Veteran Teachers: Give New Teachers the Gift of Prep Time

principalThe first year of teaching is difficult.  Every veteran teacher knows this.  Here is an idea for supporting new teachers: give the gift of prep time.

Well-intentioned school districts offer new teachers special sessions in classroom management, policy, etc.  These activities take up new teachers’ time after school.  What those teachers really need is TIME!

For new teachers, everything takes forever.  Prep, planning, grading—it’s relentless and exhausting.  No wonder new teachers regularly pull twelve-plus hour days.  Additionally new teachers are not familiar with the rhythm of the school year, so they don’t anticipate problems and events the way experienced teachers do.

There are many ways to donate time:

Donate your prep time.  Arrange to watch her class for about twenty-five minutes of your half hour special.  The teacher could grade a little, deal with email, call a parent—whatever will take some of the pressure off.

Invite her class to join yours.  Invite the teacher’s class to your room for story time.  An experienced teacher can read aloud to 60 kids (about) as well as 30, particularly if her heart is full because she knows she’s doing a good deed.  After the story ask the students to write a summary, illustrate the story, write a new ending—anything educational that will give the new teacher precious time.

Cover her extra duty.  Once in a while, cover the teacher’s additional duties: before or after school, at lunch, during recess, etc.  Those extra few minutes can make a huge difference to someone who’s treading water.

Help after school.  Wouldn’t we all have loved a veteran teacher (or two or three) to have a grading party?  Help plan?  Make copies?  Create organizational systems?  Many hands make light work.

Organize as a school.  Could your school’s staff arrange systemic help?  Maybe the staff would even be so generous as to exempt new teachers from extra duty for the first year, or at least reduce the burden.  It would be a warm welcome and a gift of time.

These tips are intended to support first-year teachers, but would also apply to teachers new to the district, school, or grade level.  These ideas are a good way to lend a hand to teachers with health problems or those who are facing a personal crisis.  Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to help–but alleviating stress and giving time can make a difference.


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!


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!


Work as a group to maintain the classroom

Kids will do practically any chore—at school.  (As we all know, home is another story.)  Make the most of your classroom of eager helpers.  You and your students will build community bonds while creating a pleasant learning space.

I like to teach a simple math lesson about man hours before we begin the classroom cleanup.  I tell students that completely cleaning and organizing the classroom might take one person several hours—or several days of work.  However, if all of us spend just one hour on the task, that’s about 30 man hours.  (So, an hour probably isn’t necessary for most spruce-up jobs.)  When all 30 of us spend just 15 minutes, the classroom gets 7.5 man hours of work.

To students, this concept is like a magic trick.  They really enjoy putting in a collaborative effort and admiring what does indeed seem like 7 or 8 hours’ work for a single person.

 Maintaining a nice clean classroom begins with class jobs.  I wrote a detailed post that explains my time-tested system for assigning jobs.  I even give you an Excel spreadsheet to organize your little helpers.

 Next, set aside time to tackle larger tasks.  My students and I like to spruce up the classroom during the last half-hour or so before school breaks.  Coming back to a sparkly clean classroom helps us get back in the swing of things.

 Make two lists, and write them on the board. One list is for jobs everyone should do. Once these are completed, students can tackle the community service list. It’s extra fun if they get to sign the board by jobs they completed.

 Everyone must:

–Clean out their own desk

–Get rid of loose paper.  It’s the enemy of organization.

–Keep only 1 or 2 books from our classroom library.  Return extras to their rightful place

–Pick up scraps under or near their desk

–Clean your desk and chair with a Lysol wipe


Community Service: Sign your name after you do a job

–Organize class library

–Organize game cabinet

–Help slowpokes

–Clean countertops

–Clean the lunch bucket (we use it to carry cold lunches to the cafeteria)


–Wipe down cabinets

–Invent a task, do it, and write what you did on the board.  Then sign your name.

I don’t recommend giving treats or any sort of incentive to the kids who complete community service.  The reason?  Students LOVE to do chores at school, and they will be competing to get these jobs done.  If you tie an incentive to it, you will create chaos and competition rather than cooperation.  Seriously.

Now, step back and admire your shiny clean classroom!


Let Fly Lady Help You Organize Your Classroom, Home and Life!

flyladyI learned about Fly Lady from Dear Abby.  Fly Lady is Marla Cilley, a clever woman who helps you learn to organize and manage so you can be FLY.  (Finally Loving Yourself.)  With Fly Lady’s tips, you’ll be Finally Loving Your Classroom because it will be like you, calm and collected. is extensive, so I recommend you begin with the Get Started section.  From there, she’ll teach you how to rein in the CHAOS.  (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.)

I was struck by how well Fly Lady’s tips translate to the classroom.  I’ll give just a few examples—I don’t want to ruin the fun of reading Fly Lady’s site.  (Really, it’s both instructive and entertaining.  Fly Lady’s writing has voice!)

Polishing your sink: for Fly Lady, the first step to organizing your life is to polish your kitchen sink, then keep it that way.  When your kitchen sink is in good shape, your whole kitchen works better.

I think the classroom equivalent is keeping your teaching surface clear and uncluttered.  Do you teach from a podium, small table, or your desk?  Organize that surface and spend time each morning and afternoon keeping it clear.  Your whole classroom will function better.  You’ll feel better.

Getting Dressed to Shoes: Fly Lady explains that you look and feel differently when you are completely dressed with shoes on your feet.  You are ready for anything.  Fly Lady learned this tip when she worked for a direct sales cosmetics company.  They required that you not make any sales calls, even from your phone, without being up and dressed for the day, down to shoes.

Show up for school each day dressed to shoes, dressed to the nines if possible.  You will feel professional, in control, maybe even fierce.  Please check out my fashion tips for teachers.  I had a great time writing them and really hope they speak to you.

Declutter 15 Minutes a Day: It’s obvious why this tip helps everyone, homemakers and teachers alike.  Clutter is the enemy of clear and unstressed thinking.

At home, it takes 15 minutes a day to declutter.  At school, a class can accomplish the same thing in 2-5 minutes a day.  You can teach your students about man hours, and why a whole class spending two minutes decluttering is the equivalent of one person spending an hour.  Your students will enjoy having a clean, uncluttered classroom and will be glad to help keep it that way.

Visit Declutter 15 minutes a Day on FlyLady for decluttering games that make the process fun.  You and your students might enjoy inventing variations on the themes for the classroom.

Take Regular Breaks: this tip is another one that translates very well to the classroom. It’s important for teachers and students to take regular breaks.  Step away from grading and chat with a colleague.  Give the class a two minute dance break.  Spend lunchtime actually eating lunch.  Little breaks help you and your students stay fresh.

I hope this sneak peek piqued your interest in  I hope you and your teacher friends enjoy the site!


What it’s like to be an elementary school teacher – Part 14

A National Board Certified Teacher explains what an educator’s life is really like. The series is a value-added collection of Best ClassAntics Posts EVER! Each post explains something about a teacher’s life and links to ClassAntics posts with relevant teaching tips.

Part Fourteen: We learn about the world, then teach our students

Teachers love to model what it really means to be a lifelong learner.  We want students to share our enthusiasm for a particular subject, but our real goal is to teach students how to learn about their world.  We want students to find the subjects and sources that make them want to learn more, more and more.

Holidays  and special events can be a great way to teach students about the world.  A shared celebration creates natural enthusiasm for lessons on culture, science, or literacy.

Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 1

Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 2

Free Leap Year Worksheets Part 3

Sunday is Jackie Robinson Day in Major League Baseball

Juneteenth (June 19)

April is Poetry Month: Kermit the Frog Poem and Worksheet

Winnie the Pooh Day is January 18th

Celebrate the World Series—Online Resources to Incorporate Baseball in the Classroom

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

 Movies and books make great springboards into lessons that delve into detail.  I enjoy teaching students about civil rights, and often find interesting hooks for lessons.

 Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 1)

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 2)

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 3)

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen (Part 4)

Black & White – A Crystal Kite Award Winner

Teach the Jackie Robinson Movie “42”

 You might say that The Muppets are not really academic, and you’d be right.  However, clips from The Muppet Show make fun introductions to all sorts of academic lessons.  I had a great time writing posts on how to bring Kermit and friends to your classroom.

Muppets Teach the 3 Rs (Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic)

Muppets in the Classroom Part Two

 Like many, I loved reading The Hunger Games.  Since I am a writer as well as a teacher, I analyzed the book from multiple viewpoints and created lessons that help students do the same.

Relationships Make Compelling Stories: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games in the Classroom: How to Write a Dystopia

 Happy learning!




What it’s like to be an elementary school teacher – Part 13

A National Board Certified Teacher explains what an educator’s life is really like. The series is a value-added collection of Best ClassAntics Posts EVER! Each post explains something about a teacher’s life and links to ClassAntics posts with relevant teaching tips.

Part 13: We prepare kids for standardized tests

Standardized tests are a fact of life in today’s classrooms.  Teachers spend a great deal of time preparing students for the test—and the testing environment.

I wrote a post on How kids take standardized tests.  It gives you a picture of what happens when students face a standardized test for the first time.   In that artificial environment, things get real very quickly.  The post gives you the details on what to expect, from covering the learning posters to dealing with nervous puke.

Most states have a reading, math, and writing portion of the test.  Reading and math are multiple choice.  The writing portion involves crafting a formulaic five-paragraph essay designed to appeal to a persnickety reader. My post on Dos and Don’ts for the State Writing Test can help students, parents and teachers.

My award-winning Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! devotes plenty of space to standardized testing.  The tips are explained in the following blog posts.  The workbook has pages for students to practice each tip in isolation, then apply all the techniques to sample tests.

How to Ace Standardized Tests

How to Ace Standardized Tests: What Must Be in the Ones Place?

How to Ace Standardized Tests: Use the Given/Find Method

How to Ace Standardized Tests: Analysis of Given/Find Method

How to Ace standardized tests: Cross off the Wrong Answers

 I wrote a blog entry on the National Center for Educational Statistics.  The data on the site comes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  Interestingly enough, the data from test results is very helpful in teaching test-taking skills.  Kids can practice reading graphs, charts and text to glean information.

After all the hard work to prepare, it helps to cut loose and focus on How to make State Achievement Test week AWESOMEIt involves student-generated posters, theme songs, enthusiasm and FUN!  The tips in this post help students relax and feel supported so they can use the test as a platform to show what they know.

Good luck on the test!


An Easy Way to Remember Little Tasks

In a classroom full of kids and commotion, it’s easy to forget small but essential tasks. Here is a quick way to get organized.

I learned this tip from a school secretary, who could always remember to pass on messages, look up the answers to questions, and tackle tasks small and large. Her secret? A steno book.

A steno (stenography) book is used to take shorthand. It’s a small notebook with spiral binding at the top and lined paper with a line running down the middle of the page. Click here to order them for a good price at Amazon.

The steno book is  the best place to keep a to-do-list because of the spiral binding and nice weight to the paper. I keep my steno book on my desk by the computer so it’s easy to stay on task and prioritize.

Use your steno book to record little things you need to do. Examples:

Call Josie’s mom about chaperoning the field trip

Fill out paperwork for the speech pathologist

Print worksheets for Friday’s science lesson

Gather materials for afternoon committee meeting

Organize construction paper drawer

Gather manipulatives for math lesson

…and so on. All those tiny tasks!

This system started working for me right away. I don’t know how I taught without it. Now I use this system both at home and at school.

SUPER TIP: The steno pad became management magic when I started having the kids write on it, too. Individual requests, like “please print a new permission slip for Bryce” are so easy to forget. If a student has a specific request, I ask them to write it on my list. Then I can continue teaching and the child can go back to learning, secure in the knowledge that I will honor his request. (Students are not allowed to write on my list without my permission, though.)

An unexpected benefit accrued when students realized that my steno pad list was so successful. Some students started their own to-d0 lists and excitedly told me how it helped them remember little things that used to cause problems. Other students would look at my list when they had unexpected free time, and sometimes they did some of the tasks for me.  Third graders love to organize books, shelves, papers — especially when they have  a friend helping, too.

The steno pad to-do list helps you prioritize. You can tackle items in order of importance, or according to how much time you have. If you have 4 minutes until you need to pick your students up from PE, you might be able to tackle a small item like printing worksheets off a website.

You don’t have to write as large as I did for an easy-to-read illustration, but don’t use every line and let the page get crowded with tasks. Every day or few days, reassess and start a new page. I often found that some items didn’t need to stay on the list because they turned out to be unimportant, or they were Overcome by Events. (Something changed and now I don’t have to do it.)

Write on one side of the paper and flip to the next page as you go through the book. Then, if you want to conserve paper, you can turn the book around and write on the back of every page, going through it again.

I hope the steno list helps you feel less stressed and more organized.


Fashion Tips for Teachers (Do’s and Don’ts)

The students have to look at you all day long, five days a week, for ten months. Give them something nice to look at! The kids will appreciate the effort; parents and colleagues will notice your polished look.

Here are my Dos and Don’ts, aimed at female teachers because that is what I know.  (I will start paying more attention to male fashion and develop a list for the guys.)


DO Wear lipstick. You can get by with less face makeup if your lips are bright. Lipstick gives any look instant polish and brightens your complexion. Tinted gloss can look good, but make sure it gives color to your face. The clear Bonne Bell look is for 13-year-olds.

DON’T Skip makeup. No matter how good your skin is, you need to wear a little makeup to look polished. The bare minimum: even out your skin tone with foundation, tinted moisturizer or mineral makeup. Then add blush and mascara. Don’t forget the lipstick or tinted gloss.

BEWARE of colored eye shadows. They look good on some people, but neutrals are always your friend. Remember that the point of eye shadow is to contour your eyes and give them more definition. This is best accomplished with neutrals.


DO find a flattering hairstyle and rock it. It might be a cute cut or a fun updo.

DON’T wear an unflattering hairdo for Crazy Hair Day. Find a crazy style that actually looks awesome.

DON’T wear a hairstyle the kids would wear. This goes for juvenile-looking braids (sophisticated ones are okay), childish looking barrettes or placement of barrettes, and punk ’dos best left to London punks.


DO wear more dresses. They give you a pulled-together polish and can be more cost-effective than separates. I hit the Ross Dress Sale every year and snap up washable dresses in my size.

DON’T wear sack dresses, the really baggy and frumpy kind that make everyone look bad. Whatever your shape, clothes that fit will flatter.

DO wear vivid colors. They brighten your face and kids love them.

DO make sure your clothes fit. They don’t have to be fitted, but they should fit.

DO balance your proportions: if the top is loose, the pants should be fitted and vice versa.

DO wear jeans, but with a cute top or fun blazer-style jacket. Look professional. Iron your jeans if you can—it doesn’t take long and adds a definite polish to the look.

DO wear dark-wash jeans. They always look more professional.

DO wear button-down tops with a collar. Make sure they fit well. Especially avoid a too-tight top that gapes at the bust. The kids WILL notice.

DO dress for theme days (Hawaiian, backwards, etc.) but keep it tasteful.

DON’T wear anything to school that you would wear to work in the yard. Grubby khakis and rumpled tee shirts are a bad look. So are big sweatshirts and jeans.

DON’T wear leggings—in most cases. The exception is if you have a really cute tunic or dress that covers your butt. Then it’s a do! (Check your district’s dress code first.)

DON’T wear logo tee shirts, especially the ones from educational organizations. The logos are often dorky, and the shape is almost always boxy and unflattering.

DON’T wear boxy tee shirts—the square shaped kind kids buy as souvenirs. Buy shirts with a feminine cut.

DON’T wear school tee shirts unless it is Friday or a field trip. And don’t wear them every Friday–it’s too predictable.

DON’T wear anything the kids might wear. This goes for clothing styles that only look good on those without curves and almost ANYTHING with butterflies or rainbows.

DON’T dress frumpy. If you have the sneaking suspicion your clothes or hairdo are frumpy, your subconscious is trying to tell you something.

DON’T dress like you did in high school. This goes for overly body-conscious clothing AND the jeans-and-a-hoodie jock look. Both are inappropriate for work.

DON’T wear khakis or button-downs unless you iron them. The rumpled look is bad for professionals.

DON’T wear a low-cut top that flashes major cleavage every time you lean over. Or, DO wear it, but with a camisole underneath.

DON’T wear Capri pants with sneakers, unless they are REALLY slim Keds.

DON’T wear something you’d be embarrassed to be seen in outside of school. That’s a sign you are just not dressed well.


DO wear shoes that are comfortable and stylish. It’s okay for the shoes to be more on the comfortable side so long as your clothes are pretty. Everyone understands that teachers are on their feet all day.

DON’T wear sneakers that look dirty. Have a nice pair on hand for days that require sneakers. And DON’T wear sneakers all the time, unless you are a PE teacher.

DON’T wear flip-flops or any shoes that look like they belong at the beach. Sandals that look polished are a DO!

Jewelry & Accessories

DO wear jewelry, real or costume. It completes your look. Plus, kids are attracted to shiny objects.

DON’T wear jewelry the kids wear—no rainbows, bumblebees, cutesy animals, or punk studded cuffs for you.

DON’T wear teacher jewelry. Apple pins rarely look good. Those craftsy pins with little rulers and stuff glued to them are a terrible look.  If you have a collection from the kids, put some fabric and batting in a frame and stick the pins on it for a classroom decoration.

DO keep your nails nice and neat, particularly if you use a document camera.  With a document camera, a close-up of your hands is on display all day.  A manicure is nice; so are cool rings.  At a minimum, use lotion for good skin.

Rules of Thumb

DO have a go-to outfit, hairstyle, and two-minute makeup routine for hectic mornings.

DON’T feel like you have to spend a lot of money. Shop discount stores like Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx. Hit Stein-Mart for fancier pieces, especially for fun little jackets and blazers. Steam or iron your bargain finds and the perceived price of your look doubles.


DON’T wear “teacher sweaters.” EVER. Avoid anything with pictures of schoolhouses, pencils, rulers, and other teacher paraphernalia.

Posted in First Year Teachers,What it's like to be a teacher by Corey Green @ Jun 12, 2012


Giving directions to the whole class

Here is a simple, effective way to involve the whole class in the directions you give—and make sure the kids understand the directions!

I call it “Hands on your head.  Repeat after me.”

Give this command as you place your own hands on your head.  Elementary-age students will happily follow suit (if you have the right spirit and your heart is pure.)

Now you have the attention of the class, and no one is messing around.

Give your directions, one sentence or phrase at a time.  Have the students repeat each component.

Because the students repeat the directions, you know they understand you.  Because the students’ hands are on their heads, you know they were not distracted by other things.

Here is an example:

“Hands on your head.  Repeat after me.”

“Hands on your head.  Repeat after me.”

 “In just a moment, it will be time for library.”

“In just a moment, it will be time for library.”

“Before we leave, we will turn in our seatwork.”

“Before we leave, we will turn in our seatwork.”

 “…to our boxes.”

“…to our boxes.”

 “Then, we will gather our library books.”

“Then, we will gather our library books.”

 “…and our library cards.”

“…and our library cards.”

“We’ll help each other out by checking to see if our neighbor remembered both books and card.”

“We’ll help each other out by checking to see if our neighbor remembered both books and card.”

“Hands down. ” (Lower your hands and watch the class follow suit. )

“GO!” or  “BEGIN!” or “GET TO WORK!” (you get the idea…)

Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ May 1, 2012


Nicknames in the Classroom

Nicknames can be a great way to build community. Students love to have a special name just for them, and they feel valued when classmates use their nickname.

Some teachers assign nicknames on the first day of school. It’s a good way to break the ice. I’ve never tried that because I’m not sure I can come up with so many nicknames on the fly.

You might like to coin nicknames as the year goes on. Always ask the student’s permission before using a nickname you thought of yourself.

After you’ve given a few nicknames, tell the kids to let you know if they create a cool nickname for themselves. If you deem the nickname appropriate, encourage the class to make an effort to use it. Using the nickname is like a gift from one student to another. Students are so proud when their nickname catches on. Often it follows them past the end of the school year.

Ideas for creating nicknames:

Talents: Winners of contests or class experts might develop nicknames based on that, such as Miss Multiplication.

Actual names: You might be able to use alliteration to create a catchy nickname based on a student’s first or last name. An example is DJ Jazzy Jeff (the Fresh Prince’s pal.) If you’re lucky, you might find a cool rhyme, such as Racin’ Jason.

Last names that sound cool: Some kids just have awesome last names. They might like to be called by that. It sounds really jock. Jocular, too! New word alert—jockular: of or pertaining to a friendly jock.

Awesome prefixes: Sometimes you can add an awesome word to the student’s name to create a cool nickname. Two famous examples Magic Johnson and Joltin’ Joe. Athletic kids might like a strong name with Action, Power, Super, or some other similar “prefix.”

Initials: Some people’s initials sound awesome. This is a classic source of nicknames.

Cut-up names:This is a variation on Fun with Initials. Think A-Rod and JLo.

Objects: You might create a nickname based on something the student likes, or just a cute word that fits the student. Cupcake is an adorable nickname. Boots is fun and classic.

Famous association: Your student might have a name, talent or hobby that can tie into a song, movie or band name. Talented dancers might like Dancing Queen or Tiny Dancer.

Heroes: if a student has a hero, maybe that hero’s name or a variation of it should be their nickname. A girl who loves to sing might like to be called Beyoncé. A student might like to be called after his favorite team or mascot.

Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 26, 2011


Name Table Groups for Educational Concepts

Many teachers seat students in table groups.  These groups can be Teams, Tribes, Learning Communities, or whatever your school calls them.

Some educators advocate getting student buy-in by having students name their groups.  There are a few reasons I’m not nuts about this approach:

  1. It takes forever.
  2. It’s not educational.
  3. Kids come up with silly names that aren’t catchy or are just plain dumb.
  4. Kids argue.  A lot.  How exactly was this teambuilding, again?
  5. The kids who don’t get their way hate the new team name.

Instead, I name the teams myself using educational themes.   I might pick a bunch of math vocabulary words, Greek gods, key words for our Social Studies unit, parts of speech (Go, Adverbs!)…you get the idea.

Some of my coolest team names came about because I like to have seven tables in my classroom—it just fits well, and there are so many things that come in sevens.

  1. Seven continents
  2. Seven Wonders of the World (various lists)
  3. Seven notes (Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do—we did this when we performed the song in our school talent show)
  4. Seven colors—Roy G. Biv. (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)
  5. The Seven Dwarfs come to mind, but parents might complain about their child being in the Dopey group.  Even though the kids love it and everyone wishes they were Dopey.  Seriously—one year I organized math teams and asked the kids if they’d like to be the Seven Dwarfs.  The rule was that the Dopey kids had to be volunteers.  Everyone wanted to be Dopey and we had to draw straws.  No one complained, but it could have happened!
Posted in Classroom Management,First Year Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 23, 2011


The last five minutes of the school year

This is a quick tip for a meaningful (and realistic) idea of how to organize the last five minutes of the school year. We gather our supplies and are ready to leave before we start this procedure.

I gather my class for a fun reminiscing session about favorites from the year. Depending on the age and attention span of your students, you can have individuals share memories, or you can just shout out fun memories and let the kids cheer and talk amongst themselves. I choose the latter method because I know that as a child, I could never have sat through a pensive circle time in the last five minutes of the school day.

My method is more like a speech at a political rally—each sentence punctuated by applause and cheers.


Well, it’s been a great year in G3!


We learned our multiplication tables!


We had two Teddy Bear Picnics!

(Applause, chatter)

We planted a garden!

(Applause, chatter)

We made a salad from our harvest!

(Applause, chatter)

We learned chess!

(Applause, chatter)

We had two chess tournaments!

(Applause, chatter)

…I keep this up until the bell rings. Then, we all huddle up and say our class cheer: Go us, G3! Then I race to the door so I can hug everyone one last time.

What are your last-five-minutes-of-school traditions?


Teach on the Last Day of School

The last day of school is usually a blur of yearbook signing, room cleaning, and board game playing. I’d like to make a case for teaching something on the last day of school.

Students are about to leave your classroom for a summer of (mostly) unstructured activity. There will be plenty of time to watch movies and play games at home. Time for learning is precious, and sharing a special lesson together can create a lasting memory. Plus, it can only enhance your rep with parents if kids run home and talk about the cool thing they learned in school today.

Pilot Day: This is my traditional last day of school activity. My dad, a retired F-16 and F-4 pilot, puts on his flight suit and teaches the students about being an Air Force pilot. He starts with a simulation of all he’d say as he prepared for takeoff. He brings in his helmet, manuals, patches and insignia. He even shows an Air Force recruiting video about the awesomeness of jet fighters. Question and answer time can last over an hour. Questions about the ejection seat and bird strikes are always popular.

If you don’t have your own fighter pilot to create last day of school awesomeness, consider a lesson with an art tie-in. This way, you teach something cool, and then the kids can create art and chat.

Mythological Beasts: one of my students just loves mythology, and we did this lesson in his honor. He brought in his book of mythological beasts and my class was dead silent as he read it to us. Then, under his direction, we each created our own mythological beast. He wanted us to write a little about it—not too much—since it was the end of the year—and give it a clever name with a Greek or Latin flavor.

Starry Night: I taught students about Vincent van Gogh, and then we watched a slide show of his art while listening to Don McLean’s “Vincent.” Here is my copy of the lyrics (pdf), complete with vocabulary words. I recommend you teach the vocabulary before listening to the song. You can analyze the song for figurative language or simply treat it as a beautiful homage to Vincent. Then, color “The Starry Night” or create your own Vincent-style art.

Even if you teach on the last day, it’s probably good to leave some time for stacking desks and chairs, signing yearbooks and playing board games. Enjoy it, because you know that you also left your class with the impression that something important happens in this classroom—learning.


Student Numbers

Many elementary school teachers assign a number to each of their students, usually in alphabetical order by last name: Josie Abraham is 1, Chris Bradford is 2, etc.

Parents who aren’t accustomed to using student numbers sometimes question this system.  Is their child being reduced to a number?  Fear not—student numbers are nothing like Jean Valjean’s “Who am I? 24601” identity crisis in Les Misérables.  Teachers still call students by name! The student number is merely an administrative helper.

Student numbers make it easy to think through the class in alphabetical order.  That way, the teacher doesn’t forget anyone.  Examples:

Fire drill.  Did we all escape the building?

Roll call.  Are we all here?

Quick poll of class.  (Student 1, did you read your AR book last night?  Student 2, did you?)

Student numbers are shorthand for recordkeeping.  Examples:

Lunch count: students move numbered magnets to indicate their choice

Mailboxes: students turn in (and receive) papers in numbered file boxes.  The teacher can use the same numbered file boxes year after year.  (Most teachers buy these file boxes with their own money!)

Track assignments as they are turned in: the teacher can mark or cross off a student’s number on a master number sheet for each assignment.

Student numbers organize a crowd.  Examples:

Tell students to line up in number order.  (It’s the same order every time—no need for kids to jockey for position.)

Take turns for doing things in number order. (Usually for a participatory activity—avoids claims that Kayla went first last week, etc.)

At the start of each school year, many students are excited to learn which number they will be assigned this year.  Most students memorize the names and corresponding numbers of their classmates, as well.

Student numbers.  As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing!