Teach your students all 100 questions and answers from the U.S. naturalization test. Nine quizzes with corresponding study guides make it easy to break the test into manageable chunks. I hope these quizzes help teachers, students, and candidates for naturalization.
Children who grow up in the U.S should know the civics, geography, and history concepts that we ask our naturalized citizens to learn. By studying the test, your students will gain an overview of what it means to be American. I hope t2hey will also gain respect for immigrants, who must learn all this information without the context that makes it much easier for U.S.-born people to understand.
The unit starts with the easiest lesson for American students, U.S. Geography and symbols. This lets the students score an easy win and knock out 12 of the 100 questions.
Six FREE cumulative quizzes make it easy to teach and learn US geography. Start with easy-to-identify states, then build up until students can label all of them.
I developed this system because I noticed that most students (in any grade) do not know basic U.S. geography. Rather than teaching geography by region, I decided to teach by ease of memorization. Level 1 features states that are easy to pick out on the map, usually because of location or shape. Easily mixed-up states are on higher levels, but students have no trouble learning them because they already know most of the states by then. The tests also ask students to learn bodies of water, neighboring countries, and the Great Lakes.
The tests are cumulative. For each level, new states are indicated by a large question mark and previously learned states by a smaller question mark.
For level 3, teach students two tricks:MIMAL is the name of the chef shown in profile on the map. The states are Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Minnesota is the hat, Louisiana is the boot, and Missouri is the belly.
For the Great Lakes, teach students that Super Man Helps Every One. From left to right, the lakes are Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario.
Copy the U.S. Geography Challenge page on the back of each map. One page covers the whole unit. For extra credit or a treat, students can fill in the states for upcoming lessons. The US Geography Challenge page gives postal codes for each state. I recommend students use those codes on the map. It’s easier than squishing in state names and a good way to learn the postal codes.
Teachers, here are FREE Leap Year worksheets written by a National Board Certified Teacher. I hope you and your students enjoy them!
Here is an enjoyable reading comprehension worksheet called “Fun with Leap Year and Leap Day.” The passage and questions are indeed fun. What other worksheet challenges you to figure out what Pope Paul III and Ja Rule have in common? (Answer: they were both born on Leap Day.)
You and your students will enjoy learning about Leap Year luck (or lack thereof), Leap Year marriage proposals in Ireland, and the quandary posed by a Leap Year birthday in The Pirates of Penzance. The questions are all opinion based—and in my opinion, you shouldn’t grade them! Give students credit for completion, then go home and kick back to enjoy the rest of Leap Day.
Next is my fun “Was it a Leap Year?” worksheet that lets students apply their knowledge of divisibility by 4. Hints for determining divisibility by 4 are at the bottom of the page. The worksheet teaches a special case: century years. Because a revolution around the sun does not quite take 365.25 days, only century years divisible by 400 are Leap Years. The worksheet gives a student-friendly explanation and challenges them to determine if a century year was or wasn’t a Leap Year. I also have provided an Answer Key as a separate download.
Teachers, here are FREE Leap Year worksheets written by a National Board Certified Teacher. I hope you and your students enjoy them!
The first one is a reading comprehension worksheet about Leap Year. It’s a good, basic introduction to the concept of Leap Year that is appropriate for third grade and up.
Next is a writing worksheet about how and why Julius Caesar created Leap Year and rearranged the calendar. To shake things up a little, this worksheet challenges students to write a newspaper article about the event. The article gives “notes” our fictitious reporter took at the press conference—in a handy who, what, where, when, why format.
Stay tuned for Free Leap Year Worksheets Part Two: Leap Year trivia reading comprehension and Leap Year math!
“Ballad of Birmingham” is a famous poem about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 in which four girls were killed. Of all the lessons I present in connection with the Civil Rights movement, this is the most emotional and memorable.
You can use materials from BalladofBirmingham.org to teach your students about the poem. You will learn the story of the bombing, the story of the poem, and the story of the song. I recommend that you read the poem with your students. The song should be a separate experience, but it is one worth sharing.
Here is a video with the song and news footage. I recommend that you view it yourself and decide if it is appropriate for your students.
You can also see a clip about the church bombing from the History Channel. This explains the context of the bombing in a powerful, visual and concise way. Again, view it yourself and decide if this is appropriate for your students.
**I discovered the poem “Ballad of Birmingham” as a child, when I won a Dr. Martin Luther King Day essay contest at the US Navy base in Naples, Italy. There was a ceremony in honor of Dr. King. I read my essay, but by far the most memorable part of the day was when my friend Keisha’s mom recited “Ballad of Birmingham.” She ended by singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” This powerful performance is one of my most cherished memories.
My essay compares Dr. King’s dream to the international community at the NATO base in Naples, Italy. Read my essayat the About the Author section of my CoreyGreen.com website.
Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall
“Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?”
“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren’t good for a little child.”
“But, mother, I won’t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.”
“No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children’s choir.”
She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.
The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.
For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.
She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?”
This tip comes straight from my Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! The section on teaching 2 digit multiplication is very helpful for teachers looking to scaffold learning. I break long multiplication into 3 sections—multiplying multidigit numbers by 1, 2 or 3 digits. Within each section, a dozen or more lessons teach the process step by step.
Please use these two FREE sample pages with your class to introduce 2 digit multiplication. This introductory lesson lets your students learn the Hugs and Kisses method to keep their numbers lined up when they have to put in that place holding O. (The place holding O is the hug. You put an X, or kiss, over a number to kiss it goodbye when you are through with it.)
The workbook lets students practice Hugs and Kisses by beginning with multiplying times 11. This isolates the Hugs and Kisses skill, allowing students to focus on the procedure, not the math.
“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.
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 et.al. approached the Wizard of Oz.
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.
BedtimeMath.org offers FREE Bedtime Math resources to complement the books. Check out the Daily Math for blog articles about fun real-life math topics. You can download a Wacky Math app that brings Bedtime Math to your device–daily problems, articles, etc.
Bedtime Math has a section for educators. The author asks educators to encourage bedtime math at home, rather than making it part of school. She also suggests starting an after-school math club, for which she will provide ideas and curriculum. Very generous. However, I think the educators section should be taken with a grain of salt. Remember, its advice is from the perspective of an accomplished mom of privileged kids, not a teacher whose students run the gamut.
Starting an after-school club opens a whole can of worms. A) you’ll be working for free B) you have to wonder whether school liability insurance and protections extend to after-school clubs–most elementary schools aren’t set up for them C) you are responsible for making sure the kids get home safely. If they walk, it won’t be in the safety of huge crowds of kids, and if they get picked up–well, the pickup might be an hour late or not at all.
Regarding the idea to keep Bedtime Math for home only: not everyone has a parent who loves math–or even likes it a little bit. Not everyone has a parent who reads bedtime stories. Heck, not everyone has a parent who actually enforces bedtime–and provides a real bed. Plus–not everyone has a parent who speaks/reads English.
Some kids may never experience Bedtime Math unless it is at school. Consider your school’s circumstances and decide whether Bedtime Math is something to recommend to parents or do at school. Also consider that families may be much more interested in Bedtime Math after you whet kids’ appetites at school.
Teach your students about the Constitution using FREE high-quality resources. Sandra Day O’Connor’s iCivics.org has superb resources–whole units, complete with PowerPoint presentations, worksheets, teaching materials, and high-quality online games. As usual, Scholastic has assembled an excellent collection of materials for all grade levels.
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.
Help your students learn spatial reasoning skills with pattern blocks. A class set of these versatile shapes can provide hours of fun and education.
Pattern blocks are mathematical manipulatives that let students see how shapes relate to each other.
In the first set, all shapes can be built from the basic equilateral triangle:
Equilateral triangle (Green)
Regular rhombus (Blue)
The second set contains shapes that can’t be built of the green triangle, but can still be used in tiling patterns.
Small rhombus (Beige)
Click here for an inexpensive set of plastic pattern blocks available at Amazon.com
Students love to make their own patterns from pattern blocks. Another good activity is the pattern block puzzle. Students build complicated shapes, such as a train, using pattern blocks. Some puzzles have interior lines to show which pieces to use. That’s good for beginners. More advanced students like to figure it out themselves.
I like to print the puzzles and either laminate them or put them in page protectors. If you laminate the puzzles, I recommend taping or gluing the puzzle to construction paper for strength.
Teachers, here is a wonderful, FREE computer lab activity for Presidents’ Day! Your students will learn about the 7 hats a U.S. president wears and details about seven presidents. This activity is appropriate for grades 3 and up.
Click here to play the game. In order to succeed, your students must understand the 7 hats the President wears:
Chief of the Executive Branch
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces
Head of State
Director of Foreign Policy
Political Party Leader
Guardian of the Economy
Students learn about seven U.S. presidents, from Washington to Obama. Students will decide which hat the president was wearing when he made various decisions.
The game has two levels: Easy and Hard. Easy is good for third graders–but older students will quickly realize that in the Easy game, each president wears only one hat. Once the student guesses the hat through either knowledge or trial-and-error, it’s easy to answer the other questions about that president since the answer is the same. Older students should play the Hard level, which gives many questions about each president and shows the many hats that president wore.
After your class plays the game, you can use a Scholastic 7 Hats worksheet as an assessment. Click here for the worksheet.
I highly recommend that you use the worksheet as an assessment. Your students will be much more serious during the computer lab activity if they know that they will be quizzed on it later. The worksheet is formatted just like the program, so it’s a quality assessment of the activity.
FREE online speed reading software helps all of your students become more efficient readers–but you need materials and a plan to make the most of this resource. Here are some tips from a National Board Certified teacher and speed reader.
For a full lesson on speed reading, read my blog entry on the topic. Here are the Cliffs Notes:
Speed read by tracking with your finger. Yes, just like you did back in first grade. Build up speed by sliding your finger more quickly under the text and challenging your eyes and mind to keep up. (The online version uses a computer program to flash the words on the screen.)
This helps because it focuses your eye. Without imposing focus, your eyes will just wander over the page, re-reading, skipping along, and generally wasting time.
It also teaches you not to read in your head. You know how little kids read aloud? Well, us older folks enunciate the words in our heads. As you learn to track your finger faster and read faster, you will read much faster than you could talk. Once you break the reading-aloud-in-your-head habit, you read much faster.
My favorite FREE online speed reading program is Spreeder. This tool is part of the terrific online speed reading course 7SpeedReading, which offers courses for individual users and educational institutions. Request a free trial here–just click on EDU Edition on the menu bar.
Spreeder helps your students train their eyes and brain to work together more efficiently. You can choose any text to practice with, although I recommend using their sample text first, because it explains the process. In a nutshell, you have students adjust the program to flash words at them very quickly–about double their resting reading rate. Students switch back and forth between fast and comfortable, building their ability to speed read in the process.
Spreeder is no fun unless you have ready access to interesting passages. I found a great source: Mental Floss. The website features is an offshoot of the magazine that helps clever people “feel smart again.” The site includes articles, lists and features about everything under the sun. Here is just a sample of what you can learn on MentalFloss.com:
Students and teachers know that the real new year is when school starts, but the actual new year is also an important milestone. It’s a good time to review progress and set new goals. Here are some tips for helping your students evaluate progress.
Print out as many benchmarks and data points as you can. Give students their most recent STAR test, their AR progress, and their results on benchmark assessments for the 3Rs. (Graded writing samples, scores from computerized assessments, etc.)
Show students their scores and give them a benchmark. Be honest with the kids–tell them what constitutes at, on, and above grade level.
Encourage students to set new goals. Choose a date for a new evaluation. The end of third quarter is a good time to reflect. Another good time is about three weeks before the standardized tests.
Give the students a log sheet where they can write their progress and goals. Students on or above grade level may be self-sufficient for this step, but struggling students will need help.
Show students how they can improve their scores and reach their goals. It’s the same advice we always give–read, practice math, focus on writing–but when that advice comes on the heels of a progress report, it might mean a little more. Encourage students to write their action steps on their log sheet.
Encourage students to show their progress/goal sheet to parents. You might want to require a signature and offer a reward for students who follow through.
Teachers, you have got to check out MobyMax! It’s a fantastic K-8 online lesson system that is taking the country by storm. It’s comprehensive, fun, individualized, and effective. It’s all built on the Common Core Curriculum. And it’s cheap! There’s a free version and a $99/year version with extensive capabilities and access to games and contests.
MobyMax is great for today’s busy teachers with large classes. The site give students a placement test and then automatically assigns them lessons. There are many subjects: math, math facts, different types of reading, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and test prep.
Students love working at their level. MobyMax keeps kids in their zone of proximal development (ZPD). That’s the sweet spot where the work is neither too easy nor too hard. The site is efficient because it doesn’t spend time on standards the kids have already learned.
I like that MobyMax lets you differentiate instruction so easily. The site does most of the work for you, although you can tweak it considerably. For example, you can set the grade level at which placement tests begin. You can assign any lesson at any grade level. You can assign vocabulary words or let Moby choose and teach.
MobyMax is very motivating. Probably the most motivating element is game time. The site has over a dozen games, and students earn time by working on lessons. You choose how much game time Moby awards. It starts at about 2 minutes for every 5 minutes of work. When I did sample lessons, I found that frustrating, so I chose a 1:1 ratio for my students. It sounds like a lot of game time, but it works out. It’s interesting to see how students use their time. Some burn through their time and work for five minutes, then play. They’re living close to the edge. Others get really into the lessons and rack up over an hour of game time. If they want to play for an entire class period, so what? They earned by doing focused work.
MobyMax also offers other incentives. There are badges, contests, and ways for student and teacher to communicate. You can send your kids messages called Vibes. The messages can be attaboys or get-to-works.
MobyMax offers lots and lots of data. You can get detailed results from the placement tests, showing which standards student have mastered and which they still need to learn. You can collect data on student progress through the curriculum. You can track exactly how much time your students spend on each component of MobyMax . (My students worked much harder once they found out I could track them to the minute.)
I think you’ll find that it’s worth the $99 for the full MobyMax experience. After the 30 day trial period, the free version is a letdown. There’s no game time. You can’t assign lessons to individual students; they just take what Moby assigns them based on their placement test. Vibes and other features are gone, too.
Parents, MobyMaxis great for families, too! If you feel that school doesn’t meet your child’s needs, enroll your child in Moby. It’s great for extra practice, home schooling, and beating summer slump.
Teachers, here is a FREE comprehension worksheet for use with the movie Felicity: an American Girl Adventure. The worksheet follows the movie, so students can answer the questions as they watch. The worksheet helps you hold students accountable for following and learning from this high-quality movie.
I highly recommend the movie for the elementary school and junior high classroom. It’s an excellent, family-friendly and unobjectionable introduction to a unit on the American Revolution. The movie is extremely high quality. The script is top-notch, nicely melding sequences from the Felicity books into a cohesive story. The acting is superb. Felicity is played by Shailene Woodley. When I saw this movie, I knew she’d be a star. I wasn’t surprised when she was nominated for an Academy Award a few years later. Then she scored the lead in the Divergent films. Academy Award-winner Marcia Gay Harden plays Felicity’s mother.
The movie has surprising depth. There are strong themes of justice, loyalty and honor. Students will be very interested in a subplot involving Ben, apprentice to Felicity’s father. Ben wants to break his apprenticeship and fight with the Patriots. When he runs away from home, he is pursued by bounty hunters. Felicity helps Ben understand the importance of keeping one’s word. Another tense subplot involves Felicity’s friend Elizabeth, whose family is fairly new to the colonies. Elizabeth’s family are Loyalists, and her father is imprisoned by Patriots. Felicity and her father help right this grievous wrong.
Death has always been a part of life, but it was a more prominent part of life in Felicity’s time. The movie doesn’t shy from this topic. Felicity loses her grandfather and very nearly loses her mother. Woodley’s scenes here are made me sure this girl would be a star. She makes you feel Felicity’s grief.
There is plenty of fun inFelicity: an American Girl Adventure. Felicity tames a horse, botches charm lessons, and banters with her friends. The movie strikes the perfect balance of action and reflection, excitement and danger, comedy and tragedy. Your students will love the story, and it will help set up lessons on the American Revolution. Outdoor scenes were shot in Colonial Williamsburg. Your students will enjoy the special features, in which the young actresses take you on a tour.
This worksheet helps you justify the 85 minute run time of Felicity: an American Girl Adventure. Students can answer the questions as the movie plays. The questions are mostly at a basic comprehension level, so students can quickly jot down answers as they watch. Theme-based questions are saved for the end.
The picture shows the Felicity movie, but I have linked to the four-movie set 4 Film Favorites: American Girl. The original Felicity movie is quite expensive on Amazon, almost $30. However, the four-movie set is under $10. All four movies are excellent, and they each make a great introduction to curricular units on their respective eras:
Felicity Merriman, 1774: a horse-loving girl caught between Patriot and Loyalist family and friends during the American Revolution
Samantha Parkington, 1904: an orphan being raised by a wealthy family during the Victorian period