Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part six: values)

LearningGet Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part six: values)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face writing prompts that require a little soul-searching.  The question asks students to make a value judgment, decide how they’d act in a hypothetical situation, or describe an ideal friend.  Kids love to write these paragraphs, particularly if they get to share their work at the end.  The sharing is especially important for values-based prompts—it encourages quality work and lets students get to know each other on a deeper level.)

Writing to a values-based prompt is not so hard:

Make a decision: don’t waffle.  Commit!  You will not be judged favorably if you change your mind halfway through the paper.  Remember, this paragraph is about your writing, not your value judgments.  (Within reason—really questionable ethics may leave a bad taste in the judges’ mouths.)

Think through your reasoning before you write.  Plan three good reasons for your value judgment, then jot down a detail for each one.  Students who don’t do this often run out of ideas quickly, and their writing reflects this.

Use the traditional structure: topic sentence, reasons, supporting details, conclusion.  Stick with what works.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.


 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part five: how-to or instructions)

I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Kids often face how-to prompts.  Kids are not the best at breaking tasks down to their component parts.  Hence, kids should really practice how to mentally break down a task—and how to write about it.

How-to prompts can easily become culturally biased.  I tried to think of the most basic how-to prompts that I could, but they are still based in a certain culture.  For example, not everyone in the world eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Heck, these days kids think that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come from the freezer!  But I’ve seen it as a practice prompt, so I included it here.

Some suggestions for writing a how-to:

Pick a topic quickly: This becomes important if the prompt lets students write an instructional paragraph on whatever they wish. Kids will spend forever thinking of just the right thing.  I suggest that they choose quickly, based on what is easiest to write about.   That leaves time for better planning, more vivid details, more interesting syntax, etc.  (You’d hope!)

Break the task into steps—but not too many.  I recommend no more than five.  If possible, stick to a magic three structure.  After all, details can always flesh out the paragraph or essay.  When you’re being judged on your paragraph/essay writing, you don’t want a laundry list of steps.

Use transitions: the basic first, next, last are good—if you know how many steps you’ll need.  Otherwise, you may say “last” and then add one more thing.  To be on the safe side, consider “first, second, third.”  It won’t win any awards, but it’s foolproof.

Remember that it’s still a paragraph: give a topic sentence and a conclusion.  Try to fit in details.  Vary sentence structure as much as you can.  Little things will elevate a simple list to something resembling a paragraph.

Here are the Paragraph POW! how-to writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun!


 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part four: persuasion)

Test TakingI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make standardized writing practice more fun.  We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the test.  One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Practice writing persuasive paragraphs helps students with their reading skills as well as their writing skills.  Students often face “author’s purpose” questions on standardized writings tests.   When students write to persuade, they are more likely to recognize when an author is writing to persuade (as opposed to writing to inform or entertain.)

This is Paragraph POW! and not a formal essay, so the organizational requirements are not as stringent as they would be if students were writing to a prescribed formula.  Nevertheless, students should abide by a few basic rules:

State your purpose: this works well in a topic sentence.  That way, everything about the paragraph should support the purpose/

Give a few reasons: as with many things in life, three is a good number.  One or two are not enough, four gets unwieldy.

Support your reasoning: this is where detail sentences come in.  It’s not enough to just give a reason—state why it is important or offer a detail.

Close with a call to action: this is really just a fancy type of conclusion sentence.

Paragraph POW! works best when students know their writing will be published and assessed.  Since I assign it so often, I don’t box myself in by promising to grade each paper, copyediting every single page.  Instead, I choose the papers that best exemplify qualities that I know standardized test graders value.  I put those papers under the document camera and read them aloud, giving many compliments.  Students want to see their work spotlighted and they put in their best effort.

I always insist that students do these things:

  • Write in the box (on standardized  tests, only writing in the box is graded)
  • Give your piece a title (test assessors love titles, apparently)
  • Start with an attention-getter.  This can be part of your topic sentence, or some fluff just before it.
  • Give examples and description.

Here are the Paragraph POW! persuasive writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.


 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part three: description)

LearningI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Kids live in the moment, not necessarily paying attention to what’s going on around them.  They get impatient—they just don’t care to notice details, and they certainly don’t want to hear about them.

You can see why kids have trouble describing things.

I created several Paragraph POW! prompts that challenge kids to describe.  These prompts are often real brain-busters for the class—I’m warning you!  Don’t load the kids up with too many of these at once.  Have them do one every few days or each week, building their ability to describe.

Some tips:

  • Remind students that a descriptive essay has its own structure.  It’s often built around 3 paragraphs that delve into details about 3 main attributes.  It does NOT devolve into a persuasive essay or personal narrative.
  • Challenge kids to think of at least one attribute for each of their five senses.  That should give them ideas that will flesh out their descriptive essays.
  • Suggest that kids make quick decisions.  This isn’t a contest to see who can design the best treehouse, it’s a prompt to describe a treehouse.  Make some quick decisions about what that treehouse looks like, then spend your effort describing it.
  • Challenge students to make at least one of their descriptions a simile.  Once kids practice this skill, they get pretty good at it.  They can compare a treehouse to a watchtower, a sunset to a fading spotlight.  Whatever.  Any stab at figurative language will be appreciated by the assessors.

It’s very important to praise students’ efforts as they learn to write descriptive essays.  It really is a hard style to master, so compliment progress.  I like to choose several good papers and spotlight them under the document camera.  With descriptive essays, I try to find something special in as many student papers as I can.  It gives students hope as they tackle the next tough descriptive topic.

Here are the Paragraph POW! descriptive  writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Good luck!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Aug 30, 2013

 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part two: favorites)

 I invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun. We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test. One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

 A lot of people think that favorites make good essay prompts. These people have never watched students chew a pencil and stare into space for forty minutes, trying to decide if they prefer Snickers or Butterfinger.

Seriously.  Any teacher will tell you—that’s what kids do.  A “fun” writing prompt turns into an intense session of soul-searching followed by a few minutes of dashing off a slapdash essay.

It helps to prepare students to pick favorites in high-stakes essays.  More important, it helps to teach students a few techniques and tips:

  • Just pick something!  This is not a lie detector.  No one’s going to know if you chose to write about Snickers even though you really prefer Three Musketeers.  It’s easier to write details about peanuts, satisfying hunger, and caramel than it is to expound on the merits of nougat.
  • Whatever you pick, stick to it.  Don’t go getting bright ideas halfway through the essay.  If you switch from one candy to the next halfway through the essay, you’ll lose points for organization, persuasiveness, and who knows what else.
  • Don’t go off topic.  So you don’t have a favorite candy or you’re not allowed to eat sweets?  Just pick something.  If you turn the essay topic into something other than Favorite Candy, you might get a big fat zero for Off Topic.

Once my students understand the parameters of the assignment, they get really into Paragraph Pow! lessons on favorites.  It helps that I choose the essays that best exemplify what the state assessors are looking for and spotlight them under the document camera.  Everyone likes to have their work acknowledged.

Here are the Paragraph POW! favorites-based writing prompts. Click on each link for a printable PDF. I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun picking favorites!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Aug 9, 2013

 

Get Students Writing Now with Paragraph POW! (Part one: choice-based prompts)

Test TakingI invented Paragraph POW! as a way to make writing practice more fun.  We practice on special paper—lines in a box, just like on the state writing test.  One difference: our paper has an awesome Paragraph POW! logo at the top.

Paragraph POW! became so successful that I developed dozens of writing prompts.  Writing prompts on lined paper are hardly marketable in workbook form, so I’m giving them away for free.

Paragraph POW! works best when students know their writing will be published and assessed.  Since I assign it so often, I don’t box myself in by promising to grade each paper, copyediting every single page.  Instead, I choose the papers that best exemplify qualities that I know standardized test graders value.  I put those papers under the document camera and read them aloud, giving many compliments.  Students want to see their work spotlighted and they put in their best effort.

I always insist that students do these things:

  • Write in the box (on standardized  tests, only writing in the box is graded)
  • Give your piece a title (test assessors love titles, apparently)
  • Start with an attention-getter.  This can be part of your topic sentence, or some fluff just before it.
  • Give examples and description.

I don’t get too picky about Paragraph POW! because I want students to practice extemporaneous writing—the opposite of our regular lessons, where they have to make an outline or fill in a graphic organizer.

Here are some of our choice-based writing prompts.  They ask for students’ opinions, but limit the options to just two choices.  Yes, my prompts are fun and thought-provoking, in a superficial way.  But I think the two-choice option is what really gets students to write.  Here’s why:

  • With two choices, there’s no overthinking.  Pick a knee-jerk reaction and justify it.  (Sort of like politics—my prompt presents you with a false choice, and you go from there!)
  • These prompts play on strong emotion.  Face it—everyone has an opinion on chocolate versus vanilla, cats versus dogs.
  • It’s not often that the school actually cares about your opinion on anything.  With Paragraph POW! students suddenly have a forum.
  • It’s just easier to give kids a choice of two.  This works on almost everything.

Here are the Paragraph POW! choice-based writing prompts.  Click on each link for a printable PDF.  I have also given you an all-purpose Paragraph POW! sheet so you and your students can write to your own prompts.

Have fun!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers,Writing by Corey Green @ Jul 26, 2013

 

American Girl Teaching Guides

American Girls SeriesThe American Girl series is just wonderful for introducing elementary school students to history. For each era, there is an irrepressible character with many books, games, and often even a movie to hook students on that time period. Students comprehend history lessons more easily if they can relate them to the experiences of an American Girl.

Today, the American Girl Teaching Guides! These are high-quality materials, just like everything from this company. You will find printable worksheets, easy-to-teach lessons, and ideas for connecting the books to character lessons as well as academic content.

Example: the Kit teaching guide focus on the Great Depression, giving, and resourcefulness. Worksheets encourage students to relate to Kit’s experiences with the Depression, make judgment calls about giving, conserve today’s resources by applying the lessons of the Depression, and even create their own messages in hobo code.  The materials are very high quality, and the worksheets would have taken you a while to develop. Good, time-saving stuff!

Here are the teaching guides. Each link opens a file in pdf format.

Addy: Freedom, the Civil War, and Life After Slavery

Caroline: Patriotism, Heroism, and the War of 1812

Chrissa: Bullying and How to Stop It

Felicity: Loyalty, Independence, and the Revolutionary War

Josefina: Spanish Culture and the Settlement of the Southwest

Julie: Equality, the Environment, and Facing Change

Kaya: Native American Life and the Nez Perce Tribe

Kirsten: Pioneer Life, Cultural Differences, and Helping One Another

Kit: The Great Depression, Giving, and Resourcefulness

Lanie: Animal Habitats and Observing Birds and Butterflies

Marie-Grace and Cécile: Diversity, Community, and Point of View

McKenna: Self-Esteem, Goal Setting, and Encouraging Self & Others

Molly: Cooperation, Adaptability, and Resourcefulness

Rebecca: Immigrants, Old Ways and New Ways, and Doing the Right Thing

Samantha: Innovation, Generosity, and Family


 

FREE Worksheet Series: Learn How to Draw a Star

A National Board Certified Teacher shows that you can use scaffolding to make anything easier to learn—even drawing a five-point star. FREE printable worksheet series teaches kids how to draw a star.

Learning how to draw a star becomes an obsession for many students. Channel that energy with these FREE worksheets that help kids break it down. Who knows—if the kids learn how to draw a star quickly and efficiently, maybe they’ll get back to their seatwork! Click here for the FREE printable 4-page lesson on how to draw a star.

While the kids are drawing stars, why not teach them a little about astronomy?

Fun Facts About Stars/Fill in the Blank About Stars: These worksheets from KidsKnowIt.com are fun for students. They will enjoy learning interesting facts about stars. Note there are two answer pages.

Kids Astronomy: This site features fun lessons about astronomy, along with worksheets and free online astronomy games.

NASA’s StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers: This site features NASA’s lessons about astronomy. The Teacher’s Center features lesson plans and worksheets.

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 7, 2013

 

FREE Four quadrant graphing characters worksheets

Four-quadrant coordinate grid graphing was never so fun!  Your students will love creating graphs of famous characters as they practice this tricky skill.

Click here to access graphing worksheets of your students’ favorite characters.   Some examples:

A separate site has a great Spongebob Squarepants.

Too difficult for your students?  Have them work up to the challenge by practicing Math-Aids.com’s leveled four quadrant graphing puzzles.  There are three levels, based on the number of points to plot.  Go still more basic with one-quadrant ordered pair worksheets, the most commonly seen level in elementary standardized tests.

Math-Aids.com is an excellent math worksheet generator that provides leveled practice in every math skill under the sun, at every level an elementary school teacher will need.  Click here to read a previous ClassAntics post extolling the benefits of this site.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Math by Corey Green @ Nov 26, 2012

 

Place Value & Addition: Adding 10, 100, 1000 FREE Worksheet


Here is a FREE worksheet on adding 10, 100, and 1000 written by a National Board Certified Teacher.

Most people would be surprised at how much difficulty students have with place value in general and with adding 10, 100 and 1000 in particular.  To us grown-ups, it seems simple: find that digit in the number and change it to the next digit up.  For kids, this is often a challenge.  If they can set up the equation, they’ll do okay—unless they line up their numbers incorrectly!

Cumulative review programs like Mountain Math try to address this by having the students add 10, 100 and 1000 to numbers with each session.  However, it’s up to the teacher to actually explain the process.

Click here for my worksheet that teaches a method for adding 10, 100 and 1000 and gives students practice problems.  I hope both the teaching method and practice problems help you and your students.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Math by Corey Green @ Jun 4, 2012

 

Memorial Day Resources and Worksheets

Here are some FREE worksheets to help you teach your class about Memorial Day.  Students will be interested in learning about the history, which began as Decoration Day to honor fallen Civil War soldiers.

Two reading comprehension sheets will be useful to elementary school teachers: one from an ESOL website that offers an interesting view of the holiday since it was not written for American students.  A worksheet telling a story about a boy whose father is a soldier brings a more personal viewpoint.  Note: during the ceremony, the boy “whispered a prayer to God;” you have to decide if that is okay in your school.  If you want quick word-search, vocabulary, and crossword puzzles, you can find them all here.  The sheets are not particularly educational—just sponge activities, really, but will be popular for the requesting-homework crowd.

The Internet abounds with histories of Memorial Day, many quite long for a teacher who just wants to help students mark the day with something other than a barbeque.  This article from Time is the perfect quick-study resource for you.  The article tells the history of Memorial Day—and the controversy.  Memorial Day began as Decoration Day to honor fallen Civil War soldiers.  The holiday was so closely linked with the Union that the South refused to celebrate.  Only after WWI, when the day was expanded to include all soldiers, did the holiday gain traction nationwide.  Some say that expanding the meaning of Decoration Day to all soldiers also diluted the meaning of the holiday that marked the difference between fighting for slavery and freedom.

Visit MemorialDay.org for information about the holiday, from history of the day to tips on how to observe Memorial Day.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Holidays by Corey Green @ May 24, 2012

 

April is Poetry Month: Kermit the Frog Poem and Worksheet

Original poem, FREE poetry worksheet!

In honor of Poetry Month, here is a FREE poetry reading comprehension worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher’s…little sister.  The worksheet and poem are very good!

My sister wrote “Ode to Kermit” to help my students with their poetry reading comprehension.  It is a fun poem in the voice of Miss Piggy, who is quite exuberant in her love for Kermit.  It’s a real problem for him, actually.

I hope you and your students enjoy the imagery in the poem.  You might want to explain to them about moi and vous— and why Miss Piggy says “Kermie” for “Kermit.”  Miss Piggy loves the French language because it is très chic!

 Click here for the worksheet and read on for the poem!

Ode to Kermit (in the voice of Miss Piggy)

Kermit, oh, Kermie,
Your name sends me floating through pools of algae.

Just the sight of you sends my heart into thralls
Like the pitter and patter of two ping-pong balls.

Kermit, with your mouth of red felt
And hemispherical eyes that cause me to melt,

Every time I think of wonderful vous
I wish that I could grow old with you.

My precious Kermit, my affection is no mistake,
Yet you still cause moi’s heart to break.

As you can see, the Green family loves the Muppets!  Here are some of the greatest hits from Class Antics Muppets posts:

Muppets in the Classroom Part One: How to integrate the Muppets into your curriculum
Muppets in the Classroom Part Two: More on how to integrate the Muppets into your curriculum
School Garden: John Denver sings “The Garden Song (Inch by Inch)” with the Muppets
Winnie the Pooh Day (A.A. Milne’s birthday): Kermit’s nephew Robin sings “Halfway Down”

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ Apr 24, 2012

 

April is Poetry Month: Math Poem and Worksheet

Original poem, FREE poetry worksheet!

In honor of Poetry Month, here is a FREE poetry reading comprehension worksheet written by a National Board Certified Teacher’s…little sister.  The worksheet and poem are very good!

My sister wrote “Math” to help my students with their poetry reading comprehension.  It is an adorable poem about a romance that blossoms in math class.  Really, it’s a shame that she wrote it just for the worksheet.  I hope you and your students enjoy the math puns and the genuine emotion in the poem.

Click here for the worksheet and read on for the poem!

Math

Your obtuse manner isn’t helped
By your acute smile,
And you’re a total square
From your toes to your hair roots.

I’m sorry, but you + me
Just doesn’t equate.

A simple problem, to which there are
Not one, not two, but
No solutions.

Still, you made point after point
While I kept feeding you the same lines.

Then, when
I couldn’t make ends                            meet
And my life was

                                    Decaying

                                                             Exponentially

            And there wasn’t a ray of sunshine to be had,

You were the only real number
I could call.

It all started to add up:
As I dialed your number,
All sines pointed toward you.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Fun With Literacy,Math by Corey Green @ Apr 19, 2012

 

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

Use the popularity of The Hunger Games to interest your class in dystopias.  Teach your students how to write a dystopia using tips from Corey Green, writer and National Board Certified Teacher.

People are eternally interested in dystopias.  A new one comes along for each generation.  Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Hunger Games—these books address issues in our society and imagine a world where the solution takes the problem to its opposite extreme.

A dystopia seems like a difficult and complex genre, but it’s really just another genre in the field of fiction.  That sounds manageable, doesn’t it?  Your students can learn a lot about literature, society, and their own personal beliefs as they create their own dystopias.

Use my printable dystopia planning guide to help your students create their own dystopian story.  Help your students focus on the issue they want to address, create a dystopian “solution” that takes the problem to its opposite extreme, and decide how they want to address oppression.

> What is the problem or issue?
> How does the solution take the problem to its opposite extreme?
> How will the system of oppression work?
> Will the main character overcome oppression?
> Will it be on a large or small scale?
> Or will the character fall prey to the oppression, becoming another victim or even a perpetrator?

Big questions, but your students can handle it if they use my story planning sheet.  After all, a dystopia is really just a story with a beginning, middle and end—students simply need to address the conventions of the genre as they craft a satisfying story.

Good luck to you and your students as you create your dystopias.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Fun With Literacy,Writing by Corey Green @ Apr 9, 2012

 

FREE Standardized Test Prep Worksheet and $10 off coupon for Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!

Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!An occasional series with sample pages from the Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!

My publisher is running a limited-time-coupon for $10 off Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! to help your class prepare for standardized testing.  Use Coupon Code NGUTA5C6 and click here to order.  The offer expires April 15, 2012.

More than just a workbook, Best Multiplication Workbook EVER! is a comprehensive curriculum that makes learning multiplication easy, enjoyable and relevant to real-life situations. Written by a master teacher, it addresses how kids really learn.

> Multiplication facts: scaffolded, comprehensive approach helps kids memorize their facts and cement their learning.

> Word problems (lots of them!) help students see the relevance of multiplication. There are word problems for each times table, level of multiplication, themed word problems, and long-multiplication word problems.

> Standardized testing content boosts students’ confidence and courage as they face the stresses of the standardized testing environment; answers teach strategies for getting it right!

> FUN! Friendly animals guide kids through the lessons. Certificates acknowledge achievements. Real-life word problems show how multiplication helps in sports, movie making and beyond!

The FREE standardized test prep worksheets never expire. This sample is Part 2 of an occasional series with sample pages from the Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!

Tip # 2: Determine what must be in the ones place

This is a really simple trick that lets you quickly eliminate wrong answers. Check just the ones digit of the problem. Multiply quickly in your head, and you will know what the ones digit must be in the correct answer. This trick works when you multiply by 2 or 3 digit numbers (and even bigger numbers) because the when you do your hugs and kisses, you never put any new numbers in the ones place.

Example A: 48 x 3: since 3 x 8 is 24, you know 4 must be in the ones place. Eliminate all answers with a different digit in the ones place.

Example B: 246 x 316: 6 x 6 is 36, so you know 6 will be in the ones place. Eliminate all answers with a different digit in the ones place.

Click here for FREE worksheets about this skill, straight from the Best Multiplication Workbook EVER!

Posted in Academics,FREE Worksheets,Math by Corey Green @ Mar 15, 2012