Resources for learning how to type

Your child needs to learn how to type, and the sooner the better.  Aside from reading at home and practicing basic math facts, I think typing is the most important educational activity your child can do.  Typing will make your child more efficient in later life, and at this stage, learning the skill helps your child activate different sections of his brain.

You can buy typing programs.  My siblings and I learned from Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.  It’s a wonderful program that really works.

You can also try free programs.  The BBC has a good one: Dance Mat Typing.  Your kids will like the goat with a British accent.  The animals only get more outrageous from there!  My students like this program, although they do get impatient with all the talking.  Oh, well—it’s free!

When I learned to type as a fifth grader, my parents set a goal: 40 words per minute.  That’s when I would know I was good.

My third graders are learning to type on the Neo2, using a program called Keywords.  Typing 40 words per minute will be no small feat for them.  They are super motivated to learn, though.  The reward?  A soda and candy bar from the teacher’s lounge!  (My third grade teacher offered this reward when we learned all our multiplication facts.  I still remember the thrill of visiting the teacher’s lounge and selecting my treat.)

Bribery.  Sometimes you just have to do what works.

Posted in Academics,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Sep 29, 2010


Read Around the House* – Part Four: The Family Room

This is part four of an occasional series of tips for making reading a part of your child’s daily routine.  Today we tackle techniques for making reading a family activity.

The family room is usually where we watch TV.  Television can be fun: family movie night or a weekly TV show can be an easy and inexpensive shared entertainment.

The family room can be for reading, too.  This works particularly well if you have a no-TV-during-the-school-week rule.

When we lived in Florida, daily lightning storms were a matter of course.  My parents declared reading afternoons with no electronics.  Some of the neighborhood kids were skeptical at first, but we had so many awesome books that they became entranced, too.  It became a summer tradition.

You can do the same for your kids in the family room.  Kids can sit around and read, or you can spice it up a little.  Take a look at my Fort Day post and build forts to read in.  Or spread a blanket on the ground—kids love this!  You can even turn off the lights and read by candlelight.  Ghost stories are good for this, of course, but so are old-fashioned stories.

You can also have family read-aloud time.  Reading aloud used to be a very common form of group entertainment, before the advent of radio and the television.   It can still be a fun family activity, especially when older children read to younger siblings.

*Does your child’s teacher assign a nightly requirement for reading?  Use these tips to incorporate reading seamlessly into your daily routine.  It can really help if your child is not the drop-everything-and-read type.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Sep 27, 2010


Read Around the House* – Part Three: The Bathroom

This is part three of an occasional series of tips for making reading a part of your child’s daily routine.  Help your child develop a reading habit, and you have created a lifelong learner.

In my AP European History class, our teacher told us of a boy the year before who slept through class and never did his homework.  He assured the teacher he would pass the AP test, and he did, going so far as to score a 5 out of 5.  His secret?  Reading the textbook in the bathroom.  My high school takeaway lesson?  Hope I don’t have his book!

Not to put the point too delicately, but reading on the can is classic.  It’s the ultimate use of “found time.”  Your child will eventually do it—why not start now?

You need a basket (or just a pile of reading material that’s not too close to the tub or toilet.)  Select old books or magazines for bathroom reading.  You can even buy books specifically for this purpose, such as the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series.

Reading in the bathtub is another classic.  This is good for longer books, like novels.  (Or the book-sized digest form of comics, like Archie’s Double Digest.)  I don’t recommend magazines for kids because they will be difficult to hold out of the water.  I strongly urge that bath time reading be used paperbacks that can get wet.  No library books allowed!

As a kid, I read in the shower—but I don’t recommend it.  The books got soaked!

*Does your child’s teacher assign a nightly requirement for reading?  Use these tips to incorporate reading seamlessly into your daily routine.  It can really help if your child is not the drop-everything-and-read type.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Sep 24, 2010


For parents: you don’t need all the school supplies before school starts

The weekend after school starts is a good time to shop for back-to-school supplies.  You will have a sense of what the teachers really want.

Often, the school supply list for each grade does not exactly match what each teacher really wants.  Some teachers want a three ring binder, and others would prefer not to have it.  This is just one example of what you might discover during the first week of school.

It’s good for your child to show up on the first day with a pencil and paper.  Crayons are nice, but the teacher often has a stash of extras.

At Meet the Teacher Night and Open House, some teachers set out little cards with items they request for the classroom.  You can add this to your back-to-school shopping list.

Don’t feel like you have to buy the expensive version of everything.  Whatever you buy will look thrashed in a month, anyway.  Don’t let your child talk you into the expensive protractor, the fancy notebook, etc.  The cheap version is very common in the classroom, and your child will not be looked down upon for having it.

If your child whines, threaten to walk out of the store.  You can come back later and choose the items yourself.  A savvy child will compromise rather than risk spending a school year with items a parent chose.

When you buy pencils, I recommend the Ticonderoga brand.  These pencils hold up really well.  However, if you see super cheap pencils of any brand, buy them!

While you’re at the sales, pick up a little extra for the classroom supply.  Teachers always appreciate a gift of extra pencils and notebook paper.

Posted in Back to School,Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Sep 21, 2010


Read Around the House* – Part Two: The Bedroom

This is part two of an occasional series of tips for making reading a part of your child’s daily routine.  If you incorporate all of the tips into your family lifestyle, your child will not be able to imagine a life without reading.

Reading in bed is a time-honored way to unwind at the end of a long day.  Make it a part of your child’s life.  You may read a story to your child at night, allow your child time to read independently, or use both techniques.

My parents raised readers with a simple rule: bedtime was at 8:30, but we could read in bed until 9:00.  As my siblings and I grew up, bedtime grew later, and the rule extended to the thrilling “you can stay up as late as you want, so long as you’re reading.”  I took full advantage of this rule when I devoured Gone with the Wind in junior high.

If your children share a room, the older child might like to stake out a quiet corner of the house for nighttime reading.

Reading at night works wonderfully well—unless you allowed your child to have a TV in the bedroom.  You may want to reconsider that decision.

*Does your child’s teacher assign a nightly requirement for reading?  Use these tips to incorporate reading seamlessly into your daily routine.  It can really help if your child is not the drop-everything-and-read type. 

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Sep 16, 2010


The Math Worksheet Generator

The Math Worksheet Generator ( is an awesome FREE site!  Parents and teachers should know about it.  It’s beyond awesome.  It’s great that you can generate worksheets for basic facts practice…but the awesomeness extends far beyond that.

I will definitely be telling my fifth and sixth grade colleagues about the PEMDAS worksheets.  I didn’t learn about the order of operations until junior high (in an advanced class), but now the Department of Education thinks that 10 year olds can do it.  Now we teach fifth-graders how to do PEMDAS: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction.  As you can imagine, the kids need tons of practice.  Once they understand the concept, they can’t get enough PEMDAS worksheets!  It’s really fun to do big kid math.

The math worksheet generator has a great section on roundingRounding is an extremely difficult concept for children.  Many students struggle with it all through elementary school.  Kids can’t get enough rounding practice.  Teachers will be glad to have great worksheets that provide this practice.

The kindergarten section is wonderful.  It can be tricky to find good practice for kindergartners, and this site certainly delivers.  At home, the kindergarten worksheets would be great for older siblings to use when they’re playing school with younger siblings.

I could go on and on about the sections on money, graphing, time, measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode), exponents, ratios, fractions, and more…but I think it’s really time you stop listening to me and go visit the Math Worksheet Generator!


Read Around the House* – Part One: The Kitchen

This is part one of an occasional series with tips for making reading a part of your child’s lifestyle.  By incorporating reading into the daily routine, you are setting up your child for a lifetime of learning.

The Sunday morning newspaper-at-breakfast tradition exists for a reason: people have an inherent need to feel social while they eat.  If a dining companion is not available, people naturally gravitate toward reading.

During the course of the week, your child may dine alone for a few snacks or even meals.  Keep books, magazines, newspapers, or even comics in your kitchen.  Your child will soon get into the habit of reading while eating alone.

…unless you have a TV in the kitchen.  (If so, move it or make it off-limits at mealtime.  Claim that it’s only for watching the Food Network and cooking.)

Consider inviting the kids to read in the kitchen while you prepare dinner.  That makes it easy to ask what a word means without losing the momentum of the story.  Or have older kids read aloud to you or to siblings while you cook.  You get the idea.  Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary event; it can be part of the family fabric.

*Does your child’s teacher assign a nightly requirement for reading?  Use these tips to incorporate reading seamlessly into your daily routine.  It can really help if your child is not the drop-everything-and-read type.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Sep 10, 2010


Memorization and Learning

LearningBefore IQ tests, memory was a common measure of intelligence.  Students memorized poems, speeches, and sometimes whole texts.  Michelangelo, for example, memorized all of Dante.

Memorization has fallen out of favor in today’s teaching climate.  The current thinking is that we should teach kids to apply information, and that knowing isn’t so important.  I think kids should be able to do both.  How can you apply anything if you don’t know anything?

Memorizing builds attention span, task commitment, pride, and (I believe) intelligence.

Challenge your students to memorize things worth knowing.  Weave memorization into your classroom, but make it fun.  DON’T grade students on memorization if it’s not in your state standards.  (Give rewards instead.)  Make memorization a Fast Finisher activity.  Students who finish work early can focus on your class’s latest memorization goal.

Here are some ideas for things to memorize:

> Preambles to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence
> Important ideas in the Bill of Rights
> The Gettysburg Address–all or part
> The National Anthem (not all students know it)
> Patriotic songs
> Excerpts of famous speeches
> Famous poems
> States and capitals (not stressed anymore, but good to know)
> Continents and oceans
> Several countries for each continent (Australia and Antarctica are special cases)
> Famous cities in each state, country, continent
> Science concepts: the parts of a cell, Newton’s laws, whatever suits your curriculum


Check the Dollar Store for Learning Supplies

Parents and teachers, check the Dollar Store (or equivalent) for learning supplies!  You can find many fun items for home, classroom, or playing school.

> Flash cards for all operations.  Sometimes you can even find Disney Princess cards!
> Workbooks—check the coloring books section. I have found fun Disney Princess reading comprehension, spelling, and writing workbooks.  There are usually workbooks for preschool to third grade.
> Posters, alphabet charts, and bulletin board decorations
> Incentive charts—use for school or to keep track of chores at home!
> Small marbles or pebbles: use these for “manipulatives” as teachers call them or “counters” to regular folk.  (Great for teaching little ones addition and subtraction.)

Happy bargain hunting!

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Parents,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Sep 2, 2010