Buddy Up to Help Students Who Don’t Celebrate Holidays or Birthdays

Do you have students in your class who don’t celebrate certain holidays?  If so, this tip on buddying with another teacher is for you!

Network with other teachers and find out who shares your dilemma.  You can buddy up and help your students feel welcome and happy during holiday and birthday celebrations.

An email to the school is a good way to find your matches.  Ask if anyone would like to get together and plan for how to help students who don’t celebrate holidays (and/or birthdays.)  You could also coordinate this at staff meeting. If several teachers are in the same boat, you should all be buddies.  After all, one teacher’s class might be hard to reach during an impromptu birthday celebration, and it’s nice to have backups.

Early in the school year, arrange a joint activity for your classes, or at least trade students so your non-holiday child can meet the other class.  (The child could bring a friend or two to make this less awkward—and less obvious to the host class what you’re doing.  It will be harder to connect it with religion.)

Set up a standing arrangement for birthdays.  Your child can help (or just visit) another class during birthday celebrations.  (If the child wants this.  In my experience, some students who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have no problem being there but not participating.)

Make plans for holiday parties.  Include de facto holiday parties, like your “Fall Festival.”  (Everyone knows that’s Halloween.)  Schedule your party at a different time than your buddy’s party.  The affected students can visit each other’s classrooms during party time.  Try to plan a fun or engaging activity for that time.

Contact the students’ parents.  You might find out that the parents plan to keep their child home during certain parties or holidays.  This is good to know in advance.  In this case, you should still host your buddy class’s child, because that student still needs a positive place to be.

Tell the principal and other staff about your plans.  Someone else may be in the same situation and just didn’t realize you were organizing.  Your principal may want to remember this technique for future years, maybe after you have moved on.  Your principal may want to talk about your idea at a principals’ meeting.  Other schools may use your idea.

My students really enjoy hosting these kids from other classes.  They go out of their way to make the guest child feel welcome and valued.  I think that buddying up like this benefits all students and builds a stronger community.


 

A Good Way to Organize a Halloween Party

… I mean Fall Festival!

Anyway, I learned a cool organizational technique from other teachers.  Basically, the teachers at your grade level each develop a 15 or 20-minute Halloween activity.  On the afternoon of the party, set aside about two hours.  The classes rotate to each teacher’s classroom.  Parents who attend the celebration can travel with your class, helping them to complete the activities.

This cuts down on your workload and helps you fill the entire afternoon.  Additionally, it’s a party that doesn’t revolve around food.

Ideas for activities:
> Read a story and do a simple craft
> Decorate jack-o’-lanterns (use orange construction paper or an orange paper plate as the pumpkin)
> Make Tootsie Roll Pop ghosts with lollipops and tissue paper.  I simplified this by having students draw the details on their ghost rather than glue things.  Gluing things leads to problems.  Other teachers are braver than I am about crafts.
> Play Halloween charades
> Halloween Pictionary
> Halloween Hangman

A quick search for Halloween activities yields many good ideas.  Start planning now so you can send home letters requesting supplies!

The morning of your party, do Halloween-themed math from math-drills.com.  The math is at all levels, so you are sure to find something for your students.


 

Set up class jobs right away!

During the first week of school, I used to have to do a lot of cleaning after dismissal each day.  This is because I hadn’t set up a clear job system right away and train my students.  Then, I got smart and made it a priority.  Setting up a class jobs system gives students a sense of competence, community and cleanliness all at once.

Let me share with you a brilliant class job system that keeps the room spic-and-span.  (Many of the ideas came from my students—the best solutions always do.)

Before this brilliant system, I had what most teachers have: a rotation system for jobs.  The problem with this is that kids forget what their job is, and you constantly have to train students in a new job.  Plus, kids slack because they know you can’t keep up with who is supposed to do what.

My students and I developed a job system based on efficiency, not fun.  (It turned out to be fun anyway.)  We created an Excel spreadsheet listing all the jobs we thought we needed.  Then we began to assign jobs.  By the end of the year, everyone had at least three jobs.  Some kids had more.

You can download and view this sample Excel spreadsheet.  You can sort it by job to assign one job to several students.  You can sort it by student to see how many jobs each student has.  You might not recognize some of the jobs—delete them!  Feel free to add your own.  Please post your best ideas for jobs so we can all learn.

Each job earns income: five table points for doing it in the morning, and five table points for the afternoon.  (Jobs that don’t fit this schedule are assigned table points that seem fair.)

First thing in the morning and at the end of the day, the class becomes a beehive of activity as students complete their assigned jobs and mark their table points.  Our classroom always looks great!

I know it’s not feasible to assign all 90 jobs during the first week.  I usually identify my 30 most important jobs and assign those.  When the kids ask if they can switch jobs later in the year, I’ll tell them no.  I’ll cheer them up by saying that we can start assigning more jobs as people show how well they can do their assigned jobs.

Some kids are particularly good workers and may have more jobs than others.  I also let kids invent jobs and then do them.  The deal is that if you invent the job, you get first dibs on doing it.  (Aren’t elementary kids great?  They want to help in the classroom.)  The kids think of very clever ways to keep the classroom looking nice, and that makes it a better place to learn!


 

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

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

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

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

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


 

Branding your Classroom

When you brand your classroom, everything becomes more fun.  Branding builds community because it makes your class feel more like a club.

My last name is Green.  When I taught third grade, I branded my classroom G3 and created a logo with an interlocking G and 3.  On the first day of school, I taught the kids how to do a class huddle and congratulate ourselves.  (I say “Go, us!” and the kids reply “G3!” in their deepest and most macho voices.) We also created a logo that we proudly displayed on our door.

The picture at right shows the G3 version of the Roman testudo (tortoise) formation.  This was our class’s entry into the Social Studies parade.  Our curriculum included Greek and Roman history, so a testudo formation was right up our alley.  The G3 posterboard shields look nice, don’t they?

The G3 brand belonged to everyone in the class.  Students proudly decorated folders, notebooks and even backpacks.  Our PTSO created signing shirts for end-of-year autographs, and the kids all wanted G3 on their shirt.

I knew a teacher whose classroom was in the basement, Room B-6.  She renamed her classroom “The  BOG” as wordplay on B-o6, then she used frogs as a theme for everything related to her class.

Another teacher chose ladybugs for a theme.  She called her students “Lovebugs,” as in “Lovebug, could you have made a better choice than hitting Tommy?” Everything sounds sweet if you add “lovebug.”

I highly recommend that you create a brand for your classroom.  It can be a play on your name or grade, the school name, or a theme that you can use to decorate the classroom.  Make it unique so that it only applies to your class.  The “insider” feeling will be well worth the effort.

Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ May 9, 2016

 

Easy tips to make your master paper and key stand out

TeacherCutting corners is usually not a good idea…but doing so helps your master paper stand out.

How to make your master stand out: Snip the top right corner.  The snipped corner doesn’t show up on copies, but Iyou can easily see that a paper is your master, and you’ll be careful not to throw it away.

How to make your key stand out: Write KEY in large letters across the top of the paper.  If you just write “key” on the name line, it doesn’t stand out from the students’ papers.

How to make the answers on your key stand out: Write with fat Crayola markers.  That way, the answers are in color and the lines are much thicker than what’s on the paper.  The answers really stand out, making my grading go more quickly.

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Mar 2, 2015

 

Use desks as dry-erase boards

boyraisinghand2Some student desks  can be used as dry-erase boards.  This works on laminate fake-wood desks–but not all of them.  When you’re alone in the room, try a dry-erase marker on an inconspicuous portion of the desk.  If you’re lucky, the mark will wipe right off.  Presto!  Your students can use their desks for showing their work.  (Suddenly, students will fall all over themselves to show their work in math.)

I have found that this works best with any color of marker that isn’t red.  Red markers don’t usually erase well on actual dry-erase boards, either.  Additionally, I have noticed that the slicker the desk, the more likely this trick is to work.  Lastly, dark fake-wood desks tend to work better than the blond fake-wood desks.

This trick doesn’t work for everyone, but if it works in your classroom, your students will think you’re the best!

Good uses for desks-as-dry-erase-boards:

  • Showing work on math
  • Practicing cursive
  • Practicing spelling words
  • Taking notes–as a learning tool, not as notes the students need later
  • Practicing sample math problems

Other ClassAntics posts about whiteboards, dry-erase boards, and whiteboard markers:

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

Carpet squares make the best whiteboard erasers

Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 17, 2015

 

How to make sure substitute teachers can find your sub plans

teacher3

If you know you’re going to be absent, leave your sub plans in a conspicuous place–and write the location of the plans on the whiteboard.

Spell it out–“Sub plans are on my desk.”  (Or the back table, or the podium, or the computer table–it’s surprising how many potential places there are to leave sub plans.)

If your absence was unplanned–perhaps because you woke up sick at 6:00 am–then you could email your plans to colleagues and ask them to place them in the room ASAP.  Ask the colleague to either speak with the sub or write the location  of the sub plans on the board.

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 12, 2015

 

It’s the new year–time to check progress and set new goals

girlanddteacherStudents 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.

 

Posted in Academics,First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 5, 2015

 

Carpet squares make the best whiteboard erasers

WritingOnBoardTeachers, the best whiteboard erasers are free!  That is, if you can find a store that will give you old carpet square samples.  Just cut those carpet squares into small pieces and use them for excellent whiteboard erasers.

I came across this tip by accident.  The school district used my school as a summer school.  When I returned in the fall, carpet square-whiteboard erasers were right there on the ledge.  I quickly figured out what they were for.  My goodness!  They erase better than anything.

You don’t need fancy Berber. Cheap carpeting is fine.

Other ClassAntics posts about whiteboards:

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 22, 2014

 

Create Goofus & Gallant skits for classroom do’s and don’ts

boyraisinghand2Remember Goofus and Gallant?  The old cartoons in Highlights for Children demonstrated proper (and improper ) behavior.  Teach your students about Goofus and Gallant, then create skits and cartoons to illustrate do’s and dont’s for the classroom.

Goofus and Gallant activities can be as elaborate or simple as you wish.  Whatever your speed, start by showing your students what the original was like.  Click here for Goofus and Gallant archives going back to 1959.  After a few examples, your class will be well-versed in the Goofus & Gallant format.

Now, have some fun!  Brainstorm classroom procedures that could benefit from the Goofus & Gallant treatment.  Assign them to groups of 2-4 students and challenge kids to create 20 second Goofus & Gallant demonstrations for the class.  Your students will have a great time creating and performing these skits.

You can also ask students to make Goofus & Gallant comic strips.

Don’t limit Goofus & Gallant to the classroom.  Rules and procedures for many school activities make good Goofus & Gallant topics.

  • Recess
  • Lunch
  • Before & after school
  • Bus, parent dropoff & pickup, walkers, bike riders, etc.
  • Social skills: making friends, interacting with adults on campus, getting along with the family, etc.
Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 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.  SuperWordSearchPuzzles.com has good puzzles that print all on one page.

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

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

Storybooks and picture books:

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

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

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and all the sequels

Paddington books by Michael Bond and all the sequels

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

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Peggy Parish

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

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


 

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.