FREE Worksheet for the Movie The Mouse on the Mayflower

Celebrate Thanksgiving and give yourself a little prep time by having your class watch Mouse on the Mayflower and complete this FREE worksheet.

Mouse on the Mayflower is a time-honored Thanksgiving movie. Your class will enjoy the cartoon story told from a mouse’s point of view.

For older students, you can use this FREE comprehension worksheet to increase the educational value a little. The questions are easily completed by a fifth-grader who pays attention. This worksheet is perfect for grades 4-6. In my experience, third graders just stress out and interrupt each other asking for the answers because they missed them.

Here’s a previous post about Mouse on the Mayflower.

Follow up other mouse-eye views of history. My favorite is Ben and Me, a wonderful book by Robert Lawson and a fun cartoon movie by Disney. It’s a great way to teach students about Benjamin Franklin and set the stage for a unit on the American Revolution. Another good mouse story is She Was Nice to Mice: The Other Side of Elizabeth I’s Character Never Before Revealed by Previous Historians, a cute mini-novel written by 80s star Ally Sheedy when she was twelve.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Nov 23, 2015


In Flanders Fields: a salute to veterans

book“In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses…”

Now we call it Veterans Day, but it used to be known as Armistice Day, marking the cessation of hostilities on the western front on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.”

Veterans Day is the perfect time to share with your students the famous poem of World War I, “In Flanders Fields.”  This haunting poem vividly captures the scene at the Second Battle of Ypres.  It was written by Col. John McCrae, a Canadian physician treating soliders at the battle.  He was particularly affected by the death of a young friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa.  Lt. Helmer was buried in the cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station, and the doctor performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

Col. McCrae wrote “In Flanders Fields” during one of his breaks.  Legend has it that he rejected the poem, but that a fellow officer sent it to be considered for publication.  The poem became hugely popular.  Canadian professor and humanitarian Moina Michael composed a poem inspired by “In Flanders Fields” and vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance of those who served in the war.  After the war, she taught a class of disabled veterans and pursued the idea of selling silk poppies to raise funds to assist disabled veterans.

You and your students will enjoy the picture book In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae.  This beautifully illustrated book tells the story far better than a blog post ever could.

Note: to understand the poem, students need to know that poppies are opiates that cause people to sleep.  Poppies, particularly blood-red poppies, have long been used as symbols of death and sleep.  In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead.  I describe an image that’s easy for children to understand—the Wicked Witch of the West casting poppies in the fields as Dorothy approached the Wizard of Oz.

Download my worksheet (pdf) about “In Flanders Fields.”

Read on to enjoy this beautiful and haunting poem.

In Flanders Fields
by Col. John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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


Stop looking–I found the best FREE printable cursive program

girlanddteacherMany students don’t learn to write cursive, which means they can’t read it, either.  If we keep going this way, we’ll have a generation that can’t read our founding documents.  Luckily, there are many great FREE online programs to teach kids this valuable skill.  One in particular is very, very good. is my favorite site for teaching cursive.  My favorite part is First Year Cursive.  This presents three leveled packets for teaching all cursive letters.  Each page is lovely, with beautiful handwriting and a nice word/picture based on letters the student can write.

Printable Cursive offers primers in three cursive fonts: ABeka, D’Nealian, and Zaner-Bloser.  I learned D’Nealian as a second grader, but prefer Zaner-Bloser because the Q looks like a Q.  None of that silly loopy 2 stuff for Zaner-Bloser.

Click HERE for 3 levels of first-year cursive in each of 3 fonts.

Click HERE for intermediate cursive: practice writing cursive while learning about the world.  (Coutnries of South America, poisonous snakes of the world, and other interesting topics.)

Click HERE for advanced cursive: more writing, more advanced topics, more fun!

Enhance your cursive writing unit by reading Beverly Cleary’s Muggie Maggie, about a girl who refuses to learn cursive and winds up in a silly predicament.  Her teachers motivate Maggie by making her a messenger.  She carries notes to vairous teachesr.  The notes are written in cursive, and Maggie can’t read them.  But she can tell that they all contain her name…

Click HERE for my post about Muggie Maggie.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 2, 2015


Empty tissue boxes make the best plastic bag dispensers

KleenexGroceryBagsDon’t pay money for a plastic grocery bag dispenser.  Use empty tissue boxes!  Stock your classroom with at least one Kleenex box full of plastic grocery bags.  They are perfect for waterproofing things for the soggy walk home, isolating stinky trash, and just generally keeping things neat.

Worksheet: Article about Whole Foods discontinuing use of plastic grocery bags: use it to summarize, as a springboard to a writing assignment, or for the 5 Ws (Who What Where When Why)

Challenge students to list ways to reuse plastic grocery bags.  Click here for ideas to get you going.

Paper or Plastic? Unit by Monroe County helps students understand the life cycle of the bags and the energy required to make them.

Posted in Classroom Management by Corey Green @ Oct 26, 2015


Extra credit: 5 tips for easy creating and grading

teacher2Extra credit can be a great way to motivate your students and help them feel in control of their grades.  Here are some tips to help you make extra credit a stress-free and effective addition to your classroom routine.

  1.  Provide standing extra credit opportunities that require no work from you.  Writing assignments are good for this.  Current event summaries, book reports, one-page essays, short stories, mini-reports–anything students can do on their own, anytime.  Just create basic requirements (number of paragraphs, complete sentences, etc) and provide a turn-in box.
  2. Use materials from your textbook for extra credit.  Don’t spend a lot of time hunting down extra credit.  Use what you already have: workbooks that aren’t quite suited to the current curriculum, supplemental materials from the textbook, etc.  I like to use the reteach/practice sheets from our math book.  At the beginning of each chapter, I copy the pages and set them out.  Students can take them at their convenience.
  3. Use online programs for extra credit.  MobyMax, Ticket to Read, and SuccessMaker are all good options.  They provide a steady stream of leveled material and require little or no input from you.  Once in a while (monthly, in my case), see who has done what and decide how much extra credit to reward.
  4. Create extra credit assignments in the grade book, ready to fill in as needed.   I like to create extra credit assignments within a category and leave the grades blank.  Input 100% if the students do the assignment.  If not, the grade is empty and it doesn’t hurt them.  Online grade books want a due date, so I make it for the penultimate day of the quarter.  Students who like to track their grades will enjoy filling in the blanks with extra credit.
  5. Create extra credit opportunities within an assignment.  One easy way is to assign the even problems, but offer the odds as extra credit.  Make word problems, extended-response questions, or critical thinking questions extra credit.  Students will be more motivated to do them than if the problems were required.
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 19, 2015


Extra credit: 6 benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 12, 2015


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) 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 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. 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