Beat Summer Math Slide: Rounding Numbers

We all know that visits to the library are an easy way to combat summer reading slide.  Keeping math skills from sliding requires a little more effort.  I’ve taught many grades, and I can say that one skill most students haven’t mastered is ROUNDING!

Every grade I’ve taught has tackled rounding early in the school year.  I think it’s supposed to be quick-and-easy review.  Well, it isn’t.  It’s a math grade killer.

If a National Board Certified Teacher is constantly surprised that kids struggle with rounding, how is a parent supposed to know?  I really don’t see how you would, so this blog post serves as a public service announcement for Rounding Awareness.

Even now, having developed many ways to teach this skill, I still don’t understand what’s so hard about rounding.  I mean, take 53.  Is it closer to 50 or 60?  Closer to 50.  How hard is that?  Very, for most students.  Don’t get them started on rounding 50,453 to the nearest tens place.  They just fall apart.

As a parent, it really helps if you’re mindful of teaching rounding in daily life.

Examples:

  1. This gum costs 63 cents.  Is that closer to 60 or 70 cents?
  2. I want to buy 5 drinks at the fast food restaurant.  They’re each $1.19.  Is $1.19 closer to $1 or $2?  About how much will I spend?
  3. This recipe calls for 1 2/3 cup of flour.  Is that closer to one cup or two?
  4. Look, this movie made $83 million at the box office over the weekend.  What a blockbuster!  Is 83 closer to 80 or 90?
  5. This meal costs $5.85.  Is $5.85 closer to $5 or $6?

A few rounding worksheets would be really helpful.  I recommend you print them from the rounding section on Dad’s Worksheets and/or Math-aids.com.  The worksheets help with something incidental real-world rounding doesn’t address: taking the same number and rounding it to the nearest tens, hundreds or thousands place.  For that skill, it really helps kids to see the number in black and white.

Your child can practice rounding on computer games.  Click here for a site with some fun games.  They are all good; my students love Rounding Sharks.

A visual technique for teaching rounding: The Rounding Hill.  As an example of rounding to the nearest 10,  this diagram shows why you round up when the ones digit is 5 or more.  Many kids think that 5 could go either way because they mistakenly believe 5 is exactly in the middle.  The Rounding Hill shows that there is no middle number, as there are 5 numbers on either side of the hill.  The Rounding Hill really helps most students, and I often see them drawing this diagram on their math tests to serve as a reference point.

Posted in Math,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 24, 2017

 

Beat Summer Math Slide: Estimating

Students experience summer slide in every subject.  Here are some fun tips for helping your child with a difficult topic: estimating.

By estimating, I mean two different skills.  One is estimating measurements.  The other is using rounding to estimate an answer to a problem.  (526 +375 = about 900 if you round to the nearest hundred)

Fun with a tape measure*:  Simply give your kids a tape measure and challenge them to hone their estimating skills.  About how long is your kitchen?  How far to the sidewalk?  Is the length of your driveway closer to 10, 20 or 100 feet?  Should you measure the height of your cat in inches, feet or yards?  This is a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon.

If your kids and their friends are enterprising, they could each make up their own challenges, writing little worksheets with measuring tasks.  It’s like playing school, but more active.

Fun with a scale: This is a lot like Fun with a Tape Measure, but with measurements of weight.  Your child can develop a sense of what things weigh.  How much does cereal weigh?  Dishes?  The family dog?  A book?

Shopping estimation: Running errands really does provide lots of ways to incorporate math.  Simply ask little word problems as you go.  If I buy this item for $2.95 and that item for $4.25, about how much will I spend?  Once your child is good at answering this type of question, challenge her to figure the rough amount of change from a nice round figure like $10.

*Fun with whatever—a tongue-in-cheek way to make any task fun.  Sort of.  It helps!   Read the blog post for classroom examples.

Posted in Academics,Math,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jul 17, 2017

 

The Second of July: “the most memorable epoch in the history of America”

I always imagine John Adams as the nerdy know-it-all of the Founding Fathers, the guy who was never quite cool*. Nothing illustrates this so well as his earnest prediction that July 2nd was gonna be a big day:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”— July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail

Americans celebrate the date on the document, not the date the resolution was approved in a closed session of Congress. We all know that we’ll be partying on the Fourth. Let’s take the Second to do our homework and learn a little about the holiday.

Because the Census Bureau is all about the fun: peruse their Fun Facts about the Fourth of July. I liked their comparison of who will be celebrating in the USA: over 311 million now versus 2.5 million then. Also, did you know that more than 1 in 4 hot dogs consumed on the Fourth of July originated from Iowa?

View the Declaration of Independence from the Archives web site.

Read John Adams’ letter describing the 1777 Fourth of July celebration.

That treasure trove of Internet research, Wikipedia, publishes a useful Fourth of July page.

*My basis for this assumption: the “Sit Down, John!” number from the musical 1776 . This is such a fun movie. I get a kick out of watching Gwyneth’s mom as Martha Jefferson. There are powerful moments, too. The best is “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” (Note: according to an Amazon review, this song is not in the director’s cut DVD.)

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jul 2, 2017

 

Juneteenth (June 19th)

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”—Read by Major General Granger to the people of Texas, June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865, the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war was over and the slaves were now free.

I wish this date fell during the school year, because it would be so meaningful for students. Still, we can learn and celebrate today, take the lessons with us back to school.

How can you celebrate Juneteenth? Learn about the history and search for Juneteenth events in your area.

I highly recommend visiting Juneteenth.com, the comprehensive source for all things Juneteenth. You can learn more about Juneteenth at the Smithsonian, in this article that complements a special exhibit.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jun 17, 2017

 

The New Colossus: Teaching Notes and Vocabulary

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Emma Lazarus’s inspiring poem is engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty.  Many people only know the famous ending, but reading the whole sonnet gives a much deeper meaning.

“The New Colossus” makes a wonderful memorization challenge.  Your students can handle it—my third graders sure did!

The title refers to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue of the titan Helios, constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Cyprus.

America’s Statue of Liberty is “The New Colossus,” symbolizing welcome, freedom and hope.

I hope you and your students will enjoy my teaching notes and vocabulary handout.  It gives background information and lays the poem and relevant vocabulary words side-by-side.  Having all this information on one sheet will help your students understand and memorize the poem.

Memorization tips:

  1. Give a deadline:  Students will work harder if they have a deadline.  Memorize the poem alongside your students.  Offer a reasonable deadline—I chose two weeks—but you can tell students that if they don’t have it learned by then, they’ll get an extension.
  2. Offer a reward.  My class’s reward was an ice cream sundae.  I expected about five students to take the time to memorize, but 35 students qualified! (Tip: when you’re making that many sundaes, save yourself the trouble of scooping and buy the little ice cream cups.)
  3. Study and analyze the poem:  Students learn and memorize more effectively if they understand the material.  Work as a class to find examples of metaphor and symbolism.
  4. Memorize in sections.  Begin with the most famous lines, “Give me your tired…”  Then, go back to the beginning and memorize in sections.  Practice each section over and over.  Don’t move on until you know that section cold.
  5. Don’t worry about the lines.  Sometimes one thought continues onto another line.  Focus on meaning, not form.
  6. Memorize with your students.  When you undertake to memorize this yourself, you’ll come across tips and tricks to help your students.
  7. Finally, appreciate the poem’s beauty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You can read about “The New Colossus” at Wikipedia.  Be sure to click and read about the Colossus of Rhodes.  Visit the Statue of Liberty’s official site, as well.

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 13, 2017

 

History of the Easter Parade (with clips from Fred & Judy’s star performance)

Watch the clip of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performing Irving Berlin’s classic song “Easter Parade” and teach your students a little history!

Easter Parade is a classic MGM musical. It is a Pygmalion story about a famous dancer who is abandoned by his dancing partner and bets that he can turn anyone into a better partner than she was. His random protégé is Judy Garland, so you know that the singing-and-dancing act will (eventually) turn out well. Of course, Fred and Judy’s characters fall in love, and the finale finds the happy couple walking in New York’s Easter Parade.

Teaching Tips: New York’s Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue was an important institution for decades. It began as in impromptu event in the 1870s as couples showed off their finery while admiring the Easter flowers at the sanctuaries of the city’s most beautiful churches. Over the years, the floral displays and elegant dress grew more and more ornate. By 1947, the Easter Parade drew over a million people.

Your students will be interested to learn that both Easter parades and new clothes for the holiday have a long tradition. Easter processions have been a part of Christianity since the first Holy Week., and Christians in Eastern Europe would gather together and walk in a solemn procession to church on Easter Sunday. The clergy have long worn special garb for Easter, and in Tudor times, superstitious parishioners believed that if you didn’t wear new clothes for Easter, moths would eat your old threads.

When I teach my class about the classic “Easter Parade” song, I never lose sight of a very important lesson: teaching students to analyze just how Judy Garland gives another stellar performance. Not a move, gesture, or vocal intonation is wasted. She is a star for the ages!

*Fun Fact: Sydney Sheldon, author of many novels of suspense, wrote the screenplay for Easter Parade.

**Fun Fact: Irving Berlin first used the tune for “Easter Parade” in a song called “Smile and Show your Dimple.” The song flopped, but he later salvaged the tune and made it into a classic. The stick-with-it lesson, perseverance, is an inspiration for all of us.

Posted in Academics,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Apr 10, 2017

 

FREE April Fools Day Worksheet

Here is a FREE April Fools Day worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher. Students will build comprehension skills and practice critical thinking as they learn about the origins of April Fools Day.

April Fools Day began with a calendar change in 19th century France. King Charles IX moved New Year from April 1st to January 1st. News spread slowly through the countryside, so some folks celebrated on the wrong day for years before they learned of the change. Others refused to change and became known as April Fools. It became a tradition to play pranks on them.

Click here for the FREE worksheet.

More April Fools worksheets are available from Classroom Jr. Click here to access them. There is a reading comprehension activity, a writing activity, and a word search. Build reading fluency with these fun and ready-to-print April Fools poems.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Mar 26, 2017

 

Emergency Valentine Cards

Elementary school students just love Valentine’s Day.  Opening Valentine cards and eating little treats is pure fun.  (Click here for my tips for a smooth Valentine’s Day at school.)

Every year, someone forgets their Valentine cards.  In my experience, this has occurred much more frequently since we slipped into this recession.  I expect to have lots of “forgotten” Valentine cards this year.

Fortunately, I have an “Emergency Valentines” supply—multiple boxes of deep-discount Valentine cards I bought after the holiday last year.

Discreetly, I send the student to another classroom to address their Valentines.  In my opinion, this is a much better system than having students make their own emergency Valentines at school the day of the party.  Distributing hastily made Valentines is embarrassing for the giver.  Why do that to a student when you can buy a box of Valentines for a dollar?

If you don’t have an emergency Valentine card supply, start one now by picking up Valentine cards at your local dollar store.  Great idea: buy several boxes so you have enough for Valentine’s Day emergencies in other classrooms.  E-mail teachers at your school about your emergency stash.  You will make friends with teachers and their students you rescue.

After this Valentine’s Day, buy your spare valentine cards for a quarter!

P.S. Don’t forget to pick up paper bags for holding Valentine cards your students receive!

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 13, 2017

 

Tips for a Smooth Valentine’s Day Party

Valentine penguinValentine’s Day is a fun, low-key holiday.  The most important thing is the Valentine Cards!  Let your class enjoy handing out Valentines, reading them, and munching on a limited amount of treats.

  1. Buy extra boxes of Valentines for kids who don’t have any.  Sometimes it’s a matter of money, or just a too-busy family life; other times an English Language Learner doesn’t have valentine cards because his parents don’t know about this elementary school tradition.  Parents, an extra set of valentines makes a nice donation to your child’s class.  Teachers, buy extra Valentines at the Dollar Store.  I also buy Valentines at 75% off after the holiday for next year’s supply.
  2. Decorate Valentines bags: Let your students color designs on plain white paper lunch bags.  This is a good way to channel Valentine excitement on the morning of the party.
  3. Learn about Saint Valentine: Why not bring a little history to the day?  Report highlights from Saint Valentine on Wikipedia to your class.  Or read aloud from a book:   Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda is a good choice. (AR Reading Level 5.4; 0.5 points)  With beautiful illustrations and simple text, this is a good Read Aloud for elementary school.
  4. Watch a movie: Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is sure to be a hit!  With all the Chimpunks mania of late, let your class go old-school and watch the animated show, Alvin & the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Valentine.
  5. Limit the treats: I recommend just one treat–and make it good, like a cupcake.  This way, the focus is on cards and classmates–and nobody gets sugar high.  I ask parents to send in Valentine’s sale treats after the holiday for our Emergency Party Supply.

Teachers: Keep a hefty supply of thank you notes!   I keep them on hand so I am always ready to write a thank you note immmediately.

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2017

 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is a beautiful picture book that brings Islamic culture to life in vivid color.  The book is beautifully illustrated and features charming, soothing rhymes on each luscious double page spread.  “Red is the rug Dad kneels on to pray…Blue is the hijab Mom likes to wear…”

There are many ways to use this book in the classroom:

  • regular readaloud; using this as just another story
  • springboard for a writing exercise–students could use color to illustrate an aspect of their lives: “Yellow is the pencil I use on my test; it helps me do my very best”
  • favorite parts: ask students to write a paragraph about their favorite double page spread in the book.  Mine were the titular golden domes and silver lanterns
  • structure for a research project: students can research any subject, from space to Queen Victoria to the history of Iran, and then create a report that uses color, the alphabet, or some other similarly simple structure to report on the subject

About Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

Written by Hena Khan, illustrated by  Mehrdokht Amini

Published by Chronicle books in 2015

AR book level 2.4   AR points 0.5

Posted in Uncategorized by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2017

 

Groundhog Day including a FREE Worksheet

Groundhog Day is a fun, low-stress holiday for the elementary classroom.

Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using my Groundhog Day Worksheet.  You will find vocabulary definitions, think and respond questions, and a fun tongue twister about woodchucks.  (Did you know a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same creature?)

Visit Groundhog.org, the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for pictures, articles, and resources for teachers.  (I like the songs to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and “Up on the Housetop.”)

“Punxsutawney” [puhngk-suh-taw-nee ] originally was settled by the Delaware Indians.
The name derives from a Native American term which translates to “town of the sandflies.”
The town is located in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Here is a quick brush-up on Groundhog Day history from my worksheet:

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2nd.  According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, the groundhog will leave the burrow, signaling that winter will soon end.  If it is not cloudy, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into the burrow.  Winter will continue for six more weeks.

Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries (1700s and 1800s).  In Pennsylvania today, you can see official Groundhog Day early morning festivals.  You can enjoy special food, hear speeches, and even watch a g’spiel (play or skit).  You might find that only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken.  Those who speak English at the event pay a penalty, usually a coin per English word spoken, to a bowl at the center of the table.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ Jan 30, 2017

 

Fun Facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s School Days

Students love to learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but his achievements seem inaccessible to them. For kids, Dr. King was a fully-formed civil rights leader who always knew just what to do.

You can inspire children by teaching them about Dr. King’s school days. Then they will understand that he had to face obstacles, study, and learn. Kids feel so powerless sometimes—it’s good to show them that famous people were once children, and that everyone was a beginner at some point.

You and your class would enjoy taking Valerie Strauss’s MLK Quiz: His unorthodox education. Here are some no-context tidbits to get kids interested:

Did you know Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …

> Was kicked out of school? (Okay, so it was kindergarten, and it was only because he was too young. Got your attention, though!)

> Was called an underachiever by his college professors?

> skipped two grades?

> thought about studying law or medicine?

Posted in Academics,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 23, 2017

 

Teaching Notes for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you may want to show the “I Have a Dream” speech to your students.  I have found that this speech is captivating for elementary school students, but it is absolutely necessary for you to teach them about the speech before they listen.

I’d like to share my teaching notes (pdf) on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech with you and your students.  I hope it helps you teach the historical context, allusions, and rhetorical techniques.  If you copy my teaching notes for your students, I suggest you read the speech with them and explain the context.  Then, listening to Dr. King give the speech will be an unforgettable experience for your students.

Why are teaching notes so important?  The “I Have a Dream” speech is rich in allusions: historical, biblical, and even financial.  Your students will appreciate these allusions—if they know about them.

Take the first few paragraphs: will your students understand the significance of the speech’s setting, the Lincoln Memorial, and the phrase “a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today” if you don’t explain these details?  Will your students understand how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution compare to a promissory note?  My teaching notes explain these details clearly.

What about the famous part of the speech, at the end?  For example, knowledge of geography is essential to understanding the “let freedom ring” section.  Dr. King begins it with “let freedom ring…” [in famous landmarks of northern and western states]… “But not only that.  Let freedom ring…” in famous landmarks in the southern states.]  The sequence will be more memorable for your students if they understand this distinction.  Without teaching notes, your students might miss much of the meaning.

I recommend you buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream speech on DVD rather than listen to the speech through the Internet.  This DVD introduces the speech with real footage of events leading up to it.  You can also watch a featurette about the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  Your students will enjoy seeing the marchers and will be impressed with how well-dressed the marchers are.  (Every year, this is the first thing my students notice.)

Free “I Have a Dream” speech at AmericanRhetoric.com

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays,Social Studies by Corey Green @ Jan 16, 2017

 

Good Holiday Presents for Teachers

Many kids ask their parents if they can give small holiday presents to their teachers. Here are some gift ideas that are always appreciated:

A card with a heartfelt message

Christmas tree ornaments—your child should sign first and last name and date them (Josie Jones, 2016) so teachers can reminisce when decorating every year.

Gift card for a local learning/teaching store

Gift card to a discount store like Wal-Mart or Target

Supplies for the class: sanitizer, pencils, white board cleaner, Kleenex, etc.

A personalized gift (I love my Miss Green apron!)

Flowers or a small potted plant

Amazon gift card

Blank note cards—teachers write a lot of notes. (You can buy nice blank cards at stores like Ross and Marshalls for about $5 or less)

iTunes gift card

A recommendation letter, typed and signed, recommending the teacher. The teacher can hold this in her file and use it for applying for another job, make a copy and give it to the principal for her personnel file, etc. It can go a long, long way.

Handmade gifts: bags, decorative items, etc.

Two gifts I personally appreciate are chocolates or candy I can share with the class (Dum Dums, Jolly Ranchers, etc.)

Remember, your child’s classroom teacher is not the only important adult at school. You might want to send in cards to a specials teacher, librarian, bus driver, instructional aide, school nurse, or the custodian who always greets your child. Classroom teachers often receive many presents at holiday time, but these school workers are often overlooked. Something as simple as a holiday card with a personalized note would be much appreciated.

Posted in Holidays,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Dec 23, 2016

 

Mim’s Christmas Jam

bookby Andrea Davis Pinkney
AR Reading Level 3.9; 0.5 points
Available at Amazon.com

Summary: Saraleen and Royce just want their daddy to come home for Christmas, but he can’t because he is working to build the NYC subway, and the foreman won’t let the crew leave.  Mim (mom) sends in some of her famous jam, and the crew and foreman like it so much that they give the workers the day off after all.

Activities: I might help students use prior knowledge and experience by having them discuss favorite family recipes.  Then, we’d read the book.  This is a good Read-Aloud or independent reader for grades 2-4.    This is a good book for predicting.  At the back of the book is an author’s note on building the subway.  That would be especially interesting for New Yorkers.

Posted in Book Reviews by Corey Green @ Dec 17, 2016