The New Colossus: Teaching Notes and Vocabulary

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Emma Lazarus’s inspiring poem is engraved on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty.  Many people only know the famous ending, but reading the whole sonnet gives a much deeper meaning.

“The New Colossus” makes a wonderful memorization challenge.  Your students can handle it—my third graders sure did!

The title refers to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge statue of the titan Helios, constructed to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Cyprus.

America’s Statue of Liberty is “The New Colossus,” symbolizing welcome, freedom and hope.

I hope you and your students will enjoy my teaching notes and vocabulary handout.  It gives background information and lays the poem and relevant vocabulary words side-by-side.  Having all this information on one sheet will help your students understand and memorize the poem.

Memorization tips:

  1. Give a deadline:  Students will work harder if they have a deadline.  Memorize the poem alongside your students.  Offer a reasonable deadline—I chose two weeks—but you can tell students that if they don’t have it learned by then, they’ll get an extension.
  2. Offer a reward.  My class’s reward was an ice cream sundae.  I expected about five students to take the time to memorize, but 35 students qualified! (Tip: when you’re making that many sundaes, save yourself the trouble of scooping and buy the little ice cream cups.)
  3. Study and analyze the poem:  Students learn and memorize more effectively if they understand the material.  Work as a class to find examples of metaphor and symbolism.
  4. Memorize in sections.  Begin with the most famous lines, “Give me your tired…”  Then, go back to the beginning and memorize in sections.  Practice each section over and over.  Don’t move on until you know that section cold.
  5. Don’t worry about the lines.  Sometimes one thought continues onto another line.  Focus on meaning, not form.
  6. Memorize with your students.  When you undertake to memorize this yourself, you’ll come across tips and tricks to help your students.
  7. Finally, appreciate the poem’s beauty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You can read about “The New Colossus” at Wikipedia.  Be sure to click and read about the Colossus of Rhodes.  Visit the Statue of Liberty’s official site, as well.

Posted in FREE Worksheets,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 13, 2017

 

Emergency Valentine Cards

Elementary school students just love Valentine’s Day.  Opening Valentine cards and eating little treats is pure fun.  (Click here for my tips for a smooth Valentine’s Day at school.)

Every year, someone forgets their Valentine cards.  In my experience, this has occurred much more frequently since we slipped into this recession.  I expect to have lots of “forgotten” Valentine cards this year.

Fortunately, I have an “Emergency Valentines” supply—multiple boxes of deep-discount Valentine cards I bought after the holiday last year.

Discreetly, I send the student to another classroom to address their Valentines.  In my opinion, this is a much better system than having students make their own emergency Valentines at school the day of the party.  Distributing hastily made Valentines is embarrassing for the giver.  Why do that to a student when you can buy a box of Valentines for a dollar?

If you don’t have an emergency Valentine card supply, start one now by picking up Valentine cards at your local dollar store.  Great idea: buy several boxes so you have enough for Valentine’s Day emergencies in other classrooms.  E-mail teachers at your school about your emergency stash.  You will make friends with teachers and their students you rescue.

After this Valentine’s Day, buy your spare valentine cards for a quarter!

P.S. Don’t forget to pick up paper bags for holding Valentine cards your students receive!

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 13, 2017

 

Tips for a Smooth Valentine’s Day Party

Valentine penguinValentine’s Day is a fun, low-key holiday.  The most important thing is the Valentine Cards!  Let your class enjoy handing out Valentines, reading them, and munching on a limited amount of treats.

  1. Buy extra boxes of Valentines for kids who don’t have any.  Sometimes it’s a matter of money, or just a too-busy family life; other times an English Language Learner doesn’t have valentine cards because his parents don’t know about this elementary school tradition.  Parents, an extra set of valentines makes a nice donation to your child’s class.  Teachers, buy extra Valentines at the Dollar Store.  I also buy Valentines at 75% off after the holiday for next year’s supply.
  2. Decorate Valentines bags: Let your students color designs on plain white paper lunch bags.  This is a good way to channel Valentine excitement on the morning of the party.
  3. Learn about Saint Valentine: Why not bring a little history to the day?  Report highlights from Saint Valentine on Wikipedia to your class.  Or read aloud from a book:   Saint Valentine by Robert Sabuda is a good choice. (AR Reading Level 5.4; 0.5 points)  With beautiful illustrations and simple text, this is a good Read Aloud for elementary school.
  4. Watch a movie: Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is sure to be a hit!  With all the Chimpunks mania of late, let your class go old-school and watch the animated show, Alvin & the Chipmunks: A Chipmunk Valentine.
  5. Limit the treats: I recommend just one treat–and make it good, like a cupcake.  This way, the focus is on cards and classmates–and nobody gets sugar high.  I ask parents to send in Valentine’s sale treats after the holiday for our Emergency Party Supply.

Teachers: Keep a hefty supply of thank you notes!   I keep them on hand so I am always ready to write a thank you note immmediately.

Posted in Classroom Management,Holidays,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 6, 2017

 

Attack on Pearl Harbor: teaching tools including two FREE worksheets

“…December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

If your class is like mine, you will find that students know next to nothing about this tragic and important event.

I have taught the following lessons to both third and fifth graders.  Students are eager to learn about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and I never have any trouble keeping their attention.

First, I describe the event to students, and place it in the context of World War II.

Here is a good reading comprehension worksheet with a short passage about Pearl Harbor.  This passage gives American embargoes on Japan as the reason for the attack.  I think that children should know that destroying the Pacific Fleet was another Japanese goal for the attack.

I read President Roosevelt’s famous speech and explain it to the students.  I give students a copy of the speech.  You can print the speech and listen to it at AmericanRhetoric.com  Students are fascinated to hear this address from so long ago.  They listen much better if they can read along.

I use information from the National WW2 Museum fact sheet.  Also, I playa video clip about the attack from the History Channel.  It shows visuals and features the beginning of President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress.

After students understand what happened, I tie the lesson into writing by showing a first draft of FDR’s speech, from the National Archives.  It’s interesting to see how he developed the most famous phrases.

InstructorWeb has a nice packet about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It’s appropriate for students in 5th grade and up.   The packet features a passage to read, a chart, and questions: multiple choice, short answer, matching, and essay.

Posted in Academics,Social Studies,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 5, 2016

 

Make your classroom a tattle-free zone

teacher1My students don’t tattle.  They just don’t.

At the beginning of the year, my students tattle at the appropriate level for their developmental stage.  However, instances of tattling quickly slip to almost zero.

Easy steps to stop tattling in the classroom:

  1. Teach students that unless it involves safety, it’s probably tattling.  It’s important to establish the difference between tattling and a legitimate report of an urgent matter.
  2. Explain to the class that you are actually pretty smart and will notice most instances of wrongdoing without being informed through tattling.
  3. Tell students that you expect them to focus on learning, not tattling.  If a student tattles, assign extra learning opportunities to make up for time spent tattling.  A good learning opportunity might be using the dictionary to define tattling, then using the word in a sentence.
  4. Do not allow comments that begin with another child’s name.  Not only does this cut down on tattling, it forces children to use more sophisticated sentence structure.
  5. Teach your students that by not tattling, they become more loyal to each other.  Would your students like to be in a classroom full of spies?  No?  Well, that’s what happens if they all tattle on each other.  Everyone becomes an informant.
  6. If a child tells on another student, assign the tattlee an appropriate sentence to write, such as “I will not throw paper airplanes.”  Then, have the tattler write “I will not tattle.”
  7. Do not allow children to tattle after recess.  Explain to students that what happens at recess does not belong in the classroom.  Tell your students to let the recess monitor deal with recess-related tattling issues.  Suggest that students use recess time wisely: get away from the offending student and do something fun instead.

Don’t worry: your students will tell you what you really need to know.  You won’t miss out on important information about bullying or safety problems.  You will simply gain more teaching time and a better classroom climate.

More tips for stopping classroom tattling

Information for parents dealing with tattling at home

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 10, 2016

 

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.


 

Back to School: ask parents to write a letter about their child

backpackandlunchbagConsider asking parents to write you a letter about their child.  A personal letter from the people who know your student best can inform your teaching for the entire school year.

Many letters will be straightforward: basic info about likes and dislikes, favorite subjects, etc.  However, some parents will be glad of the opportunity to share special concerns.  You might learn about family circumstances, health issues,  or previous experiences with school that affect how the student learns and behaves.

Be judicious about whether you request a letter from families.  At some schools, parents would welcome the chance to communicate in writing.  At others, parents may feel like you are giving them a writing assessment.  Another possible issue is a language barrier–but you never know.  You might find that some parents are happy to write you a letter in their native language.  Chances are that someone in the district can translate for you–or you can get a rough idea with a Google translation.

Back to school night is a good time to request the letter, but it’s not the only opportunity.  Your school might have an Open House a few weeks into the school year.  By that time, the rush is past and everyone, including you, has more time to devote to the assignment.

A clear complement to the letter-from-a-parent is the letter-from-a-student.  An open-ended letter about the student makes a good writing assessment and informative piece for your files.

Posted in Back to School,Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 15, 2016

 

Extra credit: 6 benefits

apluspaperExtra credit can be a motivational tool that empowers students and helps parents get involved.    Here are five reasons I like to assign extra credit:

Students feel more control of their grades.  With extra credit, students know that there are ways they can influence their grade.  They don’t have to wait for you to give a grade–they can earn it on their own.

Students learn study skills.  This works especially well in math. I copy the practice/reteach pages from our textbook program.  Higher achieving students can do the problems as a grade booster; lower-achieving students can work with the teacher, a peer, a tutor, or a parent to learn the material.  Struggling students are more motivated to do these practice problems because they know it will improve their grade.

Extra credit can make difficult conversations more productive.  We all have to phone or write parents to explain that a student is struggling.  If you offer lots of extra credit opportunities, you can make the conversation productive and positive by emphasizing what students and parents can do right now to improve the grade.  Everyone will feel better about putting in the time and effort.

Extra credit is motivational–and contagious: once a few students do extra credit and see results, others will be more motivated to try it themselves.  My classes work harder when I provide a lot of extra credit opportunities.  Many teachers fear students will do the extra credit instead of regular assignments, but I find that extra credit makes students work harder on the required work, too.  Students get into the habit of achieving.

Students are willing to take risks: students will work harder and do more challenging work in an extra credit context.  Extra credit is risk-free, so if the work isn’t up to par, it just doesn’t count.  It doesn’t hurt the students’ grades.  I find that students are more willing to try challenge problems, higher-order thinking questions, and critical thinking prompts if they know that it’s just for extra credit.  They often end up doing better than they would have if the assignment had been required.  (Extra credit takes the resentment out of work!)

Extra credit keeps struggling students in the game: we know that struggling students need to work more, not less, than others.  Extra credit lets them do remedial work that immediately impacts their grade.  It can make the difference between passing and failing.  As students do more extra credit, they learn the skills needed to pass the class on their own, with or without the bonus points.

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ May 2, 2016

 

Offer a choice of two

I learned the “offer a choice of two” tip from a mom volunteer, who smoothly distributed about 5 flavors of popsicles with all students feeling like they had a choice in the treat they were given.  I realized that offering a choice of 2 has many classroom management applications:

— It speeds up questioning that’s intended to keep the lesson going, not spark deep thought.  “Should we put the apostrophe before or after the s?” instead of “Where should we put the apostrophe?”

— It gives students options without overwhelming them with choices: “Would you like to use markers or crayons?” instead of “What would you like to color with?”

— It offers students a pseudo-choice: “Would you like to calm down and do the activity with us, or refocus in another classroom?” instead of “Shape up or ship out.”  (also a choice of 2, actually)

— It teaches kids to make a decision, then stick with it.  Most decisions in life are not worth over-thinking.  Your mom’s birthday card will look good whether you use red paper or pink.  Just pick one!

Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 18, 2016

 

Teaching Kids to Access Memorized Information

Accessing information you’ve already memorized is
as easy as Z-Y-X!

That’s a catchy way to introduce this tip: teach kids to access memorized information by showing them where to look for it, so to speak. All you need is a backwards alphabet and a buddy!

Here are the Z-Y-X steps:

Z: Ask the child to stand right in front of you and recite the alphabet—backwards.

Y: Watch the child’s eyes as he attempts this task. Note where the child looks.

X: Tell the student that when attempting the task, he looked to his top left (or top right, or whatever you noticed.)

For THIS STUDENT, that is where to look when trying to access memorized information. Everyone is different, so you will need to help each student individually or buddy kids up so the buddy can identify where the partner should look for answers.

Got a test coming up? Try it yourself and you’ll know where to find all the answers!

It’s much more effective than staring into space.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 4, 2016

 

Sing Multiplication Songs During Transitions

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

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

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

It’s simple, effective, and educational.

Posted in Classroom Management,Math,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 28, 2015

 

Star Wars in the Classroom: FREE ready-to-use activities

Friday is Star Wars Day! It’s doubly exciting because for many of us, Friday is also the last day before Winter Break.   Doing Star Wars lessons lets you neatly sidestep actual holidays.

Mr. Mangham, a sixth grade math teacher in Southlake, Texas, has created a Star Wars-themed packet centered around algebraic reasoning.  The entire packet is here.   Scroll through and choose what you like.  I enjoy the following lessons from the packet.  I have split the large pdf into these easy-to-access pdfs for you.   I have made no changes and take no credit.

Star Wars Word Problems: solve using algebraic reasoning

Star Wars Characters Math: choose your favorite character, then use order of operations and some very specific formulas to calculate things like the Chill and Skill Index.

Jedi Bridges: Use algebraic reasoning to solve visual puzzles.

Code.org has created a Star-Wars themed coding unit that your students will love.  There are two levels, so this unit is appropriate for K-12.

Finally, visit Star Wars in the Classroom for lessons related to many subjects: mythology, robotics, social studies, and more.

May the Force be with you.  As we wind down toward Winter Break, we’re all going to need it!

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Dec 13, 2015

 

Stop looking–I found the best FREE printable cursive program

girlanddteacherMany students don’t learn to write cursive, which means they can’t read it, either.  If we keep going this way, we’ll have a generation that can’t read our founding documents.  Luckily, there are many great FREE online programs to teach kids this valuable skill.  One in particular is very, very good.

PrintableCursive.com is my favorite site for teaching cursive.  My favorite part is First Year Cursive.  This presents three leveled packets for teaching all cursive letters.  Each page is lovely, with beautiful handwriting and a nice word/picture based on letters the student can write.

Printable Cursive offers primers in three cursive fonts: ABeka, D’Nealian, and Zaner-Bloser.  I learned D’Nealian as a second grader, but prefer Zaner-Bloser because the Q looks like a Q.  None of that silly loopy 2 stuff for Zaner-Bloser.

Click HERE for 3 levels of first-year cursive in each of 3 fonts.

Click HERE for intermediate cursive: practice writing cursive while learning about the world.  (Coutnries of South America, poisonous snakes of the world, and other interesting topics.)

Click HERE for advanced cursive: more writing, more advanced topics, more fun!

Enhance your cursive writing unit by reading Beverly Cleary’s Muggie Maggie, about a girl who refuses to learn cursive and winds up in a silly predicament.  Her teachers motivate Maggie by making her a messenger.  She carries notes to vairous teachesr.  The notes are written in cursive, and Maggie can’t read them.  But she can tell that they all contain her name…

Click HERE for my post about Muggie Maggie.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Nov 2, 2015

 

Extra credit: 5 tips for easy creating and grading

teacher2Extra credit can be a great way to motivate your students and help them feel in control of their grades.  Here are some tips to help you make extra credit a stress-free and effective addition to your classroom routine.

  1.  Provide standing extra credit opportunities that require no work from you.  Writing assignments are good for this.  Current event summaries, book reports, one-page essays, short stories, mini-reports–anything students can do on their own, anytime.  Just create basic requirements (number of paragraphs, complete sentences, etc) and provide a turn-in box.
  2. Use materials from your textbook for extra credit.  Don’t spend a lot of time hunting down extra credit.  Use what you already have: workbooks that aren’t quite suited to the current curriculum, supplemental materials from the textbook, etc.  I like to use the reteach/practice sheets from our math book.  At the beginning of each chapter, I copy the pages and set them out.  Students can take them at their convenience.
  3. Use online programs for extra credit.  MobyMax, Ticket to Read, and SuccessMaker are all good options.  They provide a steady stream of leveled material and require little or no input from you.  Once in a while (monthly, in my case), see who has done what and decide how much extra credit to reward.
  4. Create extra credit assignments in the grade book, ready to fill in as needed.   I like to create extra credit assignments within a category and leave the grades blank.  Input 100% if the students do the assignment.  If not, the grade is empty and it doesn’t hurt them.  Online grade books want a due date, so I make it for the penultimate day of the quarter.  Students who like to track their grades will enjoy filling in the blanks with extra credit.
  5. Create extra credit opportunities within an assignment.  One easy way is to assign the even problems, but offer the odds as extra credit.  Make word problems, extended-response questions, or critical thinking questions extra credit.  Students will be more motivated to do them than if the problems were required.
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 19, 2015