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

 

Teach students how to wear a bike helmet properly

As a teacher, we see a lot of kids with bike helmets.  It’s scary to see how many kids wear their bike helmets improperly.  The helmet can’t do its job if the fit isn’t right.

Most of the time, an ill-fitting helmet is either too big or worn too loose.  As a teacher, you can’t do much about the too-big helmet aside from tell parents.  However, you can help kids adjust the fit right away.

Bike helmet fit comes down to three things:

Eyes: the helmet should sit an inch above the eyes (use two fingers to measure that about an inch of forehead shows)

Ears: the straps should form a Y around the ears and come just under the ears

Mouth: the child should be able to fully open her mouth.  If not, the strap is too tight.

Make sure kids tighten the strap enough.  It’s scary to see a loose strap that lets the helmet come right off the head at the slightest impact or nudge.  Below is a simple video, less than a minute long, that demonstrates these concepts.

Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Oct 5, 2015

 

“One Day More” flash mob at school district convocation

Talented teachers in West Des Moines Community Schools spiced up their convocation with a well-rehearsed flash mob, performing their own version of “One Day More” from Les Miserables.

The opening speech is very dull and illustrates exactly why teachers dread convocation.  Skip to 1:24 for the good part.  Use closed captioning (the CC icon) to catch all the lyrics.

Have you seen Les Miserables yet?  If not, check it out!  I really enjoyed the Les Misérables movie, but the Dream Cast in Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall will always hold a special place in my heart.  It features Colm Wilkinson, the original Jean Valjean.  Lea Salonga is brilliant as Eponine, and Australia’s Philip Quast demonstrates how Javert’s songs are supposed to sound–booming and intimidating, full of fire and brimstone.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 31, 2015

 

How to spot signs of vision trouble in children

reading150Anyone with glasses can tell you about that moment of clarity: seeing the leaves on the trees.  Help your students experience that thrill.  Watch for signs of vision trouble in students.

Of course, the classic sign of vision trouble is when the child can’t see the board.  However, many students won’t admit that they have trouble, so parents and teachers have to watch for the signals that indicate vision trouble.  Remember, vision trouble can go beyond nearsightedness to include lazy eye, crossed eyes, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

If you spot the following behaviors, notify the school nurse and call the parent.  (I call home because some students won’t give parents the nurse’s note.)  When speaking to parents, remember to describe the behavior you see and avoid anything that sounds like a diagnosis.

Correcting a vision problem can lead to quick and remarkable results.  I have seen students jump an entire grade level in reading fluency and comprehension shortly after getting glasses.

Signs of vision trouble in children:

  • rubbing eyes
  • squinting
  • tilting books to read them
  • leaning close to books
  • turning the head to look at objects that should be in peripheral vision
  • wandering eyes
  • headaches
  • covering one eye
  • avoiding reading or seeking out books with large print (not related to reading level)
Posted in Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 24, 2015

 

5 ways to cultivate a coworker relationship with your students

raisehandsIn many ways, I have a closer coworker relationship with my students than I do with my colleagues.   My colleagues are wonderful, and we help each other with teaching, classroom management, and meeting students’ needs.  However, the coworker relationship is much closer with students.

In the classroom, I am the manager and the students are my team.  Our task is to make sure everyone meets standards by the end of the school year.  I set a plan for how to accomplish our learning goals, but the students and I adjust it as the year goes on.

How to treat your students like coworkers:

  1. Cultivate the coworker attitude in yourself—it will show in how you approach everything.
  2. Share with students the state and national standards, curriculum maps, and pacing materials from the district. This helps them take your perspective–and take your job more seriously.  Seeing planning and accountability materials helps students understand the big picture and appreciate that school is about more than day-to-day assignments.
  3. When possible, tell students your objective and give them the chance to help you determine the best way to accomplish it. You can do this for a day, a unit, a project, a grading period, or the whole year.  Give the students experience with short and long-range planning.
  4. Assign class jobs. Explain to students that the classroom requires certain tasks be done in order for each day to go smoothly.   Teach students about man hours, efficiency, and management skills.  This will motivate everyone to complete their jobs because they understand the true purpose.  (Click here for detailed advice on setting up class jobs—including a FREE fill-in spreadsheet.  Click here for advice on how to work as a team to maintain the classroom.)
  5. Try to keep things between you and the student wherever possible. If you must involve an administrator or parent, move on after the incident is over.  Try to get back to dealing with the student directly.  If you can do this successfully, you’ll strengthen the coworker bond.
Posted in Classroom Management,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Aug 17, 2015

 

FREE typing resource for school: Typing Club

TwoKidsAndComputerTouch typing is one of the most important skills your students can learn.  The ability to type quickly and accurately will help students at school and in the workplace.  I recommend TypingClub.com, a FREE resource.  It has so many features to help teach typing and organize a class’s efforts.  You won’t believe it’s free!

TypingClub is great because it lets you organize your whole class and customize each student’s experience.  You can set the pace, the standards of performance, and the style of lessons.  The prearranged typing program will work very well, but you can also create assignments and tests.  You can set the program to allow students to progress freely through lessons, or you can hold them back until they meet standards.  It’s all up to you, and it’s very easy to set up.

Some students are naturally motivated to learn how to type.  Others need prodding.  Here are some things that encourage my students:

  • Tell them that they have an advantage over typing students from decades past.  Thanks to texting, today’s kids know where the letters are on the keyboard.
  • Give them candy every for every five lessons they pass.
  • Set individual or whole-class goals with associated rewards.
Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Apr 13, 2015

 

Easy tips to make your master paper and key stand out

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

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

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

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

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

 

FREE pattern block puzzles–for online and real life

PatternBlockPuzzleHelp your students learn spatial reasoning skills with pattern blocks.  A class set of these versatile shapes can provide hours of fun and education.

Pattern blocks are mathematical manipulatives that let students see how shapes relate to each other.

In the first set, all shapes can be built from the basic equilateral triangle:

  • Equilateral triangle (Green)
  • Regular rhombus (Blue)
  • Trapezoid (Red)
  • Hexagon (Yellow)

The second set contains shapes that can’t be built of the green triangle, but can still be used in tiling patterns.

  • Square (Orange)
  • Small rhombus (Beige)

Click here for an inexpensive set of plastic pattern blocks available at Amazon.com

Students love to make their own patterns from pattern blocks.  Another good activity is the pattern block puzzle.  Students build complicated shapes, such as a train, using pattern blocks.  Some puzzles have interior lines to show which pieces to use.  That’s good for beginners.  More advanced students like to figure it out themselves.

I like to print the puzzles and either laminate them or put them in page protectors.  If you laminate the puzzles, I recommend taping or gluing the puzzle to construction paper for strength.

Recommended pattern block puzzles:

Complete pattern block puzzle book from LearningResources.com

Jessica’s pattern block templates 

Online pattern blocks–a fun activity for the computer lab

Christmas pattern block printables

 

Posted in Academics,Math,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Feb 24, 2015

 

Use desks as dry-erase boards

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

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

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

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

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

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

Low-budget whiteboard markers and cleaners

Carpet squares make the best whiteboard erasers

Cheap “whiteboards” for no-budget classrooms

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