy coloring!

Posted in Book Lists,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jul 7, 2014

 

Celebrate the Fourth of July with free online games about the American Revolution

statueoflibertyIn the spirit of the Fourth of July, take a moment to play some fun games about the American Revolution.

American Revolution quiz game: Test your knowledge with multiple quizzes about the American Revolution.  The quizzes cover the revolution up to 1789.

TeachingAmericanHistory.org American Revolution tutorial: This is more like a lesson than a game, but you get to click around.  It combines geography with history as students click to learn about various locales important to the American Revolution.

Liberty! The American Revolution: This online quiz/lesson lets you answer and learn.  It coordinates with the PBS series Liberty! The American Revolution.

Mission US: This is a great site with several exciting missions.  Appropos for the Fourth of July is Mission 1: For Crown or Colony?

The Revolutionary Fireworks Frenzy!  This is a pure-fun game that lets you pretend to set off a whole bunch of fireworks in front of a place that looks a lot like Liberty Hall.  That’s it, but it’s pretty fun.

Colonial Williamsburg Interactive: This site lets you play games and do activities that enhance a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.  It’s lots of fun even if a trip to Virginia is not in your future.


 

Tips for teaching order of operations part three: online PEMDAS games

mathblocksThe order of operations is an important concept in math.  It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn.  Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part three: online PEMDAS games

After you’ve taught order of operations until you’re blue in the face, take a break and let some online games have a crack at it.  Your students might find that practice is a little more fun when it comes in the form of a computer game.

Here are a few good order of operations games.  You can paste the links into a convenient place for your students to choose from, or let them work from this blog post.

Kids, let’s have some PEMDAS fun!  This guide is organized to help you find a game that suits your order of operations confidence level.

Good for beginners:

Order of Operations at SoftSchools.com: I like this game because it takes actual calculation out of the equation, so to speak.  Students click on which operation they should perform first.    The program models how to show your work.

Another no-calculation order of operations game: This game also lets you just deal with order of operations, not the calculations.  It’s a good way to build your confidence in knowing what to do first.

Good for practice:

The Order of Operations Millionaire Game: practice PEMDAS in the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  This is a one or two player game.

Leveled order of operations game:  This game provides practice problems that are leveled.  You can choose to deal with parenthesis or just keep it simple.  This is a good game for building your skills.

Connect Four-style order of operations game: This game can be for one or two players.  It lets you solve practice problems, then place your piece for Connect Four.   You can change the level of difficulty.

Rags to Riches: build your virtual fortune as you solve order of operations problems.  It’s fun to think about making money at math practice!

Good for PEMDAS pros:

Funbrain Order of Operations game: This one asks students to place the numbers in order to create an equation that yields a predetermined result.  This is higher-level order of operations thinking.  Good for students who understand the concept, not so great for struggling students.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  Don’t get creative with the acronym.  This is what every math teacher after you will use.

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

 

Tips for teaching order of operations part two: practicing and perfecting PEMDAS

mathblocksThe order of operations is an important concept in math.  It’s also a frustrating concept to teach and learn.  Most students need lots of practice, multiple tips, and a myriad of ways to think about good old PEMDAS*.

Part two: practicing and perfecting PEMDAS

Let students make practice problems.  Kids love to play teacher.  Have them create problems for the class to solve.  You can take a seat with the students and try the problems with everyone else.  Taking the part of a student is good for you, too.  You can feel the anxiety they experience as each new problem goes on the board.

Tell kids that PEMDAS is the default.  Many students get through lessons on order of operations only to disregard them when they see equations a few months later.   Many students don’t realize that they should always use order of operations.  I tell kids that they should always use it unless a problem specifically says otherwise.  (This would be a written mental-math problem on a standardized test.)

Warn kids of the PEMDAS pitfall: you’re just as confident when you’re getting it wrong.  Assuming your students know their basic facts (and that’s assuming a lot), then the math in order of operations problems won’t be hard for them.  Their competence with basic facts might lead them to think they’re doing well, even if they left PEMDAS behind a long time ago.

Warn students that if the math gets hard, they probably made a PEMDAS mistake.  Most practice order of operations problems do not involve difficult calculations and extra-long division.  If your kids find themselves mired in deep calculations, they probably made a wrong PEMDAS turn somewhere along the road.

Find practice problems online.

Math-aids.com has an excellent Order of Operations section with scaffolded lessons to help you give the kids non-intimidating practice.

Dad’s Worksheets has a great Order of Operations section, too.

I highly recommend both sites.  In fact, I have written quite a few blog posts that link to them.  Click for the post about Dad’s Worksheets and here for the post about Math-Aids.

*PEMDAS: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.  Don’t get creative with the acronym.  This is what every math teacher after you will use.

Posted in Academics,Math,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jun 16, 2014