Sing Multiplication Songs During Transitions

bookTransitions are a difficult time for students.  It’s easy for kids to misbehave and waste time.  I don’t have all the answers for successful transitions, but I do have one: SING!  If kids are singing, they can’t talk.  (You might have to start the song over a few times to enforce this.)

If kids are singing Best Multiplication Songs EVER!, they are learning their times tables during each transition.  My multiplication songs are short—most are about 30 seconds long.  It’s a good length of time for many transitions.

My class works on times tables in a team approach.  Say we are working on 3s.   We sing the 3s while we line up for recess, lunch, special, end of day, you name it!  We sing our 3s if we have a little time between activities.

It’s simple, effective, and educational.

Posted in Classroom Management,Math,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 28, 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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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. 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:

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.


Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

markersHere are some cheap and easy ideas for whiteboards: markers, cleaners and student whiteboards.  Perfect for today’s teachers, who outfit their classrooms on their own dime!

Whiteboard cleaner

Expo Whiteboard Cleaner does the job, but it adds up over the course of a school year.  However, a rubbing alcohol solution can do the trick, too.  You can dilute the rubbing alcohol with distilled water for a solution that is less potent and smelly.  In a pinch, hand sanitizer does the job because of the alcohol content.

Rubbing alcohol is also effective at removing marks from a permanent marker.

Whiteboard markers

Expo is the standard for dry erase markers, but the brand is pricy.  A few years ago, I was buying fine-tip Expo markers at almost a dollar a pop when our class supply ran out.  Now my local Dollar Tree stocks four-packs for a dollar.  The best are packs with only black.  The colored dry-erase ink tends to be more difficult to erase—particularly the red!  Consider yourself warned.

Low-budget whiteboards

Many teachers like to teach math by having students work out problems on individual whiteboards.  Those whiteboards are pricy.  A cheap alternative: page protectors. Slide paper or cardstock inside and you’re good to go!

Tip: buy cheap page protectors.  Thick, high-quality ones do not erase!!!

Click for my post with more details on Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms.


Calm your students with soothing water sounds

WaterscapesThe sound of moving water is incredibly soothing and very effective at calming students.  Here are five easy ways to bring the sound of water into your classroom.

Buy a fountain.  When you’re trying to create a falling-water sound, nothing beats the real thing.  Fountains at every price point help you make it happen.  Under $25 fountain, under $50 fountain, fancy fountain.

Buy a CD.  I like the nature music/sounds of Dan Gibson.  My favorite water sounds CD is Waterscapes.  It has all kinds of water—rain, waterfall, bubbling brook, ocean waves.  You can play the CD through a few times, then put it on random to mix things up.

Use Pandora and other Internet radio channels.  Tell Pandora to play Dan Gibson music, ocean waves music, or other similar sounds.  The Spa channel is good for water sounds, too.  It’s best if you can spring for a subscription so that Pandora doesn’t play ads.  Another good option: work for a district that blocks the ads, giving you the no-commercial sound for free.

Buy a machine that generates a water sound.  You can bring nature sounds of all kinds into your classroom with a machine favored by spas.  Or, go for the budget option and buy (or repurpose) a Lullaby Sound Machine meant to soothe babies to sleep.  The machine will soothe grade-school kids, too!  Just don’t play the lullabies.

Play Internet videos.  A quick search for water sounds for studying yields many hours-long videos that play water sounds.  If your school’s system will allow, stream away.

Posted in Classroom Management,Classroom setup,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 28, 2014


Teacher sayings and expressions

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

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

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

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

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

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


Introduce academic subjects with a cheer!

Elementary classes spend a whole school year in the same room, studying one academic subject after another.  There is no natural transition time like in high school, so you have to create it yourself.  Break up the day by introducing your subjects with a cheer, song, rhyme, or fun little ritual.

Why a cheer?

  • Clear transition—a cheer lets students know when it’s time to switch from reading to math.
  • Quick break—taking the time to say a few rhyming words wakes students up.  Bonus points if your cheer involves movement.
  • Build enthusiasm—even long division is a little more fun if you give it a big buildup.

My students and I don’t have a cheer for every subject—that might be excessive.  However, we developed cheers for some of our favorite subjects and lessons.  Examples:

  • For a few years, I used a series of math lessons I created called “Macho Math.”  As you can imagine, our song was a variation on that Village People classic.   (“Macho, macho math!  Smart kids do..their macho math!”)
  • For one class, I created a grammar series called Go Go Grammar.  We began each lesson with a song I put to the tune of “Greased Lightning.”  (That song is a little too long and silly to reproduce here, but you get the idea.)
  • We created our own cheer to pep up a subject nobody really liked.  That cheer got us through the first half of the lesson each day.  Knowing we were almost there pulled us through the second half.

If you use cheers, start small and build up.  You want the process to happen naturally.  It’s nice if the students start making up their own cheers.  Try to vary the cheer/song styles.  That way, you please more students and avoid annoying some with a style they just don’t like.

Happy cheering!

Posted in Academics,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 13, 2013


How to Build a Sub Kit

I got the idea for Sub Kits from The Baby-sitters Club.  The girls created Kid-Kits containing board games, art supplies, books, toys—whatever they thought might interest their charges.  The items in the Kid-Kits did not have to be new, they just had to be new to the kids.

The girls only brought the Kid-Kits on some of their jobs.  This kept the kids on their toes and kept the baby-sitters from having to lug around those boxes all the time.  After all, if you have an after school job with the Papadakis kids across town by Kristy’s mansion, you might not have time to run home and grab your Kid-Kit.

Click here to see the contents of the girls’ Kid-Kits at the official Baby-sitters Club site.

I developed quite a sub kit during my subbing days.  I had a class set of Archie comics that I had found at a used book sale for a quarter apiece.  I had about a dozen Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s, also from used book sales.  I rounded that out with simple worksheets I found or made.  One of the most popular was make-your-own comics.  I could keep a whole class quiet with that activity for at least an hour.

Subs, consider making your own sub kit.  Teachers, consider setting aside some supplies, fun worksheets, read aloud picture books, games—whatever, just make them only for sub days.

Here are some ideas:

  • Picture books that make a great read-aloud regardless of the season (our all-time favorite is The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter)
  • Instructions for the sub to ask students to write a summary of the story, write a new ending, write a letter ot the character—whatever seems appropriate.  If necessary, soak up time by letting students illustrate their work
  • Fun worksheets from follow-directions books or I’m Through! What Can I Do?
  • A bingo game (multiplication bingo, president bingo, etc)
  • Word searches, mazes, crossword puzzles, Sudoku—any sort of puzzle
  • Art supplies for a simple project (leave behind a bio of a famous artist and let the kids imitate the style, have kids illustrate paragraphs or sentences, whatever)
  • Movies—for example, Balto is in our reading book.  I tell the kids that I am putting the Balto movie in emergency sub plans.  Some day during the year, I will be out with no notice to the kids, and they can watch Balto.

Have fun with your sub kits!


Supporting girls with ADHD

Girls experience ADHD differently than boys do, and a teacher who understands this can help girls cope with ADHD and reach their potential.

I hope this article helps you recognize ADHD-related symptoms and behaviors in your girls.

Girls with ADHD often feel disorganized, scatterbrained, forgetful, and overwhelmed.  Some girls are hyperactive, but others become more and more introverted, maybe even depressed and anxious.  While ADHD symptoms sometimes decrease in puberty for boys, girls’ symptoms intensify as estrogen increases in their system.

Girls with ADHD are often not diagnosed until middle school, high school, or beyond.  That means that elementary school teachers probably won’t have a diagnosis or 504 plan to alert them to a girl with ADHD.  That doesn’t mean she isn’t hiding in your class, hoping you can help.

If you start to think that a struggling girl may be falling behind because of ADHD, take notes on the symptoms/behaviors you observe and the interventions you try.  If possible, note which subjects the class is studying when the student’s attention wanes.  Your notes might either point to a learning disability—or suggest that it be ruled out if academic subject does not seem to affect how much attention the girl pays to the lesson.

Try some of the classic support strategies: assign her to a seat near the front, teach her an organizational system, ask a classmate to help her stay organized, and prompt her to pay attention or focus on a task.

Girls with ADHD often suffer socially.  Even today, society still expects girls to be neat, organized, and sociable.  A girl with ADHD, who finds these things a struggle, may feel isolated from her peers.  You might be able to pair such a student with a caring girl who can help her make friends.

I learned about a new test called the TOVA.  It stands for Test of Variables of Attention.  TOVA is a computerized test of attention that assists in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring of attention disorders.  Your student’s parents may be interested in pursuing the test on their own.

A good resource is CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.  The section for parents and caregivers contains helpful tips for teachers.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 20, 2013