Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a fun, low-stress holiday for the elementary classroom.

Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using my Groundhog Day Worksheet.  You will find vocabulary definitions, think and respond questions, and a fun tongue twister about woodchucks.  (Did you know a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same creature?)

Visit Groundhog.org, the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for pictures, articles and Groundhog Day ideas submitted by teachers.  (I like the songs to the tune of “Winter Wonderland” and “Up on the Housetop.”)  Teach your students about press kits using the Groundhog Day press kit, complete with fun facts, history, and a map of downtown Punxsy. 

“Punxsutawney” [puhngk-suh-taw-nee ] originally was settled by the Delaware Indians.
The name derives from a Native American term which translates to “town of the sandflies.” 
The town is located in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, 84 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Here is a quick brush-up on Groundhog Day history from my worksheet:

Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2nd.  According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from its burrow, the groundhog will leave the burrow, signaling that winter will soon end.  If it is not cloudy, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat back into the burrow.  Winter will continue for six more weeks.

Groundhog Day began as a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries (1700s and 1800s).  In Pennsylvania today, you can see official Groundhog Day early morning festivals.  You can enjoy special food, hear speeches, and even watch a g’spiel (play or skit).  You might find that only the Pennsylvania German dialect is spoken.  Those who speak English at the event pay a penalty, usually a coin per English word spoken, to a bowl at the center of the table.

Posted in Academics by Corey Green @ Jan 31, 2011

 

Student Numbers

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

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

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

Fire drill.  Did we all escape the building?

Roll call.  Are we all here?

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

Student numbers are shorthand for recordkeeping.  Examples:

Lunch count: students move numbered magnets to indicate their choice

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

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

Student numbers organize a crowd.  Examples:

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

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

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

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

Posted in First Year Teachers,Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 27, 2011

 

Track Assignments as They Are Turned In

Managing the piles of paperwork is a constant challenge for teachers.  If you don’t keep track of student assignments as they come in, they will really get you down.  You don’t want to be grading stacks of work right before progress reports and report cards.

That’s why I invented the Keep Track Chart.  (A table with the boxes numbered 1-30)  I print several copies and slip each into a sheet protector.  I tape the sheet protectors to the whiteboard in a grid.  Now, I have an easy way to keep track of assignments!  I just cross off numbers with a dry-erase marker as students turn in their work.  The Keep Track Chart can be reused many times.  Each chart should last you a school year.

This works well with So You Think You’re Done?  (A game in which students run their work by you before they’re even allowed to turn it in.  See the blog post for more details.)  As students turn in their work, I mark it on their number.  Usually, I just cross numbers off, but I can write grades there, too.  It’s easy to write A, B, C or D over the numbers.  (Using a colored dry-erase marker makes them easier to read.)

I tape my grid of Keep Track Charts taped to a section of the board that is visible from my computer.  It’s easy to use the chart to help me log the day’s classwork grades.

I created Keep Track Charts in easy PDF downloads for you.  There are two charts: 1-30 and 1-35 for big classes.  If you have more students (and goodness knows I have), then just make a table in Word.  You can center the numbers in the cell by clicking Table Properties, cell, then clicking to center.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 24, 2011

 

Ballad of Birmingham

book“Ballad of Birmingham” is a famous poem about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 in which four girls were killed.   Of all the lessons I present in connection with the Civil Rights movement, this is the most emotional and memorable.

Read the poem.

I recommend the book Free At Last: A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Those Who Died in the Struggle. A double-page spread shows pictures of the girls and explains about the bombing.  This book was developed as part of the “Teaching Tolerance” program at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

You can use materials from BalladofBirmingham.org to teach your students about the poem.  You will learn the story of the bombing, the story of the poem, and the story of the song.  I recommend that you read the poem with your students.  The song should be a separate experience, but it is one worth sharing.

Here is a video with the song and news footage.  I recommend that you view it yourself and decide if it is appropriate for your students.

You can also see a clip about the church bombing from the History Channel.  This explains the context of the bombing in a powerful, visual and concise way.  Again, view it yourself and decide if this is appropriate for your students.

**I discovered the poem “Ballad of Birmingham” as a child, when I won a Dr. Martin Luther King Day essay contest at the US Navy base in Naples, Italy.  There was a ceremony in honor of Dr. King.  I read my essay, but by far the most memorable part of the day was when my friend Keisha’s mom recited “Ballad of Birmingham.”  She ended by singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”   This powerful performance is one of my most cherished memories.

My essay compares Dr. King’s dream to the international community at the NATO base in Naples, Italy.  Read my essay at the About the Author section of my CoreyGreen.com website.

Posted in Academics by Corey Green @ Jan 21, 2011

 

Nursery Rhymes in the Classroom

I have written before about the importance of nursery rhymes in the classroom.  I believe that they are very important for children to know.  There are so many references to them in literature and movies.  Here are a few:

Baa Baa Black Sheep (a funny TV series about the Black Sheep Squadron in WWII)
All the President’s Men (book and movie about uncovering the Watergate scandal)
–“Pretty Maids All in a Row” (Eagles song from the “Hotel California” album)

…My mind seems to be stuck in the 1970s right now!

Anyway, my third graders are memorizing their nursery rhymes.  Many students know at least some of them, so we’re learning several each week.  (It’s very good for them.  I truly believe that memorizing makes you smarter.)  We say our rhymes at least twice a day, and recite a few during transition times (mixing them in with our multiplication songs.)

I found an excellent website about nursery rhymes.  I like it because it gives you the history of the nursery rhymes.  (Did you know the animals listed in “Hey, Diddle Diddle” are constellations?)  The site is easy to navigate because it lists the rhymes on the left side of each page.

I created five nursery rhyme sheets for my students—one a week.  Here they are in PDF form, ready for your little darlings.  The formatting is certainly not a thing of beauty, but you will see that I did fit many nursery rhymes on each page.

Fun extension activity: read …And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon

Save the planet!  Copy your nursery rhymes on scratch paper.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 19, 2011

 

National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs Part Three)

Part Three: What if my child is taught by a non-NBCT?

In this series of posts about National Board Certified Teachers, I have extolled the benefits of certification for both teacher and student.

An inevitable and important question for parents: what if my child is taught by a non-NBCT?  Does that mean my child isn’t receiving the best education possible?

A National Board Certified Teacher has demonstrated excellence in teaching, but that does not mean that NBCTs have cornered the market on excellence.  Of course many excellent teachers are not Board Certified!

To be National Board Certified, a teacher must submit to a long, expensive, and voluntary process of evaluation.  NBCT pre-candidacy classes (that prepare teachers for the assessment process) caution that weddings, small children, cross-country moves, and family obligations are very real reasons to postpone an attempt at certification.  Additionally, some districts give incentives for teachers to pursue National Board Certification—and some districts don’t.  If there is no incentive or financial support for NBCTs in a district, teachers may choose to attain an advanced degree or do additional coursework in their field rather than pursue National Board Certification.

Be aware that your child’s teacher must achieve high standards simply to become certified in your state.  License requirements vary by state, but you know that a combination of bachelor’s degree in education, experience as a teaching intern, and qualifying scores on a statewide assessment figure into the mix.

There are other measures of teaching excellence: advanced degrees such as a M.Ed. (Master’s of Education), Ed.D (Doctor of Education) and Ph.D. in Education.  You might be surprised at the advanced degrees your child’s teacher holds.  I have known kindergarten and first grade teachers who held PhDs.

Many teachers enter the profession after a successful career in another field.  Teachers might be former lawyers, accountants, or business professionals.  Troops to Teachers helps eligible military personnel begin new careers as teachers.  Your child’s teacher—even if it is her first year of teaching—could be bringing an amazing wealth of experience to the classroom.

Often, teachers come from a long family tradition in education.  Many of my colleagues are second, third, fourth (or more) generation teachers.  They enter the profession with incredible ranges of experiences and perspectives in education.

Bottom line: teachers care about children.  Anyone who is that deeply committed achieves excellence as a matter of course.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jan 15, 2011

 

National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs Part Two)

Part Two: Effectiveness of National Board Certified Teachers

National Board Certified Teachers have demonstrated highly accomplished teaching.  What are the advantages to students of NBCTs?

The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, developer and assessor of the National Board Certification process, cites several studies showing the effectiveness of NBCTs.

> Students of NBCTs score 7 to 15 percentage points higher on year-end tests than students of non-NBCTs. NBCTs were particularly effective with minority students.  D. Goldhaber, University of Washington

> In 48 comparisons (4 grades, 4 years of data, 3 measures of academic performance), students of NBCTs surpassed students of non-NBCTs in almost three-quarters of the comparisons. The learning gains were equivalent (on average) to spending about  an extra month in school. L. Vandevoort, Arizona State University 

> More math NBCTs helped their students achieve greater testing gains in 9th and 10th grades than their non-certified colleagues—demonstrating particular benefits among special needs students and African-American and Hispanic students. L. Cavalluzzo, The CNA Corporation

> Students of NBCTs exhibit deeper learning outcomes more frequently than students of non-NBCTs. T. Smith, Appalachian State University

Based on my own experience, I think much of the benefit to students of NBCTs comes because the teacher is adept at evaluating his own practice.  Teachers who go through the process of becoming Board Certified have thought about their teaching in a reflective and scientific way.   These teachers are accustomed to evaluating every aspect of their teaching practice within the all-important context of student achievement.

A study by D. Lustick and G. Sykes of Michigan State University found that teachers who pursue National Board Certification show significant improvements in their teaching practices, regardless of whether they achieved certification.

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jan 11, 2011

 

National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs Part One)

Part One: What is a National Board Certified Teacher?

You may have noticed that your child’s teacher has the initials NBCT after her name.  What does it mean?

A National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) has completed a voluntary and rigorous process of evaluation.  Based on 10 assessment pieces, NBCTs have demonstrated their excellence in the Five Core Propositions for what teachers should know and be able to do.

> Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
> Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
> Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
> Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
> Teachers are members of learning communities.

Application for National Board Certification is a demanding and time-consuming process.  Within a year, a teacher must complete 4 portfolio entries and take a 6-part exam.

The portfolio entries vary by type of certification sought—a music teacher would complete different entries than a biology teacher.  A portfolio entry tends to consist of a videotaped lesson, a 12-15 page analysis of the purpose, planning, pedagogical techniques, and effectiveness of the lesson as measured by student achievement.  Teachers typically tape and analyze many lessons before choosing the ones they will use for the portfolio entries.  After the portfolio entries are submitted in March, the teacher waits until November to learn whether he/she has attained National Board Certification.

To apply for National Board Certification, a teacher must meet certain requirements:

> Hold a bachelor’s degree
> Have completed three full years of teaching/counseling experience
> Possess a valid state teaching/counseling license for that period of time, or, if teaching where a license is not required, have taught in schools recognized and approved to operate by the state

Posted in Tips for Parents by Corey Green @ Jan 7, 2011

 

Teaching Notes for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you may want to show the “I Have a Dream” speech to your students.  I have found that this speech is captivating for elementary school students, but it is absolutely necessary for you to teach them about the speech before they listen.

I’d like to share my teaching notes (pdf) on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech with you and your students.  I hope it helps you teach the historical context, allusions, and rhetorical techniques.  If you copy my teaching notes for your students, I suggest you read the speech with them and explain the context.  Then, listening to Dr. King give the speech will be an unforgettable experience for your students.

Why are teaching notes so important?  The “I Have a Dream” speech is rich in allusions: historical, biblical, and even financial.  Your students will appreciate these allusions—if they know about them.

Take the first few paragraphs: will your students understand the significance of the speech’s setting, the Lincoln Memorial, and the phrase “a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today” if you don’t explain these details?  Will your students understand how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution compare to a promissory note?  My teaching notes explain these details clearly.

What about the famous part of the speech, at the end?  For example, knowledge of geography is essential to understanding the “let freedom ring” section.  Dr. King begins it with “let freedom ring…” [in famous landmarks of northern and western states]… “But not only that.  Let freedom ring…” in famous landmarks in the southern states.]  The sequence will be more memorable for your students if they understand this distinction.  Without teaching notes, your students might miss much of the meaning. 

I recommend you buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream speech on DVD rather than listen to the speech through the Internet.  This DVD introduces the speech with real footage of events leading up to it.  You can also watch a featurette about the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  Your students will enjoy seeing the marchers and will be impressed with how well-dressed the marchers are.  (Every year, this is the first thing my students notice.)

Free “I Have a Dream” speech at AmericanRhetoric.com

Posted in Academics by Corey Green @ Jan 4, 2011

 

Happy New Year!

Teachers and students know that the new year really begins on the first day of school.  January 1st is like a new beginning for us.

Here are some of my plans and resolutions for the second half of the school year:

Review procedures on the first day back.  A break that feels too-short to the teacher feels like forever to the kids.  They will have forgotten so much—in academics and in classroom behavior.

Renew our focus on basic facts.  It takes an iron will to force students to memorize, but I know that knowledge will serve them well.  We’ll practice in many ways: with Dad’s Worksheets, Best Multiplication Songs EVER!, my math addition and multiplication practice programs, and the classroom game Math Smackdown.

Set new goals for independent reading.  We’ll set goals for reading a certain number of chapter books, a certain number of books in each genre, etc.  We’ll work toward a fun celebration, like Fort Day.

Forge on with our typing.  Our school district bought special computers to help students build typing skills.  The students love them—but again it takes a teacher’s iron will to force them to focus and practice.  I know that good typing skills pay off for a lifetime: it’s worth it!

Make time for fun.  Community builders, energizer activities and parties to celebrate accomplishments bring us closer together.

…so those are my classroom resolutions!  But school’s not in yet.  I’m working up my appetite for the traditional New Year’s black eyed peas and greens.  Learn more about the tradition at about.com.

Posted in Tips for Teachers by Corey Green @ Jan 1, 2011